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Julia Walker

Recent Posts

Innovation Requires Truly Understanding the Customer's Needs

Posted by Julia Walker

Thu, Dec 01, 2016

business-561387_1280.jpg“Innovation” has enjoyed a long reign as king of the business buzzwords—you’d be hard-pressed to attend an insights or marketing conference without hearing it.  But beyond the buzz, organizations pursue innovation for a number of reasons: to differentiate themselves from other brands, establish themselves as an industry leader, or to avoid producing stale products, services, ad campaigns or content.  Smart brands know that complacency is not an option and recognize they must adapt to accommodate the ever-changing consumer landscape. 

Innovation is a significant investment—the stakes are high for these new ideas to deliver meaningful results, whether by boosting the brand, successfully introducing a new product, growing the customer base, or adding to bottom line profitability. No matter how disruptive a product, service, or idea is, at the core there must be a deep understanding of customer needs. (Tweet this!) Let’s take a look at two very different attempts at innovation, and where they stumbled:

 The Case of Google Glass

For any new product (innovative or otherwise), organizations need to answer “yes” to two questions: (1) Is there a market? (2) Does it solve a legitimate problem?

No matter how revolutionary the product may be, it won’t succeed unless there’s a market for it. It's possible that a product can be too forward-thinking, leaving customers confused or unwilling to try it. Take the case of Google Glass:  though the product itself was revolutionary and consumers were intrigued, it was unclear why consumers needed Google Glass and what problem it was designed to solve.   Google Glass ended up generating low demand since there wasn’t an easily identifiable need for it. 

The key here would’ve been to first identify what customers need and then develop a product aimed to satisfy that need.  Here’s where market research can help with innovation. As market researchers we can help brands get into the mind of consumers and identify the gaps between what they are currently receiving and what they want to receive. By identifying these gaps, we can shed light on where there’s a need to be met.

 The Febreze Scentstories Flop

Other innovation flops in recent years have proven that beyond identifying customer/prospect needs, it’s also important to test how messages play to real consumers prior to launch.  

A lesson illustrated by the failure of P&G’s “Febreze Scentstories”. In 2005, the company caused confusion because they failed to educate customers properly about what the product actually was. Febreze Scentstories resembled a disc player that emitted different scents every 30 minutes (they looked an awful lot like CDs). The ads told consumers with Febreze Scentstories they could "play scents like you play music."  And while P&G partnered with superstar Shania Twain to drum up excitement, its advertising campaign confused consumers by making them think the product actually involved music.  Clearer messaging that would’ve helped prevent this misunderstanding.

Advanced analytical techniques along with strategic qualitative methodologies are a boon to brands. There has never been so much information available nor computing power capable of parsing and modeling it. But as two very different product innovations demonstrate, that sheer volume of data is not enough. What is needed for successful innovation are insights grounded in a truly consumer-centric approach. After all, only the consumer knows what the consumer wants (and needs).

Julia Walker is a Senior Associate Researcher at CMB who enjoys being innovative in her everyday life.  For instance, she loves to find creative ways to eat healthy without sacrificing taste. 

Topics: consumer insights, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation

What’s in a Name? ABC Family Grows Up

Posted by Julia Walker

Thu, Nov 12, 2015

This January, the ABC Family channel will become “Freeform.” The name change, triggered by a misalignment between ABC Family’s current brand strategy and associations the current name conjures, aims to appeal to the brand’s target audience—a more mature, young adult demographic. President Tom Ascheim calls this group "Becomers," males and females ages 14-34 who are going through an exciting life stage of firsts, ranging from "first kiss to first kid."

So, what can viewers expect from Freeform? According to the company, at least some things will stay the same. Freeform will keep a number of popular shows (e.g., Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters) and continue beloved traditions like Harry Potter Weekends and 25 Days of Christmas. But viewers can also expect new programming that takes the brand further from its family-friendly image. 

While the name change seems warranted, a rebrand can certainly flop if not carried out thoughtfully (think: when Radio Shack became “The Shack”). Here are four steps worth following to ensure long-term success in launching a rebrand:

1. Conduct thorough research about the competitive landscape and your target market. Rebranding involves a tremendous amount of preparation, time, and effort, and it risks confusing customers and losing brand equity. It’s wise to consider the repercussions before making changes that might not solve the underlying problems. Renaming infamous private security firm Blackwater to the shorter XE, for instance, hasn’t done the trick. For ABC Family’s part, research revealed many respondents unaware of the brand see it as “wholesome,” which is an indication that the channel’s name was a real sticking point to broadening its audience.

2. Communicate early and often. Being proactive about communication is essential during a rebranding campaign to avoid confusion and to dissuade potential rumors. All marketing and promotional materials should be honest and clarify any questions customers may have, such as the reasoning behind the change or what to expect from the new brand. On ABC Family's social media pages, for instance, some viewers expressed concerns about whether or not the new network would continue its popular 25 Days of Christmas campaign. The channel is leveraging these platforms as a way to answer questions and ease viewers’ fears.

3. Engage customers. Getting the consumer involved is a productive way to create buzz around the rebrand. One way ABC Family has done this is through a user-generated campaign (UGC) in which fans can create content to be posted on the channel’s website. This effectively generates hype around the launch just in time for the January television premieres. Social media can also be used to cultivate engagement with fans. ABC Family already has an impressive social media presence around hit show Pretty Little Liars, which is cable's second most tweeted-about series, but the channel will need to continue encouraging active participation throughout the rebrand.

4. Don’t let the name change stand alone. The name change itself should only be part of a rebrand, and it should be accompanied by an internal strategic shift. The branding must deliver on its promises, or the rebrand will fail to bring about any brand lift. A rebrand can’t be a "superficial facelift," but a sustainable strategic change that allows for the brand to flourish. 

Only time will tell if Freeform can create new content that attracts Becomers and evokes viewers’ "spirit and adventure," while also leveraging existing brand equity to maintain its current core audience.  

Julia Walker is an Associate Researcher who is very excited to continue watching Harry Potter marathons on the new Freeform network. 

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Topics: television, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research