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2021: Accepting, Embracing and Seeking Change

Posted by Jim Garrity

Fri, Dec 18, 2020

2021 Jim Blog Opener

While every new year brings the opportunity to reflect, learn, and look toward the future, this year’s rituals feel especially poignant. As a company, we entered 2020 with a clear vision, and while our grit and resilience were tested, we remained steadfast in our approach. We flexed as needed, and then we forged ahead with focus, agility, and determination—in our commitment to our clients, team-members and communities.

We’re ready to think and deliver big in 2021 because the need to not just understand, but to empathize and connect with people is more relevant than ever. We are focused on leveraging the very best of human intelligence with advanced technology to help organizations make those connections, and as a result better engage with their consumers to innovate and grow.

We’ll continue to raise the bar by doubling down on our strengths, including:

  • Growing the deep expertise and collaborative efforts of our team members: In 2020, CMBers refused to let physical distance be a barrier to collaboration, achieving results, or embracing our clients’ thorniest challenges. We’ll only become stronger because of the indomitable passion, commitment, and integrity which is a hallmark of every member of our team.
  • Deepening our strong client partnerships: we’re so grateful to have incredibly strong client relationships—built by delivering exceptional value and impact, yes, but also through the thoughtful efforts that take place outside of the meetings and the weekly check-ins and through real human-to-human connection. Having genuine connections and bringing value to people’s lives are more critical now than ever.
  • Embracing change to solve problems: We will continue to help our clients solve their newest problem: how to adjust, pivot, and refocus in a time of significant disruption.
  • Investing in our communities. We will continue to invest in the communities in which we live and work through our Foundation Giving and volunteer program. Continuing our support of organizations committed to families, education, health and wellness, and racial equity.

In 2021, we will bring all of this together to amplify consumer voices and stories to the people who can serve them better. And we will do this by leveraging the latest technology and tools to get us there most effectively.

This year has been all about change—we have accepted it, embraced it, and in many ways sought it out. In the coming years we will continue to drive forward and make positive and lasting impact for our clients, our organization, and our community. I am confident that we are well positioned to tackle these new challenges and opportunities together.

Thank you for your partnership this past year and in the years to come.


Jim GarrityJim Garrity is CEO of CMB.

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Topics: strategy consulting, technology solutions, business decisions, marketing strategy, integrated data, growth and innovation, Market research, community, agile research, collaborative intelligence, COVID-19, CMB Culture, customer centricity, mrx, Holidays

A Data Geek’s Take on Holiday Shopping and the Election

Posted by Brant Cruz

Fri, Dec 11, 2020

Brant Cruz Data Geek Holiday Shopping and Electon Dec 2020 Blog Opener

As someone who has spent nearly 25 years finding insightful truth in piles of data, I’ve accidentally trained my brain to be good at little else. For example, I’ve been in the top percent of dads when it comes to teaching my kids how to “estimate” in their early math classes, but could almost hear my brain crack when they needed help with geometry and its many obtuse angles

This is why, for nearly every topic I stumble upon, I immediately start analyzing and contextualizing the numbers. Instinctively, my brain takes me through the following sequence:

  1. Is that number in line with what I would have estimated?
  2. Can I contextualize it in terms of a number or change I am familiar with, and explain to someone less familiar “why” the number is what it is?
  3. If the answers to both #1 and #2 are “no,” is there other data can I use to reconcile the disconnect?
  4. If things still don’t line up, can I reasonably conclude that I am missing some important context that isn’t available publicly or in the data set that I am analyzing?
  5. If the answers to #3 and #4 are also “no,” have I or the author done something wrong (accidentally or intentionally through some bias)?

In my professional life, this is a perpetual stream, but all the best examples are proprietary. So, instead, I’ll illustrate with a couple of current newsworthy events: the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season to date, and the 2020 US Presidential Election.

Example 1: 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

This is a great CNBC article that features multiple data points, publicly available thanks to the power of Adobe Analytics, related to the US Holiday shopping season. Just picking one:

Holiday shoppers spent $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday, up 15.1% from 2019.”

