Could Wearables Mean the End of Jet Lag?

Posted by Amy Maret

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

emotional measurement, emotions, travelWhat if you could hop off a seven hour flight from New York to London feeling refreshed and entirely jet lag-free? That’s the question British Airways has been trying to answer for years. From enhanced entertainment and meal offerings to carefully-designed lighting and noise reduction measures, many of the recent updates to British Airways’ fleet have been centered on creating the perfect customer experience in a notoriously tricky industry.Their latest innovation is “The Happiness Blanket.” The blanket is embedded with LEDs and connected via Bluetooth to a headband containing sensors that read electrical fluctuations in the wearer’s neurons. According to the promotional video released by the airline, if brain activity indicates that the wearer is calm and relaxed, the surface of the blanket turns blue. If the wearer is stressed or anxious, the blanket turns red.

As a researcher, this opportunity for seemingly effortless, real-time data collection piqued my interest immediately. I see a lot of potential in the ability to capture passengers’ emotional responses to various aspects of the flight experience as they actually experience it. If they had access to accurate emotional response information, flight attendants could find ways to tailor services to accommodate the needs of passengers on an individual level, and data collected across countless flights could provide useful information about what the airline is doing right overall and where they need to improve. With a bit of additional demographic and psychographic information on each passenger, the airline could create marketing campaigns and promotions around the specific experiences and emotional reactions of different subgroups.

At CMB, we know just how much emotions matter. We repeatedly find that the emotional impression left on a customer after an interaction with a brand is a major driver of customer satisfaction, likelihood to recommend, and even future purchase intent across all types of industries. British Airways, by focusing on helping passengers step off its planes feeling satisfied, is creating a subconscious connection between its passengers’ positive emotions and its brand. You can bet that the next time I need to book a flight, I would first look to the airline that got me to Europe feeling refreshed and relaxed, rather than the one that left me dehydrated and drowsy.

However, The Happiness Blanket certainly has its drawbacks as a research tool. Based on the information provided about the blanket so far, it seems that there is no way to tell—on a more detailed level—what emotions the passengers are experiencing, which would have serious consequences. The blanket supposedly turns red when the wearer is anxious or stressed and blue when he/she is calm or relaxed, but there are so many more emotions on the spectrum that are not acknowledged by this system. For example, if two people’s blankets show red, one may be because a passenger is feeling unsafe and afraid on the flight, while the other may be because a passenger is enjoying the adrenaline rush of watching an action movie. If you were to ask those two passengers how they felt after their flights, and whether they would choose to fly with the airline again, you would get two drastically different answers. If British Airways intends to use this data to make real, impactful changes to its service, they will need to find a way to capture nuances like this or they could misinterpret the data entirely and make poor business decisions as a result.

This example provides a basic illustration of why we find that self-reporting is the most accurate way to collect data on something as subjective as emotion. While biometric solutions can sometimes provide a basic emotional read, self-reporting provides a more dependable, and much less expensive, way to get at the discrete emotion being experienced. The only way for the flight attendant to tell the difference between two red blankets would be to ask the passengers how they are feeling. Only then could they properly tailor the service to each person’s experience.

When I told my colleagues about The Happiness Blanket, they kept asking the same questions: how long can the novelty of the blanket sustain its use? Couldn’t it be a bit awkward to have your emotions broadcast to the entire cabin, especially in a situation as sensitive for many people as flying? Maybe it would make more sense to get rid of the blanket aspect entirely and just send the data directly to a computer. That way, the flight attendants could still monitor the data for in-flight use, and it could still be captured for future analysis, but passengers wouldn’t be disturbed by the constant color changes on their (or fellow passengers’) blankets. However, getting passengers to agree to have their brainwaves monitored by an airline could prove a challenge, and with the inaccuracies of this method of data collection, it may not even be worth the investment. Although the idea of being able to read passengers’ emotions directly appeals to me as a researcher, self-reporting is still the only way to capture reliable data on the subjective emotions of customers.

