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You’re Doing It Wrong: 5 Takeaways from #YaleInsights15

 

By Julie Kurd

Customer Insights catIf your brand were a meme, would it look like the one on the right? At the 2015 Yale Customer Insight Conference in New Haven, Connecticut, we heard a lot about the evolving marketplace, powerful consumers, and how to get it right.  We’re living in an increasingly customer-centric world—a world where businesses are taking cues from their customers like never before.  Deepak Advani, GM at IBM Commerce points out that more than three-quarters of customers think brands don’t understand them.  So, if you are doing it wrong…how can you get on track?

  1. Visual language first.  Facebook’s Director of Global Agency development, Patrick Harris says that rather than talk about a good book/trip/movie, people are posting a picture of it to “show not tell.” Facebook estimates a 75% global increase in visual language.  Are you wasting time on content no one will read or resonate with?

  2. Be loved by Millennials.  Millennials aren’t fighting the power…they are the power and they know it.  If they don’t love your brand, it is game over, you just don’t know it yet.  Anne Hubert over at Viacom’s Scratch asked us to consider a generation that’s 86 million strong and demands an emotional connection to your brand. You can call them raging narcissists with their heads in their phones and unprofitable for your business model, but if you think they aren’t a factor in your business, Hubert says they might be ignoring your brand.  And all that equity you’ve banked can disappear if they don’t want to work for you and they don’t care about your products/services.

  3. Curate good (not branded) content.  GE may be among the largest companies in the world, but Linda Boff, GE’s Executive Director of Global Brand Marketing, is under no illusions that they need to curate exceptional content— allowing their values of optimism, innovation and flexibility to shine. For instance, GE created 100 pairs of sneakers to celebrate their role in the moon landing. The kicks had everyone from sneaker-heads and fashionistas to museums talking.

  4. Self pace.  Ossa Fisher, CMO at ISTATION showed us the power of pacing and 1:1 learning. A child having trouble with a subject can self-pace their learning on smartphones and tablets, avoiding the embarrassment of being too slow (or too quick) in a larger classroom.  Without the stigma, the child can focus on what they know and don’t know, and work at a comfortable pace.  Even the classroom instructor is excited because she can monitor progress toward a goal without slowing down the class.

  5. Share.  Richelle Parham (Former CMO of eBay) and Bob Adams (Senior Director at Visa) talk about the rise of the sharing economy. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and many others are disrupting entrenched businesses and focused on customer needs. For example, dog owners love their dogs and it feels very wrong to leave the dog in a small cage while the owners go off on vacation.  In the sharing economy, dog lovers can be matched to other dog lovers and can ensure their dog is also going on a great vacation in a loving home.

As you head into the summer months, recognize the ways your company may be “doing it wrong” and take strides to sharpen and grow your brand.

Julie is an Account Executive. She is in her element connecting with innovative big thinkers on topics ranging from emotion to mobile and complex choice modelling. Follow her @julie1research using hashtag #MRX.

Social Media? Scandal’s Got It Handled.

 

By Kirsten Clark

describe the imageDo you have plans tonight?

If you’re like me, you’ll be snuggled up on your couch with a glass of red wine in one hand and Twitter pulled up on your phone in the other, ready and waiting for tonight’s Scandal finale. I’ll admit it: I love all Shonda Rhimes’ shows. I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy since season 3 and How to Get Away with Murder after it premiered last fall. But as much as I love these two shows, I know I can DVR them and avoid spoilers. There’s one of Shonda’s shows, however, that I will move mountains to watch live because I just know that if I don’t, I will be spoiled the minute I go online. That show, ladies and gentlemen, is Scandal.

Since its premiere in 2012, Scandal has positioned itself as “event television”—the kind of can’t-miss show that needs to be watched live to get the full experience— which, if you think about it, is a pretty amazing feat. Just a few years ago, event television was thought to be dead with few exceptions (award shows, sporting events, etc.), but Scandal has resurrected it. How? Through cliffhangers, top secret plots, and brilliant marketing campaigns. But none of these have contributed more to this positioning than the show’s masterful use of Twitter.

describe the image

The community the show has built on Twitter has been key to Scandal’s success, and this success story has a lesson that all brands should remember: loyalty and engagement are key. So, how has Scandal been able to do this? Through an immersive campaign that integrates organic fan-generated content with participation from cast and crew members. Each Thursday night, I am one of the #Gladiators scrolling through Twitter to read live tweets from fellow fans as well as cast members. The actors on the show are not the only people participating—fans can chat with Scandal’s writers (@ScandalWriters), prop master (@scandalprops), makeup department (@ScandalMakeup), and others.

