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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:

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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

And the award goes to… Predictive Analytics!

Posted by Frances Whiting

Wed, Feb 22, 2017

Oscars-1.jpg

It doesn’t take a data scientist to predict some of what will happen at Sunday’s Oscars—beautiful people will wear expensive clothes, there will be a handful of bad jokes, a few awkward speeches, and most likely some tearful and touching ones as well. But in terms of the actual award outcomes, well, that takes a bit more analysis, and as quick search suggests, there’s no shortage of that online.   

These predictions come at an interesting time in the context of recent world events. In 2016 a few world events shook the predictive analytics world (and beyond) with outcomes so unexpected that even the most respected pollsters failed to predict them. And while many of the unanticipated polling outcomes occurred within politics (think Brexit and the U.S. presidential election), the implications for predictive analytics are also relevant to the market research industry.

As CMB’s president and co-founder, Anne Bailey Berman, recently said in Research Business Report’s Predictions issue, “ the market research industry will face many of the same questions regarding surveys and predictive analytics that are facing pollsters and data scientists in the aftermath of the election.”

Let’s bring it back to Sunday's Academy Awards. Since people love to predict the winners of awards like “Best Picture” and “Best Actress,” the awards show offers pollsters a chance to reflect on what went wrong in 2016 and to test refined predictive models in a much lower stakes context than a presidential election.

For example, popular polling site FiveThirtyEight has an ongoing tracker for Oscar winners. Typically, FiveThirtyEight bases its Oscar prediction model on the outcome of guild and press prizes that precede the Academy Awards. FiveThirtyEight watches who wins these other awards, like the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and then tries to figure out how much (how predictive) those awards matter.

First they look at historical data and pull all guild/press winners from the last 25 years, assuming these winners are representative of the Academy’s thinking. Based on the percentage of those awards that actually went to the corresponding Oscar, they assign a certain score for each award (e.g., if 17 of the last 25 winners for the Academy Award for best supporting actor also won the Globe, there’s a 68% correlation between the two).

Then they turn each award percentage into a score by squaring the original fraction and multiplying by 100. In doing this, weak scores get weaker and strong scores stay strong. FiveThirtyEight pollsters then consider other factors, like if the award is voted on by people who are also part of the Academy Award electorate or if the nominee loses. Both factors impact each prize’s “score”.

After reviewing FiveThirtyEight’s predictive modeling I've learned that even low-stakes polling for events like award shows depends on historical voting patterns and past outcomes. But is there danger in relying too much on historical data? If there’s one thing the 2016 US presidential election taught us it’s that predictive models can be susceptible to failure when they place too much weight on historic outcomes and trends. [twitter-129.pngTweet this]

The main problem with the predictive polls in 2016 was that they weren’t fully representative of the actual voting population. Unlike previous elections, there were A LOT of voters who turned out to cast their ballot on Election Day who predictive polls had missed throughout the campaign. Ultimately the polls failed to accurately predict the actions of these “anonymous voters,” perhaps in large part because they failed to account for the changing cultural, demographic, and economic social contexts impacting peoples’ decisions today. But that’s an exploration from another time. The point is, the 2016 predictive polls–based largely on historical trends–misrepresented the actual voting population.

Similar to the actual 2016 voting population, Academy members who vote on the Oscars are generally anonymous and can't be polled in advance of the event. This anonymity  forces pollsters to get creative and base their predictive models on a combination of historical guild and press prize outcomes. As market researchers and political pollsters know, even if voters are polled before the vote, there’s no guarantee they will actually act accordingly.  

This leaves us researchers with a serious conundrum: how can we get into anonymous respondents’ heads and predict their actual decisions/voting behaviors without relying too much on historical data?

One solution might be to emphasize behavioral datainformation gathered from consumers’ actual commercial behaviors–over their stated preferences and beliefs. For Oscar predictions, behavioral data might include:

  • Compiling social media mentions and search volume (via Google or Bing) for particular movies, actors, actresses, directors, etc.
  • Considering the number of social media followers nominees have and levels of online engagement
  • Tracking box office sales, movie downloads, and movie reviews

Based on the surprising outcome of the 2016 presidential election and Brexit, we learned that there was a huge cohort of unaccounted voters–voters who indeed turned out on voting day–that skewed traditional predictive models.

If pollsters hadn’t relied solely on historical data, and instead used an integrated approach that included current behavioral data, perhaps the predictions would have been more successful. There were plenty of voters on all sides who voiced their opinions on traditional and untraditional platforms, and capturing and accounting for those myriad of voices was a missed opportunity for pollsters.

