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

Don't Over-Generalize My Generation

Posted by Reed Guerino

Wed, Apr 12, 2017

Dollarphotoclub_103845102-1.jpgI’m sure you’ve heard that Millennials are entitled narcissists (or mold-breaking visionaries) and Gen Z expect instant gratification (or they have the most integrity of any generation yet). Of the companies pouring millions of research dollars into generational research, who’s getting it right? Well maybe nobody.

In fact, we can’t even agree on where one generation begins and the other ends. Millennials are generally considered those born between 1980 and 2000, but there’s disagreement over the exact years—some say it’s as loose as the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s while others say strictly between 1980 and 2000.  When you’re comparing mid-1970 to 1980 and 2000 to mid-2000, it’s not a huge discrepancy. However, the point is that there is a discrepancy. And with growing interest in the emerging generation (Gen Z, “Post-Millennials”, "iGeneration", "Plurals"), once again we face an arbitrary age designation and battle over who best understands these future consumers.

As a market researcher myself, I'm the first to admit that researchers will be tempted to define and assign attributes to Gen Z early on because of our natural tendency to categorize and bucket into mutually exclusive groups. However, in our need for clean groups with labels, we forget that some groups aren’t mutually exclusive, and different groups (or in this case, generations) might share some overlapping qualities.

What’s more, generations aren’t as homogenous as we’d like to think. While normally there are overarching behaviors and attributes assigned to each age group, there can be room for variations among the cohorts. For example, we recently released a report where we found a segmentation of Millennials revealing five distinct personas with various preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. Our self-funded study focused specifically on financial behaviors, but it can serve as a microcosm for the rest of the generation. You can learn more about it here. This research underscores the potential for inaccuracies that can result from defining a generation too narrowly.

There will always be a place for analysis by generation, but we have a lot more data to consider today than ever before. In his 2013 book "Buyographics", Matt Carmichael reaffirms the importance of demographics, but emphasizes analysis shouldn’t stop there. He explains, "Demographics drive consumer behavior, and that's as true today as ever. We just have better means, thanks to more data sources, of measuring those behavioral impacts and targeting around them. All data needs to be considered through a broader lens and put into context."

Cuts by generation alone ignore the impact of geography and make assumptions about how age influences behavior and psychographics. For example, we often find our psychographics (e.g. our attitudes and aspiration), regardless of age, are good indicators of who we are and who we want to be. In fact, these aspirations (e.g. Who do I want to be?) are strong motivators of brand consideration and loyalty. This means if two people from separate generations can identify with the same type of person, they'll likely share an affinity for the brand because of that identification, not their age.

We'll hear a great deal about who Gen Z is in the next few years until they are eclipsed by the next group. But researchers, advertisers, and marketers should take heed against categorizing Gen Z—and the ensuing generations—solely by their date of birth. Without a multi-faceted approach to understanding consumers (considering demographics, psychographics, etc.), we'll continue to yield narrow insights that may result in marketers producing ads that alienate their target audiences.

Want to learn more about Millennials’ financial needs and expectations and what that means for your industry? Check out our webinar!

Watch here!

Reed Guerino is an Associate Researcher at CMB who is an entitled Millennial on the side and is bitter he missed being the “mature and in control” generation by 1-5 years.

Topics: millennials, Consumer Pulse, research design

Spring into Data Cleaning

Posted by Nicole Battaglia

Tue, Apr 04, 2017

scrubbing.jpegWhen someone hears “spring cleaning” they probably think of organizing their garage, purging clothes from their closet, and decluttering their workspace. For many, spring is a chance to refresh and rejuvenate after a long winter (fortunately ours in Boston was pretty mild).

This may be my inner market researcher talking, but when I think of spring cleaning, the first that comes to mind is data cleaning. Like cleaning and organizing your home, data cleaning is a detailed and lengthy process that is relevant to researchers and their clients.

