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CMB Conference Recap: Yale’s Customer Insights Conference

Posted by Julie Kurd on Wed, May 11, 2016

Logo_Yale.jpgA hidden gem of a Consumer Insights conference, the Yale Customer Insights Conference is great for researchers seeking advanced quantitative methodological thinking. This conference is a rare mix of business and academia. Well-known PhDs came from Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and Wash U to share their research and findings. Not to be outdone, mega-brand thinkers from companies including Spotify, Vail Resorts, Viacom, and REI also came to share their insights. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Peter Fader discussed how Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) drives business forward. He had an abundance of wondrously specific cases, including how Starbucks is shifting from knowing your “usual” locally to knowing your “usual” virtually so that you’re able to have a personal and frictionless experience no matter where you are. In other words, Starbucks has become “a CRM company that monetizes through coffee.” This attempt to understand what each customer wants/needs at the atom level is a prime example of what Starbucks is obsessing over (and it’s not the next roast).
  • Kirsten Lynch, the CMO of Vail Resorts, focuses on the emotion and passion of Vail’s very specific target audience. The company’s segmentation scheme directly feeds everything they do. The target customers are not just pedestrian affluent—they are significantly wealthy, with average household incomes of $280k, so the customer mindset is very focused on exclusivity and excitement (vs discounts). When guests return to one of the resorts, everything they do is tracked in the Vail app: ski runs, where they dine, the people they’re with, etc. Like Starbucks, the data again is available at that atomized level, which not only allows Vail Resorts to personalize the experience for the guest, but also allows Vail’s leadership to assess strategic assets and ask: what do we need next? Another lift or another restaurant? Where do we need it, and why?
  • Spotify took all of the data it collected last year and used it on a “Year in Music” campaign, which was not only able to give each subscriber a recap of his/her year in music, but also able to give specific countries and zip codes information on the most popular songs/albums in that area. Fun fact: Eric Solomon, Director of Global Brand Strategy for Spotify, shared that Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” was the most popular song last year in Williamsburg, one of NYC’s trendiest neighborhoods (can Beliebers be trendy?). People now listen to more than 40 hours of music in a week (yes, that’s the level of a full time job), and Spotify is using this data to segment by mood states (party, focus, sleep, workout, etc.) instead of by genre.
  • Ross Martin, Viacom’s EVP of Market Strategy and Entertainment, talked about how the company is moving passive fans to active “super” fans and discussed the shift from selling impressions to engagement. How can brands acknowledge and celebrate these super fans? Martin shared an example of a Millennial asking Viacom if he could make Ninja Turtle cuff links (a potential trademark violation) for his wedding. Viacom not only approved the use, but actually manufactured the cufflinks and sent them to the entire wedding party for an experiential point of connection with its influential fan base (which was an earned media opportunity for sure).
  • Michel Tuan Pham from Columbia Business School discussed how feelings and emotions affect our judgments and decisions. Whether there’s a “like” button or the option to give something a rating (e.g. 5 stars), people derive pleasure from the act of liking or rating something. His research found that even when there are no stakes and no decisions to be made, people like to “like.” His research examines motivation (narcissism) for these “likes”—and he concludes that as marketers, you should emphasize the “you” when asking customers to “tell others how YOU feel about Product X” because it’s more narcissistic than altruistically motivated.

Be sure to add this conference to your calendar for next year, and we’ll see you there.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

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Topics: consumer insights, conference recap, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research