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What Does Inclusivity Look Like In Qualitative Research?

Posted by Lauren Simoes

Thu, Feb 11, 2021

In the past year, we’ve been forced to try new things and step outside of our comfort zones. After almost a year of challenging transitions to virtual everything, this year’s annual Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) conference (exclusively virtual) exceeded my expectations. The content was easy to access (and great, as always), and the platform (Pathable) seamlessly replicated the social nature of conferences by enabling a sense of valuable networking. With social justice so prevalent in our minds this year, it’s no surprise that “inclusivity” was a significant topic of discussion.

For the purposes of this roundup, let’s think about inclusivity in two ways: first, as a human, and then as a researcher. As a human, I have some concerns about being exploitative about “inclusivity.” As companies continue to make attempts to raise their consciousness and convey accountability, I fear that inclusivity will only be viewed from a corporate and/or brand health perspective. As researchers, we can play a role in helping companies implement truly inclusive practices, finding meaningful and authentic ways to convey it for their brands. While we cannot control how organizations think about these issues, we can implement our own ethical standards—which is something qualitative research has always sought to do. Here are some of the discussions our industry is having:

INCLUSIVITY IS DIFFERENT THAN DIVERSITY. As Roben Allong expressed during the roundtable discussion “Inclusivity is Messy,” inclusivity is not just checking boxes to make sure that there is a varied set of research participants. It is a responsibility—not a choice—in research. For example, what is “gen pop”? Why does this often mean “mostly white?” Inclusivity is not just about race; and race (many times) is only one factor in our many differences—it is not monolithic. It includes ableness, geography, employment status, gender identity, micro-culture, ageism and more. Our responsibility as researchers to be inclusive also means taking a tailored approach when the topic (or research participants) calls for it vs. using a standard approach across all sessions.

WE MUST CREATE SPACES OF BELONGING. As Jyo Maan shared in her “Inclusive Research for Social Justice” presentation, inclusive research should encompass DEIB: diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We must find ways to dig deeper so that people of all backgrounds can not only be included, but also feel a sense of belonging in the research community (as colleagues, as research participants, etc.). Researchers must keep aim on the ever-evolving target market and how that informs how we need to conduct research. The more “inclusive” our research is, the more applicable it will be to our clients’ goals and research objectives.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS? While I don’t claim to have all of the answers (or even close to most of them), there are some things we can start doing now. The most obvious thing is from a recruiting perspective. Perhaps “gen pop” is an outdated term. We need to ask who we are really trying to reach and what, if any, implications social identity has on who that is. A few points to reflect on:

  • With so many unemployed or underemployed, we need to reconsider employment as a terminating qualification
  • Make space for gender identity to be expressed in a non-binary way
  • Consider senior citizens viable parts of the conversation (as they have both technology know-how and buying power)
  • Accommodate people with disabilities in the research environments we create and cultivate

Sometimes these pivots will require consulting those more qualified to respect, understand, and convey the thoughts of a particular culture or micro-culture.

Regarding the research methodology itself, we may need to re-think how we structure our approach. Most qual researchers practice “unconditional positive regard” (as an attempt to dissolve incoming bias and treat research participants with respect) and are purposeful in checking their biases. This is more important than ever. As we attempt to be more inclusive, we must truly listen (and not in ways that simply confirm biases) rather than sticking to a prescribed discussion guide.

It is my belief that the best learning comes from discussion, different points of view and experience. If you have something to say about the ways we can make meaningful changes in the research approach, I would love to hear from you. Reach out to me with any thoughts, ideas, criticisms, etc. at lsimoes@cmbinfo.com.


Lauren is a Senior Moderator at CMB.

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Topics: strategy consulting, qualitative research, storytelling, conference recap, brand health and positioning, Market research, professional development, COVID-19, Racial Justice, mrx

An Exploding Stove, Epic Hold Music, and AI that Measures Consumer Emotion

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Jan 27, 2021

AI Music and Kichen Blog Opener Erica Jan 2021 (1)

Emotion is a powerful motivator—arguably THE most powerful motivator—and can make or break a consumer relationship. Case in point: Me and KitchenAid.