Data cleaning is an arduous task. Each completed questionnaire must be checked to ensure that it's been answered correctly, clearly, truthfully, and consistently. Here’s what we typically clean:

  • We’ll look at each open-ended response in a survey to make sure respondents’ answers are coherent and appropriate. Sometimes respondents will curse, other times they'll write outrageously irrelevant answers like what they’re having for dinner, so we monitor these closely. We do the same for open-ended numeric responsesthere’s always that one respondent who enters ‘50’ when asked how many siblings they have.
  • We also check for outliers in open-ended numeric responses. Whether it’s false data or an exceptional respondent (e.g. Bill Gates), outliers can skew our data and lead us to draw the wrong conclusions and make more recommendations to clients. For example, I worked on a survey that asked respondents how many cars they own.  Anyone who provided a number that was three standard deviations above the mean was set as an outlier because their answers would’ve significantly impacted our interpretation of the average car ownershipthe reality is the average household owns two cars, not six.
  • Straightliners are respondents who answer a battery of questions on the same scale with the same response. Because of this, sometimes we’ll see someone who strongly agrees or disagrees with two completely opposing statements—making it difficult to trust these answers reflect the respondent’s real opinion.
  • We often insert a Red Herring Fail into our questionnaires to help identify and weed out distracted respondents. A Red Herring Fail is a 10-point scale question usually placed around the halfway mark of a questionnaire that simply asks respondents to select the number “3” on the scale. If they select a number other than “3”, we flag them for removal.
  • If there’s incentive to participate in a questionnaire, someone may feel inclined to participate more than once. So to ensure our completed surveys are from unique individuals, we check for duplicate IP addresses and respondent IDs.

There are a lot of variables that can skew our data, so our cleaning process is thorough and thoughtful. And while the process may be cumbersome, here’s why we clean data: 

  • Impression on the clientFollowing a detailed data cleaning processes helps show that your team is cautious, thoughtful, and able to accurately dissect and digest large amounts of data. This demonstration of thoroughness and competency goes a long way to building trust in the researcher/client relationship because the client will see their researchers are working to present the best data possible.
  • Helps tell a better storyWe pride ourselves on storytelling–using insights from data and turning them into strong deliverablesto help our clients make strategic business decisions. If we didn’t have accurate and clean data, we wouldn’t be able to tell a good story!
  • Overall, ensures high quality and precise dataAt CMB typically two or more researchers are working on the same data file to mitigate the chance of error. The data undergoes such scrutiny so that any issues or mistakes can be noted and rectified, ensuring the integrity of the report.

The benefits of taking the time to clean our data far outweigh the risks of skipping it. Data cleaning keeps false or unrepresentative information from influencing our analyses or recommendations to a client and ensures our sample accurately reflects the population of interest.

So this spring, while you’re finally putting away those holiday decorations, remember that data cleaning is an essential step in maintaining the integrity of your work.

Nicole Battaglia is an Associate Researcher at CMB who prefers cleaning data over cleaning her bedroom.

Topics: data collection, quantitative research

ARF 2017 Annual Conference

Posted by Savannah House

Mon, Mar 27, 2017

NYC-1.jpg

Last week I attended the 2017 Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF’s) Annual Conference in New York City. Researchers, advertisers, marketers, and everyone in between descended upon the Hilton in Midtown for two days of keynote addresses, presentations, demos, networking, inspiration, and more.

This being my first ARF conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I give the ARF high marks for carefully cultivating and selecting their speakers to ensure attendees are exposed to the industry’s best.  

There’s a lot I could write about, but as I reflect on my time at ARF, there were a couple of “highlights” that I’d like to share:

The Longevity of Stories

The average brand lasts for 15 years. So how does a brand like Levi’s manage to not only last, but remain culturally relevant and desirable for 143 years? By storytelling.

Levi’s is a unique product because the jeans themselves bear the markings of the customers’ lives—every mark, tear, and rip—the product itself tells a meaningful story. Recognizing the power of storytelling, a big part of Levi’s marketing strategy is creating conditions to let people tell their personal stories. The brand aligns themselves with centers of cultural movements, like Coachella and SXSW—two events at the center of art, music, and innovation—to foster experiences for their customers.

Traditional advertising is important to Levi’s—they still use qual and quant methods  to test their ad creative—but it’s a much smaller part of their marketing mix. As CMO Jennifer Sey explained, the Levi’s brand is carried through the generations—from the rebels of the 50s, the punks of the 70s, to the hipsters of the 2000s—by the stories created.

The lesson? To become the “youngest oldest brand in the world”, you must tell meaningful stories about your brand and create conditions that let people tell their own.

Equal Representation in Advertising

Step aside, Brawny Man. There’s a new Brawny Woman in town.

During a lunch roundtable, Douwe Bergsma, CMO of Brawny’s parent company Georgia Pacific, shared the company’s desire to create a better emotional connection with consumers. So, for the month of March, the iconic Brawny paper towel man has been replaced with a woman to support their #StrengthHasNoGender campaign.

