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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

How SoulCycle Stays in the Saddle of Customer Loyalty and Consideration

Posted by Savannah House

Wed, Sep 12, 2018

spin class-1

Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see ads from every conceivable fitness craze—from trampolining and aerial yoga to infrared saunas.

What’s “hot” today (seriously, check out these saunas) might not be tomorrow, and because apps like ClassPass make it easy to try new workouts, it’s an even tougher market for upstarts to break through and survive.

That’s why I am a huge admirer of indoor cycling studio SoulCycle, and how it’s managed to survive and thrive despite the rise and fall of other fitness fads (is water aerobics still a thing?)

Last week at INBOUND 2018, Julie Rice, co-founder of SoulCycle, shared how she built a fitness empire. In just over 10 years, she grew a single studio in Manhattan (Rice herself working the front desk) into a multimillion dollar pop culture phenomenon with a cult-like following.

What is it about a 45-minute spin class that catapulted SoulCycle into the ranks of brands like CrossFit and Nike? A brand that successfully fulfills the functional, emotional and social identity needs of its target customer.

SoulCycle’s workout lives up to its promise

This goes without saying, but SoulCycle is one heck of a workout. It’s more than riding a bike. Riders clip into stationary bikes and pedal to the beat of the music—following the lead instructor by adjusting speed and resistance based on the song.

From a customer experience perspective, SoulCycle delivers on the promise of an intense workout. Having been to a few classes myself, I can attest to how physically demanding their classes are—leaving you sweaty and physically drained (but accomplished).

This, in a sense, is the most tangible and functional benefit SoulCycle provides its customers—presumably the biggest reason why riders pay $36 per class.

But, there are other reasons why riders love SoulCycle beyond the solid workout.

SoulCycle sends riders on an emotional journey

As Rice explained last week at INBOUND, SoulCycle was always intended to be as much an emotional experience as it is physical. Twelve years later, that still holds true.

Words like “athlete”, “legend” and “warrior” adorn the SoulCycle studios. When the studio lights are off, these words are illuminated in white as vibrant reminders of how riding at SoulCycle is supposed to make you feel.

It’s emotionally transcending to be in a dark room with music blasting, pedaling in unison with 30+ other riders, while the words “LEGEND” and “WARRIOR” (and of course the instructor) scream at you to keep pushing. It’s empowering. You feel like a bad ass each time to dig your foot into the pedal.

At the end of the workout, you’re left feeling lifted, encouraged, and powerful. Few fitness brands can achieve this level of emotional connection with their customers—a force that drives riders into the saddle week after week.

The SoulCycle community

A good workout and emotional connectivity are integral to the SoulCycle experience. But perhaps what’s most compelling about SoulCycle is its masterful way of tapping into the social identity of its riders.

SoulCycle has strategically cultivated an “in” community that riders can’t get enough of. Both in the studio and out on the streets, riders gladly sport SoulCycle swag as badge of membership to this close-knit community.

A recent study by Harvard Divinity School researcher, Casper ter Kuile, underscores the importance of community in choosing fitness brands. People are drawn to fitness classes like SoulCycle because they “long for relationships that have meaning and the experience of belonging rather than just surface level relationships,” he continues, “Going through an experience that tests you to your limits…there’s an inevitable bonding that comes from experiencing hardship together.”

SoulCycle is about riding as a pack… and more importantly, being part of that pack.

It’s this feeling of inclusion and being part of a group of likeminded athletes that drives its unprecedented tribal following—a loyalty rivaled only by CrossFit.

And for SoulCycle in particular, maybe it’s the exclusivity—being a member of not just any community, but THIS community—that makes SoulCycle so alluring.

The Final Sprint

In 2011, Rice and business partner Elizabeth Cutler sold SoulCycle to national luxury fitness gym Equinox—forming a united front between the elite brands.

This partnership represents the continued success of SoulCycle as a leading fitness and lifestyle brand—one whose customer loyalty has continued over the years.