I recently bought a KitchenAid gas cooktop. It was a gorgeous model I loved—until one of the burners exploded. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it could have been bad. So, I called the KitchenAid helpline, which is run by their parent company, Whirlpool. Then I waited. And waited. And waited… In total, I spent nearly TWO HOURS on hold.

Waiting hours to tell a Whirlpool rep our cooktop caught fire should have been infuriating. But it wasn’t. Why? Their hold music! It cooled my hot temper and warmed my cold Gen-X heart. I heard songs like Don’t You Forget about Me, Eye of the Tiger, and Don’t Stop Believin’. It was just too hard to stay mad with Journey crooning in my ear.

Then, when a rep finally heard my story, she said I should talk to their Safety Department. In order to do that, I sat on hold. AGAIN. But this time their music was different. Take a listen—it may ring a bell: [click to listen]

My fellow Game of Thrones viewers will recognize that as the song that played when Cersei blew-up the Sept—which, in GoT laymen’s terms, involved using a fantastical kind of gasoline to blow-up a church full of people.

GOT GIF

Yes, that is what I listened to as I waited on Whirlpool’s “Safety Line” to talk about how my cooktop exploded. All I could do was laugh. To the person at Whirlpool who picks the hold playlist: I salute your musical taste and twisted sense of humor!

Music’s effect on emotions is mostly involuntary and hard to combat. In this case, it saved me from losing my mind on a rep who wouldn’t have deserved it, and trashing KitchenAid on every public platform possible. So this story speaks to the power of music to tame the angry consumer—but, more broadly, it’s a study in the importance of understanding and actively managing consumers’ emotions.

All emotions fall into one of four types that can be plotted on two axes: Negative to Positive (i.e., feeling bad to good) and Passive to Active (i.e., low to high energy). The importance of which types of emotions a brand inspires depends on the matter at hand. For example, teams tasked with new customer acquisition should focus on inspiring ACTIVE positive emotions, while teams tasked with driving customer loyalty should focus on inspiring PASSIVE positive emotions.

Negative Positive Passive and Active Emotions Chart

Industry also matters! For example, most brands should aim to minimize negative emotions, especially ACTIVE negative emotions, which inspire reactions like trolling the brand online and posting bad user reviews. But stirring some negative emotions can be good for media brands as long as they ultimately inspire more positive than negative. Game of Thrones is a good example of this. It started out with a good balance of positive-to-negative emotion, but ended-up inspiring too much active negativity.

Because of the importance of understanding consumer emotions—and the utility of this particular framework—we’ve worked hard to develop AI that reliably captures emotions in each quadrant from what consumers say about how they feel.

Our custom-built AI enables us to take text from things like survey open-ends, or transcripts of video/audio recordings, and quantify how much a brand, product, service or experience inspires each of the four core types of emotions. Plus, we have benchmarks in major industries.

Building the AI has been a long, arduous process involving an exhaustive analysis of emotions expressed by all kind of consumers, and regarding all kinds of brands and experiences. And it’s taken a lot of HI (human intelligence) to ensure that our final AI solution works well. But the effort was worth it. We have a validated approach to capturing each type of emotion using scales, but the best way to unpack emotions almost always involves asking consumers to tell us in their own words.

And, incidentally, there is no scientifically valid way of uncovering emotions that beats asking the right questions and listening in the right ways. To quote the Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology, a favorite from my grad school days, “In practice, objective measures in the brain and body tend to be weakly correlated with one another, and together they do not consistently and specifically distinguish between instances of anger, sadness, fear, and so on. If we want to know whether a person is experiencing an emotion, we have to ask her/him. Self-report is currently the only valid way of assessing subjective emotion.”

Consumers are people. And, today, we’re all wearing our humanity on our sleeves. Between the surging pandemic, political turmoil, social unrest, remote schooling, and an uncertain economy, we’re all like raw nerves riding a rollercoaster. People weren’t designed to be this stressed, on so many fronts, for this long. It’s never been more critical for organizations to stay in touch with how their products, marketing, and experiences are making people feel.


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.

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Topics: emotional measurement, brand health and positioning, BrandFx, consumer psychology, consumer sentiment, Emotional Benefits, AI

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

Posted by Brant Cruz

Fri, Dec 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Example 1: 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

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

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

Here’s an abbreviated recollection of my thought process:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Human Motivations Amid Disruption: 5G, COVID-19 & More

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Oct 26, 2020

Question: What do a global pandemic, 5G technologies, and puberty have in common?

