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Detecting Tomorrow’s Patterns at TMRE Las Vegas

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Nov 12, 2019

TMRE Julie and Lori at booth (2)

At TMRE, we were immersed in a world of abundance, showmanship, cacophony, laughter, and glamour. As I checked out of the Mirage Hotel in the wee hours, I wondered why the lights weren’t on in the stunning 60x10 foot aquarium at registration. That’s when I learned that the four marine biologists on staff require lights out until 7:30am because too much light stimulation interrupts the fish feeding rhythms. As we return from another stimulating conference, let’s shine a light on emerging human and technological rhythms:

  • Detecting patterns: Is it good or bad if your technology knows you completely and holistically? We know in order to develop and grow our fan, member, and/or installed base, we need to disrupt ourselves digitally. Kevin Lee, COO of China Youthology talked about Alibaba and our other global tech giants who are shifting their efforts into our homes, cars, and offline lives so they can ‘know’ us completely and holistically. example, stay at FlyZoo hotel, and you can access everything you need through facial recognition. Even when you check out, you can just walk out. Tech giants are seeking to deliver convenient and simplified experiences, and existing data isn’t enough for these challenger brands. As our tech giants acquire entire ecosystems and categories, our data is now the currency of global innovation for a nomad generation. Amy Webb, Professor and Quantitative Futurist & Founder of The Future Today Institute and the Author of The Signals are Talking, discussed the implications of “post big data 1.0” and its fusion of digital data, cultural data, social data, and even our health goals. Her description of our voice-activated microwaves popping popcorn for us on command is pure joy…or is it? What if the microwave detects we’ve been gaining weight? Will it block our command, for our own good?
    Copy of TMRE Twitter Quote Post
  • Show of hands: Who vaults out of bed and can’t wait to get to work? Several of our hands shot up, but we asked questions of one another during the break…is it this particular job that has us vaulting out of bed? Most of us have had other jobs and have always vaulted out of bed. So, essence or environment? How can you become attentive to what is and isn’t happening to live towards the world of 2029? Amy Webb, who also authored The Big Nine, describes three frameworks of thinking patterns in machines, and in people:
    • Optimistic Framers—restless leg folks, who seek interoperability, chart theoretical future states and welcome uncertainty. They seek new structures for exponential growth so they look for new patterns in what is missing, unformed, not yet present.
    • Neutral Framers— those who have limited access because tech platforms aren’t interoperable. They drive solutions that continuously improve their system. These hurdlers rely on their system fluency to drive incremental growth.
    • Catastrophic Framers— those who are trying to improve their paradoxical world through automation but haven’t yet figured out how to reduce the cognitive work stream. Life has resulted in just a lot more work. These framers are panicking and still trying to make linear decisions for everything.

During this discussion, Amy delineated the difference between bystanders—those who cling to cherished beliefs and are unwilling or unable to see welcome uncertainty—and pathfinders—those who embrace uncertainty, charting theoretical future states, and find patterns in what is missing and not yet formed. No prizes for predicting who will thrive in our increasingly connected and disrupted future.

  • While in Vegas, I netted $40. But is that good? A classic question of perspective. According to growth strategy consulting firm Innosight’s biennial corporate longevity forecast, we need to begin imagining a world in which the average company lasts just 12 years on the S&P 500. Because that’s the reality we will be living in by 2027. Examples of TMRE presenters who openly talk about how they disrupt themselves included:
    • John Copeland, Vice President of Marketing & Consumer Insights at Adobe, described the massive pivot in Adobe’s operating model and the new KPIs needed to measure it all. Adobe underwent a massive digital transformation from packaged products ($2-3k for Photoshop, Illustrator) to Creative Cloud ($20-60/month subscription), to Creative Suite (platform as a service). This re-imagined creative journey has Adobe’s true product as a top 100 global website with 24/7 relationship support. Measurement, hence, must be of the ‘experience platform’ so it measures all 5 phases (1. Discover – free sign ups, 2. Try – download & use, 3. Buy – paid members, 4. Use = engagement score, 5. Renew – retain).
    • Monika Chandra, Research Manager at Facebook, told us that there is ‘no cruising on winding roads.’ At Facebook, she works at getting ‘closer’ to the truth of international market sizing for Facebook Marketplace in order to understand the potential for new products and business areas. Monika gave us sight into her learning process. She described her robust investigation to study with rigor, validate, and consistently measure as well as question what is being measured over time. Are we measuring C2C, B2C, C2B? And share of what? How many of us can reliably report the number of times we bought online in the past week or month? Again, I heard about the human factor of needing to measure both online and offline data to gain a fuller picture and greater insight into our audiences.
  • Changing our Behavior: From answer-centric to learning-centric: We can chart the rise of the nomad generation (under-protected, over-exposed), where data is the currency of innovation. Ashmeed Ali, Senior Director and Head of Marketing & Brand Research at Buzzfeed, says that the new game is re-ordered so now it’s “Publish. Learn. Iterate.” Gen Z is producing much of the listicles, and surveys on Buzzfeed. As companies enter the experimental stage of persistent technological recognition, the insights community must build its own unconventional instrumentation to detect what truly matters. Is the solution in the staffing [anthropologists, 1st year outs (out of college/grad school)]? In the tech instrumentation? In the noticing? In the story telling? Is it in the framing?

