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Sailing Rough Seas Toward a Brighter Future

Posted by John Conti

Thu, Jun 11, 2020

How’s this for an understatement: we are living through difficult and unprecedented times. As we confront the interconnected realities of a global pandemic, economic crisis, and a long overdue reckoning with racial injustice, we—individuals and organizations—are faced with a lot of uncertainty. Still, in our recent webinar, The Case for Optimism*, I felt inspired by my colleague Judy Melanson and Marketing & Brand Strategist Armin Molavi to lead through uncertainty with optimism.

John C Blog Optmism Quote

With this conversation in mind, I believe there are three key focus areas that will help brands, and other organizations, navigate these challenging times and build a better future:

1. SHOW GENUINE EMPATHY & TAKE ACTION

True empathy and compassion are critical in building strong relationships. Many brands know people are suffering and they are taking steps to honor those working to keep us safe and to support those in need. But it feels as if many brands opened-up the crisis playbook and followed the same formula. There is even a YouTube mashup of recent COVID-19 ads showing this, but several leading brands—like LinkedIn, Hilton, and American Express—have found genuine and unique ways to show empathy.

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, LinkedIn Learning is providing free courses on diversity and inclusion to help users understand the challenges preventing equitable workplaces.

Hilton and American Express have teamed up to ease the burden COVID-19 has placed on our frontline workers. They have donated up to 1 million free room nights to medical professionals battling the pandemic. These rooms allow them to ‘sleep, recharge, or isolate from their families’ without worry or financial stress.

John C Blog Hilton Quote

2. REDEFINE LOYALTY & PARTNERSHIP

Loyalty is a relationship—a two-way street. For years, brands have worked to develop a large following of consumers who are loyal to their product/service, but now is the time for brands to show their loyalty and commitment. Leading brands do right by their customers to demonstrate their commitment and strengthen the relationship, no matter the cost.

Credit card companies, insurance companies, and other creditors are delaying payment due dates and waiving late fees. Auto insurance companies have seen a precipitous drop in insurance claims saving them millions. But rather than pocket those profits several companies including American Family Insurance are providing refunds directly to policyholders. In fact, American Family Insurance is refunding customers $50 per insured vehicle plus a 10% credit on personal auto policies adding up to over $450 million in support at a time when many customers could use the extra cash.

As Armin discussed in the webinar, establishing partnerships is another strong way to prioritize the consumer over the brand. In the retail space, organizations big and small are pledging sustainable action and investment, whether it’s Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge and/or Claude Home’s call to donate proceeds to support the Black businesses and anti-racist work one day a month. These leaders are uniting brands to support the Black Lives Matter movement by building relationships with consumers and other businesses.

John C Blog Quote - Partnerships

3. BE BOLD

I am inspired by the courage of those who have long fought for racial equality and heartened that we will see real change. During the height of the Covid-19 outbreak several manufacturers switched their focus from their own products to developing medical supplies and equipment. Ford Motor Company stopped several vehicle assembly lines and partnered with 3M to manufacture respirators for frontline workers and ventilators for patients battling Covid-19.

While some brands have played it safe in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement by just blacking out their social media accounts for a day or issuing a cookie cutter response, there are others demonstrating moral clarity and leadership, including Ben & Jerry’s and Nike.

Ben & Jerry’s has always been a leader in corporate social responsibility and has made it their mission to make the world a better place. They proudly issued We Must Dismantle White Supremacy, along with a four-step call to action to seek out ways to drive change. Their characteristic boldness, and steadfast focus on social issues over the bottom line, is an example of strong corporate leadership.

I have also been inspired by Nike’s attention on racial injustice, a cause they have championed for years (see Colin Kaepernick) and is deeply engrained in their corporate values. Their recent For Once, Don’t Do It video plays on the ad’s iconic ‘Just Do It’ tagline and shines a spot light on the cause. It is a great example of a brand continuing to live its values through an authentic, trustworthy message.

