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The Art & Science of Selecting a Spokesperson

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Nov 08, 2017

This article was originally published in Website Magazine.

When is tapping a celebrity to endorse your brand a good idea, and who should you choose? In an age when scandals erupt in the time it takes to share a tweet, getting it wrong is at best a wasted opportunity, and at worst a PR nightmare.

It’s hard to predict a celebrity scandal. Luckily, consumers tend to forgive brands that take steps to condemn bad behavior (when his doping came to light, Lance Armstrong lost eight contracts in a single day, starting with Nike). But what about wasted opportunities? No marketer wants to invest in a celebrity if a less expensive strategy would work—or to pick the wrong celebrity for the job.

To make the right decision for your brand, before signing any celebrity, make sure that you understand your brand’s customer image.

Your brand’s customer image is consumers’ stereotype of the kind of person who uses the brand. It relates to the brand’s overall image, but it’s not the same. For example, consider Subaru:

  • When we ask consumers to describe the brand Subaru, they say “safe” and “reliable.”
  • But when we ask them to describe the typical Subaru owner, they say “middleclass,” “family-focused,” and “outdoorsy.” They picture someone with kids and a dog, who likes to hike, and who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Subaru - hiking family_blog.jpg

There’s a lot of nuance to their image of the typical Subaru customer—including attributes a person can embody, but a brand cannot.

Customer image is crucial because people are social animals. Our social identities shape what we think, who we are and strive to be, how we act and the choices we make as consumers. So truly strategic brands lead consumers to equate using the brand with joining a tribe that expresses an identity. And the secret to creating that connection is a clear, compelling brand customer image. In our research at CMB we’ve seen that consumers who identify with their image of a brand’s customer are 14-times more likely to choose the brand, and 15-times more likely to recommend it. What does this mean for selecting a celebrity spokesperson?

1. First, get a deep understanding of how your target audience sees the brand customer 
Do they already have an image of the kind of person who uses the brand? If so, how compelling is that image? What’s working about that image, and what isn’t? Which assumptions should you reinforce—and which should you work to change—in order to own a customer image that is compelling and unique for your audience, and realistically attainable for your brand?

2. Consider signing a celebrity if the brand customer image is unclear

Given the importance of the brand customer image, having a new or lesser-known brand may pose a challenge: When your target audience tries to imagine your typical customer, they may draw a blank. On the upside, that means you can build the customer image from scratch—and a celebrity endorsement can provide an effective strategy. In additional to pairing the brand with a familiar face, your campaign can draw on consumers’ “built-in” knowledge about the celebrity to communicate what you want them to know about your brand tribe.

3. Consider signing a celebrity if the brand customer image isn’t compelling

Stereotypes are notoriously difficult to change. So it often happens that a brand’s (formerly appealing) customer image is no longer relevant—or even alienating—to new consumers. For example, we partner with many respected, longstanding brands that are working to attract younger generations. A key barrier is the image of an “older” customer. The answer isn’t to put a Kardashian in every ad. (We’ve all seen how that can go…) But snagging the right celebrity can disrupt preconceived notions about the kind of person who buys or uses the brand. Especially when the endorsement seems genuine. This ad comes to mind as great example for having challenged stereotypes of Chrysler drivers and Detroit.

Another great example is the choice of Maya Rudolph by Seventh Generation. Consumers tend to think that people who buy “green” household cleaners are condescending “activist types” who have money to pay a premium for products that don’t work well. That’s not a compelling tribe. But Maya Rudolph, a comedic actress and a mom, gives Seventh Generation customers an image that’s much more relatable and fun. I’m a particular fan of her video promos on the Seventh Generation website.

4. Think twice if the customer image is niche and the goal is to broaden appeal

The image of the Subaru driver shows the impact of ads like this, which have an “every parent” quality. A famous spokesperson could undermine that message. Sometimes signing a celebrity—any celebrity—isn’t the best approach. For example, if you’re a tech company trying to drive adoption of your Virtual Assistant, you’ll need to battle the perception that typical users are a niche group: Young, tech-savvy, affluent, white men. So you may want to show a diverse group of regular people doing regular things with the personal assistant, like Google during this year’s Super Bowl—rather than a celebrity doing extraordinary things, like The Rock using Siri to snap selfies from space.

