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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 of 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

Greatest Generation to Toilet Paper Generation?

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Apr 29, 2020

Some habits will stick with us post-pandemic

My Papap—my grandfather on my mom’s side—was a child of the Great Depression. He had just turned 13 in 1929. He was an extroverted, happy-go-lucky guy—always smiling. But, to his dying day, he saved everything. Even if it was broken. When he changed the oil in his car, he’d even save the old oil. He also remained price sensitive. When my parents bought something, his first question was always: “What’d that cost ya?”

TP Generation Grandpa and Erica Photo

He wasn’t alone. The Great Depression permanently altered habits and values for most of those who lived through it.

Likewise, we’re sure to undergo significant changes as a result of what we’re living through today. Already new norms are taking hold—most as a matter of current necessity. Which consumer behaviors will revert to their original state, and which will stick around even when the pandemic is behind us? It’s a critical question for brands seeking to weather this storm and position themselves to thrive in the “new normal.”

One way to approach this question is through the lens of the Fogg Behavior Model. Originally developed in the tech and innovation space, it’s applicable to a broad range of behaviors.

In Fogg’s model, behavior is a factor of motivation and ability: When motivation is high, people will perform a behavior even when ability is low—i.e., even when it’s difficult. The strength of the motivation needed to drive the behavior goes down as ability (i.e., ease of performing the behavior) goes up. So, when ability to perform a behavior is very high (i.e., when it’s very easy to do), people will do it without much motivation.

It’s a simple framework, whereas people are a complicated network of motives, emotions, values, thoughts and beliefs. And yet it can be powerful in its simplicity. Let’s take, for example, the ongoing run on toilet paper. At CMB, we look at four key motivations: emotional, identity, social and functional:

  • FUNCTIONAL: I hear other things work—like coffee filters—but I’m pretty sure TP works better
  • SOCIAL: TP is a hot topic of conversation, and clearly other people are stocking-up
  • IDENTITY: I’m a good mom, and good moms should never run out of TP
  • EMOTIONAL: Quite frankly, I’m afraid of running out—and highly activated negative emotions, like fear and panic, are particularly motivating (per a blog I wrote just before the virus hit the fan)

Taken together, my current motivation to buy TP is VERY HIGH. But my current ability to buy TP is VERY LOW. It’s sold out online, visiting stores is a risk, and it’s usually out of stock anyway. This situation—common to many of us right now—drives hoarding:

TP Generation Hoarding Chart

It’s little surprise that “where to buy toilet paper” is a top Google search, tips on which stores got new shipments fill-up Facebook threads, images featuring TP stockpiles are trending on Instagram, and the TP subscription service Who Gives a Crap had so many enrollees that they have a waitlist. (Their homepage says: “We’re completely wiped out!”)

So Fogg’s model helps explain what’s going on with toilet paper, but how can it help us predict what will happen post-COVID-19 for the many industries facing disruption? After all, ability is currently low for most “normal” consumer behaviors (e.g., they are very difficult, or seem very risky).  

  • If we want to know which behaviors will revert to their “old” state, we should be looking at where motivation to revert is high once ability resumes.
    • For example: What do we miss most? What’s most painful or difficult right now? What’s not working well? What can’t we wait to do #WhenAllThisIsOver?
    • For me, this includes eating out, proper hair care, home renovations, vacations that involve leaving our yard, and grocery shopping in-store. (The online grocery shopping experience has failed me on multiple levels!)
  • If we want to know when these behaviors will revert—and help them along—we need to know what drives perceived ability.
    • Until a vaccine is broadly available, what will it take for people to feel comfortable doing things like shopping, traveling, or eating out? For example: What news or breakthroughs regarding the virus? What social norms? What business policies, practices, innovations, reassurances or communications?
    • Truth be told, I’d be willing to pay more for a less crowded Disney experience. (Shorter lines for rides! Easier restaurant reservations!) But I’d have to feel 100% confident in their safeguards. Nobody wants a family vacation to end in tragedy.
  • And if we want to know what new behaviors will stick around after the pandemic, we should be looking at where motivation to revert to old behaviors is low and/or ability to enact new behaviors is high.
    • For example: What do we find ourselves appreciating? What’s working well? What new brands, products or services have we discovered? What’s becoming an easy way to accomplish goals—i.e., what new habits are taking hold?
    • In my own #QuarantineLife, I’ve learned to whip-up a good lentil soup so fast I can do it while simultaneously chatting on Zoom and helping my kids “distance learn.” It will certainly be something I continue post-pandemic.

In fact, the current situation has actually led many consumers to feel better about their lives. My colleague Lori Vellucci and Insights & Innovation Leader Mack Turner had a great conversation about this phenomenon in a recent webinar.

But what will happen to consumer behaviors for which motivation appears much higher than usual due to the pandemic? For example: When panic has ebbed and TP is less scarce, will we still be driven to stock-up?

I predict the answer is yes, and that someday my grandkids will wonder what's up with crazy Nana Erica and her closet full of toilet paper. That’s because the negative emotions surrounding this ordeal will have a long-term impact on consumer motivations. Ever hear the saying, “Mistakes are how we learn”? Strong negative emotions are an effective teacher, and memories born in traumatic circumstances are easily recalled. Wishing we'd invested in a bidet is such a bizarre turn of events, I'm not likely to forget it. I’ll want to be prepared for next time, whether that’s the next peak in this pandemic, or an unforeseen pandemic down the road.