This move comes as Georgia Pacific recently teamed up with the #SeeHer movement, led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), to increase the accurate portrayal of women and girls in media through the new Gender Equality Measure (GEM). Replacing the burly man with a strong woman figure was a way for Georgia Pacific to breakdown stereotypes and support equality among men and women in advertising—while garnering positive GEM scores.

It’s becoming increasingly important for brands to be cognizant of equal representation in their messaging. Heavy hitters like AT&T are making the GEM score a standard measurement in their marketing efforts, and based on Georgia Pacific’s recent success, maybe other brands should follow suit.

Creating Personal Customer Experiences

 Customers like to feel special and valued. So, fitness king Nike teamed up with creative agency R/GA to create the ultimate customer experience. Using data, algorithms, and machine learning, R/GA engineered Nike on Demand—a humanized interactive messaging service through WhatsApp—to help motivate and keep athletes on track to overcome barriers and achieve their fitness goals.

Whether athletes are training for a marathon or overcoming an injury, Nike on Demand is particularly motivating because it’s a person sending words of encouragement, not a robot. This humanization of communication creates a special bond between athlete and Nike—ultimately driving usage and brand loyalty.

While Nike on Demand is a large-scale program, brands can glean some high-level insight from this case study. It’s a fantastic example of a brand leveraging personalization to create custom experiences that let their customers know they are special.

Aligning Content with Motivation

As the adage goes, “content is king”. And as content marketing becomes more important for brands, it’s critical that creative is brought to life in a way that’s meaningful and relevant to consumers.

Vicki Draper, Director of Consumer Analytics and Research at AOL, Inc., Dr. Niels Schillewaert, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at InSites Consulting, and our own Dr. Erica Carranza, VP of Consumer Psychology at CMB, shared insights into their discovery of eight content moments—motivations for why people engage with content—and how brands can use these moments as “guardrails” for the type of content they should be producing.

Instead of producing content just to keep up with the Joneses, focusing on the behavioral motivations for why consumers engage with content will help brands develop an intentional and strategic content marketing strategy.

If there’s one overarching lesson I learned at ARF 2017, it’s that marketing is as much an art as it is science. The most successful brands are those who are diverging from traditional techniques, challenging norms, and finding new ways to innovate to keep customers engaged and happy.

The ARF Annual Event is definitely on my list of must attends for 2018! Did you attend? Let us know what inspired you in the comment section below!

Savannah House is a Senior Marketing Coordinator at CMB who after ARF 2017 is inspired to make new memories and tell more stories in her pair of Levi's 501 jeans. 

Competition is fierce:  How to innovate to drive value

Posted by Judy Melanson

Wed, Mar 22, 2017

McDonalds.jpg

In April, fast food giant McDonald’s will run a promotion to drive more foot traffic to their restaurants: customers will pay $1 for any size soda and $2 for any McCafe specialty drinks. While this short-term promotion may help reverse or at least slow the decline in visitors and boost short-term sales, McDonald’s still faces a long-term problem that a temporary price promotion can’t fix: how to drive more visitors and encourage those visitors to spend more money at their outlets. 

Increased competition and changing market needs are making it increasingly challenging for brands like McDonald's to acquire new customers while retaining existing ones. And this challenge isn’t confined to the food and beverage industry; marketers across all industries are rolling up their sleeves, putting on their thinking caps, and developing innovative strategies to stay relevant and competitive.

Here are a few stories to inspire you:

Evolution or Revolution: Opportunities to strengthen the core 

As the tourism industry evolves, heritage brands need to get creative to compete with new marketplace entrants. We’ve been working with a leading travel brand to identify opportunities to boost sales among its past travelers. First, we ran a database segmentation to identify groups of travelers with similar demographics and behaviors.  We then conducted product development research to uncover trip attributes and types of trips that would most motivate these past travelers to return.

Because of this collaboration, our client has a prioritized list of product features to consider offering to its most valued and engaged guest segments. Some preferred options are evolutionary, requiring only minor operational tweaks, others would require significant operational changes. In the short-term, they can use this information in their marketing efforts and develop tailored messaging that highlights elements that motivate each segment to travel.  When thinking long-term, the client can use this valuable information to make strategic decisions about the future of their company.                  

Engage and Grow: Offer benefits to acquire and incentivize the next generation of customers

Travelers today have more lodging options than ever before. As Millennials and Gen Y grow into “tomorrow’s best guests”, traditional hotel brands are looking to foster loyalty.  We partnered with a leading hotel loyalty program to redesign its pricing model so that members can now pay for rooms by combining earned hotel points and cash.  This change is engaging "future best guests" by allowing loyalty program members to get value from earned points in smaller increments.  Guests can redeem points earlier in their engagement cycle, incentivizing them to choose one of the hotel’s dozen brands now and in the future.

