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Don't Over-Generalize My Generation

Posted by Reed Guerino

Wed, Apr 12, 2017

group in park

I’m sure you’ve heard that Millennials are entitled narcissists (or mold-breaking visionaries) and Gen Z expect instant gratification (or they have the most integrity of any generation yet). Of the companies pouring millions of research dollars into generational research, who’s getting it right? Well maybe nobody.

In fact, we can’t even agree on where one generation begins and the other ends. Millennials are generally considered those born between 1980 and 2000, but there’s disagreement over the exact years—some say it’s as loose as the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s while others say strictly between 1980 and 2000.  When you’re comparing mid-1970 to 1980 and 2000 to mid-2000, it’s not a huge discrepancy. However, the point is that there is a discrepancy. And with growing interest in the emerging generation (Gen Z, “Post-Millennials”, "iGeneration", "Plurals"), once again we face an arbitrary age designation and battle over who best understands these future consumers.

As a market researcher myself, I'm the first to admit that researchers will be tempted to define and assign attributes to Gen Z early on because of our natural tendency to categorize and bucket into mutually exclusive groups. However, in our need for clean groups with labels, we forget that some groups aren’t mutually exclusive, and different groups (or in this case, generations) might share some overlapping qualities.

What’s more, generations aren’t as homogeneous as we’d like to think. While normally there are overarching behaviors and attributes assigned to each age group, there can be room for variations among the cohorts. For example, we released a report where we found a segmentation of Millennials revealing five distinct personas with various preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. Our self-funded study focused specifically on financial behaviors, but it can serve as a microcosm for the rest of the generation. You can learn more about it here. This research underscores the potential for inaccuracies that can result from defining a generation too narrowly.

There will always be a place for analysis by generation, but we have a lot more data to consider today than ever before. In his 2013 book "Buyographics", Matt Carmichael reaffirms the importance of demographics, but emphasizes analysis shouldn’t stop there. He explains, "Demographics drive consumer behavior, and that's as true today as ever. We just have better means, thanks to more data sources, of measuring those behavioral impacts and targeting around them. All data needs to be considered through a broader lens and put into context."

Cuts by generation alone ignore the impact of geography and make assumptions about how age influences behavior and psychographics. For example, we often find our psychographics (e.g. our attitudes and aspiration), regardless of age, are good indicators of who we are and who we want to be. In fact, these aspirations (e.g. Who do I want to be?) are strong motivators of brand consideration and loyalty. This means if two people from separate generations can identify with the same type of person, they'll likely share an affinity for the brand because of that identification, not their age.

We'll hear a great deal about who Gen Z is in the next few years until they are eclipsed by the next group. But researchers, advertisers, and marketers should take heed against categorizing Gen Z—and the ensuing generations—solely by their date of birth. Without a multi-faceted approach to understanding consumers (considering demographics, psychographics, etc.), we'll continue to yield narrow insights that may result in marketers producing ads that alienate their target audiences.

Reed Guerino is a Data Manager at CMB who is an entitled millennial on the side and is bitter he missed being the “mature and in control” generation by 1-5 years.

Topics: millennials, research design, Consumer Pulse

Happiness is...

Posted by Talia Fein

Wed, Dec 21, 2016

 

happiness is.jpeg
My senior year of college I interviewed at several market research firms. While there was a lot to like about many of them, CMB had a unique vibe that convinced me this was where I should start my career. As it turned out, my instincts were right. CMB was fantastic at teaching a novice associate like me the fundamentals of Market Research; I quickly developed a love for the clients, the work, and “All Things Data.” 

When I left CMB after three years for a chance to live overseas and then a stint in D.C., I had experience working with incredible brands, super-smart colleagues, and I’d developed a competitive skillset. Almost two years ago, I was offered the opportunity to return and rather than rely on my gut, I had to answer questions my 22-year-old self hadn’t considered:

What made CMB so special?

In the New York Times op-ed “The One Question You Should Ask About Every New Job,” Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the relationship between company culture and happiness in the workplace. “Although finding the right title, position and salary is important,” he writes, “there’s another consideration that matters just as much: culture. The culture of a workplace — an organization’s values, norms, and practices — has a huge impact on our happiness and success.”

What does it mean to have good company culture, and how do you find it?

In writing this blog post, I asked a few people what company culture means to them, and specifically, what they considered characteristics of a good company culture. Responses were what you’d probably expect: Ping-pong tables, Friday happy hours, free lunch.  In short, answers were unanimous: good company culture means fun and free food.

Really? The holy grail of work happiness is free food?

