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Find the Truths That Matter Most in Next-Gen Gaming

Posted by Brenda Ng

Tue, Apr 28, 2020

If you’re a studio, developer or marketer of games and/or gaming platforms, you know there are evergreen customer truths in developing a successful product, experience and go-to-market (GTM) strategy. For example, applying an influencer strategy for launches. But do those truths apply to new gaming platforms such as cloud gaming, VR, or the impending next gen consoles?

Some gaming truths are vitally relevant to these nascent platforms. But there are a few new surprises from A Gamer’s Journey. This comprehensive study of nearly 4,000 U.S. gamers rigorously explored how gamers become aware, evaluate, buy, and use traditional and emerging gaming platforms.

The three implications for studios and platformers roll up to partnering and planning even closer together to deliver the best player experience and longevity for the franchise and platform. As you read the below, the dance steps are similar, which makes dancing together much easier.

1. FEED THEIR CURIOSITY & EASE THEIR EFFORT
Even though VR products such as Oculus and Vive debuted in 2016 and cloud gaming has been around even longer, gamers spend significantly more effort in VR purchase journey (and expensive gaming PCs) compared to consoles, games and peripherals.
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 23
Within this category, comparing and researching products are first and bigger steps compared to more established gaming categories. That’s a lot of motivation and curiosity to feed!
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 16
With so much time and effort comparing platforms, there’s more receptive ‘reach and frequency’ available to raise awareness of your game if it’s available on multiple VR headsets and cloud gaming services. In other words, if your game isn’t exclusively on a single product or service, it’s in studios’ and platformers’ best interest for the gamers, to feature available games with the core hardware or service specs—not a one or two clicks away or purely separate ads for games.


2. DON'T TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME
If VR and cloud gaming have been around for over four years, what type of gamers do you need to reach, and does it change your GTM strategy? It turns out the biggest detractors are casual gamers.

Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 6

Most surprisingly, the assumption that everything you do to reach hardcore gamers is not the same for casual gamers. Yes, word-of-mouth is the top purchase trigger. But you can save on advertising with casual gamers because they are less attuned. However, the investment you make in providing available trials and earning solid reviews with hardcore gamers will reverberate and trickle down through word-of-mouth to casual gamers.

3. LOYALTY STARTS WITHIN
Managing your studio’s or platform’s reputation is reflected by how you treat your employees. With the movement of activist employees in high tech, gamers are noticing, and they care. When asked what is important to a studio’s reputation, all gamers (regardless of age, self-identified gender, platform, core or casual) agreed the top priority for studios is improving treatment of employees: “I’m more likely to buy a game from a studio that treats its employees well.”  This is much more important than managing the perception of putting profit before players or confronting wider societal issues.  People--employees and players--first. Now that’s a welcomed universal truth, pre-COVID-19, that will likely endure.

In a coronavirus world, one thing for certain is the uncertainty of the supply chain hitting next gen consoles’ Holiday 2020 launch timeframe and delivering significant unit volume availability.  And with E3’s cancellation, feeding and managing gamers’ expectations requires intense, dance-like synchronization between studios’ and platformers’ game experience availability.  The good news is this close partnership applies to cloud, PC, VR and mobile gaming too.


Brenda NgBrenda Ng, VP of Strategy, specializes in applying research to product development and GTM strategy and decisions, with expertise and global experience in high tech.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. 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, product development, advertising, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, growth and innovation, customer journey, Market research, technology, engagement strategy, Gaming, AR/VR, Next-Gen Gaming

Wear Your Brand Hat to Ensure Segmentation Adoption

Posted by Brenda Ng

Tue, Sep 24, 2019

Wear Your Brand HatThe best segmentation is wasted if your internal teams and agencies aren’t using it.  Compared to a one-time launch event, an adoption campaign takes place over time, and allows for new behaviors and an understanding of the target segments’ lens to groove.   

Brand Hat

Create and have fun with an adoption campaign by putting on a brand and product management hat.

  • Target: Which groups should adopt the new segmentation?  Marketing, sales, product, executive leadership, agencies, finance, customer service?  This determines the scope and reach of the campaign.
  • Goals: Focus on deep understanding of your prioritized, target segments, not necessarily every category segment.  What behaviors do you want to see?
  • Duration: Like any product launch, the campaign could be broken down into three parts: pre-launch to anticipate and raise awareness; launch to introduce; and post-launch to provide reinforcement.
  • Naming: Own it!  Create a name for the campaign that links to the segments or the benefit of transitioning to a new segmentation.  It can be activated during the pre-launch, teaser phase.  For example, “Coming soon.  A Fresh Perspective.”  Or “They’re arriving.  The Fabulous Four.”

