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Deflategate and the Dangers of Convenience Sampling

 

By Athena Rodriguez

The Patriots have landed in Phoenix for yet another Super Bowl, but there are still those who can’t stop talking about “Deflategate.” Yes, that’s what some are calling the controversy surrounding those perfectly legal 12.5 PSI inflated footballs that lost air pressure due to changing atmospheric conditions and repeated Gronking* after touchdowns during the first half of the Pats-Colts showdown.

Here in Boston, we were shocked to turn on the TV and hear the terrible accusations. Were we watching and reading the same things as the accusers? Did those doubters not watch the press conferences (all three of them) where our completely ethical coach proclaimed his team’s innocence? Did they not understand that Belichick even conducted a SCIENCE EXPERIMENT? 

Or could it be simply that the doubters live outside of New England?

athena blog

The chart above makes it pretty obvious—from Bangor to Boston, we just might have been hearing the voices of a lot more Pats fans. This is, in fact, a really simple illustration of the dangers of convenience sampling—a very common type of non-probability sampling.

Sure it’s a silly example, but as companies try to conduct research faster and cheaper, convenience sampling poses serious threats. Can you get 500 completes in a day? Yes, but there’s a very good chance they won’t be representative of the population you’re looking for. Posting a link to your survey on Facebook or Twitter is fast and free, but whose voice will you hear and whose will you miss?

I’ve heard it said that some information is better than none, but I’m not sure I agree. If you sample people that aren’t in your target, they can lead you in the completely wrong direction. If you oversample in a certain population (ahem, New Englanders) you can also suffer from a biased, non-representative sample.

Representative sampling is one of the basic tenets of survey research, but just because it’s a simple concept doesn’t mean we can afford to ignore it. Want your results to win big? Carefully review your game plan before kicking-off data collection.

  • Sample Frame: Is the proposed sample frame representative of the target population?
    • Unless you are targeting a niche population. . .
      • online panel “click-throughs” should be census balanced
      • –customer lists must be reflective of the target customers (if the population is all customers, do not use email addresses unless addresses exist for all customers or the exceptions are randomly distributed)
      • –compare the final sample to the target population just to be sure
  • Selection: Does the selection process ensure that all potential respondents on the frame have an equal chance of being recruited throughout the data collection period?
    • To be sure, you should. . .
      • randomize all lists before recruiting
      • not fill quotas first
      • not focus on hard-to-reach respondents first
  • Data collection: Will the proposed data collection plan adversely affect sample quality?
    • –Ask yourself:
      • Are fielding dates unusual (e.g., holiday, tax returns, Super Bowl, etc.)?
      • Is the schedule long enough to cover weekdays and weekends? Will it give procrastinators sufficient time to respond?
  • Structure: Will important subgroups have sufficient sample sizes if left to fall out naturally?
    • –If not, set quotas. . .
      • –Quota groups must be weighted back to their natural distribution before analysis or treated as an oversample and excluded from any analysis at the total level.
  • Size: Is the proposed sample size sufficient?
    • –We must always balance costs against sample size, but, at the same time, we must recognize that we need minimum sample sizes for certain objectives.  

Are there times you might need some quick and dirty (un-Patriot like) results? Absolutely. But, when you’re playing for big insights, you need the right team.

*spiking the football after a touchdown.

Athena Rodriguez is a Project Consultant at CMB. She’s a native Floridian, who’s looking forward to the end of the Blizzard of 2015 and the start of Sunday’s game!

The Price Is Right (or IS it?)

 

describe the image

By Abe Vinjamuri

When Redbox, the movie rental kiosk company, raised their prices 25%, many analysts saw the move as desperate—predicting significant losses to market share in 2015 and 2016. At the same time, the company’s stock rose, with investors expecting customers to adapt to the higher prices. So who’s right?  I have some predictions, but we’ll leave those for another blog. Today, I want to write about some of the fundamental questions companies need to ask before they embark on a new pricing strategy.

If you think pricing isn’t all that important, here’s something to ponder: a 1% increase in prices of Wal-Mart products ($10 on a $1,000 TV), assuming a demand around existing levels, would increase operating profits by about 20% and add about $48 billion to Wal-Mart’s market cap.

Companies rarely approach pricing from a “value to customers” perspective. Even when they do, they don’t fully exploit the potential of value based pricing for fear of backlash. For decades, airlines have understood the importance of pricing, and, in my opinion, outside of CPG companies (and some new tech entrants) have best implemented and used pricing as a tool for competitive advantage.

For any pricing strategy to succeed, you need a well thought out plan. Answer the following questions to get started:

1. Who is the customer?

a. While you might have customers you've served for a long time, you still need to ask yourself how people interact with your products. Are there touch points you’re currently ignoring? Are your current customers the ones you should be serving?

