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CMB Spotlight: John Conti

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Mon, Feb 22, 2021

John Conti Spotlight Series Blog Opener (1)

John partners with clients to uncover deep consumer insights and define effective marketing and brand strategies. He is skilled in designing custom qualitative and quantitative research studies that provide a solid foundation for making sound business decisions. With over 15 years’ experience, John has led a broad range of engagements including segmentation and targeting, brand positioning, new product development, customer experience, marketing communications, and pricing for some of the world’s leading brands such as American Express, Amazon, Disney, Hilton, Panera, Sanofi, Total Wine & More, and Major League Baseball.

1. What brought you to work in market research? How about CMB?

I’ve always wanted to help companies define strategies that build their brands and better engage with clients and prospects, and I enjoy using data to inform those decisions. I love the marriage of insights and strategy.

I joined CMB about a year ago, and what appealed to me about it was the team, the culture, and the clients. The team has a lot of expertise and world-class knowledge, and it helps that everyone is so collegial, collaborative, and fun! Because CMB works with some of the world’s leading brands on very exciting and very impactful projects, I knew it was an exciting opportunity to work with an amazing team and an excellent set of clients.

2. Tell us about a project/initiative you’re particularly proud of. What about that experience helped you to adapt, innovate, and/or grow?

There are so many, but the repositioning of a large, global brand sticks out in my mind right now. I remember sitting in my hotel room after launching the rebrand with my clients, and seeing the press come in. Hearing the commentators discuss the pros and cons of our work, and our strategy, was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. It really highlighted the importance of the work we do to shape the future of our client’s business.

3. Is that your favorite kind of work? What does your ideal project look/feel like?

I’d have to say segmentation, targeting, and positioning projects. These kinds of projects provide me a way to take a 360ⷪ view of consumers and prospects—using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, as well as a multitude of data sources to create a comprehensive picture. It’s why I got into this business: to shape brand and marketing strategies and help companies better engage with their core audience(s). I enjoy learning about the differences in consumers, and it’s fun to make use of every tool in our toolkit in to get the most out of insights (especially consumer psychology).

4. Sounds like you have a lot of long-term partnerships with your clients. What’s your secret to developing not good but great client relationships?

It’s all about being a true partner, which means helping clients identify opportunities that can make a real difference. It is important as a partner to think through the best way to support our clients and ensure their long-term success. Our success is their success.

It helps to think of ourselves as a part/extension of their team so that we can maintain a collaborative relationship. It’s not transactional. We’re truly invested in our clients for the long-haul. The fact that we’ve had the same clients for 25+ years is a strong reflection of that. In some cases, we’ve become more than just business partners, we’ve become friends and family. That’s a key ingredient of the CMB Difference.

5. Since you mentioned it, what does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

A part of the “The CMB Difference” is our ability to know what their business questions are and translate those into research questions. It’s not always one-to-one, but we understand what the client is really trying to solve for so that our insights are truly actionable.

This unmasks itself in our reports. We don’t focus just on one or two data points. As we create our deliverables, we ask ourselves “so what,” and intertwine the comprehensive data to tell the story or who their consumers are, and how we can engage or motivate them. We tell a story to help our clients understand what direction they could go as a result of the data. At the end of the day, it’s all about how our clients are going to turn information into winning strategies.

6. At CMB, we like to think ahead. What do you think market researchers need to address for their longevity? How should they/we be evolving?

There are two trends market researchers should be plugged into: the management of multiple data sources, and the need to dig deeper in understanding consumer motivations.

As our access to data continues to overwhelm us, we need to master its collection, i.e. combining survey with database, transactional data, and syndicated data. For years, researchers have debated the need for stated importance v. derived importance. But now, the debate is moot. We need to tap into both what people are doing and why people are doing it, which brings me to consumer psychology.

Applying consumer psychology lets us dig below the surface to truly understand consumers in a new way. Consumer behaviors, attitudes, and preferences are constantly evolving, but it’s imperative for researchers to think about getting to the next level of insight. And that’s why it’s at the basis of everything we do at CMB, including our tremendous offering of consumer psychology services, from BrandFx and Fast-and-Slow Thinking to Habit Loops, and more.

