INSIGHT BYTES BLOG

Insight Bytes is the official MRIA blog, capturing data, insights, and stories by research professionals from across Canada.

Our monthly newsletter is shared across all MRIA-ARIM's communications channels. Do you want to add your voice to the mix of innovations with a thoughtful and well-researched blog post? We want to hear from you!

To feature your latest research project, ideas or perspective in this space, please contact MRIA-ARIM's Chief Editor Arundati Dandapani blog@mria-arim.ca. 

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  • 08/03/2020 9:37 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    By Todd Kirby

    "The medium is the message" is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication thinker Marshall McLuhan and introduced in his Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be of primary focus.

    The pendulum has officially swung.  The marketing research business, pre-COVID-19, has been digitally transformed.  This, to many Canadian brands, has meant a shift to prioritizing short-term analytics over long-term brand growth.  The age of COVID should spark a reconsideration of these priorities.  Four points signal this change: 

    1. The ‘Big Data’ Analytic Fascination

    According to ESOMAR, the Canadian market research industry has consistently been flat to declining (-2.2%), valued at US$344 Million  in 2019.  And this was pre-COVID.  According to their latest report, over 40% of surveyed research companies in Canada expect a “BIG negative disruption” to their revenues due to COVID-19. This supports the expected “relegation of consumer insights to a secondary place in the business cycle”.  

    In truth, this relegation has already been under way.  Secondary Analyses, and not Quant or Qual research, account for 19% of Canada’s research spending.  As a proportion of that country’s research market, that’s #2 globally - trailing only New Zealand (23%).

    Source: ESOMAR Global Market Research, 2019 (Table 9.4.1) 

    Big Data Analytics is great for short-term tactical validation of ad dollars.  It can - and should - inform real-time adjustments to campaign media weight, creative rotation, and spend allocations. Media Weight refers to the media ad industry standard estimating how much exposure is attributed to each medium/property, typically expressed as Rating Points or Impressions.  Creative Rotation refers to the amount of media exposure estimated to each advertisement or unit.

    However, for long-term tracking of business outcomes, it is critical to incorporate the impact of brands - media entertainment brands, and marketer brands - into study. Without this piece, marketers risk missing the long tail of business success that evolves from brand legacy, partnership, and cohesion. For example, "according to a Kantar/BrandZ analysis following the 2008 financial crisis, strong brands recovered NINE TIMES faster than the market standard” (see chart below).

    Source: Kantar/BrandZ Analysis

    2. Brand Meaning in the age of COVID

    In a 2020 survey from Edelman, 68% of Canadians say “being able to trust a brand today is more important than in the past.”  This involves an expectation of action, but also perception. It’s important to note that brand legacy + brand action is what matters.  We’ve seen, for example, that reporting from Pre-COVID on unsanitary working conditions can inform Post-COVID perceptions, despite that company’s best efforts.  

    We all know that actions speak louder than words, but those words are important when put in the context of brand legacy.  Generally speaking, brands that have significant Brand Trust/Credibility are given a “halo” credit for their Post-COVID responses.  As researchers, we must take effort to contextualize data in this way.  

    3. Measuring Media as Brands

    Are media entities considered brands?  Wholeheartedly, yes.  If it is true that brands are but a “collection of perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings in the mind of the consumer”(Internal ad agency training document), then media content, properties, events, etc. are indeed brands.  We started demonstrating this decades ago, and the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan made this a centerpiece of his work.   So, then, why is the ‘media brand’ piece still lacking from our marketing research studies?  We study CLIENT and ADVERTISER brand tracking, brand lift, brand ROI, brand attributes, brand awareness, and brand consideration - but these are independent of any impact from media/entertainment/content/tech.  

    As the streaming wars dictate our landscape, new brands, new patterns, new personalities, and new equities will be formed.  Already, we’re seeing some parsing, for example, that Disney+ is not just catering to kids, but sci fi (Star Wars), fantasy (MCU), and Broadway (Hamilton) fans.  New data needs to collect, analyze, and integrate new consumer assumptions and attachments, seek to quantify relevance and engagements.  This data will bring new, contextualized-for-COVID paths to grow client revenues.  

    4. Evolved KPIs: “I don't get up caught in the win-loss record because it's kind of fluky.” — Cy Young Award Winner, Max Scherzer

    COVID-19 resurfaces the need for insight.  Before we jump to a ‘New Normal’ that already seems preconfigured, we need to reset and align with the greater populace.  Let’s slow our roll a bit.  There is mass confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety.  Foundations are being challenged.  There’s lots to be figured out first.  And that is our fertile mining ground for insight.  The graphic below illustrates this well: 




    But how? The time is now for the marketing research industry to use its digital agility for creative solutions.   We should not be constrained by the past.  We have flexibility in mixed method research.  Nowadays, social communities can be measured with quantitative breadth, and qualitative depth.  In the same study.  And reasonably priced.  

    We can use AI to help predict the impact of media brands on wins and losses.  And we can use behaviuoral techniques to see what’s not readily seen through a single-sided piece of glass.  

    Not unlike how we think about standard brands, quantifying relevance and engagement with media brands (in concert with our brand work) will surface more truthful insight. 

    A Final Plea

    It’s time to move our industry forward.  The COVID-19 world is here. It’s a rare chance to reset.  To gain a new benchmark and to mark that as the ‘New Normal’.  What matters most for clients is the ability to make better decisions. If we implore a return to strategic insight, we must commit to its success.  That means finding and coaching experts in the space, hiring multilateral researchers who are comfortable with hybrid methods.  Who are comfortable working with diverse perspectives in finding a story within the data, and then articulating that story in a compelling way for clients.  


    Author:


    Todd Kirby is a senior Research & Insight VP from the digital startup, media agency and publisher worlds based in New Jersey, USA. He is seeking a lead Insight Strategist/Practitioner role to drive growth. His forte is in understanding how media, advertising, and technology resonate with clients, brands, and audiences across all industries. 

  • 07/12/2020 5:58 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    Here's a quick feature of a couple of post-event questions in the realms of data science storytelling from attendees at our recently concluded webinar.  

    Prannoy D'souza: What is your advice when the stories are weak or nothing stands out in the data? Unfortunately it does happen :(

    Laura Warren: Generally speaking, when we say a story is weak what we really mean is that it hasn’t met our expectation. (A personal truth.) We wanted the data to say something, and are at loose ends when it doesn’t. When that happens, I suggest we reframe what’s happening. It’s not a weak story, it’s just not what we were expecting. Step back and identify what we were expecting and why. If the data didn’t prove that theory, why is that? What does that teach us about the original problem – why should we care? What will we do next to resolve the original problem? Your story lies there.

    Weak stories are simply those that don’t connect the dots between problem, finding, and action. If we change our perspective on what we’re trying to communicate, every analysis, regardless of the finding, can become a strong story.


    Khalid Hasan: We see currently (due to COVID) many of the research agencies moving from statistics based sampling to web-based sampling (not so much statistically representative). Therefore, data is not representative, may be biased, but they are showing those data. People are interpreting those data. What do you think?

