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The Rise of Multiplayer Shouldn’t Be Sus to Anyone

Posted by Blair Bailey

Thu, Dec 03, 2020

Among Us Blog Opener

Ask any CMBer what they love about CMB and there’s a good chance they’ll say it’s the people. Social distancing hasn’t been easy on anyone, but it’s been especially difficult for a company that works so collaboratively and regularly schedules social events and club meetings. Since March, we’ve been looking for ways to stay connected and recently, a group of us hopped on the bandwagon for a game of Among Us.

THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF MULTIPLAYER GAMES

Multiplayer has been a part of the gaming community since the 1970s. But the desire for social connection in a year of social distance has increased their popularity. At the start of lockdown in March, Microsoft reported a 130% increase in multiplayer gaming among Game Pass users, and 23 million new friendship connections over Xbox Live. Research on massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) show that benefits of this genre include a stronger sense of social identity, more social competence, and lower levels of loneliness. Nurturing social connections through multiplayer online gaming can create and build friendships as strong as those IRL.

HOW AMONG US IS BREAKING BARRIERS

Even so, many online multiplayer games have an air of exclusivity. The idea of joining an MMO or jumping into a game of Fortnite is daunting to non-gamers and even some casual gamers. Both in terms of gameplay itself – a battle royale situation feels more isolating than ever these days – and hardware – if you don’t have a console or PC for many games, you’re out of luck.

It’s Approachable

Among Us dismantles some of these barriers. The overall gameplay is familiar to many who spent their childhoods playing neighborhood games like Mafia: the crewmates works individually and collectively to build trust and uncover who among us are the Imposters (or if you’re an Imposter, to avoid being suspect…or “sus”), all while engaging in micro-tasks—quick little puzzles and games—throughout the spaceship. It takes a few rounds to get into the groove, but overall, the gameplay is very approachable and a lot of fun.

It’s Accessible

Making the game even more attractive is how accessible the program itself is – Among Us can be played on either PC or mobile, and it’s cross-platform so your friends can play together using whatever technology they have available. You don’t need a high-powered gaming rig to play the game, but if you already have one, that’s fine too! With the rise of video conferencing during COVID, players can easily enhance their games. While discussions in Among Us are typically done via in-game chat, you can invite your friends to a Zoom call and have those conversations “in person.”

Its Connecting Us

It’s no wonder that Among Us reached over 80 million players by mid-September, a number previously met by Pokémon Go in 2016. It’s the perfect game for this day-and-age. The definition of a “gamer” has been expanding for a long time, and the major change in everyone’s lifestyles has helped with that expansion exponentially. We saw this with the major success of Animal Crossing in the spring and it’s continuing with Among Us and other games now. With both Animal Crossing and Among Us, there’s a social aspect – either through direct multiplayer or a larger game community. Recent research showed that the longer a player played Animal Crossing, the happier they felt, possibly due to the social features the game presents. The only question remaining is when social distancing ends, will these newly minted gamers continue to play?

While the first impulse once the pandemic is over may be to rush outside and connect in-person, being isolated in lockdown has highlighted the importance of social connections, both as a human need and within the gaming industry. Gamers will be drawn to these new types of social connections made in quarantine, and developers should continue to build games within this space.


Blair BaileyBlair Bailey is a Data Manager at CMB, and avid gamer who graciously coordinates our Among Us games at CMB.

Follow CMB on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, 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

Topics: marketing strategy, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, Identity, Gaming, Social Benefits, COVID-19

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

We Had Our Beignets and Learned Something Too

Posted by Jen Golden

Fri, Jan 31, 2020

Key Takeaways from The Media Insights & Engagement Conference

The Media Insights & Engagement conference was held this week in New Orleans, and we heard some consistent themes that are impacting the media industry. Here are a few of the highlights: 

Storytelling is essential in delivering emotional resonance, and helping consumers identify with a brand, content or campaign:

  • There were many talks on the power of storytelling. The need for authenticity was loud and clear. Consumers desire something that resonates with them, even at the detriment of production quality.
  • In ESPN’s presentation—Harnessing the Power of Storytelling in Sportsrelatability was the number one driver of engagement with sports content. Audiences need to care about what they are watching, and strong character development can help the content be more relatable. The other top drivers including being substantive (where the audience learns something new), emotionally provocative, humorous, and conversational.
  • Building on the importance of humor, Disney Channel’s Lisa Dracolakis and our own Erica Carranza presented “LOL 101” about the importance of humor in kids’ content. Humor is the number one predictor of kids liking a show, and the more “types” of humor (like visual, verbal, gross, mean, awkward, ironic, inside jokes, etc.) you can layer into content the funnier, and more engaging the content will be.
  • Evoking nostalgia is also important for content, as Warner Bros. spoke about in their presentation on “The Paradox of Choice.” With all the choices consumers have for streaming content today, the more choices they have, the more likely they are to choose something very familiar to them. With today’s socio-political climate, consumers also want something comfortable that can allow them to escape from their reality. Nostalgia plays a role in this, as movie and TV studios continue to revive and reboot hits from the past to keep their fan base interested and engaged (like Star Wars or The Hills).
  • As A&E Networks spoke about in “The Great Divide” as the country becomes more divided, Tribe Identity is on the rise as consumer look to relate with others like them. Prudential and Urban One’s “Legacy Lives on campaign is a good example of influencing the Tribe Image of a brand in a positive way with their key demographic: African American millennial women.

Disruption is forcing the media industry to always be thinking 10+ steps ahead:

  • The media industry is changing at a rapid pace, with more content, streaming services and platforms than ever to choose from. Disruption in the space is the new norm, and media companies need to be constantly innovating to keep up with their consumers.
  • Gen Z is also watching and consuming content in different ways than ever before. Hub Entertainment Research spoke about how watching gaming is becoming the new “watching TV” for many of them; whether that is watching others play games, watching tutorials or watching live e-sports competitions. It is also how many Gen Z’ers communicate with each other – directly within gaming platforms. It provides them with social connection, as face to face interaction is no longer the predominant form of “hanging out with friends.”
  • A Futurist from Paramount Pictures spoke about the next frontier of AR/VR in gaming. It’s only a matter of time before the “screen” becomes one of us, as AR/VR technology continues to improve at a rapid pace and Tech giants continue to invest billions of dollars in the space to not be left behind. He encourages established companies to “think like a start-up” as the same old way of doing something won’t last forever. They need to anticipate what’s next.
  • As audiences shift towards greater video consumption and screen time, survey research needs to shift too, meeting these younger consumers where they are most comfortable. Many presentations included user generated content, with selfie-type responses directly from respondents. These not only provided rich insights but helped bring the voice of the consumer directly into the boardroom.

And while there were many discussions at the conference around a clear divide in the US today, Suzanne Persechino who gave the aforementioned A&E Networks presentation said it best: when all else fails, it’s moments like this in media that can unite everyone together…

laughing baby yoda


Jennifer GoldanJennifer Golden, Project Director.

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

Topics: storytelling, emotional measurement, conference recap, Identity, Social Benefits, humor, Gen Z, nostalgia, AR/VR

The Inner Battle Royale: Who Is The Fortnite Fan?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Mon, Dec 16, 2019

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

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

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

Fortnite_NonUserPerceptionsTypicalUser_Final_JPG

Takeaway #1: The Battle of Divisive Emotions

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

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

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

Fortnite_NonUserRelationshipWithTypicalUser_Final_JPG

Takeaway #3: Converting Non-Fortnite Players

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

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


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

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

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

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

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Fri, Oct 04, 2019

MattelCreatableWorldSized

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

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

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

EMGmonaCrop2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identity benefits are particularly important.

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

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

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

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

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

 


Erica CarranzaErica has a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University. Prior to CMB, she led insights research at American Express, where she was a recipient of the CMO Award for Achievement in Excellence.

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