This is even more obvious amid COVID-19 where these changes are happening rapidly. Researchers must answer a lot of business questions in a very condensed timeline. Many of our clients are operating without a safety net, so our insights are giving a landing pad to have the confidence to make the right decisions.

7. How have you grown since starting your career? What advice do you wish you received earlier on in your career?

Since the start of my career, I’ve been better able to identify opportunities that add value for my clients. Being more entrenched with their business, and their lives, helps me to identify ways to overcome their challenges and to innovate. Going from a Project Manager to an Account Director was a big step in this direction. Being an opportunity seeker is something that keeps me motivated, especially now. There’s so many opportunities and avenues that my clients can take to re-emerge from COVID-19 better and stronger than ever. Our clients have a lot of important, pressing questions, and we’re anxious to help them find the answers.

In terms of the advice I’d give, I’d say that to trust yourself, be confident in your abilities, and make sure that it shines in everything you do. People will value your opinions, so don’t be shy!

8. Tell us about your family #HumbleBrag!

Family is the most important job, and my wife and children are the most important part of my life. It’s amazing to see my children—who are 9 and 7—explore the world, learn new things, and accomplish new skills. When I’m not in the office, I’m usually outside playing with our kids and puppy or bringing them to hockey practice…or gymnastics, football, soccer, golf, baseball, or whatever new sport they’re trying. I don’t think I’ll like it when my kids start beating me on the golf course, but it’s probably going to happen pretty soon!

Conti Kids and Winnie

9. What character are you, and why? [book, movie, tv series]

Optimus Prime (from the 80’s cartoons—I’ve never seen the films) because I tend to be an optimistic and flexible person. I think about Optimus Prime’s ability as a transformer to morph and change to get through challenging situations by using the different tools in his toolkit, which is what I try to do in my work. I also think about his leadership style, and how he’s fighting right alongside his team. So, I can probably model my leadership style in his image.

John Conti-1Start your own conversation with John here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

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Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series

What Does Inclusivity Look Like In Qualitative Research?

Posted by Lauren Simoes

Thu, Feb 11, 2021

In the past year, we’ve been forced to try new things and step outside of our comfort zones. After almost a year of challenging transitions to virtual everything, this year’s annual Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) conference (exclusively virtual) exceeded my expectations. The content was easy to access (and great, as always), and the platform (Pathable) seamlessly replicated the social nature of conferences by enabling a sense of valuable networking. With social justice so prevalent in our minds this year, it’s no surprise that “inclusivity” was a significant topic of discussion.

For the purposes of this roundup, let’s think about inclusivity in two ways: first, as a human, and then as a researcher. As a human, I have some concerns about being exploitative about “inclusivity.” As companies continue to make attempts to raise their consciousness and convey accountability, I fear that inclusivity will only be viewed from a corporate and/or brand health perspective. As researchers, we can play a role in helping companies implement truly inclusive practices, finding meaningful and authentic ways to convey it for their brands. While we cannot control how organizations think about these issues, we can implement our own ethical standards—which is something qualitative research has always sought to do. Here are some of the discussions our industry is having:

INCLUSIVITY IS DIFFERENT THAN DIVERSITY. As Roben Allong expressed during the roundtable discussion “Inclusivity is Messy,” inclusivity is not just checking boxes to make sure that there is a varied set of research participants. It is a responsibility—not a choice—in research. For example, what is “gen pop”? Why does this often mean “mostly white?” Inclusivity is not just about race; and race (many times) is only one factor in our many differences—it is not monolithic. It includes ableness, geography, employment status, gender identity, micro-culture, ageism and more. Our responsibility as researchers to be inclusive also means taking a tailored approach when the topic (or research participants) calls for it vs. using a standard approach across all sessions.

