ARE YOUR CONSUMER INSIGHTS STALE?

At Beacon Marketing, we answer strategic questions like:

  • “Sales are great; what are we doing right?”
  • “How should we best position ourselves in the marketplace?”
  • “What are the best areas of growth for us?”
  • “How could we become more well-known?”

mac-1784459_960_720How we answer these questions depends on the particular question being asked. Sometimes it’s best to have in-depth (qualitative) conversations with consumers or employees about the nuances of the brand. But many times, quantitative research is the most effective way to get the answer.

Many love quantitative research. Done online, it can be quick, relatively inexpensive, and can answer many strategic questions. But not all online research is alike. Beacon Marketing offers an affordable method of gaining valuable quantitative consumer insights without the expense of a full-blown custom survey.

Would you like to have the confidence of a thousand consumer responses for your top strategic issues? Perhaps your senior management would approve that new product idea — if you had just a little bit of data to back up your big idea?

The research team for Beacon Marketing has developed an omnibus study for clients to participate in. This is an on-going, proprietary consumer research vehicle, and we would be happy to include you in this process. If you would like to ask a few timely questions to a group of a thousand consumer respondents as part of this research, give us a call! For just over one thousand dollars, you can get a customized question about your critical issues — and that includes upfront consultation on question development AND back-end graphic detail for optimal reporting to your constituents!

The River or the Pond? What is River Sampling?

Now, don’t confuse this information with your typical, run-of-the-mill panel data! At Beacon Marketing, we pride ourselves on being anything but ordinary. This research methodology uses an ever-refreshing group of respondents (often called “river sampling”), which is a non-panel sample source, where consumers on the internet are recruited to participate in online research, in real time.

Panel research has been around for quite some time; large research companies have ongoing questionnaires they field to ask about a myriad of topics:

  • “Which of the following did you buy at the grocery store?”
  • “Do you like package A or package B better?”
  • “What is your child’s favorite snack?”

In research circles, there’s been much discussion about “river sampling” versus panel sampling. One of the issues with traditional panel data is that the panel gets… well… stale. The respondents are not repeatedly screened and represent only a small slice of the Internet universe. In today’s world of immediate and near-universal consumer access, there is no reason for stale panel data. Methodologies like “river sampling” work from the premise that the research results will be fresher, (richer, better, more accurate) if you pull fish (respondents) from the river as they swim by rather than if you go repeatedly to the same (potentially stagnant) pond that everyone else goes to (panel data).

Simply stated, methodologies like “river sampling” can cast a wider net across the World Wide Web, collecting consumer input and providing the following benefits:

  • Stronger, fresher recruiting
  • More frequent screening
  • Larger populations (covering 92% of online users)
  • Higher response rates (that can save you money!)

If you are looking to gain new insights and quantitative confirmation on your brightest ideas, give us a call. And remember, there’s no need for stale insights anymore!

TURNING CONSUMER DREAMS INTO FINANCIAL REALITY

vintage-259344__340Is this the year of innovation for you? Or is your product development process stuck in mediocrity?

January is always a time for resolutions, fresh starts, good intentions and big plans, and this year perhaps more than other years, companies are looking expectantly towards a promising future (eager to leave 2009 in the dust).

Are you ready for 2010? Are you up to the challenge of this year? Perhaps you worried your way through 2008, optimized operations, cut your staff and limped your way through 2009. But, as the saying goes, “What got you here won’t get you there.” You need to be prepared with an action plan in place to meet the growth demands and expectations that everyone has—from the stockholders to senior management (and even you!). Cost-cutting measures can save a lot, but they are not the engine of growth.

Innovation is.

Typically, innovation comes from your current assets & expertise, whether that be operational excellence, technological savvy or marketplace relationships. But to grow your business significantly, you need two things:

  • Consumer-based perspectives
  • Fresh Thinking

Consumer-Based Perspectives 

While anyone with a bit of creativity can develop a short-term promotion or slap a new flavor on an existing product to respond to a hot trend, what you really want is sustainable growth that you can bank on. That growth can come from new product development, new market development or new business development. Regardless of where it comes from, I guarantee that the most sustainable growth still answers a consumer need, provides something compelling for consumers, and resonates with them.