    Laura Warren: Here’s the thing. The reality is that in the absence of data, it can sometimes feel like any data is good enough. The more caution that needs to be used with the data, the greater the responsibility of the provider to tell a clear story; to clearly communicate both the potential and limitations of the information, and the appropriate actions based on the findings.

    It’s a scary time for a lot of businesses (and people) right now. From a human perspective, I empathize with the need for *any* data to help make sense of what’s happening. Because of that, I think the onus is on research providers to make a clear distinction between bad, good enough, and ideal data sets. Bad or misleading data stays in the bin. Good enough data is carefully shared with a strong story to minimize the risk of misinterpretation – what it means, what it doesn’t mean, and what you should do about it. (Channel your internal Dr. Anthony Fauci. He does this really well.) Ideal data is shared widely and proudly with a clear purpose, explanation, and action. If guidance is not given by the provider, then the receiver tells their own story. And that’s where it gets dangerous. Minimize the risk by owning the story at the outset.

    Laura Warren is the Founder and CEO of Storylytics. You can connect with her here.


  • 06/21/2020 10:26 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    The State of a Loyalty Consumer Tracking Study from Bond Brand Loyalty

    By Nicole Jarrett

    The COVID-19 global pandemic has intrinsically affected the way that people are going about their everyday lives. In order to reduce the spread of this virus, people must stay home, which ultimately impacts the way that consumers shop and interact with brands. Bond Brand Loyalty (Bond) has insight into how the pandemic is affecting the way businesses should be operating in this new normal and how loyalty programs can support retailers.

    Bond has captured regular snapshots of what’s changing and what to prepare for in order to ensure that companies are ready for the new normal going forward. A survey was fielded on March 16th (Wave 1) to understand the initial impact of consumer behaviour due to stay home measures. A second, third and fourth survey were fielded on March 20th (Wave 2), April 22nd (Wave 3) and May 8th (Wave 4) to evaluate the quickly changing situation. 

    Waves 1 and 2 assessed how consumer attitudes, behaviors and needs evolved as the crisis developed. We saw people tightening their wallets, planning to spend less while shifting their spending more online rather than in physical locations.  A shift to e-commerce found greater demand for grocery and restaurant delivery as people were forced to adjust to new means of purchasing behaviour. This included an increase in the appeal for contactless payments and moving away from the physical exchange of cash and point of sale terminals. Consumers demonstrated a growing concern for health and safety protocols in physical store locations while a stronger affinity towards loyalty programs has raised expectations for the brand and the loyalty program to execute strong pandemic response strategies. Now as we prepare for recovery, Wave 3 reports that there remains a crisis of confidence returning to many sectors while Wave 4 discusses the precautionary measures that will rebuild confidence.

    Overall there was an increase in Canadians who reported they would be decreasing their spending due to the pandemic. From Wave 1 to Wave 2 there was a significant increase of 13% in the number of Canadians planning to spend less money in the next 3 months, and this continued to increase by an additional 3% into the Wave 3 report. There was also a greater shift to online shopping and the demand for contactless delivery increased. As the situation progressed between all fielding periods, we also saw that travel plans were increasingly disrupted. 


    Graphics from Wave 1 / Wave 2


     

    Graphics from Wave 3



     

    When consumers were asked if they were considering other loyalty programs during the pre-COVID state, 11% of consumers agreed. In Wave 1, when asked this same question only 6% of consumers agreed, and by Wave 2 it had significantly increased to 8%. This tells us that during the COVID-19 situation,  affinity for loyalty programs is stronger than ever before, however, affinity is difficult to sustain without adjusting for customer relevance. When asked about their satisfaction on loyalty program response strategies, consumers reported a significant increase from Wave 1 to Wave 2 from 19% to 26%. By Wave 3 this significantly dropped lower than ever before to 15%; whereas, in the pre- COVID-19 world, satisfaction with loyalty programs was at 33%. This tells us that consumers are expecting more from their loyalty programs and that programs need to focus on their response strategies. 

    Graphic from Wave 3



     

    We analyzed a number of COVID-19 response strategies such as taking extra measures to ensure the health and safety of physical locationsreinforcing that the brand is still open for business, and tracking and complying with evolving regulatory guidelines. Almost all studied strategies saw increased importance in the eyes of consumers between Wave 1 and Wave 2. When compared to consumer satisfaction with how programs were performing on delivering these strategies, complying with regulatory guidelinesensuring health and safety in physical locations and supporting local communities were all underperforming. Meanwhile, reinforcing that the brand is still open and asking for understanding while program employees take leave were variables that were performing well. As the crisis evolved, loyalty programs went to many familiar places in their response strategies like communicating the stability of points and policies and protection of status and benefits. At this time, what remains top of mind for members were safety and security, compliance and community support, suggesting the opportunity areas that loyalty programs should focus on. 

    Graphic from Wave 1 / Wave 2


    In Wave 3, we saw that credit card reward programs were falling behind on their response strategies as compared to non-payment loyalty programs. Loyalty programs performed significantly higher on sending relevant communicationsoffering relevant rewards/benefits and staying connected. Wave 3 also reported that while the value exchange had grown increasingly important, programs can look beyond saving customers money in order to gain their loyalty. Now more than ever, consumers are seeking great service and security when it comes to their brand relations. Consumers also indicated that they are more comfortable with the idea of returning to banks and specialty retailers in the next month while more than half of consumers were not comfortable with returning to other sectors like restaurants and airlines at all in the next month. Younger consumers aged 18-34 are more comfortable than other consumers with returning to other categories like Gyms and Fitness Studios, Taxi/Uber/Lyft and Airbnb.

    It is important to keep in mind that although more younger consumers are comfortable with returning to sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, the level of comfort with returning to the sharing economy is lower than almost all other sectors. Before the pandemic outbreak, these brands were gaining momentum and disrupting traditional sectors of hospitality and automobility, however, given the lack of comfort there may not be a return to pre-COVID-19 levels of sharing economy usage anytime soon. This could benefit Hotel and Automotive brands greatly – two sectors where customers reported that they were far more comfortable returning to because of the active measures brands in those sectors are taking now to build trust.  

     

    Graphics from Wave 3


      

    In Wave 4, measures like providing handwashing stations and facilitating social distancing were deemed the most important to consumers purchasing from grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies. Females and individuals aged 55 and older tend to over-index on the importance of many measures while Ontario and Quebec residents – the provinces hit most heavily – reported curbside pickup and delivery options to be significantly more important measures than other provinces.  

    Pharmacies and grocers were found to be the locations for which consumers considered precautionary measures to be most important, while gas and convenience locations experienced lower expectations. In addition, consumers found that gas and convenience locations were falling short of their expectations when it came to the additional precautions taken while pharmacies and grocers were meeting expectations well. Specifically, Metro, Pharmasave, and CO-OP are the brands perceived to have the best precautions within their respective sectors while Real Canadian Superstore, Shoppers Drug Mart and Ultramar reported below average within each sector. Among low performing brands, opportunities to improve precautionary measures include offering shopping appointments, improving delivery offerings and social distancing effortsthermal imaging camerascatering to loyal customers, and contactless payment. For many brands, there is an opportunity to improve their basic response strategies by focusing on these important measures. For all brands, there is a need to evolve customer experience strategies and the role of loyalty as we enter a new normal. 

