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It’s Not Just About Baby Yoda

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Tue, Jan 14, 2020

Emotion, Identity & the Benefits of Disney+

Welcome to 2020! If you’re like me, you did at least three things over the holiday—visited family, ate too much, and read about the “decade in review.” Most articles looking back at the 2010’s mentioned the massive evolution in how we consume entertainment and the onset of the streaming wars. Disney+ and Apple TV+ have launched; HBO Max and Peacock are on the way. Analysts predict there will be too many subscription services to survive. Which will be among the last ones standing?

Netflix famously focuses on the customer, not the competition. But, if they’re going to learn to live with a major competitor, I suggest they focus on Disney+. Primarily because of how well Disney’s bastion of brands delivers emotional and identity benefits, and how important those benefits are to driving engagement—even compared to the functional benefits (like convenience) that helped Netflix upend the industry.

What are these different kinds of benefits? I’m so glad you asked! Here’s a bit of background…

At CMB, we identified four psychological benefits that drive brand engagement:

  • EMOTIONAL BENEFITS (e.g., positive feelings; enhanced joy; reduced frustration)
  • IDENTITY BENEFITS (e.g., strong self-esteem; pride; a positive self-image)
  • SOCIAL BENEFITS (e.g., conversation; social connection; a sense of belonging)
  • FUNCTIONAL BENEFITS (e.g., ability to accomplish tasks or goals; saving time or money)

Each plays a role in BrandFx, our approach to helping clients attract and retain their target audiences.

As a psychologist, I love our framework because it captures what drives people in all things—not just in how they spend their time and money. Each type of benefit fulfills a core human motivation. People strive to maximize good feelings and minimize bad ones (emotional benefits), enhance their self-image and self-esteem (identity benefits), connect and build relationships (social benefits), and efficiently achieve their goals (functional benefits).

In a recent study with over 20,000 consumers, we found that these benefits are important for brands across diverse industries. But the relative importance of each benefit does differ by industry, sub-industry, and even by brand. In the media space:  

  • For umbrella brands (e.g., Disney, Universal, Warner Bros.), emotional and identity benefits dominate importance, followed by social. So, to drive engagement, these brands must inspire positive feelings, bolster positive self-perceptions, and facilitate social bonds.
  • For franchises and IPs (e.g., The Simpsons, Harry Potter, Stranger Things), the same three benefits are key. Emotional and social are most important, followed by identity.
  • For streaming brands (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime), functional benefits are pretty important—so streaming brands should make things easy and affordable. But emotional and identity benefits still dominate.
StreamingWars_ImpDrivingBrandEng

And, while streaming brands score well on functional benefits, they lag Disney on emotion and identity. Among the many media brands we tested:

  • Disney brand Pixar wins on delivering emotional benefits to fans (by a large margin!)
  • …and Disney itself wins on identity.

Disney’s strength on identity benefits is linked to the strength of its brands, franchises and IPs—like Marvel, which also scores well with fans on identity. And, when people think of Disney, its IPs are top-of-mind. In analyzing over 10,000 responses to a free association question, we found that streaming brands call to mind generalities (e.g., “movies,” “shows,” “videos”), while the brands that line the top of the Disney+ homepage call to mind specifics—either specific characters, movies, shows or franchises (e.g., Mickey Mouse, Frozen, Iron Man, MCU, Yoda), or specific content elements (e.g., action, animation, space, superheroes, princesses).

StreamingWars_InitialReactions

This pattern holds even among streaming customers (e.g., Netflix or Hulu subscribers)—i.e., generalities are top-of-mind, not specifics. Arguably that’s good if the goal is to entertain the masses, but it limits the ability to enhance subscribers’ identities. For example, we found that pride in being a media brand’s fan is highly correlated with liking characters from its content.

I may be an outlier—and an ideal scenario—for a streaming brand like Netflix. When I think of Netflix, the first things that come to mind are Peaky Blinders, The Crown and Stranger Things. These are shows I’m proud to watch (identity benefit!), and all three are Netflix originals. Maybe I’m a sign of things to come. But there are yet more reasons to bet on staying power for Disney+, including:

  • Disney’s vast machinery devoted to helping fans experience emotional, identity and social benefits outside the platform. It handily beat other brands we tested on the many ways in which fans interact with its content (e.g., via consumer products, theatrical releases, theme parks and more).
  • Its strength with kids and families. Our study focused on adults, but it’s safe to assume Disney brands would perform well with kids. And today’s Descendants fans are tomorrow’s subscribers.