But you can’t just go ask them what they want…because most times, they don’t know themselves. It takes a certain skill to hear what they are not saying, to read between the lines, to “tease” out a wish list from consumers that they didn’t even know they had.

That’s where Beacon Marketing’s expertise comes in. We’ll ask the “what if’s?”, the “why nots?” and the “Whaddya think?” type questions that may sound like “chit-chat” to the untrained ear but will bubble up into multi-million dollar business opportunities for you.

Fresh thinking

I hear this over and over again; this is what is desperately needed. Most companies have internal product development teams who approach business development with a certain bias. They are so deeply into the business that sometimes they cannot see opportunities that are right before them. By adding an outside perspective and embracing some challenges to the standard “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality, huge breakthroughs can happen!

But if you are looking for real growth—I’m talking about real innovation that adds to your overall business—then ground that innovation in consumer thinking and invite a fresh perspective.

Our proprietary process helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of you, your competitors and the category, as well as the likes, dislikes and other consumer perspectives that can turn consumer dreams into profitable realities for you.

We can’t wait to help you; give us a call!

THE ROLE OF CONSUMERS & TECHNOLOGY IN INNOVATION

bulb-40701_960_720I was speaking to a team of kid marketers for one of the biggest brands in America about the process of innovation–in particular, the communication that takes place between those in engineering (scientists, product engineers, product designers, etc.) and marketers during the process of the development of new innovations.

The toy industry is very trend driven, with new toys coming out at least every six months (if not more). Kids always want to know “what’s hot” and “what’s new” in toys. Manufacturers want to deliver on that desire for freshness and newness because it’s good for business. However, this puts a strain on those who must constantly innovate. Some have product design specialists, and some have technology experts. Some have trend watch teams. Each toy manufacturer finds unique ways to bring innovation to the marketplace.

In my work, I’ve had lots of opportunities to work with product designers, engineers and scientists in many different fields. The process of innovation is a combination of looking at consumer wants & consumer desires and figuring out how to meet those desires, while at the same time being alert to new technologies that might deliver new benefits to the consumer. Especially at Texaco, and Scotts Miracle Gro, I had regular contact with chemists and scientists developing state-of-the-art technologies to bring innovation to the automotive industry and to America’s gardens. Scientists were always a vital part of our team.

Sometimes the communication was from the consumer back to the scientists through the marketers. We would research what kinds of problems consumers had, as well as what kind of desires they had– what was on their wish list. We would take this information back to the scientists to say, “Do you have a technology that could solve that problem?” Other times, we would work with the scientists, discussing new technologies, and then, based on our understanding of consumers, determine the best applications for those new technologies. Once we had a few ideas, we would take that back to the consumer for testing and ultimately, new product launch.

Notice that in each case, the consumer must be a part of the conversation. If you work with scientists on emerging technologies and how to leverage those emerging technologies, congratulations! It’s fun work, isn’t it? Just make sure you don’t forget the consumer. No matter what cool technologies you come up with, it must be relevant to a consumer. Consumer must see what’s in it for them. So don’t forget to include the consumer in the conversation!

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD INFORMATION

Marvel_Studios_logo.svg

Earlier this week, I was sharing research results at Marvel’s headquarters in New York City. This was the day after the announcement of Disney’s intent to purchase Marvel for $4 billion, so the whole office was abuzz about that….exciting news that should do good things for both parties involved … but I digress. That is not the purpose of this post.

 

The purpose of this post is to talk about how we receive information, even supposedly “bad” information. It is a gift… just like feedback (or criticism) is a gift. It’s all in how you look at it.

 

In the discussion of the research, there were some results that were not in line with Marvel’s current thinking, information presented that challenged their current view of their target audience and their beliefs. I was concerned that this information might not be received very well. The question becomes, “How do we react to information that challenges our current thinking?” There can be a tendency to dismiss it out of hand as irrelevant or flawed in some way. That is only human nature…

 

Or we can choose to find the nugget of learning in it. While reviewing the learning with Marvel’s Research Manager, we talked about the insights to be gained and the guidance the information provided. It turned out to be a very fruitful conversation and sparked some great discussion.

