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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

TMRE 2020 Takeaways

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, Oct 14, 2020

Post TMRE Oct 2020 Blog Opener

Planning a virtual conference is a job you couldn't pay me enough to do. From what I heard in chatting with this year’s TMRE attendees, sometimes the tech works and sometimes it doesn’t. However, those of us who attended witnessed a great willingness to get the most out of the event and a lot of positive energy. So for sanity’s sake, let’s keep the elephant in the room that is COVID-19 to the side, skip the things we have all heard already, and focus on the most interesting takeaways from this week’s event:

  • What’s Next for Preparedness? Some speakers said you should’ve been prepared for the chaos that is the current  business environment. But most said, “…umm who could have REALLY been prepared for this insanity?!?” For me, the key is how to be prepared for next month and next year. Thankfully, there were lots of tips on what alternative research tools (aka virtual) have been applied successfully and behavioral data was front and center.
  • A Warning for “Agile” Researchers. Talk about being "agile" was everywhere, but in many cases the word was used as a synonym for "fast". While fast can be great, it's not always best. Iterative agility in the traditional sense of the term for research can be amazingly impactful. An iterative approach– develop, measure, change, retest, rinse, repeat– clearly has a role to play in improving the research of tomorrow. But being quick is only as good as being smart. On this note, Abby Finnis, Sr. Director of Portfolio Insights & Analytics at PepsiCo Beverages, made the point of needing to embrace hybrid solutions that bring a variety of sources to bear during her panel session, “How Dunkin’, PepsiCo, and Unilever are Shaping the Future of Research.” To me, that feels more like the best type of agile.
  • How to have a seat at the table. This classic question was reframed a bit for 2020 as how to bring together disparate business users and uses of research to maximize the utility of insights and ensure successful socialization and implementation. Sure, some of this was looking for ways to ensure insights can be efficiently developed once, and be used in a variety of settings and applications. But more importantly, TMRE addressed how we can be more consultative. For some, being more consultative meant forgoing a degree of certainty, which is not necessarily a comfortable space for a researcher, but in the end we must “elevate” the most relevant themes to each stakeholder in order to make an impact, and to have a seat at the table.

These themes were particularly relevant in my colleague Lori Vellucci’s presentation “Wealth of a Generation | Get Inside the Minds of Young Investors,” which explored investors under 40. Her research on young investors, which leveraged our BrandFxSM approach, is a strong example of how brands can understand a diverse and important demographic, based on four pillars of human motivation: functional, emotional, social, and identity. Research like this can help people across disparate organizational silos create roadmaps for change – there’s a way to get your seat at the table; measuring in a focused ongoing way allows brands to keep insights relevant and quick-turn – that’s a way to be responsive to the oft-sought agility; and in a rapidly changing environment where being prepared means predicting right, understanding human motivation sets brands up for future success by, to quote one presenter at TMRE “building resiliency into business strategy.”


Kate Zilla-BaKate Zilla-Ba, Account Director

Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest financial services research: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor. And stayed tuned for more of our findings—experiential and beyond.
Immerse Yourself
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Topics: strategy consulting, financial services research, conference recap, Market research, agile research, COVID-19, financial services

Using Design Thinking to Become a More Agile Researcher

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Fri, Oct 09, 2020

Using DT Kathy Blog Opener Oct 2020

Last week, I attended IA’s Design Thinking Workshop, led by Brianna Sylver—a topic we strongly believe in to creatively solve business challenges. The framework came out of engineering and design originally but is smartly being applied to market research.

Consider these 5 steps and decide whether this agile approach, or process, could apply to your issues or needs:

  1. Empathize – market research to deeply know your target audience
  2. Define – an agreed upon narrow definition of your problem, or the questions that need answering
  3. Ideate – solution brainstorming
  4. Prototype – a written or physical build out of your solution(s)
  5. Test – user feedback on your idea/prototype

Design Thinking Graphic 5 Stages-1

As Brianna discussed, some problems require only a linear approach. If the objective is clear, agreed upon, similar to past concerns, and has available sources of data to support a decision, then you needn’t apply Design Thinking. On the other hand, if you require a deeper understanding of your customer and their needs or motivations, or your problem needs narrowing or alignment, there are unknowns that past data doesn’t address, or there is limited relevant past data, then the Design Thinking process should be applied.

Know, too, that Design Thinking is an agile process (i.e. a test and learn approach). It doesn’t end at Step 5: Testing. Results dictate what comes next. Do you realize now that you do not know enough about your consumer? Does the problem need restating? Should you ideate further based on what you’ve learned? Are you ready for, or do you need, a different or more detailed/tangible prototype? Revisiting prior steps is part of the process. Though you do eventually converge on the best solution!