JediLikeMyFatherUnless-CroppedOn a related note, nostalgia is an emotional benefit that pulls double-duty for media IPs. Kids who are fans grow-up to be parents who bring their own kids into the fold. (This image captures my household dynamic pretty well...)

Then there are the strong social benefits that come with family co-viewing and bonding over shared interests.

Yes, Disney+ will have to succeed in delivering the functional benefits expected in the streaming space—like convenience and value for the money. So pricing Disney+ competitively was a smart move.

But, again, success in media isn’t about functional benefits. Not even for streaming brands. It’s about content that engages; that evokes strong feelings; that resonates, inspires and empowers; that sparks conversations and connects us with larger communities… In a way, the word “entertainment” trivializes the intense emotional, identity and social benefits we get from the content we love. (Why else would so many people be arguing online about Star Wars? They can’t all be Russian bots!)

I’m a sample of one, but my experience fits these findings. I got Disney+ the day it launched. They made the sign-up process easy. So far, so good with the functional benefits. But what really impressed me were the rows of recognizable, quality content I saw when I first logged in. I literally gasped. And I mean literally literally. Not literally in the way Millennials mean literally (i.e., not literally).

Compare that with my experience on other platforms. I tab through rows of shows and movies I’ve heard nothing about, rejecting lots of options before finding something of interest.

This suggests one more way in which Disney+ enters with an advantage: Its well-known franchises create a high ratio of familiar (vs. unfamiliar) content. This matters because…

  • People like the familiar! The comfort of the familiar feels good—it’s an emotional benefit in and of itself. The tendency to prefer things just because we know them even has a name in psychology: the “mere exposure effect.”
  • The glut of peak TV has created “too much choice” for viewers which, paradoxically, generates negative emotions. In this context, the reputable content on Disney+ makes it feel like a cultivated selection. Like Trader Joe’s vs. a grocery store.

To be clear, I’m not counting other subscription services out by any stretch. But they’ll want to carefully evaluate potential strategies for attracting and retaining customers in light of this shift in the competitive landscape (i.e., the giant mouse in the room). For example, by identifying:

  • Which of their original series inspire the strongest emotional and identity benefits for the broadest populations of viewers
  • Ways to market these series—both on and off their platforms—to harness the emotional perks of familiarity
  • Opportunities to help fans of these series express themselves and connect with each other (e.g., via licensed products), which boosts emotional, identity and social benefits

Meanwhile, Disney+ will need to keep delivering fresh content without saturating fans’ appetites. (Our analysis found that boredom is a death knell for media IPs.) But any brand that can showcase so much celebrated content is in a great position to survive—and even thrive—in the streaming wars.


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 Chadwick Martin Bailey on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: digital media and entertainment research, BrandFx

The Inner Battle Royale: Who Is The Fortnite Fan?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Mon, Dec 16, 2019

Sirens ring out across Dusty Depot. As the ground begins to shake, a rocket erupts from beneath, its pace intensifying as it scars the horizon. Suddenly, the sky cracks and blue rifts appear, rockets raining down; a meteor ruptures the sky, hurtling to the ground. The impact devastates the island as a black rift emerges, engulfing everything that surrounds it. Nothing is left but darkness­­—is this the end?

It is not the end, nor is it a Hollywood movie or HBO fantasy drama. This is Fortnite Battle Royale, the highly disruptive online video game that serves as a barometer for success in this gaming genre. This much-hyped seasonal event attracted a peak 1.6 million viewers on Twitch and a peak 4 million viewers on YouTube. The success of this event is a positive development for the game following recent reports of a 52% decline in in-game spending, lagging viewership figures and general dissatisfaction with the state of its most recent season. Live content spectacles help renew focus away from the all-too-familiar proclamations of a dying game or a dying and oversaturated Battle Royale genre, but Fortnite has a bigger problem that may ultimately destabilize growth: the image of the typical Fortnite player.