     

    Graphics from Wave 4



     

     

    Due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic situation, it should be noted that this data reflects attitudes and behaviours during March, April and May 2020. There will be more insights to come on this topic, as Bond Brand Loyalty will be conducting future waves of COVID-19 research in order to understand how the situation continues to develop and how it affects businesses. 

    Source: Data provided from the Bond Data Lake, including data collected from three Waves of Bond’s (COVID-19) State of Consumer Loyalty Tracking Survey. March 16 (n=1,509); March 20 (n=1,514); April 22 (n=1,533); May 8 (n=1520)

     


     Author: Nicole Jarrett is a Research Analyst at Bond Brand Loyalty. 

  • 06/16/2020 4:29 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    By Zeynep Ayden and Vanessa Campbell


    Live entertainment has been dramatically altered by shelter-in-place mandates, and for the foreseeable future, federal and provincial governments will limit the extent of public gatherings. In the best of scenarios, this means a reduced audience, if not the total absence of one. All performance arts, as well as sports, are now faced with the awkwardness and challenges of performing in this diminished environment.

    We have chosen to focus on the challenge of spectator-less spectator sports in Canada.

    So far, our series of articles on this topic has applied our versatile team’s different lenses on this challenge:

    • Foresight has provided a philosophy and a set of techniques to tackle the subject.
    • Behavioural Science has described some of the universal needs shared by sports fans everywhere.
    • Applied Ethnography has delved into the cultural context of spectator sports in Canada.

    With a tightly defined set of requirements provided by the above disciplines, the stage is set for Generative Design Research. Therefore, in this piece we will discuss analogous inspiration from around the world.

    What are some early attempts to reinject a sense of normalcy into live entertainment? And to what extent have each of those delivered on the needs we have identified? 

    Before we dive into the examples, we want to point to another layer of the challenge for sports. It is obvious that removing the background din from sports games makes it harder for players to get into the zone, and it impacts the enjoyment of fans watching sports on TV, as it becomes difficult to tell a real game from a practice game.

    There are also some secondary, less obvious consequences: A broadcast from an empty arena brings out elements of the game that would usually go largely unheard. There is nothing left to conceal the private team conversations or sometimes profane trash talk that spectators are not supposed to hear.

    All the more reason to send live entertainment organizers and broadcasters around the world scrambling for solutions.

    We have come across a few noteworthy attempts:

    • Canned crowd noise: Many TV sitcoms still feature recorded laugh tracks, and it drives some viewers nuts. To what extent will spectator sports benefit from superimposed cheering? Will TV audiences pick this version of the live broadcast, if given the option? Or will they embrace the eerily quiet version of their game as “unplugged sports”?
    • Virtual fans: Television networks are exploring ways to visually simulate packed stadiums for their broadcasts. We have seen weird, almost comical examples of cutout fans, mannequins and dolls used to populate empty stands. Adding CGI audiences in post-production is likely the most viable method to create a visual semblance of fans.

    However, none of the above can replicate the atmosphere of a stadium full of loud fans with genuine, real time reactions to the game. The social interaction that has traditionally been the lifeblood of spectator sports is still lacking.

    It seems that some technologies have come of age just in time for this crisis.

    • Virtual live performance settings: Musicians have created and used virtual concert halls with successful results during the pandemic. Digital auditoriums replicate all the sections and features found in brick and mortar concert halls, like vendor booths, performance stages and a “backstage” area where artists can take part in Q&A sessions.
    • Live streaming overlays: Twitch has emerged as a serious alternative to old-school, over-the-air broadcasters. The platform invites third parties to create “extensions” – overlays and other features that streamers can activate to interact with their viewers in different ways, for example by sharing real-time stats or holding a vote.
    • Live chat: The social interactive element is what distinguishes Twitch from “passive” video streaming services such as Netflix. People are not just interested in watching the content; they congregate around particular streamers and are encouraged to actively engage with them and other viewers by exchanging messages and emotes in a live chat.
    • Virtual movie nights: If you are stuck at home but still want to have a movie night with friends and family, the Netflix Party Chrome extension syncs up the video content across multiple devices. Netflix Party allows you to invite anyone you want, then syncs the stream between all participants. There is also a built-in text chat feature so “your party” can communicate while the video is playing.


    Some of these technologies can be used to improve the enjoyment of sport even in times of heightened security measures. And other low-tech, high touch solutions are serving as a source for inspiration.

    • Drive-in entertainment: The retro format of drive-in cinemas is having a resurgence in today’s socially distanced world. Drive-in concerts and parties have been popping up across the globe in recent months. This setup allows organizers to tap into the FM system and feed their soundtrack or content straight into car stereos.

    Now imagine a plot of land allocated to fans’ cars as an outdoor gathering place, like the Raptors’ Jurassic Park, but made for cars. The tailgate party becomes the main event… Could honking horns and flashing headlights replace cheering or heckling? What if the gathering of cars was right outside the stadium, or the action outside was broadcast back into the basketball court? Could this become the source of encouragement that players need?

    Source: LinkedIn Pulse

    Authors: 

        

    Zeynep Ayden is Associate Vice Present at Research Strategy Group. Vanessa Campbell is Vice President of Design Research at Research Group. Read more over here


  • 05/30/2020 4:36 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    By Jonathan La Greca

    I have interviewed over 100 marketing and consumer and shopper insight leaders (herein insight leaders) from a variety of categories in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry since the crisis started.

    One things stood out more than anything else. The current economic impact of the crisis is a tsunami about to crash our shore in ways we have never seen before.

    This situation is much different from what we experienced in 2001 and 2008 and it requires marketers to ask a whole new set of questions, which I'll share below.

    If you would like the full report that has many more insights and ideas from the 100 marketing and consumer/shopper insight leaders interviewed, please post a comment below or send me a note.

    The Crisis Will Likely Have 3 Distinct Phases

    A common theme across organizations is that senior management has been asking questions more frequently since the crisis started.

    1. How long will the pandemic last and how can we help our consumers through it?
    2. How will the economic effects impact our category and how can we better communicate value?
    3. Which behaviors will revert back to the way they were prior to the crisis and which will endure beyond the crisis and what does this mean for our brand?

    No alt text provided for this image

    These questions indicate that there will be 3 distinct phases to the crisis.

    1. The Pandemic: This first phase came as an intense shock and now that we have adjusted to it for the most part, and society is cautiously opening up, we are moving into the next phase.
    2. The Great Repression: The era we are entering will be a combination of a harsh recession and repression due to a continued restricted reality. It could be further complicated if there are additional infection waves.
    3. A Brave New World: Human beings are resilient and we will find a way through this. Life will not go back to the way it was, but there will be tremendous new advances and opportunities that will unfold just as there were after 2001 and 2008

    We are now entering Phase 2 - the Great Repression and again, I would like to reinforce that we cannot use the same thinking that helped brands sustain profitability and market share in 2001 and 2008. This is the perfect storm of physical, emotional, and financial impact.

    No alt text provided for this image

    A recent report from McKinsey suggests that marketers need to think about 5 different horizons - Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagine, Reform. If you'd also like to get a copy of the McKinsey report, please comment below or send me a note.