So, is The Happiness Blanket just a clever publicity stunt designed to promote recent enhancements to British Airways’ First and Business Class cabins, or is it a sign of true dedication to research and customer feedback? So far, it seems like the company has primarily been using The Happiness Blanket to attract attention, get consumers engaged with the brand, and show why the company thinks its flights are better than its competitors’ flights. If British Airways is truly trying to capture useable information on their passengers’ reactions to its service through The Happiness Blanket. . .they’ll also need to ask them.

Amy is Senior Associate Researcher at CMB and an avid traveler. She is a bit disappointed that she won’t have the chance to try out the Happiness Blanket on her next trip to Europe.

Understanding the emotional payoffs consumers want and expect is critical to helping brands build and maintain a loyal customer base. Watch our recent webinar to hear Dr. Erica Carranza and Brant Cruz share how we capture these emotional payoffs to inform a range of business challenges, including marketing, customer experience, customer loyalty, and product development.

Watch Here!  

Topics: Travel & Hospitality Research, Emotional Measurement, Customer Experience & Loyalty

Ladder Up: What My New Prius Reminded Me About Brand Positioning

Posted by Nick Pangallo

Thu, Apr 02, 2015

M  CMB Photos and Stock Photography Stock Photography Objects Brand buildingDid I snag you with the title? I hope so—it took me quite a while to come up with it. As our regular readers and esteemed clients know, each of CMB’s employees contribute to our blog by writing at least once annually. In the past, I’ve used my posts to tackle the real-world applications of complex mathematical topics, including statistical significance, Maximum-Difference scaling, and stated vs. derived importance.Today, though, I’d like to introduce you to my true research passion: brand positioning. My first job in the research field took me all over the world as my team and I worked to determine and deliver the most effective positioning for a multinational insurance company. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Most of you reading this have probably heard the term “positioning” before, but for those who haven’t, here’s a definition from the guys who (quite literally) invented the field: “An organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.” - Ries, A. and Trout, J. (1977), Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

A simpler definition, also from Jack Trout, would be this: “the place a product, brand, or group of products occupies in consumers' minds, relative to competing offerings.” Pretty simple, right? You define your brand as the collection of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you want your consumers (whomever they may be) to have about you, relative to your key competitors (perhaps the most famous “opposition branding” of this sort is 7 Up’s classic “The Uncola”).

So, we need to identify the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we want consumers to have and then make a big, direct marketing push to communicate those aspects to them. Right? (Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that.) In a future blog post, I’ll tackle aspects like value statements, foundational benefits, key goals, and the like, but for now, I want to focus on one major sticking point I keep seeing come up: emotion.

These days, marketers talk endlessly about “big data” and “connecting on an emotional level.” How can we convince so-and-so to love our brand? What emotions do we want associated with our brand? Are we happy? Exciting? Stoic?

Research firms, including ours, often tackle these questions and try to help clients be seen for the right emotions. But here’s the rub: unless your product or company is brand-spankin’-new, the basic emotional reactions to your brand are already defined. Try as we might, changing an idea in someone’s mind is by far the most difficult task in all of marketing, and if people in a focus group are saying your brand reminds them of a Volvo, the odds that you can convince them to think of your brand as a Ferrari are virtually nil. 

So how can brands connect with consumers on an emotional level, convey the right emotions, and do so effectively in an already over-communicated world? Well, that answer would be too long for this blog post, but let me start with a simple analogy: brand positionings can be thought of as a ladder—you have to climb one rung before you can move on to the next. The very bottom is your foundation (what industry you’re in, when you were founded, etc.– just the facts, Jack), and the very top is your emotional connection to your consumers, inasmuch as one exists. In between is an array of needs, including functional benefits, the value statement, goals, and a few others I’ll cover in a future blog. 

Brands have to build up to that emotional connection, which is usually the most difficult component of branding (and why it’s at the top of the ladder). Brands or products can do so by delivering across the entire spectrum in a consistent, thorough way that speaks to the emotion you want to own. If you have major delivery issues, you won’t be thought of as reliable. If you’ve only existed for 2 months, you probably can’t own trustworthy. Oil companies can’t be fun. If you want to own reliability, you need top-level customer delivery, including responsive employees, a reputation for customer service, and a culture that rewards proactivity. You get the idea.

