Project Background

My friend and former colleague Nick Jehlen launched a company last year that highlights the collar that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has notably worn when she wants to express her dissent with a ruling. Nick’s company, Dissent Pins had been very successful in the past year, but he wondered how much of that success was due to the specific political climate of the country. He hired me to do some in-depth research about his customers, to hopefully identify some ways to expand the product line for when the political climate shifted.


The objective of this project was to conduct a comprehensive research cycle to create one or more user personas of Dissent Pins’ customers. I was inspired by Mailchimp’s creation of their own user personas, and proposed that one goal of the project should be to create one or more similar personas.


  • Surveys of past customers
  • Comprehensive Analytics report using Shopify reviews, Facebook Analytics, Google Analytics, and other relevant data
  • Customer Persona
  • Method to A/B test elements on the Shopify website

Team Members

  • Me
  • Nick Jehlen, friend and former colleague
Detailed Persona

My Role

I viewed my role for this project was basically to be an extension of Nick’s brain. Nick is super smart, and has been described by others as capable of becoming a subject matter expert on any topic in a matter of weeks. If he had the time, Nick could have done all this research himself, but he had other work to do. I took it upon myself to propose the deliverables, approach, and shared my inspiration as we kicked off the project. Once we got started I worked on exploring and synthesizing information, and then sharing what I learned as clearly as possible.

Deep Dive into A/B Testing

To meet Nick’s stated interest in figuring out how to do A/B testing on his Shopify site, I took a deep dive into this aspect of analytics. After seeing no great options among Shopify add-ons, I banged my head against the wall trying to get Optimizely implemented on the site. After getting pretty frustrated with this task, I finally found the right forum thread to show me how to use Google Optimize, an A/B testing tool that came out in early 2017. I then was able to implement a test and show Nick how to do future tests on his own. We wrapped up the project by doing a rewarding pair programming session where I could show him how things actually worked.

My Insights & Take-Aways

A few insights I was proud of for this project are the following:

1. I think part of the reason Nick’s Dissent Pins work so well is that they have a built-in conversation starter with their branding. The design is subtle (a feature that customers really like), not loud and it isn’t recognizable to everyone. If someone asks, “What is that pin you are wearing?” it instantly creates an opportunity for the wearer to share their political views in a non-confrontational manner. I think if there was a way to wrap his other products in succinct phrases or talking points, they might increase their sales. RBG and her dissent collar are literally notorious though, so that definitely helps with sales.

2. This is pretty basic but many of Dissent Pin’s customers are lawyers. Lawyers need to dress conservatively, but still like to communicate their views when possible. The subtlety of the Dissent Collar Pin’s design and other accessories fits this specific demographic much better than other political slogans or swag that aim to be in-your-face.

3. In reading about internet marketing I had gotten the message that A/B testing was the future, that it is critical, and that implementing tests would mean a vendor or site was really “doing it right.” Turns out the information you can glean from A/B tests is pretty minimal. It takes a long time, with really clear parameters and goals to capture data that you could confidently make other plans with, unless you have a massive amount of users where small incremental changes would translate to tens of thousands of dollars. 

Starting out, just following best practices for sales sites and good user interface design (which is well documented, especially in Shopify) is still the best bet to have robust sales. I think many site owners don’t realize this. Once they read up on the topic a bit, I bet the doubt they would have in the results would be easily attributed to a gap in their own skills, rather than the imperfect nature of A/B testing. The presence of doubt and confusion about test results means there are plenty of snake-oil vendors offering A/B tests and click funnels. It’s interesting to see the niche market that has developed around this.