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CES 2018: Virtual Assistant Battle Royale

Posted by Savannah House

Wed, Jan 17, 2018

AI_Resized.jpg

Last week the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped up in Las Vegas and left us feeling excited and invigorated about what’s to come in tech. From talking toilets to snuggle robots, CES 2018 was yet another reminder of how deeply technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives.

This year, once the world’s largest tech show found its way out of the dark, CES was all about virtual assistants.

Alexa vs. Google Assistant

Amazon’s Alexa has dominated the virtual assistant category—claiming 70% of the market share in 2017 and then ending the year with strong holiday sales as the most downloaded app for Apple and Android on Christmas Day. But this year, Google (who typically keeps a low profile at CES), made its presence loud and clear.

From wrapping the Las Vegas monorail with the words “Hey Google” to erecting a massive playground in the CES conference center parking lot (complete with a giant gumball machine), Google is making it clear that it intends for Google Assistant to be a legitimate contender in the virtual assistant space.

It’s about integration, not separation

Both Google and Amazon used CES 2018 as a platform to announce new partnerships for their virtual assistants. Alexa will soon be found in Toyota cars, Vuzix smart glasses, and Kohler smart toilets. Meanwhile, Google is integrating its smart technology with a slew of products from leading brands like Sony, Lenovo, and Huawei.

If there’s one takeaway from these partnership announcements, it’s that voice assistant technology will not be confined to the realm of their makers’ product lines. Instead, voice assistants intend to be everywhere—plugging into smart glasses, smart earbuds, and smart toilets—underscoring the tech industry’s expectation that voice assistants will continue to play a much bigger role in our digital lives.

Crossing the chasm

It appears Google’s goal at CES wasn’t necessarily to woo tech lovers with its Google Assistant. Rather, it was to show regular people what is possible with virtual assistant technology. This is important because it demonstrates the (potential) ubiquity of this category once thought of as only for early tech adopters.

However, despite pushes to show “regular" people that virtual assistants are meant for everyone, our research indicates that social identity is playing a role in preventing widespread virtual assistant adoption.

As the chart indicates below, peoples' ability to relate to the typical user is the biggest driver in virtual assistant usage:

VA drivers (branded)-1.jpg

However, currently, consumers can’t relate to the typical virtual assistant user, which is keeping them from “crossing the chasm” and becoming regular users themselves.

The virtual assistant category will only grow in complexity as more companies enter the game (let’s not forget about Siri and Cortana). But, while flashy conference displays, exciting partnership announcements, and product demos are all helpful in attracting more consumers, if virtual assistant brands want to achieve more mainstream adoption, the brand and creative teams need to tackle the virtual assistant image problem head on.

Savannah House is the Marketing Manager at CMB, and as a light sleeper, is most excited about the robotic pillow.

Topics: AffinID, Identity, technology research, internet of things, Artificial Intelligence

AI's Image Problem: Who's the "Typical" Virtual Assistant User?

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Jan 09, 2018

siri2-1.png

Every nascent technology and every tech start-up faces the same marketing challenge of “crossing the chasm” into mainstream adoption.  Geoffrey Moore framed this very well in his 1991 classic, “Crossing the Chasm”:

adoption curve.pngWord of mouth can play a huge role in motivating certain segments to sip the Kool-Aid and make the leap.

With CES 2018—the world's largest gadget tradeshow—happening in Vegas this week, I can't help but wonder if mainstream consumers don’t relate to the early adopters of a new technology? What if they think it’s used by people who aren’t part of “their tribe”? Will it prevent them even considering the new tech? There are countless technology categories that have faced this challenge, for example:

  • certain gaming categories trying to expand beyond 15-24-year-old males
  • consumer robot products to this day
  • social media when it was first introduced
  • Second Life and other virtual worlds

I hypothesized that the virtual assistant (VA) category—and specific brands within it—faces this challenge. Yes, many people have tried and used Siri, but few mainstream consumers are truly using virtual assistants for anything beyond basic hands-free web-queries. To further complicate things, an increasing number of “smart home” products that connect to intelligent wireless speakers in the home (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s forthcoming HomePod) are proving divisive. Some people love the experience or the idea of commanding a smart device while others categorically reject the concept. 

