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Brilliance@Work: Jen Handley Shares How to Harness the Power of Fandom

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar marketing professionals and their best practices at work. This month, we’ll feature market research experts.

Jen Handley

Jen Handley

How does your brand make people feel? Successful brands make people feel good about themselves and about the world. Achieving and sustaining that level of success requires a healthy “fan base.”

Jen Handley leads technology and innovation initiatives at Fizziology. She’s also a presenter at The Market Research Event (TMRE) on October 16-18 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona.

As a preview to her presentation, “Harnessing the Power of Fandom,” Jen shares her insights on the importance of activating your fans for business success.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How can leveraging brand advocates or “fans” help shape an organization’s future success?

Jen Handley: Your fans are those who know and love your brand the most. They’ll voice their opinions, hopes and wishes, and they’ll also be the most critical of you. Brands who actively listen to their fans, understand who they are and what they want, can shape their products and market for future success.

PB: What are some examples of how you leverage brand advocacy for your various clients?

JH: MarketCast Group’s companies take a unique approach to understanding brands’ fandoms. For example, at Fizziology, we assign “evangelist” ratings to the fans who talk about a brand in social media. This allows us to consider fans on a spectrum of those who casually engage and those who strongly advocate for the brand. We then dive deep into their behaviors, their needs, values, personality traits, and what’s driving that advocacy.

PB: How does this approach help tell a compelling marketing story?

JH:  Consumers connect most with brands that are authentic. Our research has shown that brands need to deliver on three key areas to satisfy fans: innovation in product and marketing, providing ways for the consumer to enhance their identity and relevance through being at the forefront of culture. Brands can prove authenticity in each of these key areas by showing that they’re listening to their fans and to the greater trends happening in the world.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?

JH:  Attendees will walk away with an understanding of what constitutes a true “fan” versus a consumer. We’ll use real-life examples from the worlds of Media & Entertainment and Lifestyle Brands to show how fandom can vary from brand to brand, what our best fans do for the brands they love, what drives fandom, and ideas for activating their own fan-base.

Want to hear more from Jen? Join us at The Market Research Event (TMRE). Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in market research. Stay connected at #TMREVENT.


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Brilliance@Work: Rachel Lorraine Shares Pizza Hut’s Customer Success Strategy

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar marketing professionals and their best practices at work. In September and October, we’ll feature market research experts.

Rachel Lorraine

Rachel Lorraine

Satisfied customers are the heart of your business. Keeping them satisfied keeps them loyal customers. Pizza Hut capitalizes on this strategy through the right digital strategy, pricing and market research.

Rachel Lorraine is Director of Strategic Pricing at Pizza Hut. She’s also a presenter at The Market Research Event (TMRE) on October 16-18 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona.

As a preview to her presentation, “Pizza Hut’s Secret Sauce – a Virtual Test and Learn Platform,” Rachel shares her insights on the importance of getting your digital strategy, pricing and UX testing right.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How does the right digital strategy help shape an organization’s future success?

Rachel Lorraine: For Pizza Hut, our digital strategy is critical. We live in a world where more than half of our transactions take place online – and that number is steadily growing – and even more consumers are using our website as a menu, virtual coupon drawer, etc. As our biggest storefront, the website carries a big responsibility – it must capture consumers’ attention, be easy to navigate and shop, ensure transparency throughout the process, communicate key brand messages… the list goes on and on.  For all these reasons, getting it right is paramount to our success.

PB: What role does pricing play in helping to enhance brand performance?

RL: Pricing is a mechanism that is essential to helping us achieve both short and long-term success. We want to make sure that we’re pricing items appropriately, based on what consumers are willing to pay and what the market will support. However, we must also always ensure that we’re delivering profitable transaction growth. It often feels like a tightrope, but when we get the balance right, the impact is significant.

PB: How does the “test and learn” platform data help tell a compelling marketing story?

RL: For us, it has been a great tool for helping us to prioritize strategies and workflow based on anticipated consumer behavior. We have a robust UX testing program, but often times this is solely focused on the online experience – what consumers see and think – as opposed to what they actually do in response to changes. A virtual test and learn platform has helped us take our analysis one step further, so that we’re making holistic decisions with an eye towards how it will affect the bottom line.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?

