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The Power of Disruption: Uber's COVID-19 Story

Posted by Tara Lasker

Wed, Aug 05, 2020

Uber COVID19 Blog Opener Aug2020

I couldn’t have imagined that four years after I blogged about Uber’s evolving brand promise, we’d be debating the safety of a trip to the grocery store. The disruption wrought by COVID-19 has only accelerated that by advancing technology, socio-economic change, and evolving consumer needs. So how will Uber and other disruptive tech-driven brands face the challenge of how it best fits in consumers lives today? With so much in flux, we do know this: a deep understanding of consumer motivations is critical to successfully innovating amid disruption.

At CMB, we use our proprietary BrandFxSM framework to help brands uncover threats and opportunities brought about by disruption. We know that when brands help people fulfill people’s core needs by delivering on Functional, Social, Emotional, and Identity they drive trial, use, and advocacy—this is true whether or not their lives are upended by a pandemic!

For example, we know that a failure to help passengers feel safe and secure was a barrier for the ride sharing industry early on and was subsequently addressed after both Uber and Lyft took action (e.g., evolved rating system, license plate confirmation). Today’s safety concerns look a lot different than 4 years ago—the fear of a fellow passenger’s aerosols may be more top-of-mind than the fear of an ill-intentioned driver. Keeping a pulse on consumers evolving needs during this extraordinary time will help Uber deliver what consumers need to consider or continue ride sharing. Uber should ask themselves:

  • Are people using ride sharing differently now? (e.g., getting to work where public transportation feels unsafe)
  • What can Uber do to provide customers a sense of safety in these uncertain times?
  • How do safety concerns rank against other drivers like stability and anxiety right now?
  • What will it take for consumers to consider ride sharing again?
  • What emotions (e.g. anxiety) play a larger role in today’s consumer behaviors than more rational considerations of 4 years ago (e.g., convenience)?

Having the right tools in place to successfully deliver those benefits are also crucial. Contact-free tech such as autonomous vehicles have resurfaced as a major opportunity. As we’ve reported in our research, fear has been a majority barrier to adoption, but in a world where health anxiety is at an all-time high, we expect to see chasms crossed in record time (think about how much time you spent on Zoom before March)!

Additionally, pivoting areas of focus with acquisitions and partners is a winning strategy for innovative brands. Partnerships allow companies to tap into centers of excellence and provide faster routes to market and/or greater market share. Uber’s purchase of Postmates is a good example of how the brand is investing in partnerships that reflect changing needs. In another change since 2016, if you go to Uber.com, Uber Eats has a prominent space on the home page. Understanding the broader context of Uber’s core mission – setting the world in motion - we understand how this pivot allows Uber to leverage its core competencies with the desired benefits the marketplace seeks (a night of not cooking when date night means staying in).

Disruption and uncertainty aren’t going away but neither are the core drivers of consumer decision-making. Brands that don’t merely survive but thrive amid this disruption will be the ones that use a deep understanding of what truly drives people and combines it with agility and the will to innovate and develop meaningful partnerships.

Contact us to learn more about our cutting-edge research into consumer motivation.

CONTACT US


Tara LaskerTara Lasker is a Senior Research Director at CMB, and former frequent Uber customer who misses having engaging conversations with her Uber driver.

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

Topics: technology research, strategy consulting, technology solutions, consumer insights, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, BrandFx, consumer psychology, technology, engagement strategy, COVID-19, consumer sentiment

The Power of the Brand: The Peloton COVID-19 Story

Posted by Daniel McDonald

Mon, Jun 15, 2020

Pelaton Blog Opener

“You have a Peloton? Are you crazy?” I’ve heard this multiple times from people who are shocked that I was willing to pay “that much” for an exercise bike. Yes I did, and frankly, my fiancée and I love it (#NotAnAd).  I still remember the first Peloton commercial I saw. It featured a fit younger female biking in the middle of her living room in what appeared to be a penthouse in New York City. It came off as a luxury, a product for the rich, not something that belonged in the corner of your dining room where the only view is an outdated china cabinet. Fast forward to Christmas 2019, Peloton takes a seemingly innocent—now notorious—approach to being more obtainable with the slogan, “for anybody that wants it.” Peloton’s attempt to balance luxury with affordability and attainability has proven challenging.

Enter COVID-19, suddenly, that initial sticker shock seemed rather small when my only option is working out at home. In the past few months I have heard more and more of my friends buying a Peloton bike, including a few that called me crazy when I took the plunge a year ago. Peloton has recently reached over a million subscribers and their biggest problem is delivering bikes fast enough. So how does a brand go from a widely panned marketing flop to selling more products in a few days than they expected in the entire month?

