All posts by Rudly Raphael

Food For Thought: How Millennials Are Changing The Food Industry

Food, and what consumers expect from food manufacturers and grocery stores, is evolving. Case in point: after almost a decade of discussion, the FDA is now requiring restaurants and food chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts. One loud voice leading this charge is the millennial generation. Here are 4 ways millennials are changing the way we eat.

EASY MEALS

Millennials are looking for convenience when it comes to buying food, according to the International Food Information Council. A recent report by Alliance Bernstein found that two-thirds of millennials purchase prepared foods from some sort of service every week. Meal kits are no longer limited to subscription services like Blue Apron, however. Grocery stores have jumped on the trend in hopes of retaining millennial customers, partnering with brands like Campbell’s, Barilla and Ro-Tel to offer fresh, easy meals.

HEALTHY EATING

Millennials care about their health, and their meals reflect this. However, their definition of healthy may be different from that of past generations. They’re not necessarily looking for low-fat, low-cal, or low-carb. Instead, you may hear them talk about food that is organic, natural, locally sourced, or sustainable. Which leads us to…

TRANSPARENCY

Consumers are telling food manufacturers what they want, and what they want is transparency. Millennials have been demanding manufacturers show exactly what ingredients and sources create our food by including more informative food labels. In fact, 37% said they are willing to switch brands if their current brand does not provide them with the product information they seek. Intelligent brands who know fostering a relationship with the generation will be beneficial are prioritizing food transparency.

PICKUP OR DELIVERY?

Millennials are skipping traditional grocery stores or spending less on groceriesthan in the past. Stores are evolving their services in an attempt to gain millennials business. Kroger and Walmart, among others, now offer customers the option to order groceries online and then pick them up at their convenience. Customers don’t even have to get out of their cars—workers will load up their groceries for them.

QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 22 million active respondents, who are strategically recruited to participate in quantitative research and live discussions. By implementing various recruitment methodologies, we make sure to provide the right kinds of respondents for your research. With industry knowledge and innovative tools, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients. Contact for your next research project.

Ten Market Research Myths that Harm Your Brand

market research myth

Market research is the fuel that propels products, services, and even ideas. In fact, market research might even be more important than the fuel metaphor, since crashing a campaign or initiative is more severe than sputtering at the gate. As award-winning social media scientist and author Dan Zarrella once said, “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”

Unfortunately, nagging myths about market research often stall and crash brands as they navigate shifting times full of digital breakthroughs and sophisticated audiences.

By dispelling market research myths, you’ll be halfway on the road to achieving goals that fully activate your customers or clients.

You’ll be myth-informed.

I ALREADY KNOW MY AUDIENCE, SO I DON’T NEED IT

Most organizations know who they are serving, but don’t take into consideration subtle shifts in audience needs and potential blind spots. In these hyper-competitive times, trends are evolving at a fast pace. A change in consumer preference in social media or a minor dislike in a product feature can make a huge difference.

What’s more, continuous research can unveil hidden motivations and desires in audiences, which is potentially game-changing for a brand.

Imagine a world where Blockbuster had understood the public’s budding desire for streaming or video home delivery; or Myspace had listened to the swelling dissatisfaction with clunky, spam-ridden profiles? Big examples, for sure, but you get the big picture of audience research.

IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE

As they say, that dog just won’t hunt – especially in a digital age that offers affordable and scalable research solutions. Below we’ll mention some cost-effective qualitative research tools, but online survey platforms (like QuestionPro) and quick-hacks like Twitter surveys make data-collection very approachable. Email marketing platforms can cost close to nothing for reaching audiences.

Don’t worry about building a focus group room in your office or funding a phone interview study. There is a digital avenue out there that fits your budget.

PHYSICAL IS BETTER THAN ONLINE

We might as well quickly address this myth now.

For qualitative research, an argument on accuracy can be made, although not by much. For quantitative research, online is a widely-accepted methodology for quick turnaround and keeping your data collection cost manageable. In fact, we’ve covered the advantages of online survey research:

  • Allows marketers to gather opinions from a wide market spread
  • Results compiled quickly and can capture varying trends
  • Allows for seamless sampling within specific regions or zip codes
  • Effective at protecting respondent personal information

And again…it’s better on your wallet.

MARKET RESEARCH TAKES A LONG TIME

Let’s stress one more time the digital age we live in today. Yes, research should be as accurate and meticulous as possible. That doesn’t mean, however, going on a grand experiment until you find the market research God Particle.

