WELCOME TO OUR BLOG!

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

Subscribe to Email Updates

BROWSE BY TAG

see all

Dr. Erica Carranza

Recent Posts

The Art & Science of Selecting a Spokesperson

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Nov 08, 2017

This article was originally published in Website Magazine.

When is tapping a celebrity to endorse your brand a good idea, and who should you choose? In an age when scandals erupt in the time it takes to share a tweet, getting it wrong is at best a wasted opportunity, and at worst a PR nightmare.

It’s hard to predict a celebrity scandal. Luckily, consumers tend to forgive brands that take steps to condemn bad behavior (when his doping came to light, Lance Armstrong lost eight contracts in a single day, starting with Nike). But what about wasted opportunities? No marketer wants to invest in a celebrity if a less expensive strategy would work—or to pick the wrong celebrity for the job.

To make the right decision for your brand, before signing any celebrity, make sure that you understand your brand’s customer image.

Your brand’s customer image is consumers’ stereotype of the kind of person who uses the brand. It relates to the brand’s overall image, but it’s not the same. For example, consider Subaru:

  • When we ask consumers to describe the brand Subaru, they say “safe” and “reliable.”
  • But when we ask them to describe the typical Subaru owner, they say “middleclass,” “family-focused,” and “outdoorsy.” They picture someone with kids and a dog, who likes to hike, and who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Subaru - hiking family_blog.jpg

There’s a lot of nuance to their image of the typical Subaru customer—including attributes a person can embody, but a brand cannot.

Customer image is crucial because people are social animals. Our social identities shape what we think, who we are and strive to be, how we act and the choices we make as consumers. So truly strategic brands lead consumers to equate using the brand with joining a tribe that expresses an identity. And the secret to creating that connection is a clear, compelling brand customer image. In our research at CMB we’ve seen that consumers who identify with their image of a brand’s customer are 14-times more likely to choose the brand, and 15-times more likely to recommend it. What does this mean for selecting a celebrity spokesperson?

1. First, get a deep understanding of how your target audience sees the brand customer 
Do they already have an image of the kind of person who uses the brand? If so, how compelling is that image? What’s working about that image, and what isn’t? Which assumptions should you reinforce—and which should you work to change—in order to own a customer image that is compelling and unique for your audience, and realistically attainable for your brand?

2. Consider signing a celebrity if the brand customer image is unclear

Given the importance of the brand customer image, having a new or lesser-known brand may pose a challenge: When your target audience tries to imagine your typical customer, they may draw a blank. On the upside, that means you can build the customer image from scratch—and a celebrity endorsement can provide an effective strategy. In additional to pairing the brand with a familiar face, your campaign can draw on consumers’ “built-in” knowledge about the celebrity to communicate what you want them to know about your brand tribe.

3. Consider signing a celebrity if the brand customer image isn’t compelling

Stereotypes are notoriously difficult to change. So it often happens that a brand’s (formerly appealing) customer image is no longer relevant—or even alienating—to new consumers. For example, we partner with many respected, longstanding brands that are working to attract younger generations. A key barrier is the image of an “older” customer. The answer isn’t to put a Kardashian in every ad. (We’ve all seen how that can go…) But snagging the right celebrity can disrupt preconceived notions about the kind of person who buys or uses the brand. Especially when the endorsement seems genuine. This ad comes to mind as great example for having challenged stereotypes of Chrysler drivers and Detroit.

Another great example is the choice of Maya Rudolph by Seventh Generation. Consumers tend to think that people who buy “green” household cleaners are condescending “activist types” who have money to pay a premium for products that don’t work well. That’s not a compelling tribe. But Maya Rudolph, a comedic actress and a mom, gives Seventh Generation customers an image that’s much more relatable and fun. I’m a particular fan of her video promos on the Seventh Generation website.

4. Think twice if the customer image is niche and the goal is to broaden appeal

The image of the Subaru driver shows the impact of ads like this, which have an “every parent” quality. A famous spokesperson could undermine that message. Sometimes signing a celebrity—any celebrity—isn’t the best approach. For example, if you’re a tech company trying to drive adoption of your Virtual Assistant, you’ll need to battle the perception that typical users are a niche group: Young, tech-savvy, affluent, white men. So you may want to show a diverse group of regular people doing regular things with the personal assistant, like Google during this year’s Super Bowl—rather than a celebrity doing extraordinary things, like The Rock using Siri to snap selfies from space.