Answer: Massive disruption as we know it.

Let’s start with the global pandemic. Like everyone, my household has had to adapt drastically in the face of a pandemic. In addition to stocking up on toilet-paper, our family’s digital dependence has sky-rocketed. It has exposed the limits of our internet access and Wi-Fi functionality, and frayed the fragile fabric of our family’s functionality. Our use of streaming video apps is much higher now, and it’s unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic levels long after the pandemic is gone. And we are not alone—in CMB’s COVID-19 tracking research, streaming video app usage across the US has also increased dramatically, and most people don’t expect it to return to pre-pandemic levels even after the virus is contained:

5G Blog COVID Data

Putting this problem into the Fogg model, we see our motivation to try something different/better for our internet access situation has increased dramatically. But, like most zip codes, broadband ISP competition is scarce. Better internet access is competing with toilet paper now in that upper left-hand quadrant of Foggville:

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model Internet Access-1

And this brings me to 5G technologies, the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks and the successor to 4G LTE.* This technology will increase the ability of many people to significantly improve their internet connectivity and potential, either as a fixed internet access substitute alternative, or for some households who may want to use 5G cellular connectivity as their only internet access (both inside and outside the home):

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model 5G-2

Oh, yeah: and puberty? My household is also navigating this pandemic with two teenagers, which is a miserable time of life to be stuck in the house with your parents pretty much 24/7. GenZ is the first generation to grow up not knowing life before pervasive mobile internet connections. One of their first waking memories was discovering the delights of a mobile fart app on the iPhone. And while I personally thought that was the pinnacle of potential for the mobile internet at the time, the industry has since risen to much greater heights. 5G is going to open a whole new world of application possibilities, and GenZ will be key in determining which of these take off. Video-enabled communications with friends (TikTok, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.), and online gaming will benefit most from 5G in the near-term. Usage has gone through the roof since the pandemic, and is unlikely to ever fully return to “normal”. The next wave may well be driven by Virtual Reality and/or Augmented Reality-enabled applications. Coincidentally, GenZ have the strongest interest in VR/AR gaming, and we know this generation is using online multi-player gaming for socialization more than ever during the pandemic.

UNDERSTANDING HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE FACE OF CHANGING TECH ABILITIES

Any company trying to capitalize on the opportunities presented by a dramatically increased ability to deliver new and better 5G-enabled services to people can benefit by analyzing which specific human motivations are most important for any given new service, and how the pandemic may have altered these.

BrandFx Four Benefits Pillars

Let’s take basic broadband internet access in my household as an example:

  • FUNCTIONAL (what I want to do): our existing internet access is insufficient now that two teenagers are doing remote learning most days and two adults are teleworking: all four individuals are spending much more time on video streaming platforms, often simultaneously. This impacts the adults’ work productivity and the kids’ learning. Additionally, we are all streaming more digital entertainment (TV shows, movies, and online gaming for the kids) now that we don’t go out anymore. The Functional motivation is very clear.
  • SOCIAL (where I want to belong): Other people I know have switched to a 5G internet service. I’ve heard through online forums from people I don’t know about their experiences with 5G.
    • My kids rely on fast internet service with low latency for social connections. Problems with Facetime glitching or high ping/latency while playing Sea of Thieves with friends increases their (already high) sense of social isolation.
  • IDENTITY (who I want to be): I’d like to think I’m smart, leading edge, and open to change. I won’t keep to the status quo just because it’s familiar. And I solve practical problems around the household.
  • EMOTIONAL (how I want to feel): I am very frustrated and annoyed by my current internet service plan: the internet quality and reliability doesn’t meet my family’s current needs during this pandemic, I don’t feel like I’m getting value for the price I am currently paying, and I don’t feel respected when I call customer service.
    • I feel anxious, however, that switching to 5G may compromise the security of my internet access. And I am concerned that it may be unreliable (e.g., glitchy when there is severe weather, because I’ve heard about this with satellite TV connections).

Across many industries and products, we have found that the emotional, identity, and/or social motivations are just as—and often more—important determinants of a new product’s success than the functional ones. And the interactions across different types of motivations can be highly prescriptive for laying successful go-to-market plans in the face of extreme uncertainty.