As an article in B2B Marketing explains:

“Most research projects should not require a six-month engagement. In fact, some would argue that long gone are the days of the lengthy survey timeline. Thanks to new technologies and new data sources, researchers and marketers alike have more options than ever to gather different types of insights that come in all shapes and sizes, fit all budgets, and can take anywhere from three days to three months.”

In short, the market research world is yours for the taking…

BIGGER IS BETTER

In today’s research world, size doesn’t have to matter. This is more so in a mobile device era and short-attention-span culture. Research reveals that for most projects now marketers can expect up to 40% response on smartphone screens.

Brands don’t need titanic surveys. In fact, studies show that response fatigue sets in after 20 minutes of any survey — so, a tight, short questionnaire is a better approach. The study also reveals the following:

“They found survey respondents exert less effort and spend less time thinking about their answers as respondents get deeper into the survey.”

QUANTITATIVE IS ALL THAT MATTERS

Well-crafted surveys go a long way in bringing useful data. But the “why” of the data can be as crucial. A survey may explain that a certain demographic isn’t frequenting a store at certain hours, but without knowing “why,” it’s hard to customize a solution. That’s where such solutions as open-ended questions, post-participation interviews, or competitive-analysis come in.

Honestly, it should never be qualitative research versus quantitative research. Instead, it should be a healthy balance for quality market research. In reality, such solutions as webcams, eye-tracking, and neuromarketing make qualitative research available to many organizations.

Moreover, qualitative research is making a comeback as companies increasingly explore the “why” to ensure they nurture the right clients or customers for the long haul.

IT’S EASY-PEASY

Just because you can draw from digital solutions and audiences like “short & sweet” doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk.

Marketers and researchers should still work hard at research, being as meticulous as possible. From designing an effective questionnaire to systematically analyzing (and re-analyzing) data, you’ll get out what you put in.

Or as an Oracle marketing thought-leader said:

“Marketing research is supposed to be difficult.  If it wasn’t difficult, everyone would do it. Of course, we all know there is research being done all the time — lots of people are doing it, but very few are doing it right. And by “right,” I mean conducting true marketing research with quantifiable and qualifiable results.”

I ALREADY HAVE ACCESS TO PUBLIC DATA, SO I’M DONE

Guess what?

So do your competitors.  

They have the same access to statistics from government agencies, corporation balance sheets, and trade associations. 

Also, data points from different sources have varying methodologies. You may be unable to draw precise comparisons to answer your business questions strategically.

Furthermore, simple syndicated market research helps find the story behind public data, which gets your brand ahead of the pack.

ONCE IS ENOUGH

By now, the key theme in this article about changing times and audiences should be apparent. Even in a legacy, non-digital world, market research should be ongoing. Sadly, companies often stop at market research before the release of a product or only touch on audiences for initial reactions.

As one expert said, market research ought to be conducted “every six months to accurately capture the feel of the market, customers and competitors, ensuring that one’s company does not miss out on valuable opportunities.”

Your mileage may vary, of course, but don’t accept that data-gathering ever ends (if you want to stay competitive and grow your brand).

ALL MARKET RESEARCH COMPANIES ARE THE SAME

If you decide to use a research partner, it’s just the same as if you choose to leverage an agency for branding or digital marketing. Market research companies come in all sizes and specialties. For example, QuestionPro Audience specializes in providing its clients with hard to reach audiences for research –  veterinarians, general contractors, business travelers, registered voters, just to name a few. Other providers have their own mojo or research methodology they focus on.

In short, do some market research if you want to utilize a market research firm. Just as important, always keep your organization’s tank full of the best possible market research fuel. Your brand or services will thank you later — and so will your audiences.

QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 22 million active respondents, who are strategically recruited to participate in quantitative research and live discussions. By implementing various recruitment methodologies, we make sure to provide the right kinds of respondents for your research. With industry knowledge and innovative tools, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients. Contact for your next research project.

Time to Team Up? How Partner Marketing Can Help Your Your Brand

Brands are learning that partner marketing is a smart way to broaden your audience and drive growth and sales. Partner marketing, which is creating mutually beneficial relationships between your brand and other businesses, is a fast-growing sector in the marketing world. As with any relationship, it is important to find the right partner for your brand: Can the partner drive sufficient traffic and sales to make it worth your investment? Do your target audiences align? Do your brands have shared values? Here are 4 examples of brands who are utilizing partner marketing to grow their customer base.

