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Making Your Brand a Habit: Why Small Patterns of Behavior Make a Huge Difference

Posted by Hannah Russell

Wed, Jan 06, 2016

Decision.jpgMost of us have heard the phrase “humans are creatures of habit,” but have you really ever sat down and thought about how habits dictate your life? From the moment you get up in the morning, habits are playing a role in how you interact with others, complete everyday tasks, and function within your environment.

In a lot of ways, habits are a necessary part of human life. Our brains naturally seek out and latch on to routines and scripts—it’s how we’re able to work so efficiently. Unfortunately, habits can also be unhealthy or unproductive. Oftentimes, we even have habits that are completely invisible to us until we take the time to truly examine our patterns of behavior.

I recently starting thinking a lot about this after picking up The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. His book details the formation of habits and neurological systems at play, colored by examples from scientists, academics, and businesses. Duhigg explains that by breaking down a habit loop into the cue, routine, and reward components, we are able to experiment and focus in on how a particular habit functions. He cautions that his book isn’t necessarily a secret formula for immediately dropping your afternoon cookie habit, but it does provide you with the necessary knowledge to start identifying which levers to adjust.

The notion that we can take our patterns of behavior and use that information to improve our personal life or business is one that really stuck with me as a market researcher. After all, as a researcher, I am constantly keeping an eye out for patterns. Patterns within and across datasets, patterns in response styles, and patterns within an industry. Patterns (or lack thereof) are often drawn upon for insight, as they tend to be a good indication if something is going right (or wrong), expected (or unexpected), or reflecting larger changes within the economy, company, or brand. This is often why businesses invest in tracking studies—a small shift in NPS or brand awareness may not seem overly interesting quarter to quarter, but it’s often part of a larger trend happening in the data. Patterns tell us a story and direct our attention to areas that we may need to investigate further.

At CMB, we spend a lot of time looking at these larger patterns and studying consumer habit loops that can impact a business. Companies looking to increase loyalty want to make their brand part of a customer’s routine—automatic and hard to disrupt.

For example, let’s imagine you’re going to pay for your groceries. Which credit card do you choose? Is it the one you always use for groceries? Do you even think about reaching for another payment method? Here’s the breakdown:

  • Cue: You’re at the register, and it’s time to pay.
  • Routine: You grab the card you always use since it earns you extra points for groceries.
  • Reward: You have your groceries, and you have earned bonus points.

By understanding these habit loops, we can begin to experiment with ways to make the cue stronger, the routine easier, or the reward more rewarding. We can also begin to understand what doesn’t work well when building brand loyalty and how these habits can be disrupted. At CMB, we’ve developed a method of segmenting on these habit loops, and each loop is linked to important outcomes such as NPS or database spend. We answer:

  • What are our client’s consumers’ habits?
  • If/how do these habits differ by consumer segments?
  • How well does each habit help drive business results?

These answers help our clients develop new strategies for reinforcing positive habits and disrupting ones that work against business goals. The takeaway: habits matter. Whether you’re looking in from an organizational or an individual perspective, these small patterns of behavior can play a huge role in both our successes and failures. 

Hannah is an Associate Researcher for CMB and is still working on transforming her coffee habit.

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Topics: strategy consulting, business decisions, consumer insights, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

The CMB Blog 2015: 6 of Our Favorites

Posted by Kirsten Clark

Wed, Dec 30, 2015

chaos_vs_clarity_light_bulb.jpgWe run this blog a little differently than other corporate blogs. Instead of relying on a few resident bloggers, each of our employees writes at least one post a year. This means you get a variety of perspectives, experiences, and opinions on all aspects of market research, analytics, and strategy consulting from insights professionals doing some pretty cool work.

Before we blast into 2016, we wanted to reflect on our blog this past year by taking a second look at some of our favorite posts:

  1. This year, we launched a market research advice column—Dear Dr. Jay. Each month, our VP of Advanced Analytics, Jay Weiner, answers reader-submitted questions on everything from Predictive Analytics to Connected Cows. In the post that started it all, Dr. Jay discusses one of the hottest topics in consumer insights: mining big data.
  2. Research design and techniques are two of our favorite blog topics. A member of our Advanced Analytics team, Liz White, wrote a great piece this year about conjoint analysis. In her post, she shares the 3 most common pitfalls of using this technique and ways to get around them. Read it here.
  3. In June we launched EMPACTSM— our emotional impact analysis tool. In our introductory blog post to this new tool, CMB’s Erica Carranza discuss the best way to understand how your brand our product makes consumers feel and the role those feelings play in shaping consumers’ choices. Bonus: Superman makes a cameo. Check it out.
  4. Isn’t it great when you can take a topic like loyalty and apply it to your favorite television show? Heidi Hitchen did just that in her blog post this year. She broke down the 7 types of loyalty archetypes by applying each archetype to a character from popular book series A Song of Ice and Fire and hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones. Who’s a “True Loyal”? A “Captive Loyal”? Read to find out!
  5. Our Researcher in Residence series is one of our favorite blog features. A few times a year, we sit down with a client to talk about their work and the ideas about customer insights. Earlier this year, our own Judy Melanson sat down with Avis Budget Group’s Eric Smuda to talk about the customer experience, working with suppliers, and consumer insights. Check it out.
  6. We released a Consumer Pulse report earlier this year on mobile wallet use in the U.S. To deepen our insights, we analyzed unlinked passive mobile behavioral data alongside survey-based data. In this post, our VP of Technology and Telecom, Chris Neal, and Jay Weiner, teamed up to share some of the typical challenges you may face when working with passive mobile behavioral data, and some best practices for dealing with those challenges. Read it here.

What do you want us to cover in 2016? Tell us in the comments, and we look forward to talking with you next year!

Kirsten Clark is CMB’s Marketing Coordinator. She’ll be ringing in the New Year by winning her family’s annual game of Pictionary.

Topics: strategy consulting, advanced analytics, consumer insights

Time to Brand Refresh

Posted by Lindsay Maroney

Thu, May 07, 2015

Brand buildingAfter a brutal winter, many of us in the Northeast are glad to finally begin our annual spring-cleaning, but we’ve noticed we aren’t the only ones looking for a fresh start. With confidence in the economy growing, there has been an uptick in established brands taking a fresh look at their brand strategy, an area they may have neglected during the recent tough economic times.For most, a brand refresh means creating a stronger platform for growth. To see evidence of this, one need look no further than recent TV commercials. Domino’s eliminated “Pizza” from their name, allowing for new items beyond their foundational menu offering. Meanwhile Buick promotes their redesigned cars through commercials with actors stating in disbelief, “That’s not a Buick.” Even Southwest has jumped on the bandwagon, highlighting that customers not only receive low fares and free checked bags, but some TLC when flying on one of their planes: “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.”

Some common triggers that appear to spur brands down a new path:

  1. The product and service offerings have fundamentally changed. That is not to say the brand has transformed at its most basic level, but needs to be updated to better reflect what the company is currently offering.
  1. The target audience has shifted. The brand may no longer be reaching its intended audience due to that audience aging, narrowing, broadening, or otherwise changing. Legacy brands may need to create a fresh image to become more relevant to younger audiences.
  1. The company is outgrowing its old brand. Recent company growth from geographic expansion, mergers and acquisitions, or internal structural changes may necessitate a shift in the brand or a split into sub-brands in order for it to stay true.

So with spring in the air and a little more life in the economy, now might be a good time to re-examine your core brands. A thorough market-based review may confirm your brand positioning remains strong and remind you of the core tenets that keep the brand motivating, distinctive, and believable. Or it could reveal opportunities for renewal and reinvention.

south street transp1

 

Lindsay Maroney is a consultant at South Street Strategy Group where they combine strategy and marketing science to uncover insights that help clients grow their business and strengthen their brands. 

 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, brand health and positioning

3D Diversity: High-Octane Fuel for Your Innovation Engine

Posted by Andy Cole

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

3D diversity, south street strategy, CMBDiversity in the workplace has proven massive benefits for organizations that rely on innovative thinking. Contrary to what most people believe, however, diversity in business is not just about surrounding yourself with people who look different. It’s also about equipping your team with a wide array of approaches to a common challenge.You can imagine each of us having a diversity score – based on 3 dimensions – that fluctuates depending on the collective characteristics of the team. However, the score isn’t static: each of us can increase our individual and team diversity score at will. Let’s take a look at the three common dimensions of diversity to understand how we can do this:

  1. Inherent Diversity

Inherent diversity includes race, ethnic background, gender…hardwired traits that we are born with/into and cannot be controlled. For better or worse, these traits can influence the way we perceive the world around us, and vice versa.

