The posts here represent the opinions of CMB employees and guests—not necessarily the company as a whole. 

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CMB Lights the Night for Cancer Research

Posted by Athena Rodriguez

Thu, Oct 13, 2016

Once again CMB is participating in Light the Night, a fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, culminating in a walk on Boston Common on October 20th.  Our participation began back in 2008, when our coworker, Catherine, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  After two rounds of chemo, a stem cell transplant, and proton radiation therapy, I’m happy to report that she recently celebrated six years in remission!  

The money raised is used to fund research for new therapies and treatments (including those that saved Catherine) and ensure patient access to treatments.  Last year alone, LLS invested $67.2 million in blood cancer research.


Over the past 8 years, we’ve raised over $80K—not bad for a 65 person company!  LTN is truly a company-wide endeavor, we host bake sales, BBQs, silent auctions, and a very competitive cornhole tournament.  This year we've raised over $6K, and we're still going strong. We'd like to give a big thank you to all of our clients, partners, and friends who've donated!

If you’d like to join us in the fight against cancer, please donate here or meet us on Thursday October 20th at 5PM on the Boston Common.

That's not the only way to join the CMB team, whether you are an innovation guru, a tech whiz, or a strategic selling machine, we’re looking for collaborative, engaged professionals:

Check out our open positions!




Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people, CMB Careers, Light the Night,

How to get the most ROI from TMRE 2016

Posted by Julie Kurd

Wed, Oct 05, 2016

Knect365’s (formerly IIR) TMRE conference is the diva of the insights conference world—from October 17th to the 20thyou can expect thousands of attendees, six tracks running simultaneously, and terrific keynote speakers like Freakonomic’s Stephen Dubner. All of this adds up to a significantly higher price tag, so let’s talk about how you’re going to communicate conference ROI to your CMO. 


Plan prior to the conference:

  • Write your elevator pitch: Whether you’re reserved or chatty, you’re going meet a lot of new people at TMRE, so take a minute to prepare your elevator speech:
    1. “My name is ___ and I work for ___, the makers of ___.”  If you work for Amazon, people understand that, but if you work for SC Johnson or Coca Cola, specify the product line.
    2. “In the coming year we’re focused on improving our ___, and for that we’re interested in ___.”  Here’s an example: “We just finished up a big journey study, which will help us drive the right messages to the right people at the right moments.” You can follow that up with something like: “In the coming year we’re going to do a lot of messaging optimization and concept testing to bring those moments into focus by segment.” That’s your hook, and your reason for the conversation you’re having.   
    3. Next comes your question. You’ve offered a bit about what you do, but who are you talking with?  If they are a peer or competitor, ask, “How about you?”  That’s it.  You need to bring this information back to your company.  If they are a supplier of research, ask, “How would you approach this if you were pitching to me?” 
  • Highlight the agenda: Figure out which sessions you want to attend. Tip:  I circle my agenda based on who will be speaking vs. the topic itself.  I want a mix of dot com, financial services, technology, healthcare, hospitality, and consumer goods, so I circle every brand that interests me and then I go back and take a look at the titles.  If I’m interested in mobile/geotagging more than dashboards (or vice versa), then I can narrow it down from there.
  • Block your calendar for the October 17-20 dates: Activate your out of office message and be sure to mention that you’re WORKING offsite all day.  At the price of any conference, it’s really a crime to be dialing in to staff meetings or writing emails in your hotel room.  Plan ahead…if you have a big deadline, consider moving it.  The Conference ROI of you missing the conference…it’s not pretty.

During the Conference:

  • Recap 3 of the sessions in writing so you can talk specifically about the cases during a future lunch and/or a staff meeting:  It is not enough to just go and listen to each session and then when you return to the office proclaim, “the conference was great.” You need to listen fiercely, with pen or tablet in hand, and write down who spoke, what they said and how it can be useful to your business. This is key, you need to find a way to weave in at least two of those three sessions into your future behaviors. TMRE should CHANGE the way you think, and the only way change happens is if you bring it on yourself. 
  • Make a few new acquaintances (and connect on LinkedIn): Because you need to keep actively learning in and across industries, use TMRE to expand your network. One of our clients recently told me, “I’m painfully introverted so I just go to the sessions.” But how are you going to remember that incredible speaker from ___ or that kind person from ___ unless you connect on LinkedIn?  It may seem awkward, but when it comes time to look for new methodologies, share best practices or recruit new hires, you’ll be happy you connected with a wider net of people.  Companies can get insular, so TMRE offers you the opportunity to interact with people you wouldn’t typically meet.
  • Bonus tip—take a photo of yourself with one of the famous authors and share it with your CMO: OK, you don’t NEED to do this, but you need to come up with one visual representation of you at work and broadening your horizons at the IIR TMRE. Best-selling authors including Stephen Dubner (Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics), Zoe Chance (Better Influence) or Francis Glebas (The Animator’s Eye) will be there, so you can check out at least one of those books prior to the conference.  Or you can take a picture of the stage for one of your favorite sessions and share that.  A picture tells a great story!

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the Twitter #mrx community. Talk research with her @julie1research.

Headed to TMRE? Stop by Booth 516 and say hello to Julie and the rest of the CMB team. And don't forget to catch CMB's Brant Cruz and Electronic Arts' (EA's) Jodie Antypas as they share how  EA leveraged insights to make a dramatic company turnaround: October 18th @11:15am.


Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, conference recap, Market research

CMB Conference Recap: MRA's Corporate Researchers Conference

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Fri, Sep 30, 2016

It’s been less than 48 hours after leaving the MRA’s Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC) 2016 in San Francisco and I’ve finally had a moment to reflect.   

Three topics dominated this year: Innovation, Emotion, and Qualitative and Hybrid methods.  If you created a word cloud from the sessions and keynotes, these words would pop, along with actionability, risk taking and impact.


INNOVATION: There’s a growing intersection between innovation and market research—the need for facilitation and moderation is expanding at the same time as more and more brands wake up to the benefits of co-creation with customers.  Key takeaway: Researchers with foresight and adaptability can contribute at the fuzzy front end and not just after products are conceived of and developed.

EMOTION: Emotional measurement and neuroscience continue to be hot topics, and CRC was no exception. How do you get beyond the rational to understand the complex reasons customers make choices?  What is the science behind emotions and how can we leverage our knowledge of social psychology and neuroscience?

QUAL & HYBRID METHODS: Seven separate sessions were devoted to ways in which qualitative research was a critical addition to quantitative findings and to storytelling.  Methods such as observation, in-home (in bathroom!) ethnography, online communities and a Quant + Qual method used by eBay brought faster and better insights.

Other themes and learnings included: observe more (93% of communication is non-verbal), be prescriptive not just descriptive, walk/hydrate/power nap/meditate, think creation vs curation, design thinking, improv and that old standby storytelling. 

Along with some interesting conversation, attendees heard some big industry news—the MRA and CASRO merger. As of January 2017, MRA+CASRO will now be the “Insights Association”.  Most members favor the merger and look forward to one cohesive professional organization.  It makes sense to me too, and I thank those who surely worked tirelessly to make this happen. I just wonder about the name.  After all of the talk of “actioning” at the conference (and in our daily work), I’d like to see the name reflect more than just insights—it  feels limiting--stopping short of the more important “impact”.  I would like to be associated with the result in addition to the insight.  Let me know if you agree or disagree. 

Kathy is CMB’s new VP of Qualitative Strategy + Insights.  She loves uncovering insights from customers across the globe and lived in Shanghai for 8 months doing just that!  If you missed her at CRC, you can catch up with at TMRE or send her a shout @ShopperMRX.


Topics: qualitative research, EMPACT, emotional measurement, conference recap, growth and innovation

Minimalism on Trend: When Consumers Don’t Want to Consume

Posted by Laura Blazej

Thu, Sep 22, 2016

The minimalist lifestyle is having a moment. Several television shows are dedicated entirely to tiny houses—very small homes that are often no more than 250 square feet. Another popular trend is the capsule wardrobe where an entire season of clothing is limited to 33 items (or fewer). Then there’s Marie Kondo’s #1 New York Times best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” which advocates for getting rid of all of that stuff in the back of your closet. Many people, particularly millennials, want to buy and own less.