SABRA/TOSTITOS + LYFT

PepsiCo brands Sabra and Tostitos have partnered with Lyft to launch a Cinco de Mayo campaign that offers up to $10 off the ride-hailing service, Lyft. According to Tostito’s press release, they have teamed up to help consumers get to and from their Cinco de Mayo celebrations safely. This is a smart move on their part, as Cinco de Mayo has overtaken the Super Bowl and St. Patrick’s Day for beer sales, and tortilla chip sales during the week of May 5th rose 0.5% to $98 million in 2016.

DISCOVER CHANNEL + SWEDISH FISH

The 30th anniversary of Shark Week on Discovery Channel doesn’t debut until July 22nd, but the network has already declared Swedish Fish the official candy sponsor of the week-long event. Swedish Fish is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and launching a new product, so the partnership makes sense for both brands. In addition to co-branded packaging and ads, the brands are launching a mobile game next month, “Chomped”, which they hope will keep fans engaged and generate excitement leading up to Shark Week’s airing.

LYFT + TACO BELL

The Sabra/Tostitos partnership wasn’t Lyft’s first foray into brand partnership. Last year they partnered with Taco Bell to let passengers request a stop at a restaurant drive-thru, generating an 8% increase in weekend customer visits during the 11 p.m. hour. Taco Bell has partnered with mobile apps in the past, such as when they teamed up with Airbnb to promote a contest where the winner won a one night “steakcation” and OpenTable to promote a new breakfast taco.  

SNICKERS + WRESTLEMANIA

Snickers has had a partnership with WWE for 3 years, and is now expanding to WrestleMania as well. WWE is creating custom content for Snickers on their digital and social platforms, where the stars will feature in the popular “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” ad campaigns. This partnership can potentially reach new consumers for Snickers, as WrestleMania draws tens of thousands of fans every year, with attendance continuing to grow.  

QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 22 million active respondents, who are strategically recruited to participate in quantitative research and live discussions. By implementing various recruitment methodologies, we make sure to provide the right kinds of respondents for your research. With industry knowledge and innovative tools, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients. Contact for your next research project.

4 e-Newsletter Tips To Ensure Your Company’s Success

In this digital era where businesses are in constant communication with their audience via social media, many feel the e-newsletter is not necessary, or simply go through the motions when sending one out. By doing so, they are missing out on a great opportunity to deliver interesting information in a neat package to their customers or clients. By not being limited to 280 characters, you can expand on topics and provide your audience with an informative and thought-provoking newsletter. That is, if it’s done correctly. We’ve compiled a list of best practices to ensure you are utilizing this personal interaction with your customers or clients.

BALANCE

You are writing this newsletter to your current or prospective customers, and while it may be hard to refrain from selling to your audience, use the 90/10 balance. That is, make your news informative and timely, and not just about your products or services. A good newsletter is 90% educational, and 10% promotional. No matter how much someone loves your products or services, if every interaction with your brand is “buy, buy, buy”, you will have unsubscribers so fast your head will spin.

KEEP IT CLEAN

The design, that is—get your mind out of the gutter. No one wants to have to work to read through clutter and crazy designs. Keep it succinct, and guide the reader through the experience. Typically, there should be an image, a few paragraphs of introduction and a clear call to action.

DON’T MISLEAD

These days, everyone has software that allows them to measure open and click-through rates. While these are good ways to gauge the success of an e-blast, you shouldn’t focus on these solely. For example, if I receive an email with the subject line: “50% off men’s clothing”, only to find it applies to men’s socks, I will be annoyed and frustrated. While that bait-and-switch tactic resulted in an open, you may have just lost a current or potential customer.

TEST, TEST, TEST

While customer communications can seem more casual today than in the past, grammar, punctuation and spelling all still matter. There’s nothing worse than receiving an email, only to notice there are spelling errors or other simple mistakes. Make sure all of your links work and direct the reader where you want them to go. It may sound obvious, but these are the small things that often slip through the cracks. You want every interaction with your customer to show your company in the best light, and this is any easy one to execute. Get another set of eyes on it, send test emails, and fine-tune until you feel confident it would receive an A from your high school English teacher.

QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 22 million active respondents, who are strategically recruited to participate in quantitative research and live discussions. By implementing various recruitment methodologies, we make sure to provide the right kinds of respondents for your research. With industry knowledge and innovative tools, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients. Contact for your next research project.

Summer Travel Trends: The Who, What and Where

travel

Planning a summer getaway this year? Then you’re part of the 56% of Americans who plan to take a vacation during the upcoming summer months. We know businesses and consumers alike rely on the revenue these summer jaunts bring, so we took a closer look into Americans’ spending habits during vacation season.

WHO’S TRAVELING?

Of those who plan to take time off, 92% will go away, while 8% will stay home. For most, summer vacation means family time. 87% of married couples plan to travel together, and the same number will bring their children. Among non-married vacationers, 57% will travel with friends or family, and 24% will fly solo. According to research conducted by AP-NORC, 43% of Americans won’t be taking a vacation. The top reason for skipping a trip is the cost, according to 49% of non-vacationers. 11% aren’t able to take the time off work, and 3% said they don’t like to be away from work (these folks deserve a raise).

COST

74% of Americans will be using credit to finance their next trip. According to a study by LearnVest, the average vacationer racks up $1,108 in debt to finance their trip. Half of those surveyed expect to spend less than $1,000 total for their summer holiday, while 50% plan to spend more than $1,000. Two-thirds of the respondents reported spending more on a week-long vacation than they do on a month’s rent or mortgage.

WHERE TO?

MMGY Global’s recent study showed that domestic vacations now make up 85% of American vacations, up 7 points from last year. 53% of domestic travelers plan to visit an attraction of some sort this year. While that might bring to mind an amusement park, the research indicates the top-ranking attractions are more educational, with 65% planning to visit an art or history museum, aquariums (59%) or  science museums (56%) coming before theme parks (55%).

INTERNATIONAL TOURISM

While international tourism is growing at its fastest pace in seven years, the U.S. is experiencing its sharpest drop in foreign travelers since 2009. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2017 the number of arrivals to the U.S. from foreign countries was down 9.3% compared to 2016. The dip in tourism (perhaps caused by anti-foreigner rhetoric and immigration policies) has many travel and retail industries worried, as international travelers tend to stay longer and spend more than their domestic counterparts.

QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 22 million active respondents, including frequent travelers, who are strategically recruited to participate in quantitative research and live discussions. By implementing various recruitment methodologies, we make sure to provide the right kinds of respondents for your research. With industry knowledge and innovative tools, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients. Contact us for your next research project.

2018 Home Renovation Report: Homeowner Trends, Spending and Priority Projects

renovation

Just as fall signals football and cider mills, spring brings the home renovation projects that were set aside for the winter. QuestionPro Audience conducted a survey with 500 homeowners across the United States to gauge homeowner trends, future renovation plans and spending habits for spring 2018. To view our infographic with full report findings, click here.

CURRENT ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

Overall, U.S. homeowners are optimistic about the next twelve months. 60% of homeowners take the state of the economy into consideration before making renovation plans, and 61% feel confident the economy is improving. Additionally, 55% of our respondents think home values will increase as well over the next year. While President Trump can be a controversial topic, only 28% report taking the presidential administration into consideration before making home improvement plans.

FUTURE HOME RENOVATION SPENDING

Homeowners look to be encouraged by today’s stronger housing market, and are making investments in their homes. 55% of homeowners plan to conduct at least one renovation over the next twelve months, up from the 38% who have previously performed improvements. 41% of respondents are initiating a home improvement project to improve their quality of living, while 17% are looking to increase the value of their home, but don’t have current plans to sell, and 16% want a “new look”.

Homeowners are also tackling bigger, more expensive projects this year—15% are planning to remodel their kitchen this year, 13% plan to update a bathroom, and 9% are looking to revamp the bedroom. 42% plan to spend between $3,000 and $10,000 on their upcoming renovation, up 6% from last year. A bit of good news for contractors: 61% plan to hire a professional for their upcoming project, compared to 59% who hired a professional for their past project. 49% of respondents plan to pay with cash or savings, 17% will put it on a credit card, 14% will use financing, 10% plan to use a home equity loan, and 8% are counting on their tax return to finance their project.

MILLENNIALS VS. BABY BOOMERS: WHO IS SPENDING ON HOME IMPROVEMENT?

