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Blair Bailey

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Sugar Overload: Dashboards that Yield Insights Not Headaches

Posted by Blair Bailey

Thu, Jun 29, 2017

simple froyo.png

Back in the old days (2002?) if you wanted a frozen treat—you ordered from the nice person at the TCBY counter, paid your money, and went on your way. Then Red Mango came to town and it was a game-changer. Now instead of someone else building my treat, I had total control—if I wanted to mix mango and coffee and throw some gummy bears on top I couldI didn’t though, I’m not a monster.

Of course, there was a downside—sometimes I’d walk away with a $15 froyo. Sometimes, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. As a data manager, knee-deep in interactive data viz, I know this applies to dashboards as well as dessert. 

When starting a dashboard from scratch, there’s the same potential to go overboard, but for different reasons. Like flavors and toppings, there are many viewer design and build directions I could take. Will the dashboard be one centralized page or across multiple pages? What types of charts and tables should I use? What cuts should be columns and which should be filters?

The popular platform, Tableau, has so many options that it can often feel overwhelming. And aside from design, Tableau lets users deep dive into data like never before. With so many build options and data mining capabilities at our fingertips, what’s a designer to do?

Forget the gumdrops and jalapeño flavored yogurt—I encourage our clients to go back to basics and ask:

Who is the dashboard for? The content and design of a well-made dashboard should depend on its purpose and end user. The dashboards I create in my spare time (yes, it’s also a hobby !) are very different than the ones I build for clients.  For example, a deep-in-the-weeds analyst will need (and appreciate) very different functionality and design than a C-suite level user would. An analyst interested in deep-dives may need multiple filters and complex tables to cut the data every which way and investigate multiple scenarios, whereas a c-suite level needs a dashboard that answers their questions quickly and directly so they can move forward with business decisions.

It may be tempting to add flashy charts and lots of filters, but is it necessary? Will adding features help answer key business questions and empower the end user, or will it overwhelm and confuse them?

Here's a snippet from a dashboard that an executive could glean a good amount of insight from without feeling overwhelmed:

AffinID sample_simple.jpg

What will they use it for? Depending on what business questions the client is trying to answer, the design around specific types of dashboards may vary. For example, a brand health tracker dashboard could be a simple set of trending line charts and callouts for KPIs. But it’s rare that we only want to monitor brand health. Maybe the client is also interested in reaching a particular audience. So as the designer, I'll consider building the audiences in as a filter. Perhaps they want to expand into a new market. Divide your line charts by region and track performance across markets. Or maybe they need to track several measures over time across multiple brands, so rather than clog up the dashboard with lots of charts or tabs, you could use parameters to allow the user to toggle the main metric shown.

When in doubt, ask. When I plan to build and ultimately publish a dashboard to Tableau Public, I consider what elements will keep the user engaged and interested. If I’m not sure of the answers I force politely ask my friends, family, or co-workers to test out my dashboards and provide honest feedback. If my dashboard is confusing, boring, too simple, too convoluted, awesome, or just lame, I want to know. The same goes for client-facing dashboards.

As a data manger, my goal is to create engaging, useful data visualizations. But without considering who my end user is and their goal, this is nearly impossible. Tableau can build Pareto charts, heat maps, and filters, but if it doesn’t help answer key business questions in an intuitive and useful way, then what’s the point of having the data viz?

Just because you can mix mango and coffee together (and even add those gummy bears on top), doesn’t mean you should. Like TCBY and Red Mango with their flavors and toppings, Tableau offers infinite data viz possibilities—the key is to use the right ingredients so you aren’t left with a stomachache (or a headache).

Blair Bailey is a Data Manager at CMB with a focus on building engaging dashboards to inform key business decisions and empower stakeholders. Her personal dashboards? Less so.

Topics: advanced analytics, integrated data, data visualization

Strength-Based Leadership and Finding the #Boss Within

Posted by Blair Bailey

Wed, Jul 06, 2016

A few weeks ago, I relinquished my year-long membership to the "Broken Screen Club" and bought asgo-logo-home.png new phone. It was a good opportunity to clean up the apps I didn't need. I had two meditation apps, two fitness tracker apps, three nutrition apps, four dating apps, and two hydration-tracking apps. If there was a gap in my life, I had an app for it. 

I was an expert at pinpointing what I wanted to improve about myself and identifying the tools to do it...but was it working? Using these apps reminded me to drink water, but they also served as a constant reminder that I was bad at regularly drinking water.

