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To Take a Stand or To Play it Safe? The Choice Can Affect Your Brand Consideration

Posted by Jen Golden

Thu, Dec 19, 2019

Companies today have a lot to think about. Not only do they need to create compelling products and/or services that meet consumers’ functional needs, but how much consumers relate to a company’s  values is also crucial in gaining and building customer loyalty. Topics that used to be considered taboo, like race, politics, gender-identity and equality are becoming top-of-mind in brand campaigns and content, and a mis-alignment with customers can be very detrimental to a company or brand (take Pepsi’s failed campaign with Kendall Jenner as an example).

A brand’s Social Benefits includes how much a consumer agrees with the values, ethics, or morals expressed by a brand and how much a consumer believes a brand reflects their own personality, tastes or values.

  • In a recent self-funded study, CMB surveyed ~20,000 customers and prospects across 81 Finance, Tech, and Media brands.
  • Looking across brands, consumers who agree with the values, ethics, or morals expressed by a brand are over 3x as likely to consider using (or continue to use a brand) than those who disagree with the brand’s views in these areas. There is an even bigger gap for social media companies (those who agree are 5x more likely to consider a social media brand than those who do not agree with the values, ethics or morals expressed!).
  • Feeling neutral on a brand’s values, ethics, or morals doesn’t directly benefit brands. In fact, it’s not much better to have consumers feeling neutral on your brand’s social stance than having them disagree with what your brand is doing. Taking a stance can often be worth the risk if you are doing right in the mind of your customer.

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  • The same pattern holds true when we look at consumers perception that a brand reflects their own personality, tastes or values. They are over 5x more like to consider a brand if they agree with this sentiment.

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Agreeing and identifying with a brand’s values can also spill over into perceptions of a typical brand user. Consumers who agree that a brand reflects their personality, tastes or values are more likely to identity with the typical brand user – and this includes their political views. People who believe they share the same political views of a typical brand user are more likely to consider the brand than those who do not (40% are very likely to consider if they identify with politics of the typical brand user vs. 25% consideration for those who do not).

3_SocialResponsibilityBlog_JenGolden_Dec2019-1

As far as politics go, HBO has recently run into some backlash with their new show Watchmen, which is based on a political, left-leaning comic. While the show is getting rave reviews from critics and fans, some have flooded Rotten Tomatoes to give negative reviews calling the show “too woke” and questioning its “politically correct” narrative.  

BUT, is this something HBO needs to be worried about? HBO’s current customers skew progressive politically, and 58% of HBO’s customers identify with the perceived political views of a typical HBO user. 54% of HBO’s customers also believe that HBO reflects their own personality, tastes or values. While HBO may be angering some by choosing to air Watchmen, they are willing to take a risk to connect more closely to the politics their core customer base identifies with vs. not engaging in the topic of politics at all.

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Ultimately, people want to feel connected with their favorite brands, and with increased political polarization, it’s more important than ever for brands to understand their customers. Intimately knowing your audience (like HBO may have known when they green-lit Watchmen) can make it safer to take a stand politically or otherwise. In fact, taking a stand can deepen the audience’s emotional connection with the brand because it is aligned with their customer’s personal beliefs, making them a more loyal and engaged customer. Actress Regina King from the Watchmen series said it best when she said in response to the show “Most of us, as human beings, want to feel like someone else knows their pain and is talking about what they’re talking about.


Jennifer GoldanJennifer Golden, Project Director.

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Topics: brand health and positioning, co-creation, BrandFx, brand tracking, Social Benefits

In Tech We Trust

Posted by Chris Neal

Wed, Dec 04, 2019

In the world of corporate reputations, Big Tech companies have had a rough couple of years. As we ramp up full-steam into the 2020 electoral cycle, they are increasingly in the cross-hairs of government regulatory and legal actions.

