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TMRE 2020 Takeaways

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, Oct 14, 2020

Post TMRE Oct 2020 Blog Opener

Planning a virtual conference is a job you couldn't pay me enough to do. From what I heard in chatting with this year’s TMRE attendees, sometimes the tech works and sometimes it doesn’t. However, those of us who attended witnessed a great willingness to get the most out of the event and a lot of positive energy. So for sanity’s sake, let’s keep the elephant in the room that is COVID-19 to the side, skip the things we have all heard already, and focus on the most interesting takeaways from this week’s event:

  • What’s Next for Preparedness? Some speakers said you should’ve been prepared for the chaos that is the current  business environment. But most said, “…umm who could have REALLY been prepared for this insanity?!?” For me, the key is how to be prepared for next month and next year. Thankfully, there were lots of tips on what alternative research tools (aka virtual) have been applied successfully and behavioral data was front and center.
  • A Warning for “Agile” Researchers. Talk about being "agile" was everywhere, but in many cases the word was used as a synonym for "fast". While fast can be great, it's not always best. Iterative agility in the traditional sense of the term for research can be amazingly impactful. An iterative approach– develop, measure, change, retest, rinse, repeat– clearly has a role to play in improving the research of tomorrow. But being quick is only as good as being smart. On this note, Abby Finnis, Sr. Director of Portfolio Insights & Analytics at PepsiCo Beverages, made the point of needing to embrace hybrid solutions that bring a variety of sources to bear during her panel session, “How Dunkin’, PepsiCo, and Unilever are Shaping the Future of Research.” To me, that feels more like the best type of agile.
  • How to have a seat at the table. This classic question was reframed a bit for 2020 as how to bring together disparate business users and uses of research to maximize the utility of insights and ensure successful socialization and implementation. Sure, some of this was looking for ways to ensure insights can be efficiently developed once, and be used in a variety of settings and applications. But more importantly, TMRE addressed how we can be more consultative. For some, being more consultative meant forgoing a degree of certainty, which is not necessarily a comfortable space for a researcher, but in the end we must “elevate” the most relevant themes to each stakeholder in order to make an impact, and to have a seat at the table.

These themes were particularly relevant in my colleague Lori Vellucci’s presentation “Wealth of a Generation | Get Inside the Minds of Young Investors,” which explored investors under 40. Her research on young investors, which leveraged our BrandFxSM approach, is a strong example of how brands can understand a diverse and important demographic, based on four pillars of human motivation: functional, emotional, social, and identity. Research like this can help people across disparate organizational silos create roadmaps for change – there’s a way to get your seat at the table; measuring in a focused ongoing way allows brands to keep insights relevant and quick-turn – that’s a way to be responsive to the oft-sought agility; and in a rapidly changing environment where being prepared means predicting right, understanding human motivation sets brands up for future success by, to quote one presenter at TMRE “building resiliency into business strategy.”


Kate Zilla-BaKate Zilla-Ba, Account Director

Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest financial services research: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor. And stayed tuned for more of our findings—experiential and beyond.
Immerse Yourself
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Topics: strategy consulting, financial services research, conference recap, Market research, agile research, COVID-19, financial services

Using Design Thinking to Become a More Agile Researcher

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Fri, Oct 09, 2020

Using DT Kathy Blog Opener Oct 2020

Last week, I attended IA’s Design Thinking Workshop, led by Brianna Sylver—a topic we strongly believe in to creatively solve business challenges. The framework came out of engineering and design originally but is smartly being applied to market research.

Consider these 5 steps and decide whether this agile approach, or process, could apply to your issues or needs:

  1. Empathize – market research to deeply know your target audience
  2. Define – an agreed upon narrow definition of your problem, or the questions that need answering
  3. Ideate – solution brainstorming
  4. Prototype – a written or physical build out of your solution(s)
  5. Test – user feedback on your idea/prototype

Design Thinking Graphic 5 Stages-1

As Brianna discussed, some problems require only a linear approach. If the objective is clear, agreed upon, similar to past concerns, and has available sources of data to support a decision, then you needn’t apply Design Thinking. On the other hand, if you require a deeper understanding of your customer and their needs or motivations, or your problem needs narrowing or alignment, there are unknowns that past data doesn’t address, or there is limited relevant past data, then the Design Thinking process should be applied.

Know, too, that Design Thinking is an agile process (i.e. a test and learn approach). It doesn’t end at Step 5: Testing. Results dictate what comes next. Do you realize now that you do not know enough about your consumer? Does the problem need restating? Should you ideate further based on what you’ve learned? Are you ready for, or do you need, a different or more detailed/tangible prototype? Revisiting prior steps is part of the process. Though you do eventually converge on the best solution!

