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Judy Melanson

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Plotting the Future of Insights… Today

Posted by Judy Melanson

Thu, Jul 06, 2017

The future is here:  technology is empowering people like never before and consumers have myriad choices and high expectations. From the C-Suite down, brands are trying to make sense of digital disruption and what it means for their organization. Insights folks aren’t immune to this disruption—in an increasingly consumer-centric and data-rich world we all have to think about where insight truly adds value.

lunch 2.jpegCMB's Judy Melanson kicks off our "lunch and learn" with Boston-area insights folks by discussing the digital disruption and increasingly evolving corporate environment.

What does this mean for your organization? For nimble, flexible, and innovative firms, there’s a tremendous opportunity to blaze new trails for how insights operates. On the other hand, organizations that are slow to adapt may fall behind and even fail.

In the spirit of focusing on this (now) future, last week a handful of Boston-based researchers joined CMBers for an engaging and insightful “lunch and learn” to share best practices on leveraging opportunities and overcoming challenges in today’s evolving corporate environment. After all, if decisions were easy and choices were clear, none of us would work in research!

During the lunch, CMB’s Brant Cruz presented a short case study on a strategic insights architecture audit we recently conducted of Electronic Arts’ (EA) research department. With the support of senior leadership, EA’s insights team improved the effectiveness of their department, employee satisfaction, and ultimately drove improvements and efficiencies across the organization. We used the EA case study as a jumping off point for discussion because, like many of the researchers around the table, EA was asking big questions like, “how can insights drive positive change and growth?”

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CMB's Brant Cruz giving a short presentation on our recent strategic insights architecture audit for Electronic Arts' (EA) research department.

After the presentation, we opened it up to the Boston-area insights folks to discuss what they’re most excited about in the future of insights and the challenges/obstacles they currently face. It was an engaging and enlightening conversation that proved organizations across the board—agency, non-profit, financial services, etc.—are facing some of the same challenges.

Here are some emerging themes:

  • Pace of decision-making: It’s important to build in time to gather, analyze, and determine research results. There’s a need to streamline methodologies while adhering to business requirements. The challenge is making time for satisfying both.
  • Organizational structure: Many organizations we spoke to stressed the challenge of a siloed work environment where (1) departments have competing priorities and (2) are sometimes conducting their own research. This compartmentalized structure prevents the potential for the organization to have a cohesive data and insights strategy.
  • Call to action: Most agreed when one researcher mentioned the challenge of research read outs that end in “ta-da” instead of “what now”? Oftentimes there’s a lack of shared vision/grasp of actions to take based on the results. How do we move from “ah ha” moments to actionable strategies?
  • Knowledge sharing: This relates to the siloed organizational structure. When departments aren’t communicating, the organization loses a tremendous opportunity to share knowledge and data within its teams.
  • Lots of data: There’s an amazing amount of data at an organization’s fingertips that sometimes, they don’t know what to do with it. How can an organization identify what data is important that will yield actionable, valuable insight?

While there are common challenges researchers are facing, the changing landscape poses a lot of new opportunities, too:

  • Frameworks: Don’t reinvent the wheel, seize the opportunity to use and improve upon existing designs within the organization.
  • Consider new sources of information: There’s value in looking at “nontraditional” data points, for example, the behavioral psychology of consumer decision-making (e.g., consumer identity and emotion).
  • Blend techniques: Consider a hybrid approach to your research projects, combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies for a richer perspective. In adding a qualitative component to your project, you’ll dig deeper and uncover the “why” behind the numbers.
  • Make data work harder: Look at your data every which way—horizontally and vertically—to identify potentially hidden insights. Look for opportunities to integrate your data in ways you haven’t before.
  • Improve decision-making: Make insights part of your organization’s key decision-making process to drive meaningful action.
  • Focus on the business objectives—What key business questions are you trying to answer? Let that guide your data, insights, and action plan.