My team and I had the chance to test out a few hypothesis through our Consumer Pulse program and —voila!—we’ve got some tasty (and useful) morsels to share with you about how social identity is influencing consumer adoption in the virtual assistant space using our proprietary AffinIDSM solution.

Here’s what we found:

Social identity matters in the virtual assistant space. We studied US consumers (18+)—covering usage, adoption, and perceptions of the virtual assistant category and a deep-dive on four major brands within it: Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana by Microsoft. We covered rational perceptions of the category, emotional reactions to experiences using virtual assistants, and perceptions of the “typical” user of Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana.

We then ran fancy math™ on our data to create a model to predict the likelihood of a virtual assistant “category rejecter” (i.e., someone who has never tried a VA before) to try any one of those assistants in the future. Our analysis indicates that how much a current VA category rejecter relates to their image of the type of person who uses a virtual assistant is the number one predictor of whether they are likely to try the technology in the future:

Blog_Chris.png

Unfortunately for the industry, category rejecters do not find the typical VA user very relatable. 
AffinID metric by brand.png

As the chart indicates, relatability (biggest predictor of likelihood to try as shown previously) scores the lowest of the three components of AffinID: relatability, clarity, and desirability. You may ask yourself: “are scores of 12 to 14 ‘good’ or ‘bad’?  They’re bad: trust me. We’ve now run AffinID on hundreds of brands across dozens of industries, so we have a formidable normative database against which to compare brands. The VA category does not fare well on “relatability,” and it matters.

Some brands’ VA ads, while amusing, are not very relatable to “normal” mainstream consumers. For example as my colleague Erica Carranza points out in her recent blog, Siri’s ad featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson doing impossibly awesome things in one day (including taking a selfie from outer-space) with the help of Siri isn’t exactly a “normal” person’s day. A-grade for amusement on this one, but it is playing into an existing perception problem.

Stereotypes about users’ age and income are currently keeping “rejecters” away from the virtual assistant category.

The age gap between rejecters and “typical” virtual assistant users is a social identity construct keeping rejecters out of the category. Current rejecters, not surprisingly, skew older while current heavy VA users, also not surprisingly, skew young.

We uncovered this disconnect with a big predictive model using “match analysis” on a variety of demographic, personality, and interest attributes. For every attribute, we examined whether there was a “match” or a “disconnect” between how a rejecter described themselves vs. how they perceived the typical user of a virtual assistant brand.

The two specific perceptions that had the greatest ability to predict a rejecter’s likelihood to consider using a brand in the future was an age-range match and an income-range match. For example, if I’m over 35 years old (hypothetically!), and I perceive the “typical” user to be under 35 years old and higher-income than me…so what? Well, it does matter. For new technologies to achieve mainstream adoption, they must debunk the widespread perceptions that the early adopter is “young” and highly affluent, and that their product can be used by everyone (think: Facebook). SNL pokes fun at this generational discrepancy.

But in all seriousness, if a virtual assistant brand wants to achieve more mainstream adoption among older demographics, the brand gurus and creative teams working on campaigns need to tackle this head on.

And they must try to do this—ideally—without alienating the original early adopter group that made them their first million (think: Facebook, again…how many Gen Zers do you know who actually use it actively?). I—prototypical 45-year-old suburban dad—can’t imagine using Snapchat, for instance. If Snapchat wanted to get me and my tribe to buy in as avid users*, it needs to convince me that Snapchat isn’t just for teens and early twenty-somethings. Or it needs to launch a different brand/product targeted specifically at my tribe, and market it appropriately.