22261-26696-170802-Rock-l.jpgSource: appleinsider

5. If you take the plunge, pick a celebrity who embodies the top priority attributes you want to convey

Picking someone well-known and well-liked may seem like a safe bet. But it fails to consider how that person might influence the image of the brand customer. Instead, identify specific priorities for what to communicate based on consumers’ current image of your customer, their image of competitor brand customers, and what does (or doesn’t) express their identities and values. Then map those priorities to their perceptions of potential spokespeople.

While there’s no guaranteeing that a celebrity won’t behave badly, at least you can take steps to make sure that you sign a spokesperson who conveys the right image of your brand tribe.

Erica Carranza is VP of consumer psychology at Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). She earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University and has more than ten years of experience leading research for major brands. Prior to CMB, she spent time in consumers insights at American Express, where she was a recipient of the CMO Award for Achievement in Excellence.

Topics: marketing science, Identity, AffinID

A Lesson in Storytelling from the NFL MVP Race

Posted by Jen Golden

Thu, Feb 02, 2017

american football.jpg

There’s always a lot of debate in the weeks leading up to the NFL’s announcement of its regular season MVP. While the recipient is often from a team with a strong regular season record, it’s not always that simple. Of course the MVP's season stats are an important factor in who comes out on top, but a good story also influences the outcome. 

Take this year, we have a few excellent contenders for the crown, including…

  • Ezekiel Elliot, the rookie running back on the Dallas Cowboys
  • Tom Brady, the NE Patriots QB coming back from a four game “Deflategate” suspension
  • Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons veteran “nice-guy” QB having a career year

Ultimately, deciding the winner is a mix of art and science. And while you’re probably wondering what this has to do with market research, the NFL regular season MVP selection process has a few important things in common with the creation of a good report. [Twitter bird-1.pngTweet this!]

First, make a framework: Having a framework for your research project can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the amount of data in front of you. In the MVP race, for example, voters should start by listing attributes they think make an MVP: team record, individual record, strength of schedule, etc. These attributes are a good way to narrow down potential candidates. In research, the framework might include laying out the business objectives and the data available for each. This outline helps focus the narrative and guide the story’s structure.

Then, look at the whole picture: Once the data is compiled, take a step back and think about how the pieces relate to one another and the context of each. Let’s look at Tom Brady’s regular season stats as an example. He lags behind league leaders on total passing yards and TDs, but remember that he missed four games with a suspension. When the regular season is only 12 games, missing a quarter of those was a missed opportunity to garner points, so you can’t help but wonder if it’s a fair comparison to make. Here’s where it’s important to look at the whole picture (whether we’re talking about research or MVP picks). If you don’t have the entire context, you could dismiss Brady altogether. In research, a meaningful story builds on all the primary data within larger social, political, and/or business contexts.

Finally, back it up with facts:  Once the pieces have come together, you need to back up your key storyline (or MVP pick) with facts to prove your credibility. For example, someone could vote for Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. because of an impressive once-in-a-lifetime catch he made during the regular season. But beyond the catch there wouldn’t be much data to support that he was more deserving than the other candidates. In a research report, you must support your story with solid data and evidence.  The predictions will continue until the 2016 regular season MVP is named, but whoever that ends up being, he will have a strong story and the stats to back it up.

 Jen is a Sr. PM on the Technology/E-commerce team. She hopes Tom Brady will take the MVP crown to silence his “Deflategate” critics – what a story that would be.

Topics: data collection, storytelling, marketing science

Strength-Based Leadership and Finding the #Boss Within

Posted by Blair Bailey

Wed, Jul 06, 2016

A few weeks ago, I relinquished my year-long membership to the "Broken Screen Club" and bought asgo-logo-home.png new phone. It was a good opportunity to clean up the apps I didn't need. I had two meditation apps, two fitness tracker apps, three nutrition apps, four dating apps, and two hydration-tracking apps. If there was a gap in my life, I had an app for it. 

I was an expert at pinpointing what I wanted to improve about myself and identifying the tools to do it...but was it working? Using these apps reminded me to drink water, but they also served as a constant reminder that I was bad at regularly drinking water.

Recently, I attended Strength-Based Leadership Workshop presented by She Geeks Out (SGO), a Boston-based community of women in the STEAM fields. The workshop was led by Katie Greenman, Founding Partner of HumanSide, a "human-centered consultancy" that works with individuals, teams, and organizations to build success from the inside out. Through activities and lively discussion, we discussed the concept of strength-based leadership and how to apply it in our personal and professional lives.

When it comes to introspection and self-improvement, it’s natural to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. Strength-based leadership focuses on emphasizing an individual’s existing strengths and passions. The core belief is that there is higher growth potential in developing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.

