Tag Archives: Culture

Infusing Cultural Thinking Into Your Business Strategy

This post was originally
published on Kelton
Global’s blog

Understanding culture is crucial for any business that wants
to stick around long term. But culture is a challenging thing to grasp at the
organizational level because it’s big, amorphous, and ever-changing. To
co-opt an idea popularized by the philosopher Karl Popper, culture
operates more like a cloud than a clock: a swirling and
continuously evolving mass that can’t be accurately defined in a single
Businesses, on the other hand, have a comparatively ordered
structure. They tend to want to use clock-like approaches to tackle the cloudy
cultural challenges at hand. This yearning for measurement and simplicity comes
through in questions like:
When does a trend ‘officially’ become mainstream? If we decide to adopt this tone of voice or design, will
Millennials buy our products? What color signals ‘edgy’?
Many crucial aspects of business benefit from structure, but
this ordered approach won’t help businesses to solve their most pressing cultural
challenges. In the cloudy reality of cultural phenomena, linear cause and
effect and simple divisions of reality seldom exist outright.

Take, for instance, the ever-changing cultural dialogue
around masculinity. There are literally thousands of new images and messages
being shared every day ‘ some of which challenge the more traditional
assumptions, and some of which reinforce them. In the middle, brands like Target
are incorporating a softer, more fluid, set of cues in a traditional ‘patrizate-friendly’
way. In the world of consumer values and brand perceptions, far more of the
challenges that we face are ‘cloudy’ than we might imagine.
Grasping the deeper cultural dialogues around things like
masculinity, femininity, fun, beauty, style, and the like will be
impossible if you’re looking for machine-like predictability or linear cause
and effect. The best problem-solving approaches blend technical, linear
‘clockwork’ thinking with creative, lateral ‘dynamic’ thinking. While a
thorough initiative is best guided by a bona fide Cultural Insights researcher
(shameless plug), there are some things that an organization can do on its own
to infuse cultural thinking into the strategic mix:
1. Pay attention to
the fringe
If a competitive brand feels fresh and new in the category,
they’re likely tapping into something that we can learn from’ even if they’re
small in comparison. The fresh ideas in the category now are
often candidates for its future, especially in quickly-changing categories like
food and beverage, consumer tech, and retail. 15 years ago, how many of us
brushed off the idea of health(ish) fast food?
Action Step: Include ‘extreme’
consumers in your qualitative research, and look at the edgier elements within
your category, including crowdfunded ideas.
2. Use Cultural
Insights for early and exploratory initiatives
Use Cultural insights early on to challenge some of the
entrenched ideas around how your category or brand is working. Then, explore
these hypotheses in subsequent research. For example, if your brand refresh
involves looking at emergent ideas in beauty, use CI at the outset to
come up with a range of territories, and then use consumer insight and
co-creation work to nail the best iteration for your brand.
Action Step: Incorporate Semiotics and Trend Analysis
into your research mix at the outset, expanding the number of ideas in play.
3. Harness
‘Expectation Transfer’
Consumers grow accustomed to certain norms in one category,
and the expectations for these norms are slowly demanded of, and adopted into,
other categories. This phenomenon, known as Expectation Transfer, can
cause categories to disrupt not only their own verticals, but others that
feel ripe for reconsideration. Leverage expectation transfer for your brand by
staying extra observant of shifts in other verticals, and adopt them before
they become a standard to stay ahead of competitors.
Action Step: Widen your scope (in landscape analysis
& consumer research) to more than just your category. Try to intuit what
these brands have captured about the consumer, and incorporate that into your
4. Find natural
places to impact the conversation
In ways that are often hard to measure, brands have the
potential to influence the wider cultural dialogue just as much as they reflect
it. Don’t wait for a good idea to be fully entrenched in the
mainstream ‘ or your category ‘ before acting on it.
Action Step: Look to make public stances in ways that
bring your brand’s point of view & key equities to life, and be bold in
defending those views.
5. Use social
listening to inform hypotheses
The Internet itself is a highly organized system, but the human
activity that takes place on the Internet is much more of a churn.
Leverage powerful social intelligence platforms to make the cloud-like swarm
seem a little more clock-like.
Action Step: Set up a social listening dashboard
following key sentiments and influencers (but be sure to avoid the pitfall of
seeing it as a measurable stand-in for the complexities of the real cultural
Culture operates more like a cloud than a clock: a
swirling and continuously evolving mass that can’t be accurately defined in a
single snapshot.