RL:  Hearing about a new research methodology is always interesting, but I personally love to see actual use cases to better understand and visualize how I might apply something. My hope is that the presentation will bring to life a unique research approach in a meaningful way. It also has some fun information on Pizza Hut overall and how we’re thinking about our business moving forward.

Want to hear more from Rachel? Join us at The Market Research Event (TMRE). Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in market research. Stay connected at #TMREVENT.

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Brilliance@Work: Retail Design Expert Maria Gustafson

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar people and their best practices at work. We’re kicking off 2017 by featuring brand, design and marketing strategy experts to help you “thrive in the new brand reality.”

Maria Gustafson

FUSE 2017 presenter Maria Gustafson is Senior Vice President of Global Creative at Kiehl’s, where she leads the creative vision of one of the world’s leading skin care companies.

Her expansive creative career bridging fashion, beauty and lifestyle began with Peter Arnell, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal, and Lloyd & Co, where she created campaigns for Burberry Blue Label, The Standard Hotels, Club Monaco, Cole Haan, Gucci, and Samsung.

Maria also developed creative at MAC Cosmetics, Gap, and the L’Oreal luxury brands Giorgio Armani and Shu Uemera.

As a preview to her presentation, Maria shares her insights on how good retail design can increase brand engagement:

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How did your experiences in design shape your character and career?
Maria Gustafson:
I was that lucky kid who was raised by two super creative, imaginative parents who nurtured my artistic curiosities. Every weekend my parents, brother and I were building something together, whether it was a tree house, a skateboard or a piece of furniture. And then we’d sleep in the tree house or ride the skateboard. My dad and I even started a business repairing vintage wicker furniture. He was building the skeletons, and I was building the architecture around them. That business eventually paid my way through college.

Design is a way to communicate, tell stories, build an audience, and evoke a feeling about what it is to be human. It’s a spirit, an essence of who you are; it shouldn’t feel like work. For me, it started as a connection, developed into an expression, and then became a passion that gives me a sense of accomplishment and immediate gratification. It’s even grown into a bit of an obsession – always an extension of everything I do.

PB: What role does retail design play in the performance of a brand?
Good retail design creates a theater for your brand’s DNA – a place where customers can discover your brand story and have a positive, memorable experience that makes them want to stay. In that sense, it functions as a salesperson; even if the staff is busy, the shop itself has the ability to engage customers and sell. You experience this when you’re in a space that’s done really well. You just get it, you escape into the brand’s story, and you want more.

PB: What are some of your most notable design projects?
To this day, my favorite projects are still the ones I create with my parents. But professionally, I’m very proud of the projects Kiehl’s does that give back to our community. We create partnerships with high-end artists such as Jeff Koons, Kenny Scharf, Kaws, Faile, and Norman Rockwell’s Foundation. They design packaging, patterns and objects that are true to their styles and also complement our Kiehl’s DNA. These unique items fly off the shelves, and they generate money and awareness for the charities that Kiehl’s support.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
An interesting, purposeful discussion of how to create engagement through the retail experience and some great visuals. You might even be able to touch a texture or two.

Want to hear more from Maria? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.


How to Survive and Thrive in the New Brand Reality

Happily Ever AfterPhoto: StockSnap

“The strength of brand loyalty begins with how your product makes people feel.” – Jay Samit, digital media innovator

How does your brand make people feel?

Successful brands make people feel good about themselves and about the world. Achieving and maintaining this level of success requires constant and equal amounts of care and innovation.

Be ready to meet and exceed these standards of the “new brand reality” by joining me April 4-6, 2017 in Miami, Florida for FUSE 2017, “at the intersection of design, brand and strategy.”

Here’s a peek at a few of the speakers and presentations on the agenda:

  • Featured Keynote: From Domestic Diva to Brand Icon, Martha Stewart, Founder, Emmy Award-Winning Television Show Host, Entrepreneur and Best-Selling Author, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
  • “Atomic Design: The Next Gen Digital and Brand Experiences,” Stephen Gates, Global Head of Design, Citi
  • “DO NOT OPEN: A Tale of Resiliency, Imagination and the Power of Curiosity,” Brian Robinson, Global Head of Creative, Design & Development, DreamWorks Animation
  • “Designing Calm Technology,” Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist and Author
  • “Pop Goes the Brand,” Christine Taylor, Licensing Creative Account Manager, Hallmark Cards Inc.

