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Boaty McBoatface: Social Media Meets Market Research on the Cyber Seas

Posted by Brian Jones

Mon, May 02, 2016

Boaty_McBoatface.pngIn case you missed it, the UK’s Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) asked a silly question on a serious topic, and the cyber seas responded in kind. News media and bloggers converged in viral fashion and grabbed the opportunity to steer the campaign on their own course. I put my market research cap on and joined the flotilla. 

Background on the Buzz

On March 17th, the NERC agency launched a campaign to promote the future launch of their newest and largest research ship, designed to carry scientists and their equipment to the earth’s Polar Regions. Their #NameOurShip campaign invited the public to submit name ideas, and it quickly caught on as an opinion poll. The cyber buzz really unfolded after a public relations professional suggested the name “Boaty McBoatface” upon seeing other silly names people had posted, and the name sailed to the top of the boards. On April 16th, NERC pulled the plug on collecting votes, and a NERC spokesperson stressed that there is no guarantee the ship would be named after the winning entry because the final decision will be made by the chief executive of the organization.    

What I Learned from Those Influenced by the Campaign

The #NameOurShip campaign was hugely successful in emotionally engaging the public, despite the backlash to NERC scuttling the winning name. People left waves of comments for NERC’s leadership to surf through.  

“The only reason I ever heard of this is because of the name controversy. Far more people are likely to stay interested in Boaty McBoatface than some humdrum 'sensible' name, because it has already been adopted as a kind of maritime national pet.” (Comment posted on one of the many Boaty Blogs)

 The comments made for an interesting read, and I came up with a few takeaways. 

  1. There is a deserving national identity with heroic British polar explorers that would look great in large letters on the transom of a $300 million research ship, e.g., the “RRS Henry Worsely” (15,774 votes). Henry Worsely died in January while attempting to complete the first solo and unaided crossing of the Antarctic—just 30 miles short after crossing 900 miles in 71 days. 
  1. Beneath the veneer of the online pranksters and goofballs who posted votes for names like “Ice, Ice Baby” (3,673 votes) and “Boatimus Prime” (8,365 votes), the public clearly wants a memorable name that makes a global statement about British identity, and for some, that’s a whimsical endeavor. 
  1. For some, “Boaty McBoatface” (124,109 votes) presents an opportunity to do public good on the behalf of NERC’s commitment to the pursuit in education in science. The “RRS Dora the Polar Explorer” (983 votes) might not get smirks from scientists performing serious research, but mom and dad might have a more favorable impression of NERC if their child’s bath toy had “NERC” and “Boaty” logos on it. 
  1. Interestingly, very few online posts revealed interest or concern with NERC’s mission to explore issues such as environmental hazards, natural resources, and environmental change. Instead, the names “Steve Prescott” (1,413) and “Poppy-Mai”/”Princess PoppyMai” (40,384 votes) received buzz; both individuals were struck down with rare forms of cancer. If NERC more clearly links their mission to staving off visible human or ecological tragedy, they might make good use of the awareness equity that their campaign has generated. 
  1. For others, the campaign was a pretended attempt of government to give citizens a voice when the final decision rests with privileged few. This is compounded by anxiety over the upcoming European Union membership referendum. NERC must navigate public sentiment in an environment where people are a bit on edge. This is expressly dangerous when a social media campaign is presented as crowdvoting. While crowdvoting or crowdsourcing can be a legitimate form of research, when public perception can’t differentiate a PR campaign masked as a public opinion poll from serious market research, it erodes researcher’s ability to get reliable market insights. 

For market research to work, we need the public to be smart—not silly. There is research value in capturing emotional response, but we need to strive to capture unbiased rational opinion. Social media marketing can taint the waters for research if the public perceives a campaign as being less than honest and truthful. 

The Australian Government is now pirating the #NameOurShip approach for their own new Antarctic scientific research vessel, vowing to avoid the ballast that seemingly sank public opinion of the UK’s campaign. I can’t wait to see what the Aussies come up with. 

Brian is a Senior Project Manager at Chadwick Martin Bailey. Given his Navy background, he feels compelled to point out that the vessel-who-must-be-named is not actually a “boat” and should be called “Shippy McShipface.” 

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Topics: consumer insights, social media, brand health and positioning

Is Uber Living Its Brand Promise?

Posted by Tara Lasker

Thu, Apr 21, 2016

The Uber experience continues to fascinate me with each ride. I pepper my drivers with questions about Uber’s business model, their experience as a driver, and how satisfied they are driving for the sometimes controversial ride-share company. It’s a topic I also bring up around friends, family, and colleagues, and I always come back to the same question: where does Uber win and lose in the minds of end-customers?