Here’s an abbreviated recollection of my thought process:

  1. The number feels intuitively right in light of what I remember from past Cyber-Mondays, the overall trend of eCommerce, everything I have been reading about Brick & Mortar retail struggles…and, I have very high trust for Adobe’s data and the rigor of that team. Plus, there are other numbers in the same article that feel intuitive, e.g., $10.8 billion of a total ~$185 billion holiday season. My head-math says that current definitions of holiday season are likely around 50 days, meaning each day is 2% of the season. And Cyber Monday would be ~6% (3x average), which checks out.
  2. As far as the contextual “why” goes, it fits with my mental model of how the combination of headwinds and tailwinds for eCommerce net out in 2020:
    1. Headwinds: COVID-19 might be depressing total holiday spend across all channels given the economic struggles, short-term uncertainty, desire to save, and sad letters you can find (but also help!) through the USPS’s Operation Santa site.
    2. Tailwinds: eCommerce sales rose 18.8% in 2019 so this just continues that trend. Plus, perceptually, shoppers en masse feel far less “able” to shop of brick & mortar retail this year due to COVID-19. Rather than reinvent how my colleague Erica Carranza so aptly described the Fogg Model’s two axes of Motivation and Ability and possible implications for shopping months ago, I’ll point you to her blog.  

Given I feel so confident at this point, no need to continue with steps 3-5.

Example 2: President Trump says, “There is no way Joe Biden got 80 million votes”

Putting aside all other political issues leading up to, during, and since the election, this one stuck out to me as appropriately data-geek-worthy. President Trump may have made this claim multiple times, but I can say with certainty that he made it on a call with Fox News on November 29. Here’s how I processed this claim:

  1. I know that combined Trump and Clinton received 129 million votes in 2016, with Clinton winning the popular vote at just south of 66 million. And that Obama set the record in 2008 with 69.5 million votes. 80 million votes for Biden represents a ~21% lift over 2016 Clinton, and a ~15% over Obama’s record. Big jumps and certainly within the realm of possibility, but worth more investigation.
  2. There are lots of ways to contextualize a 15% lift, but I wanted to make sure I understood why.
    1. Anecdotally, people on both sides are more passionate about politics as evidenced by social media posts, strong passion for and against Trump, and media ratings.
    2. The candidates combined for >$14 billion in election spending, more than double what Trump and Clinton spent in 2016. That’s an increased spend of 100%+, for a 20% increase in turnout. Certainly believable.
    3. Back to the trusty Fogg Model: both Ability (in some neighborhoods, the need to wait in 9-hour voting lines due to closed polling locations was replaced with the ability to vote by mail) and Motivation (the aforementioned hyper-partisanship and Trump’s polarization) axes have seen big bumps since 2016.
  3. Is there other data available that I can reference? I don’t think so—and it seems like recounts and the courts agree.
  4. Could I be missing something? Likely not. (See above response to step #3.)
  5. Yes, I can see that President Trump may have some bias, given the prize and some historical context.

As you can see, this approach is pretty helpful in a job where I’m constantly involved in proving the rigor of my team’s data and analysis (and the resulting insights/business implications) to some of the world’s smartest and most passionate clients.

But you can imagine the faces I get from my daughters when statements like, “Dad, we need YouTube TV” are met with, “Oh yeah? Prove it.”


Brant CruzBrant Cruz is one of the many data geeks at CMB and is our VP: Platforms and Audiences Practice Leader.

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Topics: strategy consulting, business decisions, marketing science, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, Election, retail, consumer psychology, ecommerce, COVID-19, mrx, Holidays

CMB Spotlight: Chris Neal

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Mon, Dec 07, 2020

Chris Neal Spotlight Series Blog Opener

Chris has over twenty years of high-tech, telecom, and media industry expertise across a range of game-changing initiatives, including market segmentation, new product development, brand positioning, marketing effectiveness and customer loyalty optimization. Leading brands including Apple, Cox, Comcast, and Dell, trust Chris to lead their largest and most complex insights initiatives.

1. What brought you to work at/in Technology & Telecommunications? How have you grown?

I’ve always been interested in emerging markets. While studying for my degree in Development Economics, I became very interested in InfoTech infrastructure (especially 3G cellular networks and wireless local loop networks at the time). The tech industry and its impact has become even more fascinating and complex, and after 24 years, that curiosity and desire to learn hasn’t wavered.