      • How can you answer these questions? Start by observing and getting these discussions going.
      • When’s the last time you did a Segmentation? If it’s been more than 2-3 years, that’s another potential starting place.

2. What are the closest competitive offerings?

3. What is the monetary value of your product to the market?

a. Think of this in terms of the savings your product could offer customers over competitor products. This doesn’t automatically mean a lower price. A higher priced product could offer savings in multiple forms—a few examples include a lower cost of ownership, lower maintenance costs, and peace of mind. 

4. How are the different product features valued?

a. To figure this out, you can conduct choice exercises that replicate the market behavior of consumers. A good choice exercise must include, at a minimum, products that together control 60% of the market. Here’s another tip: make sure you also include future offerings and even some potentially ridiculous products you would never offer. 

5. Based on the above steps, are there different customer segments? If yes, what are the optimal product and pricing tactics for each segment?

a. You also need to consider whether there are psychological price barriers for different customer segments that must be kept in mind.

Answering the above questions is a battle half won. For pricing to be truly successful, you need to go beyond coming up with tactics. Answering the next set of questions can be the difference between a good strategy and a great strategy.

1. What is the messaging and communication strategy for...?

a. Product value?

b. Pricing?

2. Is the above pricing strategy feasible? Think:

a. How crowded is the marketplace?

b. Is there a clear market leader?

c. How mature is the market?

d. Is your organization trying to maximize profits, gain a foothold in the market, or maximize share?

3. What is the action plan to react to competitive moves in the marketplace?

4. How do you plan on approaching end-of-life pricing for your products and services?

As you can see, building a thorough pricing strategy is not an easy task. At CMB and South Street Strategy Group, we take our pricing research seriously. We're experts at not only conducting research but also helping clients with rollout plans, and we have a lot of experience guiding clients from a wide range of industries through these steps.

If you’re interested in reading about this further, I’d highly recommend Thomas Nagle’s The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing and Rafi Mohammed’s The 1% Windfall. And, of course, I’d be more than happy to chat with you about pricing structures in the comments! 

Abe is a Senior Project Manager, strategy junkie, and CrossFit enthusiast. He's recently taken up snowboarding so watch out if you're headed to the slopes. 

A New Resolution to Finally Rejuvenate that Tired Tracker

 

By Wendy O'Connell 

cmb, refresh tired trackersWe’ve all done it . . . made New Year’s resolutions that this will finally be the year to eat healthier, to go on that dream trip to Europe, or to get more organized. Our hopes are high and our intentions are good—and yet, the end of the New Year comes around and our resolutions remain undone.

For market researchers and businesses, the New Year puts a focus on planning for new research and evaluating research already in place, including that tracker that’s important to continue but, over time, has turned stale and “tired.” You continue to track, but it isn’t providing the same level of value or insights as it has in the past. It needs to be rejuvenated. 

At Chadwick Martin Bailey, we believe that if your tracker isn’t helping your company grow, stay ahead of the competition, or set strategic priorities, you need to make a change. If one of your resolutions for 2015 is to refresh your tired tracker, here are some things that will help you achieve that goal this year:  

  • Evaluate your tracker with a fresh eye to make sure you’re asking the right questions, in the right way, to generate insights that support your business decisions for 2015 and the years to come. Even though most of us shudder at the thought of touching a tracker in any way (how many times have you said the words “but what impact will that have on trending?!”), today’s pace of change in business is remarkable. The landscape that currently exists for your business may be very far from what it was when your tracker began. 

Make an honest assessment of the questions you ask and how you ask them. Would you be gaining deeper, more actionable insights if you made a change? Then, make careful decisions about trade-offs, specifically between improving usefulness vs. losing trendability. If you deem a change necessary, create a transition plan. Conduct a parallel pilot test of the change when possible. Have discussions with your stakeholders to ensure everyone understands the trade-offs that will be made.

  • Focus on the strategic and tactical decisions the business needs to make from this tracking researchHave conversations with your stakeholders and information users. Find out which results from the existing tracker are actively used and which results are never touched. 
    • If you find some results are no longer used or cannot provide insights to drive action, consider cutting the questions. 
    • If you find new information needs have arisen that require tracking, add questions that will address them. For any new needs that don’t need to be tracked over time, consider incorporating a “rotating” module into your tracker (a short section of questions open to change wave-to-wave). This helps leverage the tracker to address specific related questions without undergoing the cost and time of a separate research effort. 

What information does your business currently need in order to take action? Knowing the answer to this question and keeping your tracker current to address those needs elevates its usefulness to drive action and decision-making.

