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Happiness is...

Posted by Talia Fein

Wed, Dec 21, 2016

 

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My senior year of college I interviewed at several market research firms. While there was a lot to like about many of them, CMB had a unique vibe that convinced me this was where I should start my career. As it turned out, my instincts were right. CMB was fantastic at teaching a novice associate like me the fundamentals of Market Research; I quickly developed a love for the clients, the work, and “All Things Data.” 

When I left CMB after three years for a chance to live overseas and then a stint in D.C., I had experience working with incredible brands, super-smart colleagues, and I’d developed a competitive skillset. Almost two years ago, I was offered the opportunity to return and rather than rely on my gut, I had to answer questions my 22-year-old self hadn’t considered:

What made CMB so special?

In the New York Times op-ed “The One Question You Should Ask About Every New Job,” Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the relationship between company culture and happiness in the workplace. “Although finding the right title, position and salary is important,” he writes, “there’s another consideration that matters just as much: culture. The culture of a workplace — an organization’s values, norms, and practices — has a huge impact on our happiness and success.”

What does it mean to have good company culture, and how do you find it?

In writing this blog post, I asked a few people what company culture means to them, and specifically, what they considered characteristics of a good company culture. Responses were what you’d probably expect: Ping-pong tables, Friday happy hours, free lunch.  In short, answers were unanimous: good company culture means fun and free food.

Really? The holy grail of work happiness is free food?

OK, it’s a little more complicated than a couple slices of pizza. In his article, Grant cites a classic study that analyzed employee stories from across industries about their workplaces. In the study, researchers identified three fundamental themes: Justice (Is it a fair place?), Security (Is it safe to work there?) and Control (Can a person shape their destiny and have influence in the organization?). Ironically, these stories underscore an organizational uniqueness bias – people think their company culture is more unique than it really is.

But organizational uniqueness bias aside, this study also suggests that company culture isn’t defined by free food. Rather, it’s defined by an organization’s values.

That’s not to discredit the tangible stuff. Those things certainly are important to a company’s culture.  In fact, MIT professor Edgar H. Schein calls that stuff “the most visible parts of an organization’s culture… [its] artifacts and practices — how people talk, look and act.” But he, like the study Grant cited, contends that more important than overt office perks are the company’s operating principles.  [ twitter icon.png Tweet this!]

So how do we identify those proverbial “company values?” Despite organizational uniqueness bias, I’ve noticed a few CMB characteristics that have made it special to me:

  1. The organization feels “flat” (i.e., non-hierarchical)

Of course we have job titles and levels (see #3 below), but at CMB each person knows they are valued and their opinions are valid and respected. Our founder and CEO, Anne Bailey Berman, encourages us all to “be a squeaky wheel” – CMBers aren’t afraid to speak up because we know we’ll be heard.

  1. “We are a group of lively and engaging individuals”

Even though that’s a direct quote from the old CMB website (at least two or three website iterations ago), it still rings true today. And while a lot of companies make similar claims, I’d venture to say some are exaggerating. But not CMB. In fact, every CMB job description includes a line that says we’re looking for people who are “collaborative, enthusiastic, and who can put their ego aside, roll up their sleeves and get the job done.” To me, this line perfectly describes the CMB vibe.

  1. The company wants us (as individuals) to succeed

At every level and in every corner of the organization, CMB leadership is invested in individual development and growth (both personal and professional). Beyond our job responsibilities, we’re encouraged to learn and grow in experience whether through our internal mentorship program, a workshop, conference, or something else. A great example of CMB’s commitment to individual success is our ability to choose our career path. Research associates are given the opportunity to choose their trajectory based on their skills and interests. In carving our own paths, we’re able to excel in our jobs and deliver better experiences and results for our clients.

Organizational uniqueness bias may suggest that people think their organization’s cultures are more distinctive than they really are, but I believe that CMB’s culture truly is special and unique. It certainly has gotten this CMBer to stick around.

Talia is a Project Manager on CMB’s Technology and eCommerce practice. She was named one of Survey Magazine’s 2015 Data Dominators and as a native Bostonian, couldn’t be happier to be back in the city.

 

Topics: millennials, emotion

Minimalism on Trend: When Consumers Don’t Want to Consume

Posted by Laura Blazej

Thu, Sep 22, 2016

The minimalist lifestyle is having a moment. Several television shows are dedicated entirely to tiny houses—very small homes that are often no more than 250 square feet. Another popular trend is the capsule wardrobe where an entire season of clothing is limited to 33 items (or fewer). Then there’s Marie Kondo’s #1 New York Times best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” which advocates for getting rid of all of that stuff in the back of your closet. Many people, particularly millennials, want to buy and own less.