Recently, I attended Strength-Based Leadership Workshop presented by She Geeks Out (SGO), a Boston-based community of women in the STEAM fields. The workshop was led by Katie Greenman, Founding Partner of HumanSide, a "human-centered consultancy" that works with individuals, teams, and organizations to build success from the inside out. Through activities and lively discussion, we discussed the concept of strength-based leadership and how to apply it in our personal and professional lives.

When it comes to introspection and self-improvement, it’s natural to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. Strength-based leadership focuses on emphasizing an individual’s existing strengths and passions. The core belief is that there is higher growth potential in developing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.

At the workshop, everyone had a worksheet with about thirty traits listed and had to circle which traits we considered our strengths. For each of the traits listed, I wanted to brainstorm how I could improve on it rather than see if it was already a strength of mine. Next, we listed items from one aspect of our lives and discussed how our existing strengths would help or had helped us achieve our goals.

The last item was: "Something you're not doing so well with." It was easy for me to come up with something to improve upon...but how would my known strengths help? The takeaway is one of the central tenants of strength-based leadership—whether you're succeeding or not at a task, you should focus on your existing strengths to improve or to continue to excel.

Although the exercises focused on the individual, they can also be applied to teams. Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses allows for diverse, passionate teams that can excel at the tasks at hand. It also creates a stronger relationship between a company's leadership and its employees. Acknowledging your employees' passions can build enthusiasm and promote evangelism. It's important to note that strength-based leaders don't ignore weaknesses altogether. However, they don't focus the majority of their time and efforts on filling the gaps.

Since attending the workshop, I’ve realized how much strength-based leadership plays a role at CMB. I’ve been assigned difficult projects and given unfamiliar roles that I was at first terrified to take on. But during one-on-one meetings, when I was internally panicking, my manager would tell me, “we thought of you for this.” Through challenges we reveal skills that are valuable to a project, a team, and the company as a whole.

Thanks to my "perfectionist" trait, it's still difficult for me not to focus on the negative, particularly my own. SGO's workshop provided me with a new perspective on how to approach my projects, my career, and myself. I still have more than one meditation app, but if that's the worst of it, I think I'll be okay.

Blair Bailey is a Senior Associate Business Analyst at CMB who still doesn’t drink enough water.

Whether you’re a segmentation guru, a tech whiz, or a strategic selling machine, we’re looking for collaborative, engaged professionals to join our growing team. Check out our open positions below!

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Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, marketing science, marketing strategy, CMB Careers, Market research

Modern Enigma: Deciphering the Language of Emojis

Posted by Blair Bailey

Wed, Sep 09, 2015

emojis, language, brandingParlez-vous emoji? Step aside, French – there’s a new language of the future. Well, maybe.

Since Apple’s release of the emoji keyboard in 2011, the use of emojis has grown exponentially. This past March, nearly half of Instagram comments and captions contained emoji characters. But this isn’t just the language of choice for consumers. Emojis are brands’ latest attempt to appeal to the younger, texting-heavy demographics of Millennials and Gen Z. Brands such as Coca-Cola and Bud Light are using emojis to create unique content to stand out with these younger demographics. Even though these tiny images can set a brand’s message apart, it’s also very easy for the message to fall flat with consumers.Even so, brands are venturing into the world of emojis to develop content as well as to investigate their audiences. Independent shop Big Spaceship is working on technology to develop definitions for brand tracking via emojis. This would be done similar to the measurement of brand sentiment using the occurrence of specific words on social media. The idea isn’t to look at emojis alone, but to examine them within the context of social content. Theoretically, this would allow brands to examine differences as seemingly miniscule as using a red heart instead of a blue heart in a social media comment.  

Instagram considered this very difference in their Emojineering blog, and found that, in fact, blue hearts and red hearts don’t mean the same thing. Instagram took a similar approach to Big Spaceship and studied the occurrence of specific emojis with specific words and hashtags. They examined the hashtags associated with certain color hearts in the absence of a red heart. A blue heart lead to Duke-related hashtags (#goblue, #letsgoduke, etc.) and Autism Awareness-related hashtags (#autismspeaks), while a yellow heart lead to spring-related and earth-related hashtags (#springhassprung, #hellospring, #happyearthday, etc.).