WE MUST CREATE SPACES OF BELONGING. As Jyo Maan shared in her “Inclusive Research for Social Justice” presentation, inclusive research should encompass DEIB: diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We must find ways to dig deeper so that people of all backgrounds can not only be included, but also feel a sense of belonging in the research community (as colleagues, as research participants, etc.). Researchers must keep aim on the ever-evolving target market and how that informs how we need to conduct research. The more “inclusive” our research is, the more applicable it will be to our clients’ goals and research objectives.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS? While I don’t claim to have all of the answers (or even close to most of them), there are some things we can start doing now. The most obvious thing is from a recruiting perspective. Perhaps “gen pop” is an outdated term. We need to ask who we are really trying to reach and what, if any, implications social identity has on who that is. A few points to reflect on:

  • With so many unemployed or underemployed, we need to reconsider employment as a terminating qualification
  • Make space for gender identity to be expressed in a non-binary way
  • Consider senior citizens viable parts of the conversation (as they have both technology know-how and buying power)
  • Accommodate people with disabilities in the research environments we create and cultivate

Sometimes these pivots will require consulting those more qualified to respect, understand, and convey the thoughts of a particular culture or micro-culture.

Regarding the research methodology itself, we may need to re-think how we structure our approach. Most qual researchers practice “unconditional positive regard” (as an attempt to dissolve incoming bias and treat research participants with respect) and are purposeful in checking their biases. This is more important than ever. As we attempt to be more inclusive, we must truly listen (and not in ways that simply confirm biases) rather than sticking to a prescribed discussion guide.

It is my belief that the best learning comes from discussion, different points of view and experience. If you have something to say about the ways we can make meaningful changes in the research approach, I would love to hear from you. Reach out to me with any thoughts, ideas, criticisms, etc. at lsimoes@cmbinfo.com.

Lauren is a Senior Moderator at CMB.

Follow CMB on FacebookInstagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: strategy consulting, qualitative research, storytelling, conference recap, brand health and positioning, Market research, professional development, COVID-19, Racial Justice, mrx

The Price is Right...or is it?

Posted by Dr. Jay Weiner

Thu, Jan 28, 2021

Pricing Method and Strategy Blog Opener Jan 2021

An Overview on Pricing Research

Pricing a product or service correctly is critical to realizing profitability. Too often, pricing decisions are based on the cost to develop and produce the product or service. Price it too high, and no one will buy. Price it too low, and in addition to forgoing revenue, your buyers may question the quality.

One typical goal of pricing research is to understand price elasticity—the measure of the change in the quantity demanded of a product in relation to its price change. The typical micro-economics course presents the downward sloping demand curve.

price is right graphic

As the price is raised, the quantity demand drops, and total revenue falls. In fact, most products exhibit a range of inelasticity. That is, demand may fall, but total revenue increases. It is the range of inelasticity that is of interest in determining the optimal price to charge for the product of service. Consider the following question: if the price of gasoline was raised 5¢ per gallon, would you drive fewer miles? If the answer is no, then we might raise the price of gas such that the quantity demanded is unchanged, but total revenue increases.

The range of inelasticity begins at the point where the maximum number of people are willing to try the product/service and ends when total revenue begins to fall. Where the marketer chooses to price the product/service depends upon the pricing strategy. A company should have a strategy for pricing a product/service throughout its product lifecycle.

There are two basic pricing strategies:

  1. Price skimming sets the initial price high to maximize revenue. As the product moves through the product lifecycle, the price typically drops. This strategy is often used for technology or products protected by patents. Apple and Samsung, for example, price each new mobile phone high and as other competitors match performance characteristics, they lower price.
  2. Penetration pricing sets the initial price low to maximize trial. This pricing strategy tends to discourage competition, as economies of scale are often needed to make a profit. Understanding the goal, maximizing revenue versus maximizing share is part of the first step of pricing work.