You may be asking yourself…what if I’m not starting at Step 1: Empathize? Can I still apply Design Thinking? Of course, you can! For example, research on your target may be abundant and just in need of updating or organizing. Or perhaps the problem is already well-defined and agreed to by all stakeholders (and customers). Some clients have come to us at the Ideate stage, where they need to get creative, think differently, and add consumers to their brainstorming. Others have gotten as far as Prototyping (e.g. concepts, storyboarding), and are ready to test. In all cases, we will remind you that this is non-linear. You may think you’re done after testing, and perhaps you will be. But more likely, you will learn from that test and need to re-think something, such as the target, problem, solutions or prototype.

It may feel circular, but you are making progress!

Design Think Cartoon

With anything that involves art and science, this approach and way of thinking is a craft that requires creative application. At CMB, we have applied Design Thinking in multiple ways:

  • For a large investment firm, we began at Step 2, first bringing internal stakeholders together to align on what was in scope and out of scope, narrowing the problem to an agreed upon solvable need
  • For a theme park we began at Stage 3, bringing together consumers and engineers to build out a vision for an updated park
  • A hotel chain brought us in at Stage 4, once they’d already ideated scores of new ideas for their loyalty program

Ask how we can help you! We are trained and experienced in Design Thinking, Creative Problem Solving, Innovation, Improvisation and more. We welcome the opportunity to apply this to your problem solving.


Kathy OfsthunKathy Ofsthun, VP, Qualitative Strategy + Innovation

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Topics: qualitative research, Market research, agile research

COVID-Induced FOMO in Young Investors

Posted by Lori Vellucci

Wed, Oct 07, 2020

COVID FOMO Blog Opener

By most measures 2020 has been a sharp stick in the eye. But Millennials and Gen Zers have had it especially rough– in fact, they’ve experienced economic, environmental, and political upheaval for most of their lives. Many have never known a time when the United States was not at war with someone. They arrived to the party with a certain baseline of anxiety and fear shaped by the world and personal events throughout their formative years. As they say, “change happens in a crucible” (thanks, Mack Turner), and with the added stress of the pandemic, many young investors took their anxiety and fear and boldly channeled it into a new proactive approach to investing. They were determined not to miss the market sale, as many of them did for one reason or another back in ‘08/’09. New account openings were at an all-time high this past spring for traditional financial services brands and the plethora of born-online digital platforms.

Who Will Young Investors Turn To?

With this new focus and new money floating around, coupled with the stark realization that the markets go in both directions, these new investors need knowledge and guidance. Many firms have stepped up and made significant efforts to provide both to these less affluent newbies. But the final answer to an important question remains, who will they trust most with their future? There are two knee-jerk responses to this question: (1) the storied and well-established institutions which have reached a hand to these new potential customers OR (2) the born-online, new, fresh tech platforms targeted to these digital natives.

Are YOU Missing Out on the Young Investor?

There’s good reason to choose either of these options as the answer. However, investment firms must consider the four psychological benefits that drive brand engagement: emotional, identity, social, and functional. For brands across industries, leading prospects to expect these benefits drives consideration, and delivering these benefits to customers drives loyalty. And, for investment firms—disruptors and established alike—these psychological benefits are the key to winning the hearts and wallets of young investors.

BrandFx Four Benefits Pillars

We know that financial services brands (traditional or digital) deliver against these four pillars with varying degrees of success. However, there are other players outside of financial services and fintech that bear consideration and a watchful eye (and which already deliver important drivers of engagement in spades). Tech Brands like Apple, Google, and Amazon already have the attention of young investors in other aspects of their lives. Further, some have begun to make forays into financial services through offering of credit cards and mobile payments. It may be a short reach for them to move their customers into high yield savings and investing through partnerships, purchases, or built-from-scratch offerings. While there are certainly barriers in place to jumping in with both feet, the strength of these brands warrant a watchful eye.

So where do financial services firms start? Functional benefits are table stakes, so delivering those benefits alone aren’t enough to attract new investors. It’s therefore crucial for brands to deliver the identity, social, and emotional benefits to drive engagement. Make young investors feel safe and secure (emotional benefits) through every touchpoint. Find a way to help them to express themselves (identity benefits) by ensuring that their financial brand aligns with their values and help them to connect with others as they embark on their investing journey (social benefits).