Baby Boomers and millennials have at least one thing in common when it comes to conducting home projects: 61% of both baby boomers and millennials plan to perform at least one improvement over the next twelve months. That may be where the similarities end, however. The majority of millennials (35%) plan to spend between $1,000-$2,999, while 31% of baby boomers will be spending between $5,000-$9,999. Baby boomers will primarily be paying with cash (67%), financing (13%), or taking out a home equity loan (7%). Millennials will also be paying with cash (42%), but 19% plan to use one or more credit card.

Millennials are focused on renovating their kitchen (14%), bathroom (10%), and living room (9%), while 23% of baby boomers will be updating their bathroom, kitchen (19%), or replacing windows (9%). The majority of both age groups will be hiring a professional to do the work, but 39% of millennials plan to conduct the renovation themself, compared to 27% of baby boomers. Millennial respondents get a sense of satisfaction from performing the work themselves (40%), while baby boomers are more focused on keeping the project cost effective (59%). Baby boomer DIY-ers are also very specific about where they purchase their materials, with 85% shopping at building supply stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s or Menards, hardware stores like Ace Hardware or True Value (8%) or Walmart (8%). Millennials also shop at supply stores (64%), Walmart (14%), and hardware stores (7%), but they frequent warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club (7%) and high-end specialty stores like Kohler (4%) as well.

WOMEN TAKING CHARGE OF HOME PROJECTS

While home improvement has stereotypically been thought of as a male-dominated industry, women are picking up power tools and narrowing the margins. Of our respondents, 55% of women are planning to conduct a home improvement project over the next twelve months, compared to 57% of men. The majority of men (33%) intend to spend between $5,000 and $9,999, while 29% of women are looking to spend $1,000-$2,999. Cash is king for women funding their project; 54% of women are using cash, whereas men will be using cash (40%) or financing (21%). The genders are focused on improving different areas of the house as well; men will be remodeling the bathroom, while women plan to update the kitchen.

The majority of both sexes—63% of women and 58% of men—intend to hire a professional for their upcoming project. 56% of women feel they do not have the skills or equipment necessary for their planned project, while men value the expertise that comes with hiring a professional (47%). Another dissimilarity between the genders is how they find professionals to hire. Women prefer to ask a friend for a referral (40%), look on a review website such as Yelp.com (18%), or ask a contractor for a referral (17%). Men also ask friends for referrals (30%), but would rather use a search engine like Google.com (24%), or look on Yellowpages.com (21%).

The motivated women who plan to DIY prefer it because it gives them a sense of personal satisfaction (41%), whereas DIY men like that it’s more cost effective (53%). The majority of both men (74%) and women (75%) plan to purchase materials at a building supply store like Menards, Home Depot or Lowe’s, but that’s where the congruity ends. 10% of men intend to shop at Sears or IKEA (6%), while women will head to warehouse clubs like Costco (8%) or Walmart (8%).

THE YEAR AHEAD

The current housing market inventory is very competitive, so it is logical that many homeowners are choosing to invest in remodeling their current home, rather than get into a bidding war. Additionally, with the economy and housing market more stable, homeowners now have more income—and equity—so they’re making renovations to create their dream homes. Our study found that the majority of homeowners are focusing on discretionary projects such as kitchens and bathrooms, which may have been put off after the housing crisis. Judging from our report, it looks like 2018 will be a profitable year for homeowners, contractors, and material suppliers alike.

Download the full infographic report here.

What Your Brand Can Learn Right Now from the Starbucks Controversy

By now, most of you are probably aware of the disastrous event at Starbucks —  where two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia store for not making a purchase and refusing to leave the premises. The scene was captured in a video that went viral, and the backlash has been monstrous on social media and resulted in physical protests across the country. As Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Starbucks can surely relate. According to a YouGov BrandIndex score, the coffee giant has already dropped to its lowest consumer perception in years. Without a doubt, this is a historic public relations minefield. Starbucks has gone into damage control during these very sensitive, caustic times in the country.

Will any public image initiatives work or is the brand hopelessly crippled?

One way to read the tea leaves right in this situation is to analyze Starbuck’s initial reactions — relating them to effective PR best practices and comparing to how other companies have overcome a public crisis in the past.

STARBUCKS DID THEIR RESEARCH AND KNEW THEIR AUDIENCE

The company knew that these are not the days when a controversy comes and goes. The internet doesn’t forget a scandalous situation. Social media and easily-captured videos amplify events to intense levels of engagement, attitude, and action. The fact that the video caught white patrons angrily objecting the arrest was a visible testament to the company’s customer base. Starbucks is no Chick-fil-A, a more conservative brand that easily weathered its own storm years ago when its CEO publicly shared his controversial views on gay marriage.