At the workshop, everyone had a worksheet with about thirty traits listed and had to circle which traits we considered our strengths. For each of the traits listed, I wanted to brainstorm how I could improve on it rather than see if it was already a strength of mine. Next, we listed items from one aspect of our lives and discussed how our existing strengths would help or had helped us achieve our goals.

The last item was: "Something you're not doing so well with." It was easy for me to come up with something to improve upon...but how would my known strengths help? The takeaway is one of the central tenants of strength-based leadership—whether you're succeeding or not at a task, you should focus on your existing strengths to improve or to continue to excel.

Although the exercises focused on the individual, they can also be applied to teams. Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses allows for diverse, passionate teams that can excel at the tasks at hand. It also creates a stronger relationship between a company's leadership and its employees. Acknowledging your employees' passions can build enthusiasm and promote evangelism. It's important to note that strength-based leaders don't ignore weaknesses altogether. However, they don't focus the majority of their time and efforts on filling the gaps.

Since attending the workshop, I’ve realized how much strength-based leadership plays a role at CMB. I’ve been assigned difficult projects and given unfamiliar roles that I was at first terrified to take on. But during one-on-one meetings, when I was internally panicking, my manager would tell me, “we thought of you for this.” Through challenges we reveal skills that are valuable to a project, a team, and the company as a whole.

Thanks to my "perfectionist" trait, it's still difficult for me not to focus on the negative, particularly my own. SGO's workshop provided me with a new perspective on how to approach my projects, my career, and myself. I still have more than one meditation app, but if that's the worst of it, I think I'll be okay.

Blair Bailey is a Senior Associate Business Analyst at CMB who still doesn’t drink enough water.

Whether you’re a segmentation guru, a tech whiz, or a strategic selling machine, we’re looking for collaborative, engaged professionals to join our growing team. Check out our open positions below!

Open Positions

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, marketing science, marketing strategy, CMB Careers, Market research

CMB Conference Recap: ARF Re!Think16

Posted by Julie Kurd

Thu, Mar 17, 2016

Re-Think-2016.jpgRon Amram of Heineken uttered the three words that sum up my ARF #ReThink16 experience: science, storytelling, and seconds. Let’s recap some of the most energizing insights: 

  • Science: Using Data to Generate Insights
    • AT&T Mobility’s Greg Pharo talked about how AT&T measures the impact of mass and digital advertising. They start with a regression and integrate marketing variables (media weight, impressions, GRPs, brand and message recall, WoM, etc.) as well as information on major product launches, distribution, and competitive data, topped off with macroeconomic data and internal operational data such as quality (network functioning, etc.).
    • GfK’s voice analytics research actually records respondents’ voices and captures voice inflection, which predicts new idea or new product success by asking a simple question: “What do you think about this product and why?” They explore sentiment by analyzing respondents’ speech for passion, activation, and whether they’d purchase. I had to ask a question: since I have a sunny and positive personality, wouldn’t my voice always sound to a machine as though I like every product? Evidently, no. They establish each individual respondent’s baseline and measure the change.  
    • Nielsen talked about its new 40 ad normative benchmark (increasing soon to 75) and how it uses a multi-method approach—a mix of medical grade EEG, eye tracking, facial coding, biometrics, and self-reporting—to get a full view of reactions to advertising. 
  • Storytelling: Using Creative That’s Personal
    • Doug Ziewacz (Head of North America Digital Media and Advertising for Under Armour Connected Fitness) spoke about the ecosystem of connected health and fitness. It’s not enough to just receive a notification that you’ve hit your 10,000 steps—many people are looking for community and rewards.
    • Tell your story. I saw several presentations that covered how companies ensure that potential purchasers view a product’s advertising and how companies are driving interest from target audiences.
      • Heineken, for example, knows that 50% of its 21-34 year-old male target don’t even drink beer, so they focus on telling stories to the other 50%. The company’s research shows that most male beer drinkers are sort of loyal to a dozen beer brands, with different preferences for different occasions. Ron Amram (VP of Media at Heineken) talked about the need to activate people with their beer for the right occasion. 
      • Manvir Kalsi, Senior Manager of Innovation Process and Research at Samsung, said that Samsung spends ~$3B in advertising globally. With such a large footprint, they often end up adding impressions for people who will never be interested in the product. Now, the company focuses on reaching entrenched Apple consumers with messages (such as long battery life) that might not resonate with Samsung loyalists but will hit Apple users hard and give those Apple users reasons to believe in Samsung. 
  • Seconds: Be Responsive Enough to Influence the Purchase Decision Funnel
    • Nathalie Bordes from ESPN talked about sub-second ad exposure effectiveness. She spoke frankly about how exposure time is no longer the most meaningful part of ad recall for mobile scrolling or static environments. In fact, 36% of audience recalled an ad with only half a second of exposure. There was 59% recall in 1 second and 78% recall in 2 seconds. Point being, every time we have to wait 4 or 5 seconds before clicking “skip ad” on YouTube, our brains really are taking in those ads.
    • Laura Bernstein from Symphony Advanced Media discussed the evolution of Millennials’ video viewing habits. Symphony is using measurement technology among its panel of 15,000 viewers who simply install an app and then keep their phones charged and near them, allowing the app to passively collect cross-platform data. A great example of leveraging the right tech for the right audience.

