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The Power of Disruption: Uber's COVID-19 Story

Posted by Tara Lasker

Wed, Aug 05, 2020

Uber COVID19 Blog Opener Aug2020

I couldn’t have imagined that four years after I blogged about Uber’s evolving brand promise, we’d be debating the safety of a trip to the grocery store. The disruption wrought by COVID-19 has only accelerated that by advancing technology, socio-economic change, and evolving consumer needs. So how will Uber and other disruptive tech-driven brands face the challenge of how it best fits in consumers lives today? With so much in flux, we do know this: a deep understanding of consumer motivations is critical to successfully innovating amid disruption.

At CMB, we use our proprietary BrandFxSM framework to help brands uncover threats and opportunities brought about by disruption. We know that when brands help people fulfill people’s core needs by delivering on Functional, Social, Emotional, and Identity they drive trial, use, and advocacy—this is true whether or not their lives are upended by a pandemic!

For example, we know that a failure to help passengers feel safe and secure was a barrier for the ride sharing industry early on and was subsequently addressed after both Uber and Lyft took action (e.g., evolved rating system, license plate confirmation). Today’s safety concerns look a lot different than 4 years ago—the fear of a fellow passenger’s aerosols may be more top-of-mind than the fear of an ill-intentioned driver. Keeping a pulse on consumers evolving needs during this extraordinary time will help Uber deliver what consumers need to consider or continue ride sharing. Uber should ask themselves:

  • Are people using ride sharing differently now? (e.g., getting to work where public transportation feels unsafe)
  • What can Uber do to provide customers a sense of safety in these uncertain times?
  • How do safety concerns rank against other drivers like stability and anxiety right now?
  • What will it take for consumers to consider ride sharing again?
  • What emotions (e.g. anxiety) play a larger role in today’s consumer behaviors than more rational considerations of 4 years ago (e.g., convenience)?

Having the right tools in place to successfully deliver those benefits are also crucial. Contact-free tech such as autonomous vehicles have resurfaced as a major opportunity. As we’ve reported in our research, fear has been a majority barrier to adoption, but in a world where health anxiety is at an all-time high, we expect to see chasms crossed in record time (think about how much time you spent on Zoom before March)!

Additionally, pivoting areas of focus with acquisitions and partners is a winning strategy for innovative brands. Partnerships allow companies to tap into centers of excellence and provide faster routes to market and/or greater market share. Uber’s purchase of Postmates is a good example of how the brand is investing in partnerships that reflect changing needs. In another change since 2016, if you go to Uber.com, Uber Eats has a prominent space on the home page. Understanding the broader context of Uber’s core mission – setting the world in motion - we understand how this pivot allows Uber to leverage its core competencies with the desired benefits the marketplace seeks (a night of not cooking when date night means staying in).

Disruption and uncertainty aren’t going away but neither are the core drivers of consumer decision-making. Brands that don’t merely survive but thrive amid this disruption will be the ones that use a deep understanding of what truly drives people and combines it with agility and the will to innovate and develop meaningful partnerships.

Contact us to learn more about our cutting-edge research into consumer motivation.

CONTACT US


Tara LaskerTara Lasker is a Senior Research Director at CMB, and former frequent Uber customer who misses having engaging conversations with her Uber driver.

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

Topics: technology research, strategy consulting, technology solutions, consumer insights, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, BrandFx, consumer psychology, technology, engagement strategy, COVID-19, consumer sentiment

Quirk's Virtual Roundup: Building the Plane While Flying It

Posted by Taylor Trowbridge

Tue, Jul 21, 2020

Quirks Virtual Blog Opener July 2020 (2)

“The new normal.” Nearly every speaker at the Quirk’s Virtual Event uttered the phrase, and while there wasn’t a clear consensus on what that normal will be (or when), the dual themes of disruption and change were ever present. In terms of the conference itself, the newly virtual event meant remote video sessions, online connections, and every now and then earning a merit badge. Although not without its quirks (get it?), the event offered great thought leadership, insights, and ideas, as well as many excellent learning and networking opportunities.

