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Jen Golden

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To Take a Stand or To Play it Safe? The Choice Can Affect Your Brand Consideration

Posted by Jen Golden

Thu, Dec 19, 2019

Companies today have a lot to think about. Not only do they need to create compelling products and/or services that meet consumers’ functional needs, but how much consumers relate to a company’s  values is also crucial in gaining and building customer loyalty. Topics that used to be considered taboo, like race, politics, gender-identity and equality are becoming top-of-mind in brand campaigns and content, and a mis-alignment with customers can be very detrimental to a company or brand (take Pepsi’s failed campaign with Kendall Jenner as an example).

A brand’s Social Benefits includes how much a consumer agrees with the values, ethics, or morals expressed by a brand and how much a consumer believes a brand reflects their own personality, tastes or values.

  • In a recent self-funded study, CMB surveyed ~20,000 customers and prospects across 81 Finance, Tech, and Media brands.
  • Looking across brands, consumers who agree with the values, ethics, or morals expressed by a brand are over 3x as likely to consider using (or continue to use a brand) than those who disagree with the brand’s views in these areas. There is an even bigger gap for social media companies (those who agree are 5x more likely to consider a social media brand than those who do not agree with the values, ethics or morals expressed!).
  • Feeling neutral on a brand’s values, ethics, or morals doesn’t directly benefit brands. In fact, it’s not much better to have consumers feeling neutral on your brand’s social stance than having them disagree with what your brand is doing. Taking a stance can often be worth the risk if you are doing right in the mind of your customer.

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  • The same pattern holds true when we look at consumers perception that a brand reflects their own personality, tastes or values. They are over 5x more like to consider a brand if they agree with this sentiment.

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Agreeing and identifying with a brand’s values can also spill over into perceptions of a typical brand user. Consumers who agree that a brand reflects their personality, tastes or values are more likely to identity with the typical brand user – and this includes their political views. People who believe they share the same political views of a typical brand user are more likely to consider the brand than those who do not (40% are very likely to consider if they identify with politics of the typical brand user vs. 25% consideration for those who do not).

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As far as politics go, HBO has recently run into some backlash with their new show Watchmen, which is based on a political, left-leaning comic. While the show is getting rave reviews from critics and fans, some have flooded Rotten Tomatoes to give negative reviews calling the show “too woke” and questioning its “politically correct” narrative.  

BUT, is this something HBO needs to be worried about? HBO’s current customers skew progressive politically, and 58% of HBO’s customers identify with the perceived political views of a typical HBO user. 54% of HBO’s customers also believe that HBO reflects their own personality, tastes or values. While HBO may be angering some by choosing to air Watchmen, they are willing to take a risk to connect more closely to the politics their core customer base identifies with vs. not engaging in the topic of politics at all.

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Ultimately, people want to feel connected with their favorite brands, and with increased political polarization, it’s more important than ever for brands to understand their customers. Intimately knowing your audience (like HBO may have known when they green-lit Watchmen) can make it safer to take a stand politically or otherwise. In fact, taking a stand can deepen the audience’s emotional connection with the brand because it is aligned with their customer’s personal beliefs, making them a more loyal and engaged customer. Actress Regina King from the Watchmen series said it best when she said in response to the show “Most of us, as human beings, want to feel like someone else knows their pain and is talking about what they’re talking about.


Jennifer GoldanJennifer Golden, Project Director.

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Topics: brand health and positioning, co-creation, BrandFx, brand tracking, Social Benefits

Predicting Olympic Gold

Posted by Jen Golden

Wed, Feb 21, 2018

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From dangerous winds and curling scandals to wardrobe malfunctions, there’s been no shortage of attention-grabbing headlines at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

And for ardent supporters of Team USA, the big story is America’s lagging medal count. We’re over halfway through the games, and currently the US sits in fifth place behind Norway, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands.

Based on last week’s performance (and Mikaela Shiffrin’s recent withdrawal from the women’s downhill event), it’s hard to know for sure how America will place. However, we can use predictive analytics to determine the main predictors of medal count to anticipate which countries will generally be on the podium.