There are overarching challenges and opportunities we in the insights community face as organizational structures continue to evolve. And while these larger challenges and opportunities must be met with the support from the top down, there are immediate actions you can take to improve your personal effectiveness as a member of your team:

  • Be an agent of change: Embrace new ideas and tools.
  • Be future focused: Encourage people to think of research as an investment rather than an expense.
  • Be a provocateur: Shape your organization’s thinking by asking hard questions that inspire risk taking and creativity.
  • Be the voice: Advocate for bringing the customer into the organization’s decision-making. In this consumer-centric world, you must connect the brand to the consumer.
  • "Create more value from insights: Provide the "now what" and be accountable for the business result.

Reflect on your research super-power—what makes you good at what you do—and apply it in today’s challenging business environment to drive positive change.

Missed us at the Boston Lunch and Learn? We'll be at the Insights Association's Great Lakes Chapter Meet & Greet in Chicago on July 27! Enjoy cocktails and hor d'oeuvres, network with regional insights professionals, and meet with some of our lead researchers! More information here.

Judy is CMB’s VP of Travel and Entertainment, leading studies to drive strategies to get, keep and grow loyal customers and viewers.  Her super-power, passion, comes alive in her desire to connect with research teams and deliver insights of value.  

 

 

Topics: business decisions, growth and innovation

7 Things Yoga Can Teach Us About Product Innovation

Posted by Judy Melanson

Thu, May 04, 2017

yoga group sitting-1.png
Last month I spent a week in Costa Rica attending a yoga retreat and returned home feeling relaxed and balanced. As I reflected upon what I learned, I realized that what was driving my positive feelings can be applied equally well to driving success in new product innovation.

I recently wrote an article commending brands for thinking “outside the box” to drive innovation, so this parallel struck me as a relevant and timely follow up. Here are the seven steps:

Step 1: Remove Distractions

At the retreat, we were encouraged to remove distractions that interfere with being present and mindful. Try this: take a couple deep breaths, focus on steady breathing, and try to quiet your mind. Once your mind is clear, you may find yourself at peace, more relaxed, and with space to visualize your goals. Similarly, when embarking on new product innovation, a company needs to remove distractions, ground itself, and make space to visualize its goal(s). 

Step 2: Articulate the goal and visualize a successful future

Now you have space to identify your goals and visualize the futureto explore your personal purpose and to consider your North Star (your guidance). Similarly, brands must recognize and articulate the purpose of its new product innovation:  Why is innovation important (or necessary) to the organization? What are the desired outcomes? Is it attracting new (next generation) customers or reengaging current ones?  What brand benefits (or positioning) can be leveraged?  What is the North Star: Where will success take the organization? 

Step 3: Identify the roadblocks

To progress along the path of personal development, at the retreat we identified the barriers to achieving our goal. This is personal and can be challenging, but if roadblocks aren’t identified early on, it’s possible that you’ll run into them later. What’s holding the organization back? Is there anyone or anything that is preventing/hindering innovation? How can these obstacles be overcome?

Not all barriers are negative. When I’m working with clients on new product development, we look for the constraints–the rules by which the innovation must exist. While it’s tempting to chafe at the constraintsto react negatively to existing guiderailswe’ve learned about their value. Without any constraints, it’s easy to lose your way. Paradoxically then, these constraints can become a tool of innovation.  

Step 4: Stretch your thinking

With your mind clear, goals outlined, and obstacles identified, it’s time to start moving. Brands need to step outside their comfort zone into an expanded way of thinking, so develop an action plan to stretch your perspective and view of what’s possible. For me at the retreat, the action that brought me out of my comfort zone was yoga dance (!!), but brands should consider other methods. How about running a Co-Creation session? Or instead engage a panel of thought leaders or futurists on perceptions of where the industry is headed. Perhaps reach out to some Gen Z-ers, artists, or hackerssomeone who will make you think differently. If a brand is open and mindful, it’ll find points of inspiration. 

And remember to keep goingeven when you think you’re done. Just like in yoga, the work starts when you’re getting tired.

