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CMB Spotlight: John Conti

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Mon, Feb 22, 2021

John Conti Spotlight Series Blog Opener (1)

John partners with clients to uncover deep consumer insights and define effective marketing and brand strategies. He is skilled in designing custom qualitative and quantitative research studies that provide a solid foundation for making sound business decisions. With over 15 years’ experience, John has led a broad range of engagements including segmentation and targeting, brand positioning, new product development, customer experience, marketing communications, and pricing for some of the world’s leading brands such as American Express, Amazon, Disney, Hilton, Panera, Sanofi, Total Wine & More, and Major League Baseball.

1. What brought you to work in market research? How about CMB?

I’ve always wanted to help companies define strategies that build their brands and better engage with clients and prospects, and I enjoy using data to inform those decisions. I love the marriage of insights and strategy.

I joined CMB about a year ago, and what appealed to me about it was the team, the culture, and the clients. The team has a lot of expertise and world-class knowledge, and it helps that everyone is so collegial, collaborative, and fun! Because CMB works with some of the world’s leading brands on very exciting and very impactful projects, I knew it was an exciting opportunity to work with an amazing team and an excellent set of clients.

2. Tell us about a project/initiative you’re particularly proud of. What about that experience helped you to adapt, innovate, and/or grow?

There are so many, but the repositioning of a large, global brand sticks out in my mind right now. I remember sitting in my hotel room after launching the rebrand with my clients, and seeing the press come in. Hearing the commentators discuss the pros and cons of our work, and our strategy, was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. It really highlighted the importance of the work we do to shape the future of our client’s business.

3. Is that your favorite kind of work? What does your ideal project look/feel like?

I’d have to say segmentation, targeting, and positioning projects. These kinds of projects provide me a way to take a 360ⷪ view of consumers and prospects—using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, as well as a multitude of data sources to create a comprehensive picture. It’s why I got into this business: to shape brand and marketing strategies and help companies better engage with their core audience(s). I enjoy learning about the differences in consumers, and it’s fun to make use of every tool in our toolkit in to get the most out of insights (especially consumer psychology).

4. Sounds like you have a lot of long-term partnerships with your clients. What’s your secret to developing not good but great client relationships?

It’s all about being a true partner, which means helping clients identify opportunities that can make a real difference. It is important as a partner to think through the best way to support our clients and ensure their long-term success. Our success is their success.

It helps to think of ourselves as a part/extension of their team so that we can maintain a collaborative relationship. It’s not transactional. We’re truly invested in our clients for the long-haul. The fact that we’ve had the same clients for 25+ years is a strong reflection of that. In some cases, we’ve become more than just business partners, we’ve become friends and family. That’s a key ingredient of the CMB Difference.

5. Since you mentioned it, what does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

A part of the “The CMB Difference” is our ability to know what their business questions are and translate those into research questions. It’s not always one-to-one, but we understand what the client is really trying to solve for so that our insights are truly actionable.

This unmasks itself in our reports. We don’t focus just on one or two data points. As we create our deliverables, we ask ourselves “so what,” and intertwine the comprehensive data to tell the story or who their consumers are, and how we can engage or motivate them. We tell a story to help our clients understand what direction they could go as a result of the data. At the end of the day, it’s all about how our clients are going to turn information into winning strategies.

6. At CMB, we like to think ahead. What do you think market researchers need to address for their longevity? How should they/we be evolving?

There are two trends market researchers should be plugged into: the management of multiple data sources, and the need to dig deeper in understanding consumer motivations.

As our access to data continues to overwhelm us, we need to master its collection, i.e. combining survey with database, transactional data, and syndicated data. For years, researchers have debated the need for stated importance v. derived importance. But now, the debate is moot. We need to tap into both what people are doing and why people are doing it, which brings me to consumer psychology.

Applying consumer psychology lets us dig below the surface to truly understand consumers in a new way. Consumer behaviors, attitudes, and preferences are constantly evolving, but it’s imperative for researchers to think about getting to the next level of insight. And that’s why it’s at the basis of everything we do at CMB, including our tremendous offering of consumer psychology services, from BrandFx and Fast-and-Slow Thinking to Habit Loops, and more.

This is even more obvious amid COVID-19 where these changes are happening rapidly. Researchers must answer a lot of business questions in a very condensed timeline. Many of our clients are operating without a safety net, so our insights are giving a landing pad to have the confidence to make the right decisions.