The pricing researcher needs to understand this range of prices to make good strategic pricing decisions. There are many approaches to pricing research:

  • Blunt approach: You can simply ask, “how much would you be willing to pay for this product/service?” In this approach, you typically need a large number of respondents to understand purchase intent at a variety of price points.
  • Monadic concept: You can present the new product/service idea and ask, “how likely would you be to buy X product @ $2.99?” Monadic concept tests tend to over-estimate trial. This may be because prices given to respondents in a monadic concept test do not adequately reflect sales promotion activities. Respondents may think that the price given in the concept is the suggested retail price and that they are likely to buy on deal or with a coupon.
    Monadic concept tests also require a higher base size. A typical concept test would require 200 to 300 completes per cell. The number of cells required would depend on the prices tested, but from the results we often see, it appears that these cells tend to over-estimate the range of inelasticity. Providing a competitive price frame might improve the results of monadic concept tests.
  • van Westendorp’s Price Sensitivity Meter (PSM): The van Westendorp model is a good way to get at price elasticity and better understand the price consumers are willing to pay for a particular product or service. Developed by Dutch economist Peter van Westendorp, the underlying premise of this model is that there is a relationship between price and quality, and that consumers are willing to pay more for a higher quality product. The PSM requires 4 questions:
    • At what price would you consider the product to be getting expensive, but you would still consider buying it? (EXPENSIVE)
    • At what price would you consider the product too expensive and you would not consider buying it? (TOO EXPENSIVE)
    • At what price would you consider the product to be getting inexpensive, and you would consider it to be a bargain? (BARGAIN)
    • At what price would you consider the product to be so inexpensive that you would doubt its quality and would not consider buying it? (TOO CHEAP)
    The van Westendorp series does a reasonable job of predicting trial from a concept test without the need for multiple cells. This reduces the cost of pricing research and the likelihood that we do not test a price low enough. The prices given by respondents are believed to represent the actual out-of-pocket expenses. This permits the research some understanding of the effects of promotional activities (on shelf price discounts or coupons). The van Westendorp series will also permit the research to understand the potential trial at price points higher than those that might be tested in a monadic test.
  • Conjoint Analysis: Conjoint is often used in early product development to assess the value of including certain features into the product/service option. While this does provide some indication of what attributes or features consumers would pay more for, it does not do a good job capturing the true value of these features. To do that, we need to show consumers a competitive set of offers from which to choose.
  • Choice based conjoint and Discrete Choice allow us to test products in a competitive setting, and to get a truer read on price elasticity and willingness to pay for certain features.

Choosing the correct pricing methodology is often dependent on where you are in the new product development process. The closer to market launch, discrete choice models offer the best insight into the actual potential in the market. Early in the development process, the other techniques provide guidance on how to price the product and how to choose a pricing strategy. Whatever stage of development or pricing strategy the technique you choose should yield results that help you make smarter more confident marketing decisions.

Jay WeinerJay Weiner, Ph.D. is CMB's VP of Analytics & Data Management.

Follow CMB on FacebookInstagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.


Topics: advanced analytics, methodology, product development, data collection, Dear Dr. Jay, predictive analytics, Market research, technology, Best Practices, pricing

An Exploding Stove, Epic Hold Music, and AI that Measures Consumer Emotion

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Jan 27, 2021

AI Music and Kichen Blog Opener Erica Jan 2021 (1)

Emotion is a powerful motivator—arguably THE most powerful motivator—and can make or break a consumer relationship. Case in point: Me and KitchenAid.

I recently bought a KitchenAid gas cooktop. It was a gorgeous model I loved—until one of the burners exploded. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it could have been bad. So, I called the KitchenAid helpline, which is run by their parent company, Whirlpool. Then I waited. And waited. And waited… In total, I spent nearly TWO HOURS on hold.

Waiting hours to tell a Whirlpool rep our cooktop caught fire should have been infuriating. But it wasn’t. Why? Their hold music! It cooled my hot temper and warmed my cold Gen-X heart. I heard songs like Don’t You Forget about Me, Eye of the Tiger, and Don’t Stop Believin’. It was just too hard to stay mad with Journey crooning in my ear.

