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2021: Accepting, Embracing and Seeking Change

Posted by Jim Garrity

Fri, Dec 18, 2020

2021 Jim Blog Opener

While every new year brings the opportunity to reflect, learn, and look toward the future, this year’s rituals feel especially poignant. As a company, we entered 2020 with a clear vision, and while our grit and resilience were tested, we remained steadfast in our approach. We flexed as needed, and then we forged ahead with focus, agility, and determination—in our commitment to our clients, team-members and communities.

We’re ready to think and deliver big in 2021 because the need to not just understand, but to empathize and connect with people is more relevant than ever. We are focused on leveraging the very best of human intelligence with advanced technology to help organizations make those connections, and as a result better engage with their consumers to innovate and grow.

We’ll continue to raise the bar by doubling down on our strengths, including:

  • Growing the deep expertise and collaborative efforts of our team members: In 2020, CMBers refused to let physical distance be a barrier to collaboration, achieving results, or embracing our clients’ thorniest challenges. We’ll only become stronger because of the indomitable passion, commitment, and integrity which is a hallmark of every member of our team.
  • Deepening our strong client partnerships: we’re so grateful to have incredibly strong client relationships—built by delivering exceptional value and impact, yes, but also through the thoughtful efforts that take place outside of the meetings and the weekly check-ins and through real human-to-human connection. Having genuine connections and bringing value to people’s lives are more critical now than ever.
  • Embracing change to solve problems: We will continue to help our clients solve their newest problem: how to adjust, pivot, and refocus in a time of significant disruption.
  • Investing in our communities. We will continue to invest in the communities in which we live and work through our Foundation Giving and volunteer program. Continuing our support of organizations committed to families, education, health and wellness, and racial equity.

In 2021, we will bring all of this together to amplify consumer voices and stories to the people who can serve them better. And we will do this by leveraging the latest technology and tools to get us there most effectively.

This year has been all about change—we have accepted it, embraced it, and in many ways sought it out. In the coming years we will continue to drive forward and make positive and lasting impact for our clients, our organization, and our community. I am confident that we are well positioned to tackle these new challenges and opportunities together.

Thank you for your partnership this past year and in the years to come.


Jim GarrityJim Garrity is CEO of CMB.

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Topics: strategy consulting, technology solutions, business decisions, marketing strategy, integrated data, growth and innovation, Market research, community, agile research, collaborative intelligence, COVID-19, CMB Culture, customer centricity, mrx, Holidays

A Data Geek’s Take on Holiday Shopping and the Election

Posted by Brant Cruz

Fri, Dec 11, 2020

Brant Cruz Data Geek Holiday Shopping and Electon Dec 2020 Blog Opener

As someone who has spent nearly 25 years finding insightful truth in piles of data, I’ve accidentally trained my brain to be good at little else. For example, I’ve been in the top percent of dads when it comes to teaching my kids how to “estimate” in their early math classes, but could almost hear my brain crack when they needed help with geometry and its many obtuse angles

This is why, for nearly every topic I stumble upon, I immediately start analyzing and contextualizing the numbers. Instinctively, my brain takes me through the following sequence:

  1. Is that number in line with what I would have estimated?
  2. Can I contextualize it in terms of a number or change I am familiar with, and explain to someone less familiar “why” the number is what it is?
  3. If the answers to both #1 and #2 are “no,” is there other data can I use to reconcile the disconnect?
  4. If things still don’t line up, can I reasonably conclude that I am missing some important context that isn’t available publicly or in the data set that I am analyzing?
  5. If the answers to #3 and #4 are also “no,” have I or the author done something wrong (accidentally or intentionally through some bias)?

In my professional life, this is a perpetual stream, but all the best examples are proprietary. So, instead, I’ll illustrate with a couple of current newsworthy events: the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season to date, and the 2020 US Presidential Election.

Example 1: 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

This is a great CNBC article that features multiple data points, publicly available thanks to the power of Adobe Analytics, related to the US Holiday shopping season. Just picking one:

Holiday shoppers spent $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday, up 15.1% from 2019.”