7. How have you grown since starting your career? What advice do you wish you received earlier on in your career?

Since the start of my career, I’ve been better able to identify opportunities that add value for my clients. Being more entrenched with their business, and their lives, helps me to identify ways to overcome their challenges and to innovate. Going from a Project Manager to an Account Director was a big step in this direction. Being an opportunity seeker is something that keeps me motivated, especially now. There’s so many opportunities and avenues that my clients can take to re-emerge from COVID-19 better and stronger than ever. Our clients have a lot of important, pressing questions, and we’re anxious to help them find the answers.

In terms of the advice I’d give, I’d say that to trust yourself, be confident in your abilities, and make sure that it shines in everything you do. People will value your opinions, so don’t be shy!

8. Tell us about your family #HumbleBrag!

Family is the most important job, and my wife and children are the most important part of my life. It’s amazing to see my children—who are 9 and 7—explore the world, learn new things, and accomplish new skills. When I’m not in the office, I’m usually outside playing with our kids and puppy or bringing them to hockey practice…or gymnastics, football, soccer, golf, baseball, or whatever new sport they’re trying. I don’t think I’ll like it when my kids start beating me on the golf course, but it’s probably going to happen pretty soon!

Conti Kids and Winnie

9. What character are you, and why? [book, movie, tv series]

Optimus Prime (from the 80’s cartoons—I’ve never seen the films) because I tend to be an optimistic and flexible person. I think about Optimus Prime’s ability as a transformer to morph and change to get through challenging situations by using the different tools in his toolkit, which is what I try to do in my work. I also think about his leadership style, and how he’s fighting right alongside his team. So, I can probably model my leadership style in his image.

John Conti-1Start your own conversation with John here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

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Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series

CMB Spotlight: Taylor Trowbridge

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Tue, Jan 05, 2021

Taylor Trowbridge Spotlight Series Blog Opener

Taylor is a seasoned client services/relationship manager with deep and varied experience in customer satisfaction, customer experience, loyalty/affinity, AA&U, and concept testing research. He brings a holistic perspective to his projects through his varied experience in the market research industry that includes performing different roles such as Client Services Manager and Market Research Analyst with leading global companies.

1. What brought you to work at CMB?

I’ve been in market research for about 15 years, and CMB has a great reputation. I knew CMB was the right fit for me after meeting with the team, understanding their mentality, and just how brilliant everyone is from the top down, whether it’s a client-facing account executive, or someone on the administrative team. Being part of a team that discovers, identifies, and understands evolving behaviors in an increasingly complex and disrupted world is exhilarating. Financial Services is a steadfast industry that’s continually evolving. Being at the forefront of that is an amazing piece of the puzzle.

Since joining CMB, I’ve become more aware of the processes and organizational styles that better serve my clients. I understand my clients better thanks to workshops and seminars, and through my colleagues who have a wealth of experience building great client relationships.

2. What is your favorite kind of project to work on?

Might sound vanilla, but I’m a huge fan of the awareness, attitude and usage studies. I like tackling areas we don’t understand (i.e. behaviors, attitudes, product usage), and turning those early ideas into strategies and plans that can be executed on, whether it’s a new credit card, credit card offering, investment type, or investment approach.
But no matter the project, our work is more than answering a business question, it’s about how we can apply this research to the business. Knowing that, I try to bring a holistic approach to answering complex questions—a practice that my M.B.A. program at the University of Florida really ingrained in me.

3. At CMB, we like to think ahead. What do you think your Financial Service clients should be addressing for their longevity? How should they/we be evolving?

It’s an interesting and exciting time for me. The industry has already been changing—we’ve seen this with the shift from regional, small community banks to totally digital and AI-enhanced platforms. We need to look longer term than we’re used to, without losing sight of our short-term and mid-term goals. To help navigate that for clients, I like to look at these trends through a consumer, client, and advisor perspective. For example, credit card usage and loyalty point redemptions have been all about travel and dining. That’s changing because no one is traveling or dining out anymore. So, we must ask ourselves how we can change that behavior and/or loyalty programs and rewards to address today’s market challenges, but also set up for long-term success and flexibility.

4. What’s the secret to developing not good but great client relationships?

Know your client’s business. And not just for the project you’re doing. The project will only tell you a small portion of business, your client’s role, and what they need to make their lives easier. Get a well-rounded view by any available means: speak with other members of their team, read publicly available resources like their annual reports, etc.