How does your company use science and storytelling to drive business growth?

Want to know more about Millennials' attitudes and behaviors toward banking and finance?Download our new Consumer Pulse report here!

Topics: storytelling, marketing science, advertising, data integration, conference recap

Say Goodbye to Your Mother’s Market Research

Posted by Matt Skobe

Wed, Dec 02, 2015

evolving market researchIs it time for the “traditional” market researcher to join the ranks of the milkman and switchboard operator? The pressure to provide more actionable insights, more quickly, has never been so high. Add new competitors into the mix, and you have an industry feeling the pinch. At the same time, primary data collection has become substantially more difficult:

  • Response rates are decreasing as people become more and more inundated with email requests
  • Many among the younger crowd don’t check their email frequently, favoring social media and texting
  • Spam filters have become more effective, so potential respondents may not receive email invitations
  • The cell-phone-only population is becoming the norm—calls are easily avoided using voicemail, caller ID, call-blocking, and privacy managers
  • Traditional questionnaire methodologies don’t translate well to the mobile platform—it’s time to ditch large batteries of questions

It’s just harder to contact people and collect their opinions. The good news? There’s no shortage of researchable data. Quite the contrary, there’s more than ever. It’s just that market researchers are no longer the exclusive collectors—there’s a wealth of data collected internally by companies as well as an increase in new secondary passive data generated by mobile use and social media. We’ll also soon be awash in the Internet of Things, which means that everything with an on/off switch will increasingly be connected to one another (e.g., a wearable device can unlock your door and turn on the lights as you enter). The possibilities are endless, and all this activity will generate enormous amounts of behavioral data.

Yet, as tantalizing as these new forms of data are, they’re not without their own challenges. One such challenge? Barriers to access. Businesses may share data they collect with researchers, and social media is generally public domain, but what about data generated by mobile use and the Internet of Things? How can researchers get their hands on this aggregated information? And once acquired, how do you align dissimilar data for analysis? You can read about some of our cutting-edge research on mobile passive behavioral data here.

We also face challenges in striking the proper balance between sharing information and protecting personal privacy. However, people routinely trade personal information online when seeking product discounts and for the benefit of personalizing applications. So, how and what’s shared, in part, depends on what consumers gain. It’s reasonable to give up some privacy for meaningful rewards, right? There are now health insurance discounts based on shopping habits and information collected by health monitoring wearables. Auto insurance companies are already doing something similar in offering discounts based on devices that monitor driving behavior.

We are entering an era of real-time analysis capabilities. The kicker is that with real-time analysis comes the potential for real-time actionable insights to better serve our clients’ needs.

So, what’s today’s market researcher to do? Evolve. To avoid marginalization, market researchers need to continue to understand client issues and cultivate insights in regard to consumer behavior. To do so effectively in this new world, they need to embrace new and emerging analytical tools and effectively mine data from multiple disparate sources, bringing together the best of data science and knowledge curation to consult and partner with clients.

So, we can say goodbye to “traditional” market research? Yes, indeed. The market research landscape is constantly evolving, and the insights industry needs to evolve with it.

Matt Skobe is a Data Manager at CMB with keen interests in marketing research and mobile technology. When Matt reaches his screen time quota for the day he heads to Lynn Woods for gnarcore mountain biking.    

Topics: data collection, mobile, consumer insights, marketing science, internet of things, data integration, passive data

Did a Movie Move the Market?

Posted by Jonah Lundberg

Tue, Aug 06, 2013

popcorn

In March of 2011 a movie was released in theaters, with all the hallmarks of box office success, it starred a handsome Hollywood newcomer and a seasoned Hollywood veteran, it had an intriguing plot, and it was released during the traditionally uncompetitive winter/spring movie season. So, when the movie, Limitless, debuted at #1, it was no surprise.