    To ensure that your brand remains profitable and gains it fair share in an intense fight for shelf space and salience, you will need to ask the right questions during the Resilience horizon of this pandemic and recession.

    In the following sections, I'll share the key themes that leaders shared, as well the key questions you need to ask to ensure that your brands exhibit resilience as we head into this unprecedented Great Repression.

    A return to the basics and survival over sustainability, in the short-term.

    Life was turned upside down over night and immediately human beings found themselves trying to balance a whole new myriad of personal and professional duties.

    No alt text provided for this image

    One leader described it perfectly by saying, "I am trying to work through unprecedented business challenges, while also being a teacher, entertainer, and tech support for Google Classroom."

    In the first few weeks of the crisis, consumers focused on satisfying the lower rungs of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, prioritizing "safety over sustainability".

    As such they gravitated to brands that elicited emotions of "safety, familiarity, and trustworthiness".

    Brands that were shelf stable, center of the store, primarily positioned to meet at home occasions, and perhaps had advanced e-commerce or delivery services set up prior to the crisis performed extremely well, as shipment and consumption data sky rocketed.

    Brands that came into the crisis with strong visual cues and memory structures grew their share as shoppers were limited to quick decisions in a distressed shopping environment.

    An example of this was the nostalgic surge in "family classic" brands which opened up trial to new users, specifically younger cohorts.

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    As one leader stated, "At least for the short-term, there has been a focus on survival over sustainability, and a return to the basics, as consumers are focused on the things that truly matter."

    Here were the other questions marketers were asking about consumer attitudes and emotions:

    1. Is my brand currently making consumers feel safety, familiarity, and trustworthiness?
    2. How should I shift my communications away from the sea of sameness to create empathy while also ensuring that our brand is distinctive?
    3. My brand found itself on the right side of the pandemic and has been growing exponentially - how do we ensure that we keep up this momentum?

    No matter how good things are for you now, they're going to get tough, quick.

    As we move into Phase 2, and the recessionary period lurks from the shadows, all brands are going to face new pressures.

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    Overnight, many consumer usage occasions vanished and the majority of brands found themselves in a fierce fight for the few at-home occasions remaining in their category.

    As we shift from the pandemic into a recession, several leaders mentioned the work they are doing to assess the headwinds and tailwinds that their categories will face.

    Whether or not your brand grew during the pandemic, in Phase 2, no brand will be safe with fewer disposable dollars available and unemployment at historic levels.

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    As one leader said, "Even brands that find themselves on-trend related to hygiene, sanitation, health, or indoor/backyard entertainment will soon have to deal with many new entrants attracted to their profitable categories, while nimble direct to consumer brands will also be a threat as they are able to capitalize faster on quickly changing consumer needs."

    Here were the other questions marketers were asking about how the recession will intensify the fight for market share:

    1. What are the new drivers and barriers in my brand's category?
    2. How does my brand perform relative to the competition on those drivers and barriers?
    3. As we move deeper into this recession, how does my brand communicate value more effectively and efficiently than the competition and private label?

    Now is the time to invest in Shopper Based Design to grow share in retail.

    For fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands, the first few months saw consumers gravitate to the center of the store, while ignoring end-aisle displays and impulse products at check-out.

    In the short-term, this likely won't change as consumers are herded through one-way aisles and are shopping in a distressed and fearful state.

    They will continue to pick brands that reduce the friction, that they implicitly trust, and that make their choice easy. Reinforced distinctive cues and memory structures will rule the day.

    What scares leaders most is that many of the shopper based design cues they relied on are gone for now, and maybe forever.

    One leader said, "The days of consumers picking up a package, reading claims, or engaging senses other than sight to determine which product to pick in a category are likely gone, at least for the foreseeable future."

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    Now more than ever, visual identity and cues will be critical to winning your fair share of attention in these forced autopilot scenarios, so is this the time to do an audit of your shelf to see how well you are positioned in your category?

    Here were the other questions marketers were asking about winning at the first moment of truth in-store:

    1. How can I help my retailers grow our category while also growing our share when consumers are rushing through one-way aisles in state of distress and angst?
    2. How can my visual ID, including distinctive assets, influence shopper perceptions and behavior at shelf, now that consumers won’t be picking up products and evaluating them the way they used to?
    3. What is the right design architecture for my portfolio of SKUs to help consumers make quick and informative decisions about our category?
    4. How can my brand make up for lost sampling programs, sensory experiences, ineffective aisles, and fewer impulse moments?
    5. How can I better communicate value for financially fragile consumers across different shopping contexts (e.g in-store vs. ecomm), retailers (e.g. mass, discount, convenience & gas), and shopper touch points (e.g. portfolio architecture assortment and placement, pack size and format, pricing and POS)?

    Online shopping and e-commerce adoption has accelerated by five years.

    Obviously brick and mortar shopping is at risk in the years to come which will favor brands that are "effectively and efficiently" marketed online.

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    One leader referenced a study that suggested that the crisis accelerated ecommerce adoption by five years.

    As new behaviors become engrained, marketers cannot afford to be slow to develop their understanding of how consumers behave online.

    Unlike our friends in the UK, where over 10% of sales come through e-commerce, many marketers in North America are feeling exposed as e-commerce had only driven 1-2% of total sales leading into the crisis, which means it hasn't received a lot of attention.

    What is really interesting about the crisis is that it has forced consumers that would have never tried ecommerce to do so, especially consumers that were most at risk by leaving their homes.

    The question is that experience converted them over the long-term and what can your brand do to position itself to win its fair share if so?

    Here were the other questions marketers were asking about winning at the first moment of truth in e-commerce:

    1. Has the initial experience on ecommerce for brand new users been smooth enough for them to continuing to do so as we relax restrictions or will they go back to the old way of doing things?
    2. How can we better understand consumer behaviours online and in ecommerce to ensure that my packaging imagery and copy are distinctive?
    3. How should we be thinking about our current brand portfolio and architecture, as well as size and formats as consumers might be looking for more affordable purchases?
    4. How should we be thinking about our innovation pipeline if more and more purchases are happening online and my product might not be seen as easily as it would be in-store?
    5. How can I disrupt shopper behaviour if I am not already in their auto refill basket during those first few e-commerce shopping trips?

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    It's time to experiment with innovative virtually-enabled consumer research.

    While most companies that temporarily paused their research have turned the engine back on, we have lost the ability to conduct face-to-face research with our consumers for the foreseeable future.

    As one insights leader interviewee said, "We can not afford to stop advancing our understanding of the consumer."

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    As a result, insight leaders have experimented with new methodologies like virtual behavioral observation to avoid falling behind with category dynamics quickly shifting.

    Successful pilots seemed to combine virtual environment experiments with conscious belief and non-conscious association measurement to observe "what" consumers did, followed by digging deeper to understand "why" they did it.

    How might you experiment with innovative new research approaches like virtual behavioral observation to advance your brand and demonstrate innovation to your stakeholders?