As always, any publicity starts with solid market research to understand where a brand needs to pivot, regardless of the situation.

Thus, Starbucks needed to move quickly and address its base.

STARBUCKS OWNED IT, AND OWNED IT FAST

When the racially-charged news broke out, one of the narratives on the web was pointing the finger at the Philadelphia Police Department (who have recently gone on their own damage control campaign). Starbucks didn’t ride that potential wave, immediately taking responsibility for the debacle.

The incident happened on a Thursday, with the video beginning to crest by Friday. On Saturday the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks exploded across Twitter. By then, the company had provided a public apology while CEO Kevin R. Johnson released both a video and written statement of culpability and regret.

The company’s reaction is a huge contrast from last year’s infamous video-captured incident on a United Express flight, when a passenger was recorded being forcibly dragged out. As the video became viral and the media reaction swelled, United appeared to deflect any blame at first and only apologized several days later. This was a textbook illustration of being tone deaf, widely seen as crippling the airline’s public perception.

The same argument can be made with the recent feet-dragging of Facebook once it was found its data was being politically mined by third-party companies. Stay tuned for that one, though.

STARBUCKS IS MAKING CHANGES TO THE BRAND

Taking responsibility and apologizing are only the first steps in any public crisis. Transformative actions should follow (beyond whatever recompensation offered to maligned consumers).

Historically, the best example might be in 1982 when seven people died from poison-laced Tylenol. Apologies were not going to make much of a difference in this tragedy, even if the culprit had been found. Instead, the maker of Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson, introduced a tamper-resistant packaging and $2.50-off coupons. Both solutions became a standard for the industry and an iconic case study on damage control.

Starbucks is obviously not going to add bigotry-erasing ingredients to their employee free coffees — but will be closing its stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias education for employees (at the potential cost of $12 million).

This change is not in the product but the overall culture of the company.

As an expert in crisis management said, “This move goes far beyond the playbook of what a normal crisis response would be.”

STARBUCKS IS BEING DYNAMIC

A strategy in any business sense should never be static. Strictly following initial data and sticking to a template may lead to a disconnect.

Starbucks is being fluid with its crisis management. Johnson not only apologized in a video and written statement but has met with the two arrested individuals. This move has allowed Starbucks to own more of the dialogue instead of the media completely controlling the narrative.

Furthermore, the company continues to address the issue on its social media channels, as well as deal with collateral issues like fake coupons that offer free drinks to black customers. Sadly, regardless of the gravity of a situation, there are always elements wanting to make an extra buck or troll a population in the hope of having another sucker born in a minute.

Surely, Starbucks is learning from past nimble movements from other big brands — like JC Penny quickly addressing a Reddit, viral graphic that compared its teapots to Hitler or Southwest keeping its audiences well-informed right after an airplane made an emergency landing. Again, it’s about owning the dialogue as much as possible.

PR WIN OR CAUTIONARY TALE?

Starbucks seems to be doing everything right in the reputation management front, drawing deftly from past cases and innovating out of necessity. As marketer Viv Segal once said, “PR means telling the truth and working ethically – even when all the media want is headlines and all the public wants is scapegoats.”

I wouldn’t bet a pricey cup of coffee that it overcomes the crisis, though.

All times in history are unique, but these are singularly days where audiences live equally in both shifting physical and digital domains, all under an uncertain geopolitical and cultural atmosphere. In any public relations today, there are too many moving parts to be confident of how a brand will be affected.

In between now and the racial-bias education at the end of May, a lot can and will happen. In the end, the one thing that is certain is that this controversy will be a future case study, maybe or maybe not accompanied by a latte in a siren-printed cup.

Don’t Exhibit at Your Next Event Before Using this Research Hack

Proper market research is the stable launching pad to rocket any successful product, service, or campaign. That’s not rocket science.

Having said that, market research tends to get overlooked in the event space. All too often, brands get lulled into the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality when it comes to the annual exhibition. It’s time to dust off the usual signage, call an event provider for a booth, and send out the team with product samples. Or something like that.

Any event should be well-researched, new or reoccurring. Face-to-face marketing is still crucial. Research shows that companies are increasingly investing in events for their ability to bring results (some as much as 50% of marketing budget).