Now this sounds like a typical Hollywood hit, but there was something about this movie that made me (self-proclaimed movie buff since age 8) pay a bit more attention. The main plot device was a product: an experimental drug that allows the user to use 100 percent of his brain, and this product played a crucial role in character development and the overall plot. Could this movie increase demand for a similar type of drug in the real world, specifically for a segment of the US population that previously hadn’t been very demanding of that product? In short, could this movie make a target market aware of a need that they didn’t even know they had before?Fired-up about this epiphany like Peter Finch in Network, I boldly predicted to a friend that a certain company might actually run short of supply of the drug, because the movie would uncover previously unknown needs to a large segment of the US population, and that segment would consequently want to start buying like the floor traders at the end of Trading Places. (Yup: two movie references, one sentence.) After all, I had previously seen the effect that movies could have on product demand in the past:

  • Top Gun = approximate 500% increase in the number of Naval aviator applications to the US Navy as well as a 40% increase in sales of Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses (in a decade that had been decidedly keen on Ray-Ban Wayfarers, which themselves were allegedly given a sales boost after Tom wore them in 1983’s Risky Business)

  • Lord of the Rings = 40% increase in New Zealand tourism from 2001 to 2006

  • Field of Dreams = an isolated cornfield in the middle of Iowa that gets 60,000+(!) visitors per year

  • 300 = sudden spike in GoogleTrends for Mark Twight and his CrossFit-like workouts that made the actors look like Spartan warriors

  • And then of course there is the sad story of what Supersize Me did for the demand of ol’ McDonald’s Big Mac and its friends

So, I had seen this sort of thing before, and – wouldn’t you know it – about three months after opening night, this certain company publicly announced to its stockholders that it did not have enough supply to meet demand for the drug: they were plum out!

Coincidence? I think not! Well, at least I didn’t think so at the time. You see, I wasn’t a market researcher yet, so I didn’t really consider the hundreds of variables that could be involved in the outcome of something (in this case, that “something” being a company’s unexpected shortage of a certain type of product). Besides, it was a pretty bold and insightful prediction, it wouldn’t be the first time a movie drove up demand for something! So, the fact that my prediction actually came true gave credence and justification (at least in my own mind at the time) to the fact that the movie must have had the effect that I predicted it would!

 

Well, now that I have a few market research years under my belt, I see the situation a bit differently. In the article “Advertising Analytics 2.0” from the March 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review, I was happy to see that they DID talk about movies having an effect on product sales…but “cinema” is only one of hundreds of variables that are taken into account and run in a software analytics engine that determines the true weight and importance of each variable. So, the only way to determine whether or not the “movie variable” was actually significant in Limitless would be to get fancy and use some of those new Analytics 2.0 techniques, run an analysis of the effects of all the possible variables – and, after watching CMB’s analytics team in action, I can tell you that this means a lot of variables. Any of which could have played a part in either an increase in demand or a shortage in supply or both happening simultaneously. There are a few possible scenarios that led to a shortage in supply, and a lot of different variables that could’ve caused each of those scenarios to occur.

So, is it crazy to think that movies have the potential to dramatically increase demand for a product, when the right conditions are met within the movie? Well…maybe; for Supersize Me, the effect is obvious, but for Limitless, the effect of drivers is not perfectly clear and the conclusions are obtainable yet less certain. But, what’s important is the fact that sometimes, completely unbeknownst to anybody – there could be an unforeseen variable or set of variables out there, and they could ultimately have a profound effect on your product or industry. It could be a shift in consumer viewing habits, it could be a general economic shift, or maybe, just maybe, it could be a movie. Either way, you won’t know until you start asking the right questions and digging through all the possible variables.

Jonah is a Senior Associate Researcher, he’s been a movie buff since he saw India Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark when he was 8 years old. (If you ever need a “movie guy” on your trivia team, he’s your man.)

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Topics: advanced analytics, marketing science, digital media and entertainment research

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen: Market Research in the Information Economy

Posted by Jeff McKenna

Tue, Jul 09, 2013

Vanilla IceYou know you’ve been to a great conference when the ideas and insights are still percolating and expanding weeks later; the Insights Innovation Exchange Conference in Philadelphia definitely fit that bill.  In part one of my take on the conference I talked about the change we’re seeing in the market research industry.  In this post, I’ll discuss the implications and manifestations for the change.Technology is driving the change, but people will lead it 

Technological changes are a primary piece of the “revolution,” but does this mean we will do more with less? The short answer is no. Technology will not reduce our need for people.  In fact, the big changes introduced by technology and new tools & techniques will require most market research firms to aggressively hire more people, not fewer. The challenge, however, is defining and finding the new talent and skills that will apply to the market research of the future.  Data management skills will be critical, as will business systems knowledge. Most importantly, strong logic and an understanding of decision theory will be big differentiators for the professionals of tomorrow. 