22261-26696-170802-Rock-l.jpgSource: appleinsider

5. If you take the plunge, pick a celebrity who embodies the top priority attributes you want to convey

Picking someone well-known and well-liked may seem like a safe bet. But it fails to consider how that person might influence the image of the brand customer. Instead, identify specific priorities for what to communicate based on consumers’ current image of your customer, their image of competitor brand customers, and what does (or doesn’t) express their identities and values. Then map those priorities to their perceptions of potential spokespeople.

While there’s no guaranteeing that a celebrity won’t behave badly, at least you can take steps to make sure that you sign a spokesperson who conveys the right image of your brand tribe.

Erica Carranza is VP of consumer psychology at Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). She earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University and has more than ten years of experience leading research for major brands. Prior to CMB, she spent time in consumers insights at American Express, where she was a recipient of the CMO Award for Achievement in Excellence.

Topics: marketing science, Identity, AffinID

Marketer Beware: Brand User Stereotypes Bias How Consumers See Your Ads

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Thu, Jan 19, 2017

Imagine you see the picture below in an ad for Jack Daniels. Who is this guy? Where is he? What’s he like?

Man in boat_v2.jpg

I see a middle-aged man somewhere in the south. He’s out fishing. He’s a stoic, rugged, “salt of the earth” kind of guy. He drives a truck—and if it breaks down, he can fix it himself, thank you very much.

But what if, instead, you saw this image in an ad for the clothing brand Patagonia? What would you think about the man in the picture?

I’d imagine him on adventure vacation someplace exotic. He’s from California. He cares about looking good, feeling good, and doing good. Later, he’ll be scaling a mountain and drinking a juice cleanse.

In other words, if he’s in an ad for Patagonia (vs. Jack Daniels), I’d make a whole different set of assumptions.

This effect is driven by our tendency to develop stereotypes. After all, consumers are people, and people are social animals. We tend to categorize other people into types, and use our beliefs about those types to guide our perceptions, expectations, and behaviors. Stereotypes can be nefarious, no doubt. But they’re a fact of life. They’re a mental shortcut we’ve evolved in order to navigate a complex world—and they’re hard to avoid because they often operate at an unconscious level.

A brand can easily become the basis for a stereotype—an image of the kind of person who uses that brand (e.g., the kind of guy who drinks JD, or wears Patagonia). And that image can bias how consumers see the brand’s advertising.

Case in point: Research we conducted for a financial services brand with a reputation for being popular among older, affluent consumers.

The goal was to test advertising that would broaden the brand’s appeal—particularly among Millennials. But when we showed Millennial prospects an ad with a picture like the one above, they assumed that the man was much older. They said things like: “He was a Wall Street businessman. Now he’s retired and canoeing alone on a lake… This is probably his last vacation.” (Ouch!) To succeed in shaking-up their image of who uses the brand, the ads had to unambiguously portray customers in young adult life stages (e.g., a couple having their first baby).

The ads also had to show activities that were appealing without being too out-of-reach. Pictures of twenty-somethings yachting, or at the ballet, just reinforced prospects’ ingoing image of uber-wealthy customers with whom they couldn’t relate. ("I don't identify with any of these pictures! I don't own a boat… I never go to the ballet.”) And, for some prospects, these pictures just seemed unrealistic. Yachting Millennials didn’t fit with any type of person they knew.

Another pitfall were pictures of young people that struck prospects as realistic, but inadvertently
triggered other negative stereotypes. For example, a picture of a man wearing a hat like this…hipster hat (cropped).jpg

…triggered a “Hipster” image, and that was a turn-off. Prospects didn’t think they had much in common with him, didn’t aspire to be like him—and definitely wouldn’t want to hang out with him.

These perceptions matter a lot. Consumers’ image of a brand’s typical user needs to feel real and be compelling—because, as I wrote in an earlier blog, consumers’ image of the kind of person who uses a brand can really help (or really hinder!) brand growth. To attract consumers, the image should feel like a kind of person they know and like, or would like to know.