One possible reason for the minimalism craze is a AdobeStock_62945676.jpegreaction to the out-of-control consumerism seen at 5am on Black Friday at any big box store. Every year, Black Friday starts earlier and earlier to give more people the chance to get that new TV or crock-pot. Everyone likes to get a good deal, but there’s a difference between buying items you need at a good deal versus buying items simply because they are a good deal. People are increasingly rejecting these external forces that tell us to BUY, BUY, BUY, and this rejection of consumerism is becoming more mainstream.

This trend can pose a real problem for companies that rely on consumers to consume. If consumers are becoming pickier about what products they purchase, and how many, then two critical characteristics stand out to help companies adapt to this shift: brand differentiation and customer-centrism.

  • Brand differentiation is the process of differentiating or contrasting your brand against others to make it stand out. This becomes paramount when consumers are pickier than ever but have a sea of choices to pick from. One example of successful brand differentiation is REI’s #OptOutside Last fall, rather than contributing to the pandemonium that is Black Friday, REI chose to close its doors and advocate for spending the day outdoors with friends and family. REI sacrificed a day of bountiful sales to send a longer-lasting message to its customers that REI values their time and experiences. Although they missed the biggest shopping day of the year, they gained brand differentiation during the most competitive shopping season, which can be much more valuable in the long run—at least REI thinks so.
  • Customer-centrism also becomes a priority because minimalist consumers are more willing to seek out products and services that serve them best. Customer-centrism places the emphasis on customer experiences and needs. When many people, but especially minimalists, decide they need to buy something, they’re going to look beyond price to make their decision, and take into account return policies, access to customer-service, ease and convenience of shopping experience, and environmental impact. The more of these areas a company can successfully address, the better chances a picky consumer will consider their product.

So, what should companies do when consumers don’t want to consume? They should make their brand stand out and cater to their customers’ experience. Marketing to minimalists may not be the easiest task, but successfully winning them over is a marker of true success.

Laura Blazej is an Associate Researcher at CMB and a tiny-house enthusiast with only 28 items in her capsule wardrobe. 

Have you seen our latest report: on The Power of Social Currency? Check out our 90-brand study of 18,000 consumers to see which brands are driving brand equity in the Airline, Auto, Beer, Fashion, and Restaurant industries:

Get the Full Report

Take a peek at our interactive dashboard to see which brands do best among men and women, and in red and blue states:

Interactive Dashboard

 

Topics: millennials, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

New Study: Busting Millennial Banking Myths

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, Mar 03, 2016

Why does MasterCard want to replace your password with a selfie? How did Venmo become a verb? Why did JPMorgan Chase's CEO fret about Silicon Valley's start-ups to investors last year? Part of the answer lies within the attitudes and needs of that much talked about generation. . .Millennials. As part of our self-funded Consumer Pulse research, CMB partnered with leading venture capital firm Foundation Capital to explore how and why Millennials are helping redefine the banking industry

In this new report, insights include:

  • Millennials are not a homogenous group. We conducted a segmentation of Millennials, revealing five distinct personas with varied brand preferences, attitudes, and behaviors 
  • Most Millennials still use traditional financial products and services. Just over a third of Ambitious Adopters and Financial Futurists—the most forward-looking of the segments—say they’re most open to non-traditional financial services. 
  • Millennials place considerable importance on finance apps and tools. Asked which apps and tools they could not live without, Millennials mention financial tools and apps at the same rate as apps used for texting and messaging.

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  Download the full report here!

Topics: infographic, financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, market strategy and segmentation

See Spot Learn About Segmentation

Posted by Alyse Dunn

Tue, Mar 01, 2016

millennial_with_dog-1.jpgIn the past 5 years, pet ownership has increased by ~3%. 3.7 million more Millennials own pets than their Boomer counterparts, and these numbers are expected to increase. Like millions of other American households, my fiancé and I have a dog. But, as some of my friends have pointed out, we are a very specific type of dog owner. We go out of our way to look for pet events (we went to two dog Halloween parties last year) and pet friendly vacations, and we have even stopped staying out late because we need to get home to her. She’s not just a dog—she’s our fur baby and a member of our family. We’re part of a growing “Pet Connection” movement that was unheard of 20 years ago.