Once you understand their business, getting to know your clients on a more personal level (their likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc.) is key to becoming humans and becoming partners. During COVID-19 this is especially important, make sure that your clients and their families are OK, with outreach that is personal more so than just the “I hope you’re doing well.”

Also, be accountable. Accountability is often thought of, but not always expressed. We need to be accountable for our client’s needs, what we deliver, and how we support them—emotionally and professionally.

5. What does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

Dedication. We’re completely dedicated to their crafts, from getting inside the minds of consumers through consumer psychology to bringing out consumer truths through qualitative moderating. This passion is apparent in our interactions, products, and services. It leads to client success in a brighter, fuller, more colorful way.

We deliver that color through storytelling. Storytelling is key to what we do because it shows what market research is capable of. We’re more than just numbers. We’re able to take a business question or client initiative and turn it into a story that drives critical decision-making.

6. If you were going to be fur-sonified, what kind of animal would you be, and why?

I’d be a koala. They are soft, loveable, and look great in grey, as do I. I’d be totally koala-fied.

Taylor Trowbridge Koalified (1)

7. If you had to live one day over again, what day would you pick?

I’d live September 1, 2018 over again: my wedding day. During COVID-19 and this time of great uncertainty, I harken back to the days where I saw friends and family together, laughing and dancing. It’s so important to connect and be supportive of  your colleagues, clients, friends, and family. That day was it for me. It was the best day of my life. My wife has been an important support system during this.

8. Show us what a typical day in the life of Taylor looks like.

DITL of Taylor Trowbridge 2020-1

Taylor Trowbridge-2

To learn more about Taylor, reach out here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

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


Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series

CMB Spotlight: Chris Neal

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Mon, Dec 07, 2020

Chris Neal Spotlight Series Blog Opener

Chris has over twenty years of high-tech, telecom, and media industry expertise across a range of game-changing initiatives, including market segmentation, new product development, brand positioning, marketing effectiveness and customer loyalty optimization. Leading brands including Apple, Cox, Comcast, and Dell, trust Chris to lead their largest and most complex insights initiatives.

1. What brought you to work at/in Technology & Telecommunications? How have you grown?

I’ve always been interested in emerging markets. While studying for my degree in Development Economics, I became very interested in InfoTech infrastructure (especially 3G cellular networks and wireless local loop networks at the time). The tech industry and its impact has become even more fascinating and complex, and after 24 years, that curiosity and desire to learn hasn’t wavered.

In terms of how I’ve grown, I remember my first interviewer asked: “What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?” To which I answered, “I have absolutely no clue about Telecommunications.” But the hiring manager really focused on the core functional skills they needed, like analytical writing and math skills, as well as a deep knowledge of the demographic (my job was focused on Latin America). This experience helped inform how I build my own team today. I make it a point to take a close second look at non-traditional candidates, many of whom have been some of the best hires we’ve ever made.

2. What keeps you motivated and excited in your work?

First off, we’re fortunate to work with some of world’s largest, most innovative companies to advance brand new technologies, concepts, and/or products. Knowing that what we do actually gets used and has measurable impact in the world is rewarding. And of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without the people I work with (colleagues and clients).

3. Tell us about a project/initiative you’re particularly proud of. What about that experience helped you to adapt, innovate, and/or grow?

We do great work through our self-funded Pulse reports. In particular, I’m proud of the research I led on understanding the barriers and enablers for consumers to adopt emerging technologies, like Virtual Assistants and Autonomous Driving, through the lens of our proprietary framework measuring psychological benefits including emotions and identity. It gave us a whole new layer of insights and recommendations into consumer decision-making, particularly for marketing, messaging, and the customer experience. For instance, autonomous vehicles could be revolutionary for people who cannot drive themselves, such as the elderly or disabled. However, the elderly demographic also has the strongest negative emotional reactions to self-driving cars (namely, anxiety and the fear of losing control). Through this work, we were able to dig in and get very specific to target and test the proof points and creative messaging that companies would need to advance their innovation.

