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Brant Cruz

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The Anxiety Gap: Discovering a Normalcy Bias in COVID-19

Posted by Brant Cruz

Mon, Apr 06, 2020

As someone who has been deeply involved with the art and science of segmentation for over 20 years, I am an ardent believer that the most insightful story in any data set is found at the segment level. The fact is that examining the total population (whatever that study’s population is) washes away the “aha” moments. My much-smarter colleague, Jay Weiner (Ph.D.) constantly reinforces that any total column is usually made up of some multimodal distribution, and our job as researchers is to track down and highlight the key ones.  

Finding those stories usually requires sophisticated segmentation analytical techniques (e.g., Latent Class and k-means, clustering, C&RT modeling, BayesNets and Ensemble) to coerce the data into sharing its news.  Only occasionally, the data shouts its own news loudly when examining a few simple cross tabs. 

In the case of CMB’s recent self-funded research on how Covid-19 is impacting US consumer sentiment, our baseline wave from two weeks ago revealed (practically shouted) some obvious differences in the data based on region, age, and the sources people trust to communicate honestly.  And while I typically love to find stories in data with such little sweat, this discovery was far more bitter than sweet given the seriousness of the topic.

For example, it is clear that even as of two weeks ago, Americans living in urban areas were much more likely to be feeling negative emotions related to their lives (independent of COVID-19) than their suburban or rural counterparts.

COVID Normalcy Bias Geographies with Callout-1

On slide 16 of the report, we break out much of the study’s data by generational cohort.  The top right data from the slide that I’m showing below is a summary of the impact that each generation perceived that COVID-19 was having on their lives right now (“now” being around 3/18).  Millennials were feeling on average (note: there are multi-modal distributions underneath these cohorts, they definitely don’t all feel the same) that COVID-19 was having a more positive than negative impact on their lives.  Boomers and Matures on the other hand, were feeling far more negative impacts than positive. 

COVID Normalcy Bias Impact On You Now

I know what many of you must be thinking: how can anyone say that a disease that had already claimed thousands of lives by the time this was fielded has had a positive impact on their lives?  I can’t say for sure, but I have some theories:

  1. There is a pretty strong normalcy bias at play here, which is described by Wikipedia as “a tendency for people to believe that things will function in the future the way they normally have functioned in the past and therefore to underestimate both the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects.”  While COVID-19 had greatly impacted many thousands of American lives by the time we fielded, there were also many of thousands of Americans who hadn’t had their lives, or the lives of their inner circle, negatively disrupted.
  2. We, as researchers, marketers, and like-minded professionals tend to consume and process lots of data, viewing things from our professional perch.  I see this when working with big tech companies very frequently, and sometimes use “Valley Goggles” to describe the fact that adoption curves--and the use cases that underlie them--that are mainstream in California are more likely to be considered early adoption in middle America.  That isn’t a value judgment, just an observation that we all tend to view nearly everything through our own personal experiences.

Additionally, there appears to be a relationship between the brands/sources individuals trust to communicate honestly, and how concerned they are (or “were” as 3/19) about COVID-19.  Big caveat that the sample sizes get thin here, but directionally these word clouds (from slide 15) that segment people based on whether they feel COVID-19 is having a negative/neutral/positive impact on their lives reveal that:  

  • Those who feel the virus is having a negative impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust left-leaning and center/neutral news sources to communicate honestly
  • Those who feel the virus is having a neutral/no impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust right-leaning news sources to communicate honestly
  • Those who feel the virus is having a positive impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust big consumer brands like Nike, Amazon, Apple and Whats App to communicate honestly

In most cases, I’d be celebrating about how easy and clear these key findings were to find.  Typically, at this point, I’d be discussing implications and recommendations with my clients regarding how they might change aspects of their business to capitalize on opportunities that serve their customers and the broader market more effectively with better marketing and/or better products/experiences.  And I’d probably be slightly wistful about how long these changes would likely take to implement, and how imperfectly we’d be able to measure the impact (ROI) of strategic segmentation initiatives, given how much both the element of time, and the hundreds of other changes they make to their business over time confounds precise quantification.

Sadly, in this situation, none of those problems mentioned above are materially present, or (if they are) meaningfully important.  I read this article from CNN a couple days ago, which reinforces the glimmers we saw in our study about the dire circumstances urban areas face.