A McKinsey study shows the difference inherent diversity can make, finding that executive boards in the US with inherently diverse members enjoy a 95% higher return on equity than those without. Impressive! On the flipside, what is an example of the drawback to sameness? Ask Bertelsmann, whose all-male team turned down Bethenny Frankel’s pitch to launch a low-cal alcoholic beverage for women. They simply could not relate to the target market, and the unseized opportunity gave rise to Skinnygirl, the fastest growing spirit brand in history.

  1. Acquired Diversity

This dimension involves the ingrained experiences we collect throughout our lives that train us how to think and behave, such as educational background, professional expertise, and even experience abroad.

An Art History class might allow you to understand the context surrounding important works and to fully appreciate the artist’s vision. Raising children helps you value an uninterrupted night’s sleep and wholeheartedly empathize with new parents in a way that others simply cannot. Though we cannot dictate all life events, we do have a great deal of control over the diversity we acquire over time.

According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with leaders who exhibit 2-D diversity (that is, each leader possesses at least 3 inherent traits and 3 acquired traits) are 45% more likely to report growth.

While this is all wonderful, raising the level of inherent and acquired diversity at your organization (especially at the leadership level) is not something that is easily achieved. We believe a third dimension is needed; a dimension to help you raise your overall diversity score immediately with the human capital you already have: that third dimension is Inspired Diversity.

  1. Inspired Diversity

Through the development of our subject knowledge over time, mental models begin to take form and solidify in our minds. That’s natural, but these biases can also blind us to new opportunities and challenges. In order to increase our openness and mental agility, we must constantly identify opportunities to branch out from our immediate environment and learn how others might solve interesting challenges, focusing on how we might apply their insight to fit our purposes.

For example, touring a manufacturing facility can give fresh insight to the way we think about our internal processes and workflow. Interviewing an exceptional street performer could provide wisdom on courage and leadership. Perusing an exhibit at an art museum can help you reimagine your brand’s image through the artist’s lens.

When I run rapid innovation programs with clients, there is a clear trend among the super creative folks who consistently ideate at a higher level: They are renaissance people. They have many interests, are curious about many subjects, and partake in many activities that all contribute to having a wide array of perspectives. They have the unique ability to create using their past experience (acquired diversity) and also in-the-moment when they bring a specific business challenge to an outside activity (inspired diversity). They challenge themselves with new experiences and perspectives as often as possible.

When business requires innovation, pulling novel ideas out of thin air is simply not a realistic expectation; it’s about attacking a challenge from angles that have never been considered. And this level of thinking requires diverse individuals, with diverse minds, stimulated by diverse activities.

South Street Strategy Group
Andy Cole is a consultant for South Street Strategy Group where we use a multi-method approach to identify and test growth and innovation strategies for increased 
commercialization success. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, growth and innovation

"Learn" to Innovate: Why Companies that Celebrate Failure Are Only Half-Right

Posted by Andy Cole

Mon, Feb 23, 2015

Scientist Looking at VialIn an effort to counter the fear-based culture that inhibits innovation at many companies, some leaders (GoogleAmazonRoche) have advocated actually celebrating failure. Interesting! Could this new mindset really be the key to building an internal culture of fearless innovators?Clearly, we want to create a safe environment for employees to admit faults, share lessons learned, and have the courage to attempt things that have never been done, all without the fear of reputational – or even career – consequences. But do we really want employees to idolize those who don’t accomplish what they set out to do? Although provocative, a broad policy like “celebrate failure” can be misleading and create unintended problems.

What companies should be celebrating is the learning derived from failure, not failure itself. To illustrate the difference, putting the focus on failure raises post-mortem questions like “Now that we’ve failed, what worked well?”, “what did we learn from this?”, “how might we do better?” This retroactive approach is better than nothing, but it’s in no way sufficient.

When the goal shifts to maximize learning, it invites key questions at the beginning of the process, like “what might we learn from this activity?”, “what key assumptions could we test?”, and “how might we modify the idea so that we learn even more?” As you can see, this proactive approach can guide and influence activities from early stages in a direction that prevents future failure (or at least the sheer quantity and size of failures before realizing success).

Used in combination with a project debrief, this tactic can be used as part of a powerful learning strategy, ensuring that you get the very most of your innovation activities, independent of failure or success. And that’s certainly worth celebrating.

How do these issues show up in your organization? Does your company embrace failure or learning? Do you conduct structured “after action” analyses of major initiatives to facilitate learning?  We’d be pleased if you would share your ideas, stories, rants, insights, and responses in the comments below.

south street transpAndy Cole is a consultant for South Street Strategy Group where we use a multi-method approach to identify and test growth and innovation strategies for increased commercialization success. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, growth and innovation