    Here were a few things to consider about virtual behavioral observation methodologies:

    1. When building a virtual behavioral environment like a shelf or a store, it is important to find a partner that can create "realism" so that you are observing behaviors that most represent reality.
    2. It is important to remember that no store looks exactly like a planogram with perfectly stocked items that are all front facing and arranged as planned, so instead, work with a partner that can help you create more of a "realogram".
    3. Your environment should account for different variations of light depending on where the products are and adjust for the average height of the consumer depending the global markets you are exploring.
    4. Always try to mix in conscious and non-conscious measurement with you behavioral observation to get at both "what" consumers are doing and the "why" they are doing it, so that you understand the underlying motivations of their behavior.

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    Leaders expressed excitement about the following benefits they experienced from experimenting with virtual behavioral observation as a result of the crisis:

    1. A long-term safe and cost effective way of conducting agile research;
    2. Deeper cuts of data, including the ability to cut by light buyers, ethnic minorities, or financially fragile consumers; and
    3. More agility for iterative testing and scenario planning during the uncertain times ahead.

    Final Thoughts

    Seismic, unpredictable shifts have impacted society and as a result have impacted shoppers and consumers dramatically. It feels like the world continues to change daily.

    Unfortunately, most marketers have been locked into supply chain meetings, to avoid shorting customers and putting their brands at risk by forcing trial of competitive brands.

    As a result, they have not been able to think beyond the next few weeks, but organizations are hungry for proactive and innovative longer-term planning.

    If there has ever been a time for the insights function to rise the occasion and have a seat at the table, it is now.

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    We are fortunate to have access to bright behavioral scientists and a variety of virtual tools that allow us to observe human behavior safely, while also uncovering both explicit beliefs and non-conscious associations.

    It is going to continue to be an intense time for all of us both personally and professionally.

    But may you find some hope and happiness knowing that...

    We are the pilots of the future economy.



    Author: Jonathan La Greca is the Senior Vice President, Growth at Hotspex. He has 15 years of experience ideating, developing, and activating brands across 5 different industries, including both client and supplier side.

    Source:  LinkedIn Pulse 


  • 05/15/2020 11:24 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    By Charles Custer

    About six months ago, Eddie Kirkland was itching to make a change in his life.

    At that point, he says, he’d taken “a really strange career path.” His degrees were in management and theology. His resume consisted of nonprofit work, quite a bit of time as a working musician, and most recently six years as the head priest at a church.

    Back in college, Eddie remembered, he’d enjoyed his study of statistics. So he started looking into statistics-related careers. “Lo and behold,” he says, “[I found that] there’s this massive data science world that has opened up since I left.”

    “As I started exploring it, I thought ‘I think I have enough of a foundation to kind of understand the concepts.’ There’s a lot of skills that I knew I needed. [But] even though my degree is in management and my graduate degree is in theology, I think I might actually be able to make a really cool path here with some online learning.”

    He also knew that he had an unusual opportunity. Having taken a sabbatical, he had some time off from full-time work. “I thought to myself, I’m never going to have this chance again,” he says. “If I’m going to quit my job and change career paths, I need to know if this is really what I want.”

    Diving Headfirst Into Data Science

    When he started looking for the best data science MOOCs and online courses, “Dataquest came up as one of the top results.” But having no experience with programming, he still wasn’t sure how he’d feel about the programming-heavy curriculum.

    “I basically went into it thinking okay, I’m going to try this and I’m just going to see,” he says. “It sounds fun, but it could be terrible, so let me try it and see if I still like it a month from now.”

    And because Dataquest offers a lot of free content, trying it was easy. “I loved that there were a few free modules that kind of helped me get my feet wet,” Eddie says.

    It wasn’t long after getting his feet wet that Eddie was diving in head-first. “Within the first month and a half I had purchased the full version and I was up ‘till 2 in the morning doing Python code and just loving it. Like absolutely loving it. Nobody is making me do it. It’s all on my own time, and I just really, really loved it.”

    “The thing I really liked, that set [Dataquest] apart for me,” he says, “is that it’s text-based instead of video-based. Reading the text, seeing the examples, and then having to actually code it yourself was really, really helpful.”

    By the time he finished the assessment, he says, he had realized: “I think I might be able to at least get started in this. I don’t know as much as the people that are doing it, but I don’t know nothing. I know some things from this [Dataquest] course that really helped a lot.”

    His new employers agreed, and Eddie is now working as a full-time data engineer.

    “Day-to-day I’m using Python a lot,” he says of his new job. “I’m working in Databricks with Spark, and so I’m using Python a lot. I’m using SQL a ton. If anything, I wish I had paid closer attention during the SQL portion of the course because it’s so helpful.”

    He also says he appreciates how much of Dataquest’s curriculum was focused on data cleansing, which is now a big part of his job.

    As a new data engineer, Eddie can’t just rely on what he already knows. He’s also learning new skills and tools. “It’s just coming a lot quicker than I thought it would, and I think it’s because I have had so much exposure doing the hands-on coding and learning through the [Dataquest] program.”

    Most importantly, Eddie is happy. “It’s such a big change,” he says of his new career, “but I really love it […] Helping people make informed decisions with the information that you can give them — I really, really love it.”

    Advice for Dataquest Learners

    When we asked Eddie what advice he might give to other Dataquest learners, his first thought was to offer encouragement. “You really can do this,” he says, “You just have to stick with it and you have to be diligent.”

    “About a month and a half ago, I remember sitting in my living room. I was on my phone and I pulled up the Dataquest website and was reading testimonials from people who have gotten jobs. It made me think: ‘Don’t get discouraged. This is going to take time, but it’s possible and it can happen.’”

    He also liked that Dataquest’s path structure laid out a logical sequence of courses for him, and forced him to apply and reapply what he was learning at each step along the way. “That’s where I think the Dataquest stuff was really helpful,” he says. “It gave me a very clear pathway of hands-on learning.

    It wasn’t all, smooth sailing, of course. Learning programming can be frustrating, especially at first, and Dataquest challenges learners to start building real projects early in their learning journey. At one point, Eddie laughs, “I wanted to throw my computer through a wall.” Another time working on a guided project, he says, “I spent all day, like an eight hour day at a Starbucks, trying to get through one cell that just wouldn’t run.”

    In the long run, though, the struggle was worth it: “[Working on those projects] helped me gain the confidence to know: ‘Okay, I can actually do this stuff.’

    With so much free time to dedicate to his studies, Eddie worked through our curriculum with incredible speed. He finished our entire Data Analyst in Python path in two months, and reached the end of the Data Scientist path a month later.

    Then it was time to start looking for a job.


    Finding a Full-Time Job

    “My first thought was, ‘Okay, it’s probably going to be easier for me to get a first job in this industry as an analyst, not as a full-blown data scientist,’” Eddie says.

    But he knew the first thing he needed to do was reach out and make some connections, while building some portfolio projects that would be relevant to the companies in his area. He reached out to friends with small businesses, told them that he’d been learning data science, and asked if they had any data he could help them analyze for free.

    “Their eyes got really big,” he says. “They said, ‘Oh, my gosh, we have no idea what we’re doing with data, so here.’”

    “Because of the [Dataquest] guided projects that I had done,” Eddie says, when a friend gave him a data set to work with, “I had a basic workflow. I knew how to approach it and attack it, instead of having to go back through video learning courses and just constantly search StackOverflow for stuff. I had a framework that I had already worked through, which gave me the confidence to say ‘Okay, I’ll take a shot at it.’”

