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The Three Pillars of Sustaining Our Culture during COVID-19

Posted by Heather Magaw and Lauren Sears

Tue, May 12, 2020

Two months ago, we closed our digs at Two Oliver Street in downtown Boston--and welcomed new office mates (including some furry and feathered) into our workdays. We’re proud to say that our culture is stronger than ever and in the spirit of openness, we’re sharing creative ways to building and maintaining our bonds:

Nala WFH

“Very productive day for Nala” - Mike Helms, Research Manager

Stay Social

One secret to CMB’s strong and enduring culture? It’s not all work and no play. CMB’s Social Committee does a fantastic job planning and executing events. With in-office banana bread competitions and pub trivia off the table, our Social Committee has been working hard to think of fun virtual events. They’re teaming up with our Board Game Club to host an online game night. We can’t wait!

Outside of events, we are using social media to stay connected with one another and our communities through our #SpringAtCMB campaign. Our need for positive emotions and social connection are greater than ever. Seeing spring through the eyes of our teammates has spread joy within and beyond our CMB community.

SpringAtCMB Twitter Screenshot

Appreciate Each Other

It’s well understood that employee recognition enhances engagement, creating a culture of commitment and passion. Now that we aren’t seeing each other in-person to high-five and elbow bump to celebrate a success, we are fortunate to have a custom engagement solution crafted for us by ITA Group. Our Be The Reason platform allows us to recognize colleagues and share positive feedback across all the ITA Family of Companies by recognizing behavior that reflects our core values.

CMB’s culture continues to thrive even with the close of our offices. We remain as committed as ever to helping the world’s leading brands engage, innovate, and grow and are challenging ourselves to do the same. In fact, some of our long-standing remote CMBers have even commented they feel even closer to the CMB culture now that we are all adopting a remote work lifestyle.

Liz White Quote - Remote COVID Social Culture

Stimulate Conversations

The CMB Virtual Lunchroom simulates our lively in-office kitchen and allows us to still eat together and catch up daily via video conference. Our weekly “Fun Fridays” are now virtual too! Hanging out and having a drink with colleagues is a great way to unwind together at the end of the week.

The Virtual Break Room is in full swing– and it’s a blast! This Microsoft Teams-based forum provides opportunity for CMBers to stay in touch through posts, stories, images and videos.  This is our online water cooler where we can gather to check in with each other and share a laugh or a smile, share a great podcast, and get a movie or book recommendation.  In short, to nurture those fun moments that help make us a supportive and cohesive team. It has something for everyone including topics like Too Cute (wow, so, so many cute pets!), All The Memes, Foodies, and Some Good News.

We are fortunate enough to have many great personal interest clubs at CMB. Documentary Club and Book Club are still going strong and meeting via online platforms. We’ve recently discussed The Tiger King, Chasing Happiness, and Babies! Our next book club is meeting to discuss Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.

Through all of this, we gained the confidence we needed to keep our culture strong. We have even made strides in better integrating our remote workforce into our events and social gatherings. Because of our efforts to keep our culture alive, CMB feels more connected to each other than ever. Our personal interest clubs have grown in number, and we’re committed to keep this momentum going. Who knows, maybe virtual game nights will become a new tradition! We at CMB hope that you and yours are staying safe, healthy, and connected during this time.


Heather MagawHeather Magaw is VP, People & Culture at CMB. After 15 years of being a part of the CMB culture, she remains committed to preserving CMB’s cultural DNA while continuing to evolve it into the future.

 

Lauren SearsLauren Sears is a Research Manager at CMB. She is also a co-leader of CMB’s Social Committee and is always looking for fun, new ideas to build employee engagement and relationships.

 

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

Topics: our people, COVID-19, CMB Social Committee, People & Culture, CMB Culture

Greatest Generation to Toilet Paper Generation?

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Wed, Apr 29, 2020

Some habits will stick with us post-pandemic

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

TP Generation Grandpa and Erica Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TP Generation Hoarding Chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TP Generation Habit Chart

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

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

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

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

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


Erica Carranza

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

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

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

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

Should I Be Innovating Now?

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Fri, Apr 17, 2020

If Jimmy Kimmel can do it, so can we!

Stuck at home, it’s easy to understand why so many marketers and insights professionals feel like the world is paused. How can we move forward amid so much uncertainty? I understand the impulse, but through conversations with my CMB, and industry colleagues and clients I strongly believe that this is a time to be bold, not to sit back and wait.

This advice is part of an evolution. We have seen client mindsets shift from an early “wait-and-see” approach (early- to mid-March) to “let’s not waste this moment to understand what our customers are thinking and doing” (late-March to early-April). Given the disruption, you need to know which old habits will recede, and which new habits will stick. What new products and services will define the new normal? For consumer insights professionals, this is your opportunity to shine.