In the “Pet Connection” movement, owners see pets as family members and desire to involve their pets more in the day-to-day. These owners are, on average, twice as likely to spend more on their pets to ensure their pets’ health and happiness. This growing population is a great example of why segmentation research has an expiration date—behaviors change, disruption happens, and segments evolve.

Companies conduct segmentations to better understand types of consumers and how those consumers will behave. The critical element to any segmentation scheme is an affirmative to this question: “can we act on this?” If your segmentation doesn’t accurately represents consumers’ behavior, it’s a waste of time and money. Your segmentation’s expiration date is highly dependent on industry and disruptions in the market—there’s no hard and fast timeline. However, it’s important to keep a critical eye on the market and the changing needs of your customers to understand if your existing segmentation is still useful. If there’s a lot of change in customer behavior or if a segment is not acting as expected, it may be time to renew and refresh the research.

If this dog movement has taught me anything, it’s that people do change (myself included) and things people may have advocated for previously may no longer fit in with their lifestyle. It’s important to recognize that those changes can happen in any industry and can occur for any reason (it isn’t always about man’s best friend). So, to continue to stay ahead of the market and to deliver to customers, you need to understand how your company’s segmentation is being used and evaluate whether the segmentation needs to be refreshed so you can keep up with your customers and their four-legged friends.

Alyse is a Data Manager at CMB. She has a 1.5 year old long haired miniature dachshund and is known to embarrass herself for the love of her dog.

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. 

Watch here!

Topics: millennials, market strategy and segmentation, retail research

Millennial Women and Planning for the Future

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Jan 27, 2016

Millennials_investing.jpgMy first real job came with an important-sounding title (Project Director) and all the things grown-ups look for in a position, such as health insurance and a 401K. I was 22 and didn’t know anything about retirement plans; retirement itself seemed to be in the infinite distance. My dad told me, “It’s free money. You can’t turn it down,” so I dutifully enrolled in the company’s program. When I left that job for a bigger title and a better salary, I promptly liquidated my 401K and took the cash. Retirement still seemed really far away and besides, even with my important sounding title, the salary hadn’t been nearly as impressive. Receiving a paycheck just once a month had left me with a lot of credit card debt, and I thought paying that down might be a better use for the money I had painfully put into a 401K each month over the previous several years. 

Since that first step on the career ladder, I’ve enrolled in other retirement plans with other employers, opened a SEP when I worked for myself, and acquired other investment vehicles over the years. Even so, based on many articles I have read, I will likely never make up for not contributing and staying invested in those first early years. 

CMB recently conducted a thought-provoking, nationally representative study on Millennials and money, and I wondered what young women today are doing and if they’re smarter about retirement and investing than I was at 22.

According to our study, overall, women ages 21-30 are driven, idealistic, and interested in furthering their education—more so than their male counterparts.

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Many are confident that if they budget and plan well enough, they will be shielded from financial setback. Further, a plurality feel they will reach their long-term financial goals and the majority plan to have more than just their employer-sponsored retirement plan when it comes time to retire. Most of these young women feel confident that they are saving enough for their future! So far, so good.

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But wait—nearly twice as many young women don’t feel confident making their own investing decisions compared to men, and more than four in ten feel they would invest more if they understood it better.

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While young men and women participate in an employee sponsored retirement plan at about the same rate, women are significantly less likely to own mutual funds, individual stocks, and to have their own brokerage account.

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Certainly, there has been a great deal of reporting on women’s reluctance to discuss financing and investing. Women often indicate feeling less confident in their knowledge, even as they tend to have lower risk portfolios, which perform just as well as those of male investors.

Traditional financial services investment firms have made efforts to tailor content and offerings to younger women, and websites like GoGirlFinance have also sprung up to fill a real void. But are these new sites reaching young women in a compelling and meaningful way? 

As co-author of our Millennials and Money study and partner at Foundation Capital, Rodolfo Gonzalez notes: “The financial services industry is at a critical juncture. We are seeing a lot of companies emerge to address the financial needs and expectations of the Millennial audience. The Millennial consumer expects a mobile, on-demand, simple, and useful user experience as they are the first digital natives. In the future, we can expect to see start-ups emerge to focus specifically on women and financial services.”

Even so, are they reaching young women in a compelling and meaningful way? A very good question.  Not wanting to rely just on our statistically meaningful, nationally representative study, I conducted an office poll...

They feel unprepared to invest on their own:

 “Not confident in my knowledge about investments; seems like a risk.”

“I have thought about trying it, but I feel uneducated on what would be a good investment. I would like to try to dive into investing on my own and experimenting with a small amount of money in the next few years.”