4. At CMB, we like to think ahead. Where do you think Tech + Telecom will be in 5 years?

Disruption is happening all the time, so it’s imperative when you’re working in this industry to stay up to date on your industry knowledge. You know, there was a time when businesses thought they’d never use anything other than Blackberry for mobile devices, or that AOL would always dominate internet access. Right now, we’re looking at what’s happening in a variety of cloud service trends, AI, IoT and pushing compute out to the Edge of networks, among other things. Additionally, the continued roll-out of 5G wireless networks for home, business and mobile devices will bring multiple disruptions. Where we approach this is from the consumers’ (and business’) viewpoints, diving deeper into the psychology and sociology of old habit disruption and new habit formations. Combined with all the behavioral and attitudinal changes being driven by the pandemic, we’re focused on helping our clients navigate this rapidly evolving world.

On the Insights side, specifically, our industry is heading towards tech-enabled consultants who can help make sense of (and act on) overwhelming amounts of data. The line between “primary quant & qual” research, business analyst work, competitive intelligence, and Analytics & Data Science will continue to blur. Thus, it’s increasingly important for insights professionals to become expert storytellers and make sense of the data in a way that is actionable to non-researchers.

5. What does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

CMB attracts and retains smart and committed people with a natural curiosity for how the world works and why, which our clients benefit from because that mindset drives our problem-solving skills and ability to tackle complex challenges. When you’re in as competitive an industry as we are, the human factor is what makes all the difference. A robot can never do all of what we do. And—while I love robots (I am a Tech Nerd, after all), they’re not nearly as much fun to work with as my wonderfully human colleagues. As we say at CMB, we’re professional with a wink; we take our craft very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

6. What’s the secret to developing not good but great client relationships?

Being (a) trustworthy and (b) committed.

It may sound trite, but trust is everything. Being (not just acting) trustworthy means you act in the client’s best interests—through projects big and small—even when “no one is looking” or doing something that requires going above-and-beyond the written scope of work.

Your reputation doesn’t just happen, you must be committed, and part of being committed is being tenacious. This grit is what differentiates agencies from one another. CMB is built on relationships—we ensure our clients, and their stakeholders, are setup for success. We give them the storytelling and the insights they need so they’re never left in the lurch with a basic data dump that doesn’t really answer their stakeholder’s business questions.

7. What advice do you wish you received earlier on in your career?

Organizations or jobs that look sexy on paper aren’t always, and vice versa. The people you work with (mentors, colleagues, clients, and vendors) are by far the greatest determinant of your career success as well as your happiness. Don’t underestimate this, and make sure it’s part of your interview process to get to know the people you’ll be working with. We spend a lot of time at our careers; who you spend that time with (and rely upon) is critical.

8. Tell us something we may not know about you. How does this make you a better insights leader?

I’m a non-fiction nerd: Like my fellow CMBers, I’m always trying to understand more about how the world works (and why), and how to impact it in the future. So, you’ll often find me listening to podcasts, watching documentaries (and subsequently discuss with my fellow CMB Documentary clubbers), figuring out all the birds in my neighborhood the next, or diving deep on some policy/trivia wonk issue in my free time. It usually takes me a really long time to read a light magazine or news article because of the side missions I go on to find out supplemental and contextual data around the issue or topic.

9. If you could have any superpower what would it be/What’s your superpower?

COVID-19 immunity—including inability to transmit the virus. If I had that, there’s so much I could do, like volunteering to help get us through the crisis.

Aside from COVID-19, I think flying would be fun. It would make commuting easier, as well as exploring new places more interesting.

Christopher NealLearn more about Chris here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

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

Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series

CMB Spotlight: Judy Melanson

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Fri, Nov 13, 2020

Judy Melanson Spotlight Series Blog Opener (1)

In this very special spotlight, we talk with strategic thinker and empathetic leader: Judy Melanson. Judy has worked with some of the world’s leading brands including Hilton Worldwide, Disney, Avis Budget Group, Scientific Games and Caesars Entertainment on some of their biggest and most innovative challenges. After 28 years at CMB, Judy is heading into retirement, with an amazing support group of her family, friends, colleagues, clients, and the clients who’ve become friends and family.

1. How did you get started in your career?

I started my career as a tour guide in London 1984. The company (that’s since gone out of business) was very disorganized, and I spent most of those six months saying, “I’m sorry; I’m sorry you’re on your honeymoon and you have a twin bed; I’m sorry that you’re here but your luggage is in Hong Kong, etc.” After that, I sold timeshares in Newport, RI, and moved on to selling conference event space for a beautiful resort location on Cape Cod. I learned something from each experience, but most importantly I realized I wanted to get my M.B.A. and forge a new path.