In terms of how I’ve grown, I remember my first interviewer asked: “What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?” To which I answered, “I have absolutely no clue about Telecommunications.” But the hiring manager really focused on the core functional skills they needed, like analytical writing and math skills, as well as a deep knowledge of the demographic (my job was focused on Latin America). This experience helped inform how I build my own team today. I make it a point to take a close second look at non-traditional candidates, many of whom have been some of the best hires we’ve ever made.

2. What keeps you motivated and excited in your work?

First off, we’re fortunate to work with some of world’s largest, most innovative companies to advance brand new technologies, concepts, and/or products. Knowing that what we do actually gets used and has measurable impact in the world is rewarding. And of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without the people I work with (colleagues and clients).

3. Tell us about a project/initiative you’re particularly proud of. What about that experience helped you to adapt, innovate, and/or grow?

We do great work through our self-funded Pulse reports. In particular, I’m proud of the research I led on understanding the barriers and enablers for consumers to adopt emerging technologies, like Virtual Assistants and Autonomous Driving, through the lens of our proprietary framework measuring psychological benefits including emotions and identity. It gave us a whole new layer of insights and recommendations into consumer decision-making, particularly for marketing, messaging, and the customer experience. For instance, autonomous vehicles could be revolutionary for people who cannot drive themselves, such as the elderly or disabled. However, the elderly demographic also has the strongest negative emotional reactions to self-driving cars (namely, anxiety and the fear of losing control). Through this work, we were able to dig in and get very specific to target and test the proof points and creative messaging that companies would need to advance their innovation.

4. At CMB, we like to think ahead. Where do you think Tech + Telecom will be in 5 years?

Disruption is happening all the time, so it’s imperative when you’re working in this industry to stay up to date on your industry knowledge. You know, there was a time when businesses thought they’d never use anything other than Blackberry for mobile devices, or that AOL would always dominate internet access. Right now, we’re looking at what’s happening in a variety of cloud service trends, AI, IoT and pushing compute out to the Edge of networks, among other things. Additionally, the continued roll-out of 5G wireless networks for home, business and mobile devices will bring multiple disruptions. Where we approach this is from the consumers’ (and business’) viewpoints, diving deeper into the psychology and sociology of old habit disruption and new habit formations. Combined with all the behavioral and attitudinal changes being driven by the pandemic, we’re focused on helping our clients navigate this rapidly evolving world.

On the Insights side, specifically, our industry is heading towards tech-enabled consultants who can help make sense of (and act on) overwhelming amounts of data. The line between “primary quant & qual” research, business analyst work, competitive intelligence, and Analytics & Data Science will continue to blur. Thus, it’s increasingly important for insights professionals to become expert storytellers and make sense of the data in a way that is actionable to non-researchers.

5. What does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

CMB attracts and retains smart and committed people with a natural curiosity for how the world works and why, which our clients benefit from because that mindset drives our problem-solving skills and ability to tackle complex challenges. When you’re in as competitive an industry as we are, the human factor is what makes all the difference. A robot can never do all of what we do. And—while I love robots (I am a Tech Nerd, after all), they’re not nearly as much fun to work with as my wonderfully human colleagues. As we say at CMB, we’re professional with a wink; we take our craft very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

6. What’s the secret to developing not good but great client relationships?

Being (a) trustworthy and (b) committed.

It may sound trite, but trust is everything. Being (not just acting) trustworthy means you act in the client’s best interests—through projects big and small—even when “no one is looking” or doing something that requires going above-and-beyond the written scope of work.

Your reputation doesn’t just happen, you must be committed, and part of being committed is being tenacious. This grit is what differentiates agencies from one another. CMB is built on relationships—we ensure our clients, and their stakeholders, are setup for success. We give them the storytelling and the insights they need so they’re never left in the lurch with a basic data dump that doesn’t really answer their stakeholder’s business questions.

7. What advice do you wish you received earlier on in your career?

Organizations or jobs that look sexy on paper aren’t always, and vice versa. The people you work with (mentors, colleagues, clients, and vendors) are by far the greatest determinant of your career success as well as your happiness. Don’t underestimate this, and make sure it’s part of your interview process to get to know the people you’ll be working with. We spend a lot of time at our careers; who you spend that time with (and rely upon) is critical.