OK, it’s a little more complicated than a couple slices of pizza. In his article, Grant cites a classic study that analyzed employee stories from across industries about their workplaces. In the study, researchers identified three fundamental themes: Justice (Is it a fair place?), Security (Is it safe to work there?) and Control (Can a person shape their destiny and have influence in the organization?). Ironically, these stories underscore an organizational uniqueness bias – people think their company culture is more unique than it really is.

But organizational uniqueness bias aside, this study also suggests that company culture isn’t defined by free food. Rather, it’s defined by an organization’s values.

That’s not to discredit the tangible stuff. Those things certainly are important to a company’s culture.  In fact, MIT professor Edgar H. Schein calls that stuff “the most visible parts of an organization’s culture… [its] artifacts and practices — how people talk, look and act.” But he, like the study Grant cited, contends that more important than overt office perks are the company’s operating principles.  [ twitter icon.png Tweet this!]

So how do we identify those proverbial “company values?” Despite organizational uniqueness bias, I’ve noticed a few CMB characteristics that have made it special to me:

  1. The organization feels “flat” (i.e., non-hierarchical)

Of course we have job titles and levels (see #3 below), but at CMB each person knows they are valued and their opinions are valid and respected. Our founder and CEO, Anne Bailey Berman, encourages us all to “be a squeaky wheel” – CMBers aren’t afraid to speak up because we know we’ll be heard.

  1. “We are a group of lively and engaging individuals”

Even though that’s a direct quote from the old CMB website (at least two or three website iterations ago), it still rings true today. And while a lot of companies make similar claims, I’d venture to say some are exaggerating. But not CMB. In fact, every CMB job description includes a line that says we’re looking for people who are “collaborative, enthusiastic, and who can put their ego aside, roll up their sleeves and get the job done.” To me, this line perfectly describes the CMB vibe.

  1. The company wants us (as individuals) to succeed

At every level and in every corner of the organization, CMB leadership is invested in individual development and growth (both personal and professional). Beyond our job responsibilities, we’re encouraged to learn and grow in experience whether through our internal mentorship program, a workshop, conference, or something else. A great example of CMB’s commitment to individual success is our ability to choose our career path. Research associates are given the opportunity to choose their trajectory based on their skills and interests. In carving our own paths, we’re able to excel in our jobs and deliver better experiences and results for our clients.

Organizational uniqueness bias may suggest that people think their organization’s cultures are more distinctive than they really are, but I believe that CMB’s culture truly is special and unique. It certainly has gotten this CMBer to stick around.

Talia is a Project Manager on CMB’s Technology and eCommerce practice. She was named one of Survey Magazine’s 2015 Data Dominators and as a native Bostonian, couldn’t be happier to be back in the city.

 

Topics: millennials, emotion

Minimalism on Trend: When Consumers Don’t Want to Consume

Posted by Laura Blazej

Thu, Sep 22, 2016

The minimalist lifestyle is having a moment. Several television shows are dedicated entirely to tiny houses—very small homes that are often no more than 250 square feet. Another popular trend is the capsule wardrobe where an entire season of clothing is limited to 33 items (or fewer). Then there’s Marie Kondo’s #1 New York Times best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” which advocates for getting rid of all of that stuff in the back of your closet. Many people, particularly millennials, want to buy and own less.

One possible reason for the minimalism craze is a AdobeStock_62945676.jpegreaction to the out-of-control consumerism seen at 5am on Black Friday at any big box store. Every year, Black Friday starts earlier and earlier to give more people the chance to get that new TV or crock-pot. Everyone likes to get a good deal, but there’s a difference between buying items you need at a good deal versus buying items simply because they are a good deal. People are increasingly rejecting these external forces that tell us to BUY, BUY, BUY, and this rejection of consumerism is becoming more mainstream.

This trend can pose a real problem for companies that rely on consumers to consume. If consumers are becoming pickier about what products they purchase, and how many, then two critical characteristics stand out to help companies adapt to this shift: brand differentiation and customer-centrism.

  • Brand differentiation is the process of differentiating or contrasting your brand against others to make it stand out. This becomes paramount when consumers are pickier than ever but have a sea of choices to pick from. One example of successful brand differentiation is REI’s #OptOutside Last fall, rather than contributing to the pandemonium that is Black Friday, REI chose to close its doors and advocate for spending the day outdoors with friends and family. REI sacrificed a day of bountiful sales to send a longer-lasting message to its customers that REI values their time and experiences. Although they missed the biggest shopping day of the year, they gained brand differentiation during the most competitive shopping season, which can be much more valuable in the long run—at least REI thinks so.
  • Customer-centrism also becomes a priority because minimalist consumers are more willing to seek out products and services that serve them best. Customer-centrism places the emphasis on customer experiences and needs. When many people, but especially minimalists, decide they need to buy something, they’re going to look beyond price to make their decision, and take into account return policies, access to customer-service, ease and convenience of shopping experience, and environmental impact. The more of these areas a company can successfully address, the better chances a picky consumer will consider their product.