I took a look at Uber’s brand promises to see if those promises aligned with my own experiences (as well as the experiences of other people I’ve talked to.) Below, you’ll find Uber’s promises to riders:

uber-2.png

  • Tap a button, get a ride. It’s so nice to be able to request a ride from Uber with one tap and have a clear expectation of when my driver will be there and what my ride will cost. I appreciate having my driver’s information as well as the license plate number on hand.

Verdict? Uber delivers in a big way on this promise. 

  • No cash, no tip, no hassle. Until recently, I thought this was true, and I loved Uber for it. I appreciated that everything was linked to my account and that I didn’t need to fumble around my wallet in a dark car at the end of my ride. I asked a driver about this a little while ago, and I was surprised to learn that not only are tips not included in the fare, but Uber has also begun taking a higher percentage from each ride. I researched this after I got home and saw that the driver was right: tips are not included. The more I researched, the more I realized that I was not the only one who had this misconception.

Verdict? Uber says there’s no need to tip, but it’s not explicitly stated that tips aren’t included in the ride cost at all. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this issue. Since I now know that tips aren’t included, I plan on tipping my driver out of pocket, which reintroduces the problem of fumbling around in my wallet at the end of a ride. This is an issue that could make me to switch to a competitor (perhaps Lyft, which allows you to tip in the app). In my opinion, Uber owes its drivers (aka “partners”) and its customers clarification on why “there’s no need for a tip.” 

  • You rate, we listen. This might just be my personal misconception, but given that it seems that anyone can drive for Uber, safety is a concern. This steers me in the direction of cabs when I’m alone because I perceive them to be better regulated. However, if I’m with my husband or friends, I’m much more apt to take an Uber for the value. I have colleagues who consider Uber as (if not more safe) than a cab since all rides are tracked via GPS and riders have the driver’s picture and information as well as the vehicle’s information at their fingertips. Every week, it feels like there’s a new story about an assault on an Uber rider or driver, which can make taking an Uber feel like riding at your own risk. So, what about the rating? Does it help? Just like an eBay seller, do positive evaluations help communicate safety?

Verdict? I’m mixed. I’m still not convinced that Uber is any more or less safe than its alternatives. However, as a data nerd, I do appreciate having data on my driver when I request a ride.

Uber filled a much needed void when it launched in 2009. But as the company continues to grow, the promises it makes to customers don’t always ring true. The fix? Implementing a customer measurement system, which will ensure that the company delivers on these brand promises and doesn’t steer off the road of success. 

Tara is a Research Director at CMB. She enjoys nights out in the city with her husband and grilling her Uber driver on the way home.

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Topics: travel and hospitality research, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

Dear Dr. Jay—Brands Ask: Let's Stay Together?

Posted by Dr. Jay Weiner

Thu, Feb 11, 2016

 Dear Dr. Jay,

 What’s love got to do with it?

 -Tina T. 


DrJay_Thinking_about_love.pngHi Tina,

How timely.

The path to brand loyalty is often like the path to wedded bliss. You begin by evaluating tangible attributes to determine if the brand is the best fit for you. After repeated purchase occasions, you form an emotional bond to the brand that goes beyond those tangible attributes. As researchers, when we ask folks why they purchase a brand, they often reflect on performance attributes and mention those as drivers of purchase. But, to really understand the emotional bond, we need to ask how you feel when you interact with the brand.

We recently developed a way to measure this emotional bond (Net Positive Emotion Score - NPES). By asking folks how they felt on their most recent interaction, we’re able to determine respondents’ emotional bond with products. Typical regression tools indicate that the emotional attributes are about as predictive of future behavior as the functional benefits of the product. This leads us to believe that at some point in your pattern of consumption, you become bonded to the product and begin to act on emotion—rather than rational thoughts. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t rate the performance dimensions of the products you buy.

Loyalty is a behavior, and behaviors are often driven by underlying attitudinal measures. You might continue to purchase the same product over and over for a variety of reasons. In a perfect world, you not only create a behavioral commitment, but also an emotional bond with the brand and, ultimately, the company. Typically, we measure this path by looking at the various stages you go through when purchasing products. This path begins with awareness, evolves through familiarity and consideration, and ultimately ends with purchase. Once you’ve purchased a product, you begin to evaluate how well it delivers on the brand promise. At some point, the hope is that you become an advocate for the brand since advocacy is the pinnacle of the brand purchase hierarchy. 