 “I am not at all confident in investing on my own. It is very foreign to me, so (although I feel like I probably should be) I just don’t do it.”

Further, closer-in priorities tended to over-shadow investing and saving for retirement:

“I am most focused on saving for my wedding and a house down the line.”

 “College debt is a huge one, I graduated with over $80,000 in debt, so that’s a huge hindrance to reaching some of my financial goals.”

“In addition to college debt, there’s my car payments, saving to buy a house/condo, and getting married in the next few years.”

 “My college debt is a concern, but mostly I just focus on my day to day expenses (rent, activities, and food). In my mind, any savings I have are designated for travel.”

Many of the young women in the office combine traditional banks with online tools like Mint or Personal Capital to manage their finances:

 “Currently I mainly manage my finances on a pen and paper ledger #oldchool but I check my accounts daily – Bank of America, Citizens, Capital One—and I log on to all loan platforms multiple times a month. I have used Mint before.”

“I use the app Mint to keep track of my finances. I also use apps for each savings/checking account I have (Bank of America, Charles Schwab, USAA) that I monitor.”

“Mint.com is great for monitoring all my accounts at once since it all pipes in, but not for budgeting. I just use Excel to actually manage my finances.”

While these women certainly have dreams of retirement in the abstract, for many it still feels very far away:

“Retirement is so far away for me right now—I just let my contributions go into my account automatically and hope that what I’m doing now will be enough and will be worth it when retirement time comes.”

 “What I’m contributing right now feels like it should be enough, but how can I know what will happen in the next ~50 years?”

“I wish I was more involved with my retirement and could a higher percentage of my paycheck, but I know I’ll have that chance down the line, so I’m not worried right now.”

It’s clear financial service providers, both traditional banks and start-ups, have a lot of work to do to educate, motivate, and inspire young women investors. 

Want to learn more about Millennials’ financial needs and expectations as well as what that means for your industry?

Watch here!

Lori Vellucci is an Account Director at CMB.  She spends her free time purchasing ill-fated penny stocks and learning about mobile payment solutions from her Gen Z daughters.

Topics: financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, webinar

Busting Millennial Money Myths at Money 20/20

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, Oct 22, 2015

money2020.pngEvery day there’s a new report about Millennials—they’re in debt/they’re saving for retirement, they’re mobile/they’re going off the grid, they’re hard workers/they’re too entitled to succeed—the list goes on. Brands are desperate to learn what makes this generation tick, but the current research lacks actionable insights for the marketers trying to serve them.

To dig deeper, we partnered with venture capital firm Foundation Capital to clear through the clutter and to learn what Millennials are doing and thinking about when it comes to their money. Through our Consumer Pulse research program, we surveyed 1,055 Millennials about their tech use and financial habits, and we included three “deep-dive” sections covering attitudes and preferences towards banking, investments, and insurance.

On October 26thCMB’s Lori Vellucci will join Foundation Capital’s Charles Moldow at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas to unveil new insights into the needs, perceptions, attitudes, and actions of Millennials. They’ll take a look at the very different needs within this most talked about generation, the coming disruption, and the wave of innovation required to address their financial needs.

If you can’t make it to the conference, don’t worry! We’ll be sharing takeaways from our research in November.

For the latest Consumer Pulse reports, case studies, and conference news, subscribe to our monthly eZine.

Subscribe Here  

Topics: financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, conference recap

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

You’re Doing It Wrong: 5 Takeaways from #YaleInsights15

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, May 19, 2015

 

Customer Insights catIf your brand were a meme, would it look like the one on the right? At the 2015 Yale Customer Insight Conference in New Haven, Connecticut, we heard a lot about the evolving marketplace, powerful consumers, and how to get it right.  We’re living in an increasingly customer-centric world—a world where businesses are taking cues from their customers like never before.  Deepak Advani, GM at IBM Commerce points out that more than three-quarters of customers think brands don’t understand them.  So, if you are doing it wrong…how can you get on track?

  1. Visual language first.  Facebook’s Director of Global Agency development, Patrick Harris says that rather than talk about a good book/trip/movie, people are posting a picture of it to “show not tell.” Facebook estimates a 75% global increase in visual language.  Are you wasting time on content no one will read or resonate with?

  2. Be loved by Millennials.  Millennials aren’t fighting the power…they are the power and they know it.  If they don’t love your brand, it is game over, you just don’t know it yet.  Anne Hubert over at Viacom’s Scratch asked us to consider a generation that’s 86 million strong and demands an emotional connection to your brand. You can call them raging narcissists with their heads in their phones and unprofitable for your business model, but if you think they aren’t a factor in your business, Hubert says they might be ignoring your brand.  And all that equity you’ve banked can disappear if they don’t want to work for you and they don’t care about your products/services.

