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

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

What is the Next Normal & How To Plan For It?

Posted by Courtnie Hallendy

Wed, Apr 22, 2020

Think about this…is your “normal” household (i.e. the one you remember from February) going to be changed, in some way shape and form, by what we are going through right now? If your household is like mine, the answer is probably yes. For example, do I think my husband will continue to get excited about making dinner? No. But do I think that the way we shop for food will be different for some time? Absolutely. This got me thinking about incidence and impact…how many consumers are going to be impacted (both foreseeable now and not), and to what degree?

Honestly, I don’t know, which is especially unnerving for someone who gathered consumer sentiment and helped inform business strategies for Toyota Financial Services during the financial crisis and a massive product recall – both impacting millions of people. After the initial shock of those unique situations wore off, we realized that we quickly needed a plan. We needed to know what was going on, what could potentially happen in the future, how does this impact our brand equity, and what do we need to do to come out just as strong, if not stronger. I’m not saying that those two incidents are anything like our current crisis, but I do think that the need for a plan is just as strong. Right now, we don’t know what is next, but that doesn’t mean that we can't be learning all we can to help our businesses during and after this crisis.

After listening to my colleague Lori Vellucci, VP of Financial Services, and Mack Turner, a Global Insights & Innovation leader, discuss insights from the second wave of our COVID-19 consumer sentiment tracker in “Navigating the Next Normal”, I started to chart out what we need to be looking at (and looking for) to wrap our heads around this.

OUR VALUES

The current crisis is different than any I have been through in large part because of the cause. Health. Global health, health of our communities, and health of individuals. We are inundated with messaging about being in this together and getting through this together. The call for collective values to align is something that will likely impact consumers, to some degree, forever. Our sentiment tracker data shows that in a three-week time period, people express an increased concern for the health of their family and communities, while concerns for their own health is unchanged.

COVID Wave 2 Next Blog Slide 11

Mack and Lori talked a bit about this data point in the discussion and I agree that this is an indicator that people are thinking more about others than themselves. So, how does this factor into our plans? What do we, as an organization, need to think about (or change) in how we build and communicate our products and services?

To answer those questions, our plan needs to look at how shifts in values impact our brand, products, and/or services. I had a discussion last week with a client that touched on this – when can we include non-COVID messaging in our advertising and communications? How will people perceive us when/if we do? What are the things we need to focus on in future communications? This is not something we can get the answer to immediately - it may be quite some time before we really know the degree to which things have changed. This is where is it important for us to include monitoring of these shifts in our plan and insights.

OUR BEHAVIORS

Building off changes in consumer values, our plan should include information on how consumer behaviors changed. If we agree that values, to some degree, will be forever changed then it is safe to believe that behaviors will as well. Said in marketing research terms: how are my customer’s journey and consideration set impacted?

Let’s take the example above about community health. We are already seeing behavioral shifts to demonstrate this through face masks. But, how long and for how many will this continue to be part of their decision process? If I were in the retail or dining industries, I would want to know what behaviors, related to masks, people expect within my establishment.

Another part of the plan would be to understand how things that I “have” to do now may impact how I consider doing things in the future. In the discussion, Lori and Mack talk about grocery delivery, but another related example is online shopping. 42% say they are doing more than before and about half plan to continue to do this more when life goes back to normal.

COVID Wave 2 Next Blog Slide 17

A behavior shift like this doesn’t just impact big box store traffic or Amazon shopping. Consider for a moment a small business located in the nearest downtown to you. If you are the small business, then forecasting a decrease in foot traffic will be important in future planning. If you count small businesses as customers of yours (financial services or telecommunications, for example), then what will they need from you to adapt to this shift?

WHAT'S NEXT?

Many businesses are going to continue being impacted by this global pandemic. Our consumers’ forced behaviors should be part of your plan to deliver on their evolved needs. Consider how your goods/services align with their shifts in values and behaviors; are some of these shifts only temporary? What if they are not?

Mack brings up the example of a shift to online app usage for financial services. These “new” customers to the app may have different needs or expectations from our previous customers. The values and behavioral data informing the plan should provide the business with the information needed to address this. Let’s not forget, though, we will need to understand internal data as well. How does the increase in usage impact other areas of the business (call centers, online agent chats, etc.)?

Navigating Next Normal Quote - Customers

These are challenging, frustrating, and uncertain times, to be sure. That said, I am looking forward to helping my clients plan for the next normal. Consumer behaviors, psychology, and motivators have always interested me and that is why I went into this field. So…what’s next?


Courtnie HallendyCourtnie Hallendy is an Account Director at CMB, with more than 15 years of experience in market research on both the client and vendor sides of the business.