  • Ensure your tracker deliverables are telling a story that is relevant to each audience. You should be delivering the right insights to the right stakeholders, and these insights should be in a form that allows them to act. This means no data overload. It’s hard to identify insights when they sit somewhere within a 100 page deck. It’s harder to digest business-changing recommendations when you only have 20 minutes on the calendar to review them before the stakeholders are off to their next meeting. It’s even harder for your stakeholders to decide what type of action they should take when the information is delivered in a “one size fits all” format. 

It’s important to think about how to customize your tracker deliverables in a succinct way that readily speaks to each stakeholder’s role and what decisions they need to make, so you don’t fall into the trap of just delivering updates on the same set of metrics wave after wave.

Topline reports may work well for certain audiences while scorecards and dashboards might work better for others. Don’t be afraid to deliver results creatively and in a visually-compelling format. At CMB, we often include dynamic deliverables such as easy-to-digest infographics, one-pagers, posters, and video/motion graphics. These dynamic deliverables are all focused on communicating the story (not the data!) in a way that is relevant and useful for enabling action across our clients’ organizations. 

So if you’ve made a commitment that this year will finally be the year that you rejuvenate that tired tracker, consider the areas above when setting it up to support confident, strategic decision-making in 2015 and beyond.

Wendy is the Account Director of CMB’s Financial Services practice. She has two children, and she loves Cape Cod, the Boston Celtics, and refreshing tired trackers. Her 2015 New Year’s resolution is to finally make this the year she actually keeps her resolution about kicking her daily Diet Coke habit.

Conjoint Analysis: 3 Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

 

By Liz White 

conjoint analysis, cmbIf you work in marketing or market research, chances are you’re becoming more and more familiar with conjoint analysis: a powerful research technique used to predict customer decision-making relative to a product or service. We love conjoint analysis at CMB, and it’s easy to see why. When conducted well, a conjoint study provides results that make researchers, marketers, and executives happy. These results:

  • Are statistically robust
  • Are flexible and realistic
  • Describe complex decision-making
  • Are easy to explain and understand

If you need a quick introduction or a refresher on conjoint analysis, I recommend Sawtooth Software’s excellent video, which can be found here.

For these reasons conjoint analysis is one of the premiere tools in our analytical toolkit. However, as with any analytical approach, conjoint analysis should be applied thoughtfully to realize maximum benefits. Below, I describe three of the most common pitfalls related to conjoint analysis and tips on how to avoid them.

Pitfall #1: Rushing the Design

This is the most common pitfall, but it’s also be the easiest one to avoid. As anyone who has conducted a conjoint study knows, coming up with the right design takes time. When planning the schedule for a conjoint analysis study, make sure to leave time for the following steps:

  • Identify your business objective, and work to identify the research questions (and conjoint design) that will best address that objective.
  • Brainstorm a full list of product features that you’d like to test. Collaborate with coworkers from various areas of your organization—including marketing, sales, pricing, and engineering as well as the final decision-makers—to make sure your list is comprehensive and up-to-date.
    • You may also want to plan for qualitative research (e.g., focus groups) at this stage, particularly if you’re looking to test new products or product features. Qualitative research can prioritize what features to test and help to translate “product-speak” into language that customers find clear and meaningful.
    • If you’re looking to model customer choices among a set of competitive products, collect information about your competitors’ products and pricing.
    • Once all the information above is collected, budget time to translate your list of product features into a conjoint design. While conjoint analysis can handle complex product configurations, there’s often work to be done to ensure the final design (a) captures the features you want to measure, (b) will return statistically meaningful results, and (c) won’t be overly long or confusing for respondents.
    • Finally, budget time to review the final design. Have you captured everything you needed to capture?  Will this make sense to your customers and/or prospective customers? If not, you may need to go back and update the design. Make sure you’ve budgeted for this as well.

Pitfall #2: Overusing Prohibitions

Most conjoint studies typically involve a conversation about prohibitions—rules about what features can be shown under certain circumstances. For example:

Say Brand X’s products currently come in red, blue, and black colors while Brand Y’s products are only available in blue and black. When creating a conjoint design around these products, you might create a rule that if the brand is X, the product could be any of the three colors, but if the brand is Y, the product cannot be red.

While it’s tempting to add prohibitions to your design to make the options shown to respondents more closely resemble the options available in the market, overusing prohibitions can have two big negative effects:

  1. Loss of precision when estimating the value of different features for respondents.
  2. Loss of flexibility for market simulations.

The first of these effects can typically be identified in the design phase and fixed by reducing the number of prohibitions included in a model. The second is potentially more damaging as it usually becomes an issue after the research has already been conducted. For example:

We’ve conducted the research above for Brand Y, including the prohibition that if the brand is Y, the product cannot be red. Looking at the results, it becomes clear that Brand X’s red product is much preferred over their blue and black products. The VP of Brand Y would like to know what the impact of offering a Brand Y product in red would be.  Unfortunately, because we did not test a red Brand Y product, we are unable to use our conjoint data to answer the VP’s question.