 

Are you skeptical about some information that has crossed your desk? Certainly check the credibility of the source, but make sure that you give the information its due. What is the information telling you that might be helpful in your future planning? Be open-minded. It may just be the catalyst to your greatest out-of-the-box thinking yet!

MOMS, THE GREAT RECESSION, AND THE GREAT DIVIDE

financial-crisis-544944__340We are releasing results of our new study that discusses the economic impact on today’s suburban mom. This qualitative research explored how the changes in the economy have impacted a wide spectrum of life activities, including shopping behaviors, vacation planning, daily family activities and parenting. In addition, the study reports on the underlying emotional shifts occurring for both moms and kids. The study focused on moms of children aged five through 12 years old in households with normal incomes ranging from $60,000 to $125,000 annually.

 

Key Findings

 

While everyone has been impacted in some way by this economy, there seems to be two camps that are emerging: the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ The “haves” have a stable income. These are the people with salaried jobs who received a regular paycheck. The economic impact has been more of an inconvenience, with minor setbacks, such as a small number of forced furlough days or a salary freeze or a small reduction in salary. 

 

The “Have-Nots” do not. These are the people that have been slammed by the economy. These people are corporate workers who have been laid off, or small business owners who were doing fine and have seen their revenues cut in half (or more), commission-only salespeople who were thriving before and are now barely able to get by.

 

Changing Dynamics

 

The impact of all this economic change on family dynamics has been HUGE. Whether you are a “Have” or a “Have-Not,” all moms shopping behaviors and associated family purchases have changed. The prominence of the economic situation has given all moms a heightened awareness of what they purchase, and everyone is looking for ways to preserve cash, with the increased use of coupons, waiting for the inevitable sales, or forgoing “luxury” activities such as summer vacations and piano lessons for the kids. Dinners out have been cut by 75%.

 

The upside for everyone is that, out of necessity and then, true desire, we are seeing a yearning for and appreciation of “simple.” Going for a walk or playing by the pool has replaced going out to dinner or going to a movie as the family activity. 

 

Underlying Emotions

 

Moms recognize that their world (and their kids’ worlds) have been permanently changed, and the emotional baggage associated with these changes is tremendous. This economy has created a strange emotional cocktail of guilt and fear, anger and self-loathing mixed with gratitude for what they have, a simpler appreciation for their families, and an acknowledgment that a return to simple is actually good for them and their families. This is hard for many to process, especially for the “Have-Nots.”

 

Impact on Kids

 

Although younger and more sensitive kids are being shielded from the effects of this economy, most are not. Moms are either using the current environment as an opportunity to teach their kids about good financial practices, or they are, of necessity, explaining their revised situation with their kids.

 

Why Did We Do This?

 

There have been so many quantitative studies on changing behaviors, but, in order to really serve our kid- and parent-oriented client base, we felt we really wanted to dig deeper, to go beyond the numbers of women using coupons and get to the deeper issues and uncover the rich data for how and why it’s impacting family dynamics.

 

If you’d like to see a more thorough report on Moms and The Great Recession, please contact Rahna@Beacon-Marketing.com.

WHO CAN ASSUAGE MOM’S GUILT?

One of my business partners and I are in the midst of a very interesting research project to find out what moms are thinking and feeling today about a whole host of issues. As soon as the research is finalized, I will be sharing the results with you in detail. However, one of the interesting insights that we are seeing is the emotional impact this is having on higher-income indulgent mothers.

 

Certainly, this economy is producing every type of emotion imaginable—fear, sadness, panic, anger, regret, relief—but among certain types of moms, glaring guilt is what we see. Once you recognize it and name it, it makes logical sense, but it isn’t something that you might have named before.

 

There are lots of moms whose household finances have shifted dramatically, whose financial worlds have been completely rocked. We see small business owners who have prospered outrageously in previous years, whose cash flow has simply dried up. We see six-figure salaried individuals take over a year to find new work once they have been laid off.

