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Selling a Driverless Future: Messaging Strategies for the Autonomous Vehicle Industry

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, May 07, 2019

Emotions play a key role in the commercial success or failure of emerging disruptive technologies. Most recently, we looked under the hood of the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry to understand the specific emotions that drive or deter widespread adoption.

On the wheels of Tesla’s recent announcement to operate a fleet of one million self-driving taxis by the end of 2020, I’ll provide more direction for how tech companies and automakers can most effectively convince various consumer segments to embrace this future.

Message Testing: Different Strokes for Different Folks

As part of a recent self-funded research study exploring the link between emotions and the self-driving car industry (download the full report here), I channeled my inner Don Draper and drafted faux ad concepts selling the promise of a driverless future.

With each concept touting a different benefit of autonomous vehicles (safety, convenience, etc.), respondents were asked to select which would most likely get them to consider a self-driving car.

message testing AV

I’m still awaiting my Ogilvy Award--but until then, let’s dig into the results of this exercise:

  • Safety is unequivocally the most persuasive message—indicating a creative campaign highlighting the public health and safety benefits of widely deployed AVs may help alleviate some consumer anxiety.
    • People who gravitate toward the potential safety benefits tend to skew 50+ years of age and are more likely than other segments to reject the idea altogether. They also tend to feel more positive towards driving their own car (e.g., feeling energized, proud, and in control).
  • Overall, Productivity/Efficiency isn’t a very compelling message, but is more likely to appeal to Gen Z and Millennials who are often less bound to the idea of owning their own car compared to older generations.
    • Consumers who are drawn to these features are more likely to feel “Efficient,” “Productive,"  and “Smart” when imagining themselves in AVs (even before they saw the messages). This is noteworthy because these specific emotions are consistently found to be key drivers to adoption in most of our emerging tech studies.
We then layered on a lift analysis that asked respondents to again consider likelihood to use an AV based on the ad message they had just selected as most compelling. Although the results from this exercise were underwhelming, it did help move some “Ambivalent” Millennials into the full-on “Accepter” category by touting the Productivity and Efficiency benefits.

 lift analysisAs this exercise indicates—and is often the case with new tech trying to “cross the chasm”—marketing to the most swayable early adopters vs. general population can be an effective tactic for gaining traction. Messaging to early adopters will be more nuanced, but when done right, can encourage adopters to spread positive word of mouth to more mainstream late adopters.

The Road Ahead: Evolution, Not Revolution

The Don Drapers of the world can only do so much convincing until more people actually experience the technology for themselves.

Fortunately, consumers are getting a taste of increased levels of ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems) technology as features like auto braking and lane correction become more common in newer cars.

Further, the less common but also rapidly growing “Level 3” vehicles (e.g., Tesla’s “autopilot” mode) that can go on full autopilot—under certain conditions—can also help consumers overcome the anxiety they have about fully letting go.

At the moment, very few consumers said they’d get into anything other than an autonomous vehicle they could—if need be—take over (i.e., “Level 3”). This sentiment could be problematic for the future of companies like Uber, Lyft, and now Tesla, who aren’t about to let passengers take control when they feel like it.

However, people who own Level 2 or 3 vehicles have much more nuanced attitudes towards this scenario—more commonly anticipating that in the future, they expect their primary car to be a Level 4 or fully autonomous at Level 5. And those who already own Level 2 or Level 3 ADAS vehicles have much stronger positive emotions and fewer intense negative emotions when reacting to being in a fully autonomous car.

Driving Full Circle

This leads me back to my own emotional journey with vehicular automation. Recall a run-in with with a faulty cruise control back in the ‘90s left me extremely wary of technical automation (read here if you missed that story).

In 2018, after decades of avoiding this kind of automation, I got my first real taste of Level 2 assisted driving technology while on a road trip with my son to Washington, D.C. We were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic when my phone’s GPS cut out. I took my eyes off the road to futz with the phone when suddenly the car (not me) slammed on the brakes. Turns out I was about to rear-end the car in front of us.

I was shocked, embarrassed, humbled, and relieved. Had it not been for the auto braking, this story would have ended differently (we were only going 30 mph, but you get the idea).

The more I see drivers facedown in their phones at the wheel, the more I wonder if it’s time for us mere mortals to start letting AI take a little more control over our transportation systems. I still have deep anxiety over the prospect of riding in a fully self-driving car, but my emotions towards this possibility are complex and evolving.

With some focused determination, those invested in these efforts can push me—and likely many others—along towards greater openness to a driverless future.

Interested in more?

If you’re interested in learning more about this research, CMB's methodology, or want a live recall of my various run-ins with faulty cruise control, check out this webinar.

Watch Now

Topics: technology research, EMPACT, Artificial Intelligence

The Road Ahead: Emotions and The Future of Self-Driving Cars

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Apr 16, 2019

We recently published self-funded research exploring the impact of consumer emotions on the emerging autonomous vehicle (AV) industry—the latest in our ongoing analysis of the relationship between emotion and disruptive technology.

As detailed in a previous post, this study revealed many consumers are skeptical of self-driving cars. Further, even the prospect of using this technology generates a negative emotional response.