Big Tech has lost valuable trust among customers, and the general public. Personally, I’ve recently had a lot of conversations with people who are convinced that smartphones are not only monitoring every click, swipe, and direct command, but also eaves-dropping on their general conversations in order to serve targeted ads. E.g., “When I mentioned to a colleague that I was going hiking, I was immediately bombarded with ads for hiking boots.” And in this same vein…if I’m being completely honest…I confess to putting my phone on airplane mode (and often turning it off altogether) for extended periods of time, only booting it up when there is something specific I need to use it for. Paranoia runs deep.

It was no surprise, then, when we just got back some piping hot tasty data from CMB’s latest self-funded BrandFxSM 2.0 study of 20,000+ U.S. consumers and confirmed that – yes – Big Tech has a major trust problem.Brand Trustworthiness_CNeal 2019-4

More specifically, the technology brands we covered had lower association with being “trustworthy” than our bundle of Financial Services brands, despite the financial meltdown of the 2008 Great Recession still in people's collective consciousness, and just two years after the massive Experian credit history data breach. And - yes - social media brands are taking the brunt of this "Trust Fall" of 2018-2019, but this is a “negative halo” effect impacting all of the “Big 5” Tech Brands (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft).

Like most things here at CMB, we don’t just want to proclaim that the sky is falling: we try to sort out what to actually do to prop it back up again. So, we dove deeper into our BrandFxSM data using Bayes Nets analysis to figure out:

  1. What should tech brands focus on to restore valuable trust?
  2. How does trust impact customer loyalty to technology brands in general, and through what mechanisms?
1. How to restore “trust” in tech

Interestingly, the biggest link to “trustworthy” is actually a tech brand’s functional benefits. In other words: people trust a tech company as long as it reliably makes their life easier in some tangible, functional way (see below).

Drivers of Trust Graphic_CNeal2019

Not too far behind this, there are strong links to perceived privacy & security (both as a general brand perception, as well as whether the brand makes people feel secure when they’re using it). There are “rational” ways to boost customer perceptions of your products & services as being secure and guarding their privacy, and while this is important, it is more impactful to get people to feel secure when they use your product. Factual proof-points aren’t enough to achieve this on an emotional level.

On the emotional side of feeling “secure,” we uncovered a strong link here with feeling “respected."

If someone believes a tech company actually respects them as a customer, they are more likely to feel secure when using them (vs. selling all of their intimate data to the highest bidder, regardless of purpose).

On the ”functional” side of brand perceptions around believing that a tech company’s products are private and secure, there is a strong link to believing that the company has a strong mission and values that you agree with.

MissionVisionValues_CNeal2019

If someone believes that the company ultimately has noble goals, they are more likely to perceive them to be good with their data’s security and privacy which makes them more likely to trust the company. 

This belief in the company’s mission, in turn, has strong links to overall Identity Benefits (i.e., “I feel good using [BRAND] because I believe in their mission and values, which align with my own.”)

2. How much does “trust” matter, and in what ways?

Perceptions of a company being "trustworthy" don't have a large direct impact on a customer's future usage intent, but they are linked to several other key things that do drive future usage intent. As we saw earlier, there is a strong linkage between "trustworthy" key emotional benefits like feeling secure, respected, proud, smart, and efficient. These are all important emotions for Tech brands to activate, and emotional benefits are the strongest predictors of future usage intent in this industry. Our analysis also revealed links between "trustworthy" brand perceptions and identity benefits (through privacy/security perception). As major tech companies are all vying to expand into people's everyday lives, consumers are increasingly making choices as to which "tribe" they are loyal to (and will use across many categories). At the moment, privacy, security, and, by association, trust play a significant role in their brand loyalty.

What now? If you’re a tech company, start by elevating your company’s core mission and values in media and PR campaigns. Through your messaging, convey a strong sense of respect for your customer as an individual, including their data privacy and security, because these have a greater impact on brand affinity and customer loyalty than any functional benefit a new product release offers. Consider increasingly innovative ways to give them more direct control over what types of data you can and can’t use, and for what purposes, making clear the benefits they also get by doing so (e.g., more free content or services, better-performing services like virtual assistants that can “learn” from more of your personal data). This way, you can deliver valuable, trusted information, in a way that doesn’t turn off your customers, like an ad freaking out your customers with hiking boots they don’t need.