By now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with my new Prius (good timing!). Outdoorsy, environmentally-friendly folk like myself have been long-devoted fans of Toyota’s original hybrid fuel cell vehicle for its emissions-slashing, fuel-saving engine among other things. But those aren’t emotions, and no one could think the Prius’ historical sales records could be accomplished without more than a dash of emotional connection thrown in. 

So how does the Prius make me feel? Like I’m making a difference. The “hybrid” stamp on the back reminds me not to be wasteful. The constantly-cycling energy meter not only encourages me to drive less aggressively, but also turns reducing emissions into a fun little game I play driving around Boston. (54 mpg? Psssh. I can do better.) A solar-powered climate roof reminds me not to waste energy and makes me smile when it unexpectedly turns on. A cynic might say that what the Prius really does is allow people to feel better about themselves, and I don’t deny there’s at least a kernel of truth there, too. 

You can see how the positioning of the Prius fits the ladder example: the foundation is the hybrid engine, 14 years of existence, and Toyota brand. Functional benefits include cutting gas costs and reducing emissions (the proof points are well-known) while supporting the goal of living a low-emission life. All of these things add up to that simple, good feeling I have whenever I slide behind the wheel, which connects me with the product in a way that the individual features cannot. The cycling energy monitor is cool, but I wouldn’t have assigned point values for efficiently driving away from stoplights around my neighborhood if it was just a toy. The solar roof not only helps keep the car cool in the summer, it reminds me to be energy-conscious at home, too. Seamless alignment between functional and emotional.

Let this be the first lesson then: brands can own emotions, but not without much effort. If you want someone to love your brand, you have to give them reasons why they should, and all of those reasons need to work in tandem with one another to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In a future post, I’ll show you how.

Nick Pangallo is the Senior Project Manager on CMB’s Financial Services, Insurance, Travel, and Hospitality team. He’s an avid poker player and an occasional lecturer at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. You can follow him on Twitter @NAPangallo, though be warned: he often tweets about the Buffalo Bills. 

Topics: Emotional Measurement, Brand Health & Positioning

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Is Your Customer Loyalty True?

Posted by Dr. Jay Weiner

Wed, Feb 18, 2015

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” “You’re my favorite brand ever.” “You’ve taken such good care of me over the years we’ve been together.” “I can see myself spending the rest of my life with you.” How many of your customers would say such things about you?

Loyalty is a behavior, and behaviors often have underlying attitudes that drive them. We might continue to purchase the same product over and over for a variety of reasons. Don’t get me wrong: repeat business is almost always a good thing. But, if it comes at a negative margin, it may not be a good thing. If you frequently incentivize your customers, you might be buying loyalty (deal loyalty), but are you making money doing it? If your deal loyals are promoting you, are they promoting the deal or your brand? In a perfect world, we not only create a behavioral commitment, but also an emotional bond with the brand and, ultimately, the company.

Many companies track the Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a measure of loyalty. This adds another potential behavior to the mix—advocacy. If we look at a traditional purchase conversion ladder, advocacy or evangelism would be at the top of the pyramid. Promoters are certainly advocates, but are they also evangelists? Is promotion really enough? Don’t you really want to know what they’re saying?

Advocacy is attempting to influence decisions. Evangelism is relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to encourage conversion. Advocacy may encourage lexicographic information processing—buy cheapest, buy fastest, etc. Evangelism should encourage a more holistic view of evaluating the brand. The implication is that beliefs are probably more deeply rooted in brand performance. This creates a bond with the brand that transcends getting a good deal. You want folks that are proud to wear your logo and serve your product as well as folks who would gladly buy other goods/services from you if you want to extend the franchise.

In a recent survey, we found that about 60% of brands promoters love the brand. If they don’t love you, what are they saying about you? On the flip side, over 80% of those that love you are promoters.  Clearly promoters have value to the franchise in helping grow the brand. As a company, you not only want more promoters, you’d like to believe they are, in fact, promoting the brand and the company and not something else.

