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5 Questions with Qualitative Moderator Eileen Sullivan

Posted by Savannah House

Wed, May 16, 2018

Meet Eileen_new_cropped

I recently sat down with Eileen Sullivan, CMB's newest Qualitative Moderator, to learn more about her experience, perspective on storytelling, and what she's most excited about in the world of qual.

SH: Tell me a little bit about your experience, what drew you to qualitative research?

ES: It wasn’t until my junior year of undergrad, when I studied abroad in Vietnam, that I discovered anthropology. The study of culture–and all the implicit and explicit ways it shapes human experience–was a perspective that immediately resonated with me. After school, I worked for some years as a buyer in the retail space, but ultimately returned to pursue my MA in medical anthropology, researching health outcomes associated with marketing “beauty” to women. A career in consumer insights became a natural extension of those interests. I feel quite lucky to spend my time digging into this dynamic space where psychology and culture meet to shape the way we live, how we think, and what we buy. Before I came to CMB, I was with LRW and later Basis LA, working with clients such as Chase, Estée Lauder, Facebook, Hulu, LEGO, and Whirlpool, among others.

SH: What qual tools and methods are you excited about right now?

ES: While qualitative has always been iterative to a degree–the ability to throw out a guide or revamp stimuli on the fly–we’re now making great strides to scope research that is agile from the outset. It’s exciting to execute studies that put consumer feedback at the center of research design–first identifying the problem and its root cause, and then hypothesizing solutions. Within this framework, there are some great digital tools that enable researchers to look over a consumer’s shoulder, fascinating AI tools that offer the potential for scalable qual, and innovative forms of “traditional” qualitative as well, like agile co-creation and ideation sessions. There’s been a lot of focus in our industry on “breaking down the glass” – putting clients face-to-face with their consumers. It’s critical for not only engaging our research clients, but their internal stakeholders as well. The reality is that great research is useless if no one uses it, but I think an agile research framework makes the process more inclusive and collaborative, and ultimately delivers greater benefit to both client and consumer.

SH: From your perspective, what makes a successful moderator?

ES: Moderators have different styles and traits that make them great, but for me, the two most important characteristics are a willingness and openness to connect, and an unquenchable thirst to know. “Respondents” are more than the sum of their responses–they are people, having good days and bad, but still showing up to give their time and thoughts. It’s very important to me to hold some space, to recognize and appreciate each participant before we even get in front of the glass. And as for curiosity, well, you stop living when you stop learning. Striving for deeper understanding, and asking questions – to me, that’s what it’s all about!

SH: How critical is storytelling?

ES: Humans are “storytelling animals.” Narrative shapes how we perceive and make sense of our world: from our macro worldview, to the personal brand stories we share, to the little stories we tell ourselves. As a moderator, it’s important to dig into participants’ stories – to unpack them and sometimes question them because insights don’t always neatly come through in answers to questions. If you think of all the ways communication extends beyond language (i.e., emphasis, volume, body language, pause), you realize the “story” is usually much broader than just what’s said. And storytelling is every bit as critical on the backend. For research to have meaning within an organization, it must find an audience – and that audience must care. Has anyone ever cared about a book or a movie, when the story just wasn’t that good? I think that’s an important responsibility that we researchers have – to bring our findings to life, to transform our participants’ needs and wants, pain points and delights, from data points to narratives. We must deliver insights that captivate our clients’ audience, with actionable recommendations to drive impact for their business.

SH: What resources help you stay connected to the latest industry thinking?

Information and inspiration can come from a lot of different sources. For instance, a friend turned me onto design thinking. I just finished Change by Design, and Sprint is next up on the recommended reading list she shared. I’m always tracking what’s going on in my professional network, and try to stay abreast of Quirk’s periodicals as well as Greenbook’s announcements/blog. WIRe and QRCA also sponsor some great events.

Topics: our people, qualitative research, storytelling, agile research

Telling Your Insights Story: Reflections from a 2018 Qually Award Finalist

Posted by Kelsey Segaloff

Wed, Apr 04, 2018

Earlier this year, I ditched snowy Boston for the Qualitative Research Consultants Annual Conference in sunny Phoenix. I’d been to the conference before, but this year was particularly special because I was a 2018 Qually Award Finalist—a competition that challenges researchers to demonstrate a creative approach to problem solving.

In the competition, we were asked to respond to a client RFP. The three finalists then were invited to present our proposals to a live audience at the conference. While I didn’t win the competition, it was an incredible opportunity to challenge myself to think creatively about how we can approach qualitative research.

Since working in the industry, I’ve learned that storytelling—finding and communicating the story from the data—is one of the most important skills a researcher can have. It’s our job to dig into the data and create a compelling narrative so that our clients have relatable and actionable insights.