Though the Oscars are a much lower stakes scenario, hopefully researchers continue to learn from 2016 and expand their modeling practices to include a combination of measures. Instead of a singular approach, researchers should consider combining historical trends and current behavioral data.

Interested in learning more about predictive analytics? Check out Dr. Jay’s recent blog post on trusting predictive models after the 2016 election.

 Frances Whiting is an Associate Researcher at CMB who is looking forward to watching the 89th Academy Awards and the opportunity to try her hand at predictive analytics!

Topics: television, predictive analytics, Election

What’s in a Name? ABC Family Grows Up

Posted by Julia Walker

Thu, Nov 12, 2015

This January, the ABC Family channel will become “Freeform.” The name change, triggered by a misalignment between ABC Family’s current brand strategy and associations the current name conjures, aims to appeal to the brand’s target audience—a more mature, young adult demographic. President Tom Ascheim calls this group "Becomers," males and females ages 14-34 who are going through an exciting life stage of firsts, ranging from "first kiss to first kid."

So, what can viewers expect from Freeform? According to the company, at least some things will stay the same. Freeform will keep a number of popular shows (e.g., Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters) and continue beloved traditions like Harry Potter Weekends and 25 Days of Christmas. But viewers can also expect new programming that takes the brand further from its family-friendly image. 

While the name change seems warranted, a rebrand can certainly flop if not carried out thoughtfully (think: when Radio Shack became “The Shack”). Here are four steps worth following to ensure long-term success in launching a rebrand:

1. Conduct thorough research about the competitive landscape and your target market. Rebranding involves a tremendous amount of preparation, time, and effort, and it risks confusing customers and losing brand equity. It’s wise to consider the repercussions before making changes that might not solve the underlying problems. Renaming infamous private security firm Blackwater to the shorter XE, for instance, hasn’t done the trick. For ABC Family’s part, research revealed many respondents unaware of the brand see it as “wholesome,” which is an indication that the channel’s name was a real sticking point to broadening its audience.

2. Communicate early and often. Being proactive about communication is essential during a rebranding campaign to avoid confusion and to dissuade potential rumors. All marketing and promotional materials should be honest and clarify any questions customers may have, such as the reasoning behind the change or what to expect from the new brand. On ABC Family's social media pages, for instance, some viewers expressed concerns about whether or not the new network would continue its popular 25 Days of Christmas campaign. The channel is leveraging these platforms as a way to answer questions and ease viewers’ fears.

3. Engage customers. Getting the consumer involved is a productive way to create buzz around the rebrand. One way ABC Family has done this is through a user-generated campaign (UGC) in which fans can create content to be posted on the channel’s website. This effectively generates hype around the launch just in time for the January television premieres. Social media can also be used to cultivate engagement with fans. ABC Family already has an impressive social media presence around hit show Pretty Little Liars, which is cable's second most tweeted-about series, but the channel will need to continue encouraging active participation throughout the rebrand.

4. Don’t let the name change stand alone. The name change itself should only be part of a rebrand, and it should be accompanied by an internal strategic shift. The branding must deliver on its promises, or the rebrand will fail to bring about any brand lift. A rebrand can’t be a "superficial facelift," but a sustainable strategic change that allows for the brand to flourish. 

Only time will tell if Freeform can create new content that attracts Becomers and evokes viewers’ "spirit and adventure," while also leveraging existing brand equity to maintain its current core audience.  

Julia Walker is an Associate Researcher who is very excited to continue watching Harry Potter marathons on the new Freeform network. 

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Topics: television, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research

Brands Get in a Frenzy Over Shark Week

Posted by Athena Rodriguez

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Summer brings many joys—BBQ’s, the beach, and one of my favorite holidays. . .I’m referring, of course, to Shark Week. For over 25 years, the Discovery Channel has loaded as much shark-related content as possible into a 7-day period, including TV programming, online content, and social media frenzies by both the network and other “official” (and non-official) partners.While some of these partnerships are no-brainers (e.g., Oceana, National Aquarium, and Sea Save Foundation), other less obvious partners such as Dunkin Donuts, Cold Stone Creamery, and Southwest Airlines, must get creative with their marketing to connect their brands to “the most wonderful week of the year.” Southwest, for example, offered flyers the chance to watch new content via a special Shark Week channel and to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to swim with sharks. Both Cold Stone Creamery and Dunkin Donuts debuted special treats (“Shark Week Frenzy”—blue ice cream with gummy sharks—and a lifesaver donut, respectively).

brand engagement, shark week, television

But it didn’t stop there—brands on social media found ways to tie in products to Shark Week in every way possible. Just take a look at these posts from Claire’s, Salesforce, and Red Bull.