In our recent BrandFx 2.0 research, CMB interviewed thousands of gamers regarding more than 30 media, entertainment and gaming brands on this very topic. We found that for players of a game, the most important driver of recommendation is how well the most recent gaming session elicits positive emotion. For non-players, however, the most important driver of considering a game is their perception of that games’ typical player. We also found that for gamers’ who don’t play Fortnite, perceptions of the typical Fortnite player were considerably more negative than perceptions of the typical brand user for prospects of other media brands.

Fortnite_NonUserPerceptionsTypicalUser_Final_JPG

Takeaway #1: The Battle of Divisive Emotions

Among the users and non-users of any of the 33 media brands we tested (and particularly among other gaming brands such as Nintendo, Pokémon and Mario), some of the starkest differences were between how Fortnite players perceive the typical Fortnite player and how non-Fortnite players perceive the typical Fortnite player. This in spite of what is a relatively cohesive perception of audience demographics (i.e. both Fortnite players and non-players perceive the typical Fortnite player as younger male teens).

 Takeaway #2: A Middle School Dance: Fortnite On One Side, Non-Fornite On the Other

Non-Fortnite players are also more likely to view themselves as “very different” to the typical Fortnite player, “very disinterested” in making friends with them and more likely to “really disrespect” the typical Fortnite player. Only two other brands come close to this level of consistent negative perception among non-brand users across all three categories (The Simpsons and Pokémon are the other two).

Fortnite_NonUserRelationshipWithTypicalUser_Final_JPG

Takeaway #3: Converting Non-Fortnite Players

Ultimately, it could be these typical player perceptions that feed into the negative emotional association to Fortnite among non-players, in turn potentially hindering future player growth.  When asked how they imagine it would feel to play Fortnite, the non-Fortnite gamers are among the strongest of the tested brands to state that they expect the experience to be more "bad" than "good" (35%: +15% vs. media average).

While Fortnite continues to defy critics claims of the game’s death, and hold off fierce competition from the likes of Apex Legends and PUBG, its continued success may hinge on changing the substantial negative perceptions of its user base.


Josh ForteyJosh Fortey is an Account Director at CMB, and avid gamer.

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

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, consumer insights, Consumer Pulse, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, Identity, emotion, technology, Gaming

Was a Gender-Neutral Doll the Right Move for Mattel?

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Fri, Oct 04, 2019

MattelCreatableWorldSized

Did I ever tell you about my dissertation…? Wait, don’t go! I promise it’s interesting.

It was 2002. My advisor and I had been studying gender stereotypes, which we found were still depressingly pervasive. Then, for my dissertation, I examined reactions to men and women who broke the mold. I thought that people would dislike stereotypically masculine (e.g., ambitious) women and feminine (e.g., sensitive) men, but try to hide it—so I measured their emotional reactions using facial EMG.

Facial EMG involves placing pairs of electrodes over muscles that contract when we frown or smile, as shown on the Mona Lisa. (My apologies to any art history majors out there.) People can’t mask the immediate, involuntary emotional reactions that register in their faces. Most of that muscular activity is too fast and too subtle to be captured by human or computer/AI-based facial coding, but EMG captures it well. At CMB, we have a method of measuring emotional reactions tailored to market research—it does an excellent job and doesn’t involve electrodes. But if you expect people to actively lie about their feelings, facial EMG is the way to go.

EMGmonaCrop2

What did I find in analyzing literally millions of milliseconds of facial activity? Feminine men elicited warm smiles from women—but were laughed at by other men. And masculine women were universally reviled. Lots of eyebrow furrowing. People didn’t even try to hide it.

Add this to the many other forces that encourage adherence to gender norms—like the manly men and womanly women portrayed in everything from blockbuster movies to local ads—and it’s no shock that kids learn gender roles early. Kids are perceptive. They see stereotypical male and female characters held-up as ideals in toys and on TV, and can easily infer what’s expected of them.

In this way, gender stereotypes are both pervasive and constraining, like invisible straightjackets we wear everyday—we don’t have to let them confine us, but the pressure is always there.

