WELCOME TO OUR BLOG!

The posts here represent the opinions of CMB employees and guests—not necessarily the company as a whole. 

Subscribe to Email Updates

BROWSE BY TAG

see all

3 “Magical” Steps to Curbing Information Overload

Posted by Jen Golden

Wed, Feb 24, 2016

iStock_000024159442_Illustration.jpgRecently the WNYC podcast “Note to Self” (@NoteToSelf) released a week-long challenge to its listeners aimed at curbing information overload in our daily lives. In today’s internet-driven society, we’re hit from all angles with information, and it can be difficult to decide what information or content to consume in a day without being totally overwhelmed. I decided to participate in this challenge, and as the week progressed, I realized that many of the lessons from this exercise could be applied to our clients—who often struggle with information overload in their businesses.

The “InfoMagical” challenge worked like this: 

Challenge 1: “A Magical Day” – No multi-tasking, only single-tasking.

  • This challenge centered on focusing on one task at a time throughout the day. I knew this was going to be a struggle right from the start since my morning commute on the train typically involves listening to a podcast, scanning the news, checking social media, and catching up on emails at the same time. For this challenge, I stuck to one podcast (on the Architecture of Dumplings). By the end of the day, I felt more knowledgeable about the topics I focused on (ask me anything about jiaozi), as opposed to taking in little bits of information from various sources. 
  • Research Implications: Our clients often come to us with a laundry list of research objectives they want to capture in a single study. To maintain the quality of the data, we need to make trade-offs regarding what we can (or can’t) include in our design. We focus on designing projects around business decisions, asking our clients to prioritize the information they need in order to make the decisions they are facing. Some pieces may be “nice to have,” but they ultimately may not help answer a business decision. By following this focused approach, we can provide actionable insights on the topics that matter most.

 Challenge 2: “A Magical Phone” – Tidy up your smartphone apps.

  • This challenge asked me to clean up and organize my smartphone apps to keep only the ones that were truly useful to me. While I wasn’t quite ready to make a full commitment and delete Instagram or Facebook (how could I live without them?), I did bury them in a folder so I would be less likely to absentmindedly click through them every time I picked up my phone. Organizing and keeping only the apps you really need makes the device more task-oriented and less likely to be a distraction. 
  • Research Implications: When we design a questionnaire, answer option lists can often become long and unwieldy. With more and more respondents taking surveys on smartphones, it is important to make answer option lists manageable for respondents to answer. Often, a list can be cleaned up to include only the answer options that will produce useful results. Here are two ways to do this: (1) look at results from past studies with similar answer options lists to determine what was useful vs. not (i.e., what options had very high responses vs. very low) or (2) if the project is a tracker, run a factor analysis on the list to see if it can be paired down into a smaller sub-set of options for the next wave. This results in more meaningful (and higher quality) results going forward.  

Challenge 3: "A Magical Brain" – Avoid a meme, trending topic, or “must-read” today.

  • I did this challenge the day of the Iowa Caucuses, and it was hard to avoid all the associated coverage. But, when I looked at the results the next day, I realized I was happy enough just knowing the final results. I didn’t need to follow the minute-by-minute details of the night, including every Donald Trump remark and every Twitter comment. In this case, endless information did not make me feel better informed. 
  • Research Implications: Our clients often say they want to see the results of a study shown every which way, reporting out on every question by every possible sub-segment. There is likely some “FOMO” (fear of missing out) going on here, as clients might worry we are missing a key storyline by not showing everything. We often take the approach of not showing every single data point; instead, we only highlight differences in the data where it adds to the story in a significant and meaningful way. There comes a point when too much data overwhelms decisions. 

The other two pieces of this challenge focused on verbally communicating the information I learned on a single topic and setting a personal information mantra to say every time I consumed information (mine was “take time to digest after you consume it”). By the end of the challenge, even though I didn’t consume as much information as I typically do in a week, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything (except maybe some essential Bachelor episode recaps), and I felt more knowledgeable about the information I did consume. 