These early jobs gave me an intimate look at the customer experience that I needed when I later become the lead of CMB’s Travel & Hospitality practice. I’ve worked with leading tour companies, leading timeshare companies, leading hotel companies, and I think I’m one of the few market researchers who have been in their shoes. I understood their challenges, because I’ve sat at the desk and listened to a traveler’s complaints. I have so much respect and appreciation for the brands who can do an excellent job, and the teams they’ve assembled.

2. What led you to CMB?

The late John Martin, co-founder of CMB, is the reason I started and the part of the reason I stayed at CMB. I met him while taking his market research class at Babson. John had so many stories about the new and exciting challenges he was addressing. I was transfixed by how market research could influence business strategy, and the range of clients he worked with. I basically begged him to hire me.

I’ve laughed (daily), I’ve cried (once or twice), but I’ve never had a boring day at CMB. The types of projects, and the challenges we tackle executing those projects, have kept me very happy and satisfied in my 28 years at CMB.


3. Tell us more about John’s influence in your career, and mentorship.

The list is long for everyone I’d love the chance to thank in my career, but John Martin was a strong influence. I learned so much from him, especially in the art of client engagement and interaction. He helped me figure out how to execute research and to manage the wide range of responsibilities expected of me.

Our clients at Hilton used to refer to John as the “mad scientist.” He’d show up to a meeting in the same blue blazer, disheveled hair, and frenzied energy, which would be dormant while he listened to their pain points and questions. But at some point, he’d find a white board, which was his instrument of choice. During the rest of the meeting, he’d channel his energy into these extremely complex challenges we were discussing, and suddenly we’d see clear action items that structured our research and addressed our client’s key business drivers. He was a master of translating research into the language of business.

It’s funny because I saw John’s “white board strategy” in action during a meeting with our colleagues recently. Brant Cruz used it so effortlessly to capture what was on the team’s mind, validate everyone’s voices at the table, and push the group further.


4. At CMB, we like to think ahead. What do you think your clients should be addressing for their longevity? How should they/we be evolving?

I think it’s really exciting for travel and hospitality brands to leverage the insurmountable amount of data at our fingertips, and to give that data purpose by creating more relevant, personalized experiences for its users. Netflix and Amazon provide such a nice standard for this. Both these leading brands leverage the products or content you, and those like you, consume, to serve recommendations tailored to your habits, interests, and needs. The curation of products and services—not just content—is so applicable to brands outside of the entertainment and ecommerce industries. Recommendation engines are hard to execute, but it’s possible. And the rewards could be great, leading future travelers to better experiences and stronger loyalty to your brand.

5. What do the researchers of tomorrow need for their success?

I think 2020 has highlighted this for many, but I’d say empathy. It’s so important in insights no matter the tool or technique you’re using. As researchers, we’re required to understand people as comprehensively and holistically as possible so that we can help brands make decisions. It’s a practice. Even though I think I’m pretty good at it, I’m always struggling to be better. The reality is that I’m a white woman of a certain age; the experiences and learning I’ve had are due to the way world meets me when I come into a room. Researchers must work hard to understand who an individual is, the experiences they’ve had, how that affects their decision-making, and to advocate that back to our clients and their stakeholders.

Some of the work that we’ve done, under the leadership of Erica Carranza, has helped at understanding identity. Our BrandFxSM approaches are super helpful in humanizing insights for our clients, and telling their stories, so that they can be truly customer-centric. The more we can integrate the voices of our respondents to our clients, the more effective our research is.

6. What’s the power of developing not good but great client relationships?

We’re so fortunate at CMB to have incredibly strong client relationships with leading brands (some even before my time at CMB!), who call us back time and time again for our best-in-class analytics, qualitative, storytelling, graphic design, etc. Sometimes that relationship is with the brand—because of how intimately we know their business—working with a variety of team members. Other times it’s with a person—because of how we support them—wherever their career takes them.

Part of the magic is the way we work with people, as people, supporting each other throughout the happy and challenging moments. We act as trusted advisors, with the strong objective of making our clients succeed. We all build those relationships in a slightly different way that’s authentic and honest. CMB gives us the freedom to find the right team, the right clients, and the rights accounts that are a match for us. Because we have a vested interest in the people we work with, as well as the business and industry in which they operate, our commitment as a team doesn’t wane.