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

Topics: strategy consulting, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, market strategy and segmentation, COVID-19, consumer sentiment

The Anxiety Gap: Discovering a Normalcy Bias in COVID-19

Posted by Brant Cruz

Mon, Apr 06, 2020

As someone who has been deeply involved with the art and science of segmentation for over 20 years, I am an ardent believer that the most insightful story in any data set is found at the segment level. The fact is that examining the total population (whatever that study’s population is) washes away the “aha” moments. My much-smarter colleague, Jay Weiner (Ph.D.) constantly reinforces that any total column is usually made up of some multimodal distribution, and our job as researchers is to track down and highlight the key ones.  

Finding those stories usually requires sophisticated segmentation analytical techniques (e.g., Latent Class and k-means, clustering, C&RT modeling, BayesNets and Ensemble) to coerce the data into sharing its news.  Only occasionally, the data shouts its own news loudly when examining a few simple cross tabs. 

In the case of CMB’s recent self-funded research on how Covid-19 is impacting US consumer sentiment, our baseline wave from two weeks ago revealed (practically shouted) some obvious differences in the data based on region, age, and the sources people trust to communicate honestly.  And while I typically love to find stories in data with such little sweat, this discovery was far more bitter than sweet given the seriousness of the topic.

For example, it is clear that even as of two weeks ago, Americans living in urban areas were much more likely to be feeling negative emotions related to their lives (independent of COVID-19) than their suburban or rural counterparts.

COVID Normalcy Bias Geographies with Callout-1

On slide 16 of the report, we break out much of the study’s data by generational cohort.  The top right data from the slide that I’m showing below is a summary of the impact that each generation perceived that COVID-19 was having on their lives right now (“now” being around 3/18).  Millennials were feeling on average (note: there are multi-modal distributions underneath these cohorts, they definitely don’t all feel the same) that COVID-19 was having a more positive than negative impact on their lives.  Boomers and Matures on the other hand, were feeling far more negative impacts than positive. 

COVID Normalcy Bias Impact On You Now

I know what many of you must be thinking: how can anyone say that a disease that had already claimed thousands of lives by the time this was fielded has had a positive impact on their lives?  I can’t say for sure, but I have some theories:

  1. There is a pretty strong normalcy bias at play here, which is described by Wikipedia as “a tendency for people to believe that things will function in the future the way they normally have functioned in the past and therefore to underestimate both the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects.”  While COVID-19 had greatly impacted many thousands of American lives by the time we fielded, there were also many of thousands of Americans who hadn’t had their lives, or the lives of their inner circle, negatively disrupted.
  2. We, as researchers, marketers, and like-minded professionals tend to consume and process lots of data, viewing things from our professional perch.  I see this when working with big tech companies very frequently, and sometimes use “Valley Goggles” to describe the fact that adoption curves--and the use cases that underlie them--that are mainstream in California are more likely to be considered early adoption in middle America.  That isn’t a value judgment, just an observation that we all tend to view nearly everything through our own personal experiences.

Additionally, there appears to be a relationship between the brands/sources individuals trust to communicate honestly, and how concerned they are (or “were” as 3/19) about COVID-19.  Big caveat that the sample sizes get thin here, but directionally these word clouds (from slide 15) that segment people based on whether they feel COVID-19 is having a negative/neutral/positive impact on their lives reveal that:  

  • Those who feel the virus is having a negative impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust left-leaning and center/neutral news sources to communicate honestly
  • Those who feel the virus is having a neutral/no impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust right-leaning news sources to communicate honestly
  • Those who feel the virus is having a positive impact on their lives are disproportionately likely to trust big consumer brands like Nike, Amazon, Apple and Whats App to communicate honestly

In most cases, I’d be celebrating about how easy and clear these key findings were to find.  Typically, at this point, I’d be discussing implications and recommendations with my clients regarding how they might change aspects of their business to capitalize on opportunities that serve their customers and the broader market more effectively with better marketing and/or better products/experiences.  And I’d probably be slightly wistful about how long these changes would likely take to implement, and how imperfectly we’d be able to measure the impact (ROI) of strategic segmentation initiatives, given how much both the element of time, and the hundreds of other changes they make to their business over time confounds precise quantification.

Sadly, in this situation, none of those problems mentioned above are materially present, or (if they are) meaningfully important.  I read this article from CNN a couple days ago, which reinforces the glimmers we saw in our study about the dire circumstances urban areas face.

I’m sure everyone reading this knows that COVID-19 is here, and getting worse every day.  We are about to field a second wave of this study, and I know that sentiment is going to change, but I am not sure by how much.  Just like I am confident about the very substantial impacts that CMB’s segmentation work has had on our clients over time, even if I can’t precisely quantify it, I know the same is true about social distancing and sheltering in place. 

CMB is committed to (but not necessarily “looking forward to”) sharing results from our research on this topic as we track sentiment over time.  In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.


Brant CruzBrant Cruz is our resident segmentation guru and the Vice President of CMB’s eCommerce and Digital Media & Entertainment Practice.

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

 

Topics: market strategy and segmentation, COVID-19, consumer sentiment