Here’s the good news: Marketing can play a powerful role in shaping that image. Not to say that it’s easy. Great marketing is art + science. So we developed AffinIDSM to support brands and agencies with science that can help them get the art of the marketing right. More specifically, AffinIDSM is a research solution designed to tackle three key questions:

  • What is consumers’ current image of the brand’s typical user?
    Note: They may not have a clear image, which is a challenge and opportunity for the brand—but that’s a topic for a different day!
  • How compelling is that image?
  • How should you optimize that image?
    In other words: What should marketing and brand initiatives seek to communicate about the kind of person who uses the brand in order to drive consumer engagement?

Then we can test ads to make sure that they convey the intended image, and that they avoid hard-to-predict missteps. (See above re: the “Hipster” hat… Who knew?)

I’ll be talking about AffinIDSM in an upcoming webinar. Curious? Sign-up below!

In the meantime, “The More You Know” lesson for today is that consumers’ image of a brand’s typical user—and their stereotypes of people in general—will bias their perceptions of marketing, whether we like it or not. The best course of action is to understand what those images are, the effect they have on consumers, and how to strategically influence them so that they work in the brand’s favor.  Tweet: @cmbinfo Consumers’ image of a brand’s typical user bias their perceptions of marketing https://ctt.ec/b254L+[Tweet this]

Erica Carranza is CMB’s VP of Consumer Psychology. She has supplier- and client-side market research experience, and earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University.

PS – Have you registered for our webinar yet!? Join Erica as she explains why to change what consumers think of your brand, you must change their image of the people who use it.

What: The Key to Consumer-Centricity: Your Brand User Image

When: February 1, 2017 @ 1PM EST

Register Now!

Topics: consumer insights, webinar, brand health and positioning, AffinID

Porsche Drivers for Trump! Why Perceived User Identities Matter to Brands

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Fri, Nov 04, 2016

Take a moment to think about the kind of person who drives a Porsche. What is that person like? Paint as clear a mental image as you can. Is it is a man or a woman? Young, old, or middle-aged? How would you describe that person’s personality, passions and values?

Now think about the kind of person who drives a Volvo. What is that person like? Or the kind of person who drives a Subaru? Or drives a Chevy? Or a Cadillac? Or a Mini?

If you’re like most people, for each of these cars, you picture a very different driver behind the wheel.

In fact, this summer we asked over 18,000 consumers to describe the typical user for 90 different brands, across 5 different industries, using their own words and batteries of perceptions. Our results uncovered images of typical users that differed vastly by brand and industry on a range of dimensions. For example:

  • The typical Porsche driver is often seen as a rich white man who is single or divorced. He is sporty, stylish and ambitious—but also arrogant, materialistic and self-centered. He’s into fashion and luxury. He likes to party.
  • The typical Volvo driver is also seen as a wealthy white man, but he’s more of a Northeastern intellectual. He’s into books and the arts. He’s responsible, self-assured, and a parent. His politics are progressive. He is not into sports or partying.
  • The typical Subaru driver is seen as a more middle-class, family-oriented parent who is smart, practical, responsible and caring—a nature-lover with a soft spot for pets and a desire to support good causes.
  • The typical Chevy driver is seen as a white, middle- to lower-class family man from the rural South or Midwest. He is reliable, humble, relaxed and genuine. He likes hunting, sports, and the great outdoors.

Consumers’ perceptions even differed on who each of these drivers was supporting in the presidential primaries. Who did they think the Porsche driver supported?  Trump. By a very large margin. And while the Volvo driver was seen as supporting Bernie or Hillary, the Subaru driver was seen as feeling the Bern. Most assumed the Chevy driver would vote for Trump, but consumers were also twice as likely to say he’d vote for Cruz than they were for most other brands we tested. We found a skew towards one of the candidates for nearly every one of the ninety brands we tested across the auto, airline, beer, fashion and food industries. 

Consumers’ generally held beliefs about the kind of person who uses each brand are driven in part by experience (e.g., all the Subaru drivers you know), and in part by marketing (e.g., ads like this one).

But does it really matter what consumers think of the kind of person who uses a brand?

YES! It does. A lot.

The more consumers identify with their image of the kind of person who uses a brand, the more they will try, buy, pay for and recommend it. That’s because consumers are people, and people are driven by their identities. They embrace brands that help them reinforce, enhance, or express who they are—and the brands that do this best are ones that help them feel connected to people like them, people they know and like, or people they’d like to know. Consider: Would you rather be like the kind of person who drives a Porsche, a Volvo, a Subaru, or a Chevy?