Without the right data, you risk exhibiting at an event with the wrong audiences. Your service or product will sputter. Conversely, well-researched shows blast your brand to hyperspace when it comes to customer engagement.

Follow this approachable and executable roadmap below to find the most suitable trade show or exhibit for your product or service.

Align the needs of your brand

One of the most important questions for marketing and business decisions is “Why?”

Why does your organization need to be at an event? At any event?

For these answers, it’s key to interview internal sales, marketers, product managers, and other stakeholders. This search aims to obtain background on promotional aims, product details, and competitive climate needed to select shows that fit like the proverbial glove. If possible, getting upper management to present a “big picture” vision goes a long way — which can then be aligned with the specific goals of having a booth (sales, networking, data gathering, product testing, etc.).

After a thorough examination, you’ll acquire a solid picture on identifying events that line up with your organization’s general marketing aims. Not getting this right from the start is likely to imbalance the rest of the process — so be as thorough as possible!

Find out where your audiences hang out

It may seem obvious to know what events your audience frequents, but it’s also vital to know why they attend a show, as well as their specific opinions after experiencing an event. After all, there can be many events for a single vertical and many reasons audiences attend them (education, networking, product search, etc.). Some events are more popular or relevant in any given year.

This is the time to whip out a survey for your customers and prospects. Ask them which events they patronize yearly, what are they looking for specifically on the show floor, and other explorative questions. Not every organization has the budget or time for high-level surveys, but in full transparency, QuestionPro provides its clients with a suite of intuitive research tools that can do the trick.

Keep in mind that informal, qualitative studies like picking the brain of clients over lunch or during a phone meeting can go a long way in obtaining data.

Hunt down the right exhibition or trade show

You’ve got actionable data at this point. Yay! Now it’s time find the best event opportunities for exhibiting. Luckily, there are many sources for identifying potential events.

These include:

  •      Association websites
  •      Trade publications
  •      Internet sites
  •      Trade associations
  •      Competitors (specifically their sites or social media channels)
  •      Direct mail from event producers

This investigation should produce a list of shows that match your brand’s marketing strategy and objectives. For best results, categorize by industry, vertical, and market — at the same time analyzing for potential cross-overs for multi-product/division companies.

Go into the belly of the beast

With a targeted list in your possession, contact organizers of each relevant show for pertinent information. This can include attendance figures, cost per square footage, space availability, sponsorships, etc. In addition, try to contact current exhibitors for their personal experiences.

As a warning, this step may be difficult. In many cases, organizers just don’t possess the kind of data you require, are reluctant to share numbers publicly, or have inadequate standards of information-reporting. What’s more, many show organizers simply lack independent auditors to certify their own data. Regardless, any information collected will go miles towards achieving research goals.

For additional criteria, there is nothing wrong with weighing such elements as speaker popularity, media exposure, or brand recognition. Not every event can be Comic-Con or SXSW, but you can hear an industry buzz if you’re attentive.

Use your research!

Now that you have all this rich data, it’s time to do something about it.

By now, you should have a clear answer to the most critical question: Should we exhibit and where?

Even if the answer is yes to exhibiting, it’s a matter of to what extent and how deep to invest. All of this depends primarily on the target audience quantity and quality (gleaned from the show organizer data and your surveys). It also depends on the feedback and insights of all relevant company stakeholders and decision-makers

Put together, this process ought to lead to a full marketing strategy after a few meetings. Even better, you’ll likely find overarching objectives and strategies for future shows, not to mention post-participation promotions.

What’s important is that your organization can be free of that “we’ve always done it this way” attitude when it comes to exhibiting. Once on the show floor, your team will be saying a hearty “hello” to audiences that are ready to interact with your brand fully.

How Brands Cash In On March Madness

The Madness of March. Many sports fans claim the only thing that gets them through the tedious month of March, when spring is so close you can taste it, is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness. College basketball fans aren’t the only ones who get excited for the tournament, however. Due to the popularity of office brackets, even the most casual sports fan can get swept up in the excitement, in the hopes of bragging rights and a little extra cash. ESPN.com reports an estimated 70 million brackets were filled out in 2017, to a total of $10.4 billion overall in bets. Brands know they have an opportunity to reach a large audience, and spend the month engaging consumers via social media and advertising.