In addition to live tweeting, Scandal has also brilliantly incorporated hashtags into its social media strategy. For instance, in 2012, the show was one of the first programs to advertise on Twitter and to feature a promoted hashtag (#WhoShotFitz) in advertising. The show uses a variety of hashtags for different purposes. For example, the show used #ScandalRecruitment during one month in season three to attract new viewers, and it often promotes #AskScandal, which viewers can use to ask a cast or crew member a question about the show.

All of this has culminated in a massive social media following. The show’s fans send out over 350,000 tweets per episode and, until recently, Scandal had the highest average tweets per episode during live airings of any broadcast drama this season. The show that beat Scandal? Newcomer Empire, which has based its social media strategy (live tweeting, promoted hashtags, etc.) off the success of Scandal’s strategy.

You’re probably asking yourself: why does this matter? First of all, after watching Olivia Pope shut someone down with a scene-stealing speech, is there anything more exciting than getting to directly interact with Kerry Washington about that exact scene? (The answer is no, people.) More importantly, Twitter released a study last May which found that after seeing TV-related tweets, 90% of people take “subsequent action such as watching a show they’ve never watched before, resuming a show that they’d previously stopped watching, and/or searching for more information about the show online.” Let this be a lesson to all brands (not just television shows): building a passionate fan base on Twitter generates loyalty and engagement, which in turn generates increased revenue.

So, fellow Gladiators, cancel your plans and settle in, because tonight promises to be another adventure—both on-screen and on your Twitter feed.

Kirsten Clark is a Marketing Associate at CMB who one day aspires to be like Olivia Pope. . .except without all torture, murders, and Presidential affairs.

Time to Brand Refresh

 

Originally posted on  the South Street Strategy blog

By Lindsay Maroney

Brand buildingAfter a brutal winter, many of us in the Northeast are glad to finally begin our annual spring-cleaning, but we’ve noticed we aren’t the only ones looking for a fresh start. With confidence in the economy growing, there has been an uptick in established brands taking a fresh look at their brand strategy, an area they may have neglected during the recent tough economic times.

For most, a brand refresh means creating a stronger platform for growth. To see evidence of this, one need look no further than recent TV commercials. Domino’s eliminated “Pizza” from their name, allowing for new items beyond their foundational menu offering. Meanwhile Buick promotes their redesigned cars through commercials with actors stating in disbelief, “That’s not a Buick.” Even Southwest has jumped on the bandwagon, highlighting that customers not only receive low fares and free checked bags, but some TLC when flying on one of their planes: “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.”

Some common triggers that appear to spur brands down a new path:

  1. The product and service offerings have fundamentally changed. That is not to say the brand has transformed at its most basic level, but needs to be updated to better reflect what the company is currently offering.
  1. The target audience has shifted. The brand may no longer be reaching its intended audience due to that audience aging, narrowing, broadening, or otherwise changing. Legacy brands may need to create a fresh image to become more relevant to younger audiences.
  1. The company is outgrowing its old brand. Recent company growth from geographic expansion, mergers and acquisitions, or internal structural changes may necessitate a shift in the brand or a split into sub-brands in order for it to stay true.

So with spring in the air and a little more life in the economy, now might be a good time to re-examine your core brands. A thorough market-based review may confirm your brand positioning remains strong and remind you of the core tenets that keep the brand motivating, distinctive, and believable. Or it could reveal opportunities for renewal and reinvention.

south street transp1

 

Lindsay Maroney is a consultant at South Street Strategy Group where they combine strategy and marketing science to uncover insights that help clients grow their business and strengthen their brands. Read South Street's Strategy Group's blog here.


Qualitative Research Isn’t Dying—It’s Evolving

 

By Anne Hooper

qualitative research, anne hooperBack in 2005, Malcolm Gladwell told us that focus groups are dead. Just last November, Jim Bryson, CEO of 20/20 Research, questioned whether qualitative research was thriving or dying: If we take a narrow, more traditional view that qualitative is defined by the methods of face-to-face focus groups or interviews, particularly those held in a qualitative facility, then the case can be easily made that qualitative is dying.”

To all of this, I say: wait, what?! Qualitative is dying? I refused to believe it, so I embarked on a journey to explore where qualitative has been, and more importantly, where it’s going. During my research, I found plenty of evidence to support the fact that qualitative is not, in fact, dying. Great news, right? (Especially for me, because if it were true, I just might be out of a job I love.)

