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At the Round Table with Marketing & Branding Expert Larry Chiagouris

November 30, 2021

Larry Chiagouris has been called “a branding guru”, an “All-Star marketing strategist”, and “a consumer behavior expert” by the media. His opinions on modern marketing practice have appeared in hundreds of media outlets throughout the world, including the Today Show, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal.  He is one of the few marketing executives who, over the course of a career, has held senior positions in advertising, public relations, and Internet marketing.

In this episode…

On this episode of our podcast, Discussions at the Round Table, Dr. Larry Chiagouris joins host Michelle Loux and shares his advice for new experts getting started in consumer behavior related cases. Larry details his experience in marketing, branding, and advertising, and how important structure and simplification is when providing a written or verbal opinion as an expert witness. He also explores the importance of avoiding assumptions as an expert and a detailed discovery process when bringing your expertise to a case.

Episode Transcript:

Note: Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Host: Michelle Loux, Assistant Project Manager, Round Table Group  

Guest: Dr. Larry Chiagouris, Professor of Marketing, Lubin School of Business of Pace University

Announcer: This episode is brought to you by Round Table Group, the Experts on Experts®. We’ve been connecting attorneys with experts for over 25 years. Find out more at

Michelle Loux: Thank you for joining us for another episode of Discussions at the Round Table. I am your host, Michelle Loux, and today I have a guest, Dr. Larry Chiagouris.

Dr. Larry Chiagouris: I am Doctor Larry Chiagouris. You can call me Larry. I have been working with the Round Table Group for more than 10 years and I have been providing expert witness support. I began when I was the head of research at an ad agency and there was another individual who provided expert opinions and I was the one that did the research, the so I would like to understand why people make the decisions surveys, and such to support that person’s opinions. That is when I began becoming acquainted with this kind of work, and I have been rendering opinions on my own since 1995.  There are a lot of stories I could tell, but I am thinking about the things that may matter the most, that everybody could benefit from so I would like to understand why people make the decisions and I am thinking about what I would recommend experts give extra thought to a couple of things. One is if you are an expert, I do not care if your expertise is in marketing, branding, advertising, and survey research if it is all wrapped in a layer of what I would call consumer behavior. My doctorate is in consumer behavior, and so I would like to understand why people make the decisions that they make. What motivates them? What demotivates them? What disincentivizes them? Because it all goes into many of the cases that I am involved in, whether they be class action cases, or cases having to do with intellectual property, trademarks, or business disputes over marketing issues.

What I have noticed particularly from experts who have not been an expert a long time I sense that sometimes I have seen this in some other cases because I was constantly running my own opinions and reviewing other experts’ opinions and providing sometimes rebuttal or replies is that sometimes experts get a little too much into the technical weeds. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that when one provides a report or one testifies, you need to think about it at two levels if the lawyers that are disposing you, or if you are being cross-examined in a trial you have to remember that the jury, well, we will have some highly educated people and some people that are not so highly educated. You have to keep in mind that when you provide your opinion whether it be in writing, importantly verbally, that you are going to have to structure it in a way that on the one hand shows what you are talking about. But if you spend too much time on vocabulary that nobody understands, nobody will understand it and they will not accept your opinion. They will not want to admit it necessarily that they did not understand, but your opinion will not have the same impact. I have seen experts getting into great detail, and I have seen a judge say I have asked you three times to explain that. Please explain it. You do not want to be that expert having the judge ask you that question in court for sure.

I was asked to think about the two or three things that matter a great deal. Another thing is some experts and I respect the law and I know I can read the law, but I am not a lawyer. If you are a marketing expert, a medical expert, an engineering expert, or a construction industry expert, or whatever area of expertise you have. The public tends to see the experts that are on television in connection with famous murder trials or some of the television shows but you are not a lawyer, so never think you understand the law. Do try to understand the law. Ask the lawyers lots of questions, but don’t be presumptuous. Do not assume you know what the law is. I have seen expert reports. I will not mention the nature of who provided them. Where the experts go into not rendering a legal opinion which we are not supposed to do, but they provide a narrative that is overly filled with legalese when that is not what I asked for them, and that is not their role in their place. Ask the attorneys you are working with the questions you need to have answered and do not assume you understand.