The fact is, most of us (myself included) have a whole lot of work to do, and bold statements must be backed by bold action and accountability.

The future can seem like a scary place but if we show empathy, demonstrate loyalty & develop partnerships, and act boldly we can all emerge from these crises with a brighter future. 

*Recorded Thursday, May 28, 2020


John Conti-1John Conti is an Account Director at CMB.

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

Topics: consumer insights, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, Market research, COVID-19, consumer sentiment, customer centricity, Racial Justice

Osmosis: What Happens BEFORE "The Path to Purchase?"

Posted by Marty Murk

Wed, May 20, 2020

Osmosis Blog Opener (1)

When I go hiking, when does my “hike” really start? Is it when my shoes hit the dirt path? When I pull out of my driveway? When I park at the trail head? Or...if we go really “deep” maybe it was when I was six, learning to play baseball, and ultimately built an affinity for exercise.

It can be similarly hard to understand when a buyer’s path to purchase truly begins. In a research-heavy category, like TVs for instance, it’s obvious that you need to measure, dig into, and understand the experiences along a consumer’s journey (the Trigger, Discovery, Evaluation, and Purchase phases)

What about a category like fashion?  In some categories... there are a LOT of ideas taking shape prior to that “foot hitting the dirt path.” In fashion, people absorb what’s on/off trend (colors, styles, shapes) well before they start looking for a new pair of pants. At CMB, this approach is one of the subtle differences between thinking about this as a path to purchase versus a consumer journey. The journey being broader and including pre-category engagement and later stage customer experiences.

Customer Journey Approach

At CMB, we think of this early stage as “Osmosis” (the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.). In the context of consumer journey, it’s the part of a person’s journey, that includes the way they engage with a category prior to a conscious need emerging

Recently, CMB self-funded an online study on the consumer journey exploring the gaming industry.  There’s no silver bullet in measuring the idea of Osmosis, however it’s very easy to miss, ignore or skip during the design phase of consumer journey work.  For this reason, we were extra careful about embedding measurement indicators about the consumer’s background and experience in the category. This study lent itself nicely, given the breadth of gaming categories covered. A few categories that intuitively would rely heavily on Osmosis in the decision process, and few that would rely heavily on the Discovery and Evaluation process.

Below is an example of drivers of the final decision, comparing six gaming categories. You see Peripherals, AR/VR, PC/Hardware relying on traditional Evaluation criteria:  reviews, promotions, etc. However, categories like Games and Consoles, are putting a lot of weight on pieces that have been gathered prior to actively being in the market: trust, and love for instance.

Four Factors Influencing Final Decision

Prior to starting path to purchase or consumer journey work, thinking through internal hypotheses and the notion of Osmosis is critical. Without it, insights risk over-emphasizing parts of the consumer journey, and missing other parts all together. Here are two tips to consider:

  1. When you think about qual, while you are connecting with the consumer—through one-on-one quality time, shopping along, or reliving a purchase—spend some healthy time digging into their background in the category (e.g., the affinity for exercise, the introduction to health and fitness). This knowledge can be invaluable to understanding the consumer broader journey. 
  2. Design any quant to probe on their history in the category, experience with product/competitors, etc. At CMB, we dig into psychological motivations by understanding  the Emotional, Social, Identity, and Functional Benefits to the consumer as well as perceptions of a brand.

In short: be conscious of what happens BEFORE you THINK “the Path” begins.