That leads me to Mattel and Creatable World, their new gender-neutral doll. According to their official tagline, it’s “designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in—giving kids the freedom to create their own customizable characters again and again.”

Here is a major toymaker refusing to communicate an expectation that “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls.” This is huge. Especially when we consider the crucial role of play for kids in imagining possibilities, exploring interests, connecting with others, and discovering oneself.

So did Mattel do the right thing from a moral perspective?

Yes. No doubt in my mind. When kids don’t feel the need to live-up to masculine and feminine ideals, they get to be who they are without pressure or fear of reprisal. They can be smart, compassionate, strong, expressive, ambitious, fashionable, funny—or all of the above. It’s up to them!

But Mattel is a publicly traded company looking for healthy profits. Particularly nowadays, when so many things—online and off—compete for kids’ time and attention. So it’s also worth asking:

Was a gender-neutral doll the right move from a brand perspective?

Again, I’d say yes. It’s exactly the right move. Why? Because of the crucial role identity benefits play in driving brand appeal.

At CMB, we’ve identified four key psychological benefits brands need to deliver in order to drive appeal:

  • Functional Benefits (e.g., “checking-off” goals or to-dos; saving time; saving money)
  • Social Benefits (e.g., sense of community; conversation; social connection)
  • Emotional Benefits (e.g., positive feelings; enhanced joy; reduced pain)
  • Identity Benefits (e.g., pride and self-esteem; self-expression; a positive self-image)

We leverage all four in BrandFx, our proprietary approach to helping clients achieve brand growth. In fact, we recently fielded a BrandFx study with over 20,000 U.S. consumers. In total, they provided nearly 40,000 evaluations of major brands across multiple industries. We’re still knee-deep in analysis (more blogs to come as we roll-out our results!), but so far this much is clear:

Identity benefits are particularly important.

That holds true across brands and industries—even “rational” industries like financial services. But it’s especially true for brands in the entertainment space, like Mattel. With Creatable World, Mattel is helping kids explore, express, and embrace their unique identities with a doll that offers more possibilities and imposes fewer constraints. This will pay off in kids’ interest and engagement.

Yes, many parents may be against it. But I have two things to say about that based on what we’ve seen across multiple studies:

First: Kids tend to drive toy purchase trends. They see, they like, they ask… and ask… and ask… And parents want their kids to be happy, so kids often get what they want—even when their parents feel ambivalent about it.

Second: Most parents aren’t morally opposed to their kids playing with toys associated with the opposite gender. It’s that they’re afraid of other kids’ reactions. As a parent, I can relate. There are times I’ve steered my boys away from things that I thought might lead to the spirit-crushing, innocence-busting experience of being ridiculed by peers. But when parents see evidence of shifting norms and acceptance among kids, their fears will diminish—and the fact the Mattel has released a gender-neutral doll is evidence in itself. After all, Mattel knows kids, and they put a lot of money on the line. So, if my boys want a Creatable World doll, it’s theirs. Because what I really want is for them to be able to choose their paths—and feel valued for the amazing, unique individuals they are—without having to squeeze themselves into a narrow vision of what it means to be a man.

If change is on our doorstep, I’m ready to welcome it in, and I’m likely not the only parent who feels this way.

 


Erica CarranzaErica has a B.A. from Wellesley College and 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.

Topics: marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation, Identity, emotion, BrandFx, consumer psychology

Live Sports: Fans' Last Connection to Cable is Fraying

Posted by McKenzie Mann

Wed, Jul 18, 2018

friends watching tv

Earlier this year, I was trying to watch my beloved Patriots play in the AFC East Divisional Championship game while standing in the airport security line. After numerous failed attempts at downloading streaming apps that promised an uninterrupted game, I resorted to real-time game updates in the form of a line with how many yards the ball went each down and a description of the play.

I was frustrated, to say the least—a missed opportunity as we know fostering the right positive emotions is key to building and maintaining loyal and engaged customers.

When I finally made it through security, I went straight to a restaurant where Tom Brady was on every screen. This time, cable television saved the day.

Live sports is one of the last threads tethering people to traditional cable packages. For most other content, consumers have a plethora of services to choose from—traditional streaming like Netflix, premium network streaming like HBO Now, and even broadcast network streaming like CBS All Access. And with Netflix recently becoming the number one choice for television viewing, it’s no surprise an estimated 22.2 million people cut the cord in 2017—a whopping 33% increase from 2016. 