In fact, consumers’ perceptions of the typical brand user matter more than their perceptions of the brand itself. We see clear mathematical evidence of this with AffinIDSM, our approach to uncovering consumers’ image of who uses a brand, and ways to strengthen how much they identify with that person.

  • As part of this approach, we calculate an AffinID℠ Score to quantify how much consumers identify with their image of the brand’s typical user
    • The score is based on the clarity, relatability and desirability of that image
  • Across industries, brands with high AffinID℠ Scores win on consideration, loyalty, price elasticity, and advocacy
  • In our research with 18,000 consumers, AffinID℠ was the #1 predictor of brand performance, beating out every brand perception we tested
    • Including: high quality, trustworthy, useful, easy/convenient, a good deal, worth paying more for, safe, secure, exciting, fun, reputable, innovative, socially responsible, understands its customers, cares about its customers, and rewards customers for their loyalty

The power of AffinID℠ lies in the fact that human beings are social beings with identities shaped by our social groups and relationships—they provide self-knowledge, self-esteem, and the social norms that guide our behaviors. So we are particularly attentive to other people. And brands aren’t people. Brand users are.

Furthermore, while perceptions of brands and the people who use them are interrelated, they usually aren’t the same. Case in point: Consumers who love amazon. When we ask them to describe amazon, they say it has “great” customer service, prices, variety and convenience. When we ask them to describe amazon customers, what do they say? “Smart.”

To close, I’ll give one last example—a personal one. Porsche.

Let me start by saying to any Porsche owner who might be reading this that I’m sure you’re a lovely person who doesn’t fall into any stereotype. I think now is a good time to go get some coffee and consider how well you’ve done for yourself—I mean, after all, you have a Porsche! And, go ahead, donate more to Trump. It’s not too late. You can skip the next few paragraphs.

(Is he gone yet? Great—let’s continue…) 

If you asked me what I think of Porsche the brand, I’d say: cool, reputable, fast, high quality, expensive. But if you asked me what I think of the typical Porsche driver, my response would be similar to the mass-market view described above: white male divorcee, wealthy, materialistic, in a midlife crisis, likely overcompensating for something.

So, as nice as I think Porsches are, I’m not spending my next bonus on one. I’m not like the person I envision as the Porsche driver, nor do I want to be. I’m a happily married mother of two. (Incidentally, the last mother I saw driving a Porsche was Carmella Soprano.) To get me to ever consider a Porsche, you’d have to really shake-up my image of the kind of person who drives one. But I’m sure there’s a marketer out there who could do it. Gauntlet thrown.

If you take away anything from this longer-than-usual blog (thanks for reading!), make it this: To change what consumers think of your brand, change their image of the people who use it. In today’s competitive marketplace and identity-driven culture, it is more important than ever that brands communicate a clear, compelling image of their typical customer.

Are you communicating the right image of the kind of person who uses your brand? 

Erica Carranza is  CMB's VP of Consumer Psychology with supplier- and client-side (American Express) experience. She  earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University.

Contact us to learn more about identity's role in building brands, and CMB's AffinIDsm approach!

Contact Us

 

Topics: consumer insights, brand health and positioning, Identity, Election, AffinID

Superman, the Super Bass-o-Matic, and CMB's EMPACT℠

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Mon, Jun 08, 2015

Introducing CMB's EMPACTSM: A practical approach to understanding the emotional impact of your brand.

Emotions matter in driving consumer choices. 

This is fast becoming a truism—thanks in part to behavioral economics making its way to the mainstream press.  For evidence from your own life, take a moment to think about your favorite brand.  What do you like about it?  What are the products or experiences it provides?  Now think about how those things make you feel.  Or think about the last time you swore off a brand.  Like the last time I bought something from Ikea.  They sold me an extra part they said I would need.  They didn’t deliver the part, then they told me I didn’t really need it.  But they charged me for it, and never credited me despite my investing 3 hours of time in calls with their customer service.  I felt so frustrated, and so angry, that I swore I’d never buy from Ikea again.  NEVER AGAIN!  [shakes fist at sky]  And, to date, I haven’t.  But I digress… The point is that scientific research, marketing research, and conventional wisdom all suggest that, if you’re trying to attract and engage consumers, emotions are an important piece of the puzzle.     