It's not a complex formula, when you take away an outlet for people, they are going to look to fill it somehow. That’s exactly what’s happening for Peloton during COVID-19, they’ve been able to capitalize on a bad situation. But what happens when gyms reopen, and people adjust to the new normal? How does the rapid growth Peloton has been experiencing become more than just an outlier? True, this won’t be a toilet paper situation, they can’t expect people to start hoarding exercise bikes, but that doesn’t mean Peloton can’t become the first-choice outlet for working out.

Peloton has always been willing to spend money on advertisements, and even the infamous ones, have made Peloton a well-known name. In fact, I would argue that the average person can’t name more than 2 or 3 stationary bike brands. This means, that even though the market is oversaturated, people only recognize a few brands. Now more than ever Peloton should continue pushing their advertisements, but with a different approach. Recently, we’ve seen a shift in advertisements due to the pandemic, whether its poking fun at the fact that there is always that one person who can’t figure out how to unmute themselves on Zoom, or just showing their compassionate side towards the situation. The main point is brands are acknowledging our experience in a timely manner. Peloton is a unique brand because even during this troubling time, they can remain almost fully functional. They have trainers constantly putting out new classes, both from the comfort of their own home (safely and alone) and inside one of their New York studios. They must let everyone know, whether they are an existing customer or not, that they remain focused on physical fitness and can provide anyone the opportunity to stay healthy. Now more than ever Peloton can realize their goal of providing fitness “for anybody who wants it”.

One thing is for sure, change is inevitable for everyone. People are eager to get back to a gym or spend the money on advancing their own home gyms. No one can be sure what the new normal or long-term impact will be like when this is over, but in a time where interaction is unfeasible, connection is critical. Brands like Peloton, Netflix, and HelloFresh are emerging as leaders because they are focused on the human element. They clearly benefit from more people staying at home but what happens when those people start to leave? How do the brands that have seen exponential growth during COVID-19 transition themselves into the new normal? But humans are creatures of habits, and as long as Peloton continues to stress their flexibility, compassion, and purpose, exercising at home will remain a habit.


Daniel McDonaldDaniel McDonald, Associate Researcher, is a proud first-time homeowner, which is the perfect addition to his Peloton bike.

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

Topics: consumer insights, advertising, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, growth and innovation, Market research, retail, consumer psychology, COVID-19

Crossing the Chasm: Is VR Gaming Finally on the Precipice of Adoption?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Thu, May 14, 2020

Blog Opener

You’ve heard it countless times: “this is the year for VR,” “2020 is finally the year that VR will break through,” “the VR revolution is upon us.” These messages have consistently reverberated over the past 5 years, but virtual reality (VR) headsets have never quite managed to abandon the hype train. There are three reasons that help to explain why VR has stuttered:

  • Hardware has often been clunky or uncomfortable
  • High cost to entry has detracted many potential adopters
  • A lack of AAA or blockbuster games, experiences, and content

While head-mounted VR displays have existed since the late 1960’s, modern VR headsets as we know them can be more definitively traced back to Palmer Luckey and the initial Oculus Rift prototype. After a $2.4 million kickstart campaign, the company would be purchased in 2014 by Facebook for $2 billion.  Since then, the market has proliferated with offerings from Google, HTC, Samsung, Sony, and Windows Mixed Reality. Despite these heavy hitters pushing the market forward, VR hasn’t quite managed to advance beyond the initial phase of the disruption cycle: “emergence.”

Copy of Crossing the Chasm VR Social Media Micrographic

Now, more than ever, we may have legitimate reason to believe that VR could finally be advancing into the second phase of disruption: “evolution.” In this phase, technology begins to gain more mainstream traction after initial bouts of early adoption and new features, capabilities and advancements begin to proliferate. Here are some reasons to feel renewed optimism about VR’s ability to cross the chasm into mainstream appeal:

Increased dedication to AAA quality content:

VR’s struggle with content has been a huge initial barrier. A VR headset is a significant investment, typically ranging anywhere between $500 to $1000. Compare that to the price of current-gen consoles retailing under $500 or a gaming PC (which on the lower-end may cost you anywhere from $600 to $1,000), and with the more consistent stream of blockbuster AAA and low-budget indie content, it’s no surprise that a console and/or gaming PC purchase might be deemed a safer bet. The high cost to entry for limited content makes VR a niche purchase for those with the appetite and means.