Here’s an abbreviated recollection of my thought process:

  1. The number feels intuitively right in light of what I remember from past Cyber-Mondays, the overall trend of eCommerce, everything I have been reading about Brick & Mortar retail struggles…and, I have very high trust for Adobe’s data and the rigor of that team. Plus, there are other numbers in the same article that feel intuitive, e.g., $10.8 billion of a total ~$185 billion holiday season. My head-math says that current definitions of holiday season are likely around 50 days, meaning each day is 2% of the season. And Cyber Monday would be ~6% (3x average), which checks out.
  2. As far as the contextual “why” goes, it fits with my mental model of how the combination of headwinds and tailwinds for eCommerce net out in 2020:
    1. Headwinds: COVID-19 might be depressing total holiday spend across all channels given the economic struggles, short-term uncertainty, desire to save, and sad letters you can find (but also help!) through the USPS’s Operation Santa site.
    2. Tailwinds: eCommerce sales rose 18.8% in 2019 so this just continues that trend. Plus, perceptually, shoppers en masse feel far less “able” to shop of brick & mortar retail this year due to COVID-19. Rather than reinvent how my colleague Erica Carranza so aptly described the Fogg Model’s two axes of Motivation and Ability and possible implications for shopping months ago, I’ll point you to her blog.  

Given I feel so confident at this point, no need to continue with steps 3-5.

Example 2: President Trump says, “There is no way Joe Biden got 80 million votes”

Putting aside all other political issues leading up to, during, and since the election, this one stuck out to me as appropriately data-geek-worthy. President Trump may have made this claim multiple times, but I can say with certainty that he made it on a call with Fox News on November 29. Here’s how I processed this claim:

  1. I know that combined Trump and Clinton received 129 million votes in 2016, with Clinton winning the popular vote at just south of 66 million. And that Obama set the record in 2008 with 69.5 million votes. 80 million votes for Biden represents a ~21% lift over 2016 Clinton, and a ~15% over Obama’s record. Big jumps and certainly within the realm of possibility, but worth more investigation.
  2. There are lots of ways to contextualize a 15% lift, but I wanted to make sure I understood why.
    1. Anecdotally, people on both sides are more passionate about politics as evidenced by social media posts, strong passion for and against Trump, and media ratings.
    2. The candidates combined for >$14 billion in election spending, more than double what Trump and Clinton spent in 2016. That’s an increased spend of 100%+, for a 20% increase in turnout. Certainly believable.
    3. Back to the trusty Fogg Model: both Ability (in some neighborhoods, the need to wait in 9-hour voting lines due to closed polling locations was replaced with the ability to vote by mail) and Motivation (the aforementioned hyper-partisanship and Trump’s polarization) axes have seen big bumps since 2016.
  3. Is there other data available that I can reference? I don’t think so—and it seems like recounts and the courts agree.
  4. Could I be missing something? Likely not. (See above response to step #3.)
  5. Yes, I can see that President Trump may have some bias, given the prize and some historical context.

As you can see, this approach is pretty helpful in a job where I’m constantly involved in proving the rigor of my team’s data and analysis (and the resulting insights/business implications) to some of the world’s smartest and most passionate clients.

But you can imagine the faces I get from my daughters when statements like, “Dad, we need YouTube TV” are met with, “Oh yeah? Prove it.”


Brant CruzBrant Cruz is one of the many data geeks at CMB and is our VP: Platforms and Audiences Practice Leader.

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Topics: strategy consulting, business decisions, marketing science, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, Election, retail, consumer psychology, ecommerce, COVID-19, mrx, Holidays

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.

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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

Human Motivations Amid Disruption: 5G, COVID-19 & More

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Oct 26, 2020

Question: What do a global pandemic, 5G technologies, and puberty have in common?

Answer: Massive disruption as we know it.

Let’s start with the global pandemic. Like everyone, my household has had to adapt drastically in the face of a pandemic. In addition to stocking up on toilet-paper, our family’s digital dependence has sky-rocketed. It has exposed the limits of our internet access and Wi-Fi functionality, and frayed the fragile fabric of our family’s functionality. Our use of streaming video apps is much higher now, and it’s unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic levels long after the pandemic is gone. And we are not alone—in CMB’s COVID-19 tracking research, streaming video app usage across the US has also increased dramatically, and most people don’t expect it to return to pre-pandemic levels even after the virus is contained:

5G Blog COVID Data

Putting this problem into the Fogg model, we see our motivation to try something different/better for our internet access situation has increased dramatically. But, like most zip codes, broadband ISP competition is scarce. Better internet access is competing with toilet paper now in that upper left-hand quadrant of Foggville:

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model Internet Access-1

And this brings me to 5G technologies, the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks and the successor to 4G LTE.* This technology will increase the ability of many people to significantly improve their internet connectivity and potential, either as a fixed internet access substitute alternative, or for some households who may want to use 5G cellular connectivity as their only internet access (both inside and outside the home):

5G Blog Oct 2020 Fogg Model 5G-2

Oh, yeah: and puberty? My household is also navigating this pandemic with two teenagers, which is a miserable time of life to be stuck in the house with your parents pretty much 24/7. GenZ is the first generation to grow up not knowing life before pervasive mobile internet connections. One of their first waking memories was discovering the delights of a mobile fart app on the iPhone. And while I personally thought that was the pinnacle of potential for the mobile internet at the time, the industry has since risen to much greater heights. 5G is going to open a whole new world of application possibilities, and GenZ will be key in determining which of these take off. Video-enabled communications with friends (TikTok, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.), and online gaming will benefit most from 5G in the near-term. Usage has gone through the roof since the pandemic, and is unlikely to ever fully return to “normal”. The next wave may well be driven by Virtual Reality and/or Augmented Reality-enabled applications. Coincidentally, GenZ have the strongest interest in VR/AR gaming, and we know this generation is using online multi-player gaming for socialization more than ever during the pandemic.

UNDERSTANDING HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE FACE OF CHANGING TECH ABILITIES

Any company trying to capitalize on the opportunities presented by a dramatically increased ability to deliver new and better 5G-enabled services to people can benefit by analyzing which specific human motivations are most important for any given new service, and how the pandemic may have altered these.

BrandFx Four Benefits Pillars

Let’s take basic broadband internet access in my household as an example:

  • FUNCTIONAL (what I want to do): our existing internet access is insufficient now that two teenagers are doing remote learning most days and two adults are teleworking: all four individuals are spending much more time on video streaming platforms, often simultaneously. This impacts the adults’ work productivity and the kids’ learning. Additionally, we are all streaming more digital entertainment (TV shows, movies, and online gaming for the kids) now that we don’t go out anymore. The Functional motivation is very clear.
  • SOCIAL (where I want to belong): Other people I know have switched to a 5G internet service. I’ve heard through online forums from people I don’t know about their experiences with 5G.
    • My kids rely on fast internet service with low latency for social connections. Problems with Facetime glitching or high ping/latency while playing Sea of Thieves with friends increases their (already high) sense of social isolation.
  • IDENTITY (who I want to be): I’d like to think I’m smart, leading edge, and open to change. I won’t keep to the status quo just because it’s familiar. And I solve practical problems around the household.
  • EMOTIONAL (how I want to feel): I am very frustrated and annoyed by my current internet service plan: the internet quality and reliability doesn’t meet my family’s current needs during this pandemic, I don’t feel like I’m getting value for the price I am currently paying, and I don’t feel respected when I call customer service.
    • I feel anxious, however, that switching to 5G may compromise the security of my internet access. And I am concerned that it may be unreliable (e.g., glitchy when there is severe weather, because I’ve heard about this with satellite TV connections).

Across many industries and products, we have found that the emotional, identity, and/or social motivations are just as—and often more—important determinants of a new product’s success than the functional ones. And the interactions across different types of motivations can be highly prescriptive for laying successful go-to-market plans in the face of extreme uncertainty.

We are neither soothsayers nor oracles, but we do know how to leverage the power of psychology to help navigate a future that promises to be full of change and more disruption.

*No, this is not another conspiracy blog about how 5G technologies caused the Covid-19 outbreak. They did not.


Christopher NealChris Neal, VP of CMB's Tech & Telecom Practice, has over 20 years of experience in high tech, online, consumer electronics, telecom and media insights, analytics, and consulting.

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

Topics: technology research, strategy consulting, technology solutions, mobile, business decisions, consumer insights, millennials, internet of things, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, emotional measurement, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, emotion, Artificial Intelligence, BrandFx, consumer psychology, technology, Gaming, Gen Z, AR/VR, collaborative intelligence, COVID-19, consumer sentiment, Next-Gen Gaming, customer centricity, AI, Habit Loops

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