One possible reason for the minimalism craze is a AdobeStock_62945676.jpegreaction to the out-of-control consumerism seen at 5am on Black Friday at any big box store. Every year, Black Friday starts earlier and earlier to give more people the chance to get that new TV or crock-pot. Everyone likes to get a good deal, but there’s a difference between buying items you need at a good deal versus buying items simply because they are a good deal. People are increasingly rejecting these external forces that tell us to BUY, BUY, BUY, and this rejection of consumerism is becoming more mainstream.

This trend can pose a real problem for companies that rely on consumers to consume. If consumers are becoming pickier about what products they purchase, and how many, then two critical characteristics stand out to help companies adapt to this shift: brand differentiation and customer-centrism.

  • Brand differentiation is the process of differentiating or contrasting your brand against others to make it stand out. This becomes paramount when consumers are pickier than ever but have a sea of choices to pick from. One example of successful brand differentiation is REI’s #OptOutside Last fall, rather than contributing to the pandemonium that is Black Friday, REI chose to close its doors and advocate for spending the day outdoors with friends and family. REI sacrificed a day of bountiful sales to send a longer-lasting message to its customers that REI values their time and experiences. Although they missed the biggest shopping day of the year, they gained brand differentiation during the most competitive shopping season, which can be much more valuable in the long run—at least REI thinks so.
  • Customer-centrism also becomes a priority because minimalist consumers are more willing to seek out products and services that serve them best. Customer-centrism places the emphasis on customer experiences and needs. When many people, but especially minimalists, decide they need to buy something, they’re going to look beyond price to make their decision, and take into account return policies, access to customer-service, ease and convenience of shopping experience, and environmental impact. The more of these areas a company can successfully address, the better chances a picky consumer will consider their product.

So, what should companies do when consumers don’t want to consume? They should make their brand stand out and cater to their customers’ experience. Marketing to minimalists may not be the easiest task, but successfully winning them over is a marker of true success.

Laura Blazej is an Associate Researcher at CMB and a tiny-house enthusiast with only 28 items in her capsule wardrobe. 

Have you seen our latest report: on The Power of Social Currency? Check out our 90-brand study of 18,000 consumers to see which brands are driving brand equity in the Airline, Auto, Beer, Fashion, and Restaurant industries:

Get the Full Report

Take a peek at our interactive dashboard to see which brands do best among men and women, and in red and blue states:

Interactive Dashboard


Topics: millennials, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

CMB Welcomes Kathy Ofsthun as Head of Expanding Qualitative Strategy + Insights Practice

Posted by Megan McManaman

Fri, Sep 16, 2016

We're excited to announce that Kathy Ofsthun has recently returned to CMB as VP of Qualitative Kathy_final_casual_1_of_1-2.pngStrategy + Insights after spending almost 5 years at C Space as VP of Client Services. Kathy is back to head up CMB’s expanding Qualitative practice—growing clients’ businesses by bringing them closer to their customers.

Kathy  brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in qualitative methods, qual/quant synthesis, and creating connections and strategic partnerships. Her deep research expertise was developed through two decades of work with multinational companies, including a year in Shanghai managing the C Space APAC office. Her work has focused on topics as varied as New Product Development, Shopper Insights, Packaging, Brand Positioning, and Segmentation.

 "I’m thrilled to rejoin CMB at this exciting time," Kathy says. "As consumers move into the driver's seat, marketers and innovators need and want to be closer to their customers, understanding who they are, hearing their needs and incorporating their ideas. By including customers in co-creation of new products, communications development and more, brands can either fail faster or adapt and succeed. I look forward to helping clients leverage the voice of the consumer in order to achieve growth.”

Kathy will be headed to MRA's CRC in San Francisco next week, give us a ring, email us, or stop by booth 407 to say hello!

Are you going to CRC and want to get the most out of it? Check out Julie Kurd's blog:  How To Not Flunk the MRA Corporate Researchers Conference

Topics: strategy consulting, qualitative research, Kathy Ofsthun

How Top Beer Brands Brew up Social Currency

Posted by Ed Loessi

Thu, Sep 08, 2016

Last month, we released the results of our 5 industry, 90 brand study: Business Transformation through Greater Customer-Centricity: The Power of Social Currency—a collaboration between CMB and VIVALDI. In the coming weeks we’ll release 5 industry specific reports covering Beer, Fashion, Airlines, Automobiles, and Restaurants. This week we’re taking a closer look at 14 of the top brands in the Beer Industry in our new report: The Power of Social Currency: Business Transformation in the Beer Category.