    I think Dataquest is extremely helpful, he says, “not because I can put it on a resume but because of the confidence that it’s given me to walk into a room and go: ‘I don’t know everything, but I do know some things, and I know enough to put a hand in and start helping.’”

    Still, when a series of connections led to a potential role as a data engineer, Eddie was hesitant. “At first I thought, ‘No way, it’s just not possible. I can’t do this stuff.” (Dataquest does offer a Data Engineering path, but Eddie hadn’t worked through it).

    He took the meeting anyway. “I went in and talked to them and then they gave me a practice assessment,” he says. “Instantly I could see: this is the SQL stuff that I learned. There’s a lot of the data cleansing stuff here that I’ve got to do, and it’s about doing joins and Python. It’s about all the stuff that I had learned from that data analyst course.”

    Beyond sticking with the program and staying positive, Eddie also recommends centering your job search around genuine, in-person connections. “Meet people and just connect in your world,” he says. “It seems to me the best strategy has been not saying ‘I need a job’ and instead saying ‘Hey, I’m very interested in data science. Can we just get together? I want to know what you do.’”

    “I’ve had so many conversations like that,” he says. “I say ‘Tell me what you do, what do you love about your job, what do you hate about your job?’ Those have been the kind of natural conversations that have led to really cool opportunities.”

    “It’s not been job posting boards. It’s not been all that other stuff. It’s just been one-on-one conversations with people that are already in the field.

    Eddie also recommended the book Designing Your Life. “It’s basically taking product design thinking and methodology and applying it to life change and saying, how can I approach my career almost like I’m building a product, where you’re going to build and iterate tests.” There’s a chapter on iterating on career conversations, Eddie says, and “a script of how to have the conversation about, ‘Hey, would there be any steps for somebody like me to get involved in an organization like this?’ as opposed to saying ‘I really need a job.’”

    Finally, Eddie says, don’t be discouraged if you’re finding your studies very challenging, particularly at first, and don’t be intimidated by the complexity that lies ahead. “To me, the hardest part of the whole course was the data cleansing at the beginning. I guess it’s partially because Python was so new for me and coding in general was so new, but that was the part that was super hard.”

    “Once I made it to the machine learning stuff it was actually decently easy compared to that earlier stuff,” he says, “Which was really cool, because I had seen it on the horizon for a while and it was like ‘Oh, man, I’m never going to make it through that. You know, you’d see artificial intelligence and how all that works, and you think there’s no way. That’s going to take me months.”

    “But then once you get there,” he says, You understand the syntax and you understand how these objects are supposed to work, and then it’s just like pressing run and letting it go, which is really fun. The first time I ran a model on the computer I was doing a little dance, going, ‘This is so cool!’ It’s fun, and it’s something to look forward to rather than something to dread.”



    Author: Charlie is a student of data science, and also a content marketer at Dataquest and can be reached here

    Source: Dataquest.io


  • 04/26/2020 10:35 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    By Margaret Imai-Compton, MLIS, CUG, FMRIA

    Over the years, brainstorming has come to be an accepted and normal part of business problem-solving, bringing together a team to solve a problem or generate new ideas and directions.

    Typical brainstorming utilizes a facilitator who directs the session, and it asks participants to call out ideas, contribute builds, and express their solutions. Brainstorming requires a strong element of verbal participation and verbal idea-building.

    What happens, then, when key players (often the most senior persons in attendance) speak up with their initial ideas at the outset of the session? There is a tendency to stay with those first ideas without considering the contributions of more conservative or reticent participants. As well, stronger personality types tend to champion and verbally defend their contributions, without listening to quiet or shy team members.

    The challenge, then, is how to encourage lateral thinking in a group environment where there are different personality types, some of whom are quick to make a contribution while others need reflection or confidence to voice theirs.

    Introduce brainwriting! This technique involves everyone in the session and uses the same principles of brainstorming. The genius of brainwriting, however, is that it harnesses everyone’s contributions by providing each participant an equal voice in the process. Here’s how it works. 

    1. Use no names. Have the participants sit around a table, each with a sheet of paper, and instruct them not to write their names. Anonymity is one of the key success factors in brainwriting. At the top of the page, participants write down the task to be brainstormed.

    2. Use timed and free form. The facilitator gives a timed session (typically two to three minutes) to list as many ideas as possible. Participants are instructed not to edit or finesse the ideas. In brainwriting, I often direct my workshop participants to write from the heart, not the head, and to write in free form.

    3. Mix it up. When time is called, all the participants hand their sheets to the facilitator, who shuffles and randomly redistributes them. Now, the participants have new sheets with someone else’s ideas, so they add to the list by either building on the existing ideas or taking a new direction. At the end of the next timed session, the sheets will have grown in quantity and content. Continue until the facilitator decides that ideas are exhausted (typically three to five rounds, depending on the task).

    4. Share the collective output. At this point, the facilitator will record all the ideas on a flip chart so participants can view the output. Only then are participants given back their voice, and discussion can begin on where to start the ideation.

    Why does brainwriting work? First, there’s no discussion during the initial rounds, so it yields a lot of ideas in a short period of time.

    Second, all the participants, even the quiet and reticent ones, get a voice and contribute their ideas.

    Third, it’s anonymous, so there’s freedom to be creative.

    Lastly, by exchanging sheets, team members build and evaluate ideas in a concentrated, creative way.

    This is a useful, snappy technique that involves everyone’s participation and ensures that both introverts and extroverts contribute in a creative and meaningful way.


    Author: The late Margaret Imai-Compton, FMRIA MLIS, CUG, FMRIA was a distinguished industry leader and practitioner for nearly three decades. She was the Principal of Imai-Compton Consulting Inc., and also worked at Research Management Group.  

    Article Source: Vue Magazine, November 2010 Issue 

  • 04/19/2020 8:44 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    By Doug Church

    The COVID-19 outbreak has had a significant, short-term impact on consumer behaviour, largely driven by social distancing, health protection and concerns about supply of essential products.  People are buying more online in general, and purchasing more survival items (e.g. food basics) and sanity products (e.g. entertainment).  While much of this is driven by the current predicament, what remains to be seen are the longer-term shifts in attitudes and behaviour that will have a lasting impact on how companies relate to their customers.

    In light of the global pandemic, there are several core developments that give rise to questions around enduring behavioural change, including:

    • Safety and security: Although there are a number of factors that have led people in western society to become more mindful of safety and security, the current crisis could compound this mindset, and even more than in the past, bring it to a very personal level.  New questions will be raised about the safety and security of most products/services both from a physical and digital standpoint.  As well, the new reality could drive change in demand for certain products and services, and/or changes to the manner in which they are delivered.
    • Compassion and globalization: Unlike crises of the past, the current pandemic is global in nature and impacts all of us.  This could give rise to a more enduring sense of tolerance and compassion for others.  The sense that we are all in it together could have a lasting impact on how people view brands and what they expect of the companies behind them.
    • Social patterns: We are social beings, but that could have a different meaning going forward. There are products, services and, indeed, entire industries that are predicated on the desire by some to gather in larger social settings. Might this give way in favour of smaller groups, greater use of technology and other behavioural change?