Not all the change discussed was driven by pandemic and politics. I was particularly drawn to the sessions focused on the power of insight to drive organizational change. While a few suppliers spoke to the importance of this, the most unique perspectives came from the client side, including:

  • Nestlé’s Mary Colleen Hershey, who tracked the journey her team took to transform the company’s team of talented research experts into business building consultants. I loved her advice to stop romanticizing the research and get passionate about results and impact.
  • Michael Franke and Monica Stronsick shared how Progressive is embracing change and building a more robust and cohesive customer experience program by effectively linking 9 experience surveys.

Another heartening theme was the need for human connection and empathy amid disruption (and not just the good-natured acceptance of tech snafus).

  • Our own Vice President of Consumer Psychology, Erica Carranza, PhD shared how the human factors—specifically the psychological benefits emotion and identity—give us a critical understanding of consumer decision-making. Grounding concepts in a world where the only constant is change.
Watch The Human Factors Here
  • The Discover.ai team had two great sessions about the humanizing potential of AI, including the Durex case study presented in “The newest methodologies for some of the world’s oldest questions,” which provided a bit of a respite from some of the stodgier subject matters. The real takeaway was in the power of new technologies to deepen our understanding of people—their needs, desires, and motivations.

What we’re all wrestling with—personally and professionally—is how not just to survive despite change but to boldly grow because of it. Everything from brand experiences to research methodologies are being turned on their head. As Voya Financial’s Keri Hughes says, we are, “building the plane as we are flying it.” And as we learned at Quirk’s Virtual, we can weather the storm by embracing change and our humanity.


Taylor Trowbridge-2Taylor Trowbridge, CMB Account Director and proud owner of Orville, one sleepy bulldog living the dream in North Carolina.

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

Orville_QuirksVirtual

Orville taking a power nap during Quirk's Virtual

Topics: business decisions, consumer insights, marketing strategy, emotional measurement, conference recap, brand health and positioning, Market research, Identity, Artificial Intelligence, BrandFx, consumer psychology, Social Benefits, COVID-19, Emotional Benefits, customer centricity

The Power of the Brand: The Peloton COVID-19 Story

Posted by Daniel McDonald

Mon, Jun 15, 2020

Pelaton Blog Opener

“You have a Peloton? Are you crazy?” I’ve heard this multiple times from people who are shocked that I was willing to pay “that much” for an exercise bike. Yes I did, and frankly, my fiancée and I love it (#NotAnAd).  I still remember the first Peloton commercial I saw. It featured a fit younger female biking in the middle of her living room in what appeared to be a penthouse in New York City. It came off as a luxury, a product for the rich, not something that belonged in the corner of your dining room where the only view is an outdated china cabinet. Fast forward to Christmas 2019, Peloton takes a seemingly innocent—now notorious—approach to being more obtainable with the slogan, “for anybody that wants it.” Peloton’s attempt to balance luxury with affordability and attainability has proven challenging.

Enter COVID-19, suddenly, that initial sticker shock seemed rather small when my only option is working out at home. In the past few months I have heard more and more of my friends buying a Peloton bike, including a few that called me crazy when I took the plunge a year ago. Peloton has recently reached over a million subscribers and their biggest problem is delivering bikes fast enough. So how does a brand go from a widely panned marketing flop to selling more products in a few days than they expected in the entire month?

It's not a complex formula, when you take away an outlet for people, they are going to look to fill it somehow. That’s exactly what’s happening for Peloton during COVID-19, they’ve been able to capitalize on a bad situation. But what happens when gyms reopen, and people adjust to the new normal? How does the rapid growth Peloton has been experiencing become more than just an outlier? True, this won’t be a toilet paper situation, they can’t expect people to start hoarding exercise bikes, but that doesn’t mean Peloton can’t become the first-choice outlet for working out.