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.

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Topics: technology research, brand health and positioning, BrandFx, technology

Was a Gender-Neutral Doll the Right Move for Mattel?

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Fri, Oct 04, 2019

MattelCreatableWorldSized

Did I ever tell you about my dissertation…? Wait, don’t go! I promise it’s interesting.

It was 2002. My advisor and I had been studying gender stereotypes, which we found were still depressingly pervasive. Then, for my dissertation, I examined reactions to men and women who broke the mold. I thought that people would dislike stereotypically masculine (e.g., ambitious) women and feminine (e.g., sensitive) men, but try to hide it—so I measured their emotional reactions using facial EMG.

Facial EMG involves placing pairs of electrodes over muscles that contract when we frown or smile, as shown on the Mona Lisa. (My apologies to any art history majors out there.) People can’t mask the immediate, involuntary emotional reactions that register in their faces. Most of that muscular activity is too fast and too subtle to be captured by human or computer/AI-based facial coding, but EMG captures it well. At CMB, we have a method of measuring emotional reactions tailored to market research—it does an excellent job and doesn’t involve electrodes. But if you expect people to actively lie about their feelings, facial EMG is the way to go.

EMGmonaCrop2

What did I find in analyzing literally millions of milliseconds of facial activity? Feminine men elicited warm smiles from women—but were laughed at by other men. And masculine women were universally reviled. Lots of eyebrow furrowing. People didn’t even try to hide it.

Add this to the many other forces that encourage adherence to gender norms—like the manly men and womanly women portrayed in everything from blockbuster movies to local ads—and it’s no shock that kids learn gender roles early. Kids are perceptive. They see stereotypical male and female characters held-up as ideals in toys and on TV, and can easily infer what’s expected of them.

In this way, gender stereotypes are both pervasive and constraining, like invisible straightjackets we wear everyday—we don’t have to let them confine us, but the pressure is always there.

That leads me to Mattel and Creatable World, their new gender-neutral doll. According to their official tagline, it’s “designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in—giving kids the freedom to create their own customizable characters again and again.”

Here is a major toymaker refusing to communicate an expectation that “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls.” This is huge. Especially when we consider the crucial role of play for kids in imagining possibilities, exploring interests, connecting with others, and discovering oneself.

So did Mattel do the right thing from a moral perspective?

Yes. No doubt in my mind. When kids don’t feel the need to live-up to masculine and feminine ideals, they get to be who they are without pressure or fear of reprisal. They can be smart, compassionate, strong, expressive, ambitious, fashionable, funny—or all of the above. It’s up to them!

But Mattel is a publicly traded company looking for healthy profits. Particularly nowadays, when so many things—online and off—compete for kids’ time and attention. So it’s also worth asking:

Was a gender-neutral doll the right move from a brand perspective?

Again, I’d say yes. It’s exactly the right move. Why? Because of the crucial role identity benefits play in driving brand appeal.

At CMB, we’ve identified four key psychological benefits brands need to deliver in order to drive appeal:

  • Functional Benefits (e.g., “checking-off” goals or to-dos; saving time; saving money)
  • Social Benefits (e.g., sense of community; conversation; social connection)
  • Emotional Benefits (e.g., positive feelings; enhanced joy; reduced pain)
  • Identity Benefits (e.g., pride and self-esteem; self-expression; a positive self-image)

We leverage all four in BrandFx, our proprietary approach to helping clients achieve brand growth. In fact, we recently fielded a BrandFx study with over 20,000 U.S. consumers. In total, they provided nearly 40,000 evaluations of major brands across multiple industries. We’re still knee-deep in analysis (more blogs to come as we roll-out our results!), but so far this much is clear:

Identity benefits are particularly important.