In general, it is best to be extremely conservative about using prohibitions—use them sparingly and avoid them where possible. 

Pitfall #3: Not Taking Advantage of the Simulator

While the first two pitfalls are focused on conjoint design, the final pitfall is about the application of conjoint results. Once the data from the conjoint analysis has been analyzed, it can be used to stimulate virtually any combination of the features tested and predict the impact that different combinations will have on customer decision-making. . .which is just one of the reasons conjoint analysis is such a valuable tool. All of that predictive power can be distilled into a conjoint simulator that anyone—from researchers to marketers to C-suite executives—can use and interpret.

At CMB, the clients I’ve seen benefit most from conjoint analysis are the clients that take full advantage of the simulators we deliver, rather than simply relying on the scenarios created for reporting. Once you receive a conjoint simulator, I recommend the following:

  1. Distribute copies of the simulator to all key stakeholders.
  2. Have the simulator available when presenting the results of your study, and budget time in the meeting to run “what-if” scenarios then and there. This can allow you to leverage the knowledge in the room in real time, potentially leading to practical and informed conclusions.
  3. Continue to use your simulator to support decision-making even after the study is complete, using new information to inform the simulations you run. A well-designed conjoint study will continue to have value long after your project closes.

Liz is a member of the Analytics Team at CMB, and she can’t wait to hear your research questions!

CMB Blog 2014: 6 of our Favorite Posts

 

By Kirsten Clark 

blog, cmbOur blog is special. We don’t just have one or two bloggers. All of our employees contribute to our blog, which produces a wide array of perspectives on all aspects of market research including analytics, loyalty, segmentation, and more! This is the perfect time of year to reflect, so before we embark on 2015, let’s take a look at a few of our favorite blogs from 2014:

1. Keeping brand trackers fresh can often be challenging. Caitlin Dailey delves into how we keep our trackers interesting in a blog entitled “Keeping Trackers Fresh: Finding that ‘Special Something.'

2. Here’s another one of my favorite things about our blog: we’re able to take aspects of popular culture and talk about how it connects back to market research. In a blog entitled “A Perfect Match? Tinder and Mobile Ethnographies,” our Director of Qualitative Research, Anne Hooper, does just that by relating popular dating app Tinder to mobile ethnographies.

3. A Colorado Symphony concert show series was sponsored by the cannabis industry? This is just one of the odd sponsorships that Kate Zilla- dives into in her blog post entitled “Sponsorship Advertising: Odd Couples That May Succeed.”

4. This year, we had the privilege of being honored as one of the “Top 100 Women Led Businesses in Massachusetts.” Take a look at what our President and CEO had to say about the honor in this blog post.

5. We do a variety of events in the community throughout the year, but our favorite event is the annual Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). In this blog post, Catherine Shannon talks about how our involvement started.

6. Jessica Chavez segments the parents at the tumble gym and discusses how to make segmentation studies relevant, meaningful, and actionable in this blog post.

Is there anything you’d like us to cover in 2015? Tell us in the comments, and we look forward to talking with you next year!

Kirsten Clark is a Marketing Associate at CMB who’s also pursuing a M.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications at Emerson College. She looks forward to ringing in the New Year by watching all 6 Star Wars movies back-to-back. 

5 Key Takeaways from NEMRA’s Fall Conference

 

By Alyse Dunn and Hilary O’Haire

brand identity, storytellingSince we recently attended the New England Market Research Association’s (NEMRA) Fall Conference, “Advancing Market Research: Challenging the Norm,” we wanted to share our five key takeaways:

1. Don’t forget the importance of non-conscious decision-making. 70% of the decisions we make are non-conscious, meaning our brains automatically activate associations outside of our awareness and control. This is often described as "System 1" thinking (coined by Daniel Kahneman), which are our fast, emotional, and more instinctive thoughts. Non-conscious decision-making is often used. . .

  • When making low-involvement or low risk decisions 
  • In quick evaluations
  • In impulse purchases
  • To efficiently include or exclude brands from our consideration set

We need to be looking for opportunities to use methodology inclusive of the non-conscious. It is particularly important to understand its impact on brand evaluations, given that. . .