This leads me to the third point I am going to make when it comes to expert opinion. If I could say that the first two stories, I shared with you were not mistakes that I made, but I will share early on the first few years I was an expert many years ago. I learned that a good expert opinion in a good expert report is like a stew. You have all the right ingredients and that means you want to, on the one hand, bring your expertise to the table, which means your knowledge of the peer-reviewed articles, or the industry-specific best practices. You want to bring that to the table. But if you focus only on that and do not recognize the importance of the discovery process and the testimony in the declarations and depositions that have occurred. You are not getting the whole story. You have to make sure you look at the record that was produced during discovery. So that means what you need to be is a little aggressive with the attorneys that are engaging you. You need to be very aggressive at asking for all the declarations. I want to see the deposition transcripts. I want to see all the documents produced in discovery. Now some of these files can be 40-50 thousand documents and you do have to rely on the attorneys for identifying what is in the archive with what is in the inventory. So, you need to make sure you educate them on the kinds of things you need because when I did this very early on 15-16 years ago.  I did not understand all the documents that could be made available. You need to be aggressive about it but you need to be polite, but you need to be very clear and aggressive at asking. I want to see all of these types of documents that may have been produced, that are relevant to my opinion. You need to have conversations with the attorneys about that to make sure it is clear because they do not necessarily always know. You may be working with the junior associate who may be smart and know the law well, but they may. They may not know what may be helpful to you in understanding all the threads and all the nuances associated with the case.

These are the three things I would say that if you can avoid making these kinds of mistakes, which are not overly technical and make sure that you are looking at a wide variety of material both inside and outside of the case, and not trying to pretend like you are a lawyer, because you are not. You are going to be a lot more likely to be successful in what you do. That is pretty much it. There is more and we could spend hours talking about this stuff, but out of respect for all the other experts I have worked with or opposed, I tried to narrow it to the things that I think are the most important.

Michelle Loux: You mentioned that you were in marketing, advertising, and consumer behavior. There has been such a shift and what was acceptable 15 years ago versus how the platforms are changed to new audiences or the way it is delivered. Have you seen that apply on the expert witness side of it?

Dr. Larry Chiagouris:  Yes, I have. Advertising-related cases tend to be a major portion of my portfolio. What is different today is a couple of things. The target audiences are more highly fragmented. There are more target audiences. We can get more granular with how and where we deliver a message and to whom we deliver the message so that is one thing and there are different kinds of ways. Forms, and shapes of the messages. So, unlike 25 years ago in the 60s and 70s, sixty-second commercials were the standard, and then maybe then thirty-two-second commercials came on stream. Then 15-second commercials and then even six-second commercials. Telling a marketing story is not necessarily constrained by these standard media buying units that appear on television, so you can tell the story via video. So, in any number of seconds you want for all practical purposes, the major networks and major primetime television and such is still relatively standard, but the accompanying digital platform is wide open. What that means is when you are telling a story you have all the freedom to play with whom you going to send it to what will the message be, and what the formula would be if you are an expert looking at the record. What is important is to understand. There was a time back in the 60s and 70s you needed to get a message to someone at least three times before they comprehended the message. That is how media plans were constructed back in the 60s and 70s. Now, it is more like 9 or 10 times, although it will vary. It depends on the complexity of the message. It depends upon the nature of the target audience and all these other variables. So, these are not requirements, but generally the number of times you need to expose people to a message today versus 30 years ago. It may be three times as many times, and today people are more distracted than they ever were. They are looking at multiple screens at the same time. They are looking at their laptop. They are going back and forth between their laptop, maybe a television set on, and their cell phone. Many people are toggling back and forth between three screens, so you have to take that into account. It is more complex today. It is a very good question because it is more complex today. You need to learn from the past. Learn from the 70s where a lot of good research was done and we learned a lot about how people respond to communications but stay current with the constantly ever fast-changing media environment, which is increasingly digital.