Marty MurkMarty Murk, Account Director, is an avid runner, and our resident path to purchase guru.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, 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

Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, methodology, path to purchase, consumer insights, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, customer journey, engagement strategy, Gaming, consumer journey, osmosis

Crossing the Chasm: Is VR Gaming Finally on the Precipice of Adoption?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Thu, May 14, 2020

Blog Opener

You’ve heard it countless times: “this is the year for VR,” “2020 is finally the year that VR will break through,” “the VR revolution is upon us.” These messages have consistently reverberated over the past 5 years, but virtual reality (VR) headsets have never quite managed to abandon the hype train. There are three reasons that help to explain why VR has stuttered:

  • Hardware has often been clunky or uncomfortable
  • High cost to entry has detracted many potential adopters
  • A lack of AAA or blockbuster games, experiences, and content

While head-mounted VR displays have existed since the late 1960’s, modern VR headsets as we know them can be more definitively traced back to Palmer Luckey and the initial Oculus Rift prototype. After a $2.4 million kickstart campaign, the company would be purchased in 2014 by Facebook for $2 billion.  Since then, the market has proliferated with offerings from Google, HTC, Samsung, Sony, and Windows Mixed Reality. Despite these heavy hitters pushing the market forward, VR hasn’t quite managed to advance beyond the initial phase of the disruption cycle: “emergence.”

Copy of Crossing the Chasm VR Social Media Micrographic

Now, more than ever, we may have legitimate reason to believe that VR could finally be advancing into the second phase of disruption: “evolution.” In this phase, technology begins to gain more mainstream traction after initial bouts of early adoption and new features, capabilities and advancements begin to proliferate. Here are some reasons to feel renewed optimism about VR’s ability to cross the chasm into mainstream appeal:

Increased dedication to AAA quality content:

VR’s struggle with content has been a huge initial barrier. A VR headset is a significant investment, typically ranging anywhere between $500 to $1000. Compare that to the price of current-gen consoles retailing under $500 or a gaming PC (which on the lower-end may cost you anywhere from $600 to $1,000), and with the more consistent stream of blockbuster AAA and low-budget indie content, it’s no surprise that a console and/or gaming PC purchase might be deemed a safer bet. The high cost to entry for limited content makes VR a niche purchase for those with the appetite and means.

But there is currently an increasing flow of AAA content helping to drive device sales. The announcement of Half-Life: Alyx garnered so much intrigue that it led to global shortages of the higher-end Valve Index device in November (that retails at $999 for the full VR kit). Even now, device shortages mean you’ll need to wait 8 weeks for shipment of the Valve Index. In its 2020 State of the Game Industry report, GDC offers even more hope that game developers are increasingly tantalized by VR. While only 15% of surveyed game developers had stated to have developed their last game for VR (lagging PC on 54% and mobile on 40%), VR as a platform is piquing interest. 27% of game developers claimed to be interested in VR as a platform; this exceeded interest for Xbox’s next-gen device (albeit, at a time when few details were available and it was simply known as “Project Scarlett”), as well as Google’s emerging cloud gaming platform Stadia. 2020 also marks the year where over 100 VR games have hit at least $1 million in revenue, suggesting appealing content is beginning to proliferate.

Device evolution and access democratization

VR headset manufacturers have also remained dedicated to device improvement and innovation. Screen resolutions have dramatically improved; headsets have become smaller and more agile; fields of view have expanded, and more powerful processing units embedded. One of the more pivotal innovations in VR, however, was the release of the Oculus Quest—helping to untether VR headsets from the PC, while maintaining significantly more power than weaker mobile VR headset alternatives. The untethering of the high-end VR device was a critical moment, helping to democratize VR gaming beyond those with VR-ready gaming PCs, a significantly lower price point of $400 also lowered the cost to entry. Sales of the Oculus Quest bear this out, the device is consistently sold out and incredibly difficult to find.

Gamer interest is starting to peak

In our recent self-funded research Pulse, A Gamer’s Journey, we also observed signs of optimism for VR gaming. When asked to rate interest in different emerging gaming technologies, VR trailed only next-gen consoles in interest. The youngest gamers (14-17 years old) interest in VR is almost twice that of the interest that cloud gaming or subscription-based gaming models have.