For those of you who have been following these posts, you’ll recall that the genesis of this research was VIVALDI’s Social Currency concept. Introduced in 2012, Social Currency is a framework for understanding brands’ ability to fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today’s social, digital, and mobile context. Measuring and understanding the 7 dimensions (below) of Social Currency are critical to building strong brands in today’s market. The age of the brand ambassador is over—consumers don’t act in service of brands, they act in service of themselves—interacting with and promoting brands that help them express themselves.


The wide world of beer

By most industry statistics, Americans consume just north of 6 billion gallons of beer every year. Thousands of varieties of beer are crafted in over 3,400 breweries across all 50 states. Although 90% of the beer is produced by just 11 companies, there is still an immense amount of brand building, marketing, advertising, and storytelling aimed at beer drinkers. Truthfully, this is the stuff of nightmares for brand builders. It’s one thing to be in a competitive market; it’s an entirely different thing to be in a market with so many companies trying to build a brand for a product that pretty much looks the same when poured into a glass. Whoa now! I’m sorry if I’m offending the beer connoisseurs, I realize that I’m ignoring the the vast differences between hoppy IPAs, chocolatey stouts, and Belgian Saisons, but you get the idea.

If you’re going to build a strong brand for beer today, you need to understand the personal and social identities of the consumer. You need the customer to know who the drinker of that beer is – is s/he a quirky creative, independent thinker, old-school beer and barbecue, or the person looking for that next beach party? From that, you need to create the social opportunities and content that allow each of those consumers to express themselves through your brand.

Each of the five brands (pictured below) that topped our measure of Social Currency, have established a clear picture of the person who drinks their beer and they understand why that’s important. Each brand has worked hard to provide engaging social and content opportunities for their consumers.


How are these companies using Social Currency to build their beer brands?

Sam Adams: The Boston Beer Company’s co-founder, Jim Koch, embodies the brewery’s spirit of independence. This independence has manifested itself in the name chosen for their famous lager – Sam Adams Boston Lager, and it has been a part of the brand message since the very beginning. Their most recent commercial “Stay Independent” keeps to that message and entices the independent thinker to become a drinker of Sam Adams. The personal identity of the Sam Adams beer drinker is very clearly the independent thinker, not your average corporate beer drinker.

The “King of Beers” – if anyone would have cause to worry about the numerous competitors in this market, it’s the King. But, this King still has his crown. Long known for its unique Super Bowl ads, Budweiser came out of the gate this past year with a bold attack on craft beer drinking. Budweiser reasserted its beer as “not craft”, “not imported”, “not small”, and “not backing down”. In delivering this message, against the powerful backdrop of its famous Clydesdale horses, it also reasserted the identity of its target market, the no-nonsense, deeply rooted and not swayed by the trends of the day beer drinker. This identity is strong and reliable.

Corona: Simple message - sand, sun, and lime wedges! Corona has long been associated with those beautiful summer days being pursued by happy people, looking for a place to relax, and have fun. Corona has used these simple messages extremely well and has built a perfect image of the personal identity of someone who drinks Corona.

The beer industry is unlike other consumer industries. It has a concentrated power base regarding brewing capacity, but its brand managers, marketers, advertisers, and social media teams must deal with literally thousands of brands in the form of small brewers competing for the same customers. Understanding how to use Social Currency is of vital importance in building a brand. By crafting messages that align with consumer’s personal and social identity, and creating social and content opportunities, beer companies can differentiate themselves in this crowded market. So pull up a stool, grab a pint, and learn how Social Currency helps insights professionals and marketers create content, and share the messages that support consumer identity—spurring engagement, purchase, and advocacy.

Ed is CMB's Director of Product Development and Innovation. He thinks there is a game-changing product or idea within everyone, and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi.