I wanted to incorporate storytelling into my proposal in an unconventional way. So rather than looking at how other researchers tell stories, I looked outward—how are people telling and consuming stories in everyday life?

One of the most powerful and culturally-relevant ways stories are shared today is through podcasts. I listen to them every day on my way to work, so I thought, “Why not create an insights podcast?”

I proposed taking the audio gathered from in-person interviews, ethnographies, shop-a-longs, etc., and piecing them together into a podcast. It’s a simple yet powerful way to tell an insights story.

Too often our minds default to a PowerPoint presentation when we talk about storytelling. But as you’ll see in the video below, inspiration for storytelling can come from anywhere:

Kelsey Segaloff is a Senior Qualitative Associate Researcher at CMB and an avid consumer of true crime and Bachelor-themed podcasts.

 

Topics: qualitative research, storytelling, conference recap

A Lesson in Storytelling from the NFL MVP Race

Posted by Jen Golden

Thu, Feb 02, 2017

american football.jpg

There’s always a lot of debate in the weeks leading up to the NFL’s announcement of its regular season MVP. While the recipient is often from a team with a strong regular season record, it’s not always that simple. Of course the MVP's season stats are an important factor in who comes out on top, but a good story also influences the outcome. 

Take this year, we have a few excellent contenders for the crown, including…

  • Ezekiel Elliot, the rookie running back on the Dallas Cowboys
  • Tom Brady, the NE Patriots QB coming back from a four game “Deflategate” suspension
  • Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons veteran “nice-guy” QB having a career year

Ultimately, deciding the winner is a mix of art and science. And while you’re probably wondering what this has to do with market research, the NFL regular season MVP selection process has a few important things in common with the creation of a good report. [Twitter bird-1.pngTweet this!]

First, make a framework: Having a framework for your research project can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the amount of data in front of you. In the MVP race, for example, voters should start by listing attributes they think make an MVP: team record, individual record, strength of schedule, etc. These attributes are a good way to narrow down potential candidates. In research, the framework might include laying out the business objectives and the data available for each. This outline helps focus the narrative and guide the story’s structure.

Then, look at the whole picture: Once the data is compiled, take a step back and think about how the pieces relate to one another and the context of each. Let’s look at Tom Brady’s regular season stats as an example. He lags behind league leaders on total passing yards and TDs, but remember that he missed four games with a suspension. When the regular season is only 12 games, missing a quarter of those was a missed opportunity to garner points, so you can’t help but wonder if it’s a fair comparison to make. Here’s where it’s important to look at the whole picture (whether we’re talking about research or MVP picks). If you don’t have the entire context, you could dismiss Brady altogether. In research, a meaningful story builds on all the primary data within larger social, political, and/or business contexts.

Finally, back it up with facts:  Once the pieces have come together, you need to back up your key storyline (or MVP pick) with facts to prove your credibility. For example, someone could vote for Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. because of an impressive once-in-a-lifetime catch he made during the regular season. But beyond the catch there wouldn’t be much data to support that he was more deserving than the other candidates. In a research report, you must support your story with solid data and evidence.  The predictions will continue until the 2016 regular season MVP is named, but whoever that ends up being, he will have a strong story and the stats to back it up.

 Jen is a Sr. PM on the Technology/E-commerce team. She hopes Tom Brady will take the MVP crown to silence his “Deflategate” critics – what a story that would be.

Topics: data collection, storytelling, marketing science

Can Facial Recognition Revolutionize Qualitative?

Posted by Will Buxton

Wed, Aug 03, 2016

Full disclosure: I’m an Android and Google loyalist, but please don’t hold that against me or the rest of my fellow Android users, who, by the way, comprise 58% of the smartphone market share in the United States. As a result of my loyalty, I’m always intrigued by Google’s new hardware and software advancements, which are always positioned in a way that leads me to believe they will make my life easier. Some of the innovations over the years have in fact lived up to the hype, such as Google Now, Google Drive, and even Google Fusion, while others such as Google Buzz and Google Wave have not.

As a researcher, last year’s launch of Google Photos caught my eye. Essentially, Google
Photos now utilizes facial recognition software to group or bunch your photos based on people in them, scenery (i.e., beaches and Google_Photos_icon.svg-1.pngmountains) and even events (i.e., weddings and holidays). To activate the facial recognition feature, all you have to do is tag one photo with an individual’s name and all other photos with that person will be compiled into a searchable collection. Google uses visual cues within the photos and geotagging to create other searchable collections. While these features might not seem extraordinary—I can see who was the most frequent star of my photos (my enormous cat) or where I most commonly take photos (honeymoon sans enormous cat)—I began to imagine the possible impact these features could have on the market research industry.