I took a look at the fall 2014 Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report and focused on the data from Q1-Q2 of 2013 and Q1-Q2 2014. In this data, I learned:

  • The use of traditional in-person focus groups increased from 60% (Q1-Q2 2013) to 70% (Q1-Q2 2014).
  • Within the same time period, the use of in-person, in-depth interviews increased from 45% to 53%.
  • Interviews and groups using online communities increased from 21% to 24%.
  • The use of mobile qual (e.g., diaries, image uploads) increased from 18% to 24%.

Yes, it’s important to note that not all qualitative methodologies saw an increase in usage within this timeframe. In fact, there was a decrease in the usage of telephone IDIs, in-store shopping/observations, bulletin board studies, both chat-based and webcam-based online focus groups, and telephone focus groups.  All this notwithstanding, I think it’s fair to say that qualitative is still very much alive and well.

So why do people keep talking about qualitative dying? We can’t deny that there are a number of factors that affect how and when we use qualitative methodologies today (technology, access to big data, and text analytics are a few). But, this doesn’t mean qualitative is disappearing as a discipline. Qualitative is evolving at a rapid pace and feels more relevant than ever. Sure, we need to keep up with client demands for faster and cheaper research, but there will always be a need for the human mind (i.e., a qualitative expert) to analyze and synthesize the data to provide meaning and context behind the way people think and behave—and that is where actionable insights are born.   

Now that we know qualitative really isn’t dying, what does 2015 (and beyond) hold for us? The future is about truly integrated research—in which qualitative and quantitative are consistently, thoughtfully, and purposefully used together to provide well-rounded, actionable insights. We’re poised to do exactly that with our dedicated analytics team and network of expert industry qualitative partners. By using two equally important disciplines that are both alive and well, we can provide our clients critical insights they can really use. Far from killing off qualitative insights, technology and an evolving marketplace are helping make qualitative insights even stronger.

Anne Hooper is the Qualitative Research Director at CMB. After recently finding out that her 13 year old daughter did a quantitative assessment of her Jazz Band’s upcoming Disney trip itinerary, she’s determined that an intervention may be in order.

Could Wearables Mean the End of Jet Lag?

 

By Amy Maret

emotional measurement, emotions, travelWhat if you could hop off a seven hour flight from New York to London feeling refreshed and entirely jet lag-free? That’s the question British Airways has been trying to answer for years. From enhanced entertainment and meal offerings to carefully-designed lighting and noise reduction measures, many of the recent updates to British Airways’ fleet have been centered on creating the perfect customer experience in a notoriously tricky industry.

Their latest innovation is “The Happiness Blanket.” The blanket is embedded with LEDs and connected via Bluetooth to a headband containing sensors that read electrical fluctuations in the wearer’s neurons. According to the promotional video released by the airline, if brain activity indicates that the wearer is calm and relaxed, the surface of the blanket turns blue. If the wearer is stressed or anxious, the blanket turns red.

As a researcher, this opportunity for seemingly effortless, real-time data collection piqued my interest immediately. I see a lot of potential in the ability to capture passengers’ emotional responses to various aspects of the flight experience as they actually experience it. If they had access to accurate emotional response information, flight attendants could find ways to tailor services to accommodate the needs of passengers on an individual level, and data collected across countless flights could provide useful information about what the airline is doing right overall and where they need to improve. With a bit of additional demographic and psychographic information on each passenger, the airline could create marketing campaigns and promotions around the specific experiences and emotional reactions of different subgroups.

At CMB, we know just how much emotions matter. We repeatedly find that the emotional impression left on a customer after an interaction with a brand is a major driver of customer satisfaction, likelihood to recommend, and even future purchase intent across all types of industries. British Airways, by focusing on helping passengers step off its planes feeling satisfied, is creating a subconscious connection between its passengers’ positive emotions and its brand. You can bet that the next time I need to book a flight, I would first look to the airline that got me to Europe feeling refreshed and relaxed, rather than the one that left me dehydrated and drowsy.

However, The Happiness Blanket certainly has its drawbacks as a research tool. Based on the information provided about the blanket so far, it seems that there is no way to tell—on a more detailed level—what emotions the passengers are experiencing, which would have serious consequences. The blanket supposedly turns red when the wearer is anxious or stressed and blue when he/she is calm or relaxed, but there are so many more emotions on the spectrum that are not acknowledged by this system. For example, if two people’s blankets show red, one may be because a passenger is feeling unsafe and afraid on the flight, while the other may be because a passenger is enjoying the adrenaline rush of watching an action movie. If you were to ask those two passengers how they felt after their flights, and whether they would choose to fly with the airline again, you would get two drastically different answers. If British Airways intends to use this data to make real, impactful changes to its service, they will need to find a way to capture nuances like this or they could misinterpret the data entirely and make poor business decisions as a result.

