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

Josh Fortey

Recent Posts

Don’t get ganked! What the rise of esports can teach us about building products that survive

Posted by Josh Fortey

Tue, Mar 14, 2017

video game controller.jpg

PAX East just left town and if you don’t know what esports is—let alone what “ganked” means—you’re missing out. While traditional team sports continue to rule the roost in the American sports landscape, esports have become the fastest growing spectator sport.

To put this into perspective, the 2016 NBA championship finals game garnered 31 million viewers, the highest count of a NBA finals on both ABC and ESPN in over 10 years. Yet more people—36 million in 2015 and 43 million in 2016— tuned in to watch some of the world’s best League of Legends teams battle it out across the Summoners Rift for the world championship crown. But these remarkable figures aren’t unique to League of Legends. Twitch, the world’s largest gaming-orientated streaming platform, clocked in 95 million hours of esports streaming across the top 10 esports titles in January 2017 alone. And that 95 million hours of esports streaming is just one third of all the streaming that happened in January for these top ten esports titles. In addition to these staggering numbers, esports has effectively carved out a niche of digitally-engaged younger gamers; approximately 1-in-5 of all Millennials are now regularly watching esports online.

Based on this strong viewership, it’s no surprise that the esports category is estimated to surpass the $1.5 billion mark by 2020. But looking beyond these remarkable numbers, esports serves as an excellent example of an industry—comprised of brands, publishers, and developers—that continues to successfully deliver on rapidly changing consumer needs despite being in a constant state of adaptation, progression, and evolution. These factors are all important in understanding the meteoric rise of esports, but they also serve up a number of lessons about listening to your customers. Lessons that brands, marketers, and product innovators must learn if they want to develop products that stand the test of time:

  • Deliver meaningful experiences. The esports graveyard is littered with failed games that sent the right message to consumers and appeared to have the “winning formula”, but ultimately just didn’t cut it. Let’s look at Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis launched with all the makings of "the next big thing” in esports gaming: development by Turbine, the reputable gaming studio owned by Warner Bros., financial backing from a major IP in DC Comics, a spin on the hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, an extensive beta testing phase, and a highly accessible free-to-play business model. But despite these attributes, just two months after launch, development of Infinite Crisis ended. Why? Because its makers failed to nurture a critical mass of consumers across a generic gaming audience and ignored users’ complaints of unbalanced gameplay. Infinite Crisis serves as an example of what can happen when a brand doesn’t consider what its community of users/customers is telling them about their experience.
  • Nurture your community. The Infinite Crisis example also emphasizes the importance of nurturing and listening to your community. The growth of esports is largely driven by its engaged users, and so fostering these communities is key. Fostering a community is mutually beneficial to the brand and the user—the brand enjoys increased user retention while its customers have the satisfaction of knowing they are valued.
  • Community interactivity and engagement. Brands committed to their customer communities enjoy a more genuine dialogue with their users—ultimately helping strengthen customer loyalty. Strong brands recognize this as a cornerstone to a successful esports game. Take gaming giant Blizzard and its wildly successful game Overwatch. Overwatch developers pay close attention to feedback provided on their forums (underscores the importance of my first point, too), updates users on product developments, enhancements, and innovations (or product patches), and provide detailed product roadmaps. In the world of gaming, players aren’t just customers; they’re fans, loyalists, and advocates who deserve to be engaged and updated.
  • Embed consumers in product development. When gaming companies foster a community, they open up the possibility of embedding consumers into the early stages of product development. Across many of the most successful competitive gaming titles, publishers rely on the customer voice to formulate and enhance the brand experience from early alpha testing to open public test environments. Dota 2, a successful MOBA title, takes an innovative approach to embedding customers into its esports product strategy by crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. For example, the proceeds from players’ in-game cosmetic (items that don’t affect gameplay) purchases are partially donated to its competitive tournaments prize pools. Users can also create their own cosmetic items that can be sold through an online marketplace. Both initiatives resulted in Dota 2 customers amassing a staggering $20 million in prize money for its 2016 world championship tournament, The International—the largest overall prize pool in esports history.

Esports and competitive gaming are gleaming examples of how an industry has successfully used its customers’ voice to create sustainable and attractive products/experiences. It also demonstrates the perils of ignoring customer needs. Infinite Crisis is just one example among myriad others, including Dawngate, Battleborn and Minions. If there’s an overarching lesson to be learned from the explosive success of esports, it’s that brands should first and foremost prioritize the needs of its customers.