As part of our Consumer Pulse program, we used our EMPACT℠: Emotional Impact Analysis tool to measure consumers’ emotional bond (NPES) with 30 brands across 6 categories. How well does this measure impact other key metrics? On average, Net Promoters score almost 70 points higher on the NPES scale versus Net Detractors. We see similar increases in likelihood to continue (or try), proud to use, willingness to pay more, and “I love this brand.”

NPES.jpg

What does this mean? It means that measuring the emotional bond your customers have with your brand can provide key insights into the strength of that brand. Not only do you need to win on the performance attributes, but you also need to forge a deep bond with your buyers. That is a better way to brand loyalty, and it should positively influence your bottom line. You have to win their hearts—not just their minds.

Dr. Jay Weiner is CMB’s senior methodologist and VP of Advanced Analytics. He has a strong emotional bond with his wife of 25 years and several furry critters who let him sleep in their bed.

Learn More About EMPACT℠

Topics: NPS, path to purchase, Dear Dr. Jay, EMPACT, emotional measurement, brand health and positioning

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. 

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

Making Your Brand a Habit: Why Small Patterns of Behavior Make a Huge Difference

Posted by Hannah Russell

Wed, Jan 06, 2016

Decision.jpgMost of us have heard the phrase “humans are creatures of habit,” but have you really ever sat down and thought about how habits dictate your life? From the moment you get up in the morning, habits are playing a role in how you interact with others, complete everyday tasks, and function within your environment.

In a lot of ways, habits are a necessary part of human life. Our brains naturally seek out and latch on to routines and scripts—it’s how we’re able to work so efficiently. Unfortunately, habits can also be unhealthy or unproductive. Oftentimes, we even have habits that are completely invisible to us until we take the time to truly examine our patterns of behavior.

I recently starting thinking a lot about this after picking up The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. His book details the formation of habits and neurological systems at play, colored by examples from scientists, academics, and businesses. Duhigg explains that by breaking down a habit loop into the cue, routine, and reward components, we are able to experiment and focus in on how a particular habit functions. He cautions that his book isn’t necessarily a secret formula for immediately dropping your afternoon cookie habit, but it does provide you with the necessary knowledge to start identifying which levers to adjust.

The notion that we can take our patterns of behavior and use that information to improve our personal life or business is one that really stuck with me as a market researcher. After all, as a researcher, I am constantly keeping an eye out for patterns. Patterns within and across datasets, patterns in response styles, and patterns within an industry. Patterns (or lack thereof) are often drawn upon for insight, as they tend to be a good indication if something is going right (or wrong), expected (or unexpected), or reflecting larger changes within the economy, company, or brand. This is often why businesses invest in tracking studies—a small shift in NPS or brand awareness may not seem overly interesting quarter to quarter, but it’s often part of a larger trend happening in the data. Patterns tell us a story and direct our attention to areas that we may need to investigate further.

At CMB, we spend a lot of time looking at these larger patterns and studying consumer habit loops that can impact a business. Companies looking to increase loyalty want to make their brand part of a customer’s routine—automatic and hard to disrupt.

For example, let’s imagine you’re going to pay for your groceries. Which credit card do you choose? Is it the one you always use for groceries? Do you even think about reaching for another payment method? Here’s the breakdown:

  • Cue: You’re at the register, and it’s time to pay.
  • Routine: You grab the card you always use since it earns you extra points for groceries.
  • Reward: You have your groceries, and you have earned bonus points.

By understanding these habit loops, we can begin to experiment with ways to make the cue stronger, the routine easier, or the reward more rewarding. We can also begin to understand what doesn’t work well when building brand loyalty and how these habits can be disrupted. At CMB, we’ve developed a method of segmenting on these habit loops, and each loop is linked to important outcomes such as NPS or database spend. We answer:

  • What are our client’s consumers’ habits?
  • If/how do these habits differ by consumer segments?
  • How well does each habit help drive business results?

These answers help our clients develop new strategies for reinforcing positive habits and disrupting ones that work against business goals. The takeaway: habits matter. Whether you’re looking in from an organizational or an individual perspective, these small patterns of behavior can play a huge role in both our successes and failures. 

Hannah is an Associate Researcher for CMB and is still working on transforming her coffee habit.

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Topics: strategy consulting, business decisions, consumer insights, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

Brands Enter the Fight Against Holiday Shopping Creep

Posted by Becky Schaefer

Mon, Nov 23, 2015

While Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday season for U.S. retailers, visions of sugar plums dance in retailers’ heads (and on their shelves) well before Halloween. The so-called “Black Friday Creep” in which sales and decorations start on or before Thanksgiving, has gotten a lot of press. Remember this Kmart ad from SEPTEMBER?!