This example provides a basic illustration of why we find that self-reporting is the most accurate way to collect data on something as subjective as emotion. While biometric solutions can sometimes provide a basic emotional read, self-reporting provides a more dependable, and much less expensive, way to get at the discrete emotion being experienced. The only way for the flight attendant to tell the difference between two red blankets would be to ask the passengers how they are feeling. Only then could they properly tailor the service to each person’s experience.

When I told my colleagues about The Happiness Blanket, they kept asking the same questions: how long can the novelty of the blanket sustain its use? Couldn’t it be a bit awkward to have your emotions broadcast to the entire cabin, especially in a situation as sensitive for many people as flying? Maybe it would make more sense to get rid of the blanket aspect entirely and just send the data directly to a computer. That way, the flight attendants could still monitor the data for in-flight use, and it could still be captured for future analysis, but passengers wouldn’t be disturbed by the constant color changes on their (or fellow passengers’) blankets. However, getting passengers to agree to have their brainwaves monitored by an airline could prove a challenge, and with the inaccuracies of this method of data collection, it may not even be worth the investment. Although the idea of being able to read passengers’ emotions directly appeals to me as a researcher, self-reporting is still the only way to capture reliable data on the subjective emotions of customers.

So, is The Happiness Blanket just a clever publicity stunt designed to promote recent enhancements to British Airways’ First and Business Class cabins, or is it a sign of true dedication to research and customer feedback? So far, it seems like the company has primarily been using The Happiness Blanket to attract attention, get consumers engaged with the brand, and show why the company thinks its flights are better than its competitors’ flights. If British Airways is truly trying to capture useable information on their passengers’ reactions to its service through The Happiness Blanket. . .they’ll also need to ask them.

Amy is Senior Associate Researcher at CMB and an avid traveler. She is a bit disappointed that she won’t have the chance to try out the Happiness Blanket on her next trip to Europe.

Understanding the emotional payoffs consumers want and expect is critical to helping brands build and maintain a loyal customer base. Join us June 11th at 1pm EST when Dr. Erica Carranza and Brant Cruz will share how CMB captures these emotional payoffs to inform a range of business challenges, including marketing, customer experience, customer loyalty, and product development.

Register Now!   

Dear Dr. Jay: Predictive Analytics

 
ddj investigates

Dear Dr. Jay, 

What’s hot in market research?

-Steve W., Chicago

 

Dear Steve, 

We’re two months into my column, and you’ve already asked one of my least favorite questions. But, I will give you some credit—you’re not the only one asking such questions. In a recent discussion on LinkedIn, Ray Poynter asked folks to anticipate the key MR buzzwords for 2015. Top picks included “wearables” and “passive data.” While these are certainly topics worthy of conversation, I was surprised Predictive Analytics (and Big Data), didn’t get more hits from the MR community. My theory: even though the MR community has been modeling data for years, we often don’t have the luxury of getting all the data that might prove useful to the analysis. It’s often clients who are drowning in a sea of information—not researchers.

On another trending LinkedIn post, Edward Appleton asked whether “80% Insights Understanding” is increasingly "good enough.” Here’s another place where Predictive Analytics may provide answers. Simply put, Predictive Analytics lets us predict the future based on a set of known conditions. For example, if we were able to improve our order processing time from 48 hours to 24 hours, Predictive Analytics could tell us the impact that would have on our customer satisfaction ratings and repeat purchases. Another example using non-survey data is predicting concept success using GRP buying data.


What do you need to perform this task? predictive analytics2

  • We need a dependent variable we would like to predict. This could be loyalty, likelihood to recommend, likelihood to redeem an offer, etc.
  • We need a set of variables that we believe influences this measure (independent variables). These might be factors that are controlled by the company, market factors, and other environmental conditions.
  • Next, we need a data set that has all of this information. This could be data you already have in house, secondary data, data we help you collect, or some combination of these sources of data.
  • Once we have an idea of the data we have and the data we need, the challenge becomes aggregating the information into a single database for analysis. One key challenge in integrating information across disparate sources of data is figuring out how to create unique rows of data for use in model building. We may need a database wizard to help merge multiple data sources that we deem useful to modeling.  This is probably the step in the process that requires the most time and effort. For example, we might have 20 years’ worth of concept measures and the GRP buys for each product launched. We can’t assign the GRPs for each concept to each respondent in the concept test. If we did, there wouldn’t be much variation in the data for a model. The observation level becomes a concept. We then aggregate the individual level responses across each concept and then append the GRP data. Now the challenge becomes one of the number of observations in the data set we’re analyzing.
  • Lastly, we need a smart analyst armed with the right statistical tools. Two tools we find useful for predictive analytics are Bayesian networks and TreeNet. Both tools are useful for different types of attributes. More often than not, we find the data sets comprised of scale data, ordinal data, and categorical data. It’s important to choose a tool that is capable of working with this type of information