Download the beer report and let us show you how Social Currency can enable brand transformation:

Get the Report

And check out our interactive dashboard for a sneak peek of Social Currency by industry:

Interactive Dashboard






Topics: brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, retail research, Social Currency

How To Not Flunk the MRA Corporate Researchers Conference

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Sep 06, 2016

You’re not going to flunk the MRA’s Corporate Researchers Conference, I won’t let you. Here are six sure-fire ways to fail (and how to avoid them): 

  1.  Don’t plan ahead. Right this moment, send yourself an invite to two 30-minute “meetings.” One meeting just prior to the conference (MRA CRC starts 9/26) to plan your goals, and one about a week after you’re back (first week of October).  Before the conference, your first order of business is to print out the agenda.  Read the synopses and circle the sessions you want to attend.  In some timeslots, you’ll notice you want to attend all three sessions (circle them all) and in others you may find nothing relevant to your industry or your role. You can always re-read the agenda and make adjustments during the actual conference. I’ll talk about meeting number two a bit later.
  2. Stay in your hotel room on conference calls. Yes, of course you’re busy. We all are. But we also all need to invest the time to broaden our understanding of the world, our industry, and our clients—you need to LEAVE YOUR HOTEL ROOM.  Hack your workaholic tendencies by booking your calendar as "unavailable," from 7:30am until 11:00pm every day of the conference so others know that you’re busy. CRC2.png
  3. Don’t have your elevator speech. Map out your interests/needs/desires to focus your conversations.  A lot of your fellow attendees have significant experience, so if you care about the role of emotions in brand identity and not about millennial shopper behavior, we’ll tailor our conversation and case examples to respond to your specific question(s).  Here are the bare bones of your elevator speech: use your 30-minute pre-conference meeting to write it (or write it on the plane).  You should state the super obvious things about yourself and your company’s context, that we suppliers probably don’t know:
    • My name is __ and I’m from __ (yes, it’s on the nametag, so this is optional)
    • There are __ number of people in our research department and we’re centralized/decentralized. We want to know if you’re the only researcher or have a team, if you outsource 100% or 0% of your work, and if you have a new CMO who has doubled or cut budgets. 
    • State your interest and your pain point: We have a __ [project] coming up, and I need to __.  How would you approach this if you were pitching me? Alternatively, if you don’t have an immediate need, direct the conversation like this: While there’s nothing I’m outsourcing now, I need to think about 2017, and we’re most focused on __ [millennial targeting, geographic expansion, brand or product, etc.].  Can you tell me more about what you’re doing in this space and how it’s relevant to me?
  4. Avoid ‘booth city.’ Vendors (we prefer “suppliers” or “partners”) are not vampires.  We come with our pop-up storefronts offering you candy, raffles, cocktails, t-shirts and cute toys to bring home for the kids. Collect it all, but don’t just make it a "grab and go."  Learn a little from us…our PhD’s are using proven techniques in exciting ways and inventing new approaches that brands need and love.  Respond to us when we invite you to connect and see where it leads!  You have to play to win. 
  5. Don’t build your network. Whether you’re connected to 50 or 500 people on LinkedIn, you need to keep actively learning alongside your network.  For your professional network, you need a mix of hub and spoke, content originators, amplifiers, spotters, visionaries and geographically diverse folks, so as you meet people, don’t just collect business cards that will languish at the bottom of your laptop bag. Connect with people on LinkedIn and you’ll have access to a broader network of connections, ideas, and inspiration.
  6. Don’t share. You’ve already gone through the effort of attending the conference, but there’s research that suggests we don’t retain information unless we re-purpose it, share it three times, merchandise it, etc. In other words, you need to take one more step to cement the knowledge or the people you met into your universe.  That’s where that second 30-minute meeting comes in:
    • Get connected: Follow up with the people you met on LinkedIn and Twitter, and drop them a note (see #5 above)
    • Share externally: Post your presentation on your LinkedIn profile so more people can see it. Didn’t present?  Be sure to take detailed notes in two-four sessions and write a post in easy bullet format to share what you learned.
    • Share internally: Share what you learned during your internal staff meeting or take a stakeholder to lunch and talk about an idea sparked from the conference and how it might help them. Don’t be generic…state the name of the presentation, who presented, what was learned, and why it was useful.

Follow these simple steps and I promise you, you’re not going to flunk. For an added incentive, tell me what you do to win at CRC (or another conference) and I’ll send you a fun little gift.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, talk research with her @julie1research.

Topics: conference recap, Market research

OMG! You Won’t Believe the 3 Things Segmentation and BuzzFeed Quizzes have in Common!