And it’s not just people…it is tech too. As technology like Amazon’s Alexa detects a cough, a sharp tone, a voice tremor, that next adjacent business can be spawned. In our $24B global insights industry, Prudential’s Supriya Sanyal’s words echo, as she closed her presentation with these recommendations: a) connect to the mission, b) get executive stakeholder buy in from the start, c) balance flexibility with depth and consistency, d) democratize data, even though data citizens may have varied skills, e) socialize the stories internally and externally, and f) choose your partners wisely. Continuously learn…repeat and reflect.

As the lights dim on TMRE 2019, how are we all going to disrupt ourselves? How are we enlisting people and technology to learn, unlearn and re-learn?


Julie KurdJulie Kurd is the VP, Business Development at CMB.

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

 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, conference recap, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, professional development, technology

IA CRC - Be The Change

Posted by Julie Kurd

Fri, Oct 25, 2019

Maybe a lack of curiosity CAN kill the consumer insights professional. Speakers at the Insights Association’s Corporate Researcher’s Conference choraled symphony of voices around the concepts of exploration, trust, and curiosity. With the click of a button, Microsoft’s Anne Sedgwick and Anil Damodarans’ voices were transcribed into real-time closed captions as they shared how humans and AI make “a great orchestra.”

Here are some other key takeaways from the conference:

  • Unpacking Curiosity, by Alison Horstmeyer:  We live in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), began Alison Horstmeyer in her “Unpacking Curiosity” presentation. Alison asked each of us to pick a photo and answer key questions. My picture was a bike leaning on a tree on a beautiful autumn day. She asked what happened the minute before this picture was taken. She asked what will happen in the next minute. She asked what the most significant thing in the photo is and what the key emotions are. Throughout the session, she motivated exploratory behavior in us, asking us to be resilient, curious, and open. Thanks to her exercise, I could see more opportunities to cultivate openness and ideational fluency, through continuing to venture out of our boxes through: 1) active exploration, 2) engaged inquisitiveness, 3) openness to experience and 4) stress tolerance. She described the value of P.R.O.B.E. or Presence (open ended, listening), Reframe (‘how might we…’), Openness (“tell me more”), Bravery (resilience), Experimentation (attempts in learning).
    CRC blog quote #2 oct 2019
  • Google: “Puppy or Not a Puppy,” by Elizabeth Merrick May: In a world where the market research industry typically statistically tests at a 90% confidence, Elizabeth challenges us with a simple question: puppy or not a puppy? Using this example to describe algorithm training in machine learning, she talked about how in a world of disruptors and disruption, we need to always think about the payoff. Don’t let the world mire you in decisions with minimal downside. Incrementality requires one set of decisions. Leaps require new models. Which is worse to be wrong about: deciding in favor of something that is actually bad or deciding against something that’s actually good?  We can underfit our models (too simplistic to really explain the variance), overfit (add too many options into the possibility so we don’t risk excluding…this makes it hard to replicate). She said a typing tool with the least number of questions yielding the most ‘accurate enough’ output is the one to go with. She challenged us to not over-define things…after all, there’s a downside to being thorough. She encouraged us not to pursue ‘right’ but instead to pursue the ‘right’ amount of ‘wrong’ by setting a risk-based approach. Although pup could be a dog or a seal, ultimately, we are looking for the right amount of wrong.Twitter Mattel blog quote oct 2019 (4)
  • Taboo Discussions and Peer-to-Peer Self-Moderation, by Melissa Spencer, Merck and Kim Bowers, Brado: Want to know about emotional and functional barriers to diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s? STDs? Topics that Merck and Brado were noodling on included the elephant in the room…was it possible that the qualitative moderator impeded their authenticity by their very physical presence? Could they possibly launch self-moderated, consumer-to-consumer (C2C) discussions? They tried it. And they spoke about how C2C is messy, but the potential payoff exceeded the risks, so they recruited consumers, and, for Alzheimer’s, they asked that person to recruit a few friends for the ‘friend’ groups. They asked these groups to hold ‘book club’ style sessions in their homes, and to videotape it. For the STD discussion, they found that C2C ‘stranger’ sessions—recruited on a guide, and then brought to a facility—worked best.
  • Influence In the Age of ML, by Eric Solomon: Can you embrace curiosity, and the need to experiment? Eric shared the magic that can happen at the intersection of emergent technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and human psychology. If you believe that superintelligence is possible, that intersection shifts the way we tell and consume stories. Eric showed us advertisements that were created by AI, such as this ad by McCann for Clorets gum; And, on watching, tweeting and other behavior, I must have shifted Google’s algorithms, because I got served up the coolest, craziest ad. Does emergent technology disrupt? That girl be a tomboy.