  3. Curate good (not branded) content.  GE may be among the largest companies in the world, but Linda Boff, GE’s Executive Director of Global Brand Marketing, is under no illusions that they need to curate exceptional content— allowing their values of optimism, innovation and flexibility to shine. For instance, GE created 100 pairs of sneakers to celebrate their role in the moon landing. The kicks had everyone from sneaker-heads and fashionistas to museums talking.

  4. Self pace.  Ossa Fisher, CMO at ISTATION showed us the power of pacing and 1:1 learning. A child having trouble with a subject can self-pace their learning on smartphones and tablets, avoiding the embarrassment of being too slow (or too quick) in a larger classroom.  Without the stigma, the child can focus on what they know and don’t know, and work at a comfortable pace.  Even the classroom instructor is excited because she can monitor progress toward a goal without slowing down the class.

  5. Share.  Richelle Parham (Former CMO of eBay) and Bob Adams (Senior Director at Visa) talk about the rise of the sharing economy. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and many others are disrupting entrenched businesses and focused on customer needs. For example, dog owners love their dogs and it feels very wrong to leave the dog in a small cage while the owners go off on vacation.  In the sharing economy, dog lovers can be matched to other dog lovers and can ensure their dog is also going on a great vacation in a loving home.

As you head into the summer months, recognize the ways your company may be “doing it wrong” and take strides to sharpen and grow your brand.

Julie is an Account Executive. She is in her element connecting with innovative big thinkers on topics ranging from emotion to mobile and complex choice modelling. Follow her @julie1research using hashtag #MRX.

Topics: millennials, marketing strategy, conference recap, brand health and positioning

In-N-Out Serves up a Side of Innovation

Posted by Hilary O'Haire

Wed, Aug 20, 2014

innovation, innovative, In-N-Out BurgerI've just returned from a week-long vacation to California, and I'm still feeling the joy (and guilt) from satisfying my ultimate indulgence: In-N-Out Burger. Since I’m an East Coaster without frequent access to their locations, my trip would not have been complete without going at least once. I have another confession: I ate there three times in ten days. I may have overdone it, but my love of the brand is predictable. In-N-Out Burger is the one chain Millennials will return to time and time again—we just can’t seem to get enough of it. This is not new nor surprising news. As a Millennial myself, I am enamored by the restaurant, which offers a simple four item menu, fast service, and garden-fresh ingredients.A report by Technomic states, “In-N-Out Burger is the chain most likely to be revisited. Millennials place greater emphasis on the concept's brand image, agreeing more strongly than other generations that In-N-Out Burger supports local community activities, offers new and exciting products and is an innovative brand.” To me, the most interesting finding is that In-N-Out’s brand is seen as innovative. This begs the question: how can they be innovative if they only offer four items? Devout fans may point to the success of their “not-so-secret menu,” which is listed only on their website and boasts creative burger combinations, as a reason. However, I’d like to think In-N-Out serves as a gentle reminder: innovation doesn't always mean complexity. Although customers may continue to eat up crazier menu choices, the actual menu at each location remains clear and unchanging: burgers, french fries, shakes, and beverages.

Although it's impossible to avoid complexity at all phases, the root of innovation or product development should remain simple. When beginning to think about innovation—perhaps a new product or new process to improve your business—let this be a helpful reminder to have a focused core set of objectives in mind. Using In-N-Out’s magic number four, take a step back and ask yourself: What are the (up to) four innovation objectives that I need to guarantee success? Your success will be defined by multiple outcomes, from stakeholder support to the ultimate goal of application or use. However, keeping clear and consistent objectives will ground your innovation through execution and management. The end result of these objectives may be unknown, but who knows?—you may find yourself concocting your own “not-so-secret menu” of innovative ideas.

Hilary O’Haire is Senior Associate at CMB. If you find yourself at In-N-Out Burger in the near future, she recommends not-so-secretly ordering your meal ‘Protein Style.’  

Join us at The Market Research Event! Use the code CMB2014 and receive 25% off your registration. 

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Topics: millennials, growth and innovation

6 Questions with Allstate's Bob Pankauskas

Posted by Anne Bailey Berman

Wed, Aug 13, 2014

allstate, innovation, Bob Pankauskas  Allstate Insurance’s Director of Consumer Insights, Bob Pankauskas, sat down with CMB President Anne Bailey Berman to talk innovation, mobile, and what clients need to expect from market researchers.

