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It’s Complicated: New Research on Emotion and Autonomous Vehicles

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Mar 26, 2019

Like many people, my relationship with technology is complicated, and when it comes to the increasing level of automation in cars, leading us—potentially—towards a future where many vehicles will be fully autonomous (i.e., no human drivers), it gets REALLY complicated. 

On one hand, the closest I’ve come to dying was in 1993 at the hands of a faulty after-market cruise control mechanism that terminally accelerated the vehicle I was driving (this is actually a thing, apparently). My sudden panic on the highway precluded a rational decision to put the car in neutral, turn the engine off altogether, and/or use the emergency brake. As we entered the highway off-ramp at 70 mph (brake on the floor) my girlfriend pulled an incredible Dukes-of-Hazzard style 90-degree spin turn that brought the car to heel, and ultimately, a miraculous stop.

I went on to marry that girl, of course.

While this happened back in 1993 (the car, the driver, and my very-questionable-90s hair pictured below)…

chris neal_AV… it gave birth to decades of irrational anxiety manifesting into all sorts of habits, including:

  • Never, ever, using cruise controls. Ever.
  • Avoiding elevators and escalators whenever possible (I’ve been mistaken for a Fitbit junkie on many occasions)
  • Seeking out manual transmission cars

Twenty-five years of significant technological advancements later, lots of people now share my emotional anxiety towards vehicular automation.

A new self-funded study we conducted indicates a rumbling emotional backlash towards autonomous vehicle (AV) technology. This is part of an ongoing proprietary analysis of the human emotional dimensions around disruptive emerging technologies, including virtual assistants and smart home technology.

In this study we leveraged our proprietary framework, EMPACT, and tested several AV-related scenarios to better understand consumers’ emotions towards the different use cases of this technology, including:

  • In a city: scenarios of (a) inside of an AV and (b) near an AV
  • On the highway: scenarios of (a) inside of an AV and (b) near an AV
  • Putting your child inside an AV alone
  • Putting an elderly relative inside an AV alone

The high-level results reveal a very steep path ahead for the AV industry in its journey to gaining widespread consumer acceptance.

As indicated in the chart below, a strong majority (~70%) of American adults reject all tested scenarios:

Likelihood to use Autonomous Cars

…and only 10% or so actively “accept” any of these scenarios.

Interestingly, the prospect of putting an elderly relative into an AV alone was even worse than the thought of one’s child riding solo.

 Understanding the emotional landscape behind these attitudes (i.e., how people feel about these scenarios) helps explain why.

Consumers react more negatively to autonomous vehicle-related scenarios than any other traditional or emerging category or brand we’ve tested to date. We’ve analyzed hundreds of brands across dozens of categories and have found, by far, AVs evoke the highest “net negative emotions”—a combination of valence (how bad) and activation (low to high energy).

Autonomous Vehicle Emotional Activation

If hopping in an AV yourself, the net negative emotional activation is -18%over 3x the net negative emotions generated from driving your own car. This came as a surprise considering plenty of our sample is from major urban areas where traffic continues its relentless march towards Sheer Awfulness. 

The prospect of having an autonomous vehicle, say, drive your kid to soccer practice on its own, fares even worse with a -27% net negative activation.

The verdict?

Although there are plenty of obvious benefits to autonomous vehicles, many people are still wary of this technology as it currently generates only ~12-16% net positive emotional activation compared to the ~42% generated by traditional driving.

And when compared to other emerging or disruptive technology categories like smart homes, autonomous vehicles also have a bigger emotional chasm to cross.

Smart Homes, for instance, do have a problem with not activating enough positive emotions (i.e., many people don’t “get” or feel the benefit of them), but at least they don’t have a major negative emotional barrier to overcome like AVs.

To learn more, join me on April 2nd at 2pm ET (11am PT). 

On April 2, I'll be hosting a brief webinar diving into the details of the specific negative and positive emotions that will be key to driving broader acceptance.

I’ll also cover an analysis of messaging that resonates with various consumer segments—uncovering what will compel/deter someone from considering this technology. 