Jen Golden is a Project Manager on the Tech/E-commerce practice at CMB. She wishes there was more hours in the day to listen to podcasts without having to multi-task.  

For the latest Consumer Pulse reports, case studies, and conference news, subscribe to our monthly eZine.

Subscribe Here!

Topics: mobile, business decisions, research design

Making Your Brand a Habit: Why Small Patterns of Behavior Make a Huge Difference

Posted by Hannah Russell

Wed, Jan 06, 2016

Decision.jpgMost of us have heard the phrase “humans are creatures of habit,” but have you really ever sat down and thought about how habits dictate your life? From the moment you get up in the morning, habits are playing a role in how you interact with others, complete everyday tasks, and function within your environment.

In a lot of ways, habits are a necessary part of human life. Our brains naturally seek out and latch on to routines and scripts—it’s how we’re able to work so efficiently. Unfortunately, habits can also be unhealthy or unproductive. Oftentimes, we even have habits that are completely invisible to us until we take the time to truly examine our patterns of behavior.

I recently starting thinking a lot about this after picking up The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. His book details the formation of habits and neurological systems at play, colored by examples from scientists, academics, and businesses. Duhigg explains that by breaking down a habit loop into the cue, routine, and reward components, we are able to experiment and focus in on how a particular habit functions. He cautions that his book isn’t necessarily a secret formula for immediately dropping your afternoon cookie habit, but it does provide you with the necessary knowledge to start identifying which levers to adjust.

The notion that we can take our patterns of behavior and use that information to improve our personal life or business is one that really stuck with me as a market researcher. After all, as a researcher, I am constantly keeping an eye out for patterns. Patterns within and across datasets, patterns in response styles, and patterns within an industry. Patterns (or lack thereof) are often drawn upon for insight, as they tend to be a good indication if something is going right (or wrong), expected (or unexpected), or reflecting larger changes within the economy, company, or brand. This is often why businesses invest in tracking studies—a small shift in NPS or brand awareness may not seem overly interesting quarter to quarter, but it’s often part of a larger trend happening in the data. Patterns tell us a story and direct our attention to areas that we may need to investigate further.

At CMB, we spend a lot of time looking at these larger patterns and studying consumer habit loops that can impact a business. Companies looking to increase loyalty want to make their brand part of a customer’s routine—automatic and hard to disrupt.

For example, let’s imagine you’re going to pay for your groceries. Which credit card do you choose? Is it the one you always use for groceries? Do you even think about reaching for another payment method? Here’s the breakdown:

  • Cue: You’re at the register, and it’s time to pay.
  • Routine: You grab the card you always use since it earns you extra points for groceries.
  • Reward: You have your groceries, and you have earned bonus points.

By understanding these habit loops, we can begin to experiment with ways to make the cue stronger, the routine easier, or the reward more rewarding. We can also begin to understand what doesn’t work well when building brand loyalty and how these habits can be disrupted. At CMB, we’ve developed a method of segmenting on these habit loops, and each loop is linked to important outcomes such as NPS or database spend. We answer:

  • What are our client’s consumers’ habits?
  • If/how do these habits differ by consumer segments?
  • How well does each habit help drive business results?

These answers help our clients develop new strategies for reinforcing positive habits and disrupting ones that work against business goals. The takeaway: habits matter. Whether you’re looking in from an organizational or an individual perspective, these small patterns of behavior can play a huge role in both our successes and failures. 

Hannah is an Associate Researcher for CMB and is still working on transforming her coffee habit.

For the latest Consumer Pulse reports, case studies, and conference news, subscribe to our monthly eZine.

Subscribe Here!