 

Doubly Guilty

 

And the moms, who never had to worry about the bills getting paid, said “yes” to their children way more often than they ever said “no” (if at all). Now, the harsh reality of a new financial world order requires that they learn the art of the word “No.” They feel guilty that they cannot give their child everything (of course, this is also creating a mindset shift for the kids as well!).

 

But even as they think about it, they realize that they never said, “No.” They may even admit, grudgingly, that this new order is actually better in the long run for the child, as it teaches them balance and not always “getting their way.”

 

This realization leads to even more guilt as they realize (even if only in their own minds) that they have not exercised the best parenting possible in the past. Guilt for the past parenting and guilt for the present situation is sobering for these moms.

 

So the question becomes, what can you do about it? As a marketer, it is up to you to find a way to come to the rescue. Do you have a product that reinforces good parenting at the same time as it provides a little indulgence to the child?

 

An interesting question. As I said, when we have a more thorough report, we will share it with you. In the meantime, if you’d like to dig more deeply into your own consumer’s emotional mindset, let us know. We’d love to help.

ARE YOU MISSING BIG BUSINESS-BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES?

13873238_1113270465375066_4272084258771019969_nThe summer blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen releases in movie theatres nationwide this week. 

 

Two weeks ago, I met with the brand teams for Transformers® and G.I. Joe® to present social media best practices and to talk about what they should/could be doing in the digital space.

 

Just imagine if you were the Brand Manager for the $5 Billion Transformers® brand….The toy brand has licensing agreements across every imaginable product category, from M&Ms to designer flash drives. An avid fan base, built from a legacy of Saturday morning Transformers® TV shows and corresponding toy offerings throughout the years, carries the torch and has waited eagerly for the release of another blockbuster theatrical production.

 

Easiest job in the world, right? Huge top of mind awareness and media hype that every marketer dreams of….but what about next year?

 

The big issue for brand managers who work on movie-licensed brands is always, “How do I sustain momentum in a non-movie year?” The trick for smart marketers is to really capitalize on the business opportunities NOW in order to sustain consumer interest later….As the old adage advises, “Make hay while the sun shines.”

 

For Transformers®, the opportunity is to think of the toy purchases that will come from the release of this movie as the beginning of a long-lasting relationship. Social media (done correctly) builds that relationship with consumers in order to engage in dialogue, sharing and mutual respect. I have advised the brand team to think about what habits they are nurturing in their consumers. Is there a logical (digital) place for fans, parents and kids to congregate online to discuss, learn more about, and interact with all things Transformers®? I asked them to think about what they could set up now that will position them for success in the non-movie years.

 

One way to think of it is as a spider’s web. Construct something that will attract the flies and make sure that it’s so sticky that they’ll never leave!

 

There are only three ways to increase your sales:

 

  1. Find new customers
  2. Get current customers to buy more
  3. Get current customers to buy more often

 

#2 and #3 are easier to achieve than #1, so if you have some strategies for achieving #1, then you need to turn your attentions to #2 and #3. Social media provides a perfect platform for easy success in this arena.

 

Now, in your business, you may not be planning the release of a major motion picture as a part of your marketing efforts, but the principles remain the same. Where are the big opportunities that are being created in your business? Did you just get unexpectedly written up in the paper? Did you get a new client who made a one-time purchase? Did you make a networking connection that you’d like to cultivate? Are you maximizing those opportunities? If you have someone who is buying from you once, how can you turn that into a repeat purchase?

 

How can you use social media to build long-lasting (and highly profitable) engagements with your customers? Social media is a low-cost, high-engagement, long-term strategy that can lead to on-going sales generation.

 

If you’d like help with developing a strategy for your situation, give us a call. We’d love to help you maximize whatever opportunities are coming your way!

IT’S NOT JUST AN ECONOMIC “BLIP”

Everyone in the media has a different take on the economy, how people are responding to it, and what its lasting impact will be. Certainly, “The Great Recession” is distressing millions who have lost their jobs and small and large businesses alike who are impacted by the new frugality of American consumers.