According to Kantar Media, $1.285 billion in ad revenue was generated during last year’s March Madness tournament, a 3.3% increase from 2016. Additionally, the 2017 NCAA Tournament was the most-watched in 24 years, with an average of 9,325,000 million viewers, up 10% from 2016 (8,513,000). With nearly one-third of the U.S. television audience watching at least six minutes of the tournament, it is a good bet for brands looking to reach a broad audience.

Companies pay big money to attach their names to the tournament, and Coca-Cola, Capital One, and AT&T are the three corporate “champion” sponsors this year, with an additional fourteen corporate sponsors. NCAA officials don’t disclose how much they receive for the partnerships, but according to marketing researchers, March Madness ranks with the Super Bowl, Olympics, and World Cup as one of the most valuable events in sports, due to the audience it attracts—younger males, who are traditionally a harder market to reach.

Brands like Wendy’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Powerade are utilizing the tournament by running promotions linked to March Madness. Wendy’s is running an interactive bracket on their social channels, with fans able to earn rewards and exclusive offers each week. Buffalo Wild Wings has billed itself the “Official Hangout for NCAA March Madness” and unveiled a variety of in-restaurant, online and on-site Final Four activations designed to reward fans. Powerade, who is the Official Sports Drink of the NCAA, debuted a new campaign, “That’s Some Kind of Power,” during the first four March Madness games. The campaign has evolved throughout the month with relevant advertisements and activations around iconic sporting events.

Not everyone makes money during March Madness, however. March Madness invades many workplaces, causing major distractions. According to WalletHub, unproductivity during March Madness amounted to an estimated $6.3 billion in corporate losses in 2017. In a survey of more than 400 managers and human resources specialists conducted by Seyfarth Shaw at Work, 30% said it was a major diversion at their office, with workers spending an average of 25.5 minutes per day monitoring the games.

Whether you’re an avid fan, or just hoping to make some money in your office bracket, advertisers are happy you’re tuning in.

Move Over, Celebs—Make Way For the New Influencers

Consumers, get ready to see even more influencer marketing on your social media channels. According to a study conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), 75% of advertisers surveyed currently use influencer marketing. 43% of national advertisers who already engage in influencer marketing are planning to increase their spend over the next 12 months. Even more interesting, of those who are not already using influencer marketing, 27% plan to start in the next year. While influencer marketing is here to stay, there will be a few tweaks. We examine ways influencer marketing is changing in 2018.

MICRO-INFLUENCERS

Celebrities will always influence trends on some level, but many brands are veering away from celebrities and moving toward micro-influencers who have 25,000 to 100,000 followers. While giant followings may sound enticing, they don’t always get the best results, and advertisers are realizing engagement matters more. A recent study found that consumers find micro-influencers to be more engaging and trustworthy than celebrities or personalities with more than 250,000 followers.

TRAILBLAZERS

Digital trailblazers are also increasingly popular with both brands and consumers alike. These content creators who have 1 million to 19.9 million social media followers outperform both celebrities and micro-influencers. According to a new report by Fullscreen and Sharablee, the engagement levels were 0.66% for digital trailblazers, compared to 0.40% for celebrities and 0.35% for micro-influencers.

TRUST

Fullscreen and Sharablee found that 38% of 1,200 millennials and Gen Zers ages 18-to-34 trust what influencers say about a brand more than what the brand says about itself. Trailblazers have the overall highest level of trust (45%) among their followers, exceeding micro-influencers (42%) and celebrities (29%). Of those consumers who engage with micro-influencers, 45% were likely to try their recommendation, while 30% of those who engage with digital trailblazers were likely to purchase. Consumers who engage with celebrities were the least likely to try or purchase something recommended by the influencer.

BUDGETS

A recent survey of 181 marketers reported that 86% of brands used influencer marketing in 2017; of those, 92% felt it was an effective strategy. So effective, in fact, that 39% of brands are increasing their influencer budgets in 2018, with the majority spending between $25,000 and $50,000. 35% of brands give influencers free products rather than payment.

SOCIAL PLATFORMS

According to ANA’s findings, the most popular social media channels for influencer marketing are Facebook (86%) and Instagram (84%), with Instagram ranked as the most important platform overall by 36% compared to Facebook’s 20%.
QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 22 million active respondents who are strategically recruited to participate in quantitative research and live discussions. By implementing various recruitment methodologies, we make sure to provide the right kinds of respondents for your research. With industry knowledge and innovative tools, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients. Contact us for your next research project: sample-projects@questionpro.com