Build solutions to solve pain points

Customers and prospects may have difficulty articulating their needs (particularly when it comes to technology) but they have no trouble articulating what causes problems or pains.  Companies can take advantage of this by proactively identifying and solving for customers’ pain points. We worked with a leader in personal computers, servers, and networking products to identify, size, and target specific pain points with traditional data center infrastructure projects. With this knowledge, we designed and tested different form factors to see which type of disruptive product would be most attractive to target buyers, and how many would actually switch over in specific buying scenarios.

Strengthen foundational insight about today’s path to ‘purchase’

We’re a far cry from the traditional broadcast days. Not only are new players entering the market and pushing out original content, but now consumers can access this content when, where, and how they want.  This increased competition and increasingly complex distribution and consumption model is making it more challenging for broadcasters to connect and engage with viewers. To help understand this evolution, we collaborated with a leading broadcast network on a foundational study in the content discovery path to viewership and successfully identified specific actions and high impact segments to connect with and engage. 

The fact is, solutions like McDonald’s temporary price promotion may alleviate short-term sales slumps, but brands need to be thinking “bigger picture” to develop innovative, sustained solutions to address long-term challenges like increased competition and evolving customer needs.

 Judy Melanson leads CMBs Travel & Entertainment practice and enjoys working with clients on innovative strategies to stand out from competition, remain relevant, and break through the clutter.  She’s an aspiring painter, a yogi and a slow long-distance runner. 

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation

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

A Lesson in Brand Loyalty and Emotion from a Pure Barre Fanatic

Posted by Cara Lousararian

Wed, Mar 08, 2017

barre.jpg

Two and a half years ago, I fell in love with Pure Barre–a full-body workout inspired by ballet, yoga and Pilates. There are a bunch of barre studios with similar workouts to choose from, but I started with Pure Barre and am now fiercely loyal.

This loyalty didn’t develop overnight; the morning after my first class I could barely make it out of bed. I couldn’t understand why barre had such a big following. It felt like self-inflicted torture, and I definitely felt this guy’s pain.

I was never one to enjoy working out, so what’s so special about the Pure Barre brand that’s kept me addicted for years and kept me from heading to another barre brand? The physical pain is the same (intense) and the class prices are a little higher than other similar workouts. After giving it some thought, I realized that what I love so much about Pure Barre is how being part of the Pure Barre community makes me feel.

Pure Barre makes me feel confident, motivated, and strong. It evokes such positive emotions from me that I’ve found myself altering my behavior in order to incorporate Pure Barre into my life. For example, when I plan a vacation, I specifically look for hotels that are near Pure Barre studios, I get up extra early on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas so I can squeeze in a class, and I schedule my weekend social life around my classes. Not only that, while I'm normally a fairly frugal shopper, I’ll spend $17 on the special Pure Barre sticky socks used for class without batting an eye (I own 6 pairs!!!).

I’m also proud to be part of the Pure Barre community. We’re a network of loyal followers bound by our love of the Pure Barre experience who constantly support and encourage each other.  I’ve witnessed deep friendships begin at Pure Barre studios–maybe enduring the pain together is a strong bonding force? Either way, there’s a camaraderie among Pure Barre members unlike anything I’ve experienced at other gyms/studios.   

Pure Barre makes its members feel good and valued by doing little things, like celebrating attendance milestones. For example, you’ll get special recognition at your 100th, 250th, 500th, 750th, etc. class. You also get a free class on your birthday. Or, as Pure Barre calls it, your “barrety”.  Touchpoints like these makes me and my fellow Pure Barre addicts feel celebrated and drive attendance.

Pure Barre instructors also play a huge part in fostering positive emotions from the clients. Filled with upbeat energy and techniques for encouragement, they have a friendly way of ensuring that everyone works their hardest (for example, they won't call out the final 10 counts of the exercise until everyone has the right form). Instructors also learn the names of regular attendees and will call out your name if you are doing something particularly well during class. This “in the moment” recognition motivates me to push myself beyond my limits and get the most out of every class. 

I love talking about Pure Barre and am a huge promoter of the brand. I want others to have the same positive experience with Pure Barre, and so I regularly encourage friends to take classes with me.