Topics: strategy consulting, business decisions, consumer insights, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

The Research Hero’s Journey: TMRE Conference Recap

Posted by Julie Kurd

Mon, Nov 09, 2015

I’m back from IIR’s TMRE conference—three intense days spent with hundreds of consumer insights professionals who are charged with supporting the C-Suite in these perilous and changing times. Reflecting on the challenges facing these brave souls, I’m reminded of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, the narrative pattern found in millions of stories from Greek myth to Disney films. If it’s been awhile since your last literature class, refresh yourself on the Journey here or with this simple example from Cinderella.

the hero's journey, TMRE conference recap, CMB

Now, come with me as we follow our insights heroes and heroines on the path to re-invent and re-discover the magic that drives businesses forward. 

  • Ordinary World and the Call to Adventure: The world has changed, and the Hero faces a challenge. GfK’s CEO, David Krajicek likens insights folks to calligraphers and 11th century monks who copied manuscripts and whose wondrous artistry was killed by the scalability and speed of movable type. David says that insights folks must find a way to provide CMOs with immediate answers and handcrafted artistry (which requires our patience and focus), but the latter is becoming less frequent. A lot of the time, fast and directional is all decision-makers are willing to pay for.
  • Refusal of the Call: Our Hero balks at the seemingly impossible task. The C-Suite still needs artistry and reflection, but the craft of insights requires varied tools, exceptional rigor, mastery, and time. The swift and violent current of commerce requires insights folks to offer speed. There is a place in a portfolio of insights for short-term efforts as well as more contemplative efforts. Many research suppliers offer fast/inexpensive/directionally accurate solutions, and many others offer more pensive/structured thinking. Each side refuses the call.
  • Meeting the Mentor: Our Hero finds inspiration in disruption. Seth Godin reminds us that the boss keeps begging for more—more ratings, more shelf space—yielding average products for average people. You can’t grow by solving for the average. Brands that are growing are brands that look forward (think: AirBnB). The Hero and the Hero’s Journey must progress to avoid becoming a commodity.  
  • Crossing the Threshold: Our Hero takes the first step into the new world. While everyone in the insights world is talking about data, only 6% report that they’ve crossed the threshold into actually fusing passive (unstructured) data with survey research (structured) data. One company already on its way is LinkedIn. As LinkedIn’s Sally Sadosky and Al Nevarez shared, the site has insourced most of its survey research, and LinkedIn is marrying the survey data to its data sources. The company is using big data to align its offerings with the most impactful opportunities. LinkedIn classifies/segments, ranks drivers, categorizes text, and generates lift for key metrics.    
  • Tests, Allies, and Enemies: Our Hero discovers friends and foes. On to the sessions at TMRE. . .the tests, the allies, and the enemies of the Hero as he/she journeys. Several speakers talked in generalities rather than tell their unique story—they played the middle. Our heroes found the allies and the tests in the other rooms and were rewarded with meaningful insights, including:
    • Remain optimistic, but embrace negative metrics: Poker player Caspar Berry reminded us to embrace uncertainty and to rise to meet the challenge despite the fear of failure. Risk-taking leaders are consistent and successful. They also get conned a lot, but they remain optimistic.
    • Know the game: Heineken’s Joanne McDonough conducted an entertaining and memorable presentation on the brand’s positioning—“behaving premium.” Heineken conducted mobile ethnos and interviews at exclusive night clubs in Miami, Los Angeles, and NYC. The company uncovered insights about the “Champagne Girl,” Table Service, and a lot more about dudes and their nights out.
    • Know the giants by name: Competing in the expectation economy has its impact challenges says @trendwatching’s Maxwell Luthy. It’s critical to understand the Internet of Things (IoT), the sharing economy, the “near me” or localization push, 2-way transparency (I rate the brand and the brand rates me), citizenship (of the world), and more.
    • Show your effort: Dan Ariely stressed that we need to understand that people’s cognition is relative to the time they’re willing to put into it. How can we eliminate friction? Storytelling to make insights actionable. Simple testing of the details. If there’s a way you can eliminate barriers—do it.
  • Approach: Our Hero is joined by allies to prepare for the new world. John Dryden and Kimberley Clark’s Laura Dropp talked about the next generation—Gen Z—who are always connected and never alone. These youngsters (ages 10 to 20) need you to be an easily accessible resource. Gen Zers naturally blend the physical and the virtual, making real connections fluidly, and they want our help to make a difference in the world.
  • Central Ordeal: Our Hero confronts his/her worst fears. The C-suite turnover is great, and the lowly research Hero is cast aside, playing a role perceived by many as not worthy of its own budget. It is here that researchers must make decisions about the level of risk they’re willing to take—breaking away from the tried but tired models of the past.
  • The Reward: Our Hero’s risks are rewarded. Compromises are made, and organizations are restructured to handle fast and directional insight. The budget for the thoughtful, foundational, deeper-diving insights is rewarded as the lightbulb goes on in the C-Suite.
  • The Road Back: Our Hero makes his/her way back, transformed. The marketing we grew up with is going away, and it’s time to get schooled by the world around us—embracing the new connections we must make with one another.
  • Resurrection: Our Hero must prove himself/herself once again. To drive brand zeal and customer loyalty, it’s not enough to provide a tasty meal or a clean hotel room. Consumers want a meal to be instagrammable and the hotel experience to be differentiated. At TMRE, we took clients out to Café Tu Tu Tango. We expected a good meal, but we received much more—excellent tapas and sangria, a great band, two artists painting at desks mingled with the diners (their art for sale on the walls), and a tarot card reader. It was a memorable and differentiating experience and a good example of why we can’t be content with business as usual.
  • Return with the Elixir: The Hero continues on with the power to transform as he/she has been transformed. To grow profitably, all of us need to be memorable, show our artistry or our speed, connect to the IoT, and be authentic. Research that lacks either showmanship or artistry will not suffice. We need the storytelling techniques to make insights memorable, entertaining, and, ultimately, actionable.