As a market researcher, this use of emojis is intriguing and problematic. I’d love to know the meaning and reasoning behind a consumer’s decision to post a cat emoji rather than the kitten face emoji, but playing Bletchley Park doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll find what I’m looking for. The texting-based language of emojis, while expressive, only brings us a little bit closer to the full picture. There is a much easier way to get an honest read of respondents’ emotions towards a brand—just ask them. At CMB, we use custom market research and our new survey-based approach to measuring the emotional impact of brands, EMPACT℠, to find out how your customers really feel about your brand. . .rather than spend time defining heart and cat emojis.

Blair Bailey is an Associate Researcher at CMB who language, branding, emojis.

Learn More About EMPACT℠

Topics: millennials, social media, EMPACT, emotional measurement, brand health and positioning

Are You There, News? It's Me, Snapchat.

Posted by Blair Bailey

Tue, Feb 24, 2015

snapchat, discoverSitting in my cozy Boston office, sipping coffee, I’m suddenly transported to Washington State’s Cascade Mountain Range, soaring above the mile-high Cowboy Mountain and scanning Tunnel Creek, a popular, snow-powdered trail and the site of the tragic 2012 Stevens Pass avalanche.This is the genius of the graphics that accompany “Snow Fall: The Avalanche in Tunnel Creek,” a story that debuted in 2012 on The New York Times’ online edition. Although the rushing show and biting winds are only graphics embedded within the article, they are so well done you feel like you are there. In recent years, The New York Times, a stalwart of traditional print news, has dominated digital storytelling, integrating stunning and sometimes interactive graphics within its pages.

As beautiful as these features are (and they are still stunning 3 years later), where does this interactive, visual storytelling fit within our 140-character, 6-second-film, top-8 lives? (Forgive the MySpace reference, but nothing conveys digital restrictions more than fitting your most prized friendships into a 2 x 4 grid.)

Snapchat, an app notorious for its not-so-lasting impressions, recently released Discover, allowing traditional media companies to feature public content, like trailers and current events, within the app. The media outlets range from Cosmopolitan to National Geographic and tease users with graphics and sound bites as well as the traditional flashy headlines. After hitting the purple dot in the upper right corner, users are presented with an array of publications to choose from. Once a publication is selected, users can swipe left and right to move through stories, swipe up to read more, or swipe down to exit the publication and return to the Discover menu.

By now, most publications have a mobile presence of some type. So, why is Snapchat’s most recent move something we should care about? Although it’s not an entirely novel idea, Snapchat’s new feature adds several unique twists to digital storytelling.

  • In keeping with Snapchat’s ephemerality, Discover’s content is only available for twenty-four hours. While the content can be viewed as many times as desired during that period, the news outlet invites users to come back tomorrow for new stories.
  • Unlike Facebook and Twitter, both of which typically lead the user away from the platform, all Discover content—articles, videos, photo sets, trailers, music videos, etc.—is contained within the app.
  • Snapchat also serves a very different demographic than most social media sites. Discover is targeted to Millennials, but, as of July 2014, over 50% of Snapchat users are between 13-17 years old and over 80% are under 24 years old. Many of the publications on Discover may be taking an initial risk straying so far from their key audiences .
  • Discover is also a fresh idea to existing Snapchat users. Unlike Twitter, where incoming brands have to adhere to the existing 140-character boundaries, Discover breaks the Snapchat mold without straying too far from its original purpose. The format is different enough to interest users and keep them coming back, but still familiar enough that users recognize the Snapchat interface.

While the selection of publications could be tweaked further, Discover shows that Snapchat knows its users. Short, (mostly) teenage attention spans still get their familiar bite-size content but in a format that’s new enough to hold their attention. Discover also holds the potential to keep Millennials coming back for more than momentary embarrassing videos and wacky photos. It adds value to an app that has seen a lot more selfies than the average person could probably handle.

With over 1.2 billion websites cluttering our networks, storytelling has become increasingly important to stand out among the dot nets and dot coms. And it’s not just apps and news sites. In data heavy fields like market research, it can be easy to let storytelling take a backseat. That’s why we’re investing more time and resources into creating dynamic storytelling through infographics, video, and mobile. This engaging, inspiring, and motivating content brings results to life and helps us strengthen the relationship between our clients and their audiences. . .and best of all, we do it without all those selfies.

Blair Bailey is an Associate Researcher at CMB and a recent M.S. graduate from Boston University. When she isn’t working with data or being held captive by the commuter rail, you can find her carefully flooding her social media feeds with pictures of dogs.

Topics: mobile, storytelling, social media