One of the pleasures of working at CMB for so long is the relationship I’ve been able to develop. I’m so lucky to consider many of my clients, friends. The fact that I can enjoy my work and participate in the life of the people you’re working with has made my career a pleasure.


7. What does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

When I first joined CMB, there were only about 12 of us, and we had to be flexible, proactive, and work closely together to get results. I feel closely connected to the growth that CMB has seen—growing from a small, start-up to a Top 50 market research firm of about 100 employees—and feel very proud of that participation.

We’re an extremely collegial organization. If I ask for advice or help from anyone in the organization, I know within minutes support will come. We hold each other up to a high standard, and work hard for each other because we like and respect one another. It’s a joy to work together. We take advantage of every opportunity to congratulate one another.


8. Talk a little bit about the CMB culture.

The essence of CMB comes down to couple of things: collaboration, excellent work, and quirkiness. It’s important to maintain our excellent standard of work…but we got to continue having fun. I hope that our quirkiness, our unique personalities, and our ability to have fun always stays in our legacy.

My favorite memories at CMB are when we’re able to gather together, whether it’s to celebrate our accomplishments at a company update, holiday celebration, or to uplift our community like our Light the Night fundraising. Thanksgiving is a perfect example. For the last 15 years, our management team has cooked and served the staff in our office to express thanks for everyone’s hard work over the year. It’s almost serendipitous that I’m retiring after this year’s (virtual) Thanksgiving celebration.


9. What’s next for you, Judy?

The best part of this next adventure is that I have no plans. I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I’m going to take three months just to rest and reflect because I deserve it.

But I do want to discover where I can best add value in this next phase of my life. To ideate for the future, I bought a book on design thinking during life transitions. It’s super interesting to bring some of the principles we use in our research and apply it to me. The prompts are helping me to reflect on my goals, values, and identify where there may be gaps.

I always imagined having a set plan ready when I announced my retirement—what I would be doing, or where I would be going—but I realized that I couldn’t close this chapter of my life and create that plan at the same time. My days will probably be filled with painting, working in the greenhouse, and/or traveling (as COVID-19 permits).

Some of this exploration started when my youngest daughter went to college. I decided to try a new hobby and signed up for some drawing and painting classes. I’ve learned so much as a result of it. Painting is storytelling. You have to decide what the narrative is, what to accentuate or intensify, and what you want your viewer to experience. I’m excited to see where my story takes me next.

Judy Paintings Photo Only

Judy MelansonPlease join us in thanking Judy for her numerous contributions and incredible impact over her career, and congratulating her on her next step. Connect with Judy on LinkedIn here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

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

Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series

CMB Spotlight: Lori Vellucci

Posted by Chadwick Martin Bailey

Mon, Oct 19, 2020

Spotlight Series Opener Lori

Lori brings more than two decades of insights experience to her work with leading brands—translating business challenges into action, providing the voice of the consumer for both strategic and tactical initiatives to build brand and drive business results. Lori delivers insights, and the ever-important “now what?” through a deep understanding of consumer behavior, that’s always translated through the lens of business needs and realities.

Lori earned a B.S. in Business Administration from University of Connecticut, is Synectics® trained in brainstorming facilitation, and is a recurring guest lecturer at Stonehill College on Practical Marketing Research Methods and Creative Brainstorming Facilitation.

1. You have a lot of experience in market research. What keeps you excited about your work?

I love being on the vendor side; it’s never boring. I like knowing my client’s business challenges but I also have a broader industry perspective that I can bring to bear. It enables me to better serve our clients because I’ve been able to apply industry insights to new business challenges, and connect those learnings in meaningful ways. The icing on the cake is when we’re able to incorporate consumer psychology frameworks into a project and really dive deep to understand motivations, engagement, and behavior. I also never get tired of hearing our clients share how they implemented our research and the impact on their business and customers.

2. What advice do you wish you received earlier on in your career?

I wish I tackled the art of presenting earlier. I used to be scared to death of it, but somewhere along the line that changed. I love presenting to my clients now and helping others to build that skillset. It pushes me to think on my feet. If you have a challenge or shortcoming like that, understand that it’s not forever. You’re going to grow. You’re going to learn. It can be addressed through time, effort, and help from others.