Register Now

 Join me for the ride (sorry), I promise it will be interesting, useful and entertaining.

Christopher NealChris Neal is CMB's VP of Tech and Telecom research who recently made strides towards his reconsideration of autonomous vehicles while on a road trip with his son.

Topics: Consumer Pulse, Artificial Intelligence

AI You Can Drive My Car: Anxiety and Autonomous Vehicles at CES

Posted by Megan McManaman

Wed, Jan 16, 2019

autonomous cars

In December, The New York Times reported that disgruntled Arizonans were lobbing rocks at Waymo’s autonomous (but not unoccupied) vans. Experts, and the rock-throwers themselves, blamed the attacks on a combination of economic anxiety and safety fears (a woman was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber in Tempe last March). While it’s unlikely any modern-day Luddites attended last week’s CES in Vegas, companies like Intel and Baidu, and even Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao were hard at work addressing consumer fears.

With Congress expected to consider legislation regulating autonomous vehicles—the intense conversation and debate over security and safety will remain front and center. Counting out the projectile-hurling robot-haters (for now), what’s it going to take for average consumers to purchase, ride in, and share the road with these vehicles? That’s the billion(s) dollar question we set out to answer in our self-funded Consumer Pulse.

We surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers (thanks to Dynata for providing sample!), conducted ethnographies, and in-depth interviews—including ride-alongs—to identify the segments of the adult U.S. population that have different reactions to and perceptions of a range of assisted and autonomous driving scenarios. We went beyond the typical examination of functional benefits to understand the emotions (both positive and negative) driving and deterring greater acceptance and adoption.

Chris Neal, CMB’s VP of Tech and Telecom, will share the results at the Quirks Event on March 6 at 2:15 pm in Brooklyn.

Want an advance copy of the report this spring?

Click here

Megan McManaman is CMB's Marketing Director, she welcomes our new robot chauffers.

Topics: technology research, Consumer Pulse, Artificial Intelligence

How to Win Virtual Assistant Rejecters Over

Posted by Chris Neal

Wed, Jun 20, 2018

It seems like every week, tech giants are adding new features to their virtual assistant (VA) tech arsenal. See Google’s new Duplex technology—an AI system for accomplishing real-world tasks by phone. 

While companies are pouring millions into making their virtual assistants smarter and more integrated, most users don’t stray beyond its basic functions like asking for the weather.

Learn about the emotional and social identity dimensions keeping people from adopting and using this tech to its full potential, and what brands need to do to win the VA war.

CMB01_VA_Infographic_07_AW

Topics: technology research, Consumer Pulse, emotional measurement, AffinID, Artificial Intelligence

AI's Image Problem: Who's the "Typical" Virtual Assistant User?

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Jan 09, 2018

siri2-1.png

Every nascent technology and every tech start-up faces the same marketing challenge of “crossing the chasm” into mainstream adoption.  Geoffrey Moore framed this very well in his 1991 classic, “Crossing the Chasm”:

adoption curve.pngWord of mouth can play a huge role in motivating certain segments to sip the Kool-Aid and make the leap.

With CES 2018—the world's largest gadget tradeshow—happening in Vegas this week, I can't help but wonder if mainstream consumers don’t relate to the early adopters of a new technology? What if they think it’s used by people who aren’t part of “their tribe”? Will it prevent them even considering the new tech? There are countless technology categories that have faced this challenge, for example:

  • certain gaming categories trying to expand beyond 15-24-year-old males
  • consumer robot products to this day
  • social media when it was first introduced
  • Second Life and other virtual worlds

I hypothesized that the virtual assistant (VA) category—and specific brands within it—faces this challenge. Yes, many people have tried and used Siri, but few mainstream consumers are truly using virtual assistants for anything beyond basic hands-free web-queries. To further complicate things, an increasing number of “smart home” products that connect to intelligent wireless speakers in the home (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s forthcoming HomePod) are proving divisive. Some people love the experience or the idea of commanding a smart device while others categorically reject the concept. 

My team and I had the chance to test out a few hypothesis through our Consumer Pulse program and —voila!—we’ve got some tasty (and useful) morsels to share with you about how social identity is influencing consumer adoption in the virtual assistant space using our proprietary AffinIDSM solution.