The truth is, we’re always looking for the best (fastest, most accurate, useful, etc.) way to solve client challenges—whether they’re “new” or not. 

Got a burning research question? You can send your questions to DearDrJay@cmbinfo.com or submit anonymously here.

Dr. Jay Weiner is CMB’s senior methodologist and VP of Advanced Analytics. Jay earned his Ph.D. in Marketing/Research from the University of Texas at Arlington and regularly publishes and presents on topics, including conjoint, choice, and pricing.

It’s Time to Be Bold: 5 Takeaways from the IIR FUSE Conference

 

By Julie Kurd

FUSE, branding, brand strategyLast week’s FUSE conference gathered top branding and design leaders to talk about disruption, brand strategy, and the changing marketplace. Until recently, branding experts urged brands to focus on mindfulness: gather the data, listen, and react to the results. But a new economy demands a bold and proactive approach—listening is great but it’s not nearly enough. Here are my top 5 takeaways:

1. You can call it a comeback—if you’re willing to be radical. Legacy brand Kodak is rising from the ashes of bankruptcy, and its near death reminds us of the need for disruption. Kodak CMO, Steve Overman, described the company’s journey as that of a beloved brand in search of a product suite that will serve as the brand’s emotional glue. Is this brand going to climb out of the cracks? Who knows, but if it’s got a shot, it will be through a radical reimagining of Kodak’s products and not just a tweak of its messaging.

2. Don’t discount the incredible. Futurist @bkreit (Bradley Kreit) talked about the emerging tech that’s making its way into your reality. These include: mood-spotting—algorithms that can escalate a call based on your emotions, sensors to tell you you’re running low on Tide, apps like Dorothy which allows you to click your heels 3 times and order an Uber, 3D printed domiciles, and other things like sensors for major disease self-evaluation. We’ve got the data, we’ve got the technology, and it’ll be here sooner than you think. . .all of it personalized, inexpensive, and possible. 

3. Be real, be emotional. @MorganSpurlock (Morgan Spurlock), Oscar Nominated filmmaker (Super Size Me, 2004), shared his latest project—a channel called Smartish. The concept is brand entertainment curated by “smartish” talent. How can branded content be authentic? Spurlock explains that it’s critical to identify and develop your brand’s core essence and the emotional payoff it will provide for your target market.

4. Whether you’re selling candy or condoms—you’ve got to go there. Serendipitously, I sat between one of Wrigley’s design/brand people and one of Trojan’s folks (you know. . .the condom people). I asked them both what they were really selling. The brand manager from Trojan was quick to reply with “trusted pleasure” while Wrigley’s person said, “we offer simple pleasure.” This chance encounter reminded me how important it is to think waaay outside the box.

5. This ain’t your grandma’s motivation. According to James Fox, CEO of Red Peak Branding, Millennials, who grew up with internet access, report that their friends would describe them using outward facing adjectives such as “good looking, bold, funny, creative, stylish and successful.” The older crowd, who didn’t grow up with internet access, use descriptors like “a team player, independent, and a good friend,” which are inward and loyalty focused. Brands are facing off to groups of people with enormously different basic motivations, and their messaging needs to reflect that.

The world is transforming, and to be relevant and prominent, brands need to trade-off two key roles: consistently making well-thought-out brand decisions for the core (sharpening the brand) and innovating and growing. So forget what your mother told you, it’s definitely not enough to be kind and a good listener—you need to be bold.

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

CMB Researcher in Residence: A Chat with Avis Budget Group’s Eric Smuda

 

researchers in residence, avis budget group, eric smudaAvis Budget Group’s VP of Customer Insights and Experience, Eric Smuda, sat down with CMB’s Judy Melanson to talk about Customer Experience, suppliers, and his work as a corporate insights executive.

Eric, it’s always fun to listen and learn from you. I’d like to start by asking a broad question: why is managing the customer experience important for Avis?