Josh Fortey is a Project Manager at CMB who is all too familiar with the feeling of being “ganked”.

Topics: product development, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation

Will the Sun Set on British Brands?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Thu, Feb 04, 2016

British-brands.pngAdele, One Direction, Burberry, Downton Abbey, Kate Middleton, the Royal Family, and, of course, myself… the British are once again invading the shores of the U.S.

Young British musicians continue to take the American music industry by storm—in 2012, four out of five of the top five selling albums in the U.S. were from British artists. Just last December, approximately 10 million fans fought over 750,000 tickets for Adele’s upcoming 2016 tour. The entertainment industry is not the only one seeing dollar signs with this British Invasion. Coffee shop and fast food chain, Pret a Manger, plans further U.S. expansion after successful stints in Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Chicago, building on its brand of fresh, prepared products.

It’s clear that Britain as a brand has been riding a positive wave in the U.S. in recent years with the London Olympics and the birth of the Royal Prince and Princess acting as potential catalysts. The allure of international expansion into the American market, therefore, seems the most logical step for British brands looking for the next stage of growth. According to a Barclays study in 2013, the U.S. was considered the top current market for sales growth for British retailers, but it was also considered the toughest overseas market to break. British supermarket chain Tesco found out firsthand the difficulty of attempting to break the American market. Pre-packaged, fast-food meals have been a staple product on the shelves of British grocery chains for years, and the research, Tesco believed, seemed to suggest this could work among U.S. consumers. However, a lack of familiarity with this style of eating, the onset of the 2007 depression when Tesco’s “Fresh & Easy” chain launched, and the higher associated costs in comparison to buying fresh produce ultimately resulted in a failed $1.8 billion gamble when Tesco withdrew from the market in 2013.

The notable failure of Tesco is a stark reminder of the potential pitfalls for British retailers looking to expand into the U.S. market. While there is clear admiration for the quality and culture of British brands, any decision a British business makes in deciding to jump over the Atlantic should be highly researched and strategized. Any brand looking to break into a new international market should build their decision on a solid foundation of research, with some key research criteria identified below:

  • Identify a target market: The world is a big place. With over 200 possible markets, identifying the correct target market is critical. How have previous brands fared when venturing into new potential markets? How do exports fair? What are the current economic conditions, and do these favor new entries into the market?
  • Market conditions: GDP growth, birth rate, employment rate, and inflation rate—all of these are among a variety of macro-level economic indicators that can help gauge market condition.
  • Opportunity: Is there identifiable demand for your product in the market, and do consumers have a familiarity with your offering? Is the market existing and mature, or is it in its infancy?
  • Consumer preferences: While consumers can appear to share certain elements of cultural identity, this does not necessarily mean that they share the same purchase and consumption culture. Pret a Manger has understood this, adapting its style of service and menu for the U.S., where its coffee is self-serve, unlike the Barista approach taken in Britain.  
  • Competitive situation and positioning: Understanding the competitive situation and brand positioning of competitors can help you gauge how to uniquely position your brand to acquire market share. British brands seeking to enter the U.S., for example, can leverage perceptions of heritage and quality to command a greater price premium, but must emphasize its position and point of difference in ways that meet consumer needs.
  • Market sizing and growth potential: Have we identified our target market? Are we confident there is an opportunity? Do we have an idea of the kind of consumer we could attract and where our brand sits? Do we understand the current competitive landscape and current levels of competitor usage? Knowing the answers to these questions when entering a new market requires a market sizing task to understand the financial opportunity or return on investment. 

There has been a lot of buzz in the CMB office recently around the Boston debut of low-priced fashion retailer Primark (which is only about a half mile walk from the office). This is a hugely successful and cult brand in the U.K., but time will tell if the Irish retailer has effectively researched and gauged its ability to seduce the American consumer with its own brand of discount fashion, or whether, like many before it, they have underestimated the difficulty of breaking the U.S. market.

Josh is a Project Manager at CMB. Having recently entered the U.S. market himself, he is hoping his own brand of British fares better than Tesco’s.

We recently did a webinar on research we conducted with venture capital firm Foundation Capital on Millennials and investing. Insights include a Millennial segmentation, specific financial habits, and a look into the attitudinal drivers behind Millennials' investing preferences. 

Watch Here!

Topics: international research, brand health and positioning, market strategy and segmentation, retail research, growth and innovation