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We are conducting in-home, qualitative research interviews in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas. If you are interested in participating and getting compensated for your time, please:

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Cult Marketing’s XRS Research gets inside heads of customers

Business First – by Dan Eaton
Date: Friday, January 21, 2011, 6:00am EST – Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2011, 11:40am EST
Related: Media & Marketing

Cult Marketing’s XRS Research gets inside heads of customers | Business First

He even acknowledges that one day in the not too distant future, Cult Marketing Inc., the Powell advertising and marketing shop he started in 2004, may not exist.

Doug McIntyre is an ad man and marketing guy who isn’t sweating the fact that he isn’t getting as much advertising and marketing work as he used to.

He’ll still have a business, but it’ll be a twist on the field where he’s made his career.

XRS Research started two years ago as a side business to Cult Marketing but has grown to account for the majority of revenue in the office, a trend CEO McIntyre said he doesn’t expect to abate.

XRS Research in action

Janet Adams | Business First Mike Fresch, dark hair, shared his closet and his thoughts on his Rocky Boots with XRS Research, the consumer research arm of Powell-based Cult Marketing. XRS CEO Doug McIntyre, glasses, says the research portion of his business has become the lion’s share, and eventually might become the entire business.

“Our view on the whole (ad and marketing) world was that the traditional model is suffering,” he said.

Research has always been part of the Cult Marketing pitch, and it’s an area of expertise McIntyre has pursued through much of his marketing and branding life. But what began as an added service now seems poised to become the whole business.

Companies have tightened budgets in the past two years and are searching for ways to spend wiser, said Alexis Yamokoski, director of research. One common cut is to bring outside advertising and marketing work in-house.

“Cult wasn’t what everyone was looking for,” she said.

Abbey Klaassen, editor at trade publication Advertising Age, in a Jan. 10 podcast said the advertising industry will remain challenged in 2011. Firms and clients both want to add value for customers to generate more revenue.

Social media, direct marketing and digital advertising are expected to continue to be hot initiatives for most firms, she said.

But research is an area, McIntyre said, where he saw opportunity. XRS’ work has opened a new world of clients that otherwise wouldn’t be interested in the firm, namely ones that already handle advertising in-house or contract with a larger national agency. While Cult would be a competitor to the corporate or agency-of-record teams, XRS isn’t.

The business is becoming less about a brochure here or television ad there and more about large-scale research projects, some entailing hundreds of interviews across U.S. and international markets.

“It’s what the market demands,” Yamokoski said. “We’d love to do a Super Bowl ad, but those companies aren’t going to look to us.”

How they act, not what they say

Research isn’t foreign to the advertising and marketing world, but the XRS pitch is a deeper, more detailed take.

“Traditional research is just about the information,” McIntyre said. “For us, that’s pretty worthless. For the client as well. … Our philosophy about typical consumer surveys is, what do you learn? What do you do with that info? Does it really impact anything?”

McIntyre said the typical focus group includes eight participants and lasts two hours with participants speaking for an average of 12 minutes each.

“How much can you really learn from that?”

Add to that the fact that customers answering questions aren’t always reliable, even if they don’t know it.

“It’s all speculative questions,” McIntyre said. “Would you come back to buy this product? Who really knows?”

He said focus groups and the media had negative reactions to the Sony Walkman before it was released in the late 1970s, and we all know how that turned out. Another example he cites is a Whirlpool survey asking potential customers if they’d buy a specific appliance. The company revisited those who said yes one year later and found only 20 percent followed through on those intentions.

“The intent was there, but the behavior wasn’t,” he said. “For us, it’s about the behavior.”

In other words, it’s not what customers say, it’s what they do.

McIntyre said it isn’t uncommon to do an in-home interview with a brand’s customer and find out that although they say they love a product, they don’t actually have it or use it.

XRS uses the traditional, such as surveys and focus groups, but also relies heavily on a number of other info-gathering means, including detailed in-home interviews and customer shop-alongs. Some projects have entailed hundreds of interviews.

XRS has a staff of nine with a few of those employees also doing duties with Cult Marketing. It also contracts with outside help when needed, including having a base of colleagues in Europe that it has used in international studies.

No more data dump

XRS’ biggest customer market is retailers, though manufacturers and restaurants also make up the client base.

McIntyre said only 20 percent of clients use both XRS and Cult.

Rocky Brands Inc. is one of those.

The Nelsonville-based footwear business has four key segments — duty/military, western, work/steel toe and outdoor/hunting. Its products are worn by Navy Seals and horseback riders, factory workers and outdoorsmen. It was searching for commonality among its customers.

