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Lynne Castronuovo

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Putting Viewers First in the New Media Landscape

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Thu, Jun 22, 2017

Televsion and Fishing.png

While recovering from a recent running injury, I logged A LOT of miles on the “dreadmill” and “helliptical” at the gym—both conveniently equipped with televisions to keep me entertained. Because I was also in the middle of a kitchen renovation, I found particular solace and inspiration in my good friends from HGTV: Tarek and Christina, Chip and Joanna, and the Property Brothers.

I’d grown particularly fond of Tarek and Christina’s “Flip or Flop”, so when I stumbled upon a recent New York Times article about them, of course it caught my attention. Why is it, the author wonders, do these home improvement “stars” now regularly share the covers and pages of magazines previously dominated by Brangelina? Gone are the days of traditional star power and mass appeal programming—as media consumption continues to fragment, niche is the new mass.

Media companies, from networks to celebrity magazines, are having trouble reaching these smaller groups. They’re still fishing in the biggest ponds left, which in the case of HGTV, has a relatively large fanbase in Middle America. But even with the sizable HGTV audience, there’s also the FX and AMC “big-city smarty-pants” groups to think about. With these splintering subgroups, what’s a media company competing for their attention and loyalty to do?

“Do I like these characters?” to “Who do I want to be?”

Traditional programming research focuses on what the viewer thinks about the show’s plot, characters, setting, etc. Don’t get me wrong, these elements are still essential to programming. However, in identifying subgroups based on the content they watch, we need to answer some important questions about identity, namely: “Who do I want to be?”, “Do I want to be perceived as the kind of person who watches this show?”, and “Can I relate to people who typically watch ‘Flip or Flop’?”

As people, we’re motivated by opportunities to reinforce or enhance our identity—it’s an integral piece to who we are. The brands we use (or in this case, the content we consume) can be an expression of identity, so we’re inclined to align ourselves with those that express it in a way that’s meaningful and true. In that vein, we find we can tell much more about a viewer or consumer by asking the identity-centric questions above than something like, “What do I think about the cast of ‘Flip or Flop’?”

This identity-centric framework is the basis for CMB’s identity measurement solution—AffinID. AffinID helps brands understand their target consumers’ image of the typical person who uses their brand (or watches their content) and finds ways to strategically influence that image to strengthen how much consumers identify with the image.

 As competition increases, identity measurement should play a key role to media companies.

So, as the media landscape becomes more fragmented and competitive, and as we continue to see niche groups with particular tastes pop up, media companies need to consider the important role identity plays in viewership—the more a person perceives a show and/or a network's typical viewer as the kind of person they are, they know and like, the more likely they are to engage in it.

This has distinct advantages for content creators testing new pilots—with so many players churning out quality, original content, there’s no room for mediocracy. Prior to pilot launch, creators can measure the identity benefits offered by the show to predict performance, help identify and profile likely viewers, and diagnose potential barriers to viewership.

This approach could be equally helpful to advertisers. Much of the advertising research conducted today is tactical, focusing on ad load and placement. The holy grail is finding what ads are “relevant” and aligned with not only the network, but also the particular program. And as viewers continue consume programming on a number of different platforms, it’s more challenging than ever for advertisers to be sure they’re reaching the right audience or fishing in the right pond.

AffinID can help advertisers identify perceptions of the viewer that drive these positive behaviors, strategically influencing them through the elements/moments featured in the program promos and identifying the ad placements/brand partnerships that make sense for a particular show.

While I won’t be watching Christina and Tarek as much now that I’m running outside again, and have a newly renovated kitchen, they remain important reminders of the future of media consumption. Like celebrities, there are fewer shows with “mass appeal” these days. In order for media companies (content creators, advertisers, etc.) to remain favorable to targeted audiences, they'll need to start looking through an identity-centric lens and consider questions like, “Who do I want to be?”

Lynne Castronuovo is an Account Manager at CMB who enjoys running outside when she’s not cooking meals in her shiny, new kitchen.

Topics: digital media and entertainment research, AffinID

All You Need is You: Customer Experience & the Promise of Biometrics

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Goodbye, plastic hotel room key. So long, wallet. Farewell camera. These days you don’t need any of the above to unlock a hotel room, buy a mojito or snap a vacation photo.  All you need is, well — you. Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Just Tap Here,” The New York Times

biometricsThat quote, from an article in the NY Times’ Travel section, hit me like a wave. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve managed to lose a hotel key card, leave my cell phone at the office before going on a business trip (after carefully placing it where I would see it before dashing to the airport), lose my office and son’s daycare key cards, drop my American Express card somewhere during a 3-mile run, leave my reusable coffee cup next to the register at my local Trader Joe’s, and lose my sunglasses. It’s painfully obvious why this article, on the wonders of biometrics, hit so close to home.Biometrics have come a long way since the retinal scans featured in the old Bond and Batman movies. Now you can do more than imagine scanning your fingers to open the door, or make a purchase; hotels can use infrared signals as a virtual “Do not Enter” sign, detecting body heat and ensuring housekeeping staff doesn’t knock or barge in.