Posted by Amy Maret

Wed, Aug 31, 2016

19t0cg.jpg“Which Starbucks Drink Are You?” “What Role Would You Play in a Disney Movie?” “Which ‘Friends’ Character Are You Least Like?” These are the deep existential questions posed on websites like BuzzFeedand PlayBuzz. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are continuously flooded by friends posting their quiz results, and the market researcher in me can’t help compare them to the segmentationwork that we do at CMB every day.

So let’s take a closer look at a few of the basic concepts segmentations share with Buzzfeed quizzes and learn why I’m not too worried about losing my job to BuzzFeed writers just yet:

  1. You answer a predetermined set of questions. In the Starbucks drink quiz, you might be asked to identify your favorite color or your ideal vacation spot, even though these questions have nothing to do with Starbucks. At CMB, we focus on the product or service category at hand, we make sure we include questions that measure real customer needs. That way, we know our final solution will have implications in driving customer behavior. It’s much easier to see the relevance of a solution when the questions we ask have face validity.
  1. You are assigned to a group based on your answers. While I don’t know exactly what happens on the back end of a BuzzFeed quiz, there must be some basic algorithm that determines whether you are a Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino or Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher. However, as far as I know, the rules behind this algorithm are entirely made up by the author of the quiz, probably based on hours hanging out at their local Starbucks. When we conduct a market segmentation study, we typically use a nationally representative sample, which allows our clients to see how large the segments are and what true opportunities exist in the market. We also ensure that we end up with a set of clearly distinct segments that are both statistically solid and useful so that our clients can feel confident implementing the results.
  1. Each group is associated with certain traits. When your quiz results pop up, they usually come with a brief explanation of what the results mean. If you are an Iced Caramel Macchiato, for example, you're successful, honest, and confident. But, if you are a Passion Iced Tea, you are charismatic and hilarious. As a standard part of our segmentation studies, CMB delivers an in-depth look at key measures for each segment, such as demographics, brand preference, and usage, to demonstrate what makes them unique, and how they can be reached. We tailor these profiles to meet the needs of the client, so that they can be used to solve real business problems. For example, the sales team could use these segmentation results to personalize each pitch to a particular type of prospect, the creative team could target advertisements to key customer groups, or finance managers could ensure that budgets are being directed towards those with whom they will be most effective.

I’ll be the first person to admit that personality quizzes are a great way to waste some free time and maybe even learn something new about yourself. But what’s really fun is taking the same basic principles and using them to help real businesses make better decisions. After all, a segmentation is only useful when it is used, and that is why we make our segmentation solutions dynamic, living things to be reapplied and refreshed as often as needed to keep them actionable.

Amy Maret is a Project Manager at CMB with a slight addiction to personality quizzes. In case you were curious, she is an Espresso Macchiato, would play a Princess in a Disney movie, and is least like Ross from Friends.

Download our latest report: The Power of Social Currency, and let us show you how Social Currency can enable brand transformation:

Get the Full Report

And check out our interactive dashboard for a sneak peek of Social Currency by industry:

Interactive Dashboard

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, research design, market strategy and segmentation, Market research

How Under Armour’s Social Currency Builds a Powerful Brand

Posted by Ed Loessi

Tue, Aug 23, 2016

 Last week, CMB and VIVALDI released the results of our watershed study: Business Transformation through Greater Customer-Centricity: The Power of Social Currency.  In the report, we share insights from 18,000 consumers, about 90 brands, across 5 industries (beer, restaurants, auto, airlines, and fashion).

The genesis of this research was VIVALDI's Social Currency concept. Introduced in 2012, Social Currency is a framework for understanding brands’ ability to fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today’s social, digital, and mobile context. This year, CMB partnered with Vivaldi to refine the concept and offer fresh insights into a changing marketplace.

One of the most powerful lessons from our research is that today’s customers don't see themselves as serving brands as the traditional “influencer”  or “brand ambassador” was thought to, but instead act in service of themselves. We see people looking for brands that help them represent who they are and what they believe. Today, the brand is in the hands of the customer and brands that facilitate experiences and behaviors that help consumers explore, develop, and express their identities are the brands that outperform their competitors. This level of performance difference includes high levels of Consideration, Loyalty, Price Elasticity, and Advocacy.