My evolved motivation—from stocking-up on TP specifically, to being prepared in a more general way—will also present an opportunity for brands to position products and services against my new “prepper”-driven needs.

TP Generation Habit Chart

Amid these sea changes in consumer behavior, businesses are under pressure to make smart decisions now in order to survive and thrive in the next normal. Viewing consumers through the lens of motivation and ability provides guidance in terms of what will help inform those key decisions.

Start by understanding emerging trends. Many industries are already seeing some form of disruption (e.g., travel, tourism, retail, restaurants, entertainment, education, and more). Other industries are sure to follow.

  1. Which “old” behaviors will revert, and which of your consumer segments will be first in line (i.e., which have the strongest motivation to revert once ability resumes)?
  2. How can you help your consumers feel safe and comfortable (i.e., what combination of business practices, policies, reassurances, communications, etc., will effectively boost ability)?
  3. What new habits are replacing “old ways” (i.e., what new solutions are enabling consumers to easily satisfy pre-existing motivations), and what will that mean for the future of the business?
  4. How are emotions in this trying time resulting in new consumer motivations, creating opportunities to meet evolving needs with new products, services, capabilities or marketing strategies?

Knowing is half the battle (as GI Joe used to say), and—given that we all benefit from a strong economy—the more businesses can successfully weather this storm, the better off we’ll all be.

Thank you & stay safe! We at CMB wish everyone well during this trying time.


Erica Carranza

Erica 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.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Topics: strategy consulting, BrandFx, consumer psychology, COVID-19

Quirk's Brooklyn Roundup

Posted by Julie Kurd

Wed, Mar 11, 2020

Conference attendance looked a little different at last week’s Quirk’s event. We’re used to shaking hands, hugging, standing close in crowded rooms, and yes, sometimes even sharing food and drinks. That was all before the rising awareness of COVID-19*. My favorite greeting was the ‘spock’ hello, which to my surprise, my tongue-in-cheek post on Twitter earned much attention. While we awkwardly navigated the new cultural morays of greetings, and depleted Dynata and WebMD’s hand sanitizer gifts (thank you), we did manage to listen to some great sessions.

Julie Kurd Quirks Brooklyn Spock Tweet

In the most recent GRIT Innovation survey, Bex Carson of Brandwatch said “your next standout researcher is a mathematician & storyteller, scientist & artist, code-breaker & journalist.”  We saw a lot of that type of broad thinking here at Quirk’s:

  • Marc Goulet (Russell Research) and Tanya Pinto (Microsoft) spoke about applying a ‘human lens’ to predict what’s next. They urged us to focus on what people value and reject a culture that values primary research over other forms of discovery. Ultimately, we can broaden and deepen our view as researchers by taking a journalistic approach to data collection and storytelling, increasing our ability to quickly combine and integrate data sets, and looking for adjacencies and patterns (quant, qual, ethno, social, telemetry). While the challenges for insights professionals are complex, Goulet and Pinto’s session provided a much-needed reminder to focus on multiple inputs in business thinking.
  • Carmel Dibner from Applied Marketing Sciences spoke about using Machine Learning as a precursor to primary research. Her convolutional neural networks yield ~2,000 sentences from several million so you can harvest and work from there. ML is faster (processing power), better (overcomes human bias), cheaper, complete (comments from thousands), easier (machine does the work) and relevant (insights at the moment of truth). She shared an example of how machine learning informed product development, and marketing of blenders (mainly because blenders had great sub-types around aesthetics, ergonomics, technology, cleanliness, performance, brand). The machine worked with 18,000 sentences, and from there, machine learning experts identified the sources, trained the algorithm, ran the machine, produced the output and conducted the analysis. In this case, the machine distilled a massive amount of information into 97 unique insights, translated directly into consumer needs. On average, Applied Marketing Science finds there’s between 30-100 needs that can be uncovered in these explorations, providing a fertile hunting ground informing primary research.

AMS_MachineLearning

  • In his Brand Disruption presentation, CMB’s own Mark Doherty spoke about how it’s impossible to build consumer-centric brands with brand-centric research. Using our latest BrandFxSM study, he described the four psychological benefits that brands must provide to drive consumers: Functional, Emotional, Identity, and Social. As consumers become increasingly empower, and industries more fragmented, it’s critical to focus on how brands help people enhance what matters to them, including their self-image and pride, as well as the aspects that connect us.

Mark BrandFx Slide

  • Finally, at Quirks, we pondered some of the holes in our own information vocabulary and knowledge. For those who really want to understand our increasingly complex information ecosystem, it’s time to listen to Kathryn Korostoff, founder of Research Rockstar. Kathryn broke down the myriad types of data sources, ways of categorizing data, and types of quantitative data. When highly-seasoned researchers are walking out of the room saying ”oh my gosh I use ‘first vs second party data’ imprecisely,’ it’s clear that there’s always room to learn.

ResearchRockstar_ComplexInfoEcosystem

Whether you’re laying low, or still traveling, the lifelong journey of learning never ends. Email us directly or click below to set up a virtual conversation.

Let's Connect

*Check out this Forbes article, featuring insights on consumer behavior from our own Erica Carranza, Ph.D., VP of Consumer Psychology.


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

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Topics: conference recap, BrandFx, collaborative intelligence, machine learning

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