PostScript:  Jeffrey Henning presented the new Insights Professional Certification program which will launch in 2020. The IPC, is an upcoming @InsightsMRX program, backed by @BurkeInstitute, @CambiarConsults, @ResearchRocks, @Rivainc and the @MRII_UGA and includes 5 new topic certifications (IPC Analytics, Practitioner, Qualitative, Quantitative and Specialist). Click here to learn more.


Julie KurdJulie Kurd is the VP, Business Development at CMB.

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

Topics: conference recap, growth and innovation, Market research, Artificial Intelligence, professional development

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:

Watch Now

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

Emotions Run High with Virtual Assistants

Posted by Chris Neal

Wed, May 09, 2018

woman with VA

The pace of innovation and disruption is accelerating. Just 10 years ago Uber and Airbnb didn’t exist and the iPhone was still a novelty shown off at parties by overenthusiastic tech lovers. Now, we have a hair salon receptionist convinced she's speaking to a real person when in fact it was Google Assistant that was scheduling an appointment. While it might be hard for many of us to remember the last time we took a cab or used a flip phone, change is hardly straightforward and tech adoption raises critically important questions for brands.

Why do some people resist change while others embrace it? What emotions trigger true acceptance of a new technology and a new way of doing things?  What is that “a-ha” moment that gets someone hooked on a new habit that will be enduring? 

To help understand consumers’ journey with evolving technology, we applied our BrandFx framework to the broad virtual assistant category—measuring the functional, social identity, and emotional benefits that people seek from Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, etc. I shared our findings from the identity aspect here.

And while each of these three benefit types play a role in adoption and use—the role of emotion is profound.

We asked a lot of people about how they use virtual assistants—from information seeking to listening to music to planning and booking a trip. Then we ran analytics on the overall emotional activation, valence, and specific emotions that were activated during these different use cases. 

Our findings have broad implications for anyone in the virtual assistant category creating marketing campaigns to drive adoption, or product UX teams looking to design customer experiences that will deepen engagement.

Currently, virtual assistants are primarily used as information-seeking tools, basically like hands-free web queries. (See Exhibit 1):TOP VA USES CASES

Even though virtual assistants are evolving to do some pretty amazing things as voice-based developer communities mature, most people are only scratching the surface with the basic Q&A function. Asking Siri or Alexa for the weather forecast is a fine experience when they’re cooperating, but it can be extremely frustrating when you don’t get the right answer—like getting the current temperature in Cupertino when you live in Boston.

Meanwhile, watching TV or shopping through your virtual assistant turns out to be a much more emotionally rewarding experience, based on the analytics we ran. The problem for the industry as a whole is that these more emotionally rewarding use cases are among the least used VA functionalities today. Teams that market these experiences must motivate more consumers to try the more emotionally rewarding VA use cases that will deepen engagement and help form a lasting habit (see Exhibit 2):

Use, emotional activation, and emotions activated by use case v2

Listening to music and watching TV/movies yields high emotional activation in general—specifically “delight.” Our driver modeling shows that feeling “delighted” is one of the top predictors of future usage intent for a virtual assistant product (see Exhibit 3):

emotions that drive VA usage-2

As Exhibit 2 above indicates, using virtual assistants for scheduling and calendaring has overall moderate emotional activation, but is particularly good at activating feelings of efficiency and productivitythe single strongest predictor of use in this category.

emotions that drive VA usage-1

 

Tellingly, however, the scheduling and calendaring function also over-indexes on feelings of frustration because this task can be more complex—currently AI and natural-language processing (NLP) technologies are more apt to get these kinds of requests wrong. 

In general, “frustration” indexes high on more complex use cases (e.g., arranging travel, coordinating schedules, information seeking). This is a warning to the tech industry not to get too caught up in the hype cycle of releasing half-baked code quickly to drum up excitement among consumers. It also helps explain why younger demographics in our analysis actually experienced more frustration with VAs than older cohorts (contrary to my initial hypotheses). 

Younger consumers are attempting to do more complex tasks with virtual assistants, and therefore bumping up against the current limits of NLP and AI more frequently. This is dangerous, because they are the key “early adopter” segments that must embrace the expanding capabilities of virtual assistants in order for the category to become pervasive among mainstream consumers.

Consumers will quickly abandon a new way of doing things if they get frustrated. Understanding and activating the right positive emotions and minimizing the negative ones will be critical as brands continue to vie for the top virtual assistant spot.

Interested in learning more about the emotional dimensions of Virtual Assistant users? Reach out to Chris Neal, CMB's VP of Technology & Telecom.

Topics: technology research, growth and innovation, AffinID, Artificial Intelligence, BrandFx