You may be asking yourself…what if I’m not starting at Step 1: Empathize? Can I still apply Design Thinking? Of course, you can! For example, research on your target may be abundant and just in need of updating or organizing. Or perhaps the problem is already well-defined and agreed to by all stakeholders (and customers). Some clients have come to us at the Ideate stage, where they need to get creative, think differently, and add consumers to their brainstorming. Others have gotten as far as Prototyping (e.g. concepts, storyboarding), and are ready to test. In all cases, we will remind you that this is non-linear. You may think you’re done after testing, and perhaps you will be. But more likely, you will learn from that test and need to re-think something, such as the target, problem, solutions or prototype.

It may feel circular, but you are making progress!

Design Think Cartoon

With anything that involves art and science, this approach and way of thinking is a craft that requires creative application. At CMB, we have applied Design Thinking in multiple ways:

  • For a large investment firm, we began at Step 2, first bringing internal stakeholders together to align on what was in scope and out of scope, narrowing the problem to an agreed upon solvable need
  • For a theme park we began at Stage 3, bringing together consumers and engineers to build out a vision for an updated park
  • A hotel chain brought us in at Stage 4, once they’d already ideated scores of new ideas for their loyalty program

Ask how we can help you! We are trained and experienced in Design Thinking, Creative Problem Solving, Innovation, Improvisation and more. We welcome the opportunity to apply this to your problem solving.


Kathy OfsthunKathy Ofsthun, VP, Qualitative Strategy + Innovation

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Topics: qualitative research, Market research, agile research

IIEX North America Roundup

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Sep 15, 2020

Copy of IIEX 2020 Virtual Conference Roundup Blog Opener

This morning, I listened to a podcast about Maya Shankar, an exceptional violinist who studied under Itzhak Perlman before a hand injury forced her to shift course. She finished her doctorate in Cognitive Neuroscience and now works at the intersection of behavioral science and policy research to drive meaningful change. You can find out more about her here. She pivoted. She figured out her path forward. Pivoting is something we’re all learning to do and IIEX, like other formerly live events, is no exception. Like Maya, they’ve found avenues through the obstacles and persevered. Here’s the roundup of the IIEX North America virtual conference:

  • Jamin Brazil interviews Jon Derome, the GM of Customer and Market Research (CMR) for Microsoft, about Jon’s journey to GM. After Reed Cundiff moved to Kantar, the GM role opened and Jon, a 10-year veteran of the department, wrote an 8-page application to CVP of Brand, Global Advertising, and Research, Kathleen Hall for the role. Jon understood his role would be to make good decisions rather than quick decisions, and his decision to embark on a listening period shows his deep ability to reflect. He conducted 100+ one-on-one sessions and three surveys (among the CMR organization, the stakeholders they serve, and vendors) and his key takeaways were that 1) they needed to reorganize away from the former deep concentration by product (Xbox, Azure), because that was too siloed for Microsoft’s next epoch of growth, and 2) they needed to shift from tight/closed relationships between siloed stakeholder-researcher groups to visible/transparent relationships and collaborations within the CMR team and to the stakeholders and vendors. The CMR team felt very visible to their individual silo’s stakeholders but invisible to one another. While Jon humbly admits they are ‘still learning’ and ‘have had some failures and some successes,’ his vision for the group is to practice in a way that leaves spaces to talk and invite all voices in the team (quiet and loud) to the conversation.
  • Roben Allong asked “What is culture?” Allong, CEO of Lightbeam Communications, described how she mines cultural insights with a six-step process to help brands know what, where, and how to look for cultural codes and artifacts that impact the behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, and choices of today’s consumer. She talked about the steps of cultural consciousness, unbiased curiosity, informed observation, structured exploration, cultural insight discovery, and the insight validation stage. In one case example, Allong and her team tested some Haitian Creole print ads and discovered that younger people use Haitian Creole as spoken dialect not written. The marketing materials would have most impact as audio/radio ads vs print. She went on to talk about rising cultural trends such as digital empowerment, inclusivity of all voices, gender fluidity, green shaming (shaming brands that have acted environmentally irresponsibly), virtual living (reinventing behavior and social constructs) and AI integration.
  • The Power of Podcasts to Talk Culture. During IIEX, Sima Vasa’s Data Gurus, Jamin Brazil’s Happy Market Research Podcast and Priscilla McKinney’s Ponderings from the Perch podcasts were at the same time slot. I chose by putting 3 numbers into my cup and that’s how I clicked into Priscilla’s. But I regularly listen to all three of their podcasts and I highly recommend them all!
    IIEX Schedule Screenshot Podcasts 2020-2
    During Priscilla’s session, she spoke with Bianca Prior (BET) and Chrystal Day (YouTube). They had tremendous trust and rapport with one another as they spoke about culture and our unique opportunity within the #mrx industry. Bianca talked about getting involved at any level you can.
    Later in the IIEX program, the MR Podcast Award of the Year was revealed. 16 podcasts were nominated and the awards were granted. I am so excited to listen to the podcasts I haven’t listened to yet, as I am one of those “all media” people.
  • Jessica Sage, Ashley LeBlanc, Priscilla McKinney and Michelle Andre co-hosted the evening Women in Research (WiRe) sponsored event where 77 of us participated, listened, laughed, and text chatted as we answered famous women in history trivia questions. In a non-COVID-19 world, we would have been at WiRe enjoying some appetizers and a drink in a very energetic room with industry colleagues, but it was great to keep a sense of connection among a close-knit community. WiRe is organized into regional chapters and both women and men can participate. I highly recommend getting involved for the seminars, the trivia, and the networking!