2. Brands are non-conscious creators of reality. We must strive to understand a brand’s stereotype. There are many similarities between the construction of stereotypes and how we use or think of brands. Both stereotype and brand associations are largely mental representations that are socially communicated through media and culture and encountered passively over time. They are automatically activated by ‘System 1’ thinking and mediated by conscious thoughts or endorsed beliefs. In order to understand a consumer experience, we must aim to understand the brand’s stereotype. We choose to engage with brands in the same ways we choose to engage with anything else. We gravitate towards people, places, and brands that relate to some aspect of ourselves, and this association is most often done unconsciously. For example, we both do not painstakingly think about which brand of detergent to use—we always reach for All. Even at a more granular level, All has about 10 types of detergent options—Fresh Rain, Oxi Booster, Regular, Baby, and so forthand if we seriously took the time to narrow down brands and options rather than using a heuristic to help make the decision, we’d never have clean clothes again. 

3. The power of brand identity. The relationship between brand identity and the way we interact with brand stereotypes can have powerful consequences on behavior, mainly because, as Charles Swann said during his talk, “the ability for a brand to impact our identity is the biggest factor in a brand’s social presence.” We use brands to define who we are and who we want to be perceived as. For example, just think about the clothing you wear and the car you own. Many of the choices we make are influenced by how we interact with the brands around us—the brands that drive their own identity and stereotypes for better or for worse. This all comes down to one key theme—social identity—and the ability for a brand to help drive who we are. The age old saying “consumers own the brand” is truer now than it has ever been. Additionally, there is now a collaborative relationship between the brand and consumer—consumers define what a brand should be and brands become the stereotype that later defines consumers’ identity.

4. Storytelling. Brands are a large part of consumer identity, and, as such, there has always been a deep need to bring insights—research and otherwise—to life and to develop a face of the consumer. At this conference, a researcher from a national company pointed out that because consumers are dynamic, the need for powerful storytelling in research and branding is pivotal for understanding how these consumers behave and move through the purchase funnel. What drives these consumers? What makes the most loyal customers so loyal? Why do we lose customers? Deep insights into consumer behavior can be derived from both quantitative and qualitative research—it’s a matter of presenting the story in a way that humanizes consumers and personifies who a brand is trying to reach. 

5. So what? Throughout the NEMRA conference, there was a plethora of information on non-conscious decision making, brand identity, and socialization of research. The theme that ended every presentation was “So what?” That’s the infamous line we’ve all heard 100 times from various professors, colleagues, and our own minds. So what? It all came down to making any research we do actionable so that brands can adapt to a changing consumer environment. As researchers, we need to think about the behaviors and experiences consumers have and allow those insights to inform the questions we ask and the hypotheses we develop. Doing this will not only lead to more effective branding, advertising, and marketing but to happy consumers as well.

Alyse is a Senior Associate Researcher on the FIH/RTE practice. She is fascinated by Behavioral Economics, Psychology, and what makes people tick.

Hilary is a Project Manager at CMB. Her New Year’s resolutions include how to activate “System 1” thinking about hitting the gym in 2015.     

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The Early Bird Gets the...Black Friday Sales Dip?

 

iStock 000030486308XXXLarge resized 600By Will Buxton

I like to call myself a Holiday Champion. I like to think that I enjoy the Holiday Season more than most people, and I’m definitely one of those people who is more jovial in December than any other time of year. You can probably contribute my enjoyment to one of the following:

A) The Holiday Season’s reliable signaled start (post-Thanksgiving) and finish (New Year’s).

B) The result of having a December birthday (please send all birthday presents to CMB).

C) I love the snow and the association it has with the Holidays.

D) My appreciation of all the rituals and traditions accompanying the Holiday Season.

E) All of the above

I believe it is E) All of the above, but it’s likely that some factors are more influential than others. Because I’m so appreciative of this time of year, I find myself hyper-sensitive to the events surrounding the Holiday Season. Here’s another fun fact about me: I like structure. Things around the Holidays are supposed to happen in a certain order. For example, Thanksgiving comes before Christmas and Christmas comes before New Year’s. However, more and more often, humans and even nature keep messing up the order of Holiday Season events . . .  and I’m starting to worry about the long-lasting consequences.

A few examples:

  • In 2011, New England received a considerable snowstorm just before Halloween, and despite my love for snow, it felt too soon.
  • This year, there were faux Christmas trees for sale at my local wholesale club the day after Halloween. Too soon.
  • Also this year, Kmart unofficially released the first Christmas shopping commercial on September 5th. TOO SOON.

In years past, I thought that my displeasure with these “too soon events” was because I had my own preference for what the order of the Holiday Season should be. However, it seems that this year, other Holiday Champions are sharing in my disapproval. This year also marked some of the earliest “start” times for Black Friday (is it still Black Friday if it starts on Thursday?) with stores opening at mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving Day. This list includes Old Navy (4pm), Best Buy (5pm), and Walmart (6pm). All of this must mean that spending is through the roof, right?