Pure Barre is a great example of how successful a brand can be when it’s tuned into how its product/service makes their customers feel. When brands know what emotions they (and should) evoke from their customers, brands can more effectively create techniques to drive consideration and loyalty.  Pure Barre motivates, encourages, and supports its customers. The end result? A loyal following of barre fanatics willing to pay a premium to plié.  

Want to learn more about how we're revolutionizing  emotional measurement with our EMPACT solution? Watch our webinar:  

Learn More About EMPACT℠

Cara Lousararian is a Senior Research Manager at CMB and rarely passes up an opportunity to #LTB (that’s lift, tone, burn for those not familiar with the Pure Barre lingo).

Topics: EMPACT, emotional measurement, customer experience and loyalty, emotion

QRCA 2017 Conference Recap

Posted by Anne Hooper

Wed, Mar 01, 2017

powerofperspective-image.jpgA couple weeks ago I took a hiatus from the Boston winter and flew to sunny Los Angeles for the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) Annual Conference: The Power of Perspective. For any qualitative researcher interested in learning and connecting with the qual community, this conference is a must

For three intense days, my fellow “quallies” and I were immersed in the latest industry methods, tools, and techniques.  I’m always impressed with QRCA and this year’s theme “The Power of Perspective” didn’t disappoint.  In fact, it was one of best conferences I’ve been to in years!  I came home feeling renewed, refreshed, and reenergized with plenty of new tools for my qualitative toolbox.

While I learned a lot during those three days, a few things really stood out to me. Some of my learnings will make me a better practitioner while others went as far as making me cry.  (Yep, you read that right.  I cried.  But I swear I didn’t make that ugly cry face!). 

So here are some of my most memorable takeaways from QRCA 2017:

Theater and qualitative research are more alike than different. Theater is storytelling—stories that reflect our society, help us empathize with others, bring to life historical figures and moments, and have the power to change our perspectives. This is similar to what we do in qualitative research. We are storytellers, truth-seekers, and opinion shapers. We strive to connect with others in a meaningful way, to tell their stories, and to ultimately affect change.

Just as the protagonist is vital to a theater performance, the participant (our “protagonist”) is vital to the market research story. For our story to be successful we must fully understand them—who they are, what they want, and their situation.

Technology continues to shape qual. As new technology transforms society, it’s also reshaping the way qualitative researchers collect and analyze data. In one session, speaker Pam Goldfarb Liss spoke about the impact of new technology—for example, using virtual reality like video screens and specially outfitted wearables to let participants interact with a fabricated environment. Qual researchers are also using facial recognition software, augmented reality (i.e., virtual shop-alongs and package testing), and artificial intelligence in their work. With new technology emerging almost daily, it’s important to continue to think of ways it can help improve our work for the benefit of our participants and clients.  

Listening is powerful. Benjamin Mathes, founder of Urban Confessional*, the LA-born free listening project, lead an interactive session on listening. Urban Confessional is grounded in the belief that people just need someone to talk to and recruits volunteers to stand in public spaces and offer to lend an ear to anyone who wants to unload something.

Armed with a simple cardboard sign reading “Free Listening,” a few quallies and I hit the streets of LA to give Urban Confessional a try. Was I scared? A bit. Excited? Totally. Ready? Not at all… but what an experience! What I learned not only applies to life, but there is a direct connection to what makes for an effective qualitative researcher:

  • What others hear is more important than what we say
  • True listening is allowing someone to be completely themselves in our presence
  • Respecting silence can be really tough, but it’s important

My QRCA experience culminated in a session lead by John Boettner, Chief Enchantment Officer at Teen Press Inc. John, along with two teen journalists, spoke about the beauty and challenges of humanity and how they apply to the work that we do.

Whether you’re a qualitative researcher or not, you’ll be moved by Teen Press, maybe even to tears. Here are my key takeaways that will stay with me forever: 

  • When someone is telling their truths, things can go where you never expected them to. Embrace it and let it happen.
  • Listen to people with sincerity and a genuine desire to connect with them—when you do this, something special happens
  • Other peoples’ perspectives and stories better help us understand each other as human beings. We need to do this now more than ever.
  • Everyone has a story to share and sometimes just wants to be listened to. Be an active listener for them.
  • Embrace awkwardness, especially silence. You might learn a thing or two from it.

I could go on and on about the great things I learned at QRCA 2017, but you’d be here a while. This is just the tip of the iceberg of a conference full of tips, tricks, tools, and special moments.

I’m putting all the valuable insight I learned at QRCA to practice and am already excited for next year’s conference. See you in Phoenix for QRCA 2018!