I’m sure everyone reading this knows that COVID-19 is here, and getting worse every day.  We are about to field a second wave of this study, and I know that sentiment is going to change, but I am not sure by how much.  Just like I am confident about the very substantial impacts that CMB’s segmentation work has had on our clients over time, even if I can’t precisely quantify it, I know the same is true about social distancing and sheltering in place. 

CMB is committed to (but not necessarily “looking forward to”) sharing results from our research on this topic as we track sentiment over time.  In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.


Brant CruzBrant Cruz is our resident segmentation guru and the Vice President of CMB’s eCommerce and Digital Media & Entertainment Practice.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Topics: market strategy and segmentation, COVID-19, consumer sentiment

The 5 Keys to Successful Segmentation

Posted by Brant Cruz

Mon, Jun 17, 2019

SegmentationIn a world of constant change what can we truly count on?  For me it’s death, taxes, the fact that the Patriots will be playing football long after my beloved Chicago Bears have gone home, and another topic close to my heart: The 5 Keys to Successful Segmentation. 

While the 5 Keys to Success are evergreen, new data sources, empowered consumer behavior, digital disruption, globalization and 24/7 connectivity all impact what it means to build a successful Segmentation. Pair this with a growing consumer obsession with immediacy and personalization and you have brands facing a greater need for consumer-centric market strategies than ever before.

In the next couple of weeks my colleagues and I will share what we’ve learned over the course of conducting nearly 200 successful Segmentations. To start us off, I’m sharing the five critical success factors that ensure our clients not only build a true understanding of their target consumers and how to engage them but to also drive real strategy across the organization—including resource prioritization, marketing messaging, product development and innovation.

Key Success Factor 1: Focus on business decisions from the start

Segmentation is likely one of the largest investments your insights team will make—there isn’t room for failure, much less mediocrity. But, if your stakeholders aren’t engaged, invested, and aligned from the outset, you’re dramatically increasing your odds of failure. This is the opposite of the purpose of Segmentation (see below on Segmentation and Unicorns).

A clear focus on business decisions—communicated from the start and serving as guardrails throughout (and beyond) a Segmentation initiative is key.

Successful brands start by asking and answering questions like: How must this Segmentation support our organization’s goals?  Which specific business processes does the Segmentation need to dovetail with to be actionable, and what connective tissue do we need to build in to make that possible? Are we prepared to truly prioritize one or a small set of segments for better success at the risk of being sub-optimal with others if we can make a case as to why? How much complexity can we effectively handle (e.g., more segments, a matrix of segments) versus a need for a simple, unifying lexicon? 

These brands work with partners (cough, cough) that truly understand your business needs, clearly outline objectives, lay the groundwork, and design questionnaires that directly answer hypotheses. It may not be sexy, but I’ve picked up the pieces of competitive Segmentations and ignore this at your own (and your team’s) peril. You must: engage early and often!

We leverage several proven tools to inspire action and focus from the onset, including:

  • Stakeholder interviews—understand executives’ objectives and expectations
  • Lift-off workshops—identify success criteria
  • Business Decision Worksheet—to tie decisions and hypotheses to the questionnaire

Key Success Factor 2: Account for a wide range of influencers

Look around, consumers people are complex, but traditional frameworks just don’t account for that complexity anymore. Part of the art and science of Segmentation is considering these diverse attributes: motivations and drivers, product preferences, future goals, needs/barriers, beliefs and perceptions, habits, and of course behaviors. A strictly attitudinal-based (or behaviorally-based) Segmentation is always sub-optimal in today’s marketplace.  Age and gender Segmentation have never been less relevant. 

For example, later in this series, my colleague Dr. Erica Carranza will share more about our proprietary Habit Loops Segmentation framework—an approach that delivers more nuanced marketing, communications and product development implications vs. Segmentations based on behaviors alone. Understanding the psychological motives, attitudes and values that drive behaviors can help uncover strategies to activate segments—promoting desired routines and revealing opportunities for disruption.

Key Success Factor 3: Anticipate trade-offs

Segmentation schemes have strengths and weaknesses—there are no silver bullets and it’s nearly impossible (okay actually impossible) to satisfy everyone’s wishes.  If you see an agency promising to deliver anything resembling perfection, avoid them!  Perfection plus Segmentation is a unicorn.  Segmentation is not about perfection, but about increasing your odds of success at the individual level, by having a way-better-than-coin-flip hypothesis about their relevant segment and applying treatments that will yield materially better results than a vanilla product or message

The best schemes will balance those business needs with practicality. This is where the real art comes in—evaluating the trade-offs and making an educated and calculated recommendation for a path forward.