Then, when a rep finally heard my story, she said I should talk to their Safety Department. In order to do that, I sat on hold. AGAIN. But this time their music was different. Take a listen—it may ring a bell: [click to listen]

My fellow Game of Thrones viewers will recognize that as the song that played when Cersei blew-up the Sept—which, in GoT laymen’s terms, involved using a fantastical kind of gasoline to blow-up a church full of people.


Yes, that is what I listened to as I waited on Whirlpool’s “Safety Line” to talk about how my cooktop exploded. All I could do was laugh. To the person at Whirlpool who picks the hold playlist: I salute your musical taste and twisted sense of humor!

Music’s effect on emotions is mostly involuntary and hard to combat. In this case, it saved me from losing my mind on a rep who wouldn’t have deserved it, and trashing KitchenAid on every public platform possible. So this story speaks to the power of music to tame the angry consumer—but, more broadly, it’s a study in the importance of understanding and actively managing consumers’ emotions.

All emotions fall into one of four types that can be plotted on two axes: Negative to Positive (i.e., feeling bad to good) and Passive to Active (i.e., low to high energy). The importance of which types of emotions a brand inspires depends on the matter at hand. For example, teams tasked with new customer acquisition should focus on inspiring ACTIVE positive emotions, while teams tasked with driving customer loyalty should focus on inspiring PASSIVE positive emotions.

Negative Positive Passive and Active Emotions Chart

Industry also matters! For example, most brands should aim to minimize negative emotions, especially ACTIVE negative emotions, which inspire reactions like trolling the brand online and posting bad user reviews. But stirring some negative emotions can be good for media brands as long as they ultimately inspire more positive than negative. Game of Thrones is a good example of this. It started out with a good balance of positive-to-negative emotion, but ended-up inspiring too much active negativity.

Because of the importance of understanding consumer emotions—and the utility of this particular framework—we’ve worked hard to develop AI that reliably captures emotions in each quadrant from what consumers say about how they feel.

Our custom-built AI enables us to take text from things like survey open-ends, or transcripts of video/audio recordings, and quantify how much a brand, product, service or experience inspires each of the four core types of emotions. Plus, we have benchmarks in major industries.

Building the AI has been a long, arduous process involving an exhaustive analysis of emotions expressed by all kind of consumers, and regarding all kinds of brands and experiences. And it’s taken a lot of HI (human intelligence) to ensure that our final AI solution works well. But the effort was worth it. We have a validated approach to capturing each type of emotion using scales, but the best way to unpack emotions almost always involves asking consumers to tell us in their own words.

And, incidentally, there is no scientifically valid way of uncovering emotions that beats asking the right questions and listening in the right ways. To quote the Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology, a favorite from my grad school days, “In practice, objective measures in the brain and body tend to be weakly correlated with one another, and together they do not consistently and specifically distinguish between instances of anger, sadness, fear, and so on. If we want to know whether a person is experiencing an emotion, we have to ask her/him. Self-report is currently the only valid way of assessing subjective emotion.”

Consumers are people. And, today, we’re all wearing our humanity on our sleeves. Between the surging pandemic, political turmoil, social unrest, remote schooling, and an uncertain economy, we’re all like raw nerves riding a rollercoaster. People weren’t designed to be this stressed, on so many fronts, for this long. It’s never been more critical for organizations to stay in touch with how their products, marketing, and experiences are making people feel.

Erica CarranzaErica is CMB’s VP of Consumer Psychology. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University. Prior to CMB, she led insights research at American Express, where she was a recipient of the CMO Award for Achievement in Excellence.

Follow CMB on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: emotional measurement, brand health and positioning, BrandFx, consumer psychology, consumer sentiment, Emotional Benefits, AI

CMB Spotlight: Taylor Trowbridge

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Tue, Jan 05, 2021

Taylor Trowbridge Spotlight Series Blog Opener

Taylor is a seasoned client services/relationship manager with deep and varied experience in customer satisfaction, customer experience, loyalty/affinity, AA&U, and concept testing research. He brings a holistic perspective to his projects through his varied experience in the market research industry that includes performing different roles such as Client Services Manager and Market Research Analyst with leading global companies.