Michelle Loux: Social media and [platforms like] YouTube are so huge right now. It is a different beast, and it must be interesting to stay ahead of the curve of what the next trend is going to be. So, is that maybe part of what you do to look to the future? What is happening and what people have a pulse on. Like virtual reality headsets?

Dr. Larry Chiagouris:  Keeping in mind that social media is a large portion of the messaging, but so many social media originated messages never get seen. I mean, people may have thousands of followers and being followed by thousands of people does not mean they are going to see all the messages from all those thousand people all the time. In fact, most of the time they see a very small percentage of their messages, so you need to take that into account when you are trying to understand the impact of a state in a false advertising case. You need to understand what the impact in a false advertising case is, I do not care if a message has been sent out a thousand times on Twitter. It does not mean it has been seen 1000 times. Right?

Michelle Loux: Yes. Have you worked on any international cases or are you mainly based in the United States?

Dr. Larry Chiagouris: I have worked on Canadian cases, and I have worked on 1 or 2 Asian cases and I will talk about the business side of being an expert. I have found that the cases most likely for an expert not to get paid are going to be the Asian cases. I would say if you were going to be an expert and get involved in an Asian case, making a commercial for the Round Table Group, make sure the Round Table Group is involved and make sure you get a big retainer because those are the cases that if a case is going to go bad on payment, those will be the cases.

Michelle Loux:  Interesting. Is it because the courts are a little different or maybe…

Dr. Larry Chiagouris:  No. It is because trying to recover payment from someone in Hong Kong, let alone mainland China, is not easy if they don’t want to pay. It is that simple.

Michelle Loux: Understood. For the Canadian cases, do you find that it is easy to understand the law? I mean, you are talking about a completely different law or are there many similarities?

Dr. Larry Chiagouris:  The Canadian cases are similar except my experience on Canadian cases is that whereas experts in the United States are supposed to be objective, they are objective for the good, but they understand who is engaging them. There is an understanding of that. If their opinion is not, it is helpful to the party that is engaging in their opinion, will never see the light of day because there is no obligation on behalf of the attorneys to share your opinion with the other side or with the court. In Canada, that is not the same way in Canada. They expect the expert to go right down the middle and to be a, I do not want to put words in the mouths of the Canadian jurists, but they do expect the experts to be right down the middle and provide more of a pro and con set of discussion. Here are the pluses and the minuses, the pros and the cons to the issues I am generalizing. That is the difference I found between being an expert on a Canadian based case and a United States based case.

Michelle Loux: Is that something that attorneys prepped you for or did you learn that the hard way?

Dr. Larry Chiagouris: No, I learned that fortunately, because the attorneys who hired me over the years, every attorney educates me. In every new case, no matter how much you think you know, you learn something new and that is what the gray hair and wrinkles are for, right?

Michelle Loux: Thank you Larry, for all your time and have a wonderful rest of the day.

Dr. Larry Chiagouris: You too.

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After a quarter century helping litigators find the right expert witnesses, Round Table Group’s network contains some of the world’s greatest experts. On the Discussions at the Round Table podcast, we talk to some of them about what’s new in their field of study and their experience as expert witnesses.

At the Round Table with Marketing & Branding Expert Larry Chiagouris

Dr. Larry Chiagouris

Larry Chiagouris has been called “a branding guru”, an “All-Star marketing strategist”, and “a consumer behavior expert” by the media. His opinions on modern marketing practice have appeared in hundreds of media outlets throughout the world, including the Today Show, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal. He is one of the few marketing executives who, over the course of a career, has held senior positions in advertising, public relations, and Internet marketing.