WELCOME TO OUR BLOG!

The posts here represent the opinions of CMB employees and guests—not necessarily the company as a whole. 

Subscribe to Email Updates

BROWSE BY TAG

see all

Find the Truths That Matter Most in Next-Gen Gaming

Posted by Brenda Ng

Tue, Apr 28, 2020

If you’re a studio, developer or marketer of games and/or gaming platforms, you know there are evergreen customer truths in developing a successful product, experience and go-to-market (GTM) strategy. For example, applying an influencer strategy for launches. But do those truths apply to new gaming platforms such as cloud gaming, VR, or the impending next gen consoles?

Some gaming truths are vitally relevant to these nascent platforms. But there are a few new surprises from A Gamer’s Journey. This comprehensive study of nearly 4,000 U.S. gamers rigorously explored how gamers become aware, evaluate, buy, and use traditional and emerging gaming platforms.

The three implications for studios and platformers roll up to partnering and planning even closer together to deliver the best player experience and longevity for the franchise and platform. As you read the below, the dance steps are similar, which makes dancing together much easier.

1. FEED THEIR CURIOSITY & EASE THEIR EFFORT
Even though VR products such as Oculus and Vive debuted in 2016 and cloud gaming has been around even longer, gamers spend significantly more effort in VR purchase journey (and expensive gaming PCs) compared to consoles, games and peripherals.
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 23
Within this category, comparing and researching products are first and bigger steps compared to more established gaming categories. That’s a lot of motivation and curiosity to feed!
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 16
With so much time and effort comparing platforms, there’s more receptive ‘reach and frequency’ available to raise awareness of your game if it’s available on multiple VR headsets and cloud gaming services. In other words, if your game isn’t exclusively on a single product or service, it’s in studios’ and platformers’ best interest for the gamers, to feature available games with the core hardware or service specs—not a one or two clicks away or purely separate ads for games.


2. DON'T TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME
If VR and cloud gaming have been around for over four years, what type of gamers do you need to reach, and does it change your GTM strategy? It turns out the biggest detractors are casual gamers.

Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 6

Most surprisingly, the assumption that everything you do to reach hardcore gamers is not the same for casual gamers. Yes, word-of-mouth is the top purchase trigger. But you can save on advertising with casual gamers because they are less attuned. However, the investment you make in providing available trials and earning solid reviews with hardcore gamers will reverberate and trickle down through word-of-mouth to casual gamers.

3. LOYALTY STARTS WITHIN
Managing your studio’s or platform’s reputation is reflected by how you treat your employees. With the movement of activist employees in high tech, gamers are noticing, and they care. When asked what is important to a studio’s reputation, all gamers (regardless of age, self-identified gender, platform, core or casual) agreed the top priority for studios is improving treatment of employees: “I’m more likely to buy a game from a studio that treats its employees well.”  This is much more important than managing the perception of putting profit before players or confronting wider societal issues.  People--employees and players--first. Now that’s a welcomed universal truth, pre-COVID-19, that will likely endure.

In a coronavirus world, one thing for certain is the uncertainty of the supply chain hitting next gen consoles’ Holiday 2020 launch timeframe and delivering significant unit volume availability.  And with E3’s cancellation, feeding and managing gamers’ expectations requires intense, dance-like synchronization between studios’ and platformers’ game experience availability.  The good news is this close partnership applies to cloud, PC, VR and mobile gaming too.


Brenda NgBrenda Ng, VP of Strategy, specializes in applying research to product development and GTM strategy and decisions, with expertise and global experience in high tech.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey

Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, product development, advertising, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, growth and innovation, customer journey, Market research, technology, engagement strategy, Gaming, AR/VR, Next-Gen Gaming

What is the Next Normal & How To Plan For It?

Posted by Courtnie Hallendy

Wed, Apr 22, 2020

Think about this…is your “normal” household (i.e. the one you remember from February) going to be changed, in some way shape and form, by what we are going through right now? If your household is like mine, the answer is probably yes. For example, do I think my husband will continue to get excited about making dinner? No. But do I think that the way we shop for food will be different for some time? Absolutely. This got me thinking about incidence and impact…how many consumers are going to be impacted (both foreseeable now and not), and to what degree?

Honestly, I don’t know, which is especially unnerving for someone who gathered consumer sentiment and helped inform business strategies for Toyota Financial Services during the financial crisis and a massive product recall – both impacting millions of people. After the initial shock of those unique situations wore off, we realized that we quickly needed a plan. We needed to know what was going on, what could potentially happen in the future, how does this impact our brand equity, and what do we need to do to come out just as strong, if not stronger. I’m not saying that those two incidents are anything like our current crisis, but I do think that the need for a plan is just as strong. Right now, we don’t know what is next, but that doesn’t mean that we can't be learning all we can to help our businesses during and after this crisis.