How can we improve on tracking the NPS score? We find a way to capture the emotional bond of your true loyals. Those customers who love you will clearly go out of their way to buy you, pay more for your product or service, and proudly share your brand with others. Growing this share of your customer base will certainly help you grow both the top line sales and bottom line net profits.

At CMB, we’ve been looking at the Emotional Fingerprints™ brands leave on their customers. We’ve developed a measure of the emotional bond customers have for brands. When we look across different segments of your loyal customers, we can clearly see that those that love you clearly are more bonded to your franchise.

jay loyalty

So, even if you forgot the roses this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to send your favorite customers a forget-me-not. Let them know how much you appreciate their business and their love.

Dear Dr. Jay

Dr. Jay Weiner is the top digit-head at CMB. Starting next month, he’ll answer your burning market research questions in his new blog series: Dear Dr. Jay. You can send your questions to or submit anonymously here:   





Topics: NPS, Emotional Measurement, Customer Experience & Loyalty, BrandFx

Highlights from the IIR Total Customer Experience Leaders Conference

Posted by Julie Kurd

Wed, Apr 16, 2014

At the IIR #TotalCEL conference this week in Miami, behavioral motivations fueled the majority of presentations. In 2014, the economics of behaviors are getting quantified. Marketers and their peers in Operations are gently guiding their companies to a deeper understanding of the emotional drivers behind their problems. 


CMB, behavioral economics, emotional measurement

7 of the Emotional States Presented at #TotalCEL: 

  1. Neutral: “People prefer to be at a neutral state emotionally,” says Daryl Travis, the CEO of BrandTrust and author of Emotional Branding – How Successful Brands Gain the Irrational Edge.  However, the customer journey is far from neutral. For example, customers who go to a department store might have emotional peaks (e.g. found a product on sale) and emotional valleys (e.g. had to wait in a long line). No matter the actual journey, Travis states that the customer’s end state and how problems are resolved are the two aspects of the journey that matter most. 

  2. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Kassandra Barnes of CareerBuilder noted that Millennials are seeking promotion, advancement, training, and mentorship opportunities when searching for a job and are less concerned about benefits. Unlike their older counterparts, Millennials are casually, but continuously, looking for another job due to this primary emotional motivation: FOMO. In fact, 83% of full time Millennials are actively looking for new job opportunities, and 49% of Millennials search for new jobs while at work.

  3. Let’s Bond: Moms today experience the lofty emotional attachment of bonding when they pick up the bottle with the orange ribbed cap, pristine curves, and the chalkboard image on the package of the glue that cements a relationship during play. Elmer’s Michelle Manning elaborated on parents, emotions, and the perfect packaging.

  4. Forgiveness: According to Dr. Mark Ingwer, author of Empathetic Marketing, leveraging empathetic emotions is “the buried treasure of customer service.” The question he says is where to drop anchor? After working with Allstate, Ingwer conducted the fuzzy front end discovery research he calls “psych ethnographies” and this research yielded the insight about creating empathy in the product, hence Allstate’s Accident Forgiveness and Your Choice Auto. Both products have appealed to the audience and have dramatically ramped up revenues, increased customer satisfaction and staved the churn rate.

  5. Eliminate Worry: Emotional and behavioral goals vary widely, depending upon the degree of trust each consumer has. One critical consumer obsession is to eliminate worry. You can see companies responding to that obsession in the mobile payment space, where we found security is a primary concern. While it’s still unclear which companies will win over the consumer mobile payment market, it will be interesting to see how and when these competitors adequately address the primary emotional and functional needs of the mobile payment user—worry free transactions. CMB’s Brian Jones presented the Future of the Mobile Wallet where he shared which industry (and which companies) may be best positioned to eliminate worry. Will it be a bank, a credit card company, an internet service provider, a technology company, or a retail store like Starbucks?