We’ve measured the emotional activation of hundreds of brands in dozens of industries (learn more about our EMPACT approach here) and have found, by far, the autonomous vehicle category generates the most intense and widespread overall negative emotions—indicating a critical obstacle this industry must overcome.

The first two steps in charting a path forward are:

  1. Understand which specific negative emotions are the most important to deactivate
  2. Understand which specific positive emotions are most critical to activate

Better understanding these emotions can help guide the industry’s marketing efforts and actual customer experiences with this technology.

Overcoming the Right Negative Emotions

Unlike most industries we analyze, it’s more critical for the AV industry to deactivate negative emotions than it is to activate specific positive emotions, although doing both are obviously important.

Through our emotional gap analysis, we identified “Anxiety,” “Paranoia,” “Hesitancy,” and feeling “Overwhelmed” as the negative emotions where AVs fare worst when compared to how people feel about driving a car themselves:

Negative Emotions Activated by AV vs Car

Anxiety is no surprise here: people fear the prospect of truly letting AI take over and drive the vehicle with no human intervention.

People are also concerned self-driving car systems could be hacked, which explains the significant feeling of paranoia—an emotion common in a lot of emerging technology we study. Anything “smart” (i.e., connected to the internet) could be hacked, and there are always people who are more concerned about this than others.

Feeling “Hesitant” or “Unsure” also comes up a lot in new and disruptive technology categories. With anything truly new and different, people are unsure of whether it’s ready for primetime, or if they should try it.

The emotions around feeling “Hectic” or “Overwhelmed” are more unique to the AV category. It’s so new and potentially transformative that many people simply can’t process the idea of trusting the technology to get them from point A to point B. It’s overwhelming to really think on the complexity of AV systems, not to mention the myriad road scenarios an AI algorithm will need to be trained well enough to react to.

Positive Emotions Activated by Driving Your Own Car

Positive emotions are also important to driving mainstream adoption of a disruptive technology. This is a unique challenge for the AV industry because people already have many positive emotions activated when driving their own car.  

Not surprisingly, the biggest positive emotional gap between driving your own car and the prospect of getting in an autonomous vehicle is feeling in control.

Positive Emotions Activated by AV vs CarThe combination of anxiety, paranoia, and losing that feeling of control is a major emotional obstacle to for the autonomous vehicle industry’s path to widespread consumer acceptance. We see this in many AI-driven technology categories where life is increasingly automated and data-driven.

This fear of technology running our lives—and the possibility that it might not always do so benevolently—runs deep and has been prominent in popular culture long before the first self-driven test vehicle ever hit the road.

Open the Pod Bay Doors Hal

Source: GIPHY

There’s also a significant gap between feeling “Secure” and “Protected." As the chart above indicates, people feel a lot more secure and protected when driving their own car, but not so much about self-driving cars. The feeling of insecurity is influencing the high levels of anxiety we see from AVs.

The gap in feeling “Efficient/Productive” is also problematic for the AV industry. In most new technology adoption projects where we run this analysis, that emotion emerges as one of the key determinants of more mainstream consumer adoption. People expect disruptive technologies to make them feel more efficient and productive, but if they don’t truly get that feeling when using the technology, they are unlikely to change their existing habits.

Emotions That Predict Adoption

In addition to a straight gap analysis, we also ran a model to isolate which specific emotions (negative and positive) best predict (on a derived basis) peoples’ willingness to use autonomous vehicles in the future.

By far the biggest predictors, not surprisingly, are reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of relaxation.

emotional predictors

Another emotion that popped in our predictive modelling, which wasn’t evident from the initial data review, was activating emotions around pride. In other words, people who would feel “proud” using an autonomous vehicle are much more likely to actually use one, whereas people who might feel ashamed or embarrassed if their friends or family saw them inside an autonomous vehicle are highly unlikely to hop on board.

This “social identity” element is something we see in many new tech adoption studies through our proprietary consumer-centric approach to measuring the impact of identity on decision-making. Does someone identify as being one of those people who uses an autonomous vehicle, or is that for another tribe altogether? Turns out this tribal identity matters quite a bit for new technologies attempting to cross the chasm.

Feeling “Secure” and “Efficient” also help predict likelihood to adopt the technology, but as we saw earlier, not many people feel these emotions when they think about using an autonomous vehicle.

The Road Ahead*

In my next article, I will share some thoughts and findings from this study on potential paths forward for the industry to overcome these obstacles. You’ll get to see the results when I attempt to play an Ad Man and convince people to reconsider the category. Although it was a humbling experiment, it did reveal additional insights that can help actual creative teams with briefs that include different value propositions linked to specific emotions the industry needs to address.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about this research or our EMPACT approach, check out this recorded (quick) webinar:

Watch Now

*Sorry again! The puns are just too good to pass up in this blog series.

Topics: technology research, EMPACT, emotional measurement, Artificial Intelligence

AI You Can Drive My Car: Anxiety and Autonomous Vehicles at CES

Posted by Megan McManaman

Wed, Jan 16, 2019

autonomous cars

In December, The New York Times reported that disgruntled Arizonans were lobbing rocks at Waymo’s autonomous (but not unoccupied) vans. Experts, and the rock-throwers themselves, blamed the attacks on a combination of economic anxiety and safety fears (a woman was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber in Tempe last March). While it’s unlikely any modern-day Luddites attended last week’s CES in Vegas, companies like Intel and Baidu, and even Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao were hard at work addressing consumer fears.