But there is currently an increasing flow of AAA content helping to drive device sales. The announcement of Half-Life: Alyx garnered so much intrigue that it led to global shortages of the higher-end Valve Index device in November (that retails at $999 for the full VR kit). Even now, device shortages mean you’ll need to wait 8 weeks for shipment of the Valve Index. In its 2020 State of the Game Industry report, GDC offers even more hope that game developers are increasingly tantalized by VR. While only 15% of surveyed game developers had stated to have developed their last game for VR (lagging PC on 54% and mobile on 40%), VR as a platform is piquing interest. 27% of game developers claimed to be interested in VR as a platform; this exceeded interest for Xbox’s next-gen device (albeit, at a time when few details were available and it was simply known as “Project Scarlett”), as well as Google’s emerging cloud gaming platform Stadia. 2020 also marks the year where over 100 VR games have hit at least $1 million in revenue, suggesting appealing content is beginning to proliferate.

Device evolution and access democratization

VR headset manufacturers have also remained dedicated to device improvement and innovation. Screen resolutions have dramatically improved; headsets have become smaller and more agile; fields of view have expanded, and more powerful processing units embedded. One of the more pivotal innovations in VR, however, was the release of the Oculus Quest—helping to untether VR headsets from the PC, while maintaining significantly more power than weaker mobile VR headset alternatives. The untethering of the high-end VR device was a critical moment, helping to democratize VR gaming beyond those with VR-ready gaming PCs, a significantly lower price point of $400 also lowered the cost to entry. Sales of the Oculus Quest bear this out, the device is consistently sold out and incredibly difficult to find.

Gamer interest is starting to peak

In our recent self-funded research Pulse, A Gamer’s Journey, we also observed signs of optimism for VR gaming. When asked to rate interest in different emerging gaming technologies, VR trailed only next-gen consoles in interest. The youngest gamers (14-17 years old) interest in VR is almost twice that of the interest that cloud gaming or subscription-based gaming models have.

Emerging Game Tech Interest Social Media Micrographic

While the youngest gamers demonstrated the strongest interest, we observed strong overall latent demand for VR. Of the 4,000 gamers interviewed, 23% have actively considered a VR device, but there are still some hesitations inhibiting VR purchase. The upside is that many of these barriers feel actionable to overcome. Price remains a continued challenge, even for the more affordable standalone devices. But as the market matures, manufacturers achieve greater economies of scale and competitors potentially begin pushing prices lowers, VR should become more affordable. Increasing the prevalence of opportunities to experience VR (such as in VR arenas, albeit, a significantly more challenging feat in the current lockdown environments), and continued investment in content will help overcome the big barrier of uncertainty, which is also currently blocking growth.

Copy of Gamers Journey VR Micrographic (1)

The reality of it all

As we all continue to adjust to the new reality of isolation, now more than ever, the promise of escapism that VR offers could be as compelling a proposition as it ever has been. Increasingly more high-profile content is being delivered, more headsets are entering the market, and usage statistics from services like Steam are all pointing towards a positive direction. Yet, despite this all, the potential of VR remains divisive: an exchange in Forbes perfectly exemplifies this with a May 4th article proclaiming “VR Headers Are Dying A Lonely Death,” yet on May 5th an impassioned rebuttal rejected the notion that “Virtual Reality is Dying.” While hurdles and barriers exist, this gamer remains cautiously optimistic.


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.

Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey
Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: path to purchase, Consumer Pulse, growth and innovation, technology, Gaming, AR/VR, Next-Gen Gaming, consumer journey

Leaning In & Leading Up

Posted by Amy Modini

Wed, May 06, 2020

So much has changed during this COVID-19 environment – the way we work, stay in touch with family and friends, educate our children, shop, and the list goes on. We’re in the midst of a major health crisis which is impacting all aspects of our economy. Times of uncertainty are difficult for consumers, so having strong leaders to navigate rocky waters is pivotal in putting people at ease.

As organizations consider how to navigate their present and future, we are seeing strong leaders emerge. There is an opportunity for those in insights roles to become invaluable to their organizations as decisions are being made on how to act and think strategically for consumers. Here are 5 ways to lean in and lead up for your organization during COVID-19:

  • Continue to understand the changing environment through your greatest asset: research. Brands that will come out on top are not putting research on hold. As an insights professional, be firm on your suggestions on how, when, and why to conduct research.
  • Be nimble and think ahead. Brands are measuring concerns, needs, wants, and gaps in this current environment, but at some point, they’ll shift that view to look at attitudinal and behavioral changes to navigate how these changes impact how they interact with customers. In fact, how well brands identify,  understand, and satisfy consumers’ emotional, identity, social, and functional needs during this time may determine consumers’ loyalty after the pandemic.
  • Measure consumer sentiment. It’s critical now given the deep emotional and psychological impact of this crisis. While many companies are doing research during this time, CMB has embarked on a sentiment study to track how consumer sentiment is shifting over time.
  • Invest in your customers. As consumers go through difficult times, we see many brands openly supporting customers with refunds on auto insurance, for example.  These brands are also looking at how the customer experience will change in the future and what they may need to do to accommodate those needs.
  • Be innovative in the “new world”. As brands look at the fundamental behavioral shifts that are happening now, they are anticipating what that may look like for a brand in the future. While brands are trying to stay relevant now, the forward-looking brands are considering how they will need to understand and react to behavior shifts with new products, services, or offerings to serve these needs. With so many changes and unknowns, why not take the risks that could have the highest impact and resonance? This is a great time to experiment and think outside the box.