shark week, brand engagement, television

So, what’s in it for these brands? Why go out of their way to connect themselves to something like Shark Week, which is seemingly unrelated to their services and products? It’s as simple as the concept of brand associations. Since brand associations work to form deeper bonds with customers, brands are often on the lookout for opportunities that will boost their standing with customers. Shark Week attracts millions of viewers each night, and since it’s one of the few true television events that remains, it presents the perfect opportunity for brands to engage with customers in a way they don’t often get to do. Furthermore, it demonstrates that these brands are in tune with what their customers like and what’s happening in the pop culture world. And, judging by the amount of interactions brands received from consumers, I’d say it worked.

If you missed the fun of Shark Week last month (the horror!) or just want more, don’t worry—Shweekend is just around the corner (August 29th), and I’ll be anticipating what brands can come up with this time. . .

Athena Rodriguez is a Project Consultant at CMB, and she is a certified fin fanatic. 

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Topics: advertising, marketing strategy, social media, television, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research

The 7 Types of Loyalty You'll Find in the 7 Kingdoms

Posted by Heidi Hitchen

Mon, Jun 01, 2015

game of thrones logoWarning: This post contains spoilers for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” This is the message of popular book series A Song of Ice and Fire and hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones. In the fictional world of Westeros, you learn pretty quickly that honor, duty, and loyalty will get you nowhere.As market researchers, we can learn a lot about loyalty from Westeros. There are more kinds of loyalty than there are self-proclaimed kings of the 7 kingdoms—and just like those kings (sorry, Tommen), these types of loyalty aren’t all created equal. Luckily, we have a way of categorizing (and then quantifying the value) of different types of loyalty—a concept I’ll illustrate using some of our favorite Westerosi characters.

In the world of loyalty measurement, everyone starts in the first archetype, which is just plain “Loyal.” Assuming that everyone is loyal in some way is certainly a dangerous assumption in Westeros, but we’ll take our chances and put everyone who isn’t a Wildling into that category to start.

True Loyal: You can argue that as the sworn sword of Renly Baratheon (deceased) and Catelyn Stark (also deceased), Brienne of Tarth has not been terribly successful. But, you can’t deny that she’s gone out of her way to fulfill her vow of reuniting the Stark girls. Come the Hound or high-water, she’s devoted. This is the type of customer (or sworn sword) we’d all like to have in our corner.

At-Risk Loyal: Varys may say he’s true to the 7 Kingdoms, but the former Master of Secrets’ loyalty extends only so far. . .which Tywin Lannister (RIP!) learned a little too late. In Westeros, and in the marketplace, this type of loyalty is the one you’ll have to work to hold on to.

Deal Loyal: Your customer may enjoy your product as much as Bronn enjoyed being with Tyrion, but don’t forget that sell swords and Deal Loyal customers are primarily motivated by bags of gold—or discounts.

Uninvolved: This could have described our friends in Dorne until very recently (thanks, Cersei), but perhaps the most accurate example of the Uninvolved are the average citizens of Westeros. These people don’t hold much allegiance for any king—they just want to make it through another winter with their heads attached. It’s the same (well, not exactly the same) for your uninvolved customer. They use your brand but are pretty indifferent overall.

Distribution Loyal: Petyr Baelish’s allegiance is questionable at best. Baelish (who is better known as Littlefinger) spreads his loyalty across the kingdom, manipulating people and resources to slowly claw his way into power. He may be loyal to House Tully (and the Starks by extension), but we know he’s also made major plays for the Lannisters. It’s all about the end game for Littlefinger, which is why he’ll use people as a means to an end and then switch when something better comes along.

Captive Loyal: Poor, poor Sansa. Can’t a girl catch a break? She’s had three fiancés and two husbands, and she's still held prisoner by her claim to the North. While she’s recently learned how to use her circumstances to her advantage, I’ll go out on a limb and say she’s probably on the lookout for a better option—the North remembers. Like Sansa, Captive Loyals aren’t satisfied with your product, but they’re likely to continue using it for the time being.

Where does your loyalty lie?

Heidi Hitchen is a true loyalist to House Stark. She’ll continue to root for the King in the North until the White Walkers come for her. Winter is coming!

Watch our recent webinar to learn about our results-focused emotional measurement approach we call EMPACT℠: Emotional Impact Analysis. Put away the brain scans and learn how we use emotion to inform a range of business challenges, including marketing, customer experience, customer loyalty, and product development.

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Topics: television, customer experience and loyalty, digital media and entertainment research