It’s worth noting there are other social identity constructs that help predict whether a non-user of a virtual assistant is likely to try a product in the future. For instance, the few VA category rejecters who perceive the typical (young, affluent) user as being as “responsible/reliable” as themselves are more open to trying a VA in future than those who do not perceive VA users this way. So, we’re seeing this stereotype that virtual assistant products are for young, affluent professionals living in a major coastal city with no kids to contend with yet, and this is turning some consumer segments off from trying out the category in earnest.  

Stay tuned to this channel for more on our study of the virtual assistant category. I’ll be covering some key insights we got by applying our emotional impact analysis—EMPACT℠to the same issue of what virtual assistant brands should be doing to achieve further adoption and more mainstream usage of their products. 

*I am more than 95% confident that the Snapchat brand gurus do not want me as an avid user…and my ‘tween daughter would definitely die of embarrassment if I ever joined that particular platform and tried to communicate with her that way.

 

Topics: technology research, AffinID, EMPACT, Consumer Pulse, Artificial Intelligence

Robo-Advisors Aren't Your Father's Financial Advisor

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Tue, Dec 12, 2017

Back in the day, if you had a little money to invest, you called up the brokerage firm that your dad used, you talked to his“guy” and you asked him to invest your money for you. Those days aren’t totally gone, but over the last few years new technology has disrupted the traditional investor-client relationship—resulting in more ways than ever to invest your money yourself.

We all remember the iconic E*TRADE baby from way back in 2013. E*TRADE’s campaign brought the online discount stock brokerage firm for self-directed investors model into the mainstream. Since then, more DIY investment platforms have cropped up, each vying for the modern self-directed investor’s business. But one important learning from the DIY trend of the past decade is that even though this model lends itself to independent investing, DIY-investors still need some type of investment help.

Robo-advisors: The rise of AI in finance

The first robo-advisor was released in 2008 to help these new investors make smart money choices. For the most part, early DIY investors didn’t have a formal finance background, so robo-advisors offered them portfolio management services and insights that were once reserved for high-net-worth individuals—at a fraction of what a traditional human financial advisor might charge. It was a gamechanger.

Robo-advisor technology continues to shape the financial services industry with big players like Charles Schwab and Ameritrade each launching their own in the last few years. This growing interest and investment in robo-advisory technology is great for DIY investors and offers a ton of opportunity for traditional financial firms be on the cutting edge of FinTech.

Given the changing landscape, we wanted a better understanding of investor perceptions of robo-advisor clients.  Through our 2017 Consumer Pulse, we surveyed 2,000 US adults about FinTech, traditional financial services firms, and who they perceived as the technologies' typical user.

Who's using robo-advisors?

Typical Robo-Advisor User.png

CMB’s AffinID (a measure of social identity’s influence on consumers) score for this FinTech offering indicate that while all three components of AffinID (clarity, relatability, and social desirability) could stand improvement within the investor community. Relatively speaking, relatability is weakest--people have a clear image of what the typical robo-advisor user is like and that image is socially desirable, but they don't view the typical user as part of their "tribe".

The inability of investors to relate to their image of the typical robo-advisor user sheds light on a potential roadblock. Robo-service providers targeting traditional investors might consider messaging that conveys a typical user more closely aligned with the “traditional investor image”.

What emotions are driving use?

We found that robo-advisor users themselves are driven by feelings of being smart, wise, and savvyefficient, practical, productive.  Inspiration and motivation are also key emotional drivers for robo-advisor services.

Emotions that drive robo-advisor usage2.png

Why does this matter? It tells us what brands looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded FinTech market could be doing to attract more customers. These emotional drivers could be important messaging elements for those companies looking to court new money from traditional investors.

Are robo-advisors the next "big thing" in FinTech?

FinTech adoption curve2.png

Three quarters of robo-advisor users consider themselves early adopters, this is in contrast with users of mobile wallet and online-only banking--two technologies that have entered the mainstream. As traditional financial service providers make considerable investments in driving robo-advisor adoption, our findings show that to drive adoption it's critical to understand both how consumers want to feel, and how they perceive and relate to their image of the typical user.