Visual ethnographies are one of many qualitative research options we offer at CMB. This is a rich form of observation, and, for some companies, it can be cost prohibitive in nature, especially ones focused on a “cost-per-complete.” But, what if there was a way to remove some of the heavy lifting of a customer journey ethnography by quantifying some of the shopping experience using technology that could track date/time, location, shopping layout, products viewed, order in which products are viewed, and so on, all through recognition software? Would the reduction in hours, travel, and analysis be able to offset the technological costs of these improvements?

Market research, and, in particular, qualitative research have always been a combination of art and science, and to expect any technological advancement to adequately perform any cogent analyses is a bit premature and perhaps too reminiscent of The Minority Report. (I don’t think it worked out well). But the promise of these powerful tools makes it an exciting time to  be a qualitative researcher!

Will Buxton is a Project Manager on the Financial Services team. He enjoys finding humor in everyday tasks, being taken seriously, and his enormous cat.

Learn more about how our dedicated Qualitative practice helps brands Explore, Listen, & Engage.

 

 

 

Topics: methodology, qualitative research, mobile, storytelling, customer journey

CMB Conference Recap: ARF Re!Think16

Posted by Julie Kurd

Thu, Mar 17, 2016

Re-Think-2016.jpgRon Amram of Heineken uttered the three words that sum up my ARF #ReThink16 experience: science, storytelling, and seconds. Let’s recap some of the most energizing insights: 

  • Science: Using Data to Generate Insights
    • AT&T Mobility’s Greg Pharo talked about how AT&T measures the impact of mass and digital advertising. They start with a regression and integrate marketing variables (media weight, impressions, GRPs, brand and message recall, WoM, etc.) as well as information on major product launches, distribution, and competitive data, topped off with macroeconomic data and internal operational data such as quality (network functioning, etc.).
    • GfK’s voice analytics research actually records respondents’ voices and captures voice inflection, which predicts new idea or new product success by asking a simple question: “What do you think about this product and why?” They explore sentiment by analyzing respondents’ speech for passion, activation, and whether they’d purchase. I had to ask a question: since I have a sunny and positive personality, wouldn’t my voice always sound to a machine as though I like every product? Evidently, no. They establish each individual respondent’s baseline and measure the change.  
    • Nielsen talked about its new 40 ad normative benchmark (increasing soon to 75) and how it uses a multi-method approach—a mix of medical grade EEG, eye tracking, facial coding, biometrics, and self-reporting—to get a full view of reactions to advertising. 
  • Storytelling: Using Creative That’s Personal
    • Doug Ziewacz (Head of North America Digital Media and Advertising for Under Armour Connected Fitness) spoke about the ecosystem of connected health and fitness. It’s not enough to just receive a notification that you’ve hit your 10,000 steps—many people are looking for community and rewards.
    • Tell your story. I saw several presentations that covered how companies ensure that potential purchasers view a product’s advertising and how companies are driving interest from target audiences.
      • Heineken, for example, knows that 50% of its 21-34 year-old male target don’t even drink beer, so they focus on telling stories to the other 50%. The company’s research shows that most male beer drinkers are sort of loyal to a dozen beer brands, with different preferences for different occasions. Ron Amram (VP of Media at Heineken) talked about the need to activate people with their beer for the right occasion. 
      • Manvir Kalsi, Senior Manager of Innovation Process and Research at Samsung, said that Samsung spends ~$3B in advertising globally. With such a large footprint, they often end up adding impressions for people who will never be interested in the product. Now, the company focuses on reaching entrenched Apple consumers with messages (such as long battery life) that might not resonate with Samsung loyalists but will hit Apple users hard and give those Apple users reasons to believe in Samsung. 
  • Seconds: Be Responsive Enough to Influence the Purchase Decision Funnel
    • Nathalie Bordes from ESPN talked about sub-second ad exposure effectiveness. She spoke frankly about how exposure time is no longer the most meaningful part of ad recall for mobile scrolling or static environments. In fact, 36% of audience recalled an ad with only half a second of exposure. There was 59% recall in 1 second and 78% recall in 2 seconds. Point being, every time we have to wait 4 or 5 seconds before clicking “skip ad” on YouTube, our brains really are taking in those ads.
    • Laura Bernstein from Symphony Advanced Media discussed the evolution of Millennials’ video viewing habits. Symphony is using measurement technology among its panel of 15,000 viewers who simply install an app and then keep their phones charged and near them, allowing the app to passively collect cross-platform data. A great example of leveraging the right tech for the right audience.

How does your company use science and storytelling to drive business growth?

Want to know more about Millennials' attitudes and behaviors toward banking and finance?Download our new Consumer Pulse report here!

Topics: storytelling, marketing science, advertising, data integration, conference recap