After listening to my colleague Lori Vellucci, VP of Financial Services, and Mack Turner, a Global Insights & Innovation leader, discuss insights from the second wave of our COVID-19 consumer sentiment tracker in “Navigating the Next Normal”, I started to chart out what we need to be looking at (and looking for) to wrap our heads around this.

OUR VALUES

The current crisis is different than any I have been through in large part because of the cause. Health. Global health, health of our communities, and health of individuals. We are inundated with messaging about being in this together and getting through this together. The call for collective values to align is something that will likely impact consumers, to some degree, forever. Our sentiment tracker data shows that in a three-week time period, people express an increased concern for the health of their family and communities, while concerns for their own health is unchanged.

COVID Wave 2 Next Blog Slide 11

Mack and Lori talked a bit about this data point in the discussion and I agree that this is an indicator that people are thinking more about others than themselves. So, how does this factor into our plans? What do we, as an organization, need to think about (or change) in how we build and communicate our products and services?

To answer those questions, our plan needs to look at how shifts in values impact our brand, products, and/or services. I had a discussion last week with a client that touched on this – when can we include non-COVID messaging in our advertising and communications? How will people perceive us when/if we do? What are the things we need to focus on in future communications? This is not something we can get the answer to immediately - it may be quite some time before we really know the degree to which things have changed. This is where is it important for us to include monitoring of these shifts in our plan and insights.

OUR BEHAVIORS

Building off changes in consumer values, our plan should include information on how consumer behaviors changed. If we agree that values, to some degree, will be forever changed then it is safe to believe that behaviors will as well. Said in marketing research terms: how are my customer’s journey and consideration set impacted?

Let’s take the example above about community health. We are already seeing behavioral shifts to demonstrate this through face masks. But, how long and for how many will this continue to be part of their decision process? If I were in the retail or dining industries, I would want to know what behaviors, related to masks, people expect within my establishment.

Another part of the plan would be to understand how things that I “have” to do now may impact how I consider doing things in the future. In the discussion, Lori and Mack talk about grocery delivery, but another related example is online shopping. 42% say they are doing more than before and about half plan to continue to do this more when life goes back to normal.

COVID Wave 2 Next Blog Slide 17

A behavior shift like this doesn’t just impact big box store traffic or Amazon shopping. Consider for a moment a small business located in the nearest downtown to you. If you are the small business, then forecasting a decrease in foot traffic will be important in future planning. If you count small businesses as customers of yours (financial services or telecommunications, for example), then what will they need from you to adapt to this shift?

WHAT'S NEXT?

Many businesses are going to continue being impacted by this global pandemic. Our consumers’ forced behaviors should be part of your plan to deliver on their evolved needs. Consider how your goods/services align with their shifts in values and behaviors; are some of these shifts only temporary? What if they are not?

Mack brings up the example of a shift to online app usage for financial services. These “new” customers to the app may have different needs or expectations from our previous customers. The values and behavioral data informing the plan should provide the business with the information needed to address this. Let’s not forget, though, we will need to understand internal data as well. How does the increase in usage impact other areas of the business (call centers, online agent chats, etc.)?

Navigating Next Normal Quote - Customers

These are challenging, frustrating, and uncertain times, to be sure. That said, I am looking forward to helping my clients plan for the next normal. Consumer behaviors, psychology, and motivators have always interested me and that is why I went into this field. So…what’s next?


Courtnie HallendyCourtnie Hallendy is an Account Director at CMB, with more than 15 years of experience in market research on both the client and vendor sides of the business.

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

Topics: strategy consulting, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, market strategy and segmentation, COVID-19, consumer sentiment

Should I Be Innovating Now?

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Fri, Apr 17, 2020

If Jimmy Kimmel can do it, so can we!

Stuck at home, it’s easy to understand why so many marketers and insights professionals feel like the world is paused. How can we move forward amid so much uncertainty? I understand the impulse, but through conversations with my CMB, and industry colleagues and clients I strongly believe that this is a time to be bold, not to sit back and wait.

This advice is part of an evolution. We have seen client mindsets shift from an early “wait-and-see” approach (early- to mid-March) to “let’s not waste this moment to understand what our customers are thinking and doing” (late-March to early-April). Given the disruption, you need to know which old habits will recede, and which new habits will stick. What new products and services will define the new normal? For consumer insights professionals, this is your opportunity to shine.

An article from Bain speaks to this very well: Decide where to be bold and build a roadmap to get there. Companies that win in downturns don’t just play defense—they play offense as well. Determine the products, customers and underlying capabilities where doubling down now can accelerate growth during and after whatever lies ahead.