Interested in learning more?

Our comprehensive FinTech study also looked at online-only investment apps, online-only banking, and mobile wallets. Download a sneak peek of our findings from all four in our Facing the FinTech Future series:

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, financial services research, Identity, AffinID, BrandFx

The Social Identity Effect: How one Millennial “Found Herself” at the MFA After Midnight

Posted by Lisa Hoffman

Wed, Nov 15, 2017

people-festival-party-dancing.jpg

Shortly after midnight last weekend, I was surprised when someone suggested that we head to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Despite my love of art, while interning at the museum in college, I learned that people like me were not its "typical" daily visitors. Asked to conjure up an image of those who go to the MFA—an imposing neoclassical building located in Boston’s Fenway—I pictured school groups, white-haired docents, and tourists…lots of tourists.  I did not envision urban millennials looking for a respite from the Boston bar scene. Not until I saw it for myself.

In 2014, the MFA set out to grow their audience and take advantage of a city teeming with recent college graduates. They needed to continue to appeal to their typical daytime patrons (those older tourists, families, and school groups), but with a new director in place, the MFA saw an opportunity to become a sought-after destination for Boston’s millennials. So, the museum launched #mfaNOW—a series of late-night parties, artistic celebrations, and lectures targeted at young Bostonians looking for a fun night out.

These events are an incredible success—hundreds of millennials are lining up at the door on weekend nights, sharing on social, and bringing their friends because they now see themselves as MFA museum goers. The MFA is experiencing the social identity effect validated by our research: to change the image of the brand, you need to change the image of the typical brand customer.

I experienced it myself that night, as I wandered through a crowd of hip overnight revelers, my perception of the museum and museum-goers began to change. It wasn’t because of the heart-pumping music and flashing lights—though those were cool. It changed because I was immersed in people like me—young city-dwelling professionals—people I could understand, relate to, and who I wanted to be with. It felt like at any point I could run into someone I knew in the crowd, making the night an experience I was excited to share with my friends, either later online, or at the next event!

As the results of our research show, who consumers imagine as your brand's "typical" customer really matters. In fact, consumers are 12x more likely to consider brands when they can identify with their image of its typical user. So, brands looking to influence or change their brand perception need to consider who their typical (or target) customer is and create experiences and offer services and products that appeal to that person.

See it in action:

The MFA changed the image of its stereotypical visitor when it introduced #mfaNOW. It offers millennials—people like me—the opportunity to see their peers experiencing (and enjoying) the museum in an entirely different context than a typical daytime visit—a paradigm shift for an established brand.

Learn more about how we’re helping clients leverage the critical role of identity to create truly customer-centered brands. 

Topics: AffinID, Identity, brand health and positioning

The Art & Science of Selecting a Spokesperson

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Nov 08, 2017

This article was originally published in Website Magazine.

When is tapping a celebrity to endorse your brand a good idea, and who should you choose? In an age when scandals erupt in the time it takes to share a tweet, getting it wrong is at best a wasted opportunity, and at worst a PR nightmare.

It’s hard to predict a celebrity scandal. Luckily, consumers tend to forgive brands that take steps to condemn bad behavior (when his doping came to light, Lance Armstrong lost eight contracts in a single day, starting with Nike). But what about wasted opportunities? No marketer wants to invest in a celebrity if a less expensive strategy would work—or to pick the wrong celebrity for the job.

To make the right decision for your brand, before signing any celebrity, make sure that you understand your brand’s customer image.

Your brand’s customer image is consumers’ stereotype of the kind of person who uses the brand. It relates to the brand’s overall image, but it’s not the same. For example, consider Subaru:

  • When we ask consumers to describe the brand Subaru, they say “safe” and “reliable.”
  • But when we ask them to describe the typical Subaru owner, they say “middleclass,” “family-focused,” and “outdoorsy.” They picture someone with kids and a dog, who likes to hike, and who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Subaru - hiking family_blog.jpg

There’s a lot of nuance to their image of the typical Subaru customer—including attributes a person can embody, but a brand cannot.