Key Success Factor 4: Leverage existing resources

Most, if not all, of the companies we work with sit on troves of customer data that—when harnessed correctly—provide powerful insight into existing or potential segment groups.  How big a role various forms of “big” data can and should play in any assignment should be drive in roughly equal parts by the three keys above, and the quality of the data your company owns and/or can access.  Coming soon, my colleague Dr. Jay Weiner will discuss some of the technical aspects of marrying survey data with other data sources to complete segmentation missions.  No need for me to try to communicate those complexities concurrently; those of you with sharp data chops know that I’d be a poor surrogate for Jay anyway, right neighbor?  (How was that for a little data geek humor?)

Key Success Factor 5: Empower decision makers to act

The most sophisticated Segmentation scheme will collect dust if it’s not evangelized throughout the business. As I shared in Key Success Factor 1—a laser focus on decisions and getting buy-in from stakeholders starts at the very beginning and must be rigorously pursued throughout.

We keep insights fresh and meaningful, and stakeholders engaged by drumming up excitement and bringing segments to life across the organization.

Our strategic qualitative team draws from a comprehensive toolkit, combining traditional with agile and cutting-edge strategies to foster active participation and build enthusiasm. We frequently leverage activation and socialization workshops, persona development (more on this to come), as well as creative deliverables and immersions.

But it doesn’t stop there. Segmentations are living, breathing frameworks—and should be treated as such. The work doesn’t end when the workshops are over. We help clients realize the potential of these powerful insights and empower executives across the organization to advocate and build empathy for these customers (or prospects, depending on who you’ve segmented). The use for Segmentation extends well beyond marketing and we help executives realize the full potential.   

And even that ending is a new beginning.  Once business leaders have bought in, Segmentation enters the realm of learn>test>re-learn.  Seeing segments come alive and become accessible to researchers and non-researchers is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job, but it doesn’t happen all at once—it takes careful planning, a great team, and experience.

You’ll be hearing more about these key success factors in the coming weeks but you don’t have to wait to learn more, let me know your thoughts in the comments or shoot me an email and let’s chat.

Brant leads CMB's Platforms and Digital Media Practice. 

Learn how we helped Netflix create binge-worthy insights with A Global Segmentation with—and for—UX Designers.

Check out the case study

 

 

 

 

Topics: market strategy and segmentation

CMB + GOT: Who will Take the Iron Throne?

Posted by Brant Cruz

Sat, Apr 27, 2019

GOT_NK (1)

Winter is here!  Do you watch Game of Thrones? Test your ability to predict George R.R. Martin’s grand vision against almost 1,500* other fans in our survey.  In addition to potential bragging rights and a possible prize, the survey itself is almost as fun as a Stark family reunion.

* We’re allowing in the first 1,500 entrants

Valar Morghulis

Brant Cruz, first of his name, carries the banner for CMB's Platforms and Digital Media Practice. 

 

Topics: EMPACT

AI, AI, AI! What next?

Posted by Brant Cruz

Wed, May 31, 2017

robots.jpgPeople who know me are well aware I occasionally like to spin a tall tale. The routine is standard: I start with a barely believable premise, and if I see someone taking the bait, I keep adding ridiculous layers until my mark finally figures it out.

The other day started in similar fashion. Chris Neal (a colleague of mine) and I were asked by another colleague if our Silicon Valley clients were chanting this article’s mantra, “Mobile First to AI First.”  The real answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no” (more on that in a bit). But in addition to answering the question, I decided to spin one of my famous yarns. I won’t bore you with the details, but the yarn evolved into me admitting that I was about to strike rich from investing in an MIT start-up that created AI-based robot leggings. Further, I’d sport those leggings while running the 2018 Boston Marathon as a publicity stunt.

I’m 5’9” (on a tall day) and 275 lbs. (after 24 hours of fasting). 

My only hesitation (according to the story) was that my wife was concerned my heart wouldn’t make it beyond the first mile and was greedily reviewing the details of my life insurance policy. 

Note: When my colleague reads this blog post, it will be the first time he or she realizes I was only pulling his/her leg. 

For the last few days, I’ve been basking in the satisfaction that only those with my genetic mutation feel. But that reflection has made me think–is my tale really that tall? The truth is, while neither Chris nor I hear “AI First” as universally and consistently cited as “Mobile First” was five years ago, AI is permeating strategy discussions at all major tech companies as they become more focused on the business opportunity it represents.