So what’s the best way to understand how your brand or product makes consumers feel, and what role those feelings play in shaping their choices?  Many marketers and market researchers have been wringing their hands over this question.  Which, in turn, has led research vendors to serve up an array of solutions—including some positioned as ways to get at “unconscious” emotions, or to tap into how people feel without having to ask them. I call these “Superman Methods.” 

CMB Empact, Emotional Impact AnalysisIf Superman wants to know what color your underwear is, he doesn’t need to ask.  He can see it without your saying a word.  He can see it even if you forgot which pair of underwear you chose this morning.  And if you don’t want Superman looking at your underwear, too bad!  HE CAN SEE IT ANYWAY. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had Superman-like methods that tapped consumers’ emotions directly, without ever having to ask them how they felt? 

I was witness to many a sales pitch for “Superman Methods” while I was on the client side.  It's hard not to be drawn in by their promise.  But ultimately I was bothered by a few key things:

  • Biometric measures (e.g., skin conductance, facial EMG, brain waves) are often positioned as Superman-style tools.  But even when they do a great job of measuring how good or bad someone feels (as with facial EMG), they don’t provide good measures of discrete emotions.  For example, they can’t tell you if negative feelings are driven by Anger vs. Anxiety, or if positive feelings reflect Amusement vs. Pride. 

  • Facial coding does measure some specific emotions.  But it only gets at the “basic” emotions, which are: Happiness, Surprise, Anger, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Contempt. 

    bass-o-matic, Empact, CMB, Emotional Impact AnalysisNotice anything about that list?  There is only one positive emotion.  The rest are all negative—except Surprise, which could swing either way.  So unless you’re trying to help Dan Aykroyd sell the Super Bass-o-Matic (for which disgust, anger and contempt could top the list of consumer reactions), understanding how your product makes people feel would ideally capture more granularity in terms of their positive emotions

    For example, what about feeling relaxed?  Proud?  Entertained?  Secure?  Indulged?  And even among negative emotions, there is more nuance.  What about feeling frustrated?  Bored?  Disappointed?  Or embarrassed? 

    Consumers’ emotional lives are more complex than what the “basic emotion” faces can reveal—and understanding that complexity can help you find a more direct (and competitively differentiated) route to capturing their hearts

  • While it’s true that people don’t always know why they do what they do, it doesn’t follow that they don’t know how they feel.  I might not know all the reasons why I choose Seventh Generation for my kids, but I know how its brand promise makes me feel.  And while we can’t always trust the reasons consumers give, isn’t that why we derive importance through experimental designs and predictive models? 

  • Furthermore, how much “Superman Methods” really tap the unconscious—or add value to self-report measures in consumer domains—is debatable.  For example, many scientists question whether the oft-cited Implicit Association Test (IAT) actually measures unconscious associations.  And meta-analyses (including one led by a creator of the IAT) have found that it doesn’t work as well as self-reports to predict consumer preferences. 

What measures like facial coding, EMG, and the IAT do do well is subvert socially sensitive situations—where people know how they feel, but don’t want to tell you.  (The IAT was first developed to study prejudice—a great use case, since people with racist attitudes usually try keep them on the DL).  But if you want to know how your brand, ad, or product makes people feel, in most cases you can trust what they tell you.  Especially in a context where they feel comfortable being honest, like an online/mobile survey.  In the hands of a skilled moderator, in-person discussions can also be a great way to uncover emotional reactions, but that method isn’t scalable to large samples. 

At CMB, we do a lot of research that calls for large samples, so we wanted to develop and validate a way to measure how brands/touchpoints make consumers feel that is: practical (e.g., scalable, fast, cost-effective, easy to combine with other measures such as brand perceptions); comprehensive (in terms of the range of emotions measured); robust (leveraging insights from the scientific study of emotion); and systematic (to enable brand comparisons, or track over time).  Oh yeah—and we also wanted results that are clear and compelling.  Because, if you can’t effectively communicate them to people who need to use them, what’s the point? 

Our solution is a survey-based approach to measuring the emotional impact of brands, communications, products and experiences called EMPACTSM. Curious? Watch our webinar!

WATCH HERE

Erica Carranza is a CMB Account Director with supplier- and client-side (American Express) experience. She is also our resident social psychologist; she earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University.

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, EMPACT, emotional measurement, webinar