8. Tell us something we may not know about you. How does this make you a better insights leader?

I’m a non-fiction nerd: Like my fellow CMBers, I’m always trying to understand more about how the world works (and why), and how to impact it in the future. So, you’ll often find me listening to podcasts, watching documentaries (and subsequently discuss with my fellow CMB Documentary clubbers), figuring out all the birds in my neighborhood the next, or diving deep on some policy/trivia wonk issue in my free time. It usually takes me a really long time to read a light magazine or news article because of the side missions I go on to find out supplemental and contextual data around the issue or topic.

9. If you could have any superpower what would it be/What’s your superpower?

COVID-19 immunity—including inability to transmit the virus. If I had that, there’s so much I could do, like volunteering to help get us through the crisis.

Aside from COVID-19, I think flying would be fun. It would make commuting easier, as well as exploring new places more interesting.


Christopher NealLearn more about Chris here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

Follow CMB on FacebookInstagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series

Walt’s Golden Child+

Posted by Ann Mondi

Fri, Dec 04, 2020

Disney+ Golden Child Blog Opener Dec 2020

Growing up as the second oldest of five children, I can confidently say that you parents of multiple children are lying when you say you don’t have a favorite. Sure, the favorite may vary depending on time or circumstance, but still…we know. Most parents, despite this, do a great job of making sure their time, love, and attention is spread equally for the most part. But when Disney reorganized its media properties under the heading of Disney Creative (Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, Disney-ABC TV), it made no secret of it that Disney+, with its 73M subscribers, is the current golden child.

With the pandemic still taking a toll on Disney’s parks, resorts, and cruises and the streaming wars impacting the success of cable networks across the board (yes, even Disney-ABC TV), the company has turned its attention and resources to streaming, specifically Disney+. It announced a strategic reorganization of its media and entertainment business, including the addition of a distribution team, with the goal of amplifying its success in the space. The distribution team will take the lead on monetizing content and oversee operations of the company’s other streaming services, including Hulu and ESPN+. These reallocation of resources and public affirmations make clear that Disney sees this direct to consumer model, specifically in the form of Disney+, as the path to the future financially and strategically.

Why specifically Disney+ when there are so many offerings under its media and entertainment umbrella? There’s a number of factors that set up the streaming service to win from the start, from the timing of COVID-19 and the subsequent increase in streaming to the library of solid classics and originals not just drawing in but retaining subscribers. Disney+’s strong value proposition and brand awareness gave it an edge that other platforms had to build up over time – and some, like Hulu, are still struggling to do so.

Interested in reading more? Read this article about the Emotional, Identity, & Other Benefits of Disney+ >

You may remember that back in 2019, Disney took control of Hulu, the then-future of Disney’s streaming ambitions. As any child knows, there are few things more disheartening than having your parent take something from you only to give it to your sibling. Soon after Disney took over Hulu, the streaming services proposed a plan for its competitive growth via international expansion. While initially backed by the parent company, Disney has since pivoted and now chosen to pursue a new general entertainment service outside the United States under Star, the company’s Indian media subsidiary. The reason for this change? Disney claims it’s due to Star’s preexisting international name recognition, though there is room to speculate that it does not want to inflate the value of Hulu when it still owes Comcast one-third ownership share at a price TBD in 2024 for the takeover deal. For now, Hulu will take a backseat to the golden child Disney+. Perhaps we should anticipate some more angsty content from Hulu (or maybe it’s “just a phase”).

As the streaming category continues to grow and evolve, consumers will likely need to decide at some point which services to keep and which to cancel. These decisions will be based on several factors, including the habits they’ve established and budgetary reasons (who doesn’t want to get the most bang for their buck?). Bundling options may become more important. With Disney+, its parent company also owns linear networks (ABC, ESPN, etc.), Amazon Prime Video is included in your Prime subscription, and the streamlined connection to Apple’s hardware ecosystem may make Apple TV an easier choice.