As more consumers leave the traditional model for “à la carte” style, nontraditional services like Yahoo, Facebook, and ESPN are challenging cable providers’ last bastion of sports. While there have been hiccups in some of these services, like poor streaming quality and cutting out of games altogether, the technology is improving and eventually will offer sports fans a legitimate alternative to watch games on.  

To combat this rising competition, CBS and the NFL recently extended their agreement to stream all games on CBS All Access through the 2022 season—safeguarding their rights to the coveted (and profitable) football games, at least for now. 

New technology is disrupting the industry and cable providers will need to adapt and embrace innovation to stay competitive. This is already happening for some. Charter Communications’ Spectrum now offers à la carte channels instead of the traditional comprehensive packages, Comcast has expanded their on-demand library (including full seasons), and DirecTV now offers DirecTV Now, a streaming service separate from their satellite plan. Some major providers are even exploring new verticals to add to their portfolios, as is the case with Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile.

There’s tremendous opportunity for traditional providers as the competition in the digital streaming market heats up. But companies must carefully consider these opportunities—with so many options (and more to come) available to consumers, solutions must impress off the bat, or lose fans to a competitor for good.

We’ve seen this play out in other emerging tech categories, like virtual assistants. As big players like Apple, Google, and Amazon pour millions into making their virtual assistant tech smarter, they need to embrace a new kind of customer-centricity—one that’s built on an understanding of the functional, emotional, and social identity benefits that drive adoption, engagement, and loyalty. To learn more, watch our quick 20-minute webinar and learn how brands can win the virtual assistant war—lessons for any brand experiencing disruption in their category:

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McKenzie Mann is a Project Manager II at CMB. She spends most of her spare time trying to convince her friends that it’s funny to replace the word “man” with “mann.” It's a work in progress, but mann will it be great when it catches on.

Topics: technology research, television, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation, emotion

The New Math of Media Disruption

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Tue, Mar 13, 2018

 

ipad.jpeg

During February’s Winter Olympics, NBC tried to measure exactly how many people tuned in to watch the games. This sounds like standard practice—and it is—but this time NBC strayed from the traditional Nielsen system by combining broadcast and cable channel viewership with streaming platform audiences to produce a single number—attempting to account for multichannel consumption

NBC isn’t the only one struggling to get a valid headcount. As I was reminded at last month’s Media Insights and Engagement Conference: no one in the media industry seems to be able to measure the crowd anymore.

The media and entertainment industry has been upended. Viewers are spread far and wide across devices, platforms, and time—no longer huddled around a single television set to watch primetime. We’ve said goodbye to the days of the standard 18-49 year old viewer group.

Further, the explosion of high quality, award-winning content from nontraditional producers like Hulu has fragmented audiences with niche tastes and demographics. There’s programming for nearly every interest.

Conversely, the meteoric rise of programs like Stranger Things underscores the emergence of programs that are beloved by a blend of demographics—from parents to young teens—making it increasingly challenging for advertisers to know what will resonate with such diverse audiences.

From splintering audiences to multichannel consumption, the disruption within the media industry is coming from all sides. It’s become harder for broadcasters to know who and how their content is being consumed and for advertisers to measure the ROI of ad spend. Data is coming in from a variety of sometimes incongruent sources, so it can be challenging to get the full picture.

The media industry needs researchers now more than ever to help uncover who, how, and why content is being consumed. Understanding the who, how, and why is critical for creating content and advertising that will resonate most with viewers and ensure advertisers are targeting  and reaching the right audience.

The changing media and entertainment landscape is daunting, but this is a tremendous opportunity for market researchers to innovate and rise to meet these new challenges. We can’t rely solely on traditional audience tracking methods—we need to dig deeper into the consumer psyche understand how media is being consumed.

The most successful researchers will be those who can balance the art and science of collecting insights—those who can parse vast amounts of data and stitch together a holistic story. I welcome these new challenges within the media and entertainment industry and encourage other researchers to help our clients face them head on.

 

Topics: digital media and entertainment research