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

Posted by Tara Lasker

Wed, Aug 05, 2020

Uber COVID19 Blog Opener Aug2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTACT US


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

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

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

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 of 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

Expanding Possibilities in Path to Purchase Research

Posted by Marty Murk

Thu, Jun 25, 2020

Marty Expand P2P Blog Opener (1)

With most of the country moving through stages of “reopening,” consumers’ path to purchase has been disrupted. New habits and behaviors are forming on the fly. It feels like now, and in the coming months, reassessing the “new path to purchase” will emerge as a priority for brands big and small.

Path to purchase/consumer journey research is about exploring what moves people towards the business outcome: a purchase. The framework is relatively similar across industries, categories, and products, and typically includes a heavy focus on the actions a consumer takes towards their final purchase. The words may differ however the research typically covers:

  • Trigger: A need or want emerges moving you to a more active state in the category
  • Discovery: Initial stages of research and learning performed
  • Evaluation: Options narrowed and evaluated in more depth
  • Purchase: A decision is made, and a product is purchased

At CMB, this approach is one of the subtle differences between thinking about path to purchase versus consumer journey research. The journey being broader, more inclusive and including pre-category engagement and later stage customer experiences. Prior to COVID-19, CMB ran self-funded consumer journey research on the gaming industry.  We designed the study to be broad and inclusive of “consumer journey” stages AND in a few other ways worthy of consideration in future consumer journey research.

We went BROAD, expanding categories beyond what would typically be included.  And we think you should too. Think industry not category. In gaming, a typical approach would look at a tightly defined category within the gaming industry, the “Games” category, for instance, might define the category into gaming genres (e.g., Role-Playing-Games, First-Person-Shooters, Sporting Games). While this category approach generally yields fantastic insights - one thing that has always stuck with me is how VERY FEW differences often exist between narrowly defined categories (e.g., RPGs paths aren’t all that different form FSP paths).

Cast a wide net—in our case covering Games, Consoles, Peripherals, Cloud Gaming, AR/VR Devices, and Gaming PC/Hardware—and the differences will JUMP off the page. Take the duration of the journey for instance, the time from Trigger to Purchase:

Gaming CJ Timeline Micrographic (2)

With broad context, it becomes obvious how quickly decisions are made in the Games category (Fast, System-1 Thinking). With an easy implication on the priority of the Evaluation and Purchase moments of the path, we discover that AR/VR Devices is a much harder, slower path (Slow, System-2 Thinking) requiring heavy touches in the Research moments of the path (e.g., Discovery, Consideration). Marketing tactics need to follow suit.

As an Insights professional, the context helps with interpretation. It also sets the research up to serve broader business objectives, rather than driving an action for a solo category. In a past life, I worked in athletic industry and led some similar work on athletic footwear. After a while, we thought it would have served the business well to think more broadly and capture athletic apparel, equipment, and accessories in the same initiative.

We were INCLUSIVE, expanding to include incomplete paths. We looked at products “considered but the purchase was not completed.” Doing so allowed us to model touchpoints that drive purchases. It also allowed insights to include the idea of friction and barriers hindering the path forward. For instance, in the AR/VR category, the consumer journey creates a lot of friction with consumers. Forgive the corny gaming analogy here, but the AR/VR category is making consumers slog through an “Oregon Trail” journey, and they’re dying of exhaustion (or dysentery, or measles or fever).

CJ Friction Micrographic

Expanding in these areas doesn’t have to mean a lack of “depth” either. It may mean you need more sample/participants to support the analysis, however the right questionnaire design can still grab the granular details needed to support key business decisions. In this study, there’s a clear consumer need for those interested in AR/VR to experience the product(s) more easily. In Cloud Gaming, consumers are asking for more trustworthy reviews that are less self-serving. By comparing these two categories, key business decision makers are provided context to their data, which helps in better defining where the needs are, and what you can learn from.

P2P Gaming Challenges Categories Micrographic

So, if you’re exploring path to purchase / consumer journey work, it’s worth a pause to ask yourself, “should I expand my world?” This experience shows that there may be more categories of the business that could be included that would lead to easier interpretation and would set the research up to serve the broader business. It also open opportunities to gain more clear actionable insights by including both completed and incomplete paths. These two ideas are great additions to traditional path to purchase work.

Please reach out if you’re interested in learning more about path to purchase/consumer journey work or seeing more of the great work with did in the gaming industry.


Marty MurkMarty Murk, Account Director, is an avid runner, and our resident path to purchase guru.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates. Also, read "Fast-Moving, Slow-Thinking: How Friction, Challenges, and Barriers Derail Customer Journeys" to understand the consumer psychology behind decision-making.