YI Experience Micrographic Sep20 (2)

Three Takeaways for Investment Firms

As detailed in our latest report: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor, here’s what you can do so that you don’t miss out on the young investor:

  1. Ensure representatives are focused on helping young investors leave each touchpoint feeling positive, low activation emotions like peace, calm, and security
  2. Understand your customer identity and ensure campaigns and marketing assets present a compelling image of the typical customer for young investors
  3. Deliver Social Benefits that resonate through ESG and socially responsible investing and building communities of like-minded investors

Lori VellucciLori Vellucci, VP Financial Services Practice Leader
Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest financial services research: Get Inside the Mind of the Young Investor. And stayed tuned for more of our findings—experiential and beyond.
Immerse Yourself
Follow CMB on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: financial services research, brand health and positioning, Market research, BrandFx, COVID-19, financial services, young investors

IIEX North America Roundup

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Sep 15, 2020

Copy of IIEX 2020 Virtual Conference Roundup Blog Opener

This morning, I listened to a podcast about Maya Shankar, an exceptional violinist who studied under Itzhak Perlman before a hand injury forced her to shift course. She finished her doctorate in Cognitive Neuroscience and now works at the intersection of behavioral science and policy research to drive meaningful change. You can find out more about her here. She pivoted. She figured out her path forward. Pivoting is something we’re all learning to do and IIEX, like other formerly live events, is no exception. Like Maya, they’ve found avenues through the obstacles and persevered. Here’s the roundup of the IIEX North America virtual conference:

  • Jamin Brazil interviews Jon Derome, the GM of Customer and Market Research (CMR) for Microsoft, about Jon’s journey to GM. After Reed Cundiff moved to Kantar, the GM role opened and Jon, a 10-year veteran of the department, wrote an 8-page application to CVP of Brand, Global Advertising, and Research, Kathleen Hall for the role. Jon understood his role would be to make good decisions rather than quick decisions, and his decision to embark on a listening period shows his deep ability to reflect. He conducted 100+ one-on-one sessions and three surveys (among the CMR organization, the stakeholders they serve, and vendors) and his key takeaways were that 1) they needed to reorganize away from the former deep concentration by product (Xbox, Azure), because that was too siloed for Microsoft’s next epoch of growth, and 2) they needed to shift from tight/closed relationships between siloed stakeholder-researcher groups to visible/transparent relationships and collaborations within the CMR team and to the stakeholders and vendors. The CMR team felt very visible to their individual silo’s stakeholders but invisible to one another. While Jon humbly admits they are ‘still learning’ and ‘have had some failures and some successes,’ his vision for the group is to practice in a way that leaves spaces to talk and invite all voices in the team (quiet and loud) to the conversation.
  • Roben Allong asked “What is culture?” Allong, CEO of Lightbeam Communications, described how she mines cultural insights with a six-step process to help brands know what, where, and how to look for cultural codes and artifacts that impact the behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, and choices of today’s consumer. She talked about the steps of cultural consciousness, unbiased curiosity, informed observation, structured exploration, cultural insight discovery, and the insight validation stage. In one case example, Allong and her team tested some Haitian Creole print ads and discovered that younger people use Haitian Creole as spoken dialect not written. The marketing materials would have most impact as audio/radio ads vs print. She went on to talk about rising cultural trends such as digital empowerment, inclusivity of all voices, gender fluidity, green shaming (shaming brands that have acted environmentally irresponsibly), virtual living (reinventing behavior and social constructs) and AI integration.
  • The Power of Podcasts to Talk Culture. During IIEX, Sima Vasa’s Data Gurus, Jamin Brazil’s Happy Market Research Podcast and Priscilla McKinney’s Ponderings from the Perch podcasts were at the same time slot. I chose by putting 3 numbers into my cup and that’s how I clicked into Priscilla’s. But I regularly listen to all three of their podcasts and I highly recommend them all!
    IIEX Schedule Screenshot Podcasts 2020-2
    During Priscilla’s session, she spoke with Bianca Prior (BET) and Chrystal Day (YouTube). They had tremendous trust and rapport with one another as they spoke about culture and our unique opportunity within the #mrx industry. Bianca talked about getting involved at any level you can.
    Later in the IIEX program, the MR Podcast Award of the Year was revealed. 16 podcasts were nominated and the awards were granted. I am so excited to listen to the podcasts I haven’t listened to yet, as I am one of those “all media” people.
  • Jessica Sage, Ashley LeBlanc, Priscilla McKinney and Michelle Andre co-hosted the evening Women in Research (WiRe) sponsored event where 77 of us participated, listened, laughed, and text chatted as we answered famous women in history trivia questions. In a non-COVID-19 world, we would have been at WiRe enjoying some appetizers and a drink in a very energetic room with industry colleagues, but it was great to keep a sense of connection among a close-knit community. WiRe is organized into regional chapters and both women and men can participate. I highly recommend getting involved for the seminars, the trivia, and the networking!

IIEX Sep WiRE event screenshot 2020

I’ve now been to over a dozen virtual events and they keep getting better. While I look forward to getting back to seeing everyone in person, I’m going to continue to put on my best Zoom shirt and lean all the way in.


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

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Topics: conference recap, Market research, agile research, AI

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.

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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