Fitness brands (all brands, for that matter) can learn a lot from SoulCycle in terms of what it takes to truly delight and retain customers. Of course, it’s necessary to provide a superior customer experience (a solid workout, in this case) and establish an emotional connection with customers. But, brands cannot forget about the critical role social identity and community play in maintaining customer loyalty.

As markets continue to be disrupted by technology, innovation and new entrants, brands must leverage functional, emotional, and identity benefits to stay in the metaphorical saddle of customer consideration and loyalty.

Savannah House is a marketing manager who is slowly but surely ticking different fitness classes off her bucket list. 

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, Identity, BrandFx

Why CrossFit Athletes Become Brand Promoters

Posted by Molly Sands, PhD

Wed, May 30, 2018

kettle ball

Earlier this year, 500,000 of my closest CrossFit friends and I came together for the Reebok CrossFit Open—the world’s largest organized sporting event. For five weeks, athletes would eagerly await that week's assignment, then head to the gym (for what I can only describe as some serious pain and suffering) to complete the workout under the supervision of a certified CrossFit judge. 

That type of commitment shows true customer dedication.

CrossFitters like myself have earned the reputation for being diligent promotors – a term used in market research to describe people that are very likely to recommend a brand to others. I often hear jokes like, "The first rule of CrossFit is to never shut up about CrossFit" (and it is). While I know not everyone wants to hear about my max back squat or the latest paleo craze, as a market researcher, I am in awe of how CrossFit has built and maintained its strong brand loyalty.

Here at CMB, we look at three key benefits that drive this type of brand loyalty. I may be biased, but The Open is a clear indicator that CrossFit has successfully capitalized on each of these benefits:

Functional benefits. Does this product deliver the desired result?

I’m not waking up at 5 a.m. to trudge to the gym in the snow to do handstand push-ups unless I see some dramatic improvements in my fitness. Not only can CrossFit be extremely effective for building strength and improving physical fitness, the program also concretely measures your progress to underscore these functional benefits. Athletes are encouraged to keep diligent records of their workouts so you can clearly see improvements over time.

Emotional benefits. How does this product make me feel? Does it fulfill my emotional goals?

There's a known link between physical health and emotional well-being, so it's not surprising a fitness-focused lifestyle would also deliver emotional benefits. However, CrossFit provides a range of emotional benefits beyond just an increase in general well-being, including increased self-efficacy, pride, and emotional strength. Additionally, positive emotions are associated with the sense of community the boxes (translation: box = gym) strive to create. All these result in an “upward spiral” of health and happiness that drives brand love.

Social Benefits. Are the other users of this brand like me? Are they people I want to be like?

When we choose a brand, we consider what the typical brand customer is like. Do we have anything in common with this person? Are we part of the same “tribe”? Are they someone we’d like to be friends with? CrossFit creates a tight-knit community of people who identify with and relate to each other. We regularly do team-based competitions and partner WODs (workout of the day) that help develop strong relationships with other members of the box (remember, that means gym). Everyone completes the workout together, and as we know from social psychology, mirroring physical movements can actually cause people to identify more strongly with each other.

And as you can see even from a few short paragraphs about CrossFit, we even speak our own language (e.g., box, WOD, AMRAP, EMOM, MetCon, etc…) All this helps to create a “tribe” that members identify with. Not only do lots of people love the brand, they also become ambassadors (promoters) that encourage others to use the brand, too!

Overall, CrossFit builds brand loyalty by inspiring measurable progress towards attainable goals, creating an “upward spiral” of health and happiness, and developing a strong sense of belonging to a community.

This is a valuable lesson for any brand looking to build a faithful following. While the desired functional, emotional and social benefits may vary by brand and industry, the importance of highlighting each benefit does not. Brands can utilize these underlying principles—and maybe even some of these exact strategies—(tall, venti, grande sound familiar?) to build brand loyalty in a base of dedicated consumers.

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Watch our short 20-minute webinar to learn more about the three benefits that drive customer loyalty:

Watch Now

Molly Sands is on the Advanced Analytics team at CMB. When she’s not building predictive models, you can usually find her at a local CrossFit box or at least recommending it to somebody.

Topics: emotional measurement, customer experience and loyalty, Identity, BrandFx