Anne: Innovation isn’t a word people typically associate with insurance, yet the industry’s changed drastically in the past 5 years. How has that impacted you as a Market Researcher?

Bob: Innovation is a big part of what my team is charged with supporting. We’ve been doing a lot more exploration in terms of coming up with new products and services. This also means we need to broaden our toolkit with more exploratory and discovery work. For example, we’re rediscovering the world of ethnography to try and provide products and services for the future. We’ve done several ethnography projects, and we’re using new tools. We even had one of the ethnographies we did turned into a video that was used by the board of directors to showcase some interesting pain points consumers have with their cars. We’re also doing more and more concept testing and developing and exploring ideas.

Anne: So when you’re talking about innovation, you’re talking about two types of innovation. You’re talking about innovation for products and services for Allstate, but you’re also talking about the innovation of information tools in your bucket. How do you determine if the tools you’re using for innovation are really helping you more than traditional tools?

Bob: The thing we’re always searching for is that insight—that visceral reaction that consumers have. Consumers are behaving in a certain way. Why are they behaving that way? Anything that helps us get to a good insight is really useful, and a lot of the nontraditional ways seem to be more useful than the traditional quantitative approach. You have to work a little harder to get insights out of a quantitative approach, so using qualitative helps a great deal. Our CMO will say, “Great, what’s the consumer insight? What is the pain point?”  We need to focus on the problem we’re solving for the customer. It’s very easy to ask, but often we find we’re solving a problem for Allstate and not really solving the problem for consumers.  We work hard to address that.

Anne: What research challenges are keeping you up at night?

Bob: A really pressing topic of the day is the migration to mobile. It’s only a matter of time before we migrate all of our research platforms to mobile devices. We want our respondents to be able to choose when, how, and where they answer our questions. At this point, we do optimize our surveys for mobile. We pay a lot of attention to question length, simplifying response options, and usability. Our goal is to make our surveys engaging and rigorous.

Of course, trackers are a bigger challenge—it’s painful to live through that period when you say, “. . . and then we changed everything and our numbers are different.” But there are incremental opportunities that mobile provides—being in the moment, getting a real-time view of sponsored events, and just the ability to capture insights when customers are in the midst of an experience. We’re also really excited to utilize consumer-generated images to get more color and context from mobile cameras and not just words and numbers.  The shift is inevitable and the opportunities are there. We just need to be mindful of what we lose and what we gain as we make trade-offs in terms of trending.

Anne: What about target markets?

Bob: We’re trying to go after Millennials like everybody else. Everybody is chasing them, and it’s hard to crack the code. Going after a target means going after them well—understanding their motivators and having a product or service that is tailored to them. I think we have found how they liked to be talked to. They want to be treated with respect. They do want to research things online, but they still want to talk to somebody and touch base with them. It’s more about the “how” and less about the “what.”

Anne: What consumer insights get you most excited? Which tools?

Bob: It isn’t necessarily the tool that gives you the best insights. It’s creating receptivity and listening carefully. One of the most powerful insights we had at Allstate was the need for tangibility. Insurance is an intangible product or service. When you’re getting it, you really don’t know what you’re getting.

The thing is that we’re trying to solve the same problem again and again. So the issue is, how can you—as a smart marketer, researcher, or innovator—change your perspective just a little bit and look at the same thing you’ve been looking at for a long time and say, “Oh! Wow! Look at that! That’s new!” Now maybe it wasn’t new, but you changed your perspective and suddenly saw it. Many of the new techniques allow that change in perspective, and that’s pretty powerful.

Anne: And finally, what would you tell market research vendors about how they can best support the decisions you need to make?

Bob: Partner with your clients. Experiment as often as you can because you’ve got to make changes. You don’t put all your bets on the stuff, but you do have to test and learn. And then the second thing is TLDR—too long, didn’t read. It’s a great feeling to know there’s a 100 page deck of tables to support whatever the project is and that you’ve got your money’s worth. But that’s not at all what we pass on to our internal clients. We live in an ADD world. We’re all time starved, so we need to get to that 1 page summary. Tell me the 2 things I need to know—what’s your recommendation and how this is actionable? The ability to do that is what I’m looking for in a partner.

Check out our new case study to see how we helped a top 25 global bank develop a new value proposition and evaluate perceptions of various service channels and transactions.

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Topics: insurance research, mobile, consumer insights, millennials, Researchers in Residence, growth and innovation