Peloton has always been willing to spend money on advertisements, and even the infamous ones, have made Peloton a well-known name. In fact, I would argue that the average person can’t name more than 2 or 3 stationary bike brands. This means, that even though the market is oversaturated, people only recognize a few brands. Now more than ever Peloton should continue pushing their advertisements, but with a different approach. Recently, we’ve seen a shift in advertisements due to the pandemic, whether its poking fun at the fact that there is always that one person who can’t figure out how to unmute themselves on Zoom, or just showing their compassionate side towards the situation. The main point is brands are acknowledging our experience in a timely manner. Peloton is a unique brand because even during this troubling time, they can remain almost fully functional. They have trainers constantly putting out new classes, both from the comfort of their own home (safely and alone) and inside one of their New York studios. They must let everyone know, whether they are an existing customer or not, that they remain focused on physical fitness and can provide anyone the opportunity to stay healthy. Now more than ever Peloton can realize their goal of providing fitness “for anybody who wants it”.

One thing is for sure, change is inevitable for everyone. People are eager to get back to a gym or spend the money on advancing their own home gyms. No one can be sure what the new normal or long-term impact will be like when this is over, but in a time where interaction is unfeasible, connection is critical. Brands like Peloton, Netflix, and HelloFresh are emerging as leaders because they are focused on the human element. They clearly benefit from more people staying at home but what happens when those people start to leave? How do the brands that have seen exponential growth during COVID-19 transition themselves into the new normal? But humans are creatures of habits, and as long as Peloton continues to stress their flexibility, compassion, and purpose, exercising at home will remain a habit.


Daniel McDonaldDaniel McDonald, Associate Researcher, is a proud first-time homeowner, which is the perfect addition to his Peloton bike.

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

Topics: consumer insights, advertising, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, growth and innovation, Market research, retail, consumer psychology, COVID-19

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

Buyer (and Seller!) Beware: The Emotional Bias in User Reviews

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Mar 04, 2020

In 2006, psychologist Daniel Gilbert published a book called Stumbling on Happiness. It posed a provocative question: “Think you know what makes you happy?”

Spoiler alert! You don’t.

SoH_book

The basic premise is that people are bad at predicting what will make them happy in the future. But they know when they’re happy now. In fact, scientists who study emotion generally agree that the best way to learn how someone is feeling at a given moment is not to scan their brain or read their face—it’s to ask.

So, according to Gilbert, the best way to predict whether something will make you happy in the future is to ask people who are experiencing it now: How does it them feel?

This speaks to the awesome utility of user reviews—some of which are also fun to read. (A special shout-out to the Amazon shoppers who’ve reviewed BiC’s Retractable Ball Pens “For Her”…)

Bic_review

But while user reviews can be quite helpful, most have a built-in bias: The people who write them tend to be experiencing emotions high in activation.

Emotional activation is one of two dimensions that underly all emotion; the other is valence.

  • Valence is the intensity of a positive or negative feeling
  • Activation is the amount of physical energy associated with it

They are often correlated, but they aren’t the same. Take, for example, feeling angry vs. feeling sad: Anger and sadness can feel equally and intensely bad in terms of valence. But anger is high in activation. It’s agitating and makes people want to act. By contrast, sadness is low in activation. It’s wearying and makes people want to withdraw.Core_emotion

Critical user reviews tend to come from customers feeling negative high activation emotions (e.g., anger, frustration or disgust) because they want to funnel that energy into something—like calling customer service, lodging a complaint, quitting the brand, or venting their feelings in other ways. Incidentally, that’s also the reason why stories about brands that spark moral outrage are particularly likely to go viral. (Don’t believe me? Just ask United Airlines.)

Negative low activation emotions (e.g., feeling disappointed or discouraged) can be damaging in their own ways—for example, when they lead customers to quietly lapse. But those customers are much less likely to raise a fuss or write a scathing review. 