 As CMB’s Qualitative Research Director and mom of a 15 year old daughter, Anne is thankful for teachers like John Boettner and the millions of other teachers out there that make a difference in our kids lives’ every day.  And BTW:  she’s finally stopped crying and is officially back to work.

 *Disclaimer: If you aren’t familiar with Urban Confessional, I highly recommend checking it out because it’s relevant to all of us human beings.

 

Topics: qualitative research, conference recap

And the award goes to… Predictive Analytics!

Posted by Frances Whiting

Wed, Feb 22, 2017

Oscars-1.jpg

It doesn’t take a data scientist to predict some of what will happen at Sunday’s Oscars—beautiful people will wear expensive clothes, there will be a handful of bad jokes, a few awkward speeches, and most likely some tearful and touching ones as well. But in terms of the actual award outcomes, well, that takes a bit more analysis, and as quick search suggests, there’s no shortage of that online.   

These predictions come at an interesting time in the context of recent world events. In 2016 a few world events shook the predictive analytics world (and beyond) with outcomes so unexpected that even the most respected pollsters failed to predict them. And while many of the unanticipated polling outcomes occurred within politics (think Brexit and the U.S. presidential election), the implications for predictive analytics are also relevant to the market research industry.

As CMB’s president and co-founder, Anne Bailey Berman, recently said in Research Business Report’s Predictions issue, “ the market research industry will face many of the same questions regarding surveys and predictive analytics that are facing pollsters and data scientists in the aftermath of the election.”

Let’s bring it back to Sunday's Academy Awards. Since people love to predict the winners of awards like “Best Picture” and “Best Actress,” the awards show offers pollsters a chance to reflect on what went wrong in 2016 and to test refined predictive models in a much lower stakes context than a presidential election.

For example, popular polling site FiveThirtyEight has an ongoing tracker for Oscar winners. Typically, FiveThirtyEight bases its Oscar prediction model on the outcome of guild and press prizes that precede the Academy Awards. FiveThirtyEight watches who wins these other awards, like the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and then tries to figure out how much (how predictive) those awards matter.

First they look at historical data and pull all guild/press winners from the last 25 years, assuming these winners are representative of the Academy’s thinking. Based on the percentage of those awards that actually went to the corresponding Oscar, they assign a certain score for each award (e.g., if 17 of the last 25 winners for the Academy Award for best supporting actor also won the Globe, there’s a 68% correlation between the two).

Then they turn each award percentage into a score by squaring the original fraction and multiplying by 100. In doing this, weak scores get weaker and strong scores stay strong. FiveThirtyEight pollsters then consider other factors, like if the award is voted on by people who are also part of the Academy Award electorate or if the nominee loses. Both factors impact each prize’s “score”.

After reviewing FiveThirtyEight’s predictive modeling I've learned that even low-stakes polling for events like award shows depends on historical voting patterns and past outcomes. But is there danger in relying too much on historical data? If there’s one thing the 2016 US presidential election taught us it’s that predictive models can be susceptible to failure when they place too much weight on historic outcomes and trends. [twitter-129.pngTweet this]

The main problem with the predictive polls in 2016 was that they weren’t fully representative of the actual voting population. Unlike previous elections, there were A LOT of voters who turned out to cast their ballot on Election Day who predictive polls had missed throughout the campaign. Ultimately the polls failed to accurately predict the actions of these “anonymous voters,” perhaps in large part because they failed to account for the changing cultural, demographic, and economic social contexts impacting peoples’ decisions today. But that’s an exploration from another time. The point is, the 2016 predictive polls–based largely on historical trends–misrepresented the actual voting population.

Similar to the actual 2016 voting population, Academy members who vote on the Oscars are generally anonymous and can't be polled in advance of the event. This anonymity  forces pollsters to get creative and base their predictive models on a combination of historical guild and press prize outcomes. As market researchers and political pollsters know, even if voters are polled before the vote, there’s no guarantee they will actually act accordingly.  

This leaves us researchers with a serious conundrum: how can we get into anonymous respondents’ heads and predict their actual decisions/voting behaviors without relying too much on historical data?

One solution might be to emphasize behavioral datainformation gathered from consumers’ actual commercial behaviors–over their stated preferences and beliefs. For Oscar predictions, behavioral data might include:

  • Compiling social media mentions and search volume (via Google or Bing) for particular movies, actors, actresses, directors, etc.
  • Considering the number of social media followers nominees have and levels of online engagement
  • Tracking box office sales, movie downloads, and movie reviews

Based on the surprising outcome of the 2016 presidential election and Brexit, we learned that there was a huge cohort of unaccounted voters–voters who indeed turned out on voting day–that skewed traditional predictive models.