Managing the experience is critical for us—and critical for the car rental industry as a whole—because it’s the only way we can differentiate ourselves. The products we offer are identical to the products our competitors offer. We don’t have a location advantage because our competitors are immediately next door. There aren’t no-show fees, so customers are free to choose any company. It’s solely customer experience that differentiates us from our competitors and that drives growth.

Tell me a little bit about your job.

My role is to identify customer pain points and to design improvements in our customer experience. My team gathers and shares customer experience measurement data and marries that data with our operational, reservation, and financial data to really understand what, why, when, and where something is happening. This helps ABG define improvement priorities and get executive sponsorship, funding, and resources for those priorities.

How does your team interact with your end-users—both corporate and on-site?  

We want to drive macro change at a corporate level and location-specific change at a local level. One of our newer initiatives is the customer experience governance council, which includes all of North America’s senior management as well as key customer touchpoint owners.

My analytics team shares their findings with the council on a monthly basis. That way, the council can prioritize the projects we want to invest in. We then align executive sponsors, resources, and funding with those initiatives. This monthly meeting also gives us the opportunity to report back on progress made on previous initiatives.  We’ll share those insights with the marketing organization and communicate any changes we make with the customer base.

As you reflect back on the years that you’ve been at Avis, what are some of the changes you’ve made that have had the greatest impact on the customer experience?

One change that stands out is in rental rate price consistency (RRPC). We learned that when customers made reservations on our website, the site wasn’t accurately taking the daily rate, combining it with any add-ons he/she might have (insurance, car seats, GPS, XM radio, etc.), and then correctly calculating the taxes. So customers weren’t getting an accurate final bill. Now they do with the RRPC project, and we’ve seen a significant decrease in our pricing and billing complaints.

Price and cost are such important considerations in the purchase decision because they can be dissatisfiers, so that’s great.

Absolutely. We now know from our text analytics program that billing complaints are the biggest driver of negative Net Promoter Scores. The RRPC project has been one way we’re reducing those pain points and the number of calls going into our call center, and it’s had a large impact for our customers.

Another thing I’d like to mention is the rollout of the Select & Go experience to our top 50 locations. Some customers want to have the option of selecting another car if they don’t like the one we assign to them. This program was born out of that customer feedback. Customers can now receive a notification on their phone about which spot their assigned car is in, come see the car, and either take the assigned car or go to the Select & Go exchange lot where they can exchange the car for free. We also have an upgrade lot where they can decide whether they’re willing to pay $20 or $25 more to upgrade to another car class. This has been a customer experience improvement, and it’s also actually driven $3 million to $4 million in incremental revenue for the company.

That’s fantastic!

It’s a win for customers and a win for ABG. Another thing we know is that speed of service is of the utmost importance. We get more comments about speed of service in our text analytics engine than we do about anything else, so we’ve been taking a look at the entire rental process. We looked at over 100,000 customer verbatims and broke them down based on where they sit in the rental process or in the customer experience. We identified 20 projects we can complete to impact the customer speed of service at different stages of the rental experience. About half of those projects are active now, and customers should definitely look for significant upgrades over the next year or two in our ability to serve them more quickly.

I love that you’re addressing the customer needs more globally. You’re not making a touchpoint-by-touchpoint improvement, but rather an improvement about the customer’s need for speed across his/her entire engagement and experience.

I think that's the biggest philosophical change we've made over the last couple years as it relates to our customer experience program. Rather than looking at it as location-specific and driving change at the individual level, we’re now evaluating customer experience much more comprehensively. We look at macro issues at a division level that impact customers everywhere, and we start to fund and drive change in those identified areas.

What’s going to be different in customer experience at Avis in the next two years?

We’re working on a flight disruption service, which is relevant given the winter we’ve had in the Northeast. This service proactively reaches out to customers whose flights have been canceled and asks them whether they’d like to keep the car another day, turn it into a one-way rental and just drive home, and more. We want customers to know we can get them home or wherever they need to be.

Great! Let’s move a little bit more into research, tell me: what insights get you most excited?

Our program is constantly evolving as we bring in new brands and continue to evaluate our business. CMB was with us at the beginning of this journey, and you guys know that our customer experience program started with roughly 150 to 200 of our top airports.

We’ve also expanded it globally through our partners EMEA and Asia Pacific. The bigger growth challenge for us from a learning standpoint is adding the relationship view of the customer to the evaluations of the transactions they have with us. That will let us know not only how we did in Phoenix yesterday, but also how we’re doing across all of the interactions customers have with our various brands. So all of this growth we’re making in our customer experience measurement program is absolutely something I’m excited about.