So, what should companies do when consumers don’t want to consume? They should make their brand stand out and cater to their customers’ experience. Marketing to minimalists may not be the easiest task, but successfully winning them over is a marker of true success.

Laura Blazej is an Associate Researcher at CMB and a tiny-house enthusiast with only 28 items in her capsule wardrobe. 

Have you seen our latest report: on The Power of Social Currency? Check out our 90-brand study of 18,000 consumers to see which brands are driving brand equity in the Airline, Auto, Beer, Fashion, and Restaurant industries:

Get the Full Report

Take a peek at our interactive dashboard to see which brands do best among men and women, and in red and blue states:

Interactive Dashboard

 

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, brand health and positioning, millennials

New Study: Busting Millennial Banking Myths

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, Mar 03, 2016

Why does MasterCard want to replace your password with a selfie? How did Venmo become a verb? Why did JPMorgan Chase's CEO fret about Silicon Valley's start-ups to investors last year? Part of the answer lies within the attitudes and needs of that much talked about generation. . .Millennials. As part of our self-funded Consumer Pulse research, CMB partnered with leading venture capital firm Foundation Capital to explore how and why Millennials are helping redefine the banking industry

In this new report, insights include:

  • Millennials are not a homogenous group. We conducted a segmentation of Millennials, revealing five distinct personas with varied brand preferences, attitudes, and behaviors 
  • Most Millennials still use traditional financial products and services. Just over a third of Ambitious Adopters and Financial Futurists—the most forward-looking of the segments—say they’re most open to non-traditional financial services. 
  • Millennials place considerable importance on finance apps and tools. Asked which apps and tools they could not live without, Millennials mention financial tools and apps at the same rate as apps used for texting and messaging.

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 Download the full report here!

Topics: infographic, financial services research, millennials, Consumer Pulse, market strategy and segmentation

See Spot Learn About Segmentation

Posted by Alyse Dunn

Tue, Mar 01, 2016

millennial_with_dog-1.jpgIn the past 5 years, pet ownership has increased by ~3%. 3.7 million more Millennials own pets than their Boomer counterparts, and these numbers are expected to increase. Like millions of other American households, my fiancé and I have a dog. But, as some of my friends have pointed out, we are a very specific type of dog owner. We go out of our way to look for pet events (we went to two dog Halloween parties last year) and pet friendly vacations, and we have even stopped staying out late because we need to get home to her. She’s not just a dog—she’s our fur baby and a member of our family. We’re part of a growing “Pet Connection” movement that was unheard of 20 years ago.

In the “Pet Connection” movement, owners see pets as family members and desire to involve their pets more in the day-to-day. These owners are, on average, twice as likely to spend more on their pets to ensure their pets’ health and happiness. This growing population is a great example of why segmentation research has an expiration date—behaviors change, disruption happens, and segments evolve.

Companies conduct segmentations to better understand types of consumers and how those consumers will behave. The critical element to any segmentation scheme is an affirmative to this question: “can we act on this?” If your segmentation doesn’t accurately represents consumers’ behavior, it’s a waste of time and money. Your segmentation’s expiration date is highly dependent on industry and disruptions in the market—there’s no hard and fast timeline. However, it’s important to keep a critical eye on the market and the changing needs of your customers to understand if your existing segmentation is still useful. If there’s a lot of change in customer behavior or if a segment is not acting as expected, it may be time to renew and refresh the research.

If this dog movement has taught me anything, it’s that people do change (myself included) and things people may have advocated for previously may no longer fit in with their lifestyle. It’s important to recognize that those changes can happen in any industry and can occur for any reason (it isn’t always about man’s best friend). So, to continue to stay ahead of the market and to deliver to customers, you need to understand how your company’s segmentation is being used and evaluate whether the segmentation needs to be refreshed so you can keep up with your customers and their four-legged friends.

Alyse is a Data Manager at CMB. She has a 1.5 year old long haired miniature dachshund and is known to embarrass herself for the love of her dog.

We recently did a webinar on research we conducted with venture capital firm Foundation Capital on Millennials and investing. Insights include a Millennial segmentation, specific financial habits, and a look into the attitudinal drivers behind Millennials' investing preferences. 

Watch here!

Topics: millennials, market strategy and segmentation, retail research