Fun. Fit.

A bevy of fun, engaging ideas can be modified to fit your company’s culture or industry.  Everyone has a different learning style, so mix it up to dial up the reach.  A few jump-start ideas:

  • Create each segment’s LinkedIn profile. Or create Tinder profiles.
  • If each segment had an Instagram account what would that look like? If you have the budget, provide instant cameras, assign a segment to a team (or better, have a team member complete the algorithm to determine their segment), and have them complete a scavenger hunt using snapped pictures.  Use cellphone cameras for a no-budget option.  Or create a Fun Friday where each team dresses up like a segment, brings a segment’s favorite foods to share, plays their anthem in the background—and the other teams guess the segment.
  • Create an internal website or database that has the facts, figures, sizing, valuation, etc. to be used in estimates, forecasting, and modeling.
  • Rename conference rooms by segment name, for 3-6 months. One conference room per segment. Further bring the segment to life through decorations, and interactive experiences.

Brief Details

Small details matter to reinforce adoption of the new target segments. 

Refresh templates for creative briefs, new product briefs, and market research briefs to include a trigger:  Which target segment is this effort for?  Leave space to include important insights and numbers.

Now, you have the keys to a successful segmentation.  We’re happy to help.


Brenda NgBrenda Ng, VP of Strategy and Account Planning, spearheads CMB's engagement solutions from product development to strategic planning.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Topics: product development, marketing strategy, market strategy and segmentation, brand tracking, experiential marketing, engagement strategy

Breakthrough Innovation with Co-Creation

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Tue, Jun 06, 2017

creative mind-2.jpg

Innovative companies have long recognized that failure can be an important step on the way to success. Brands are told to “quicken the pace of innovation”, “try new things” and “don’t be afraid to fail”. But these days there’s little room for failure: the stakes are high and there’s more pressure than ever for brands to innovate. Customers have spoken and it’s time for brands to listen—to be customer-centric.

So how can brands challenge themselves to innovate and to try new things without wasting time and money?

Co-creation can help you innovate and sometimes, fail faster. This innovative approach is based on principles of Improvisation and System 1 / System 2 thinking and brings brands and customers together to ideate and build out promising new ideas, products, and services. Co-creation inserts customers directly into the conversation—not through a survey or by listening from behind the glass, but by working right next to you. Our approach lets you collaborate with your customers to decide what the issues are, where the pain points occur, where joy happens and where the opportunities lie. Then together you build that future.

Technological advances, including social media, 24/7 news, online reviews and the resulting rapid word-of-mouth, have put customers in the driver seat. It’s no longer brands talking to customers, rather, it’s a two-way conversation. Brands need to listen intently, be accessible and available, and authentically work with their consumers, instead of working in isolation, creating products and services that often don’t address customers’ needs, or messaging that misses the mark.

Co-creation eliminates the guessing game in an energetic and productive day or ½ day workshop. Facilitated by an expert moderator, a group of cross-functional stakeholders together with customers, collaborate at an offsite, creative space. Pre-work is assigned to upskill and orient participants to the topic. Using divergent and convergent methods, in plenary, small group and individual exercises, you jointly explore the relevant topic, ideate scores of new ideas and begin to build out the future, together. 

At CMB, our Innovation team has successfully led co-creation sessions for large CPG brands, insurance clients, academic institutions, hospitality execs and more.  We have explored food, beverages, loyalty, apparel, deductibles and education with Gen Z, Millennials, Moms, sneaker heads, professors, underwriters, patients, and probably your customer. 

Want to see co-creation in action? Check out this recent video of a workshop we facilitated in NYC for a global leader in hospitality.

Kathy Ofsthun is the Vice President of Qualitative Strategy + Innovation.  She is a facilitator and RIVA trained moderator and has co-created with clients and their customers in the Hospitality, CPG, Insurance and Academic industries.  Her Twitter handle is @ShopperMRX as Kathy loves to shop, hoarding shoes from heels to hiking boots.

 

Topics: product development, qualitative research, growth and innovation, co-creation

7 Things Yoga Can Teach Us About Product Innovation

Posted by Judy Melanson

Thu, May 04, 2017

yoga group sitting-1.png
Last month I spent a week in Costa Rica attending a yoga retreat and returned home feeling relaxed and balanced. As I reflected upon what I learned, I realized that what was driving my positive feelings can be applied equally well to driving success in new product innovation.