A wider view of consumer behavior
Besides the change in how we conduct our work, technology is changing the way we view behavior.  IIeX focused an entire track on neuroscience and emotional measurement, with a variety of emotional measurement techniques like fMRI, EEG, eye tracking, and facial recognition becoming more mainstream (see Mediapost’s: The State Of Neuroscience In Market Research)

If some in our industry see these new technologies as just measurement techniques, they’re not seeing the forest for the trees.  In fact, the trends and changes in the industry reflect new consumer behavioral models that reflect multiple aspects of decision making processes. During the conference, I even noted the fact that we seem to have reached “critical mass” with regard to behavioral economics.

Gone are the days of the rational economic decision maker.  Instead, advances in neuroscience and behavioral economics reveal the strong emotional components of all decisions.  If you don’t have an understanding of the core value and applications of behavioral economics and the new research in neuroscience, you may as well go back to using MS Office ’98, collecting data on 80-column punch cards, and worrying about how to conduct interviews via that new-fangled Internet.  Cognitive models developed within the past couple decades have gained acceptance and are frequently being applied in market research. The growing regard for intrinsic measurement gives me hope that we will achieve a more cohesive framework for addressing the emotional and subconscious layers of behavior. 

New innovators, new partners, new collaborators
The conference’s final day wrapped up with two presentations around a common theme: collaboration.  Gayle Fuguitt, CEO/President at Advertising Research Foundation (and former Vice President Global Consumer Insights at General Mills), presented “A Call For A New Collaborative Model,” highlighting ARF’s efforts to bring clients and competitors together to address the promises and challenges of biometric and neurological research methods .

Gayle’s central argument is built on well-regarded themes—organizations need to find new ideas and innovations by fostering the diversity of thought and value a broad team can provide.  Her advice:  “work with people who don’t laugh at your jokes” and “seek partners who are frenemies,” highlighting the fact that true collaboration doesn’t occur among the like-minded.  In a similar vein, Kyle Nel, head of International Consumer Research for Lowe’s Home Improvement, presented “Data Philanthropy: Unlocking The Power Of Adjacency Across Sectors.”  For Kyle, the focus for the future will be on “uncommon partnerships” to help companies gain a competitive advantage.    

These new relationships will take market researchers out of their comfort-zone, working with partners who might not bring the same rigor and methodological requirements. The hard work arises from more than accepting compromises; instead, the greatest effort (and reward) comes from working with new partners to find an optimal solution aligning the strengths of each participant with the desired objective.  When working with technology partners, market researchers must be aware of tradeoffs when using the technology; no technology solves all problems. (BTW, technology partners, you’re not off the hook either. You must be aware that you can't solve all problems and will need to partner with market researchers to create optimal solutions for the business objectives). The effort of collaboration is a matter of compromise and acknowledging that “perfection is often the enemy of progress.” 

women looking transA great opportunity
In spite of all of the posturing about the end of market research as we know it—the irrelevance of the “long-form survey” and the un-engaging nature of many online interview formats, I came away from the conference with a positive outlook on the industry.  We‘re in a unique position, intimately involved in the largest trends that are shaping business and the economy: mobile, social and big data. The Information Economy is fully upon us, and market research has the opportunity to seize the value that new technologies are bringing to businesses and the economy.  It’s a matter of hard work, collaboration, and courage to accept new ideas and change that will allow us to take advantage of these opportunities.  

Jeff is VP of Market Science Solutions at CMB. This marks the first, and probably last, post accompanied by a picture of Vanilla Ice. Find Jeff tweeting @McKennaJeff.

 

CMB is proud to be named to the Honomichl list of the Top 50 U.S. Market Research Organizations. Check out our case studies to learn more about our business decision focused approach.