Where are you on your Hero’s Journey?

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

Are you following us on Twitter? If not, join the party! 

Follow Us @cmbinfo!

Topics: business decisions, internet of things, marketing strategy, B2B research, conference recap

Are You a Wingman to Your CMO?

Posted by Julie Kurd

Mon, Oct 19, 2015

CMB conference recap, market research conferences, corporate researchers conferenceThe traditional military definition of a "wingman" is the second pilot who flies behind and off the right wing of the lead aircraft. The wingman protects the lead by watching his/her back. As I reflected on this year’s MRA Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC) in St. Louis, I thought about my experiences with the wingmen and wingwomen of Chief Marketing Officers at Fortune 500 companies. 

Here’s what separates wingmen and wingwomen from the rest of the pack:

  • They test new stuff ALL THE TIME. Jeffrey Henning moderated a panel with Samsung’s Manvir Kalsi, Chico’s Ivy Boehm, and Lowe’s Celia Van Wickel, asking them to talk about techniques that have disappointed them. They primarily talked about emerging technologies, specifically about vendors who overpromised with facial coding in neuroscience and thematic roll ups that “create themselves” in text analytics. They discussed their “lead pilots” and their companies’ “formation” not having enough time for overly “mathy” insights. They also talked about how they’ve brought dynamic deliverables to their organizations in an attempt to reduce the PowerPoint clutter. Chico’s Ivy Boehm mentioned her quest to shift from 60 page “boring PowerPoints” (her words) to just 20 solid slides through combining information and drawing deeper conclusions. Manvir, Ivy, and Celia also discussed the challenges each of them faces as they make trade-offs in an effort to try new things—even though they know that sometimes all they need are some well-moderated traditional focus groups and a straight up, well-written quantitative survey. This panel proved that no matter the challenge, wingmen are always improving their game.  
  • They play around with working at Mach speed and at a normal pace. Microsoft’s Barry Jennings talked about the company’s Rapid Deployment Programs, which elicit feedback from customers at the later stages of the product development cycle. Successful wingmen are able to adjust and change course quickly—they can’t just head for the horizon. This is the key challenge: knowing when and where to get insights quickly at a lesser cost. At Microsoft, the process is clearly defined: ideation, iteration, validation, repeat. This process helps some concepts fail faster and helps others go to market more quickly. While Microsoft does loads of very methodical research, it’s also pushing itself to be fast and impactful vs perfect. Their program integrates activities, social and independent, moving from ideation to quant to qual and back. They collect feedback across any device and operating system, and they launch research in a day, share results, integrate historic data, and iterate. 
  • They begin with the end in mind and quantify their impact. Terrific researchers understand the business impacts of their research. Roxanne Gray, VP of Research for Wells Fargo, described the diverse household research that supports their “together, we’ll go far” promise. Customer insights played prominently for Wells Fargo as it launched its most recent campaign about the company’s commitment to helping diverse households talk about their finances. Grab a box of tissues, and see more about how Wells Fargo illustrated its 25-year commitment to people with diverse backgrounds. The impact? Roxanne’s research supported confident decision-making that quadrupled earned media. She was energized by the research itself, the executive decisions her stakeholders would make from the research, and the easy-to-digest delivery of insights that she presented as a story, and it showed. 