I recently wrote an article commending brands for thinking “outside the box” to drive innovation, so this parallel struck me as a relevant and timely follow up. Here are the seven steps:

Step 1: Remove Distractions

At the retreat, we were encouraged to remove distractions that interfere with being present and mindful. Try this: take a couple deep breaths, focus on steady breathing, and try to quiet your mind. Once your mind is clear, you may find yourself at peace, more relaxed, and with space to visualize your goals. Similarly, when embarking on new product innovation, a company needs to remove distractions, ground itself, and make space to visualize its goal(s). 

Step 2: Articulate the goal and visualize a successful future

Now you have space to identify your goals and visualize the futureto explore your personal purpose and to consider your North Star (your guidance). Similarly, brands must recognize and articulate the purpose of its new product innovation:  Why is innovation important (or necessary) to the organization? What are the desired outcomes? Is it attracting new (next generation) customers or reengaging current ones?  What brand benefits (or positioning) can be leveraged?  What is the North Star: Where will success take the organization? 

Step 3: Identify the roadblocks

To progress along the path of personal development, at the retreat we identified the barriers to achieving our goal. This is personal and can be challenging, but if roadblocks aren’t identified early on, it’s possible that you’ll run into them later. What’s holding the organization back? Is there anyone or anything that is preventing/hindering innovation? How can these obstacles be overcome?

Not all barriers are negative. When I’m working with clients on new product development, we look for the constraints–the rules by which the innovation must exist. While it’s tempting to chafe at the constraintsto react negatively to existing guiderailswe’ve learned about their value. Without any constraints, it’s easy to lose your way. Paradoxically then, these constraints can become a tool of innovation.  

Step 4: Stretch your thinking

With your mind clear, goals outlined, and obstacles identified, it’s time to start moving. Brands need to step outside their comfort zone into an expanded way of thinking, so develop an action plan to stretch your perspective and view of what’s possible. For me at the retreat, the action that brought me out of my comfort zone was yoga dance (!!), but brands should consider other methods. How about running a Co-Creation session? Or instead engage a panel of thought leaders or futurists on perceptions of where the industry is headed. Perhaps reach out to some Gen Z-ers, artists, or hackerssomeone who will make you think differently. If a brand is open and mindful, it’ll find points of inspiration. 

And remember to keep goingeven when you think you’re done. Just like in yoga, the work starts when you’re getting tired.

Step 5: Draw from and reflect energy back to your community

Sometimes it feels like you’re the sole voice of change, but recognize that you are part of a greater ecosystem. In yoga, this community is called your “sangha” and can provide strength, power, and support when you need it. Seek it out. Listen for it. Feel it. Innovation demands teamwork and collaboration across multiple teams, so leverage these different insights and perspectives.

Step 6: Service for others

At the retreat, I learned that yoga is something far more powerful than a fitness routine or a timeout from a busy life. Yoga is a transformative tool that enables you to show up for others and be of service to them. Similarly, an organization seeking innovation needs to act in service of its consumers. It must believe in and clearly articulate the benefit innovation provides to the consumer. Focus on how it will positively serve the consumer instead of the features and functionality it provides.

I’ve been in sales for most of my life, but I’ve never considered myself a “salesperson”.  I like to consider myself a “facilitator”—someone who helps people/brands accomplish their goals. I’m motivated by this place of serving others.

Step 7:  Commit to daily practice

Innovation that drives business results doesn’t happen overnight, and just like yoga, it requires continual practice and study. Even after you’ve launched a new product, you and your team should commit to reviewing results and continued adaptation and growth. My suggestion for daily practice: Turn off your email and go for a walk. Stretch your thinking and listen carefully to those with different perspectives. Be open to learning. Give yourself permission to fail. Just keep trying and never give up.  

I hope these learnings can help ground and focus your plans for new product innovation. I hope you find yourself more confident in your path, with a stronger sense of your organizational purpose and a franker assessment of the barriers. I hope you feel better aligned with the opportunity and to your community. I hope you feel more flexible while still being focused on your goal. 

yoga group posing-1.png

 Namaste (Peace).

Judy Melanson leads the Travel and Entertainment practice at CMB, focused on helping companies prioritize operational and marketing investments to drive positive business results.  An empty nester, Judy now has time in her life to enjoy painting, running and, obviously, yoga!