IIEX Sep WiRE event screenshot 2020

I’ve now been to over a dozen virtual events and they keep getting better. While I look forward to getting back to seeing everyone in person, I’m going to continue to put on my best Zoom shirt and lean all the way in.


Julie KurdJulie Kurd is the VP, Business Development at CMB.

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Topics: conference recap, Market research, agile research, AI

5 Questions with Qualitative Moderator Eileen Sullivan

Posted by Savannah House

Wed, May 16, 2018

Meet Eileen_new_cropped

I recently sat down with Eileen Sullivan, CMB's newest Qualitative Moderator, to learn more about her experience, perspective on storytelling, and what she's most excited about in the world of qual.

SH: Tell me a little bit about your experience, what drew you to qualitative research?

ES: It wasn’t until my junior year of undergrad, when I studied abroad in Vietnam, that I discovered anthropology. The study of culture–and all the implicit and explicit ways it shapes human experience–was a perspective that immediately resonated with me. After school, I worked for some years as a buyer in the retail space, but ultimately returned to pursue my MA in medical anthropology, researching health outcomes associated with marketing “beauty” to women. A career in consumer insights became a natural extension of those interests. I feel quite lucky to spend my time digging into this dynamic space where psychology and culture meet to shape the way we live, how we think, and what we buy. Before I came to CMB, I was with LRW and later Basis LA, working with clients such as Chase, Estée Lauder, Facebook, Hulu, LEGO, and Whirlpool, among others.

SH: What qual tools and methods are you excited about right now?

ES: While qualitative has always been iterative to a degree–the ability to throw out a guide or revamp stimuli on the fly–we’re now making great strides to scope research that is agile from the outset. It’s exciting to execute studies that put consumer feedback at the center of research design–first identifying the problem and its root cause, and then hypothesizing solutions. Within this framework, there are some great digital tools that enable researchers to look over a consumer’s shoulder, fascinating AI tools that offer the potential for scalable qual, and innovative forms of “traditional” qualitative as well, like agile co-creation and ideation sessions. There’s been a lot of focus in our industry on “breaking down the glass” – putting clients face-to-face with their consumers. It’s critical for not only engaging our research clients, but their internal stakeholders as well. The reality is that great research is useless if no one uses it, but I think an agile research framework makes the process more inclusive and collaborative, and ultimately delivers greater benefit to both client and consumer.

SH: From your perspective, what makes a successful moderator?

ES: Moderators have different styles and traits that make them great, but for me, the two most important characteristics are a willingness and openness to connect, and an unquenchable thirst to know. “Respondents” are more than the sum of their responses–they are people, having good days and bad, but still showing up to give their time and thoughts. It’s very important to me to hold some space, to recognize and appreciate each participant before we even get in front of the glass. And as for curiosity, well, you stop living when you stop learning. Striving for deeper understanding, and asking questions – to me, that’s what it’s all about!

SH: How critical is storytelling?

ES: Humans are “storytelling animals.” Narrative shapes how we perceive and make sense of our world: from our macro worldview, to the personal brand stories we share, to the little stories we tell ourselves. As a moderator, it’s important to dig into participants’ stories – to unpack them and sometimes question them because insights don’t always neatly come through in answers to questions. If you think of all the ways communication extends beyond language (i.e., emphasis, volume, body language, pause), you realize the “story” is usually much broader than just what’s said. And storytelling is every bit as critical on the backend. For research to have meaning within an organization, it must find an audience – and that audience must care. Has anyone ever cared about a book or a movie, when the story just wasn’t that good? I think that’s an important responsibility that we researchers have – to bring our findings to life, to transform our participants’ needs and wants, pain points and delights, from data points to narratives. We must deliver insights that captivate our clients’ audience, with actionable recommendations to drive impact for their business.

SH: What resources help you stay connected to the latest industry thinking?

Information and inspiration can come from a lot of different sources. For instance, a friend turned me onto design thinking. I just finished Change by Design, and Sprint is next up on the recommended reading list she shared. I’m always tracking what’s going on in my professional network, and try to stay abreast of Quirk’s periodicals as well as Greenbook’s announcements/blog. WIRe and QRCA also sponsor some great events.

Topics: our people, qualitative research, storytelling, agile research