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

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

‘Tis the Season for Change

Posted by Courtnie Hallendy

Mon, Nov 16, 2020

Holiday Season Fin Serv Blog Opener

Impact of Shifting and Alternative Payment Options

The leaves are turning, the temps are cooling (I’ve already had the first snowfall of the year), and I’m about to replace the Halloween candy with Holiday cookies! While the shelves are filling with the familiar touchstones of the holidays, for most of us this will be a very different holiday season.

All year we have been watching and analyzing the impact of 2020 on consumer behavior trends. Some changes, born from the pandemic, seem to have some longevity to them – online grocery shopping and delivery, reduced travel, shifting spending habits among credit cards (especially those whose rewards focus on travel), and increased usage in alternative payment methods. With the possibility of another round of shutdowns, household budgets are tighter than ever. The question is, what do these shifts mean for the next few months of consumer behavior?

2020 Holiday Shopper Anxiety Micrographic

This holiday season I am most interested in two, closely linked, consumer habits: increased online shopping, and changing payment methods. Way back in April of 2020, CMB looked at consumer sentiment and behaviors related to COVID. Though we were just at the beginning of our new normal, 42% of consumers said they were doing more online shopping and 52% said that they plan to continue this after normal returns. Factoring in anxiety around in-store shopping as we enter prime retail sales time, we should look at how payment methods have changed in 2020.

Fin Serv Season for Change Blog Nov 2020 Activities

Like many Americans, since March, I am spending less overall, at different places, and with different payment decision criteria (debit vs. credit and which credit card). For example, in my house most non-household bills went on the one credit card that gave us airline miles. We love to travel, so this just made sense. Well, I don’t see that trip to Spain happening in the next 8 months, so I evaluated credit cards that provided rewards relevant to my current normal and ended up with a new card…Amazon! Now, this is my go-to card, that replaced my airline card and then some… I am putting everything on it – groceries, cell phone bills, vet bills, etc. I am in the group of consumers that are shifting their top of wallet decision criteria and expanding usage to take advantage of rewards that are relevant to me.

For others (especially Gen Z) who don’t have, use, or want a credit card, we are seeing a shift to alternative payment methods. Our own research from late 2019 showed that PayPal had an advantage over the other brands we tested, but this was before most large credit card issuers introduced their own versions of alternative financing.

Fin Serv Season for Change Blog Nov 2020

We have seen an increase in reported shifts away from credit cards and cash to debit or alternative financing options like Affirm or PayPal – especially among those in the lower household income ranges and younger consumers. The CMB Financial Services team is working with clients to understand what this means for their business, what products they should be marketing, and what, if any, partnerships they should be leveraging. The consumer data is supporting what we all know to be true in our own households – our decision criteria is different now than it was before. The decision of what and when to purchase, but also the decision on how to pay for it.

Now is the time when consumers are making their holiday shopping plans. Now is the time to get the voice of the customer to drive the late Q4 strategy. How are they going to make their gift purchases (or the materials they need for the next great Pinterest inspiration)? How are they going to pay for things? A deep understanding of consumer behavior and motivations will help guide us towards the right questions to ask and create meaningful, pandemic-resistant, consumer-centric business strategies.


Courtnie Hallendy

Courtnie 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.

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

Topics: financial services research, consumer insights, Market research, BrandFx, COVID-19, Emotional Benefits, financial services

Quirk's Virtual Roundup: Building the Plane While Flying It

Posted by Taylor Trowbridge

Tue, Jul 21, 2020

Quirks Virtual Blog Opener July 2020 (2)

“The new normal.” Nearly every speaker at the Quirk’s Virtual Event uttered the phrase, and while there wasn’t a clear consensus on what that normal will be (or when), the dual themes of disruption and change were ever present. In terms of the conference itself, the newly virtual event meant remote video sessions, online connections, and every now and then earning a merit badge. Although not without its quirks (get it?), the event offered great thought leadership, insights, and ideas, as well as many excellent learning and networking opportunities.

Not all the change discussed was driven by pandemic and politics. I was particularly drawn to the sessions focused on the power of insight to drive organizational change. While a few suppliers spoke to the importance of this, the most unique perspectives came from the client side, including:

  • Nestlé’s Mary Colleen Hershey, who tracked the journey her team took to transform the company’s team of talented research experts into business building consultants. I loved her advice to stop romanticizing the research and get passionate about results and impact.
  • Michael Franke and Monica Stronsick shared how Progressive is embracing change and building a more robust and cohesive customer experience program by effectively linking 9 experience surveys.

Another heartening theme was the need for human connection and empathy amid disruption (and not just the good-natured acceptance of tech snafus).

  • Our own Vice President of Consumer Psychology, Erica Carranza, PhD shared how the human factors—specifically the psychological benefits emotion and identity—give us a critical understanding of consumer decision-making. Grounding concepts in a world where the only constant is change.
Watch The Human Factors Here
  • The Discover.ai team had two great sessions about the humanizing potential of AI, including the Durex case study presented in “The newest methodologies for some of the world’s oldest questions,” which provided a bit of a respite from some of the stodgier subject matters. The real takeaway was in the power of new technologies to deepen our understanding of people—their needs, desires, and motivations.

What we’re all wrestling with—personally and professionally—is how not just to survive despite change but to boldly grow because of it. Everything from brand experiences to research methodologies are being turned on their head. As Voya Financial’s Keri Hughes says, we are, “building the plane as we are flying it.” And as we learned at Quirk’s Virtual, we can weather the storm by embracing change and our humanity.


Taylor Trowbridge-2Taylor Trowbridge, CMB Account Director and proud owner of Orville, one sleepy bulldog living the dream in North Carolina.

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

Orville_QuirksVirtual

Orville taking a power nap during Quirk's Virtual

Topics: business decisions, consumer insights, marketing strategy, emotional measurement, conference recap, brand health and positioning, Market research, Identity, Artificial Intelligence, BrandFx, consumer psychology, Social Benefits, COVID-19, Emotional Benefits, customer centricity

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