  6. Belonging: Every time I hear Keith Ferrazzi speak, he’s written a new book, and I learn something new. He says that people don’t want to change so we should focus on which of the fewest people can change which narrowest set of practices and behaviors that can accelerate our results.  The key is to dig deep into the willingness to change.  Change is an emotional journey, and the highest order of the emotional food chain is “belonging.”  From childhood (“I said so”) to reason (“that makes sense”) to being "mission driven" and then focusing on “your stuff” we end up with belonging—our  basic need to relate to other people.

  7. Look at me: What does your brand offer that your customers need?  The key thing that a lifestyle brand like Starwood gives is experiential currency for their social life.  The affiliation—you’re in their physical world gaining experiences—creates that sharable moment that is currency for us all. In contrast, other hotel properties don’t make it easy for you to take that perfect picture of yourself and your loved ones from a design standpoint.  When I go to an Aloft or a Westin, I have that very cool picture in their design inspired context. Starwood’s Stephen Gates, VP and Creative Director for Global Brand Design, talked about all of their brands, about the rain room at the MoMa, Starwood’s presence on stage at 3 of the last 5 Apple keynotes and their being featured in Apple’s advertising as well as “on the phone.” He says the work is king. The work dictates everything. The work runs his department. The work sells the brands and hotels. The work is what matters. His design thinking begins with some basic tenets—keep it simple, sweat the details, build a lifestyle or a visual personality that reflects the consumer, be relevant and authentic, break new ground, push innovation, think globally and go with swagger.

What are you doing with respect to emotional or behavioral economics? Continue the dialogue on Twitter with @julie1research using hashtag #MRX.

Julie is an Account Executive, she loves to connect with innovative big thinkers on topics ranging from emotion to complex choice modelling.

Topics: Emotional Measurement, Conference Insights

Can Quantitative Methods Uncover Emotion?

Posted by Megan McManaman

Wed, Sep 14, 2011

Grocery shoppingPicture yourself pushing your cart down the grocery store aisle, you’ve planned your meals and are making choices that suit your family’s tastes and budget. The decisions you make are rational and logical. But as anyone who’s ever felt a sense of nostalgia over a chocolate chip cookie, or empowered by their choice of the natural peanut butter, can tell you, they are also emotional.

As market researchers we’re interested in knowing what decisions consumers make, how they make them, and why. Traditionally, we’ve used quantitative (survey) approaches to discover the “what” and the “how,” and turned to qualitative methods (IDI’s, focus groups) to understand the “why,” including the emotions underlying these decisions.  But merely asking people to name their emotions is not enough, language biases, the tedium of having subjects choose from lists of 50 or more emotions, and the dangers of self-report for something so nebulous, are all difficulties faced by researchers. To address these biases, scientists and quantitative researchers have come to recognize the extent to which decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. The question is: how can we apply rigorous measurement to what seem like the most irrational, unpredictable human characteristics?

Medical science has offered new possibilities using relatively established technologies to gain insight and understanding into the relationships between human emotion and brain activity. EEG’s, eye tracking, and even MRI’s have helped us understand the nuances and complexity of the brain’s response in very concrete and visual ways. An fMRI like the one pictured below, and other technologies, are valuable in their ability to measure brain responses that the subject might not even know they’re having. But there are limitations, beyond being prohibitive from a cost perspective, the results lack the nuance and detail necessary for effective application for market researchers.

fmri measuring brain response
Researchers from AdSAM, a research company focused on Emotional Response Modeling, have developed a methodology using non-verbal techniques to identify and measure emotional response to understand consumer attitudes, preferences, and behavior. This approach uses pictorial scales to capture emotional reactions and predict behavior while minimizing the language biases common in verbal approaches and contextualizing the results of more costly brain imaging approaches.

Guy thinking resized 600Want to know more? Please join us on September 21st as CMB’s Jeff McKenna and AdSAM’s Cathy Gwynn discuss the development and application of this new approach to emotional response measurement.




Posted by Megan McManaman. Megan is part of CMB’s marketing team, and she isn't proud to say buying ketchup makes her happy.

Topics: Emotional Measurement, Webinar, Quantitative Research