So, how does Social Currency come together? There are two parts; one is an overall score that is a weighted average of the 7 core factors or dimensions (shown below) that influence brand success. Topping that list of dimensions are two important forms of Identity—Personal and Social. Our research shows that identity is a key driver in people’s relationships to brands. The other piece of this framework is a Social Currency Assessment that helps brands develop truly customer-centric activities – messaging, advertising, content development, and digital media that align with customers' needs and wants. It’s important to note that we’re not just talking about brands being good at social media campaigns—it may be that customers express their needs and wants quite often in social media channels, but they also express themselves in many other social situations, and capturing that full spectrum is of vital importance.


The Case of Under Armour

Let’s dig in! One of the stellar performers we uncovered was Under Armour. Founded in 1996, Under Armour is a relative newcomer in the sports apparel space, especially compared to well-known brands such as Nike (1964) and Adidas (1949). Without question, UA founder Kevin Plank had his work cut out for him when he began carting around his unique moisture-wicking T-shirts from the back of his car. It’s hard to imagine how a company with such humble beginnings has risen so quickly to take on many other well-established competitors.

As customer influence has grown, we can see patterns in the performance of those brands that create and nurture the activities that allow customers to identify and share their interaction with the brands. This concept was borne out very clearly in our study, which showed how Under Armour has eclipsed Adidas in its overall ability to deliver Social Currency, and edges closer to the top performer across all industries—Nike. Despite Under Armour’s size, it has done a masterful job understanding its customer and its customer’s needs, and through messaging, shareable content, and the linking of its customer’s Personal and Social Identities to the Under Armour brand, it has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the sports apparel space. You can see in the diagram below “The Under Armour Success Story” that Under Armour scores particularly well in Personal Identity, Information, and Conversation dimensions.


How does Under Armour achieve these high marks of Social Currency and build its brand?

The Misty Copeland example:

From our report: “Like Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline, Under Armour’s “I Will” messaging, is empowering, inspiring, and inclusive. Under Armour’s messaging also celebrates the underdog with the competitive spirit embodied in its “I will what I want” campaign, featuring Misty Copeland, the first black woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. The campaign produced $35 million in earned media and was particularly effective with women with a reported 28% increase in women’s sales. This success is supported by our research, while overall men’s Social and Personal Identity scores are higher across all sports apparel brands, Under Armour’s Social Identity scores among women (44.5) coming closer to those of men (48.1) than any of the others we tested in the category (Reebok, Adidas, Nike).”

The Michael Phelps Example:

You know we wouldn’t let this post go by without an Olympic reference, and neither would Under Armour. The Michael Phelps featured “Rule Yourself” campaign (part of the “I Will” strategy) and video has grown to become one of the most shared Olympic videos of all time. What’s so appealing? Why are so many people identifying with the message of “Rule Yourself” as put forth by Under Armour?

Katie Richards, writing for Adweek“For one, it's striking the right emotional chord with its target audience: millennial men between the ages of 18 and 34. The dramatic nature of the Phelps spot (with a killer track from The Kills) and its ability to take viewers through the swimmer's intense training process elicited a sense of inspiration among 47 percent of overall viewers, and 68 percent of millennial men.”

“Droga5 co-head of strategy Harry Roman echoed Prywes, adding that the Phelps ad is so shareable because it's able to convey the sacrifice that the swimmer makes each day to prepare for Rio.”

As someone who grew up playing every sport imaginable as a kid, and continued to do so through high school and beyond, I can relate to the “Rule Yourself” idea. I’ve now converted to low-impact sports to save my aging knees, but there is part of me that identifies with that idea of not letting go, of taking one more shot. It’s a natural bent of athletes, elite or otherwise. Under Armour has made it easy for me to identify personally, join the conversation through the videos created for the campaign, and express myself regarding the brand. A pale comparison it may be, but I can see that small bit of Michael Phelps in myself, the person who says “I will.”

One final note about the “Rule Yourself” campaign. According to Adweek, to date, 56 percent of the spots' shares are coming from Facebook, followed by Twitter at 28 percent. You’ll also notice, in the chart below, that across the social spectrum, people are expressing their personal and social identities in virtually every type of social environment.