As you may have read by now, initial reports show that total spending on Black Friday was down 11% overall from last year. Some speculate that Black Friday numbers have dropped because of the lingering effects of the most recent recession and the increase of shopping on Cyber Monday. However, consumer confidence has been rising the past few years and holiday sales figures rise steadily every year.

Much of the advertising leading up to Black Friday this year focused on the time at which a particular store would be opening or the level of discount on particular products. Personally, what I felt was largely lacking from a lot of advertisements was the creation of a need or want for the consumer so that he/she would care about these start times and deals. I need a reason to keep track of what stores open at what times and where the best deals can be found. Is it possible that one of the contributing factors to the drop in sales for this year’s Black Friday was these misdirected marketing campaigns? Or is it that the frequency of messages and advertising extremely early doesn’t have as much of an impact on customers as we are meant to believe?

One of the ways Chadwick Martin Bailey helps our clients avoid communicating information and messages that don’t resonate with their audiences is through techniques such as Key Driver Analysis, Maximum Difference Scaling, Latent Class Segmentation, Discrete Choice Modeling, and TURF (Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency) Analyses. In combination with 30 years of experience, each of these tools affords CMB the flexibility to tailor the right questionnaire design for each client, market, customer, and product. By utilizing the right analysis, CMB is able to see beyond self-reported tendencies or likelihoods and through to the emotional drivers or motivations that trigger consumers to behave in particular ways.

Given the knowledge and capabilities of Chadwick Martin Bailey, I can only hope that one day I will see a commercial for my favorite store that goes something like this…

“Happy upcoming birthday, Will! Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it looks like it is going to snow just enough for snowballs but not so much that you’ll have to shovel the driveway! So how about you put up all your seasonal decorations, and then come into [insert store here] and buy that hover-board or teleportation machine you’ve been wanting this year!”

Will Buxton is a Project Manager on the Financial Services Team at Chadwick Martin Bailey. When not complaining about having a birthday right before Christmas, Will enjoys long drives on short golf courses and riding in party buses in Chicago.

Want to help us craft the future of messaging and market research? Join our team!

Open Positions

5 Questions with GSP’s Kelli Robertson on Positioning Cisco’s "Internet of Everything"

 

By Tara Lasker


800px Cisco logo.svgGS&P.logo.with.name.1Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Kelli Robertson talked with CMB’s Research Director, Tara Lasker, about a recent messaging study they partnered on for Cisco. This study aimed to determine the best way to communicate Cisco’s role in the “Internet of Everything.” 

TARA: There’s been a lot of buzz lately about using data to support strategic thinking. Can you talk a little bit about how you strike that balance between the two in your role?

kelli robertson, GSP, Cisco, CMB

KELLI: Well, I don’t think data just supports thinking—I think it also generates it. There’s nothing more exciting than a table full of data and going through that data to find ideas and the story. I think that’s one of the things we did with this study. I think you always have to start with hypotheses and use the data gathered to prove or disprove them, which is what we did. You also have to be open to the data giving you new ideas. For us, data isn’t just about validating—it’s about learning.

It’s also important to realize that data helps bring consensus. Marketing is hard today because everything is so uncertain, and I think it’s easy for clients to dismiss things you learn from eight or even thirty qualitative interviews. It’s a lot harder to dismiss data. So if you can combine the data with the new ideas, you’re more likely to create consensus and generate buy-in from the people you’re working with.

TARA:  That’s definitely true, and we see that throughout many of our client engagements. Moving on to our study, can you talk about how GSP and CMB partnered to help solve some of the challenges that Cisco faced?

KELLI: The first thing that CMB did really well was to quickly grasp the topic. This includes how technology influences business, the somewhat complicated concept of the “Internet of Everything,” and all of the product and technology solutions that create the “Internet of Everything.” There wasn’t a lot of explaining that I had to do because CMB just jumped in. I think that’s a testament to all of your experience with clients in the technology industry. You also recognized that the “Internet of Everything” might be a complicated concept for respondents to grasp, so you helped us craft a few different ways to talk about it in the survey, which allowed us to better measure true awareness and understanding.

Here’s another example. This was a global study, and CMB had a lot of recommendations including using max diff scaling to prioritize messages and alleviate any global scale bias. These recommendations allowed us to overcome a challenge that I wouldn’t have even known about if it hadn’t been for you. You also recommended that we test a few diagnostics within the top scoring messages. That helped us gain a better understanding of why messages were compelling instead of just showing us which ones were at the top of the list. Those diagnostics helped us feel confident in the messages that stood out.

TARA: We did a lot of secondary research on our end and asked colleagues at CMB with the most tech experience about the “Internet of Everything.” We tried to think from a respondent’s perspective when answering the questions to make sure that we were getting the most useful data we could possibly get and to ensure the respondents were reacting the way we wanted without misunderstanding.