With so much to see, hear, and read, culture is
absolutely fascinating on both an organizational and personal level. By
simply reframing how they think about culture and using the available insight
tools in accordance with this new way of thinking, brands can get ahead of the
curve and fully understand where their consumer is headed.

Insights as a Vehicle for Influence: Build a Culture of Adaptation & Exploration

By: Amanda Ciccatelli,
Content Marketing & Social Media Strategist, Informa

Insights have become a vehicle for influencing marketing and
ultimately, the world. That’s why next in our Insights as a Vehicle for
Influence series, we sat down with Ben Smithee, CEO of the Smithee Group. In
our conversation, he shed some light on how research is changing in the digital
age, how researchers can stay relevant in the changing insights space, why it’s
important to be agile in market research, and more.
Here’s what Smithee had to say:
How are research
operations teams changing in the digital age?

Smithee: I think
the core change is the breadth and diversity of skill sets, paired with the
speed and agility required of the team members. People are forced to know much
more with the impact of digital/social, and a new mindset and skill set is
What is your advice
to traditional researchers trying to stay relevant in the fast changing market
research and consumer insights space?

Smithee: The
biggest things are embracing change and staying up-to-date with content.
Spending the first 30-minutes of your day consuming solid content on the
current state of digital, decision intelligence, social, etc. is absolutely
key! It’s how I stay on the front-end of what’s going on and important.
What is the best way
to build a high performance team in today’s MRX world?

Smithee: Build a
culture of adaptation and exploration. We still must provide excellence in
intelligence and a trusted source for our clients and internal clients, but a
high-performance team is one that embraces new and exploratory methods and
strategies. The environment is changing so fast, you can’t always resort to a
‘proven’ approach. The ability to embrace and execute in this manner requires a
strong culture.
Why is it important
to be an agile market research today?

Smithee: The
consumer climate is changing too fast to not be agile. Decisions are needed in
real-time or near real-time, and businesses require accurate but timely data
and intelligence. This is true for both the qual and quant worlds. Time is a
luxury, and there are so many more needs in today’s business environment. Being
agile is truly a requirement.
How can a company
create a research innovation culture?

Smithee: It
really starts at the core. It’s not enough to talk about it or preach
‘innovation.’ It has to be something that is truly integrated into a company’s
culture. The unwillingness to just default to the old and traditional, and the
insistence to continually ask “is this the best way’ is imperative. Challenge
your team members to learn. Support education, and spend on keeping your team
at the top of their game. Organizations must truly invest in the future of
their company, by investing in the future of their team members. Instill a
culture of respectful challenging, and a more democratic approach. Make sure
your younger team members have a voice, and make sure your seasoned team
members stay up-to-date on the current topics and tactics.

Summary of The Media Insights & Engagement Conference 2015 Day Two: Part 1

By: Jim Bono, Vice President, Research, Crown Media Family Networks
We started Day two of The Media Insights & Engagement Conference with our event producer, Rachel McDonald introducing co-chair Jess Aguirre who gave us a recap of Day a, and informed us of what’s in store for today.
Our first keynote speaker was professional poker player Casper Berry, who gave us some insights about Risk Taking and Decision Making. Casper shared his thoughts on uncertainty. What is it?  What causes it? What do we do about it? We deal with it every day, but are not always aware it’s there. Like poker, the business world is a game of limited information. Our lives are impacted by the butterfly effect, however, most of the time it is invisible to us. As humans, we want to be able to control events in our life, and we need certainty. But Casper tells us we should embrace uncertainty. Interestingly, the pain we suffer from loss is greater than the joy we experience with gain.  There is always a “fear of failure.” But failure is a necessity and we need to learn from it.
The morning’s keynote panel, Big Data Overload: Getting Creative with Data in the Digital World, was moderated by Christine Kawada of GfK MRI. The distinguished panel of Fabio Luzzi (Viacom), Mike Clark (Google), Bryan Mu (NBCU), and Sandy Padula (Turner) gave us an interesting look at all of the data and options that are available to us. Fabio gave us a humorous definition of Big Data – It’s like Teenage Sex. Everyone is talking about it, no one knows how to do it, but everyone claims they’re good at it. Meanwhile, Bryan made a great point that he doesn’t look at big data vs. small data, but which data helps him best do his job.
Erica Faust of Nielsen Social was our second keynote speaker of the day. In her session, How Does Social TV Drive Impact for Your Brand Partners, Erica discussed how social media (mainly Twitter) can help anticipate audience size for certain programs. Over the past 6 months, there have been 433 million Tweets by 18 million people about TV, and there were 335 million Tweets by 20 million people about brands. And people who tweet about TV and brands are more influential and 3 times as many followers. We saw how social can help drive brand sales and TV viewing.
Shari Swan of Streative Branding closed out the morning in her keynote speech Better Beginnings.  Shari presented us with information about data decisions we face daily. Using Moles, Makers, Mavens and Mavericks in her business model, we learned that we are no longer in the business of sales, but we are in the business of culture. We don’t necessarily need bigger data, but more accurate and relevant data. We use the term “insight” incorrectly. Insight is not equal to research. Insight is an understanding. It’s not an idea, but can deliver hundreds of ideas.