  • They love what they do, and they stay curious. Wingmen and wingwomen venture out to conferences to present, network, and listen to others. This deep passion for research, learning, and sharing is what keeps us sharp and focused at our organizations. At the best conferences, such as MRA’s CRC, the sheer number of wingmen and the quality of presentations (not to mention the bacon at breakfast) is incredible. If your position as a wingman isn’t rewarded with an adequate budget for this type of travel, have no fear. . . you can check out your local MRA chapter, attend online webinars, talk and listen with your global research peers face-to-face, and connect on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Let’s keep a line of sight on our lead pilots, the horizon, our formation, and let’s go!

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

Our monthly eZine will keep you up-to-date with the latest at CMB and in the market research community!

 Subscribe Here

Topics: product development, storytelling, business decisions, conference recap

Navigating the Journey from Information to Insights

Posted by Lauren Sears

Thu, Oct 08, 2015

I recently had the pleasure of hearing author and entrepreneur Seth Godin speak about how to do “work that matters.” Seth’s a fantastic speaker, and he touched on topics such as the spread of ideas, marketing, and the digital economy. Here’s what stood out:

  • Adopt the “I’ll give that a try” mentality. Seth says: “It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to get your ducks in a row without even knowing what to do with the ducks.” Insights professionals know as well as anyone that a lack of focus throughout an engagement can have devastating consequences. Before aligning all your ducks and investing in a program, articulate the decisions you want to make. At CMB, we focus our teams and our clients by drilling into the business decisions together before delving into a project. A business-decision focused approach keeps us on track, ensures we’re asking the right questions, and, most importantly, guarantees that the results can be used in a meaningful, actionable way. 
  • Play infinite games. We live in a “connections economy.” In other words, meaningful work always starts with a connection. Think about communication and collaboration as a game of catch. Because you need to interact and communicate to be successful, you have to throw the ball so that the other person can throw it back. It’s not just about delivering the final presentation on time, which is why we’re so intent on building partnerships with our clients. We want to create real change, and we want to play those infinite games! Our project management style revolves around making connections and engaging stakeholders at every stage of the project. This way, we can give our clients the tools to be successful far beyond any one specific project. 
  • Stay curiousSeth’s a big fan of the term lizard brain.” That’s the part of your brain that doesn’t want you to be responsible. Suppressing the “lizard brain” and reaping the rewards of taking responsibility (and not waiting to be given it) far outweigh the safety net of “coasting.” How do you suppress this irresponsible gecko in your head? Stay curious! Translating insights into coordinated action requires looking at the results as the beginning, not just the end, of a process.

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to drown in a seemingly endless tide of information and data. So, for those of us who make the journey from information to insights each day, remember: keep experimenting, keep searching, and keep pushing the envelope!

Lauren Sears is an Associate Researcher at CMB, and this is her first blog post. She is eager to apply Seth’s advice to do more work that matters, such as binge watching The Real Housewives of NYC and grilling perfectly cooked meats. 

Topics: business decisions, conference recap