Emerging Game Tech Interest Social Media Micrographic

While the youngest gamers demonstrated the strongest interest, we observed strong overall latent demand for VR. Of the 4,000 gamers interviewed, 23% have actively considered a VR device, but there are still some hesitations inhibiting VR purchase. The upside is that many of these barriers feel actionable to overcome. Price remains a continued challenge, even for the more affordable standalone devices. But as the market matures, manufacturers achieve greater economies of scale and competitors potentially begin pushing prices lowers, VR should become more affordable. Increasing the prevalence of opportunities to experience VR (such as in VR arenas, albeit, a significantly more challenging feat in the current lockdown environments), and continued investment in content will help overcome the big barrier of uncertainty, which is also currently blocking growth.

Copy of Gamers Journey VR Micrographic (1)

The reality of it all

As we all continue to adjust to the new reality of isolation, now more than ever, the promise of escapism that VR offers could be as compelling a proposition as it ever has been. Increasingly more high-profile content is being delivered, more headsets are entering the market, and usage statistics from services like Steam are all pointing towards a positive direction. Yet, despite this all, the potential of VR remains divisive: an exchange in Forbes perfectly exemplifies this with a May 4th article proclaiming “VR Headers Are Dying A Lonely Death,” yet on May 5th an impassioned rebuttal rejected the notion that “Virtual Reality is Dying.” While hurdles and barriers exist, this gamer remains cautiously optimistic.


Josh ForteyJosh Fortey is an Account Director at CMB, and avid gamer.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, 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
Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: path to purchase, Consumer Pulse, growth and innovation, technology, Gaming, AR/VR, Next-Gen Gaming, consumer journey

The Three Pillars of Sustaining Our Culture during COVID-19

Posted by Heather Magaw and Lauren Sears

Tue, May 12, 2020

Two months ago, we closed our digs at Two Oliver Street in downtown Boston--and welcomed new office mates (including some furry and feathered) into our workdays. We’re proud to say that our culture is stronger than ever and in the spirit of openness, we’re sharing creative ways to building and maintaining our bonds:

Nala WFH

“Very productive day for Nala” - Mike Helms, Research Manager

Stay Social

One secret to CMB’s strong and enduring culture? It’s not all work and no play. CMB’s Social Committee does a fantastic job planning and executing events. With in-office banana bread competitions and pub trivia off the table, our Social Committee has been working hard to think of fun virtual events. They’re teaming up with our Board Game Club to host an online game night. We can’t wait!

Outside of events, we are using social media to stay connected with one another and our communities through our #SpringAtCMB campaign. Our need for positive emotions and social connection are greater than ever. Seeing spring through the eyes of our teammates has spread joy within and beyond our CMB community.

SpringAtCMB Twitter Screenshot

Appreciate Each Other

It’s well understood that employee recognition enhances engagement, creating a culture of commitment and passion. Now that we aren’t seeing each other in-person to high-five and elbow bump to celebrate a success, we are fortunate to have a custom engagement solution crafted for us by ITA Group. Our Be The Reason platform allows us to recognize colleagues and share positive feedback across all the ITA Family of Companies by recognizing behavior that reflects our core values.

CMB’s culture continues to thrive even with the close of our offices. We remain as committed as ever to helping the world’s leading brands engage, innovate, and grow and are challenging ourselves to do the same. In fact, some of our long-standing remote CMBers have even commented they feel even closer to the CMB culture now that we are all adopting a remote work lifestyle.

Liz White Quote - Remote COVID Social Culture

Stimulate Conversations

The CMB Virtual Lunchroom simulates our lively in-office kitchen and allows us to still eat together and catch up daily via video conference. Our weekly “Fun Fridays” are now virtual too! Hanging out and having a drink with colleagues is a great way to unwind together at the end of the week.