About the Author: Jim Bono is a TV industry veteran of nearly 25 years, working in Cable TV research for over 20 years.  He’s coming up on his 15th year with Hallmark Channel and Crown Media, where he is VP of Research and heads the department on the East Coast.  A Long Island native all his life, Jim is married to his best friend and wife of 23 years and has 2 wonderful teenaged sons.

Your Brain On Football

It’s kickoff time. And whether it’s played at high schools,
colleges or in NFL stadiums, football is increasingly becoming America’s game.
Women now make up 44 percent of the NFL fan base, for example, and last season,
the sport drew in a record number of Hispanic viewers as well. The game is even
a hot export, with four teams scheduled to compete in England this season. That
means that marketers are using more football imagery (and across more
categories) than ever: Sabra Hummus, in the hopes that the gridiron can make
chickpeas seem macho, is now the official dip of the NFL
For those of us who study the emotional centers of the
brain, though, the real game is in decoding why there is a growing fascination
with a decidedly primitive pastime: Winning requires speed, guts and
bone-crushing power.
In general, spectator sports get their emotional appeal from
a very basic human drive’the need to shape an identity that lets us belong to
one group, while differentiating us from others. (Like when we threw rocks at
rival tribes thousands of years ago.) But because we’re civilized now and can’t
engage in that kind of bloodthirsty bonding, sports provide a very interesting
and emotionally useful release. They allow us to explore and engage with those
primal areas of identity that we may be unable to express in the real
In the case of football, it’s a very particular mode of
vicarious identification: The ritualized conflict of the game provides an
outlet for our personal desires to be aggressive and emerge triumphant. It
provides as well an important outlet for sublimating all of the slights and
injuries we suffer in the real world, but can’t do anything about directly. We
may not be allowed to knock irritating coworkers to the ground. But our beloved
Giants (or Vikings, Broncos or Bears) can.
Of course, all sports are ritualized conflict, to a degree.
But because football is more full-throatedly physical, it’s more emotionally
visceral. (My apologies to those who have been body slammed in basketball
games.)  In fact, football is probably
the closest thing we have to a modern day form of the gladiatorial contest ‘
the popular (so we hear) spectator sport for our ancestors.
Affiliation with the local team of football warriors is so
powerful for some people that it spills out beyond weekend games. They express
their feelings of belonging through bumper stickers, tattoos, team jerseys, and
house flags (I keep waiting to see motorcycle helmets.)
Sports team loyalties also provide strong social signal value,
as we become members of a ‘club’ of those around us who like and follow a team.
The explosion of fantasy leagues has created a new level of fandom, where we
actually get to manage teams, as well as watch them.
Women join the huddle

The emergence of women as a key fan base for the NFL,
though, is even more fascinating. Women’s roles have evolved, moving from historic
social pressures to seem (if not actually be) submissive, into a modern social
context that allows ‘ or even encourages — being increasingly assertive.  Football provides another place for women to
swap out the old fashioned pacifist, nurturing role and try on something a
little different.
This piece of cultural evolution has an interesting double
edge: at the same time that football is having an impact on women’s changing emotional
lives, women’s emotional orientation is influencing the culture of football.  Women’s increasing involvement in football
(both as activist parent and as spectator) is very probably implicated in the much
greater attentiveness in football at all levels to its risks, especially
concussions and the role they play in serious brain injury.
While some people may lament what they see as a sissification,
(I concede it was probably fun to watch guys with swords compete in pits
thousands of years ago, too.) having spectator sports that bring both sexes
together in a continuously evolving ‘modern gladiatorial game’ is probably an
emotionally desirable outlet for modern life.
So let’s salute the arrival of another football season ‘
giving us a great opportunity to cut loose when we need to and give the ‘bad
guys’ some serious pushing, shoving, and a good taste of the dirt.  Our vicarious victories will as always have a
thousand fathers (we really annihilated ‘em!) while our team’s defeats can remain
orphans (the bums just couldn’t get it together.) And then of course there’s
that Seven Layer Bean Dip’
About the Author:
David Forbes holds a Ph.D. in clinical and cognitive psychology from Clark
University, and was a member of the faculties of Harvard Medical School
Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard Laboratory of Human Development before
beginning his career as a business consultant. He founded Forbes Consulting
over 20 years ago as a strategic market research consultancy dedicated to
creating business advantage through psychological consumer insights. He has
since built Forbes into a major resource for scores of major corporations in
the CPG, Financial Services, and Pharmaceuticals industries, domestically and
internationally. David is the creator of the MindSight?? emotional
assessment technologies, a suite of applied neuropsychological methods for understanding
consumer emotion and motivation, without the distortions of conscious editing
and self presentation.  