If pollsters hadn’t relied solely on historical data, and instead used an integrated approach that included current behavioral data, perhaps the predictions would have been more successful. There were plenty of voters on all sides who voiced their opinions on traditional and untraditional platforms, and capturing and accounting for those myriad of voices was a missed opportunity for pollsters.

Though the Oscars are a much lower stakes scenario, hopefully researchers continue to learn from 2016 and expand their modeling practices to include a combination of measures. Instead of a singular approach, researchers should consider combining historical trends and current behavioral data.

Interested in learning more about predictive analytics? Check out Dr. Jay’s recent blog post on trusting predictive models after the 2016 election.

 Frances Whiting is an Associate Researcher at CMB who is looking forward to watching the 89th Academy Awards and the opportunity to try her hand at predictive analytics!

Topics: television, predictive analytics, Election

Using Emotion to Drive Brand Loyalty

Posted by Heather Magaw

Mon, Feb 13, 2017

Valentine's Day image.jpeg

Stores have been stocked with heart-shaped candies and cards since December, but now that it’s actually February, I think it’s okay to think about Valentine’s Day.  And because love is in the air (as well as on the shelves) it’s a perfect time to think about how brands can tap into this fundamental human experience to drive consideration, usage and loyalty.  

We already know that understanding and influencing consumers’ emotions is crucial for building a loyal customer base, but what do we really know about love that could help us achieve those lofty outcomes? Based on a quick Google search (and a few life experiences), here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Love is an emotion.

Love is an action.

Love is a biological motivation system.

Love is an attitude.

Love is a drive.

Love is a choice.

Love is patient.

Love is blind.

Love is a battlefield.

Love, as it turns out, is rather complex. So what does that mean for marketers trying to get people to fall in love with their brands? Where do you start?  

When studying emotion, traditionally researchers take a brand-centric approach and focus on how consumers feel about the brand. While there’s valuable insight there, it’s often more valuable to take a consumer-centric approach, one that asks consumers how the brand makes them feel. Consumers develop feelings about a brand because of how it makes them feel… understanding those feelings evoked by the brand is critical insight into how consumers develop strong, positive sentiments towards the brand.

That’s why EMPACTSM, our proprietary approach to measuring emotion, is based on decades of consumer psychology research, helping marketers understand how a brand or touchpoint should make consumers feel to most effectively drive their behaviors, and ultimately brand love.

For marketers trying to earn consumers’ love this Valentine’s Day (and the other 364 days of the year), it’s critical to explore which emotions your brand should evoke to make them love your brand. Do they want to feel respected? Proud? Efficient? Secure? Surprised?  Just like with the object of your romantic affections, you’ll be far more successful with your customers if you ask them how they want to feel and create experiences and messaging that inspire those emotions. [twitter.png Tweet this!]  

Heather Magaw is VP of Client Services at CMB. The brands she loves most this Valentine’s season are Apple, Amazon, Red Sox, IBM Watson, and CMB (of course!).  

Topics: EMPACT, emotional measurement, emotion

The Power of Identity: A Look at Super Bowl LI Advertising

Posted by Savannah House

Fri, Feb 10, 2017

As a Boston-based strategy and research firm, we CMBers had high expectations for both the Patriots’ performance and of course, the Super Bowl ads. I’m happy to report that neither disappointed.

111 million people tuned into last Sunday’s game, making Super Bowl LI the fifth most-watched TV broadcast in history. But of those 111 million people, surely not all of them are Pats, Falcons, or even football fans. So while it’s hard for us New Englanders to believe, some people watch the Super Bowl (at least in part) for the commercials. After all, each year brands vie to have the most talked and tweeted about ad – setting the bar high to deliver quality, original, and memorable content.

In this divisive time, many brands were commended for tackling culturally relevant issues head on. And while I thought there were a number of really beautiful ads, I’d like to suggest a few other criteria for evaluation: 

  • How well does the ad align with the Super Bowl occasion?
  • Could you connect the ad to the brand and the value of the brand?
  • Did it communicate a compelling image of the brand’s typical user?
Question three is of particular interest to me because it’s related to our newest research solution, AffinIDSM.  AffinID helps brands understand their target consumers’ image of the typical person who uses their brand and finds ways to strategically influence that image to strengthen how much consumers identify with the image. Our research shows that the more consumers can identify with their image of the typical person who uses the brand, the more they will try, buy, pay for, and recommend the brand. This way of measuring brand perception is different from the traditional brand-centric approach (“What do I think of the brand?”) because it focuses on perceived brand user image.