As far as things that excite me, it’s really when we can dive down and understand specific customer pain points that affect specific types of customers in specific types of situations. For example, we know customer satisfaction is lower for certain types of trips vs. others, so when we can start to dig and combine that knowledge with other information like pricing strategies, billing strategies, and other policies, you start to understand why. Then, we can begin to have conversations with business decision makers and explain to them what things are getting in the way of the customer experience so they can reconsider and change those practices and policies. My passion is always trying to make things easier and better for customers, so what’s most exciting for me is the possibility of accomplishing that through those conversations.

You’re the customer advocate. There might be pricing or revenue objectives, but you can speak for groups of customers, which needs to be done in order to build engagement with the brand.

That’s always the big challenge: trying to balance customer needs against revenue and profit goals.

What would you tell market research vendors about how they can best support the decisions you need to make?

What an age old question! I feel like the supplier side has always struggled with understanding our business at a level at which they can help us drive business decisions and not just simply provide information. We want suppliers to provide context, combine the findings and the context with our financial drivers, and use all of that to help us make a more informed business decision. That’s a true partnership. That’s where I’ve had the most challenges with suppliers in the past. It’s also why I value working with your CMB team.

Can you talk a little bit about your relationship and partnership with CMB?

You understand our business as well as our management’s priorities. We have a great, trusted relationship—your guidance, partnership, and advice have been wonderful. You’ve transcended from being a vendor to being a very key advisor and trusted partner.

Got a market research question that you're just dying to have answered? Ask our Chief Methodologist, and he might tackle your question in his next blog!

Ask Dr. Jay!

Reaping the Rewards of Big Data

 

By Heather Magaw 

HiResIt’s both an exciting and challenging time to be a researcher. Exciting because we can collect data at speeds our predecessors could only dream about and challenging because we must help our partners stay nimble enough to really benefit from this data deluge. So, how do we help our clients reap the rewards of Big Data without drowning in it? 

Start with the end in mind: If you’re a CMB client, you know that we start every engagement with the end in mind before a single question is ever written. First, we ask what business decisions the research will help answer. Once we have those, we begin to identify what information is necessary to support those decisions. This keeps us focused and informs everything from questionnaire design to implementation.

Leverage behavioral and attitudinal data: While business intelligence (BI) teams have access to mountains of transactional, financial, and performance data, they often lack insight into what drives customer behavior, which is a critical element of understanding the full picture. BI teams are garnering more and more organizational respect due to data access and speed of analysis, yet market research departments (and their partners like CMB) are the ones bringing the voice of the customer to life and answering the “why?” questions.

Tell a compelling story: One of the biggest challenges of having “too much” data is that data from disparate sources can provide conflicting information, but time-starved decision makers don't have time to sort through all of it in great detail. In a world in which data is everywhere, the ability to take insights beyond a bar chart and bring it to life is critical. It’s why we spend a lot of time honing our storytelling skills and not just our analytic chops. We know that multiple data sources must be analyzed from different angles and through multiple lenses to provide both a full picture and one that can be acted upon.

Big Data is ripe with potential. Enterprise-level integration of information has the power to change the game for businesses of all sizes, but data alone isn’t enough. The keen ability to ask the right questions and tell a holistic story based on the results gives our clients the confidence to make those difficult investment decisions. 2014 was the year of giving Big Data a seat at the table, but for the rest of 2015, market researchers need to make sure their seat is also reserved so that we can continue to give decision makers the real story of the ever-changing business landscape.

Heather is the VP of Client Services, and she admits to becoming stymied by analysis paralyses when too much data is available. She confesses that she resorts to selecting restaurants and vacation destinations based solely on verbal recommendations from friends who take the time to tell a compelling story instead of slogging through an over-abundance of online reviews. 

Ladder Up: What My New Prius Reminded Me About Brand Positioning

 

By Nick Pangallo

M  CMB Photos and Stock Photography Stock Photography Objects Brand buildingDid I snag you with the title? I hope so—it took me quite a while to come up with it. As our regular readers and esteemed clients know, each of CMB’s employees contribute to our blog by writing at least once annually. In the past, I’ve used my posts to tackle the real-world applications of complex mathematical topics, including statistical significance, Maximum-Difference scaling, and stated vs. derived importance.