An article from Bain speaks to this very well: Decide where to be bold and build a roadmap to get there. Companies that win in downturns don’t just play defense—they play offense as well. Determine the products, customers and underlying capabilities where doubling down now can accelerate growth during and after whatever lies ahead.

If you’re wondering whether your company should be innovating during this pandemic, I ask you to consider the following:

  • If you think your competition is continuing to innovate, then YES
  • If you think the COVID environment will shape how your customer will think going forward, then YES

And importantly, innovation can happen in a quarantined world. If Jimmy Kimmel can do it, so can we!

Jimmy Kimmel

Using digital/virtual tools, we can, of course, see and hear each other, and additionally 1) screenshare 2) whiteboard collaboratively 3) work in plenary and break out groups and 4) perform exercises, quick polls and other methods for ideating and prioritizing. To combat the obvious barriers at play, we recommend accomplishing this in multiple 90-minute virtual workshops. Ideally, about 15 people, including stakeholders and consumers, would e-meet twice in one day to ideate on your topic.

At CMB, we apply a Design Thinking framework to innovation, with #3 being the collaborative ideation:

Design Thinking-2

Related to our February blog on empathy, it’s important to stay connected to your customer. Continue to talk to your consumers throughout this pandemic, because they want to be included in conversations. Nine out of ten surveyed during the shutdowns and quarantines say they want to continue doing research. Researching/innovating fulfills several needs for consumers: a feeling of normalcy, a sense of control over things they can affect, and some (needed) cash.

COVID Innovation Kathy Blog Research Micrographic

CMB is talking directly to consumers now, successfully moving all research online, including workshops. We can help you stay connected, build empathy and importantly, continue to innovate with your customers at this critical time.


Kathy OfsthunKathy Ofsthun, VP Qualitative + Innovation

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

Topics: technology solutions, qualitative research, growth and innovation, co-creation, COVID-19

It’s Times Like These That We Turn to Wholesome Gaming

Posted by Blair Bailey

Tue, Apr 07, 2020

When I pitched a blog about the rise of wholesome gaming following my attendance at this year’s PAX East, I didn’t realize quite how prescient I would be. With the disruption that COVID-19 has brought to our daily lives, the need for calm, and social connection is as strong as ever. While wholesome games have been overshadowed by larger titles and genres in the past, they’re (gently, of course) making a space for themselves in the industry. Recently, the indie game Untitled Goose Game won Game of the Year at the Dice Awards, a title that’s historically been held by industry behemoths like God of War, Call of Duty, and The Legend of Zelda. (There’s some debate over whether Untitled Goose Game is wholesome…but you’re playing a mischievous goose, and your quaint town’s biggest problem is you dragging the farmer’s rake into the lake. I think that’s gosh darn wholesome.)

What is a wholesome video game?

A wholesome video game features gameplay that focuses on kindness, and being good to one another. It’s not news that gaming offers emotional benefits to its players. When I play in the “zombie”-infested world of The Last of Us, it’s both the frustration and satisfaction of playing, as well as my progression, that keeps me motivated. But game developers are starting to understand that we’re not all looking to feel intense emotion. As my colleague Dr. Erica Carranza explained in a recent blog, we can map emotions based on valence (the positive or negative affectivity) and activation (the intensity).  The emotional benefits of wholesome games are highly positive but low in activation, is a desirable combination in a time of high anxiety.

Emotional Valence Activation Details

The rise of wholesome games can also be attributed to their ability to help people connect and strengthen their social relationships. This idea also isn’t new in the world of gaming. Games like Call of Duty and many others have had in-person and online multiplayer options for years. However, the world of online multiplayer can be intimidating with the cover of anonymity often making for hostile interactions with other players.

Wholesome games allow players to play and connect with each other in the low activation, positive valence space. With all my friends and colleagues working and sheltering-in-place, wholesome games give us the opportunity to stay connected and feel better during times of high anxiety. The latest Animal Crossing: New Horizons has filled my social channels with social media posts and group texts sharing Friend Codes to visit one another on their virtual islands. I’m sadly stranded with a broken Switch but seeing everyone stay connected in an unpredictable time just shows why wholesome gaming is the antidote to anxiety we need.


Blair BaileyBlair Bailey is a Data Manager at CMB, and avid gamer who bravely attended the PAX East 2020 conference pre-hand sanitizer shortage. Her favorite wholesome game is Katamari Damacy.

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


Want More? Check Out:
  • @_wholesomegames - a Twitter account dedicated to sharing the latest in wholesome games
  • Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) - a game where you send words of kindness and support to other players
  • Rescue Pets - a mobile idle game where your in-app purchases support shelter animals
  • Fog of Maya - an upcoming mobile game supporting self-care habits through a virtual pet (in beta!)

Topics: Gaming, Social Benefits, COVID-19, Emotional Benefits