The backlash was inevitable—too many news stories about workers forced to forgo their Thanksgiving dinners and deal-seekers trampled over new flat-screen TVs. In reaction, several high profile retailers are taking a stand against staying open on Thanksgiving. Nordstrom’s gotten great press for continuing its tradition of closing all 118 locations in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day and reopening on Black Friday. Fun fact: this is not the only “creep” that Nordstrom avoids—it also avoids the “Christmas creep,” a trend in which retailers start decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving even happens. Nordstrom believes in “celebrating one holiday at a time,” and does not decorate for Christmas until Black Friday.

Here’s my favorite example of a company combatting the creep—equipment company REI recently announced that it will not only close on Thanksgiving, but also remain closed on Black Friday. The brand has taken this unusual move and used it as a branding opportunity as part of a new campaign called “Opt Outside” (#optoutside). REI encourages both employees (who will be paid for the day) and customers to skip the mall and spend Black Friday enjoying the outdoors instead of shopping. Over 800,000 people have already committed to Opt Outside this Black Friday, and you can choose to join directly on REI’s website. It’s a brilliant idea, and it works because it’s consistent with REI’s brand promise and its customers’ values.

What are your Black Friday plans? Are you planning on spending your Black Friday racking up holiday deals? Or are you going to Opt Outside with REI? Let us know in the comments!

Rebecca is part of the field services team at CMB, and she is excited to celebrate her favorite time of year with her family and friends.  

Topics: advertising, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, retail research

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

CMB Conference Recap: Hubspot’s INBOUND 2015

Posted by Kirsten Clark

Tue, Sep 15, 2015

Hubspot, INBOUND, marketing, CMB Conference RecapLast week, I attended Hubspot’s INBOUND conference to attend workshops, network with fellow marketers, and hear speakers as diverse as Chelsea Clinton, Aziz Ansari, and Daniel Pink present on topics like disruption, innovation, and how to really connect in an increasingly crowded landscape. Here are just 4 (of many) key takeaways:

1. Adapt to changing SEO. Bill King and Tyler Richer from Hubspot emphasized that keywords continue to lose influence as Google continues to become smarter and smarter. How can you get around this? Start by writing content that’s genuinely useful, and share your content on social media. Sharing it on social media doesn’t directly affect rank, but it does affect distribution (which can affect rank). Finally, remember that there should always be an element of empathy when creating an SEO plan. Searchers have experiences with brands when they search, and you want to make sure every experience with your brand is a great one.

2. Embrace social media ads. They’re here to stay. You might have noticed that Facebook’s organic reach has plummeted. Larry Kim, Founder and CTO of WordStream, pointed out that most of the content people put out on social networks is never seen, and that’s a missed opportunity since 28% of people’s online time is spent on social networks. Social media ads are a highly scalable vehicle for content promotion, so it’s time to embrace the inevitable and boost those posts!

3. Stop storytelling. Start storymaking. David Berkowitz, CMO at MRY, discussed the shift from storytelling to storymaking. The phrase might sound jargony, but semantics aside, what Berkowitz is really asking us to do is make storytelling an interactive experience. Below are some of the differences between storytelling as a monologue and storymaking as an experience:

Hubspot, INBOUND, marketing, CMB Conference Recap, storytelling

To see an example of this in action, look no further than Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. You can find a bottle of Coca-Cola with your name on it in-store or create your own online. This has inspired a plethora of consumer created content, including this pregnancy announcement that has almost 4.5 million views on YouTube.

4. Be brave. During her keynote, Brené Brown stressed that the path to joy, love, and trust lies in vulnerability. Being vulnerable means being brave and being willing to show up and be seen when you have no control over the outcome. Each of us faces a choice between comfort and courage every day, and it’s about time we start choosing the latter in both our professional and personal lives. How? Don't say you're different—be different. Take a page out of Ben & Jerry's book and dare to be distinct.

Did you attend? Tell us your favorite takeaways in the comments.

Kirsten Clark is a Marketing Associate at CMB. She also had the privilege of seeing the hysterical (no, really, there were tears) Amy Schumer at INBOUND. (Amy, if you’re reading this, please consider being my friend. I make excellent guacamole.)

Topics: storytelling, marketing strategy, social media, conference recap, brand health and positioning

Modern Enigma: Deciphering the Language of Emojis

Posted by Blair Bailey

Wed, Sep 09, 2015

emojis, language, brandingParlez-vous emoji? Step aside, French – there’s a new language of the future. Well, maybe.