Topics: product development, growth and innovation

Don’t get ganked! What the rise of esports can teach us about building products that survive

Posted by Josh Fortey

Tue, Mar 14, 2017

video game controller.jpg

PAX East just left town and if you don’t know what esports is—let alone what “ganked” means—you’re missing out. While traditional team sports continue to rule the roost in the American sports landscape, esports have become the fastest growing spectator sport.

To put this into perspective, the 2016 NBA championship finals game garnered 31 million viewers, the highest count of a NBA finals on both ABC and ESPN in over 10 years. Yet more people—36 million in 2015 and 43 million in 2016— tuned in to watch some of the world’s best League of Legends teams battle it out across the Summoners Rift for the world championship crown. But these remarkable figures aren’t unique to League of Legends. Twitch, the world’s largest gaming-orientated streaming platform, clocked in 95 million hours of esports streaming across the top 10 esports titles in January 2017 alone. And that 95 million hours of esports streaming is just one third of all the streaming that happened in January for these top ten esports titles. In addition to these staggering numbers, esports has effectively carved out a niche of digitally-engaged younger gamers; approximately 1-in-5 of all Millennials are now regularly watching esports online.

Based on this strong viewership, it’s no surprise that the esports category is estimated to surpass the $1.5 billion mark by 2020. But looking beyond these remarkable numbers, esports serves as an excellent example of an industry—comprised of brands, publishers, and developers—that continues to successfully deliver on rapidly changing consumer needs despite being in a constant state of adaptation, progression, and evolution. These factors are all important in understanding the meteoric rise of esports, but they also serve up a number of lessons about listening to your customers. Lessons that brands, marketers, and product innovators must learn if they want to develop products that stand the test of time:

  • Deliver meaningful experiences. The esports graveyard is littered with failed games that sent the right message to consumers and appeared to have the “winning formula”, but ultimately just didn’t cut it. Let’s look at Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis launched with all the makings of "the next big thing” in esports gaming: development by Turbine, the reputable gaming studio owned by Warner Bros., financial backing from a major IP in DC Comics, a spin on the hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, an extensive beta testing phase, and a highly accessible free-to-play business model. But despite these attributes, just two months after launch, development of Infinite Crisis ended. Why? Because its makers failed to nurture a critical mass of consumers across a generic gaming audience and ignored users’ complaints of unbalanced gameplay. Infinite Crisis serves as an example of what can happen when a brand doesn’t consider what its community of users/customers is telling them about their experience.
  • Nurture your community. The Infinite Crisis example also emphasizes the importance of nurturing and listening to your community. The growth of esports is largely driven by its engaged users, and so fostering these communities is key. Fostering a community is mutually beneficial to the brand and the user—the brand enjoys increased user retention while its customers have the satisfaction of knowing they are valued.
  • Community interactivity and engagement. Brands committed to their customer communities enjoy a more genuine dialogue with their users—ultimately helping strengthen customer loyalty. Strong brands recognize this as a cornerstone to a successful esports game. Take gaming giant Blizzard and its wildly successful game Overwatch. Overwatch developers pay close attention to feedback provided on their forums (underscores the importance of my first point, too), updates users on product developments, enhancements, and innovations (or product patches), and provide detailed product roadmaps. In the world of gaming, players aren’t just customers; they’re fans, loyalists, and advocates who deserve to be engaged and updated.
  • Embed consumers in product development. When gaming companies foster a community, they open up the possibility of embedding consumers into the early stages of product development. Across many of the most successful competitive gaming titles, publishers rely on the customer voice to formulate and enhance the brand experience from early alpha testing to open public test environments. Dota 2, a successful MOBA title, takes an innovative approach to embedding customers into its esports product strategy by crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. For example, the proceeds from players’ in-game cosmetic (items that don’t affect gameplay) purchases are partially donated to its competitive tournaments prize pools. Users can also create their own cosmetic items that can be sold through an online marketplace. Both initiatives resulted in Dota 2 customers amassing a staggering $20 million in prize money for its 2016 world championship tournament, The International—the largest overall prize pool in esports history.

Esports and competitive gaming are gleaming examples of how an industry has successfully used its customers’ voice to create sustainable and attractive products/experiences. It also demonstrates the perils of ignoring customer needs. Infinite Crisis is just one example among myriad others, including Dawngate, Battleborn and Minions. If there’s an overarching lesson to be learned from the explosive success of esports, it’s that brands should first and foremost prioritize the needs of its customers.

Josh Fortey is a Project Manager at CMB who is all too familiar with the feeling of being “ganked”.

Topics: product development, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation, Gaming