We’ll use TreeNet modeling to identify the main drivers of medal count based on previous Winter Olympics outcomes. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on the 2014 Sochi winter games (excluding all Russia data which would skew the model!) From there, we can infer similarities between medal drivers for Sochi and PyeongChang.

Please note all these results are hypothetical, and not reflective of actual data!

To successfully run a TreeNet analysis, you need both a dependent variable (e.g., the outcome you are trying to predict) and independent variables (e.g., the input that could be possible predictors of the dependent variable).

In this case…

Dependent variable: Total 2014 Sochi Winter Games medal count
Independent variables (including data both directly related to the Olympics and otherwise):

  • Medal count at the Vancouver Olympic games
  • Medal count at previous Winter Games (all time)
  • Number of athletes participating
  • Number of events participating in
  • Number of outdoor events participating in (e.g., downhill skiing, bobsled)
  • Number of indoor events participating in (e.g., figure skating, curling)
  • Average country temperature
  • Average country yearly snowfall
  • Country population
  • Country GDP per capita

The Results!

Our model shows the relative importance of each variable calibrated to a 100-point scale. The most important variable is assigned a score of 100 while all other variables are scaled relative to that:

Olympic Medal Predictors.png

Meaning, in this sample output, previous medal history is the top predictor of Olympic medal outcome with a score of 100 while # in outdoor events and indoor events participating in are the least predictive.

This is a fun and simple example of how we could use TreeNet to forecast the Winter Olympic medal count. But, we also leverage this same technique to help clients predict the outcomes of some of their most complex and challenging questions. We can help predict things like consideration, satisfaction or purchase intent for example, and use the model to point to which levers can be pulled to help improve the outcome.  

Jen is a Sr. Project Manager at CMB who was a spectator at the Sochi winter games and wishes she was in PyeongChang right now.

Topics: advanced analytics, predictive analytics

A Lesson in Storytelling from the NFL MVP Race

Posted by Jen Golden

Thu, Feb 02, 2017

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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

3 “Magical” Steps to Curbing Information Overload

Posted by Jen Golden

Wed, Feb 24, 2016

iStock_000024159442_Illustration.jpgRecently the WNYC podcast “Note to Self” (@NoteToSelf) released a week-long challenge to its listeners aimed at curbing information overload in our daily lives. In today’s internet-driven society, we’re hit from all angles with information, and it can be difficult to decide what information or content to consume in a day without being totally overwhelmed. I decided to participate in this challenge, and as the week progressed, I realized that many of the lessons from this exercise could be applied to our clients—who often struggle with information overload in their businesses.

The “InfoMagical” challenge worked like this: 

Challenge 1: “A Magical Day” – No multi-tasking, only single-tasking.

  • This challenge centered on focusing on one task at a time throughout the day. I knew this was going to be a struggle right from the start since my morning commute on the train typically involves listening to a podcast, scanning the news, checking social media, and catching up on emails at the same time. For this challenge, I stuck to one podcast (on the Architecture of Dumplings). By the end of the day, I felt more knowledgeable about the topics I focused on (ask me anything about jiaozi), as opposed to taking in little bits of information from various sources. 
  • Research Implications: Our clients often come to us with a laundry list of research objectives they want to capture in a single study. To maintain the quality of the data, we need to make trade-offs regarding what we can (or can’t) include in our design. We focus on designing projects around business decisions, asking our clients to prioritize the information they need in order to make the decisions they are facing. Some pieces may be “nice to have,” but they ultimately may not help answer a business decision. By following this focused approach, we can provide actionable insights on the topics that matter most.

 Challenge 2: “A Magical Phone” – Tidy up your smartphone apps.

  • This challenge asked me to clean up and organize my smartphone apps to keep only the ones that were truly useful to me. While I wasn’t quite ready to make a full commitment and delete Instagram or Facebook (how could I live without them?), I did bury them in a folder so I would be less likely to absentmindedly click through them every time I picked up my phone. Organizing and keeping only the apps you really need makes the device more task-oriented and less likely to be a distraction. 
  • Research Implications: When we design a questionnaire, answer option lists can often become long and unwieldy. With more and more respondents taking surveys on smartphones, it is important to make answer option lists manageable for respondents to answer. Often, a list can be cleaned up to include only the answer options that will produce useful results. Here are two ways to do this: (1) look at results from past studies with similar answer options lists to determine what was useful vs. not (i.e., what options had very high responses vs. very low) or (2) if the project is a tracker, run a factor analysis on the list to see if it can be paired down into a smaller sub-set of options for the next wave. This results in more meaningful (and higher quality) results going forward.  

