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

The Elephant, the Donkey, and the Qualitative Researcher: The Moderator in Market Research and Politics

Posted by Kelsey Segaloff

Wed, Nov 23, 2016

capitol-32310_1280.pngAmericans have a lot to reckon with in the wake of the recent vote. You’re forgiven if analyzing the role of the presidential debate moderator isn’t high on your list. Still, for those of us in the qualitative market research business, there were professional lessons to be learned from the reactions to moderators Lester Holt (NBC), Martha Raddatz (ABC), Anderson Cooper (CNN), and Chris Wallace (Fox). Each moderator took their own approach and each was met with criticism and praise.

As CMB’s qualitative research associate and a moderator-in-training, I noticed parallels to the role of the moderator in the political and market research space. My thoughts:

 The moderator as unbiased

"Lester [Holt] is a Democrat. It’s a phony system. They are all Democrats.” – Donald Trump, President-Elect

Concerns regarding whether or not the debate moderators were unbiased arose throughout the primaries and presidential debates. Moderators were criticized for techniques like asking questions that were deemed “too difficult,” going after a single candidate, and not adequately pressing other candidates.  For example, critics called NBC’S Matt Lauer biased during the Commander-in-Chief forum. Some felt Lauer hindered Hillary Clinton’s performance by asking tougher questions than those asked of Donald Trump, interrupting Clinton, and not letting her speak on other issues the same way he allowed Donald Trump to.

In qualitative market research, every moderator will experience some bias from time to time, but it’s important to mitigate bias in order to maintain the integrity of the study. In my own qualitative experience, the moderator establishes that they are unbiased by opening each focus group by explaining that they are independent from the topic of discussion and/or client, and therein are not looking for the participants to answer a certain way.

Qualitative research moderators can also avoid bias by not asking leading questions, monitoring their own facial expressions and body language, and giving each participant an equal opportunity to speak. Like during a political debate, preventing bias is imperative in qualitative work because biases can skew the results of a study the same way the voting populace fears bias could skew the perceived performance of a candidate.

 The moderator as fact-checker

“It has not traditionally been the role of the moderator to engage in a lot of fact-checking.” – Alan Schroeder, professor of Journalism at Northeastern University

Throughout the 2016 election moderators were criticized for either fact-checking too much or not fact-checking the candidates enough. Talk about a Catch-22.

In qualitative moderating, fact-checking is dependent on the insights we are looking to achieve for a particular study. For example, I just finished traveling across the country with CMB’s Director of Qualitative, Anne Hooper, for focus groups. In each group, Anne asked participants what they knew about the product we were researching. Anne noted every response (accurate or inaccurate), as it was critical we understood the participants’ perceptions of the product. After the participants shared their thoughts, Anne gave them an accurate product description to clarify any false impressions because for the remainder of the conversation it was critical the respondents had the correct understanding of the product.

For the case of qualitative research, Anne demonstrated how fact-checking (or not fact-checking) can be used for insights. There’s no “one right way” to do it; it depends on your research goals.  

 The moderator as timekeeper

“Basically, you're there as a timekeeper, but you're not a participant.” – Chris Wallace, Television Anchor and Political Commentator for Fox News

Presidential debate moderators frequently interjected (or at least tried to) when candidates ran over their allotted time in order to stay on track and ensure each candidate had equal speaking time. Focus group moderators have the same responsibility. As a qualitative moderator-in-training, I’m learning the importance of playing timekeeper – to be respectful of the participants’ time and allow for equal participation.  I must also remember to cover all topics in the discussion guide. Whether you’re acting as a timekeeper in market research or political debates, it’s as much about the audience of voters or clients as it is about the participants (candidates or study respondents).  

The study’s desired insights will dictate the role of the moderator. Depending on your (or your client’s) goals, bias, fact-checking, and time-keeping could play an important part in how you moderate. But ultimately whether your client is a business or the American voting populace, the fundamental role of the moderator remains largely the same: to provide the client with the insights needed to make an informed decision.

Kelsey is a Qualitative Research Associate. She co-chairs the New England chapter of the QRCA, and recently received a QRCA Young Professionals Grant!

Topics: methodology, qualitative research, Election

Porsche Drivers for Trump! Why Perceived User Identities Matter to Brands

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Fri, Nov 04, 2016

Take a moment to think about the kind of person who drives a Porsche. What is that person like? Paint as clear a mental image as you can. Is it is a man or a woman? Young, old, or middle-aged? How would you describe that person’s personality, passions and values?

Now think about the kind of person who drives a Volvo. What is that person like? Or the kind of person who drives a Subaru? Or drives a Chevy? Or a Cadillac? Or a Mini?

If you’re like most people, for each of these cars, you picture a very different driver behind the wheel.