KELLI: I think that background research you’re referring to was what allowed you to help us so much. I live in the “Internet of Everything” world. I have for the past two years. You allowed us to go deep into the “Internet of Everything,” but kept in mind the fact that people won’t view it with the same amount of understanding that we do. That helped us ask questions in a more broad sense and allowed us to have good juxtapositions regarding innovation, business, and technology.

TARA: Exactly. We also looked at the different roles within an organization and how they saw it. For example, the C-suite and technical decision makers understood and liked the more detailed messaging while business managers liked the broader, softer messaging. Speaking of, can you talk about what impact this research has had on Cisco’s brand messaging strategy? What’s happened since we’ve presented the results?

KELLI: Well, as you know, Cisco keeps coming back to get more data, and the study is really being adopted. It helped us form the messaging strategy for Cisco moving forward. For example, it helped us craft the right language to explain how Cisco is making the “Internet of Everything” possible. There’s been this question in the marketplace: what does Cisco do to make the “Internet of Everything” happen? The study helped us answer that question and address the skepticism our audience has had in the most compelling way.

The study also helped us define a sweet spot within our target audience. Prior to this, we talked broadly about C-suite executives, business decision-makers, and technical decision-makers. We summarize our audience as C-suite executives, but the study uncovered a very clear mindset that matched Cisco’s aspirations. Now we’re able to use that data to talk about our audience psychographically. We’ve found an attitudinal sweet spot because of the confidence in the data. Without the study, we could guess that C-suite executives and business decision-makers felt a certain way, but the data is invaluable in changing the way we think about who we reach out to, how we influence them, and the attitude Cisco needs to have. That’s been really invaluable, and it influences a lot of our decisions in tone and placement media.

The study also helped validate some of the Cisco product solutions that we should prioritize in our messaging. In the past, Cisco was primarily a networking company. Now, Cisco is offering a suite of product solutions way beyond networking. This study helped us uncover which of those product solutions triggered the most thoughts of innovation in our audience’s mind, which helped us prioritize where we should focus our product efforts.

TARA: Let’s talk a little more about the buy-in. This is the second time we’ve worked together on a project like this, and we’ve always had a great partnership. You understand your client and the questions they need answered, and we work through the research design and analysis. Ultimately, the goal is to get buy-in and adoption. So, can you talk about the adoption throughout Cisco?

KELLI: We’ve presented this countless times at Cisco, and we’re still getting requests to present it. We also just presented all of the work to the global regions in Cisco to help inform their work. They use a lot of the work we do, but they also do a lot of work on their own, so I’m sharing it with them so that they can use it to help inform what they do. Certain people within the organization are even using the data in their day-to-day work, which is amazing.

One of the things I’ve been most excited about is that we’re working with the thought leadership team at Cisco, who help set the agenda and public relations initiatives around key themes and topics. They’ve spent a lot of time pouring through the results, and they ended up coming back with a huge list of questions that are going to drive their thinking for the next year. So it’s helping set thought leadership, which is great.

One of the biggest things we tested is Cisco’s mission statement—“Changing the way we work, live, play, learn.” That is a statement that has always been on paper, and it has always been referred to as Cisco’s mission statement. The data we got back showed how compelling this statement was to our audience. It came back as one of the top messages if not the top message. I think that’s been giving Cisco a lot of confidence that they need to do more with their mission statement and that it needs to become not just words on paper, but something that drives all action within Cisco. I think this study is going to breathe new life into this big, bold mission statement and give them the courage to use it more overtly to make bolder decisions. There’s a difference between having a mission statement and being on a mission, and I feel like this data gave them the confidence to be a company on a mission—on a mission to change the way we work, live, play, learn.

TARA: Over the years, you’ve been one of my favorite clients for several reasons—one of them being that you really approach the relationship like a true partnership. We really work together. We get to a place where you know the client, challenges, political environment, and research questions that need to be answered. CMB brings research expertise, which allows us to design the study in a way that is going to answer your questions, so you don’t have to worry about the technicalities. I feel like both times we’ve partnered, we’ve ended up in a good, clear place at the end because of the way we work together throughout the process.

KELLI: I agree, and I will say that who we chose wasn’t necessarily my decision. I worked with the head of our research group. When we were going through RFPs, it became clear that few research companies are so thorough. There’s just this reality that not a lot of other research companies are as strategic, bring the breadth of experience, dive in, and ask questions of other experts in the organization the way you do….and these were things we noticed from the first RFP. There’s just something special you have bottled over there.

TARA: Thanks, Kelli! Hopefully we’ll get the chance to work together again in the future.

