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What Does Inclusivity Look Like In Qualitative Research?

Posted by Lauren Simoes

Thu, Feb 11, 2021

In the past year, we’ve been forced to try new things and step outside of our comfort zones. After almost a year of challenging transitions to virtual everything, this year’s annual Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) conference (exclusively virtual) exceeded my expectations. The content was easy to access (and great, as always), and the platform (Pathable) seamlessly replicated the social nature of conferences by enabling a sense of valuable networking. With social justice so prevalent in our minds this year, it’s no surprise that “inclusivity” was a significant topic of discussion.

For the purposes of this roundup, let’s think about inclusivity in two ways: first, as a human, and then as a researcher. As a human, I have some concerns about being exploitative about “inclusivity.” As companies continue to make attempts to raise their consciousness and convey accountability, I fear that inclusivity will only be viewed from a corporate and/or brand health perspective. As researchers, we can play a role in helping companies implement truly inclusive practices, finding meaningful and authentic ways to convey it for their brands. While we cannot control how organizations think about these issues, we can implement our own ethical standards—which is something qualitative research has always sought to do. Here are some of the discussions our industry is having:

INCLUSIVITY IS DIFFERENT THAN DIVERSITY. As Roben Allong expressed during the roundtable discussion “Inclusivity is Messy,” inclusivity is not just checking boxes to make sure that there is a varied set of research participants. It is a responsibility—not a choice—in research. For example, what is “gen pop”? Why does this often mean “mostly white?” Inclusivity is not just about race; and race (many times) is only one factor in our many differences—it is not monolithic. It includes ableness, geography, employment status, gender identity, micro-culture, ageism and more. Our responsibility as researchers to be inclusive also means taking a tailored approach when the topic (or research participants) calls for it vs. using a standard approach across all sessions.

WE MUST CREATE SPACES OF BELONGING. As Jyo Maan shared in her “Inclusive Research for Social Justice” presentation, inclusive research should encompass DEIB: diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We must find ways to dig deeper so that people of all backgrounds can not only be included, but also feel a sense of belonging in the research community (as colleagues, as research participants, etc.). Researchers must keep aim on the ever-evolving target market and how that informs how we need to conduct research. The more “inclusive” our research is, the more applicable it will be to our clients’ goals and research objectives.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS? While I don’t claim to have all of the answers (or even close to most of them), there are some things we can start doing now. The most obvious thing is from a recruiting perspective. Perhaps “gen pop” is an outdated term. We need to ask who we are really trying to reach and what, if any, implications social identity has on who that is. A few points to reflect on:

  • With so many unemployed or underemployed, we need to reconsider employment as a terminating qualification
  • Make space for gender identity to be expressed in a non-binary way
  • Consider senior citizens viable parts of the conversation (as they have both technology know-how and buying power)
  • Accommodate people with disabilities in the research environments we create and cultivate

Sometimes these pivots will require consulting those more qualified to respect, understand, and convey the thoughts of a particular culture or micro-culture.

Regarding the research methodology itself, we may need to re-think how we structure our approach. Most qual researchers practice “unconditional positive regard” (as an attempt to dissolve incoming bias and treat research participants with respect) and are purposeful in checking their biases. This is more important than ever. As we attempt to be more inclusive, we must truly listen (and not in ways that simply confirm biases) rather than sticking to a prescribed discussion guide.

It is my belief that the best learning comes from discussion, different points of view and experience. If you have something to say about the ways we can make meaningful changes in the research approach, I would love to hear from you. Reach out to me with any thoughts, ideas, criticisms, etc. at lsimoes@cmbinfo.com.


Lauren is a Senior Moderator at CMB.

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Topics: strategy consulting, qualitative research, storytelling, conference recap, brand health and positioning, Market research, professional development, COVID-19, Racial Justice, mrx

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