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

Explore A Gamer's Journey
Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, methodology, path to purchase, consumer insights, marketing strategy, Market research, Gaming, consumer journey

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

Posted by Daniel McDonald

Mon, Jun 15, 2020

Pelaton Blog Opener

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sailing Rough Seas Toward a Brighter Future

Posted by John Conti

Thu, Jun 11, 2020

How’s this for an understatement: we are living through difficult and unprecedented times. As we confront the interconnected realities of a global pandemic, economic crisis, and a long overdue reckoning with racial injustice, we—individuals and organizations—are faced with a lot of uncertainty. Still, in our recent webinar, The Case for Optimism*, I felt inspired by my colleague Judy Melanson and Marketing & Brand Strategist Armin Molavi to lead through uncertainty with optimism.

John C Blog Optmism Quote

With this conversation in mind, I believe there are three key focus areas that will help brands, and other organizations, navigate these challenging times and build a better future:

1. SHOW GENUINE EMPATHY & TAKE ACTION

True empathy and compassion are critical in building strong relationships. Many brands know people are suffering and they are taking steps to honor those working to keep us safe and to support those in need. But it feels as if many brands opened-up the crisis playbook and followed the same formula. There is even a YouTube mashup of recent COVID-19 ads showing this, but several leading brands—like LinkedIn, Hilton, and American Express—have found genuine and unique ways to show empathy.

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, LinkedIn Learning is providing free courses on diversity and inclusion to help users understand the challenges preventing equitable workplaces.

Hilton and American Express have teamed up to ease the burden COVID-19 has placed on our frontline workers. They have donated up to 1 million free room nights to medical professionals battling the pandemic. These rooms allow them to ‘sleep, recharge, or isolate from their families’ without worry or financial stress.

John C Blog Hilton Quote

2. REDEFINE LOYALTY & PARTNERSHIP

Loyalty is a relationship—a two-way street. For years, brands have worked to develop a large following of consumers who are loyal to their product/service, but now is the time for brands to show their loyalty and commitment. Leading brands do right by their customers to demonstrate their commitment and strengthen the relationship, no matter the cost.

Credit card companies, insurance companies, and other creditors are delaying payment due dates and waiving late fees. Auto insurance companies have seen a precipitous drop in insurance claims saving them millions. But rather than pocket those profits several companies including American Family Insurance are providing refunds directly to policyholders. In fact, American Family Insurance is refunding customers $50 per insured vehicle plus a 10% credit on personal auto policies adding up to over $450 million in support at a time when many customers could use the extra cash.

As Armin discussed in the webinar, establishing partnerships is another strong way to prioritize the consumer over the brand. In the retail space, organizations big and small are pledging sustainable action and investment, whether it’s Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge and/or Claude Home’s call to donate proceeds to support the Black businesses and anti-racist work one day a month. These leaders are uniting brands to support the Black Lives Matter movement by building relationships with consumers and other businesses.

John C Blog Quote - Partnerships

3. BE BOLD

I am inspired by the courage of those who have long fought for racial equality and heartened that we will see real change. During the height of the Covid-19 outbreak several manufacturers switched their focus from their own products to developing medical supplies and equipment. Ford Motor Company stopped several vehicle assembly lines and partnered with 3M to manufacture respirators for frontline workers and ventilators for patients battling Covid-19.

While some brands have played it safe in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement by just blacking out their social media accounts for a day or issuing a cookie cutter response, there are others demonstrating moral clarity and leadership, including Ben & Jerry’s and Nike.

Ben & Jerry’s has always been a leader in corporate social responsibility and has made it their mission to make the world a better place. They proudly issued We Must Dismantle White Supremacy, along with a four-step call to action to seek out ways to drive change. Their characteristic boldness, and steadfast focus on social issues over the bottom line, is an example of strong corporate leadership.

I have also been inspired by Nike’s attention on racial injustice, a cause they have championed for years (see Colin Kaepernick) and is deeply engrained in their corporate values. Their recent For Once, Don’t Do It video plays on the ad’s iconic ‘Just Do It’ tagline and shines a spot light on the cause. It is a great example of a brand continuing to live its values through an authentic, trustworthy message.

The fact is, most of us (myself included) have a whole lot of work to do, and bold statements must be backed by bold action and accountability.

The future can seem like a scary place but if we show empathy, demonstrate loyalty & develop partnerships, and act boldly we can all emerge from these crises with a brighter future. 

*Recorded Thursday, May 28, 2020


John Conti-1John Conti is an Account Director at CMB.

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

Topics: consumer insights, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, Market research, COVID-19, consumer sentiment, customer centricity, Racial Justice