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

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Jan 27, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOT GIF

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

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

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

Negative Positive Passive and Active Emotions Chart

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

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

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

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

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

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


Erica CarranzaErica is CMB’s VP of Consumer Psychology. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University. Prior to CMB, she led insights research at American Express, where she was a recipient of the CMO Award for Achievement in Excellence.

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

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

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

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Oct 26, 2020

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

Answer: Massive disruption as we know it.

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

5G Blog COVID Data

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

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model Internet Access-1

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

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model 5G-2

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

UNDERSTANDING HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE FACE OF CHANGING TECH ABILITIES

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

BrandFx Four Benefits Pillars

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sailing Rough Seas Toward a Brighter Future

Posted by John Conti

Thu, Jun 11, 2020

How’s this for an understatement: we are living through difficult and unprecedented times. As we confront the interconnected realities of a global pandemic, economic crisis, and a long overdue reckoning with racial injustice, we—individuals and organizations—are faced with a lot of uncertainty. Still, in our recent webinar, The Case for Optimism*, I felt inspired by my colleague Judy Melanson and Marketing & Brand Strategist Armin Molavi to lead through uncertainty with optimism.

John C Blog Optmism Quote

With this conversation in mind, I believe there are three key focus areas that will help brands, and other organizations, navigate these challenging times and build a better future:

1. SHOW GENUINE EMPATHY & TAKE ACTION

True empathy and compassion are critical in building strong relationships. Many brands know people are suffering and they are taking steps to honor those working to keep us safe and to support those in need. But it feels as if many brands opened-up the crisis playbook and followed the same formula. There is even a YouTube mashup of recent COVID-19 ads showing this, but several leading brands—like LinkedIn, Hilton, and American Express—have found genuine and unique ways to show empathy.

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, LinkedIn Learning is providing free courses on diversity and inclusion to help users understand the challenges preventing equitable workplaces.

Hilton and American Express have teamed up to ease the burden COVID-19 has placed on our frontline workers. They have donated up to 1 million free room nights to medical professionals battling the pandemic. These rooms allow them to ‘sleep, recharge, or isolate from their families’ without worry or financial stress.

John C Blog Hilton Quote

2. REDEFINE LOYALTY & PARTNERSHIP

Loyalty is a relationship—a two-way street. For years, brands have worked to develop a large following of consumers who are loyal to their product/service, but now is the time for brands to show their loyalty and commitment. Leading brands do right by their customers to demonstrate their commitment and strengthen the relationship, no matter the cost.

Credit card companies, insurance companies, and other creditors are delaying payment due dates and waiving late fees. Auto insurance companies have seen a precipitous drop in insurance claims saving them millions. But rather than pocket those profits several companies including American Family Insurance are providing refunds directly to policyholders. In fact, American Family Insurance is refunding customers $50 per insured vehicle plus a 10% credit on personal auto policies adding up to over $450 million in support at a time when many customers could use the extra cash.

As Armin discussed in the webinar, establishing partnerships is another strong way to prioritize the consumer over the brand. In the retail space, organizations big and small are pledging sustainable action and investment, whether it’s Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge and/or Claude Home’s call to donate proceeds to support the Black businesses and anti-racist work one day a month. These leaders are uniting brands to support the Black Lives Matter movement by building relationships with consumers and other businesses.

John C Blog Quote - Partnerships

3. BE BOLD

I am inspired by the courage of those who have long fought for racial equality and heartened that we will see real change. During the height of the Covid-19 outbreak several manufacturers switched their focus from their own products to developing medical supplies and equipment. Ford Motor Company stopped several vehicle assembly lines and partnered with 3M to manufacture respirators for frontline workers and ventilators for patients battling Covid-19.

While some brands have played it safe in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement by just blacking out their social media accounts for a day or issuing a cookie cutter response, there are others demonstrating moral clarity and leadership, including Ben & Jerry’s and Nike.

Ben & Jerry’s has always been a leader in corporate social responsibility and has made it their mission to make the world a better place. They proudly issued We Must Dismantle White Supremacy, along with a four-step call to action to seek out ways to drive change. Their characteristic boldness, and steadfast focus on social issues over the bottom line, is an example of strong corporate leadership.

I have also been inspired by Nike’s attention on racial injustice, a cause they have championed for years (see Colin Kaepernick) and is deeply engrained in their corporate values. Their recent For Once, Don’t Do It video plays on the ad’s iconic ‘Just Do It’ tagline and shines a spot light on the cause. It is a great example of a brand continuing to live its values through an authentic, trustworthy message.

The fact is, most of us (myself included) have a whole lot of work to do, and bold statements must be backed by bold action and accountability.

The future can seem like a scary place but if we show empathy, demonstrate loyalty & develop partnerships, and act boldly we can all emerge from these crises with a brighter future. 

*Recorded Thursday, May 28, 2020


John Conti-1John Conti is an Account Director at CMB.

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

Topics: consumer insights, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, Market research, COVID-19, consumer sentiment, customer centricity, Racial Justice

Leaning In & Leading Up

Posted by Amy Modini

Wed, May 06, 2020

So much has changed during this COVID-19 environment – the way we work, stay in touch with family and friends, educate our children, shop, and the list goes on. We’re in the midst of a major health crisis which is impacting all aspects of our economy. Times of uncertainty are difficult for consumers, so having strong leaders to navigate rocky waters is pivotal in putting people at ease.

As organizations consider how to navigate their present and future, we are seeing strong leaders emerge. There is an opportunity for those in insights roles to become invaluable to their organizations as decisions are being made on how to act and think strategically for consumers. Here are 5 ways to lean in and lead up for your organization during COVID-19:

  • Continue to understand the changing environment through your greatest asset: research. Brands that will come out on top are not putting research on hold. As an insights professional, be firm on your suggestions on how, when, and why to conduct research.
  • Be nimble and think ahead. Brands are measuring concerns, needs, wants, and gaps in this current environment, but at some point, they’ll shift that view to look at attitudinal and behavioral changes to navigate how these changes impact how they interact with customers. In fact, how well brands identify,  understand, and satisfy consumers’ emotional, identity, social, and functional needs during this time may determine consumers’ loyalty after the pandemic.
  • Measure consumer sentiment. It’s critical now given the deep emotional and psychological impact of this crisis. While many companies are doing research during this time, CMB has embarked on a sentiment study to track how consumer sentiment is shifting over time.
  • Invest in your customers. As consumers go through difficult times, we see many brands openly supporting customers with refunds on auto insurance, for example.  These brands are also looking at how the customer experience will change in the future and what they may need to do to accommodate those needs.
  • Be innovative in the “new world”. As brands look at the fundamental behavioral shifts that are happening now, they are anticipating what that may look like for a brand in the future. While brands are trying to stay relevant now, the forward-looking brands are considering how they will need to understand and react to behavior shifts with new products, services, or offerings to serve these needs. With so many changes and unknowns, why not take the risks that could have the highest impact and resonance? This is a great time to experiment and think outside the box.

Understanding consumers’ changing attitudes, needs, and behaviors is important during these times. Those brands with strong insights leaders will emerge from this health crisis into a ‘new world’ that is rich with guidance from its customers on how to best serve them.


Amy ModiniAmy Modini, VP Practice Leader, brings insightful leadership and dedicated expertise marrying qualitative and quantitative research to an array of industries including healthcare, insurance, and financial services.

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

Topics: strategy consulting, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, consumer sentiment