Step 5: Draw from and reflect energy back to your community

Sometimes it feels like you’re the sole voice of change, but recognize that you are part of a greater ecosystem. In yoga, this community is called your “sangha” and can provide strength, power, and support when you need it. Seek it out. Listen for it. Feel it. Innovation demands teamwork and collaboration across multiple teams, so leverage these different insights and perspectives.

Step 6: Service for others

At the retreat, I learned that yoga is something far more powerful than a fitness routine or a timeout from a busy life. Yoga is a transformative tool that enables you to show up for others and be of service to them. Similarly, an organization seeking innovation needs to act in service of its consumers. It must believe in and clearly articulate the benefit innovation provides to the consumer. Focus on how it will positively serve the consumer instead of the features and functionality it provides.

I’ve been in sales for most of my life, but I’ve never considered myself a “salesperson”.  I like to consider myself a “facilitator”—someone who helps people/brands accomplish their goals. I’m motivated by this place of serving others.

Step 7:  Commit to daily practice

Innovation that drives business results doesn’t happen overnight, and just like yoga, it requires continual practice and study. Even after you’ve launched a new product, you and your team should commit to reviewing results and continued adaptation and growth. My suggestion for daily practice: Turn off your email and go for a walk. Stretch your thinking and listen carefully to those with different perspectives. Be open to learning. Give yourself permission to fail. Just keep trying and never give up.  

I hope these learnings can help ground and focus your plans for new product innovation. I hope you find yourself more confident in your path, with a stronger sense of your organizational purpose and a franker assessment of the barriers. I hope you feel better aligned with the opportunity and to your community. I hope you feel more flexible while still being focused on your goal. 

yoga group posing-1.png

 Namaste (Peace).

Judy Melanson leads the Travel and Entertainment practice at CMB, focused on helping companies prioritize operational and marketing investments to drive positive business results.  An empty nester, Judy now has time in her life to enjoy painting, running and, obviously, yoga!

Topics: product development, growth and innovation

Competition is fierce:  How to innovate to drive value

Posted by Judy Melanson

Wed, Mar 22, 2017

McDonalds.jpg

In April, fast food giant McDonald’s will run a promotion to drive more foot traffic to their restaurants: customers will pay $1 for any size soda and $2 for any McCafe specialty drinks. While this short-term promotion may help reverse or at least slow the decline in visitors and boost short-term sales, McDonald’s still faces a long-term problem that a temporary price promotion can’t fix: how to drive more visitors and encourage those visitors to spend more money at their outlets. 

Increased competition and changing market needs are making it increasingly challenging for brands like McDonald's to acquire new customers while retaining existing ones. And this challenge isn’t confined to the food and beverage industry; marketers across all industries are rolling up their sleeves, putting on their thinking caps, and developing innovative strategies to stay relevant and competitive.

Here are a few stories to inspire you:

Evolution or Revolution: Opportunities to strengthen the core 

As the tourism industry evolves, heritage brands need to get creative to compete with new marketplace entrants. We’ve been working with a leading travel brand to identify opportunities to boost sales among its past travelers. First, we ran a database segmentation to identify groups of travelers with similar demographics and behaviors.  We then conducted product development research to uncover trip attributes and types of trips that would most motivate these past travelers to return.

Because of this collaboration, our client has a prioritized list of product features to consider offering to its most valued and engaged guest segments. Some preferred options are evolutionary, requiring only minor operational tweaks, others would require significant operational changes. In the short-term, they can use this information in their marketing efforts and develop tailored messaging that highlights elements that motivate each segment to travel.  When thinking long-term, the client can use this valuable information to make strategic decisions about the future of their company.                  

Engage and Grow: Offer benefits to acquire and incentivize the next generation of customers

Travelers today have more lodging options than ever before. As Millennials and Gen Y grow into “tomorrow’s best guests”, traditional hotel brands are looking to foster loyalty.  We partnered with a leading hotel loyalty program to redesign its pricing model so that members can now pay for rooms by combining earned hotel points and cash.  This change is engaging "future best guests" by allowing loyalty program members to get value from earned points in smaller increments.  Guests can redeem points earlier in their engagement cycle, incentivizing them to choose one of the hotel’s dozen brands now and in the future.