    In the investment world, there is now much speculation around which industries could benefit and which could suffer longer term in light of the pandemic.  While the main motivation is to determine where to invest for the long-term, the underpinning of speculation is potential change in consumer sentiment and behaviour.  Some of the speculation centers on industries that were very quickly and overtly impacted by the pandemic.  For example, the travel industry had been hugely impacted short-term, and the impact could carry through to longer-term reluctance to travel or to choose vacation options that involve congregating in larger groups (e.g. cruises, all-inclusive resorts).  Less obvious are the potential impacts on brands where attitudinal and behavioral change could have a more subtle impact.  For example, luxury brands typically involve a more high-touch sales process; will current events lead to a change in this process or, alternatively, increased aversion to luxury brands altogether?  Similarly, will increased online shopping activity during self-isolation have a more lasting impact on overall shopping behaviour?  Also, will online access to services beyond tangible products or simple transactions lead to expansion of what people are willing to do online (e.g. more complex service interactions)?

    The prospect of permanent shifts dictates the need for companies to keep pace with where their customers are going, and how their needs are evolving.  A recent article by McKinsey & Company outlined the imperative for companies to think across five horizons for a return to normal, including a “reimagination” stage to determine the impacts and implications of any discontinuous shifts.  Already, we are seeing examples of businesses adapting to the current situation by reimagining what and how they offer products and services.  Food services businesses are delivering food kits to satisfy functional and emotional needs of isolated consumers; clothing stores are offering online shopping parties; fitness clubs are offering online classes; benefit providers are offering virtual consultations with health care professionals, and so on.  While these attempts to adapt to a new reality are admirable, it remains to be seen what changes will endure and what this means for going forward value propositions. 

    More than ever, customer insights will be needed to determine what the new normal is with respect to expectations, needs, behaviours, and the shape of future products and services.  Research can be used to start understanding and gauging potential changes to layer onto initiatives and regular processes that were in place prior to COVID-19.  Through qualitative approaches, observation and analytics, companies can start to take stock of how things might have changed.  Armed with these observations, new filters can be applied to assess planned initiatives.  Eventually, insights can be used to look for and guide the development of new opportunities that emerge.

    Throughout history, black swan events like financial crises and pandemics have tended to have disruptive impacts on society and business.  While companies have to walk a careful balance between staying relevant and being sensitive to the harsh circumstances of the moment, those that are prepared for eventual change will have a better chance of appealing to renewed market sentiment when the cloud lifts.



    Author: Doug Church, MBA, is a co-founder of Phase 5 and co-lead of the Innovation practice. He has more than 25 years of experience conducting innovation, product, and go-to-market research. He brings extensive methodological expertise and strategic insight to clients. Doug is a Certified Marketing Research Professional (CMRP) and a member of ESOMAR. He has served on the boards of several organizations and spoken on numerous occasions at marketing research and industry events.

    Source: Phase-5

  • 04/06/2020 4:58 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    By Christie Christelis

    Navigating Uncharted Waters in the Canadian Economy

    One of the things that I regularly get involved in is preparing forecasts for clients, usually in specific technology markets. Invariably these forecasts relate in some way to what is happening in the economy at large. In many cases, prospects for the economy drive these forecasts so it is very important for us to have a handle on what is likely to happen in the economy when we prepare our forecasts in various markets. But we have recently entered unknown territory, making forecasting extremely difficult. Let’s start with what we have seen emerging in the economy over the last while. 


    Canadian economic performance has been fairly good, although by no means stellar, since the recession in 2008/2009 averaging a real GDP growth rate of 2.1% p.a. (CAGR) up to the end of 2019, representing a 10-year period of sustained growth. But storm clouds were brewing as early as March 2019 when the treasury yield curve started to invert. 

    The Inverted Yield Curve

    The yield curve is often an indicator that the economy will enter a recession within about 12 to 18 months after the onset of the inversion. The reasons for it being a predictor of a recession are complex and relate to expectations about the economy, about monetary policy and the availability of funds for investment (see this analysis by the Chicago Fed, for example). It has been a remarkable predictor, even though the exact dynamics remain somewhat obscure, yielding only one false positive since 1962. 

    There are a few caveats:
    • A yield curve that inverts for a short period of time is not a good predictor of a recession. It needs to remain inverted for some months before it is regarded as a ‘signal’ worthy of being noted.
    • The scale of the inversion is important. A spread of a few basis points is more likely to be noise than signal.
    • In those situations where the yield curve is inverted for a month or more, recession could be anywhere between six months and two years away and so it is not an accurate predictor of the timing of the running point.
    • In those rare cases where an inverted yield curve does not foreshadow a recession, there is always a softening in economic activity. As many economists and analysts have noted, the yield curve inversion itself is not an economic shock.

    The chart below shows the yields from 3-month Treasury Bills plotted against Government 10-year Bond Yields since 1995. (Some analysts look at the spread between the 2-year and 10 bond yields. The predictive power is largely similar.)


    You can view an animated visualization of how yield spreads have changed by month since January 1995 by clicking this link; also view the code on tableau here [christie.christelis.html].

    Looking at the yield curve doesn’t immediately tell you what is going on, although it certainly suggests that something is going on. In the 2008/2009 recession it is unlikely that the inverted yield curve foretold the subprime collapse, just as the current inverted yield curve could not be a harbinger of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What exactly is going on? There are many things at play. If the inverted yield curve always represents softening of economic conditions, then perhaps it is not surprising that when one or more economic shocks occurs, the economy is driven into recession. This was the case in 1990, when the main economic shocks to the Canadian economy were the US recession, the Bank of Canada’s overreach in trying to quell inflation and Federal tax increases. In 2008/9 it was the financial crisis precipitated by the subprime mortgage fiasco. And in 2020, there is no doubt that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is an economic shock of note.

    Charted Waters

    But wait, there’s more, as they say in those infinite Facebook ads. The US-everyone else trade war(s) have had an impact on Canada, with increased duties and the increased trade uncertainty creating an environment of economic instability. Then we had the rail blockades and strikes across the country. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying contraction in travel has seen an oil price war between Russia and OPEC with prices reaching 18-year lows. This is having a major impact on the Canadian oil patch – as if they didn’t already have enough problems to contend with. And then there’s the massive impact of the pandemic itself. Social distancing, business closures, travel bans, the loss of jobs are all having a devastating effect on the global and Canadian economies. Everything points to us being in for a rough ride. 

    Watching the different economic forecasts over the past month as they emerge from different sources has been quite revealing, more so of economic psychology (if there is such a thing) than of economics. The forecasts prepared in the first three weeks of March have a decidedly different tone to those from the last week of March. On March 12, Royal Bank was expecting a technical recession in Canada (two consecutive quarters of modest negative growth), but with GDP growing at 0.2.% in real terms over the year. While this does represent a significant drop from the 1.6% real GDP growth experienced in 2019, I think most would agree that if we emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with that economic result, we could count ourselves as lucky. 