We are neither soothsayers nor oracles, but we do know how to leverage the power of psychology to help navigate a future that promises to be full of change and more disruption.

*No, this is not another conspiracy blog about how 5G technologies caused the Covid-19 outbreak. They did not.


Christopher NealChris Neal, VP of CMB's Tech & Telecom Practice, has over 20 years of experience in high tech, online, consumer electronics, telecom and media insights, analytics, and consulting.

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

Topics: technology research, strategy consulting, technology solutions, mobile, business decisions, consumer insights, millennials, internet of things, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, emotional measurement, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, emotion, Artificial Intelligence, BrandFx, consumer psychology, technology, Gaming, Gen Z, AR/VR, collaborative intelligence, COVID-19, consumer sentiment, Next-Gen Gaming, customer centricity, AI, Habit Loops

COVID-Induced FOMO in Young Investors

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Oct 07, 2020

COVID FOMO Blog Opener

By most measures 2020 has been a sharp stick in the eye. But Millennials and Gen Zers have had it especially rough– in fact, they’ve experienced economic, environmental, and political upheaval for most of their lives. Many have never known a time when the United States was not at war with someone. They arrived to the party with a certain baseline of anxiety and fear shaped by the world and personal events throughout their formative years. As they say, “change happens in a crucible” (thanks, Mack Turner), and with the added stress of the pandemic, many young investors took their anxiety and fear and boldly channeled it into a new proactive approach to investing. They were determined not to miss the market sale, as many of them did for one reason or another back in ‘08/’09. New account openings were at an all-time high this past spring for traditional financial services brands and the plethora of born-online digital platforms.

Who Will Young Investors Turn To?

With this new focus and new money floating around, coupled with the stark realization that the markets go in both directions, these new investors need knowledge and guidance. Many firms have stepped up and made significant efforts to provide both to these less affluent newbies. But the final answer to an important question remains, who will they trust most with their future? There are two knee-jerk responses to this question: (1) the storied and well-established institutions which have reached a hand to these new potential customers OR (2) the born-online, new, fresh tech platforms targeted to these digital natives.

Are YOU Missing Out on the Young Investor?

There’s good reason to choose either of these options as the answer. However, investment firms must consider the four psychological benefits that drive brand engagement: emotional, identity, social, and functional. For brands across industries, leading prospects to expect these benefits drives consideration, and delivering these benefits to customers drives loyalty. And, for investment firms—disruptors and established alike—these psychological benefits are the key to winning the hearts and wallets of young investors.

BrandFx Four Benefits Pillars

We know that financial services brands (traditional or digital) deliver against these four pillars with varying degrees of success. However, there are other players outside of financial services and fintech that bear consideration and a watchful eye (and which already deliver important drivers of engagement in spades). Tech Brands like Apple, Google, and Amazon already have the attention of young investors in other aspects of their lives. Further, some have begun to make forays into financial services through offering of credit cards and mobile payments. It may be a short reach for them to move their customers into high yield savings and investing through partnerships, purchases, or built-from-scratch offerings. While there are certainly barriers in place to jumping in with both feet, the strength of these brands warrant a watchful eye.

So where do financial services firms start? Functional benefits are table stakes, so delivering those benefits alone aren’t enough to attract new investors. It’s therefore crucial for brands to deliver the identity, social, and emotional benefits to drive engagement. Make young investors feel safe and secure (emotional benefits) through every touchpoint. Find a way to help them to express themselves (identity benefits) by ensuring that their financial brand aligns with their values and help them to connect with others as they embark on their investing journey (social benefits).

YI Experience Micrographic Sep20 (2)

Three Takeaways for Investment Firms

As detailed in our latest report: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor, here’s what you can do so that you don’t miss out on the young investor:

  1. Ensure representatives are focused on helping young investors leave each touchpoint feeling positive, low activation emotions like peace, calm, and security
  2. Understand your customer identity and ensure campaigns and marketing assets present a compelling image of the typical customer for young investors
  3. Deliver Social Benefits that resonate through ESG and socially responsible investing and building communities of like-minded investors

Lori VellucciLori Vellucci, VP Financial Services Practice Leader
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: financial services research, brand health and positioning, Market research, BrandFx, COVID-19, financial services, young investors