AffinID measures how compelling a brand user image is based on its clarity, relatability, and social desirability; so from an advertising perspective, we’re interested in evaluating how well the spot communicates a clear, relatable, and socially desirable message of who the brand’s typical consumer is.

That said, I thought it’d be fun to review a few popular Super Bowl LI ads through an AffinID lens:

"Romance" from Skittles
Created by: Adam & Eve/DDB

 Reminiscent of the classic “pebbles at the window” scene, Skittles “Romance” features a love struck teenager throwing Skittles through his beloved’s bedroom window. The Skittles are intended for his love, but unbeknownst to the teen, she’s actually letting her mom, dad, grandmother, home intruder, policeman, beaver (?) etc. take turns catching candy in their mouths.

  • Clarity: Skittles is sending the message that everyone (even beavers?) eats their candy. While this inclusive message resonates with a wide audience, it may diminish the brand’s clarity of who the stereotypical customer is.
  • Relatability: “Romance” features a wide range of Skittles customers, making its image of the typical user highly relatable. 
  • Social Desirability: From the looks of the ad, everyone seems to be having a great time eating Skittles. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with them?

Skittles_AffinID.png

"Yearbooks" from Honda
Created by: RPA

 Bust out your high tops and cassette tapes because Honda’s “Yearbooks” will take you for a trip down memory lane. “Yearbooks” features animated yearbook pictures of heavy hitters like Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Steve Carrell, Missy Elliott, Viola Davis and Jimmy Kimmel celebrating the notion of “chasing dreams and the amazing places they lead” yearbooks typically evoke.

  • Clarity: While it’s fun to see high school versions of celebrities like Amy Adams and Magic Johnson, the ad features so many different people that it’s not clear who the typical Honda CR-V driver is.
  • Relatability: I think to some extent we can all relate to someone in this ad. Even though they’re famous celebrities who may not be relatable in real life, in the ad they’re portrayed as normal high school students excited about their future. And really, who didn’t go through an awkward high school phase?
  • Social Desirability: This is undoubtedly a fun ad, but there’s not a strong social desirability here. Though warm-hearted, it doesn’t portray an aspirational social identity like other car commercials do – specifically ones that feature successful and sexy drivers.
Honda_AffinID.png

"Google Home" from Google
Created by: 72andSunny

The Google Home spot hasn’t gotten much love in “best of” articles about this year’s Super Bowl ads, but it may have helped Google Home take major strides across “the chasm”—while unintentionally setting off a bunch of the systems in homes of those who already had it. In the 60 second spot, the voice-activated smart speaker “welcomes” home people from a variety of backgrounds (younger, older, parents, pet-owners) and is used, seemingly with ease, to do things like turn on the lights and translate helpful phrases like “Nice to meet you” from English to Spanish.

  • Clarity: Mass market consumers probably lack a clear image of kind of person who has a virtual assistant—or assume that it’s an affluent early-adopter. While the people shown in the Google Home spot were diverse, they all shared an “everyday” quality that was likely clearer and more relevant than the image most Super Bowl viewers had had before they saw it.
  • Relatability: Where Google Home lacks clarity, it makes up for in relatability. Since the ad features people from all walks of life, it’s pretty easy to find someone you can relate to – whether it’s the young couple with sleepy kids or the mother in need of an ingredient substitution while she cooks for her family.
  • Social Desirability: The ad’s feel-good theme throughout makes me want to jump into any of the scenes – it’s 60 seconds of friends and family hugging, laughing, and loving. If that’s not socially desirable, I don’t know what is.
Google_AffinID-2.png

As marketing, insights, and advertising professionals know, there’s way more to developing and testing messaging than my quick “analysis”. That’s why we created AffinID – to help brands and their agencies develop effective, consumer-centric strategies for growth by recognizing the power of consumer identity in brand decision-making. 

Learn more about AffinID by watching our latest webinar with Dr. Erica Carranza—CMB’s VP of Consumer Psychology. And let us know which ads you found engaging (or not) in the comments.

Watch Now

Savannah House is a Senior Marketing Coordinator at CMB who places as much weight on the quality of the Super Bowl snacks as she does the commercials.

Topics: consumer insights, brand health and positioning, AffinID