That holds true across brands and industries—even “rational” industries like financial services. But it’s especially true for brands in the entertainment space, like Mattel. With Creatable World, Mattel is helping kids explore, express, and embrace their unique identities with a doll that offers more possibilities and imposes fewer constraints. This will pay off in kids’ interest and engagement.

Yes, many parents may be against it. But I have two things to say about that based on what we’ve seen across multiple studies:

First: Kids tend to drive toy purchase trends. They see, they like, they ask… and ask… and ask… And parents want their kids to be happy, so kids often get what they want—even when their parents feel ambivalent about it.

Second: Most parents aren’t morally opposed to their kids playing with toys associated with the opposite gender. It’s that they’re afraid of other kids’ reactions. As a parent, I can relate. There are times I’ve steered my boys away from things that I thought might lead to the spirit-crushing, innocence-busting experience of being ridiculed by peers. But when parents see evidence of shifting norms and acceptance among kids, their fears will diminish—and the fact the Mattel has released a gender-neutral doll is evidence in itself. After all, Mattel knows kids, and they put a lot of money on the line. So, if my boys want a Creatable World doll, it’s theirs. Because what I really want is for them to be able to choose their paths—and feel valued for the amazing, unique individuals they are—without having to squeeze themselves into a narrow vision of what it means to be a man.

If change is on our doorstep, I’m ready to welcome it in, and I’m likely not the only parent who feels this way.

 


Erica CarranzaErica has a B.A. from Wellesley College and 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.

Topics: marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation, Identity, emotion, BrandFx, consumer psychology

Brand Tracking for the Digital-first World

Posted by Ashley Harrington

Wed, Dec 12, 2018

digital brand tracking-3

In today’s digital world, there are innumerable ways to reach your customers. It’s critical to know where, when, and how your brand is performing so you can prioritize your marketing resources and investments accordingly—where is your brand resonating most with consumers?

Traditional brand tracking gets at this somewhat with questions like, “Which of the following brands, if any, do you recall seeing an advertisement for in the last three months?” Respondents are then asked to identify the specific channels they saw (or heard) the ad—was it on TV? The radio? Social media?

But this questioning can be tricky because it relies on respondents’ ability to accurately recount their memory of an ad. However, remembering specific ads isn’t always easy—sometimes we’ve seen respondents citing television commercials for brands that don’t advertise on TV.

To avoid relying solely on respondent recollection, one solution is to leverage behavioral data to blend digital ad tracking (e.g., conversation rates, new sessions) with traditional brand tracking data (e.g., “Please recall a specific ad”).

At CMB, we take this traditional advertising question a step further by tagging and tracking the performance of a brand’s digital ads, then incorporating those insights into the overall brand tracking program.

We’re able to tag respondents as either “exposed” (saw an ad) or “control” (did not see an ad) so we know for sure if they in fact experienced an ad—even if they don’t remember it themselves. This tagging mechanism allows us to measure the lift in perceptions associated with ad exposure based on verifiable behavior versus just respondent recall.

Ultimately, this digital approach can help provide more context around:

  • How did exposure to a specific digital ad impact consumer perception or consideration?
  • Do certain digital advertising tactics impact particularly segments differently?
  • Which campaigns or messaging resonate best and lead to action?digital brand tracking example

Linking behavioral data to digital ad and traditional brand tracking can help paint a fuller picture of a brand’s marketing performance. It helps fill in some gaps between traditional digital ad tracking (e.g., clicks, sessions) and traditional brand tracking (e.g., “Which ad do you recall seeing?”) so marketers can better understand which strategies are working.

Of course, there are considerations when integrating this kind of data into your brand tracking study:

  • Not everything can be tagged. For example, certain channels don’t allow for this type of media tagging. So, marketing campaigns or strategies that rely heavily on the channels that are blocked may not be the best fit.
  • Weighting/sampling. In some cases, it’s possible that a “lift” we see among those who are exposed may be due to a difference in demographics related to targeting. Therefore, we recommend considering setting certain key qualities to equal when making comparisons.
  • It’s tough to track competitive ads, so it’s still valuable to ask those stated recall questions as they can tell us how recall fares vs. the competition.

