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Shira Smith

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Baking With Insights: CMB's First Annual Great Banana Bread Bake-Off

Posted by Shira Smith

Wed, Apr 24, 2019

This blog was coauthored by Shira Smith and Laura Dulude.

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Among CMB's many talented team members, we seem to attract an unusually high percentage of gifted bakers. Inspired by CMB favorite, The Great British Baking Show, we recently hosted our first annual Great Banana Bread Bake-Off. While some of us volunteered to bake, others put their talents to judging.

Unable to fully relinquish our researcher hat for a chef’s toque, we couldn’t help but put together a structured approach for the competition—we sure know how to have a good time!

Here’s how we used market research best practices to pull off the big event:

  1. Blind judging: To ensure fairness, the banana breads were judged blind. Each entry was assigned a number so that judges didn't know who baked which bread until after they submitted their scorecard. This let us keep track of scores and link them back to the winners in the end.
  2. Randomizing the tasting order: Judges were asked to sample the breads at random to minimize order bias. Imagine tasting 11 different banana breadsthe first or last are likely to be more memorable than the middle, so we didn’t want to create any unfair advantages by always starting with the same loaf.
  3. Analysis: Remember, this was a competition! Judges were asked to rate the breads on a 1-5 scale across four categories: taste, texture, creativity, and appearance. We then summed up the four scores to crown a winner. This approach also let us see how each loaf fared in the individual categories.
Some takeaways:
  • Market researchers use the whole scale. No high-rating or straight-lining here! Our scores ranged from an average of 2.0 for one bread’s creativity to a 4.2 for another’s texture.
  • Taste and texture were closely tied, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever enjoyed the crisp snap of a potato chip. Using our 124 judge ratings, we ran pairwise correlations across all breads:banana bread scoringSignificant correlations at 95% confidence are shown in green. Taste and Texture form a clear pair with a strong (0.5+) correlation, and while Creativity and Appearance are weakly correlated with Taste, the two of them track together even better with a correlation of 0.353.
  • You don’t have to win any one category to be successful. There was a bit of an uproar in the office when one contestant came in second place overall despite not having won any individual category outright. However, his entry was a solid contender in multiple categories, placing 2nd in Texture, 3rd in Appearance, 3rd in Creativity, and 4th in Tasteconsistency won the game for bread #5.
  • All the winners looked good. The top three breads overall were also the top three most attractive breads; no other metric tracked so clearly against overall success. The top-ranking bread overall excelled in Taste and Creativity, the second-place winner was consistently good across all categories, and bronze took it home with solid scores in both Texture and Creativity, but all three of them succeeded while looking delicious.

Overall the Great Banana Bread Bake-Off was a major success and true indicator of our colleagues’ creativity and dedication to teamwork. Want to join us? Check out our careers page to learn more about life at CMB and our open positions (no baking required).

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Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, community

How Triathlon Training Makes Me a Better Market Researcher

Posted by Shira Smith

Wed, Nov 28, 2018

triathlon

From training to crossing the finish line, competing in triathlons is one of my favorite hobbies. So far, I’ve completed four sprint races, each consisting of a short swim, a 10 to 15-mile bike ride, and a three-mile run. Not everyone would consider this "fun," but I love it.

When I'm not an training, I'm a market researcher who likes to draw parallels between my personal and professional life. Here are three ways training for a triathlon is like managing a research project:

Scheduling is key

Triathlons are long multievent races that require a ton of preparation and training. Months before race day, I map out a detailed training schedule that allots time for each event (e.g., swimming, biking, racing) to ensure I’m well-prepared.

Managing a research project also requires a rigorous plan. Before the onset of each project, I develop a meticulous schedule that outlines every step, due date, and expectation, from project kick off to final reporting and delivery. This keeps my team and me on track and hitting our goals.

I also share this schedule with my clients so our teams are always aligned on how the project is progressing. It sounds simple, but it's critical to be transparent and ensure everyone's on the same page.

Be flexible when plans change

Even the best laid plans can go awry. Despite my planned training schedule, sometimes things come up and I must adjust. If it's downpouring on a running day, for example, I could instead go for a swim. If the pool is unexpectedly closed, I'll hop on a bike. Whatever the obstacle, I always find an alternative that keeps me marching towards my goal.

Unforeseen events can happen in research, too. The important thing is to flex and stay nimble so surprises won’t derail the project. So long as I stay focused and proactive, my team and I can pivot, overcome challenges, and keep the project on track.

Data consistency is also key

I track data to measure and improve my race performance. With the help of a sports watch, I can analyze my pace, heart rate, distance, elevation, cadence, and more. Tracking these metrics helps me see my progression over time and can help identify variables that may be impacting my performance. For example, I often run in the morning, so external variables (e.g., traffic and temperatures) are more consistent. Since my running environment is consistent (as much as it can be) I can be more confident my tracked pace is real.

Consistently tracking data over time is critical in market research, too. In brand trackers, for example, we’ll measure the same dimensions so we can accurately compare results wave after wave. This helps ensure our clients can refine the most compelling positioning, optimize brand and market communication, and then track influence on behavior over time.

I'm glad I found a hobby that I love, and I’m even more excited that it connects in so many ways to my job as a market researcher. I’m looking forward to growing both as a triathlete and as a market researcher – and I know if I plan, stay flexible, and remain consistent, I’ll be successful at both!

Topics: data collection, research design, project management