Here’s what we found:

Social identity matters in the virtual assistant space. We studied US consumers (18+)—covering usage, adoption, and perceptions of the virtual assistant category and a deep-dive on four major brands within it: Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana by Microsoft. We covered rational perceptions of the category, emotional reactions to experiences using virtual assistants, and perceptions of the “typical” user of Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana.

We then ran fancy math™ on our data to create a model to predict the likelihood of a virtual assistant “category rejecter” (i.e., someone who has never tried a VA before) to try any one of those assistants in the future. Our analysis indicates that how much a current VA category rejecter relates to their image of the type of person who uses a virtual assistant is the number one predictor of whether they are likely to try the technology in the future:

Blog_Chris.png

Unfortunately for the industry, category rejecters do not find the typical VA user very relatable. 
AffinID metric by brand.png

As the chart indicates, relatability (biggest predictor of likelihood to try as shown previously) scores the lowest of the three components of AffinID: relatability, clarity, and desirability. You may ask yourself: “are scores of 12 to 14 ‘good’ or ‘bad’?  They’re bad: trust me. We’ve now run AffinID on hundreds of brands across dozens of industries, so we have a formidable normative database against which to compare brands. The VA category does not fare well on “relatability,” and it matters.

Some brands’ VA ads, while amusing, are not very relatable to “normal” mainstream consumers. For example as my colleague Erica Carranza points out in her recent blog, Siri’s ad featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson doing impossibly awesome things in one day (including taking a selfie from outer-space) with the help of Siri isn’t exactly a “normal” person’s day. A-grade for amusement on this one, but it is playing into an existing perception problem.

Stereotypes about users’ age and income are currently keeping “rejecters” away from the virtual assistant category.

The age gap between rejecters and “typical” virtual assistant users is a social identity construct keeping rejecters out of the category. Current rejecters, not surprisingly, skew older while current heavy VA users, also not surprisingly, skew young.

We uncovered this disconnect with a big predictive model using “match analysis” on a variety of demographic, personality, and interest attributes. For every attribute, we examined whether there was a “match” or a “disconnect” between how a rejecter described themselves vs. how they perceived the typical user of a virtual assistant brand.

The two specific perceptions that had the greatest ability to predict a rejecter’s likelihood to consider using a brand in the future was an age-range match and an income-range match. For example, if I’m over 35 years old (hypothetically!), and I perceive the “typical” user to be under 35 years old and higher-income than me…so what? Well, it does matter. For new technologies to achieve mainstream adoption, they must debunk the widespread perceptions that the early adopter is “young” and highly affluent, and that their product can be used by everyone (think: Facebook). SNL pokes fun at this generational discrepancy.

But in all seriousness, if a virtual assistant brand wants to achieve more mainstream adoption among older demographics, the brand gurus and creative teams working on campaigns need to tackle this head on.

And they must try to do this—ideally—without alienating the original early adopter group that made them their first million (think: Facebook, again…how many Gen Zers do you know who actually use it actively?). I—prototypical 45-year-old suburban dad—can’t imagine using Snapchat, for instance. If Snapchat wanted to get me and my tribe to buy in as avid users*, it needs to convince me that Snapchat isn’t just for teens and early twenty-somethings. Or it needs to launch a different brand/product targeted specifically at my tribe, and market it appropriately.

It’s worth noting there are other social identity constructs that help predict whether a non-user of a virtual assistant is likely to try a product in the future. For instance, the few VA category rejecters who perceive the typical (young, affluent) user as being as “responsible/reliable” as themselves are more open to trying a VA in future than those who do not perceive VA users this way. So, we’re seeing this stereotype that virtual assistant products are for young, affluent professionals living in a major coastal city with no kids to contend with yet, and this is turning some consumer segments off from trying out the category in earnest.  

Stay tuned to this channel for more on our study of the virtual assistant category. I’ll be covering some key insights we got by applying our emotional impact analysis—EMPACT℠to the same issue of what virtual assistant brands should be doing to achieve further adoption and more mainstream usage of their products. 