In fact, this summer we asked over 18,000 consumers to describe the typical user for 90 different brands, across 5 different industries, using their own words and batteries of perceptions. Our results uncovered images of typical users that differed vastly by brand and industry on a range of dimensions. For example:

  • The typical Porsche driver is often seen as a rich white man who is single or divorced. He is sporty, stylish and ambitious—but also arrogant, materialistic and self-centered. He’s into fashion and luxury. He likes to party.
  • The typical Volvo driver is also seen as a wealthy white man, but he’s more of a Northeastern intellectual. He’s into books and the arts. He’s responsible, self-assured, and a parent. His politics are progressive. He is not into sports or partying.
  • The typical Subaru driver is seen as a more middle-class, family-oriented parent who is smart, practical, responsible and caring—a nature-lover with a soft spot for pets and a desire to support good causes.
  • The typical Chevy driver is seen as a white, middle- to lower-class family man from the rural South or Midwest. He is reliable, humble, relaxed and genuine. He likes hunting, sports, and the great outdoors.

Consumers’ perceptions even differed on who each of these drivers was supporting in the presidential primaries. Who did they think the Porsche driver supported?  Trump. By a very large margin. And while the Volvo driver was seen as supporting Bernie or Hillary, the Subaru driver was seen as feeling the Bern. Most assumed the Chevy driver would vote for Trump, but consumers were also twice as likely to say he’d vote for Cruz than they were for most other brands we tested.

We found a skew towards one of the candidates for nearly every one of the ninety brands we tested across the auto, airline, beer, fashion and food industries. Curious to see more?  Select any brand from the drop-down and take a look!

Consumers’ generally held beliefs about the kind of person who uses each brand are driven in part by experience (e.g., all the Subaru drivers you know), and in part by marketing (e.g., ads like this one).

But does it really matter what consumers think of the kind of person who uses a brand?

YES! It does. A lot.

The more consumers identify with their image of the kind of person who uses a brand, the more they will try, buy, pay for and recommend it. That’s because consumers are people, and people are driven by their identities. They embrace brands that help them reinforce, enhance, or express who they are—and the brands that do this best are ones that help them feel connected to people like them, people they know and like, or people they’d like to know. Consider: Would you rather be like the kind of person who drives a Porsche, a Volvo, a Subaru, or a Chevy?

In fact, consumers’ perceptions of the typical brand user matter more than their perceptions of the brand itself. We see clear mathematical evidence of this with AffinIDSM, our approach to uncovering consumers’ image of who uses a brand, and ways to strengthen how much they identify with that person.

  • As part of this approach, we calculate an AffinID℠ Score to quantify how much consumers identify with their image of the brand’s typical user
    • The score is based on the clarity, relatability and desirability of that image
  • Across industries, brands with high AffinID℠ Scores win on consideration, loyalty, price elasticity, and advocacy
  • In our research with 18,000 consumers, AffinID℠ was the #1 predictor of brand performance, beating out every brand perception we tested
    • Including: high quality, trustworthy, useful, easy/convenient, a good deal, worth paying more for, safe, secure, exciting, fun, reputable, innovative, socially responsible, understands its customers, cares about its customers, and rewards customers for their loyalty

The power of AffinID℠ lies in the fact that human beings are social beings with identities shaped by our social groups and relationships—they provide self-knowledge, self-esteem, and the social norms that guide our behaviors. So we are particularly attentive to other people. And brands aren’t people. Brand users are.

Furthermore, while perceptions of brands and the people who use them are interrelated, they usually aren’t the same. Case in point: Consumers who love amazon. When we ask them to describe amazon, they say it has “great” customer service, prices, variety and convenience. When we ask them to describe amazon customers, what do they say? “Smart.”

To close, I’ll give one last example—a personal one. Porsche.

Let me start by saying to any Porsche owner who might be reading this that I’m sure you’re a lovely person who doesn’t fall into any stereotype. I think now is a good time to go get some coffee and consider how well you’ve done for yourself—I mean, after all, you have a Porsche! And, go ahead, donate more to Trump. It’s not too late. You can skip the next few paragraphs.

(Is he gone yet? Great—let’s continue…) 

If you asked me what I think of Porsche the brand, I’d say: cool, reputable, fast, high quality, expensive. But if you asked me what I think of the typical Porsche driver, my response would be similar to the mass-market view described above: white male divorcee, wealthy, materialistic, in a midlife crisis, likely overcompensating for something.

So, as nice as I think Porsches are, I’m not spending my next bonus on one. I’m not like the person I envision as the Porsche driver, nor do I want to be. I’m a happily married mother of two. (Incidentally, the last mother I saw driving a Porsche was Carmella Soprano.) To get me to ever consider a Porsche, you’d have to really shake-up my image of the kind of person who drives one. But I’m sure there’s a marketer out there who could do it. Gauntlet thrown.

If you take away anything from this longer-than-usual blog (thanks for reading!), make it this: To change what consumers think of your brand, change their image of the people who use it. In today’s competitive marketplace and identity-driven culture, it is more important than ever that brands communicate a clear, compelling image of their typical customer.

Are you communicating the right image of the kind of person who uses your brand? 

Erica Carranza is  CMB's VP of Consumer Psychology with supplier- and client-side (American Express) experience. She  earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University.

Contact us to learn more about identity's role in building brands, and CMB's AffinIDsm approach!

Contact Us

 

Topics: consumer insights, brand health and positioning, Identity, Election, AffinID