The Virtual Break Room is in full swing– and it’s a blast! This Microsoft Teams-based forum provides opportunity for CMBers to stay in touch through posts, stories, images and videos.  This is our online water cooler where we can gather to check in with each other and share a laugh or a smile, share a great podcast, and get a movie or book recommendation.  In short, to nurture those fun moments that help make us a supportive and cohesive team. It has something for everyone including topics like Too Cute (wow, so, so many cute pets!), All The Memes, Foodies, and Some Good News.

We are fortunate enough to have many great personal interest clubs at CMB. Documentary Club and Book Club are still going strong and meeting via online platforms. We’ve recently discussed The Tiger King, Chasing Happiness, and Babies! Our next book club is meeting to discuss Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.

Through all of this, we gained the confidence we needed to keep our culture strong. We have even made strides in better integrating our remote workforce into our events and social gatherings. Because of our efforts to keep our culture alive, CMB feels more connected to each other than ever. Our personal interest clubs have grown in number, and we’re committed to keep this momentum going. Who knows, maybe virtual game nights will become a new tradition! We at CMB hope that you and yours are staying safe, healthy, and connected during this time.


Heather MagawHeather Magaw is VP, People & Culture at CMB. After 15 years of being a part of the CMB culture, she remains committed to preserving CMB’s cultural DNA while continuing to evolve it into the future.

 

Lauren SearsLauren Sears is a Research Manager at CMB. She is also a co-leader of CMB’s Social Committee and is always looking for fun, new ideas to build employee engagement and relationships.

 

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

Topics: our people, COVID-19, CMB Social Committee, People & Culture, CMB Culture

Leaning In & Leading Up

Posted by Amy Modini

Wed, May 06, 2020

So much has changed during this COVID-19 environment – the way we work, stay in touch with family and friends, educate our children, shop, and the list goes on. We’re in the midst of a major health crisis which is impacting all aspects of our economy. Times of uncertainty are difficult for consumers, so having strong leaders to navigate rocky waters is pivotal in putting people at ease.

As organizations consider how to navigate their present and future, we are seeing strong leaders emerge. There is an opportunity for those in insights roles to become invaluable to their organizations as decisions are being made on how to act and think strategically for consumers. Here are 5 ways to lean in and lead up for your organization during COVID-19:

  • Continue to understand the changing environment through your greatest asset: research. Brands that will come out on top are not putting research on hold. As an insights professional, be firm on your suggestions on how, when, and why to conduct research.
  • Be nimble and think ahead. Brands are measuring concerns, needs, wants, and gaps in this current environment, but at some point, they’ll shift that view to look at attitudinal and behavioral changes to navigate how these changes impact how they interact with customers. In fact, how well brands identify,  understand, and satisfy consumers’ emotional, identity, social, and functional needs during this time may determine consumers’ loyalty after the pandemic.
  • Measure consumer sentiment. It’s critical now given the deep emotional and psychological impact of this crisis. While many companies are doing research during this time, CMB has embarked on a sentiment study to track how consumer sentiment is shifting over time.
  • Invest in your customers. As consumers go through difficult times, we see many brands openly supporting customers with refunds on auto insurance, for example.  These brands are also looking at how the customer experience will change in the future and what they may need to do to accommodate those needs.
  • Be innovative in the “new world”. As brands look at the fundamental behavioral shifts that are happening now, they are anticipating what that may look like for a brand in the future. While brands are trying to stay relevant now, the forward-looking brands are considering how they will need to understand and react to behavior shifts with new products, services, or offerings to serve these needs. With so many changes and unknowns, why not take the risks that could have the highest impact and resonance? This is a great time to experiment and think outside the box.

Understanding consumers’ changing attitudes, needs, and behaviors is important during these times. Those brands with strong insights leaders will emerge from this health crisis into a ‘new world’ that is rich with guidance from its customers on how to best serve them.


Amy ModiniAmy Modini, VP Practice Leader, brings insightful leadership and dedicated expertise marrying qualitative and quantitative research to an array of industries including healthcare, insurance, and financial services.

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

Topics: strategy consulting, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, consumer sentiment