And, a lot of them are struggling to answer key questions. Where does AI “live” organizationally? Does it deserve its own category of products/apps, or should it remain a concept that permeates nearly every project across departments? Other challenges include foundational questions like who has subject matter expertise to advise on insights in this category adequately, and how can we market something this new (and to some, scary) effectively to the right audiences in a way that is compelling and easy to understand?

In my own experience, I can say that many consumers are ready for the realization of AI. Based on our recent work with Anki for their amazing robot Cozmo, consumers in millions of US HHs are excited to use AI in everything from fun to productivity. And, related to my colleague’s enthusiasm for my fictitious running suit, consumers in 8.8 million US households strongly agree with the statement “Tech toys/gadgets/robots make me feel closer to the future I’ve envisioned”.Cozmo Lifestyle 002-1.jpg

We’re also wrapping up a self-funded research study examining the barriers to and opportunities for getting coveted groups like Millennial and Gen Z to use Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA—think Siri). Needless to say, AI is no longer a peripheral concept—it’s very much on the minds of consumers and brands alike. If you aren’t already, subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss a series of AI-inspired blog articles once we release our study’s findings.

In this context, I guess my MIT “get rich” story really wasn’t too far from believability. It’s possible that engineers at Nike or Under Armour are measuring up some other husky market researcher for a set of robotic leggings for some incredible athletic feat. Regardless, I’m excited about the possibilities–though my tastes tend more towards self-driving lawn mowers. 

Brant is CMB’s ecommerce and Digital Media Practice Leader, and will be co-presenting the aforementioned work with Anki at the Insights Association Northwest Educational Summit in San Francisco on June 8. In his near-future spare time he can be found hiding under his desk, avoiding his previously unsuspecting colleague. 

Are you registered for the Northwest Educational Summit on June 8 in San Francisco? If so, click here to receive our latest webinar and connect with one of our lead researchers.

Not going but still interested in learning about how Anki leverages emotions and identity to adapt, innovate, grow, and stay consumer-centric? Click here!

Topics: growth and innovation, Artificial Intelligence

Marketers: Let’s See Some Identification

Posted by Brant Cruz

Fri, Jun 17, 2016

social_currency.pngVery little brings me more joy than a rich data set that smells like a powerful insight is ready to emerge. Likewise, few things create more angst for me than a powerful story hidden in data—when something is there but I just can’t connect the dots. Recently, I was rescued from any long period of angst I might have suffered by a collaboration with two great minds who bring complimentary skill sets to the table.

My two saviors were CMB’s own Erica Carranza (PhD in social psychology) and Vivaldi Partners’ CEO Erich Joachimsthaler (PhD and marketing thought leader). The “aha!” moment came from Erich and Erica’s ability to reframe what the data was trying to tell me—a multifaceted “identity construct” drives all our underlying digital social behaviors. It’s an idea with powerful implications for marketers and other business leaders trying to thrive in this world of digitally empowered consumers. Erich, Erica, and I will be sharing more on these insights and how to use them in our June 22nd webinar, Social Currency: The New Brand-Building Model. 

To help illustrate, I’ve spent the last week retrofitting this new realization to some of the best-of marketing efforts I’ve witnessed in my career, and I found some easy examples in gaming. Two examples in particular stick out. The first is the famous Call of Duty campaign that used the tagline “There’s a soldier in all of us.” The second is this past winter’s Star Wars Battlefront campaign, which leveraged the Star Wars fandom as part of a 30-year story (told in 30 secs). In both of these ads, the consumers—and their identities (real or aspirational)—were the heroes. The games themselves were enablers to further define and broadcast these identities. In a world where the most powerful brand-building content is created and/or shared by consumers, it’s particularly important to understand why consumers undertake the behaviors that Erich described in his original Social Currency work. 

Retrospectively, it’s been easy to see that game marketers have inherently known (or stumbled upon) the concept of identity being a key to great marketing. But, the real eye-opener here is that this same concept proved true for 5 disparate industries (auto, beer, fashion, restaurants, and airlines) in a rich data set of 18,000 respondents and 90 brands, which is the basis for our webinar next Wednesday.

 Register here!

Brant Cruz is our resident segmentation guru and the Vice President of CMB’s eCommerce and Digital Media Practice.

Topics: consumer insights, marketing strategy, webinar, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, customer journey, Social Currency