Another huge deciding factor is obviously the content libraries. Why subscribe if your favorite shows and movies aren’t available? Netflix, perhaps the only “pure” streaming service, may struggle in this area compared to Disney, who has a myriad of content at its disposal. Disney’s media re-organization may suggest that it plans to go around traditional cable operators and package its networks’ content via a streaming bundle. The seismic shake-ups continue with yesterday's announcement that Warner Brothers will simultaneously air ALL of its 2021 movies on HBO Max. With so much uncertainty, the one thing we can count on is more disruption. Personally, I can’t wait to grab my popcorn and watch it unfold.


Ann is a serial streamer who loves keeping up with industry trends in media and technology. She frequents virtual webinars and conferences to continuously grow her understanding of the market and consumer (want to know which one she’s signing onto next? Just ask!).

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Topics: television, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, technology, COVID-19

The Rise of Multiplayer Shouldn’t Be Sus to Anyone

Posted by Blair Bailey

Thu, Dec 03, 2020

Among Us Blog Opener

Ask any CMBer what they love about CMB and there’s a good chance they’ll say it’s the people. Social distancing hasn’t been easy on anyone, but it’s been especially difficult for a company that works so collaboratively and regularly schedules social events and club meetings. Since March, we’ve been looking for ways to stay connected and recently, a group of us hopped on the bandwagon for a game of Among Us.

THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF MULTIPLAYER GAMES

Multiplayer has been a part of the gaming community since the 1970s. But the desire for social connection in a year of social distance has increased their popularity. At the start of lockdown in March, Microsoft reported a 130% increase in multiplayer gaming among Game Pass users, and 23 million new friendship connections over Xbox Live. Research on massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) show that benefits of this genre include a stronger sense of social identity, more social competence, and lower levels of loneliness. Nurturing social connections through multiplayer online gaming can create and build friendships as strong as those IRL.

HOW AMONG US IS BREAKING BARRIERS

Even so, many online multiplayer games have an air of exclusivity. The idea of joining an MMO or jumping into a game of Fortnite is daunting to non-gamers and even some casual gamers. Both in terms of gameplay itself – a battle royale situation feels more isolating than ever these days – and hardware – if you don’t have a console or PC for many games, you’re out of luck.

It’s Approachable

Among Us dismantles some of these barriers. The overall gameplay is familiar to many who spent their childhoods playing neighborhood games like Mafia: the crewmates works individually and collectively to build trust and uncover who among us are the Imposters (or if you’re an Imposter, to avoid being suspect…or “sus”), all while engaging in micro-tasks—quick little puzzles and games—throughout the spaceship. It takes a few rounds to get into the groove, but overall, the gameplay is very approachable and a lot of fun.

It’s Accessible

Making the game even more attractive is how accessible the program itself is – Among Us can be played on either PC or mobile, and it’s cross-platform so your friends can play together using whatever technology they have available. You don’t need a high-powered gaming rig to play the game, but if you already have one, that’s fine too! With the rise of video conferencing during COVID, players can easily enhance their games. While discussions in Among Us are typically done via in-game chat, you can invite your friends to a Zoom call and have those conversations “in person.”

Its Connecting Us

It’s no wonder that Among Us reached over 80 million players by mid-September, a number previously met by Pokémon Go in 2016. It’s the perfect game for this day-and-age. The definition of a “gamer” has been expanding for a long time, and the major change in everyone’s lifestyles has helped with that expansion exponentially. We saw this with the major success of Animal Crossing in the spring and it’s continuing with Among Us and other games now. With both Animal Crossing and Among Us, there’s a social aspect – either through direct multiplayer or a larger game community. Recent research showed that the longer a player played Animal Crossing, the happier they felt, possibly due to the social features the game presents. The only question remaining is when social distancing ends, will these newly minted gamers continue to play?

While the first impulse once the pandemic is over may be to rush outside and connect in-person, being isolated in lockdown has highlighted the importance of social connections, both as a human need and within the gaming industry. Gamers will be drawn to these new types of social connections made in quarantine, and developers should continue to build games within this space.


Blair BaileyBlair Bailey is a Data Manager at CMB, and avid gamer who graciously coordinates our Among Us games at CMB.

Follow CMB on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

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

Topics: marketing strategy, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, Identity, Gaming, Social Benefits, COVID-19