Since Apple’s release of the emoji keyboard in 2011, the use of emojis has grown exponentially. This past March, nearly half of Instagram comments and captions contained emoji characters. But this isn’t just the language of choice for consumers. Emojis are brands’ latest attempt to appeal to the younger, texting-heavy demographics of Millennials and Gen Z. Brands such as Coca-Cola and Bud Light are using emojis to create unique content to stand out with these younger demographics. Even though these tiny images can set a brand’s message apart, it’s also very easy for the message to fall flat with consumers.Even so, brands are venturing into the world of emojis to develop content as well as to investigate their audiences. Independent shop Big Spaceship is working on technology to develop definitions for brand tracking via emojis. This would be done similar to the measurement of brand sentiment using the occurrence of specific words on social media. The idea isn’t to look at emojis alone, but to examine them within the context of social content. Theoretically, this would allow brands to examine differences as seemingly miniscule as using a red heart instead of a blue heart in a social media comment.  

Instagram considered this very difference in their Emojineering blog, and found that, in fact, blue hearts and red hearts don’t mean the same thing. Instagram took a similar approach to Big Spaceship and studied the occurrence of specific emojis with specific words and hashtags. They examined the hashtags associated with certain color hearts in the absence of a red heart. A blue heart lead to Duke-related hashtags (#goblue, #letsgoduke, etc.) and Autism Awareness-related hashtags (#autismspeaks), while a yellow heart lead to spring-related and earth-related hashtags (#springhassprung, #hellospring, #happyearthday, etc.).

As a market researcher, this use of emojis is intriguing and problematic. I’d love to know the meaning and reasoning behind a consumer’s decision to post a cat emoji rather than the kitten face emoji, but playing Bletchley Park doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll find what I’m looking for. The texting-based language of emojis, while expressive, only brings us a little bit closer to the full picture. There is a much easier way to get an honest read of respondents’ emotions towards a brand—just ask them. At CMB, we use custom market research and our new survey-based approach to measuring the emotional impact of brands, EMPACT℠, to find out how your customers really feel about your brand. . .rather than spend time defining heart and cat emojis.

Blair Bailey is an Associate Researcher at CMB who language, branding, emojis.

Learn More About EMPACT℠

Topics: millennials, social media, EMPACT, emotional measurement, brand health and positioning

Brands Get in a Frenzy Over Shark Week

Posted by Athena Rodriguez

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Summer brings many joys—BBQ’s, the beach, and one of my favorite holidays. . .I’m referring, of course, to Shark Week. For over 25 years, the Discovery Channel has loaded as much shark-related content as possible into a 7-day period, including TV programming, online content, and social media frenzies by both the network and other “official” (and non-official) partners.While some of these partnerships are no-brainers (e.g., Oceana, National Aquarium, and Sea Save Foundation), other less obvious partners such as Dunkin Donuts, Cold Stone Creamery, and Southwest Airlines, must get creative with their marketing to connect their brands to “the most wonderful week of the year.” Southwest, for example, offered flyers the chance to watch new content via a special Shark Week channel and to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to swim with sharks. Both Cold Stone Creamery and Dunkin Donuts debuted special treats (“Shark Week Frenzy”—blue ice cream with gummy sharks—and a lifesaver donut, respectively).

brand engagement, shark week, television

But it didn’t stop there—brands on social media found ways to tie in products to Shark Week in every way possible. Just take a look at these posts from Claire’s, Salesforce, and Red Bull.

shark week, brand engagement, television

So, what’s in it for these brands? Why go out of their way to connect themselves to something like Shark Week, which is seemingly unrelated to their services and products? It’s as simple as the concept of brand associations. Since brand associations work to form deeper bonds with customers, brands are often on the lookout for opportunities that will boost their standing with customers. Shark Week attracts millions of viewers each night, and since it’s one of the few true television events that remains, it presents the perfect opportunity for brands to engage with customers in a way they don’t often get to do. Furthermore, it demonstrates that these brands are in tune with what their customers like and what’s happening in the pop culture world. And, judging by the amount of interactions brands received from consumers, I’d say it worked.

If you missed the fun of Shark Week last month (the horror!) or just want more, don’t worry—Shweekend is just around the corner (August 29th), and I’ll be anticipating what brands can come up with this time. . .

Athena Rodriguez is a Project Consultant at CMB, and she is a certified fin fanatic. 

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Topics: advertising, marketing strategy, social media, television, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research