With Congress expected to consider legislation regulating autonomous vehicles—the intense conversation and debate over security and safety will remain front and center. Counting out the projectile-hurling robot-haters (for now), what’s it going to take for average consumers to purchase, ride in, and share the road with these vehicles? That’s the billion(s) dollar question we set out to answer in our self-funded Consumer Pulse.

We surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers (thanks to Dynata for providing sample!), conducted ethnographies, and in-depth interviews—including ride-alongs—to identify the segments of the adult U.S. population that have different reactions to and perceptions of a range of assisted and autonomous driving scenarios. We went beyond the typical examination of functional benefits to understand the emotions (both positive and negative) driving and deterring greater acceptance and adoption.

Chris Neal, CMB’s VP of Tech and Telecom, will share the results at the Quirks Event on March 6 at 2:15 pm in Brooklyn.

Want an advance copy of the report this spring?

Click here

Megan McManaman is CMB's Marketing Director, she welcomes our new robot chauffers.

Topics: technology research, Consumer Pulse, Artificial Intelligence

Live Sports: Fans' Last Connection to Cable is Fraying

Posted by McKenzie Mann

Wed, Jul 18, 2018

friends watching tv

Earlier this year, I was trying to watch my beloved Patriots play in the AFC East Divisional Championship game while standing in the airport security line. After numerous failed attempts at downloading streaming apps that promised an uninterrupted game, I resorted to real-time game updates in the form of a line with how many yards the ball went each down and a description of the play.

I was frustrated, to say the least—a missed opportunity as we know fostering the right positive emotions is key to building and maintaining loyal and engaged customers.

When I finally made it through security, I went straight to a restaurant where Tom Brady was on every screen. This time, cable television saved the day.

Live sports is one of the last threads tethering people to traditional cable packages. For most other content, consumers have a plethora of services to choose from—traditional streaming like Netflix, premium network streaming like HBO Now, and even broadcast network streaming like CBS All Access. And with Netflix recently becoming the number one choice for television viewing, it’s no surprise an estimated 22.2 million people cut the cord in 2017—a whopping 33% increase from 2016. 

As more consumers leave the traditional model for “à la carte” style, nontraditional services like Yahoo, Facebook, and ESPN are challenging cable providers’ last bastion of sports. While there have been hiccups in some of these services, like poor streaming quality and cutting out of games altogether, the technology is improving and eventually will offer sports fans a legitimate alternative to watch games on.  

To combat this rising competition, CBS and the NFL recently extended their agreement to stream all games on CBS All Access through the 2022 season—safeguarding their rights to the coveted (and profitable) football games, at least for now. 

New technology is disrupting the industry and cable providers will need to adapt and embrace innovation to stay competitive. This is already happening for some. Charter Communications’ Spectrum now offers à la carte channels instead of the traditional comprehensive packages, Comcast has expanded their on-demand library (including full seasons), and DirecTV now offers DirecTV Now, a streaming service separate from their satellite plan. Some major providers are even exploring new verticals to add to their portfolios, as is the case with Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile.

There’s tremendous opportunity for traditional providers as the competition in the digital streaming market heats up. But companies must carefully consider these opportunities—with so many options (and more to come) available to consumers, solutions must impress off the bat, or lose fans to a competitor for good.

We’ve seen this play out in other emerging tech categories, like virtual assistants. As big players like Apple, Google, and Amazon pour millions into making their virtual assistant tech smarter, they need to embrace a new kind of customer-centricity—one that’s built on an understanding of the functional, emotional, and social identity benefits that drive adoption, engagement, and loyalty. To learn more, watch our quick 20-minute webinar and learn how brands can win the virtual assistant war—lessons for any brand experiencing disruption in their category:

Watch Now

McKenzie Mann is a Project Manager II at CMB. She spends most of her spare time trying to convince her friends that it’s funny to replace the word “man” with “mann.” It's a work in progress, but mann will it be great when it catches on.

Topics: technology research, television, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation, emotion

[New Webinar] Winning the Virtual Assistant War

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Jul 10, 2018

Have you ever asked Siri for the weather? Or maybe you've had Alexa look up a dinner recipe. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and others have become household names as more people adopt virtual assistant technology. But most people are still only using their virtual assistants for basic search functions.

In this latest 20-minute webinar, I explore:

  • The barriers keeping people from using this tech
  • How emotional and identity benefits can drive mainstream consumer adoption and deeper engagement
  • What brands should do to drive adoption and win the VA war

Watch Now

While this webinar looks at the virtual assistant category, there are valuable learnings for anyone  experiencing disruption within their industry.

If you have any questions about the research, please reach out to to me directly at cneal@cmbinfo.com.

Chris Neal is CMB's VP of Tech and Telecom and has over 20 years of experience in the high tech, telecom, and media space.

Topics: technology research, webinar, Artificial Intelligence