1. What brought you to work at CMB?

I’ve been in market research for about 15 years, and CMB has a great reputation. I knew CMB was the right fit for me after meeting with the team, understanding their mentality, and just how brilliant everyone is from the top down, whether it’s a client-facing account executive, or someone on the administrative team. Being part of a team that discovers, identifies, and understands evolving behaviors in an increasingly complex and disrupted world is exhilarating. Financial Services is a steadfast industry that’s continually evolving. Being at the forefront of that is an amazing piece of the puzzle.

Since joining CMB, I’ve become more aware of the processes and organizational styles that better serve my clients. I understand my clients better thanks to workshops and seminars, and through my colleagues who have a wealth of experience building great client relationships.

2. What is your favorite kind of project to work on?

Might sound vanilla, but I’m a huge fan of the awareness, attitude and usage studies. I like tackling areas we don’t understand (i.e. behaviors, attitudes, product usage), and turning those early ideas into strategies and plans that can be executed on, whether it’s a new credit card, credit card offering, investment type, or investment approach.
But no matter the project, our work is more than answering a business question, it’s about how we can apply this research to the business. Knowing that, I try to bring a holistic approach to answering complex questions—a practice that my M.B.A. program at the University of Florida really ingrained in me.

3. At CMB, we like to think ahead. What do you think your Financial Service clients should be addressing for their longevity? How should they/we be evolving?

It’s an interesting and exciting time for me. The industry has already been changing—we’ve seen this with the shift from regional, small community banks to totally digital and AI-enhanced platforms. We need to look longer term than we’re used to, without losing sight of our short-term and mid-term goals. To help navigate that for clients, I like to look at these trends through a consumer, client, and advisor perspective. For example, credit card usage and loyalty point redemptions have been all about travel and dining. That’s changing because no one is traveling or dining out anymore. So, we must ask ourselves how we can change that behavior and/or loyalty programs and rewards to address today’s market challenges, but also set up for long-term success and flexibility.

4. What’s the secret to developing not good but great client relationships?

Know your client’s business. And not just for the project you’re doing. The project will only tell you a small portion of business, your client’s role, and what they need to make their lives easier. Get a well-rounded view by any available means: speak with other members of their team, read publicly available resources like their annual reports, etc.

Once you understand their business, getting to know your clients on a more personal level (their likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc.) is key to becoming humans and becoming partners. During COVID-19 this is especially important, make sure that your clients and their families are OK, with outreach that is personal more so than just the “I hope you’re doing well.”

Also, be accountable. Accountability is often thought of, but not always expressed. We need to be accountable for our client’s needs, what we deliver, and how we support them—emotionally and professionally.

5. What does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

Dedication. We’re completely dedicated to their crafts, from getting inside the minds of consumers through consumer psychology to bringing out consumer truths through qualitative moderating. This passion is apparent in our interactions, products, and services. It leads to client success in a brighter, fuller, more colorful way.

We deliver that color through storytelling. Storytelling is key to what we do because it shows what market research is capable of. We’re more than just numbers. We’re able to take a business question or client initiative and turn it into a story that drives critical decision-making.

6. If you were going to be fur-sonified, what kind of animal would you be, and why?

I’d be a koala. They are soft, loveable, and look great in grey, as do I. I’d be totally koala-fied.

Taylor Trowbridge Koalified (1)

7. If you had to live one day over again, what day would you pick?

I’d live September 1, 2018 over again: my wedding day. During COVID-19 and this time of great uncertainty, I harken back to the days where I saw friends and family together, laughing and dancing. It’s so important to connect and be supportive of  your colleagues, clients, friends, and family. That day was it for me. It was the best day of my life. My wife has been an important support system during this.

8. Show us what a typical day in the life of Taylor looks like.

DITL of Taylor Trowbridge 2020-1

Taylor Trowbridge-2

To learn more about Taylor, reach out here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

Follow CMB on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.


Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series