 

At Beacon Marketing, we have conducted research to see what the short—and potential long-term— implications of this economic climate will be. People are sacrificing dinners out, planning “staycations” and reaffirming their core values as they reconnect to families in non-monetary ways. Over the past year, our country has gone through an amazing shift in thinking, from vaguely being aware that the AIG issues would somehow affect them, to being horrified to open their 401K statements and find almost half of their savings gone, to experiencing the panic of the neighbors, the sister-in-law, the husband out of a job, to then adjusting to the necessary budgetary changes and finding the good in the materialistic cleansing taking place in this country.

 

Recently, in a discussion on MSNBC’s program Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, Donny Deustch predicted that people would go back to their spending ways once we came out of this current turmoil. That’s not what our research indicates! In the same way that The Great Depression forever changed our grandparents into frugal savers who reused bits of tinfoil in the kitchen, our country will never be the same. Our preconceived notions that the stock market would always be a good place to invest, and that real estate always increased in value are forever gone. The research that we have done indicates that a much more permanent shift has occurred.

 

How is this impacting your industry? Your company? Your product line? If you are to understand how to market to this new mindset, you need to understand it. Find out how by calling Beacon Marketing today. We’d love to help you understand your consumer better so that you can refine your marketing efforts and navigate safely through these economic waters. Just as with our other high-profile clients, trust us to satisfy your research needs.

I KNOW HOW COMPANIES CAN THRIVE IN THIS ECONOMY

This week is the International Toy Fair in New York City, and this year, the news media is reporting not only about the new toys but also about how LEGO is one of the companies that is thriving in this economy. I know why.

 

Why do I know this? 

 

For several reasons:

 

First, I know because I just did some research for them that explored exactly what was going right for the company—in their marketing efforts, in their product offerings, in everything. We used a systematic method of primary research to pinpoint their strengths. Along the way, we also uncovered a whole bunch of opportunity areas for them as well! As you can understand, due to client confidentiality, I’m sorry to say that the information uncovered cannot be shared with you. But the mindset can be shared … you should learn from them and discover what YOU do well … which leads me to the next point.

 

Secondly, I know because I know the mindset of this company, that is, a mindset of marketing diligence, fierce product development and quality standards, and consumer prioritization. This is a company that is tapped into the consumer. They are prioritizing consumer research, getting (and staying!) with the heart of the consumer.

 

Are you?

TO RESEARCH, OR NOT TO RESEARCH…THAT IS THE QUESTION

There’s an article Consumer Czar Slams Youth Research Techniques that came out on January 22nd. In it, the author is highlighting a book by Agnes Nairn and Ed Mayo, entitled Consumer Kids: How Big Business is Grooming Our Children for Profit. Ed Mayo, the CEO of United Kingdom’s Government Watchdog Consumer Focus. The criticism in the book is that companies should not be using market research in developing their products.

 

 

As you can imagine, as someone who has been doing research with kids for so many years, I don’t agree. I haven’t read the book, but I’m puzzled by this attack.

 

 

In my work at LEGO, it was my job to make sure the products were the most fun they could possibly be. How can you do that without talking to your consumer? Any company, whether it’s selling to grown-ups or kids has to develop products and services that are highly compelling, and the way to find out if something is compelling is to talk to someone.

 

 

Now certainly, there should not be an intent to exploit kids. But most of the youth marketers that I know are truly, honestly trying to make sure that their products are the most fun, that they are developing nutritional products that taste as good as they possibly can and speak to kids in a way that’s really compelling to them–so that they’re interested, so that they’re engaged. The motive is right.

 

There is discussion in the article about parental permission, which has me quite puzzled. Of course, if you were going to do research with kids, you would get parental permission before you talk to them.ÂAnyone who didn’t do that should definitely be chastised. 

 

Perhaps there is more of an incidence of unscrupulous exploitation in the UK, but I have not personally experienced it in the six years I’ve been doing youth marketing.

 

Consumer research at any age is vital, valuable information to make the most exciting, the most compelling, the most helpful, the most tasty, and the most fun products available.