Customer image is crucial because people are social animals. Our social identities shape what we think, who we are and strive to be, how we act and the choices we make as consumers. So truly strategic brands lead consumers to equate using the brand with joining a tribe that expresses an identity. And the secret to creating that connection is a clear, compelling brand customer image. In our research at CMB we’ve seen that consumers who identify with their image of a brand’s customer are 14-times more likely to choose the brand, and 15-times more likely to recommend it. What does this mean for selecting a celebrity spokesperson?

1. First, get a deep understanding of how your target audience sees the brand customer 
Do they already have an image of the kind of person who uses the brand? If so, how compelling is that image? What’s working about that image, and what isn’t? Which assumptions should you reinforce—and which should you work to change—in order to own a customer image that is compelling and unique for your audience, and realistically attainable for your brand?

2. Consider signing a celebrity if the brand customer image is unclear

Given the importance of the brand customer image, having a new or lesser-known brand may pose a challenge: When your target audience tries to imagine your typical customer, they may draw a blank. On the upside, that means you can build the customer image from scratch—and a celebrity endorsement can provide an effective strategy. In additional to pairing the brand with a familiar face, your campaign can draw on consumers’ “built-in” knowledge about the celebrity to communicate what you want them to know about your brand tribe.

3. Consider signing a celebrity if the brand customer image isn’t compelling

Stereotypes are notoriously difficult to change. So it often happens that a brand’s (formerly appealing) customer image is no longer relevant—or even alienating—to new consumers. For example, we partner with many respected, longstanding brands that are working to attract younger generations. A key barrier is the image of an “older” customer. The answer isn’t to put a Kardashian in every ad. (We’ve all seen how that can go…) But snagging the right celebrity can disrupt preconceived notions about the kind of person who buys or uses the brand. Especially when the endorsement seems genuine. This ad comes to mind as great example for having challenged stereotypes of Chrysler drivers and Detroit.

Another great example is the choice of Maya Rudolph by Seventh Generation. Consumers tend to think that people who buy “green” household cleaners are condescending “activist types” who have money to pay a premium for products that don’t work well. That’s not a compelling tribe. But Maya Rudolph, a comedic actress and a mom, gives Seventh Generation customers an image that’s much more relatable and fun. I’m a particular fan of her video promos on the Seventh Generation website.

4. Think twice if the customer image is niche and the goal is to broaden appeal

The image of the Subaru driver shows the impact of ads like this, which have an “every parent” quality. A famous spokesperson could undermine that message. Sometimes signing a celebrity—any celebrity—isn’t the best approach. For example, if you’re a tech company trying to drive adoption of your Virtual Assistant, you’ll need to battle the perception that typical users are a niche group: Young, tech-savvy, affluent, white men. So you may want to show a diverse group of regular people doing regular things with the personal assistant, like Google during this year’s Super Bowl—rather than a celebrity doing extraordinary things, like The Rock using Siri to snap selfies from space.

22261-26696-170802-Rock-l.jpgSource: appleinsider

5. If you take the plunge, pick a celebrity who embodies the top priority attributes you want to convey

Picking someone well-known and well-liked may seem like a safe bet. But it fails to consider how that person might influence the image of the brand customer. Instead, identify specific priorities for what to communicate based on consumers’ current image of your customer, their image of competitor brand customers, and what does (or doesn’t) express their identities and values. Then map those priorities to their perceptions of potential spokespeople.

While there’s no guaranteeing that a celebrity won’t behave badly, at least you can take steps to make sure that you sign a spokesperson who conveys the right image of your brand tribe.

Erica Carranza is VP of consumer psychology at Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). She earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University and has more than ten years of experience leading research for major brands. Prior to CMB, she spent time in consumers insights at American Express, where she was a recipient of the CMO Award for Achievement in Excellence.

Topics: AffinID, Identity, marketing science