Today, though, I’d like to introduce you to my true research passion: brand positioning. My first job in the research field took me all over the world as my team and I worked to determine and deliver the most effective positioning for a multinational insurance company. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Most of you reading this have probably heard the term “positioning” before, but for those who haven’t, here’s a definition from the guys who (quite literally) invented the field: “An organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.” - Ries, A. and Trout, J. (1977), Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

A simpler definition, also from Jack Trout, would be this: “the place a product, brand, or group of products occupies in consumers' minds, relative to competing offerings.” Pretty simple, right? You define your brand as the collection of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you want your consumers (whomever they may be) to have about you, relative to your key competitors (perhaps the most famous “opposition branding” of this sort is 7 Up’s classic “The Uncola”).

So, we need to identify the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we want consumers to have and then make a big, direct marketing push to communicate those aspects to them. Right? (Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that.) In a future blog post, I’ll tackle aspects like value statements, foundational benefits, key goals, and the like, but for now, I want to focus on one major sticking point I keep seeing come up: emotion.

These days, marketers talk endlessly about “big data” and “connecting on an emotional level.” How can we convince so-and-so to love our brand? What emotions do we want associated with our brand? Are we happy? Exciting? Stoic?

Research firms, including ours, often tackle these questions and try to help clients be seen for the right emotions. But here’s the rub: unless your product or company is brand-spankin’-new, the basic emotional reactions to your brand are already defined. Try as we might, changing an idea in someone’s mind is by far the most difficult task in all of marketing, and if people in a focus group are saying your brand reminds them of a Volvo, the odds that you can convince them to think of your brand as a Ferrari are virtually nil. 

So how can brands connect with consumers on an emotional level, convey the right emotions, and do so effectively in an already over-communicated world? Well, that answer would be too long for this blog post, but let me start with a simple analogy: brand positionings can be thought of as a ladder—you have to climb one rung before you can move on to the next. The very bottom is your foundation (what industry you’re in, when you were founded, etc.– just the facts, Jack), and the very top is your emotional connection to your consumers, inasmuch as one exists. In between is an array of needs, including functional benefits, the value statement, goals, and a few others I’ll cover in a future blog. 

Brands have to build up to that emotional connection, which is usually the most difficult component of branding (and why it’s at the top of the ladder). Brands or products can do so by delivering across the entire spectrum in a consistent, thorough way that speaks to the emotion you want to own. If you have major delivery issues, you won’t be thought of as reliable. If you’ve only existed for 2 months, you probably can’t own trustworthy. Oil companies can’t be fun. If you want to own reliability, you need top-level customer delivery, including responsive employees, a reputation for customer service, and a culture that rewards proactivity. You get the idea.

By now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with my new Prius (good timing!). Outdoorsy, environmentally-friendly folk like myself have been long-devoted fans of Toyota’s original hybrid fuel cell vehicle for its emissions-slashing, fuel-saving engine among other things. But those aren’t emotions, and no one could think the Prius’ historical sales records could be accomplished without more than a dash of emotional connection thrown in. 

So how does the Prius make me feel? Like I’m making a difference. The “hybrid” stamp on the back reminds me not to be wasteful. The constantly-cycling energy meter not only encourages me to drive less aggressively, but also turns reducing emissions into a fun little game I play driving around Boston. (54 mpg? Psssh. I can do better.) A solar-powered climate roof reminds me not to waste energy and makes me smile when it unexpectedly turns on. A cynic might say that what the Prius really does is allow people to feel better about themselves, and I don’t deny there’s at least a kernel of truth there, too. 

You can see how the positioning of the Prius fits the ladder example: the foundation is the hybrid engine, 14 years of existence, and Toyota brand. Functional benefits include cutting gas costs and reducing emissions (the proof points are well-known) while supporting the goal of living a low-emission life. All of these things add up to that simple, good feeling I have whenever I slide behind the wheel, which connects me with the product in a way that the individual features cannot. The cycling energy monitor is cool, but I wouldn’t have assigned point values for efficiently driving away from stoplights around my neighborhood if it was just a toy. The solar roof not only helps keep the car cool in the summer, it reminds me to be energy-conscious at home, too. Seamless alignment between functional and emotional.

Let this be the first lesson then: brands can own emotions, but not without much effort. If you want someone to love your brand, you have to give them reasons why they should, and all of those reasons need to work in tandem with one another to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In a future post, I’ll show you how.

Nick Pangallo is the Senior Project Manager on CMB’s Financial Services, Insurance, Travel, and Hospitality team. He’s an avid poker player and an occasional lecturer at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. You can follow him on Twitter @NAPangallo, though be warned: he often tweets about the Buffalo Bills. 

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