Understanding consumers’ changing attitudes, needs, and behaviors is important during these times. Those brands with strong insights leaders will emerge from this health crisis into a ‘new world’ that is rich with guidance from its customers on how to best serve them.


Amy ModiniAmy Modini, VP Practice Leader, brings insightful leadership and dedicated expertise marrying qualitative and quantitative research to an array of industries including healthcare, insurance, and financial services.

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

Topics: strategy consulting, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, consumer sentiment

Find the Truths That Matter Most in Next-Gen Gaming

Posted by Brenda Ng

Tue, Apr 28, 2020

If you’re a studio, developer or marketer of games and/or gaming platforms, you know there are evergreen customer truths in developing a successful product, experience and go-to-market (GTM) strategy. For example, applying an influencer strategy for launches. But do those truths apply to new gaming platforms such as cloud gaming, VR, or the impending next gen consoles?

Some gaming truths are vitally relevant to these nascent platforms. But there are a few new surprises from A Gamer’s Journey. This comprehensive study of nearly 4,000 U.S. gamers rigorously explored how gamers become aware, evaluate, buy, and use traditional and emerging gaming platforms.

The three implications for studios and platformers roll up to partnering and planning even closer together to deliver the best player experience and longevity for the franchise and platform. As you read the below, the dance steps are similar, which makes dancing together much easier.

1. FEED THEIR CURIOSITY & EASE THEIR EFFORT
Even though VR products such as Oculus and Vive debuted in 2016 and cloud gaming has been around even longer, gamers spend significantly more effort in VR purchase journey (and expensive gaming PCs) compared to consoles, games and peripherals.
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 23
Within this category, comparing and researching products are first and bigger steps compared to more established gaming categories. That’s a lot of motivation and curiosity to feed!
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 16
With so much time and effort comparing platforms, there’s more receptive ‘reach and frequency’ available to raise awareness of your game if it’s available on multiple VR headsets and cloud gaming services. In other words, if your game isn’t exclusively on a single product or service, it’s in studios’ and platformers’ best interest for the gamers, to feature available games with the core hardware or service specs—not a one or two clicks away or purely separate ads for games.


2. DON'T TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME
If VR and cloud gaming have been around for over four years, what type of gamers do you need to reach, and does it change your GTM strategy? It turns out the biggest detractors are casual gamers.

Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 6

Most surprisingly, the assumption that everything you do to reach hardcore gamers is not the same for casual gamers. Yes, word-of-mouth is the top purchase trigger. But you can save on advertising with casual gamers because they are less attuned. However, the investment you make in providing available trials and earning solid reviews with hardcore gamers will reverberate and trickle down through word-of-mouth to casual gamers.

3. LOYALTY STARTS WITHIN
Managing your studio’s or platform’s reputation is reflected by how you treat your employees. With the movement of activist employees in high tech, gamers are noticing, and they care. When asked what is important to a studio’s reputation, all gamers (regardless of age, self-identified gender, platform, core or casual) agreed the top priority for studios is improving treatment of employees: “I’m more likely to buy a game from a studio that treats its employees well.”  This is much more important than managing the perception of putting profit before players or confronting wider societal issues.  People--employees and players--first. Now that’s a welcomed universal truth, pre-COVID-19, that will likely endure.

In a coronavirus world, one thing for certain is the uncertainty of the supply chain hitting next gen consoles’ Holiday 2020 launch timeframe and delivering significant unit volume availability.  And with E3’s cancellation, feeding and managing gamers’ expectations requires intense, dance-like synchronization between studios’ and platformers’ game experience availability.  The good news is this close partnership applies to cloud, PC, VR and mobile gaming too.


Brenda NgBrenda Ng, VP of Strategy, specializes in applying research to product development and GTM strategy and decisions, with expertise and global experience in high tech.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey

Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, product development, advertising, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, growth and innovation, customer journey, Market research, technology, engagement strategy, Gaming, AR/VR, Next-Gen Gaming