Topics: big data, consumer insights, marketing science, conference recap, growth and innovation

More Cowbell? What Market Research Needs Right Now

Posted by Jeff McKenna

Mon, Jul 01, 2013

morecowbellWelcome to Part One of my coverage of the Insights Innovation Exchange Conference (#IIEX) that recently wrapped up in Philadelphia. The event was three solid days of presentations and panel discussion on the changes and innovations that are shaping the future of market research and the business insights industry. The event targeted insights practitioners and anyone who wants to deliver evidence-based business insights to their clients. The event focused on the future of the industry, and the usual suspects were there: mobile, social, gamification, Big Data, neuro-measurement tools (like eye tracking and facial coding), and communities. The vendor space was filled with companies offering technological solutions, and the lion-share of presentations focused on at least one of these tech aspects. I was surprised, and pleased, to discover that this collection of innovation agents focused less on the tools and technology (partly because speakers were limited to just 20 minutes) and more on fundamental elements of change in our industry. In Part One, I’ll briefly summarize our current state. In Part Two, I’ll describe the manifestation of that change for future growth.

The Shift from Old to New Research: 

“We no longer live in a world where information is rare.  In contrast, we are overwhelmed with data, Big, Medium and Little. This represents the most fundamental challenge to the business model of market research since its inception.”

That’s Dr. Larry Friedman, Chief Research Officer at TNS, who packed a comprehensive synopsis of the market shift into his 20 minutes. The key points are nicely summarized here.

It’s true that because we are an industry that has established its value through collecting and managing data, market research faces a difficult future; its fundamental activity has become less valuable. For a hundred years, businesses and managers have turned to market researchers to design studies, collect data, and translate the data back to them. Some market researchers might find additional value in providing insights and recommendations, but it’s rare to be rewarded with full “consulting rates” for this work. 

Given that data can be collected at low cost, the management tasks of sample design are not as important today, and the science behind collecting the “right” data can be glossed over with more (and cheaper) data. Even the translation and application of research data to business decisions are becoming more common with easier-to-use software and training. Tableau, Good Data and (even) MS Excel are some of the analytical tools that now put data directly into the hands of business decision-makers. Heck, even kindergartners are learning the “basics” of market research.

But market researchers still have a head start. As the professionals who have experience with managing and translating data, we should be able to fill a vast need for curating the wide variety of data files and warehouses to support business analyses. Additionally, our knowledge of data types (e.g., categorical vs. scale, just to name one of the many ways we look at the multidimensionality of data) and structure is critical for laying the foundation for information users to access and translate data most efficiently and effectively.

We might not be able to design the right sampling methods, but who among us has not fixed a study where the sampling was done incorrectly? We might not be able to design the questions to get the best data for analysis, but who hasn't needed to come up with a method to fix data that had been coded incorrectly or had incorrect skip patterns applied? (Just to name a few of the complications that can occur). All of these new data streams bring many more opportunities to fix, translate, and apply the results to support the decisions our clients need to make.

The takeaway: there are major challenges but Market Research isn’t dying, and it’s not on life-support. It’s a reasonably secure business that has attracted other companies to its space because companies find great value in evidence-based decision making. Let’s be honest, Google wouldn’t be making a big investment in Google Consumer Surveys if it didn’t see an opportunity to make a lot of money.

But when Google enters your space, you better believe you need to put your helmet on, and get ready…

Jeff is VP, Market Science Solutions at CMB. He is just as comfortable explaining advanced analytical models as he is parsing the cultural significance of "Tommy Boy." Find him tweeting @McKennaJeff.

 

Topics: big data, consumer insights, marketing science, conference recap, growth and innovation

How Target Knows You're Pregnant: A Predictive Analysis Perspective

Posted by Jeff McKenna

Tue, Feb 21, 2012

Shopping CMBOn Sunday, The New York Times Magazine published a piece: How Companies Learn Your Secrets, by Charles Duhigg, author of the forthcoming The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.  It’s an interesting article, especially for market researchers, and I recommend everyone take the time to read it.

Consumer "habits” are a big focus of the work we (market researchers) do as we seek to understand consumer behavior. From the perspective of the article, a large part of what we do is identify behavioral habits to help marketers find ways to insert their product or service into people's habit processes. 

In this blog, I want to focus on the insights the story shared about predictive analytics. Much of Duhigg's article looks at how Target conducts advanced analytics to identify data within their CRM system to predict whether a shopper is expecting a baby.  From a business process POV, and how we think about using predictive analytics, it’s important to point out a few relevant facts for market researchers:

  1. It wasn’t a “fishing expedition”: The analysis started with a clear marketing benefit as the outcome – Target wanted to begin promoting itself to expectant mothers before the baby is born. As the article points out, by marketing to these families before the baby becomes public knowledge, Target can get beat the flood of marketers that begin pitching a range of products and services once the birth is entered into public record.  It was the marketing team that came to the analyst with a high-value opportunity.  The analyst did not create the winning marketing idea (“Hey! Let’s market to expectant mothers before the baby is born!”).  Instead, the analyst looked under every stone and in every corner of the data to find the key to unlock the opportunity.