It’s clear, after studying the 90 brands, that those brands that facilitate digital, socially-driven experiences and behaviors that help consumers explore, develop and express their identities are clear winners. Under Armour, in particular, has done an exceptional job in this regard. They have built on the experiences of Misty Copeland and Michael Phelps and made them identifiable to their customers, and hence identifiable with their brand. Under Armour has then made it possible to share great content and express oneself as a function of that brand. Anyone, dominant athlete, former athlete, weekend (or weekday) warrior can see that underdog, and know that “I Will” also!

Ed is CMB's Director of Product Development and Innovation. He thinks there is a game-changing product or idea within everyone, and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi.

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Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, consumer insights, brand health and positioning, Social Currency

Swipe Right for Insights

Posted by Jared Huizenga

Wed, Aug 17, 2016

Data collection geeks like me can learn a ton at the CASRO Digital Research Conference. While the name of the event has changed many times over the years, the quality of the presentations and the opportunity to learn from experts in the industry are consistently good.

One topic that came up many years ago was conducting surveys via cellphones with SMS texts. This was at a time when most people had cellphones, but it was still a couple of years before the smartphone explosion. I remember listening to one presentation and looking down at my Samsung flip-phone thinking, “There’s no way respondents will take a CMB questionnaire this way.” For a few simple yes/no questions, this seemed like a fine methodology but it certainly wouldn’t fly for any of CMB’s studies.

For the next two or three years, less than half of the U.S. population owned smartphones (including yours truly). Even so, SMS texting was getting increasing coverage at the CASRO conference, and I was having a really hard time understanding why. Every year was billed as “the year of mobile!” I could see the potential of taking a survey while mobile, but the technology and user experience weren’t there yet. Then something happened that changed not only the market research industry but the way in which we live as human beings—smartphone adoption skyrocketed.

Today in the U.S., smartphone ownership among adults is 72% according to the Pew Research Center. People are spending more time on their phones and less time sitting in front of a computer. Depending on the study and the population, anywhere from 20%-40% of survey takers are using their smartphones. And if it’s a study with people under 25 years old, that number would likely be even higher. We can approach mobile respondents in three ways:

  • Do nothing. This means surveys will be extremely cumbersome to take on smartphones, to the point where many will abandon during the painful process. This really isn’t an option at all. By doing nothing, you’re turning your back on the respondent experience and basically giving mobile users the middle finger.
  • Optimize questionnaires for mobile. All of CMB’s questionnaires are optimized for mobile. That is, our programming platforms identify the device type a respondent is using and renders the questionnaire to the appropriate screen size.  Even with this capability, long vertical grids and wide horizontal scales will still be painful for smartphone users since they will require some degree of scrolling. This option is better than nothing, but long questions are still going to be long questions.
  • Design questionnaires for mobile. This is the best option, and one that isn’t used often enough. This requires questions and answer options to be written with the idea that they will be viewed on smartphones. In other words, no lengthy grids, no sprawling scales, no drag and drop, minimal scrolling, or anything else that would cause the mobile user angst.  While this option sounds great, one of the criticisms has been that it’s difficult to do advanced exercises like max-diff or discrete choice on smartphones.

One cautionary note if you are thinking that a good option would be to simply disallow respondents from taking a survey on their smartphones.  Did your parents ever tell you not to do something when you were a child?  Did you listen to them or did you try it anyway? What’s going to happen when you tell someone not to take a survey on their mobile device?  Either by mistake or out of sheer defiance, some people will attempt to take it on their smartphone. This happened on a recent study for one of our clients.  These people tried to “stick it to the man,” but alas they were denied entry into the survey. If you want “representative” sample, the other argument against blocking mobile users is that you are blocking specific populations which could skew the results.

The respondent pool is getting shallow, and market research companies are facing increased challenges when it comes to getting enough “completes” for their studies.  It’s important for all of us to remember that behind every “complete” is a human being—one who’s trying to drag and drop a little image into the right bucket or one who’s scrolling and squinting to make sure they are choosing the right option on an 11-point scale in a twenty row grid.  Unless everyone is comfortable basing their quantitative findings off of N=50 in the future, we all need to take steps to embrace the mobile respondent. 

Jared is CMB’s Field Services Director, and has been in market research industry for eighteen years. When he isn’t enjoying the exciting world of data collection, he can be found competing at barbecue contests as the pitmaster of the team Insane Swine BBQ.

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Topics: mobile, research design, Market research