Register today for FUSE 2017 to learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.

In the meantime, watch for my Fuse in Focus presenter profiles and conference posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Starry Blue Brilliance.

Looking forward to attending this event with you!

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Marketing Analytics & Data Science Insights from San Francisco

Golden Gate BridgeGolden Gate Bridge photo by Pixabay

As I reported last month and confirmed in person this month, learning opportunities are blooming in Marketing Analytics & Data Science.

Here’s a brilliant collection of marketing analytics and data science insights from the Marketing Analytics & Data Science Conference in San Francisco.

Please read and share these stories so we can all learn how to deploy marketing analytics and data science to drive our businesses and organizations forward.

All of these stories are featured on The Market Research Blog.

Thanks to Edmund Balogun, Conference Producer; his fabulous team; and Amanda Ciccatelli, Content Marketing & Social Media Strategist, for inviting me and for producing and promoting an outstanding conference!

Special thanks to Carl Bieniek @sqltigger, for helping to keep the #MADSCONF socialsphere active! 🙂

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Make the Human Connection with Your Brand

London EyePhoto: The London Eye, viewed from the rear. By Diliff. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business: the human touch.” – Shep Hyken, customer service expert, author and speaker

Here are two posts to help you build and maintain a human connection with your brand:

Learn more about more making meaningful connections with your customers. Join me Feb. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the Institute for International Research’s Media Insights & Engagement Conference. Together we’ll learn about the future of media, new media disruptors and partnerships for success.

Dubbed “the Golden Globes of the media industry” by Tom Ziangas, SVP, Research, AMC Networks  Inc., this three-day event will set you on course to navigate the new media landscape of 2016.

Please share this information with your networks. The Twitter hashtag is #MediaInsights16.

In the meantime, watch for my conference posts on The Market Research Event Blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Starry Blue Brilliance.

See you there next week!

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Immerse Yourself in Innovation

GLHWEN~1Photo: Stefan Krause, License: LAL

Innovation. Creating ideas is only part of the challenge. The bulk of it is in the execution.

Back End of Innovation (BEI) is an event for do-ers. If you want to learn how to successfully navigate the back end of the innovation process, create a more effective delivery team and build collaboration in ways that accelerate your desired innovation outcomes, then this event is for you.

BEI: 100% Focused on Execution, will be held Oct. 6-8 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here’s a look at what you’ll experience:

  • Immersive Innovation: Executives from local leading innovation firms deliver presentations at their company headquarters and give tours of their physical innovation spaces
  • Learning Labs: Put innovation to work in real-time and walk away with new strategies to use back at the office
  • Business Cases: Innovation experts deliver outlier cases, local knowledge cases and high-profile cases focusing on practicality

Find out how innovation really happens. Register for BEI, and check out the Front End of Innovation Blog for ideas on creating a culture of innovation at your organization.

Here are other ways to stay connected with this event:

  •  #BEI14
  • End of Innovation

Is your organization an environment where innovation thrives?

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How to Move Brands Faster and Longer in the Social Media Era


Photo by paul bica

With new social media networks and platforms emerging almost every day, organizations must efficiently engage customers while delivering a cohesive experience that drives customer loyalty. During the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit earlier this month, Nestor Portillo, Director, Social Communities and Customer Experience at Microsoft, shared why customer experience is key to make the content viral and engaging.

Customers in the social media era are in control and are setting companies’ agendas. They:

  • Trust in advice made by online acquaintances and strangers
  • Read and create product reviews, product rankings and blog posts
  • Want to provide feedback about the product, brand and the service
  • Seek support to connect with like-minded peers

To move brands faster and longer in the social media era, Nestor contends that organizations must provide a consistent experience across all social media platforms. It should be successful, effortless and quick.