*I am more than 95% confident that the Snapchat brand gurus do not want me as an avid user…and my ‘tween daughter would definitely die of embarrassment if I ever joined that particular platform and tried to communicate with her that way.

 

Topics: technology research, EMPACT, Consumer Pulse, AffinID, Artificial Intelligence

Qualitative Research: Thinking Outside the Box(ing) Ring

Posted by Kelsey Segaloff

Wed, Aug 02, 2017

My friends and family greeted the news that I was joining a boxing gym with more than a little disbelief. Granted I am an imposing 5 feet tall and have a reputation for tripping over my own feet, so maybe they had a point. But four months and two pairs of gloves later, I’m not only fitter and stronger, I’ve learned some essential truths about boxing that I can apply to my professional life as a qualitative researcher. 

 kelsey boxing.jpg

Don’t forget the “Why”

Boxing is a commitment—physically, financially, and mentally—and it’s tempting to hit the snooze button when I don’t want to get out of bed for an early morning class. Oftentimes, I must remind myself why I keep up with it. To help motivate members, there’s a large chalkboard titled, “Why I Fight” filled with trainers’ and members’ “whys” in the front of the gym.  It’s the first thing you see when you walk in and serves as motivation to both me and fellow boxers.

Focusing on the decisions or the “why” is critical for researchers. Before kicking off a project, we work hard to fully understand our clients’ business needs and the decisions they need to make—this focus keeps us on track for everything from designing a study and choosing a methodology, all the way to the final deliverables and implementation. It’s also important to consider our participants’ “why”—that’s the reason we often use tools like projective techniques in qualitative research to dive deep into participants’ thoughts and uncover their beliefs, motivations, feelings, etc.—the old one-two punch, as some might say.

#FightFam

One of my favorite things about my gym is the sense of community it provides. My #fightfam challenges me to put my all into every class, whether it be Gennifer reassuring me I’m “crushing it,” or Roscoe in the bags room reminding the class we are winners (“And what do winners do? THEY WIN!”). While I feel a personal sense of accomplishment after every class I finish, I also feel a shared sense of pride with my fellow classmates and trainers—and that’s important.

A knockout team is also the foundation for greatness in qualitative research. At CMB, our all-star roster, VP of Qualitative Strategy + Innovation, Kathy Ofsthun, Qualitative Research Director, Anne Hooper, Qualitative Project Manager, Erin Stilphen, and I work together and encourage one another to perform at our highest capacity. We bring inventive and innovative qualitative methodologies like co-creation, and over 40 years of combined qualitative experience to the ring. We’re also adept to thinking on our toes—ask me about the time I recruited for a study in a Canadian train station! And when we need to tap other teammates, we’ve got specialized qualitative research consultants in our corner.

Master Technique, Prepare to Improvise

Boxing is known as the sweet science (the nickname is an appreciation of the technical skills required—strength, endurance, conditioning, core, and flexibility), but it’s just as much an art, requiring improvisation and creativity.

The same goes for qualitative research. We’re masters of improv, but good technique is integral. Recently, I was thrown through a loop while moderating an in-home ethnography for our self-funded research on Millennial and Gen Z use of virtual assistants (think Siri, Cortana, etc.).  Shortly into one of the interviews, it turned out the participant belonged in a different segment than what my guide had indicated. Instead of stopping the interview, I used my improvisation skills and reframed the questions without interrupting the flow of the conversation. Going a little off script helped us gather the insights we needed.

I love that I’ve discovered a sport and gym I am passionate about, and I’m even more thrilled I can draw meaningful parallels between boxing and my profession. Of course, there are times when my muscles ache, my wrists hurt, and I’m tired, but then I remind myself why I keep going. I box because it makes me stronger, faster, and confident—and that these attributes help me be a better qualitative researcher is a bonus!

kelsey boxing 2.jpg

Kelsey Segaloff is CMB’s Qualitative Associate Researcher, and can be found working on her jab-cross at EverybodyFights Boston.

 

Topics: our people, qualitative research, Consumer Pulse, co-creation