Tara Lasker is a Research Director at CMB and Kelli is a Group Brand Strategy Director at GSP. They both enjoy good beer, good music, commiserating over the trials and tribulations of motherhood, and telling a great story with primary research data.  

Focusing in a World Full of Distractions

 

By Judy Melanson 

cmb, focus, communicationOur company’s Internet was down for a few hours earlier this week. While the IT team scrambled to identify and fix the problem, the project staff’s reaction to the news caused many of them (us!) to look like a deer caught in headlights: stunned. But because we, by nature, are problem solvers, the staff quickly sprang into action. The “work-arounds” were identified and shared, and people dispersed. Some, in the quest for free Wi-Fi, temporarily moved into Starbucks or the train station for a few hours. Others took the time to engage with colleagues in-person (!) to brainstorm, strategize, or simply catch up. It wasn’t long before the IT team got the company back online, but the service interruption has caused me to reflect on our work and purpose.

Years ago, in my M.B.A. capstone strategy course at Babson College, I competed in a strategy game with other teams in the class. The teams had to use the information available to make decisions and set the strategy for our pretend companies. We had to answer questions like: what markets should we conquer? What should the features and pricing structures be for our products? What investments should we make in research, advertising, and operations?

My team chose a simple strategy: world domination. We decided we could outmaneuver our competitors with a first-to-market strategy. We flew out of the gate, introduced our first generation product in multiple markets, and, over the course of several weeks. . . we failed in a dramatic fashion. The lesson I learned from the course is one I carry with me to this day: focus. The teams that performed best studied the market and adapted their products and pricing structures to reflect market needs. Only then did they proceed with a plan and a goal to execute their plan as well as they could. 

I’m celebrating my 22nd anniversary at Chadwick Martin Bailey this week, and one of the things that I love about what we do is helping our clients make decisions—particularly decisions that are complex and have some level of risk associated with them. The information we provide enables clients to focus on high potential opportunities across a range of areas: market segments, operational improvements, new products, digital marketing, high-value customers, and more. We help our clients determine which alternatives have potential (for growth, for profit, for brand extension) and provide insight into how they can tackle those high potential alternatives. Resources—like time and money—are limited everywhere. Deciding what to do and what to ignore is essential for business success, team focus, execution, and sanity.

The Internet interruption this week forced me to focus on what I had to do without distractions. It also, strangely enough, empowered me to choose how to spend my day instead of feeling like my job is to constantly respond to communications. At this very moment, I can be reached instantly via four phones, three social networks, two email addresses, and one online chat system. . . that’s ten communication channels. At this stage in my career, communication with clients, prospects, and team members is essential to my success, which is why I monitor and quickly respond to all ten communication channels.  But this week’s Internet interruption has caused me to challenge my use of these channels and to consider how I can be more effective and focused in a world of constant interruption. 

Anyone want to guess what my 2015 New Year’s Resolution will be? 

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel and Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with her clients. She's the mom of two college students and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC.

WEBINAR: The New Hotel Path to Purchase: The Mobile, Social, and Online Journey – Listen to Judy in action as she talks about this study we did as part of CMB’s Consumer Pulse program. We asked 2,000 leisure travelers to share their journey from awareness to booking. This webinar will give you insight into the role of mobile, apps, customer reviews, and social media. 

Watch Now!


Ready, Set, GROW: CMB Gets Hairy for Mustache Movember

 

movember logoBy Kirsten Clark

Did you ever think we’d live in a world in which you could grow facial hair to promote a cause? Well, ladies and gents, that’s the concept of Movember in a nutshell. A few of the guys here at CMB have decided to grow out their mustaches this month in the name of men’s health. You’re probably asking yourself: what the heck does growing a mustache have to do with promoting men’s health? It’s a fun way to spread the word and get the conversation started. Plus, it keeps those upper lips warm against the November chill.

Let’s take a look at some facts:

  • The average life expectancy for men in the U.S. is almost 5 years less than women
  • 50% of men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime
  • Men are 24% less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year
  • Of those Americans who died by suicide in 2012, 78.3% were male
  • 12.1% of men ages 18+ are in fair or poor health

So, men: it’s time to take action. Visit the doctor when you’re not feeling well. Go get checked for prostate and testicular cancer. Understand the importance of spreading awareness. And, ladies, you’re not off the hook either. Become a Mo Sista by telling the men in your life about the risks they face and by challenging them to join the movement.

What else can you do to help? Well, you can join us late in the game and start growing out your ‘stache or you can simply donate to our team’s page. Every dollar raised goes to help fight prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental illness.

Check out CMB’s Movember team in various stages of the ‘stache growing process: 

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Kirsten Clark is a Marketing Associate at CMB. She's a self-proclaimed champion for men's health and always enjoys a good mustache (Tom Selleck, anyone?). 

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