Build solutions to solve pain points

Customers and prospects may have difficulty articulating their needs (particularly when it comes to technology) but they have no trouble articulating what causes problems or pains.  Companies can take advantage of this by proactively identifying and solving for customers’ pain points. We worked with a leader in personal computers, servers, and networking products to identify, size, and target specific pain points with traditional data center infrastructure projects. With this knowledge, we designed and tested different form factors to see which type of disruptive product would be most attractive to target buyers, and how many would actually switch over in specific buying scenarios.

Strengthen foundational insight about today’s path to ‘purchase’

We’re a far cry from the traditional broadcast days. Not only are new players entering the market and pushing out original content, but now consumers can access this content when, where, and how they want.  This increased competition and increasingly complex distribution and consumption model is making it more challenging for broadcasters to connect and engage with viewers. To help understand this evolution, we collaborated with a leading broadcast network on a foundational study in the content discovery path to viewership and successfully identified specific actions and high impact segments to connect with and engage. 

The fact is, solutions like McDonald’s temporary price promotion may alleviate short-term sales slumps, but brands need to be thinking “bigger picture” to develop innovative, sustained solutions to address long-term challenges like increased competition and evolving customer needs.

 Judy Melanson leads CMBs Travel & Entertainment practice and enjoys working with clients on innovative strategies to stand out from competition, remain relevant, and break through the clutter.  She’s an aspiring painter, a yogi and a slow long-distance runner. 

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation

What Winning Really Means in the Corporate World

Posted by Judy Melanson

Wed, Mar 09, 2016

photo by lincolnblues on FlickrWhen I watched this year’s Academy Awards, I celebrated with the rest of Hollywood when—after six previous losses—Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar. USA Today reported: “It was an arduous journey for DiCaprio himself getting to the Oscars stage and taking a winning lap, but he got there. And for now at least, undoubtedly, he is king of the world.” King of the World. The Winner. 

All this talk about “winning” (given the Oscars and the political primary season) has me thinking about what it takes to be a winner in the corporate world. To win in a crowded field, you must:

  • Be excellent: Winners consistently perform better than competitors. They understand the importance of skill, practice, training. . .and maybe a little bit of luck!
  • Be different: Winners capitalize on their unique strengths to propel themselves forward and stand out from competitors.
  • Take risks: Living a life of safety and conformity may be really comfortable, but winners push the envelope, try different things, and take paths that others don’t.
  • Surround themselves with a high-performing team: In every category—sports, entertainment, business, etc.—winners are supported by a group of committed, talented colleagues.
  • Project confidence: Winners expect to win. They project confidence in their body language, posture, tone, and words. 

For those of us executives and managers without a golden statue, medal, or election, how can we tell if we’re winning?  

In business, we frequently use sports—and war—metaphors to describe our activities and accomplishments. We hit a home run with a new ad campaign. We battle for market share. But, the definition of winning varies by industry and company. For some, it can be measured by stock price/performance; for others, it’s measured by market share. But the focus on market share, in a rapidly changing environment, can mean that you’re the winner in a market that’s shrinking or disappearing altogether. 

Unlike a single metric, a balanced scorecard—aligned with the future success of your organization and considering multiple metrics (financial, customer, employee, and operational)—may provide a better assessment of organizational “winning.” 

ralph waldo emerson success quoteFor most of us, there is no finish line. Because of this, we all have to individually define what success means to us in our current job. From my perspective, in addition to executing on the core requirements of our jobs, success means that we are continually:

  • Improving: Always developing, learning, and evolving our skills
  • Contributing: Supporting the financial success of our firms
  • Purposeful: Acting with passion, genuine interest, and excitement   

On my bureau, I have a framed copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of success. I will never win an Academy Award or Gold Medal, but I will be successful, and I will be a winner.    

Shall I start writing my acceptance speech? 

Judy leads the Travel and Entertainment Practice and has a red carpet dress picked out just in case she gets nominated in the future.   

Our new Consumer Pulse study explores Millennial attitudes and behaviors toward banking and finance.

Download the full report here!