    At the other end of the spectrum, the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted in the scenario analysis released on March 27 that the COVID-19 pandemic and the oil shocks could result in a decline of 2.5% in GDP in the first quarter of 2020 and a 25% decline in the second quarter (at annual rates) for an overall decline of 5.1% over the year. Unemployment in the third quarter would reach a record 15%. Granted, they make the point very strongly that this is one of many scenarios that they are considering and that this is not a forecast, but it is telling that this is the only scenario published in response to COVID-19 so far. 

    Into the Unknown

    With the COVID-19 pandemic situation changing daily and the responses of consumers, businesses and governments still far from settled, how do we navigate into the unknown when fathoming the unknown is important for our business? There is still much uncertainty about how to tackle the COVID-19 situation, with some experts saying that we can start seeing the new normal after another month, while others are looking at lockdowns until August.

    Scenario analysis is an extremely effective approach for defining the cone of uncertainty around where the economy is headed. Typically, this would involve creating a worst-case scenario, a best-case scenario and a most likely scenario. But it only tells us the consequences of the risks that lie ahead. It is not a guide for action. 

    McKinsey's recently published thought piece on the ‘Implications of COVID-19 for Business’ recommends that companies think and act across five horizons, each one further afield from the previous one and ranging from addressing immediate business challenges to thinking through how the industry may shift in the post-pandemic era. 

    The fact is that there are no easy solutions or magic crystal balls that give anyone a clear view of the future. Much like the navigators of the old days who faced the prospect of dragons when they sailed into the unknown, the horizon shrinks to what we can discern through the fog at close quarters. Our immediate challenge is not to run aground and we also know that if we see land, we may be able to recognize it. And hopefully we don’t encounter those dragons. 


    Author: Christie Christelis is the President of Technology Strategies International and an established fintech expert, entrepreneur, data scientist and organizational culture revolutionary.


  • 03/27/2020 8:44 PM | Arundati Dandapani (Administrator)

    • By Arundati Dandapani

      According to Vividata’s National Cannabis Consumer Study, 70% of consumers are not sure they know the difference between THC and CBD. Moreover, quality remains the top criterion in selecting a cannabis product for purchase. How are companies setting the standards for quality and how are we researching consumers to understand their experiences with cannabis products accurately and ethically? This post explores the manufacturing and research standards to consider when conducting research studies with cannabis. 

         

      Product Quality in Manufacturing

      At an HIV Community Cannabis Education event held in Toronto, a cannabis company proudly declared their company had not had a single product recall to date. Product recall happens when a product is defective, damaged or does not meet the customer’s expectations causing the product to be called off the shelf. This “zero recall” standard, the team said, was attributed to the fact that their cannabis product standards with regard to food safety and health was high and involved documentation of over 100 pages. 

      High product quality relies on a true understanding of the entire supply chain, from seed to sale with sanitized processes and quality checks including the creation of well-detailed preventative control plans that are in place to avoid instances of hazards like contamination or other public safety risks. These are the responsibility of the manufacturer.

      Setting Standards for Cannabis Research Studies 

      When companies, individuals or groups conduct or commission research of any kind on cannabis product one or more of its various forms (edibles, topicals, beverages, etc.) among human subjects, legal knowledge of the laws outlined the Cannabis Act should be distributed to all participants ahead of time. In fact, it is encouraged that respondents are tested on their knowledge of cannabis to ensure they understand the ins and outs of the product they are being researched for or with.  

      Respondent experience must be central to the research exercise. With cannabis, every user has a different experience, but the law that applies to everyone is the same. This is also why it’s so challenging to create standards that accommodate for the medical as well as the recreational standards in the conduct of consumer research around cannabis. The guidelines below detail some prime facets to consider in order to maintain high quality control standards in the cannabis research space:

      o  Compliance with the Cannabis Act and the MRIA Code of Conduct including referencing the guidelines listed in the Pharmaceutical Research section.

      o Respondent checks: Age gates are in place to ensure compliance, and if underaged, then medical licenses must be checked. 

      Product testing: The products have been through rigourous checks and audits by Health Canada and display the legal seal.  

      o Technology powered research: Virtual clinical trials and other accelerated technologies that mix the potential of new technologies with cannabis to create research insights quickly and more accurately, are being classified as Cannabis 3.0, triggering new innovations and improved data quality through better user experiences.

      o   Medical conditions: A panel of doctors must be present at the time of any product research to ensure no adverse effects lessen or damage the health of participants. 

      o 24-hour follow up: All respondents must be followed up with after a period of 24 hours to see that no negative consequences have occurred since the research.  

    An individualized approach to research must be adopted when the product is being tested for consumers. With cannabis research studies, companies might appear to follow different standards of benchmarking product quality, making it difficult for customers to judge products without trying them. While the medical legal market has been commercially legal since 2013, the adult-use or recreational market only became legal in October 2018, with the complete legalization of all product forms happening in October 2019. 



    Some industry insiders and veteran consumers will argue that legal market cannabis has fallen short on expectations with price-point, being 62% more expensive than black market cannabis according to Statistics Canada. Canada’s largest syndicated study of cannabis consumers reveals that price remains a top barrier to legal cannabis consumption. 

    As legal cannabis is still new in Canada, DIY methods and products are rampant. The gatekeepers of standards are constantly challenged when the market draws a false line between efficiency and quality. For individualized products, standards are new and developing, even as the industry is fast-moving and dependent on an intuitive honour code across the supply chain for effective quality control. An example that best demonstrates the need for quality control is around the lack of information about what cannabis is made of, what its effects and health benefits (where applicable) might be, and how to understand consistency, potency, and dosage in consuming (or trading) medically and recreationally. 

    Instituting Dialogue and Collaboration

    There are differences in standards and best practices between micro-cultivation and commercial growing according to the NACPT Pharma College that advocates for quality and accredited expertise at every point in the supply chain. One of the goals with an industry as fast-moving as cannabis (disproportionate to the pace of information flow) should be to bring both Health Canada and the licensed producers (LPs) in ongoing communication with one another, and this can happen best through an association that works to protect the industry. 

    Some companies are proud of not having had a single product recall since their setup. This is owed to the intensive process and documentation in place, popularly dubbed “GXP” encompassing the gamut of standards including GMP, GPP, GACP and other international manufacturing and production standards. Others have faced the wrath of their consumers, media, and everyone in their supply chain networks for not complying with Health Canada’s standards and the Cannabis Act. Cannabis brands still have a long way to go as consumers understand the full legal market ecosystem. 

    Modelling the Future of Cannabis Studies with Care

    Cannabis companies have a relatively empty legal canvas to fill, when compared with other industries, and the category’s future success will draw from the gold standards of ancillary industries including (and not limited to) technology, logistics, transportation, data analytics and market intelligence, packaging, and the media among others. A large proportion of new users’ information is gained from the media, posing an important responsibility for online outlets and websites to be posting the most accurate and well-researched cannabis insights for consumers. 

     


    Arundati Dandapani is Chief Editor of MRIA-ARIM, Canada’s foremost association for marketing research and intelligence professionals, and Founder of Generation1.ca, a cross-sectoral resource for Canada’s newest residents. A well-published researcher and insights storyteller, she advises businesses and non-profits across a range of industries, was named a 2020 AAPOR Burns Bud Roper Fellow and has earned industry honours like the 2020 QRCA Young Professionals Grant, and the Inaugural GRIT Future List Award in 2019. 

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