  2. The research didn’t stop with finding the key: The application of these insights required a lot more research to determine the best method of implementing the campaign.  For instance, Target ran several test campaigns to identify the best offers to send to the expectant mothers, and cycled through several messages to find just the right one in order to avoid revealing that Target was prying into the data.  Although the predictive analytics found the key, Target still relied on a comprehensive plan to make sure the findings were used in the best possible manner.

  3. Don’t let this story increase your expectations: The Target approach has had a big impact on how the company markets to a highly valuable segment of shoppers.  It's a great success story, but it's also something that happened ten years ago.  While I’m sure the Guest Market Analytics team achieves many victories along the way, they also spent a lot of time reaching “dead-ends,” unable to find that magic key.  And most of the time, the predictive solution yields valuable but incremental gains, these high-profile stories are few and far between.

The article shares many interesting ideas and insights; the story about the re-positioning of Febreze highlights another great research success. I'm looking forward to reading Duhigg's book, and if it covers more of these thought provoking business cases, I expect we will be seeing Charles Duhigg’s name popping up in other discussions on market research.

Did you read the article? What do you think?

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Posted by Jeff McKenna, Jeff is a Senior Consultant at CMB, and the creator and host of our Tools and Techniques Webinar Series.

 

 

Topics: advanced analytics, consumer insights, marketing science, customer experience and loyalty, retail research

Five Questions About South Street Strategy Group

Posted by Kristen Garvey

Tue, Nov 09, 2010

South Street

I had the chance to sit down with Mark Carr, the managing partner of our new sister company, South Street Strategy Group. Mark and I had a great conversation about South Street and all the “why’s and how’s” behind this new endeavor.

What makes this strategy firm different?

Simply said, it’s our approach that makes us different. South Street Strategy Group was formed with the belief that combining the best of strategy consulting with state-of-the-art marketing science produces better, more practical, and more differentiated strategies for our clients. With other strategy firms, you often get smart consultants with great frameworks, but resulting strategies aren’t always grounded in the best marketing science. At South Street we differentiate ourselves by offering the strategic recommendations that combine those great frameworks and analyses, and backs those recommendations in fresh insights and the strongest possible fact-basis.

What do you mean by “state-of-the-art”?

I’m saying that our methodologies are state-of-the-art. In part that is due to our relationship with Chadwick Martin Bailey. Although South Street Strategy Group is an independent company, our expertise is a natural extension of Chadwick Martin Bailey, a recognized leader in market research and analysis.

Over the past several decades there have been dramatic advances both in the science of marketing as well as significant changes in communication mediums. These include research and measurement techniques, CRM and database systems, and marketing analytics – not to mention internet and wireless technologies. Not only do we keep up with these advances, but whenever possible we combine both new and old techniques to tackle the issues that are keeping executives up at night.

How is market science different from market research?
It’s an interesting distinction. Market research is certainly one of the most important components of marketing science. But we have a much broader definition that includes other areas as well, such as data analytics and measurement techniques in our analyses.  For us, market research is just one way we use data and methodologies to support our recommendations and strategies to our clients.

On the South Street website, you talk about focusing broadly on two types of business challenges; Growth and Value Delivery Strategies.  Can you tell us a little more about what you mean by those terms?

Growth Strategies include those projects that help our clients grow their top line, usually by identifying and capturing new opportunities, launching new products, entering new markets, etc. Value Delivery is about improving clients’ existing businesses through projects that are focused on improving brand positioning, building customer loyalty, or creating better alignment between the a company’s brand promises and customers’ experiences.

Can you make that even more concrete by talking about the types of things the firm is working on now?
Sure. In the area of growth, we are working on a project for a leading retailer to help them optimize the pricing strategy for their store brands. On the value delivery end, we are working with a mid-sized insurance company to help them with their channel strategy for their independent agents.  And some projects obviously combine the two. For example, we are working with a mid-sized health insurer on corporate strategy in light of Federal Health Reform.

Thanks Mark, we are excited to be working with you in this new venture!

Posted by Kristen Garvey. Kristen is CMB's Director of Communications, a mother of two, and loves Seth Godin's latest book Linchpin.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, marketing science