I also tell younger researchers to get as much broad experience as they can. Raise your hand, ask for challenges, and do projects that are a little bit out of your comfort zone. People will notice that you’re interest and motivated, and it will set you apart. That’s important early in your career, so be sure to find an environment that’s conducive for your growth.

3. Tell us about a project/initiative you’re particularly proud of. What about that experience helped you to adapt, innovate, and/or grow?

We recently sought to understand young investors—those in their 20s and 30s who haven’t invested yet—in a new way. The research included a multi-pronged approach including online and in-home qualitative research, as well as quantitative. It was fantastic, and we got a lot of good insights that can be used to build products and services and talk to consumers in specific ways that resonate and meet consumers wherever they are in their investment journey. One takeaway that was particularly impactful was being able to group like-minded young investors and predict how they will treat their finances moving forward. It’s valuable information to have to fully meet young investor needs and also provides a lens for future studies.

4. At CMB, we like to think ahead. What about this project can Financial Services brands take away from? How should they/we be evolving?

There are so many new offerings, and ways to manage finances—they keep expanding and exploding. Companies with a long history in this business are now competing with those who have been “born online.” Changing the way these organizations work, what they focus on, and how they compete is really important. It’s clear that the investors of tomorrow are going to invest in a different way than we did, and certainly different from our parents and grandparents. They desire social connection online, so their investment journey is starting online, and on newer platforms like Venmo and Mint. Established companies really need to pay attention to this sea change, especially as people are hyper-focused on their finances and investments thanks to COVID-19.

5. And what about market research? How should we be evolving?

Like our clients, a lot is shifting in our industry. But one thing remains the same: we need to talk to the right people, at the right time, to get the insights we need. To get to that, the researchers of tomorrow must be well-versed in using different tools, and ways of doing research, including online (that’s obviously not going away). More importantly, how to work with these new tools and approaches. Many of our clients are finding ways to do some of the research themselves, and that’s ok. It just makes it that much more important for us to translate these insights into actionable results. There will always be new platforms, ways of looking at data and data mining, etc., but someone will always need to be there pulling it all together and extracting the insights.

6. Sounds like another reason to have strong client relationships! What’s your secret to developing not just good but great client relationships?

It starts with delivering superior work. It’s trust; trust that what we’re recommending is the right direction; trust that what we’ll deliver will be insightful and meet their needs and objectives. From there, it’s about knowing their business. We spend a lot of time at CMB understanding the trends, and individual businesses at a macro and micro level. How does our project fit into some of the broader initiatives or challenges that our clients have?

Also, when it’s all said and done, it’s our job to make our clients look good to their own clients and stakeholders. We must deliver insights that help our clients position themselves, and the work, within the organization. It’s so important for market research to show that focused, practical value. For example, for segmentation work, we go the extra mile and do socialization and activation sessions, and provide dynamic and interactive deliverables than can live on within the organization. All of these are quite powerful in helping an organization fully embrace and utilize a new segmentation, making it the framework for all communication and product development.

7. What does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

It’s our culture and the way that we engage our employees. CMB strikes a good balance between using processes that work throughout the organization, without constricting growth, collaboration, or flexibility. For example, I recently had a proposal draft that I asked my colleagues to look at. Having that freedom to bring in colleagues who aren’t on my business unit because of their expertise is helpful. We delivered a proposal that didn’t miss a beat because of everyone’s ability to stretch into a different job that day and bring their skills to the table. CMB brings great minds from different disciplines to ensure that what we’re delivering is fantastic and insightful. Our clients always have a team working together on their behalf.

8. Tell us something we may not know about you. How does this make you a better insights leader?
My house is full of non-immediate family members. I foster cats, and mentor kids in foster care. These kids tend to be teens who’ve aged out of foster care, and sometimes end up living with me for a period of time. Currently, I have a young woman living with me whom I’ve been mentoring for about seven years, and some very hiss-y kittens.

My interest in fostering started in high school. I was interested in social work, but ultimately chose to pursue marketing. But that desire to help has never left me. About 10 years ago, I told myself “it’s now or never.” Fostering is about patience and perseverance. These are individuals and animals with challenges, and you have to find a way to help. It’s always different; there’s not one formula.

Spicy kittens

Lori VellucciLearn more about Lori here.

CMB's Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

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Topics: our people, CMB Spotlight Series