Topics: consumer insights

What's the Emotional Impact of Your Ancillary Revenue Strategy?

Posted by Judy Melanson

Tue, Oct 13, 2015

The CarTrawler Yearbook of Ancillary Revenue reports that airlines generated $38 Billion in ancillary revenue in 2014, up 20% year over year. The report highlights the brands generating the most ancillary revenue–in terms of total revenue generated ($5.86 billion for United Airlines), the percent of revenue it represents (38.7% of Spirit Airline’s revenue) and discloses top revenue sources (e.g., frequent flier miles sold to partners, fees for checked bags, and commissions from car rentals).

Clearly, ancillary revenue is not confined solely to airlines; theme parks, cruises, car rentals, hotels all boost revenues from selling additional products, services and measure.jpgmerchandise. And it’s easy to see why. In addition to driving incremental revenue, ancillary products and services enable a supplier to (1) offer a competitive base price - essential (particularly in some segments like cruising) to enter into a traveler’s consideration set; and (2) meet the needs of their guests by merchandising – and conveniently delivering – what customers crave and where they’re willing to spend extra.

But there are potential costs as well. A quick read of the Cruise Critic blog points to ‘high-pressure’ sales tactics employed by ship employees and the negative impact it has on the guest experience. Eavesdrop on airline rent-a-car counters and you’ll hear the ‘fear, uncertainty and doubt’ in the voice of infrequent car renters. And hop onto a Spirit airlines to get an earful of complaints (“$3 for a water bottle?!”). Suppliers—particularly in the Hospitality industry—need to think about their brand position and why their customers buy from them as they consider the revenue and cost of this incremental revenue stream.

Our recommendation: to develop a customer-centric ancillary revenue strategy you need to consider the ‘emotional impact’ it will have on your key customer segments and the emotional fingerprint your brand wants to leave on its customers. Is your brand in the business of making key customers feel delighted? Secure? Valued? If so, the Ancillary Revenue offers should avoid making customers feel angry and frustrated! First step is to identify the top emotional drivers of your brand and investigate whether the Ancillary Revenue products are aligned; consider whether the revenue strategy reinforces, or conflicts with, the desired emotional end-benefit. Watch our recent webinar to learn about our approach: EMPACT℠: Measuring Your Brand's Emotional Impact

There are plenty of positive examples of ancillary revenue opportunities aligned with the desired emotional impact. Here are a few:

Disney: There is no FastPass on rides for younger kids at Disney – and the wait time can easily surpass the patience of kids… and their parents. On a recent trip to Disneyworld, a colleague spent over $100 buying buzzing, spinning, bubble-blowing toys from push-carts surrounding the rides. The toys kept her son happy and occupied. She felt delighted; turning waiting in line into a fun instead of a frustrating experience.

Disney mastery in this area is evident. It successfully offers many products and services that drive ancillary revenue that reinforce the desired emotional outcomes – during and after the trip: the MemoryMaker photo package, the pins/guest books/signatures and stamped pennies, the character breakfasts.

Tigerair, serving Asia-Pacific destinations, offers a fee-based service to travelers waiting for a flight connection of at least eight hours where they can visit the city-center and go sightseeing. As a traveler, I’d feel productive, happy and secure (knowing that I’d be back in time for my flight!)

Hilton Worldwide: When traveling, for business and pleasure, most travelers describe Wi-Fi as an essential service. For years, most major full service hotel brands provided access for a daily fee. Slowly, but surely, major brands like Hilton Worldwide have moved to a position of providing basic access to all loyalty program members. Doing so removes a highly charged negative emotion and reinforces a feeling of ‘being valued.’ Ancillary revenue will be created through sales of the premium internet service with the negative emotional blowback of ‘nickel and diming’ for a basic requirement.

The key take-away: The quest for ancillary revenue will only heat up. Ensure your strategy aligns with – and supports – the reasons customers buy from you and the emotional benefit they’re looking to achieve.

Learn More About EMPACT℠

Topics: travel and hospitality research, EMPACT, emotional measurement, customer experience and loyalty