If you’re wondering whether your company should be innovating during this pandemic, I ask you to consider the following:

  • If you think your competition is continuing to innovate, then YES
  • If you think the COVID environment will shape how your customer will think going forward, then YES

And importantly, innovation can happen in a quarantined world. If Jimmy Kimmel can do it, so can we!

Jimmy Kimmel

Using digital/virtual tools, we can, of course, see and hear each other, and additionally 1) screenshare 2) whiteboard collaboratively 3) work in plenary and break out groups and 4) perform exercises, quick polls and other methods for ideating and prioritizing. To combat the obvious barriers at play, we recommend accomplishing this in multiple 90-minute virtual workshops. Ideally, about 15 people, including stakeholders and consumers, would e-meet twice in one day to ideate on your topic.

At CMB, we apply a Design Thinking framework to innovation, with #3 being the collaborative ideation:

Design Thinking-2

Related to our February blog on empathy, it’s important to stay connected to your customer. Continue to talk to your consumers throughout this pandemic, because they want to be included in conversations. Nine out of ten surveyed during the shutdowns and quarantines say they want to continue doing research. Researching/innovating fulfills several needs for consumers: a feeling of normalcy, a sense of control over things they can affect, and some (needed) cash.

COVID Innovation Kathy Blog Research Micrographic

CMB is talking directly to consumers now, successfully moving all research online, including workshops. We can help you stay connected, build empathy and importantly, continue to innovate with your customers at this critical time.


Kathy OfsthunKathy Ofsthun, VP Qualitative + Innovation

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

Topics: technology solutions, qualitative research, growth and innovation, co-creation, COVID-19

It’s Times Like These That We Turn to Wholesome Gaming

Posted by Blair Bailey

Tue, Apr 07, 2020

When I pitched a blog about the rise of wholesome gaming following my attendance at this year’s PAX East, I didn’t realize quite how prescient I would be. With the disruption that COVID-19 has brought to our daily lives, the need for calm, and social connection is as strong as ever. While wholesome games have been overshadowed by larger titles and genres in the past, they’re (gently, of course) making a space for themselves in the industry. Recently, the indie game Untitled Goose Game won Game of the Year at the Dice Awards, a title that’s historically been held by industry behemoths like God of War, Call of Duty, and The Legend of Zelda. (There’s some debate over whether Untitled Goose Game is wholesome…but you’re playing a mischievous goose, and your quaint town’s biggest problem is you dragging the farmer’s rake into the lake. I think that’s gosh darn wholesome.)

What is a wholesome video game?

A wholesome video game features gameplay that focuses on kindness, and being good to one another. It’s not news that gaming offers emotional benefits to its players. When I play in the “zombie”-infested world of The Last of Us, it’s both the frustration and satisfaction of playing, as well as my progression, that keeps me motivated. But game developers are starting to understand that we’re not all looking to feel intense emotion. As my colleague Dr. Erica Carranza explained in a recent blog, we can map emotions based on valence (the positive or negative affectivity) and activation (the intensity).  The emotional benefits of wholesome games are highly positive but low in activation, is a desirable combination in a time of high anxiety.

Emotional Valence Activation Details

The rise of wholesome games can also be attributed to their ability to help people connect and strengthen their social relationships. This idea also isn’t new in the world of gaming. Games like Call of Duty and many others have had in-person and online multiplayer options for years. However, the world of online multiplayer can be intimidating with the cover of anonymity often making for hostile interactions with other players.

Wholesome games allow players to play and connect with each other in the low activation, positive valence space. With all my friends and colleagues working and sheltering-in-place, wholesome games give us the opportunity to stay connected and feel better during times of high anxiety. The latest Animal Crossing: New Horizons has filled my social channels with social media posts and group texts sharing Friend Codes to visit one another on their virtual islands. I’m sadly stranded with a broken Switch but seeing everyone stay connected in an unpredictable time just shows why wholesome gaming is the antidote to anxiety we need.


Blair BaileyBlair Bailey is a Data Manager at CMB, and avid gamer who bravely attended the PAX East 2020 conference pre-hand sanitizer shortage. Her favorite wholesome game is Katamari Damacy.

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


Want More? Check Out:
  • @_wholesomegames - a Twitter account dedicated to sharing the latest in wholesome games
  • Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) - a game where you send words of kindness and support to other players
  • Rescue Pets - a mobile idle game where your in-app purchases support shelter animals
  • Fog of Maya - an upcoming mobile game supporting self-care habits through a virtual pet (in beta!)

Topics: Gaming, Social Benefits, COVID-19, Emotional Benefits

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