As marketers continue to invest in digital strategies, it’s critical brand tracking programs evolve to consider these investments. By measuring digital ad exposure based on verifiable data, we're able to help marketers better understand what's working—informing smarter decision making.

Ashley Harrington is a Research Director at CMB who is hoping behavioral data will one day provide us with a clever solution to the age-old expression: “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Topics: brand health and positioning, brand tracking

To Label Me is to Negate Me (Sometimes): The case for occasion-based segmentation

Posted by Peter Cronin

Wed, Aug 29, 2018

beer

One of my favorite lunchtime routines is to walk from my office over to the Trillium Brewing Company in nearby Seaport to grab a 4-pack of their current small-batch, limited-time, freshly brewed double IPA.

As far as Trillium knows, I’m an “Epicure”—a beer drinker characterized by my ardor and appreciation for craft beer.

During the summer months, I occasionally stop at BJ’s Wholesale Club to get a 30-pack of Corona (along with a couple of limes) because I like to have something to offer guests when hosting a cookout. In these instances, I’m looking for value, but not necessarily the cheapest option because quality and image are still important to me. BJ’s might consider me your average “Cost-aware Enthusiast.”

Every year on my birthday, which typically coincides with the start of March Madness, I stop at my local beer store to buy a six-pack of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. They probably consider me a “Sports Oriented” beer drinker.

So, who am I? A beer snob, a deal-seeking but conscientious host, or a sports fan?

The answers are “all of the above” and “it depends.”  

In some categories (like beer) the same person may experience a variety of needs in any given time and make different choices based on those needs. Segmenting people by their dominant motivation/need risks majorly oversimplifying reality.

To understand opportunities for growth in categories like this, a better alternative is occasion-based segmentation. Rather than segmenting people into groups, occasion-based segmentation considers multiple use occasions instead of just one. As you can see from my example, I’m more apt to purchase one type of beer over another based on the occasion (e.g., time/day, who I’m with, what I’m doing).

Occasion-based segmentation is particularly successful when anchored in the psychology of habits. When a behavior is rewarding, we tend to repeat it. The more we repeat it, it eventually becomes a habit. For many people, drinking beer is habitual. Take my backyard BBQ, for example. Throughout the summer, I repeat the cycle of having friends and family over, eating good food, drinking Corona with lime, and feeling relaxed, restive and connected. This occasion has all the key components of a habit: my craving (motivation) to host triggers a routine of good food and drink that results in feeling connected (reward). Feeling connected makes me to do it again.

When we ask people about their occasions at CMB, we also ask what motivates these choices and to describe the rewards—including the emotional and functional outcomes. These inquiries become the base of the segmentation. 

Segmenting your market by usage occasion can be a powerful source of insight about your consumers. By linking brands to occasions and understanding the psychological needs and emotions that drive choices, marketers can position their brands to be the preferred choice. They can tailor messaging to each occasion to build engagement, preference and loyalty.  

Brand managers at The Boston Beer Company, AB InBev, MillerCoors, etc., should be less concerned about whether I’m a “High Impacter,” a “Macho Male,” a “Trend Follower,” or a “Chameleon.” Classifying me attitudinally will dramatically underestimate the complexity of my buying habits. 

Instead, understanding the core types of beer drinking occasions (and the driving psychological needs and emotions of each), how much volume each occasion represents, and which groups of people over-index on them, can enable marketers to make informed decisions on where and how to focus their messaging, promotions, and product development efforts.

Peter is a brand guy who is fascinated with understanding how others see the world, and an equal opportunity beer drinker who refuses to be labeled.

Learn more about segmentation and market strategy:

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Topics: research design, quantitative research, brand health and positioning, market strategy and segmentation