The same goes for positive emotions: Inspiring high activation positive emotions (e.g., excitement, delight or pride) leads customers to do things like proactively recommend the brand or take time to write a glowing review. Positive low activation emotions can be good too—for example, in financial services, making customers feel comfortable and secure drives retention. Still, customers who feel comfortable and secure aren’t likely to shout it from the rooftops.

In short, user reviews only tend to capture extreme poles within the top two quadrants of emotional experience:  Customer_quad

But if we can’t rely on user reviews to give us the full picture, what can we do to predict how a brand will make us feel?

As luck would have it, at CMB, we just fielded a major study on the psychological benefits delivered by a range of brands. We had a nationally representative sample of over 20,000 people. And, to assess the emotional impact of using each brand, we applied our proprietary measures of valence and activation—so the results are perfect for (among other things!) identifying brands that make people feel great.

This brought to mind Stumbling on Happiness and got me wondering… What brands should I be considering? I can’t disclose all our results, but I can share a few things that I plan to do differently based on our findings:

  • First, I’m going to use PayPal more often. We found that, for most people, using PayPal inspires low activation positive emotions like security, peace and calm—and that’s exactly how I want to feel when I’m sharing my financial data. (Interestingly, Netflix also scores well on low activation positive emotions, bringing new meaning to the phrase “Netflix and chill”.)
  • I’m also going to surprise my kids with Mario Kart, which drives high activation positive emotions for players. But I’m sticking to my hard “no” on Fortnite. Fortnite makes players feel a whole host of negative emotions, and middle school is hard enough as it is…
  • It’s not just Fortnite! We identified many brands that trigger negative emotions—including specific financial institutions, tech brands, and media IPs like Game of Thrones. (The latter really resonated for me—the final season made me so mad I blogged about it.) There are even whole sub-industries that evoke negative emotions—like cable providers.
  • I can’t drop my cable provider. What I can do is spend more time managing my investments, which—under normal, non-epidemic circumstances—generates surprisingly strong positive emotions. In fact, we found that investing with companies like Fidelity and Vanguard feels as good as shopping Amazon or watching Star Wars, and better than checking Instagram—the top social media platform in terms of eliciting positive emotions. To quote my colleague Lori Vellucci, who discussed this in her blog Social Detox, Financial Retox: “If you want to feel really good in 2020, log off social media and invest with a financial services firm!”

Our research also has implications for brands regarding the critical importance of understanding the emotions expected and experienced by their target consumers in terms of both valence and activation.

  • To motivate the kinds of actions that support customer acquisition—like trying the brand or recommending it to friends—brands need strategies that inspire positive, high activation
  • To improve retention, they need strategies that cultivate the comforting sense of inertia that flows from positive, low activation Particularly in industries, like financial services and tech, where peace of mind is key to customer satisfaction.
  • To minimize fallout from negative, high activation emotions, brands need channels that enable customers’ frustrations to be expressed privately, addressed efficiently, and tracked in order to see whether the same issuers are irritating others.
  • To prevent attrition from customers feeling negative, low activation emotions, bands need strategies for flagging them—since they may not be making much noise—and fixing the issues they find disappointing or draining.
  • To attract new customers, brands must also manage prospects’ emotional expectations. Anticipating negative emotions—whether high or low activation—is a strong barrier to brand consideration.

Understanding brand performance in each emotional quadrant is one of the ways we help our clients inform strategies that are high in consumer EQ. And that’s the real reason we do this research—to help our clients.

Implications for how to live life more joyfully are just the cherry on top!


Erica CarranzaErica is CMB’s VP of Consumer Psychology. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University. Prior to CMB, she led insights research at American Express, where she was a recipient of the CMO Award for Achievement in Excellence.

Follow Chadwick Martin Bailey on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

 

Topics: marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, BrandFx, consumer psychology