While I look at technology as enabling convenience, others just see more evidence of Big Brother penetrating our lives—all that data needs to live somewhere and that makes many people uneasy. Of course, you could make the argument that the NSA is already collecting vast amounts of data tracking our every move; we may as well use it to our advantage by gaining something out of this sharing.  As Zachary Karabell notes in a recent article in The Atlantic:

…for all of the legitimate concerns about government intrusions on personal privacy, Americans today -- along with many people worldwide -- surrender vast amounts of personal information to companies and seem quite prepared to surrender even more if it adds to the enjoyment and reduces the friction of myriad transactions that are part of everyday life.

With that quote in mind, I thought about how my clients can leverage this technology to deliver a better experience to their guests (while decreasing their operating costs, and gain repeat business and free marketing through advocacy).  Our work in the cruise industry, as well as the JD Power 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report, reveals that the embarkation and debarkation process are very important in driving guest satisfaction. Think about how much more quickly those lines would move if an iris and/or fingerprint scan were all it took to board the ship?  Guests get where they want to be more quickly and cruise lines need fewer embark and debark crew members to manage the process.

Onboard photography is another area that frustrates guests (and represents lost revenue) when they don’t have an adequate number of photos from which to choose. Facial recognition technology that enables onboard photographers to group every candid picture they take, so passengers can easily browse, would solve that problem.

For cruises attracting a mix of guests from all over the world, using fingertips as a purchase trigger rather than cash or credit cards would also help improve the onboard shopping experience for those guests who do not hold currency in the denomination used on the ship and/or who are not fluent in the primary language spoken onboard.

New tools and emerging technologies offer myriad opportunities to improve the customer experience. Biometrics and mobile tracking are giving brick and mortar businesses the opportunity to catch up with their online counterparts. But there’s a real trade-off here—if customers are going to take that leap of faith it needs to be worth it. What do you think?

Lynne is Research Director of CMB’s Retail and Travel practice; she has not lost one personal object since June. She would like to thank the The London Hotel NYC for getting her back in her room quickly (after verifying her identity), Judy Melanson for letting her use her phone to stay in touch with her family while traveling and Sean Kearney for dropping off her phone at home so it would be there when she returned, AmEx for getting sending a replacement card within 24 hours and Trader Joe’s for maintaining a Lost & Found. 

Royal Caribbean Case StudyLearn how we help Royal Caribbean measure guest experience and improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Topics: technology research, big data, mobile, travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty

The People Behind the Research: Lynne Castronuovo

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Wed, Aug 22, 2012

Senior PM Lynne Castronuovo chats with Emily Brouwer about her work, her 21 marathons, and her favorite CMB memories.

EB: What is your favorite part about being an employee at CMB?
LC: I’m fortunate to work on the Travel and Hospitality team here, I love to read about travel, learn about it, and travel myself, so the research  has a lot of personal interest for me  One of my favorite trips is when I get to fly down to Miami and meet with one of our long standing clients there!  Working at CMB lets me look ‘behind-the-scenes’ of travel businesses and agencies.  In working with our clients I am able to see how a premium experience is delivered to the guest.

EB: How would you describe our office?
LC: Our team is special, we have a lot of really kind and intelligent people. The office environment is relaxed and laid back, and as a result we have a lot of fun. We work in teams, which fosters collaboration, so you never feel like you’re alone.  There’s a real sense of camaraderie.

EB: How have you grown during your time here?
LC: I’ve been here 4.5 years, one of our key differentiators is trying to get to the heart of the matter and answer clients’ burning questions.  Working here has really helped me learn how to focus on that to produce compelling reports that answer questions.  I can turn reports and mass amounts of data into stories that answer most important questions for clients.  The reports we produce here get used; they’re not just data-dumps.

LynneEB: I know you’re an avid runner, has that skill come in handy at CMB?
LC: I began running marathons in my late twenties and have now completed 21 of them.  When I began, it was with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training program; every year I was matched with a patient battling a blood related cancer, and ran in his or her honor.  I did this for eleven years.  When I came to CMB, one of my co-workers was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I told her I wanted to run for her, and did. This was the beginning of many meaningful relationships here.  I also co-captained our Light the Night team and over the past four years we’ve raised over $35,000.  We have come a long way with this fundraiser, and I particularly enjoy being able to bring my background in fundraising to promote a successful, company-wide event.

EB: What is your favorite memory associated with CMB?
LC: This is a toss-up between my husband singing karaoke at the annual summer party, and running/coaching a corporate challenge for CMB with two colleagues.  Another favorite and very meaningful memory was just this past year, when my colleague Diego jumped into the Boston Marathon in 90 degree, record-breaking heat to run the last seven miles with me.  He really had the crowed going and got me through the last leg of the run.