Most importantly, organizations must have a game plan that supports the customer journey by:

  • Considering the different ways people learn
  • Pivoting on experience and products
  • Delivering an emotional hook

This game plan must also include a community that:

  • Is healthy and is not intimidating
  • Provides a framework for user-generated content and word-of-mouth triggers
  • Adds authenticity to help establish brand trust

Following this model will lead your customers to buy more, use more, consume more and tell and share more.

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Innovating a Roadmap for Customer Experience


Photo by paul bica

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach, former star NFL quarterback

Organizations that focus on improving the customer experience will strengthen their customer relationships and their overall business performance. Len Ferman knows this first-hand. Len is Managing Director of Ferman Innovation, specializing in generating and evaluating ideas to improve the customer experience.

Len is also
a world juggling champion. During the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit (TCEL) earlier this month, he reinforced the three principles of new product innovation through his unique presentation. TCEL attendees learned how to juggle scarves while learning how to solve their customer experience challenges using this proven process:

 Steps to Innovating for the Customer Experience:
  1. Explore: Understand the customer journey. Identify the customer pain points and challenges. Identify themes for brainstorming.
  2. Ideate: Brainstorm with a diverse group to generate a high quantity of possible solutions. Enable all employees to contribute ideas.
  3. Evaluate: Evaluate, cultivate and prioritize the top ideas for implementation


Learning to juggle not only helped TCEL attendees improve their ability to multi-task, increase eye-hand coordination, sharpen their brains and impress their friends, but also provided these valuable insights related to the 3 Steps:


  • Break down complex processes into elementary steps
  • Learn how to use the tools that are at your disposal
  • Recognize the patterns and categories in your data
  • Identify your customers’ key problems
  • Strive for accuracy in basic tasks
  • Create intentional “wow” experiences
  • Defer judgment – no idea is a bad idea
  • Include all parts of your organization in idea generation
  • Stray out of your comfort zone to generate ideas
  • Balance different methods of brainstorming
  • Go for quantity when generating ideas
  • Great ideas are the result of collaboration and building on others’ ideas
  • Filter out extraneous information and out of scope ideas
  • Evaluate each idea using carefully designed criteria
  • Include subject matter experts and customers in the evaluation
  • Cultivate ideas until they resonate with customers
  • Prioritize your actions to ensure you reach the goal
  • Optimal solutions are the ones that match your core competencies

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How to Build an Experience Management Core Competency


Photo by paul bica


People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, American author and poet

Are you building a true experience management core competency within your organization? According to Lou Carbone, Founder & Chief Experience Officer, Experience Engineering Inc., and author of Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again, there is “a whole lot of discussion . . . without a lot of deep understanding.”

Embracing experience management is a cultural adoption – it’s not about improving legacy business frameworks, tools or models. Many organizations focus on process improvement instead of on creating true experience management systems or fully leveraging the opportunity to transform the value they create for customers, employees and other stakeholders.

According to Lou, to create a true experience management core competency within your organization, you must focus on these five absolutes of experience management:

  • Move from “make and sell” to “sense and respond:” Change your organization-driven perspective to an experience-driven perspective (customer-oriented). Sense what customers don’t even know and build on those responses.
  • Think customer back (emotional/rational bond): Focus on the customer perspective first. Be a “firm of endearment,” a company that if it went away tomorrow, customers would mourn the loss. Examples include Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, Costco, and Google.
  • Understand and leverage role of the unconscious mind: Focus on “how” customers think instead of on “what” customers think. Understand and act upon the premise that “the tangible attributes of a product or service have far less influence on consumer preference than the sub-conscious sensory and emotional elements derived from the total experience.” – Dr. Gerald Zaltman, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School, Laboratory of the Consumer Mind
  • Become clue conscious: Clue in to how people feel and think as they have the experience, which also includes what they see, hear, smell and taste.
  • Develop rigorous systems to develop and manage clues: Design your systems around how functional (functionality of good or service), mechanic (sights, smells, textures, sounds) and humanic (choice of words, tone of voice, body language) clues are coming together to create the desired effect. Focus on the moments that matter within customers’ perception, interaction and recollection of experiences.

Managing your customers’ experiences and emotions is what helps you create the emotional connection you need to keep customers coming back again and again.

How do you create an emotional connection with your customers?