Activate Innovation

Today’s post comes from TMRE Guest Blogger, Katie Clark. She is also known as @InsightsGal on Twitter and a client-side market researcher, project manager, and social media maven. 

Why a penguin? It will make sense in a minute

I have to confess, one of the sessions I am most looking forward to at TMRE is ‘Creating a culture for Successful Innovation’ given by the Campbell Soup Company.


Because innovation is so very important to drive a business forward.

But far too often I observe companies requesting (or demanding!) their employees’and specifically their research teams’be innovative, without creating a culture in which innovation is part of the life breath of the organization. 

It’s not enough to wish it and it will be so.  Consider some of the below steps to take towards becoming an innovative organization’and then join me for the Campbell Soup Company session at TMRE!

Hire Hungry
When adding to your team, seek out characteristics in potential new hires that lead the way to innovative thinking such as: a propensity for proactivity, openness to new ideas and feedback, and a past track record of measured risk-taking in their former role.  Hire staff that is hungry for new challenges and who are open to learning along the way. For more on characteristics to look for, this is an excellent article.

Reward Risk Taking (and Sometimes Failure)
One of my favorite moments every year at our company is when awards are announced, and my favorite award is the ‘First Penguin’ award.  You may think that’s an odd name, but hear me out.

When a group of penguins approaches an ice shelf, one penguin must be the first to ‘take the plunge’ ‘ aka First Penguin.  There may be sea lions waiting in the water for that first penguin to take the dive, so it’s a risky move that can lead to great success’or great failure.

At our company, the reward goes to a staff member who takes a big risk and innovates with one of our products.  The risk may not lead to great success, but that staff member took the plunge off the ice shelf.

Shake Complacency
It’s easy to get too comfortable and complacent with your job’and if you do it’s likely your staff will follow suit. I spoke to this a bit earlier in my Outside your Comfort Zone blog post but I feel it bears repeating.

Shake off your complacency and that of your staff.  Network with other peers in the industry online or in person to see how others are approaching similar challenges.  Get out of the office for a group training day, exploring a type of research you don’t typically do’that will help to energize you and your team and shake the cobwebs out of your brains.  < For more on building an innovative culture, take a look at this recent article in Inc. Magazine ‘ it’s a short read and a good one!
More about Katie: Based in Portland, Maine, Katie manages the market research team at Diversified Business Communications. She has worked with companies large and small and in industries such as seafood, 3D laser imaging, software, fragrance, finance, and entertainment to help them move the business forward through actionable insights derived from market research. She is passionate about bringing the’Voice of the Customer’ inside the organization. The opinions expressed here are her own and not those of her employer.

If you’d like to join Katie at TMRE 2012 this November 12-14 in Boca Raton, Florida, register today and mention code TMRE12BLOG and save 15% off the standard rate! For more about this year’s program, download the agenda.

What to look for in international market research

Cindy King recently look at a few of the things to look for when conducting your market research with hopes to expand into an international market. The market research is key to the planning phase, and your success in the foreign state afterwords will be a direct reflection of it.

A few things to know when going into a market to research are:
-What you hope to accomplish
-Cultural differences between the origin country and foreign country
-How the foreign market will use the product

Read the full article here. What are other things a company should look for when doing market research when hoping to enter a foreign market?

Market research in developing countries

When expanding to a new country, it’s important to get a grasp on the new culture your product is targeted to. With a new culture, market research could prove to be easier for several reasons: the response rates from door-to-door interviews could be as high as 90%, interviews are cheap and plentiful, and the structure of the culture often makes it easy to identify the sources for respondents. For more on effective market research in developing countries, read Quirks’ An insider’s guide to conducting effective research in developing countries.