Challenge 3: "A Magical Brain" – Avoid a meme, trending topic, or “must-read” today.

  • I did this challenge the day of the Iowa Caucuses, and it was hard to avoid all the associated coverage. But, when I looked at the results the next day, I realized I was happy enough just knowing the final results. I didn’t need to follow the minute-by-minute details of the night, including every Donald Trump remark and every Twitter comment. In this case, endless information did not make me feel better informed. 
  • Research Implications: Our clients often say they want to see the results of a study shown every which way, reporting out on every question by every possible sub-segment. There is likely some “FOMO” (fear of missing out) going on here, as clients might worry we are missing a key storyline by not showing everything. We often take the approach of not showing every single data point; instead, we only highlight differences in the data where it adds to the story in a significant and meaningful way. There comes a point when too much data overwhelms decisions. 

The other two pieces of this challenge focused on verbally communicating the information I learned on a single topic and setting a personal information mantra to say every time I consumed information (mine was “take time to digest after you consume it”). By the end of the challenge, even though I didn’t consume as much information as I typically do in a week, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything (except maybe some essential Bachelor episode recaps), and I felt more knowledgeable about the information I did consume. 

Jen Golden is a Project Manager on the Tech/E-commerce practice at CMB. She wishes there was more hours in the day to listen to podcasts without having to multi-task.  

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Topics: mobile, business decisions, research design

Branding a Country on the Olympic Stage

Posted by Jen Golden

Fri, Mar 07, 2014

CMB Sochi Olympics 2014I recently traveled to Sochi, Russia for the Winter Olympics (check this off the bucket list!) and after all the media attention focused on Sochi leading up to the games, I was interested to see firsthand if the games were going to be considered a success for Russia or not.Russia went into their Olympic bid with the mindset that they would be showcasing, and essentially re-branding, their image to the world (and turning Sochi into a top tourist destination in the process). Re-branding an entire country is no small feat (and in the west many would argue that Russia faces a particularly difficult battle) and the Olympic stage is indisputably the easiest way to gain national exposure and leverage a positive image.

  • Pre-Olympics: Sochi got off to a bit of a rocky branding start in the media (with security and hotel/lodging concerns taking the spotlight away from the positive aspects of the games) and #SochiFail being the most prominent twitter tag in the weeks leading up to the event. Strolling through the Olympic Park a day before the Opening Ceremonies, many aspects were not yet set-up and ready to go (e.g., the souvenir store, sponsor houses, food stands). Nothing like last minute!

  • Olympic Moment: After the Olympic Ring debacle during the opening ceremonies, Sochi brought its A game. The international media had little to complain about (besides the sunny weather!), as events went off without a hitch and portrayed Russia in a positive light.

  • Post-Olympics: From purely a spectator’s point of view, the games for Russia were a success. The venues were state-of-the-art, Sochi provided wonderful scenery, volunteers were friendly and focus was centered on what mattered: the athletes and bringing the world together for these two weeks. Russia also achieved their ultimate branding goal as a nation: coming out on top of the medal count. But in an illustration of the limits of Olympic spirit, Russia’s current political actions may taint any positive goodwill they gained from Sochi.  

In the wake of the Games, will Sochi become the ultimate tourist destination that Russia hoped for, or will it suffer like other Olympic cities have in the past? Speaking to other spectators who had been to multiple Olympics, many expressed these were the best Olympic Games yet…but only time will tell if that positive experience was felt throughout the world (or if it never made it outside the ring of fans and athletes in Sochi). 

Jen is a Project Manager at CMB. She’ll never forget her Olympic experience and is now preparing herself for PyeongChang 2018.

Topics: travel and hospitality research, brand health and positioning