EB:  How is CMB different from other jobs you’ve had or companies you’ve worked for?
LC: One key differentiator I see is our focus on business decisions; but I also am constantly impressed by quality of our graphics and that we have a dedicated graphic designer who not only ensures that all of our documents have a standard look and feel but who also works with us on creating very compelling, specialized graphics as needed.

EB: And now for the fun questions, if CMB had a mascot what would it be?
Hmmm, I’d describe us as Questioning Quigley… We’re always pushing the envelope.

EB: Knowing what you know about CMB what else could “CMB” stand for?
LC: Constantly Making Breakthroughs

EB: If CMB won an academy award what would it be for?
LC: Best Costume Design because we dress up our reports so well. ;)

Interested in joining our team? Check out our Careers page for more about CMB and job opportunities.

Posted by Emily Brouwer. Emily is CMB’s marketing intern, this fall she'll enter her senior year at Connecticut College, where she'll be writing her thesis on Portuguese migration, women’s rights, and education. She'll also be rowing, sailing, singing, and working as the news editor of Conn’s college paper, and when she has a free moment apple picking. She's been an absolute pleasure to work with and the marketing team will miss her terribly.


Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people

When Observation isn't Enough: The Case of the Green Jolly Ranchers

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

Green Apple Jolly ranchersAs I prepare for my 14th Boston Marathon, I find myself thinking about food a lot, and when you’re on training runs there is no shortage of candy to keep you fueled. I have come to find our candy stations reveal a little known fact about us runners— we DO NOT like green apple Jolly Ranchers.  How did I come to this revelation? I didn’t interview my teammates, convene a focus group, or field a questionnaire— it was obvious from seeing dish upon dish of lonely green candies.

This type of observation, also known as an unobtrusive measure, can be pretty handy.  Museums can look at wear patterns in the carpet, in front of exhibits, to see which are the most popular, and social media researchers can get a good understanding of what people think about a brand using social media listening.  I was comfortable concluding my group of runners does not like Jolly Ranchers. But when I took a look at CMB’s 5th floor candy bowl—almost empty—except for five or six green Jolly Ranchers, I wondered, does NO ONE like these things?

I needed to investigate a little further. On Friday, I asked my fellow team members why the apple Jolly Ranchers were always the last to go, and I got some feedback that helps explain why that is.  One person cited that apple was actually her favorite “because they are the most tart” but that she didn’t know about the candy dish. I realized that she joined CMB after the advertising blitz that took place when I launched the dish.  Another team member said she found apple “a little bit too tangy” but that she liked them better than the cherry variety.  She explained that she loves fresh cherries, but hates the cherry flavor because it reminds her of the cough medicine she had to take as a kid.

While my unobtrusive observations accurately recognized that apple was definitely the last standing in the candy dish, the feedback I garnered from my colleagues not only helped me to identify an awareness issue but also highlighted a weakness of cherry Jolly Ranchers.  Even if my census of my 5th floor colleagues didn’t provide too much insight into the whole Jolly Rancher market, it does remind me what unobtrusive measures can and can’t do and why asking questions can uncover things simple observation can’t.

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo, Lynne is a Senior Project Manager at CMB, guardian of the 5th floor candy dish, and will run her  14th Boston Marathon on Monday April, 16th.

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Topics: methodology

Market Research & Marathons: You Get Out What You Put In

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Tue, May 24, 2011

Research and running have more in common than you might think.  Nobody plans quite like a researcher.  Similarly, nobody understands discipline more than a long-distance runner.  I’ve finished 20 marathons – last month’s Boston Marathon was the most recent.  Having finally reached a point where I feel comfortable describing myself as “completely recovered” (being a mom to six-month-old has a way of extending the recovery process), I’m able to reflect a bit and highlight a few similarities.

I’m known as a planner.  Part of it might be personality, but partdescribe the image of it is understanding that cutting corners on preparation and planning increases the odds that you’ll pay a penalty down the line.  It pays dividends for all type of studies, from brand trackers to customer experience research.  While there will always be unforeseen variables, like most researchers and runners, I like to minimize those as much as possible.  So what’s the best way to get at predictable results?  Make a plan – preferably one with a strong foundation and with the long view in mind – and have the discipline to stick with it. 

For me, marathon training rests on four pillars:

  • Adequate mileage (quantity)
  • Tempo and speed workouts (quality)
  • Ample rest
  • Stretching and core exercises

So what does this have to do with research?  Everything.

I wouldn’t expect to run a great marathon if I prepped by running a ton of miles at a mediocre pace and on short rest.  Likewise, I wouldn’t expect fantastic results from a study that only gets at “how” and “who” not “why” and “what.” 

And all of that requires a certain degree of discipline.  It’s not always easy to remain cognizant of the idea that what you do now may well have repercussions two weeks or two years out, particularly when things get hectic and clients need answers ASAP.  But if your clients understand that you’re committed to a plan and have the discipline to stay on course, you’ll have a much better shot at crossing the finish line with results that are both on target and meaningful in the long-term.

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo. Lynne is a Senior Project Manager at CMB, new mom and fully recovered 115th Boston Marathon participant.

Topics: research design