XRS screened Rocky fans of all types to find the appropriate people to survey and conducted videotaped in-home interviews in six markets across the country. Customers were always in motion at work or play and there was a big emotional connection – it wasn’t just warmth and comfort and durability, Yamokoski said. XRS put together a video presentation for Rocky executives that impressed enough to win Cult the creative work as well.

“They make the information actionable,” said Philip Hansen, director of research and analytics for Petco Animal Supplies Inc. “With some other vendors, it’s more of a data dump. It’s a lot of info, but what do you do with it?”

The San Diego-based pet supply store chain hired XRS to study an in-store campaign. Hansen declined to provide specifics since it hasn’t been launched yet, but said the work involved both exit surveys and shop-alongs.

He said the advertising and marketing background makes the XRS data useful.

“They focused on what we could do,” he said. “Others don’t necessarily have that arm.”

Yamokoski said the XRS work also extends into areas Cult doesn’t go, such as product innovation.

The firm worked with Go Smile Inc., a teeth-whitening product company, which was testing its seven-day teeth whitening kit.

XRS interviewed target-market women about the product and watched and recorded its use. It led to a “co-creation” project where XRS assembled the women it surveyed and allowed them to design a new product and packaging, which led to real improvements.

McIntyre describes XRS as media-agnostic and strategy-agnostic.

Creative Director Kyle Hickman said shop-alongs for one client revealed the product issue to be in-store presentation and operations, not packaging as was initially theorized.

“An agency that you’ve hired to redo your packaging isn’t going to tell you that,” he said.
614-220-5462 | deaton@bizjournals.com

Cult Marketing Inc.
* Business: Advertising and marketing firm.
* Based: Powell
* CEO: Doug McIntyre
* Employees: 6
* 2010 revenue: Would not disclose
* Website: cultmarketing.com


XRS Research
* Business: Consumer insights research firm, division of Cult Marketing Inc.
* Based: Powell
* CEO: Doug McIntyre
* Employees: 9
* 2010 revenue: Would not disclose
* Website: xrsresearch.com



Note: Three employees work for both Cult and XRS.
© Columbus Business First and © 2011 American City Business Journals, Inc.

Secret Shopper, At Home

Hello trusted participants,

Registration deadline for this project is 5pm EST Tuesday, November 16.

Are you itching to try something new…for free? We are asking for your help on a Secret Shopper research project. Specifically, we want your help evaluating the customer QVC experience for the telephone sales ordering process.

You will need to be available on Friday, November 19 at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard time to watch QVC (you can view QVC live via the web). The product you will be ordering is a gender neutral product. Closer to the air date of November 19th we will contact you to inform you of the specific product you will be ordering.
All we ask is that you go through the QVC ordering process, try the product for one day, and complete a short five minute survey at the end of the process.

Please register if you are interested in being a Secret Shopper!

Thank you,

The XRS Team
XRS Research, A Division of Cult Marketing
614 859 9770

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Consumer Insights

An insight begins with a deep understanding of your target consumers’ attitudes and beliefs, and how those beliefs connect with them at an emotional level.

The best marketers know that great marketing begins with valuable consumer insight. We know that how you obtain this insight is even more important. Our trained experts use only the best qualitative and ethnographic techniques which put the participants at ease deliver compelling, convincing and honest insight.

An insight is a deep understanding of your target consumers’ attitudes and beliefs, and how those beliefs connect with them at an emotional level. When used properly insights will provoke a clear response – one which has the power to change consumer behavior and creates long-term brand fanatics. Insights must affect a change in consumer behavior that benefits your brand, leading to the achievement of the marketing objective.

Insights can be based on:

  1. Real or perceived weakness to be exploited in competitive product performance or value
  2. Attitudinal or perceived barrier in the minds of consumers, regarding your brand
  3. Untapped or compelling belief or practice

Insights are most effective when they are/do one of the following:

  1. Unexpected
  2. Create a disequilibrium
  3. Change momentum
  4. Exploited via a benefit or point of difference that your brand can deliver

Shop-Alongs

When it comes to consumer packaged goods there are few better ways to gain insight into the purchasing process than going on an actual shopping trip with the consumer. We use HD video to bring back insights from the field. Our cameras for this purpose are small and non-intrusive and our audio is gathered separately using hidden microphones and small audio recorders. The audio and video is then synchronized back at home base and the videos edited into short clips which we later present in the debrief.

Sometimes it helps to show the team how the findings were actually attained — straight from the consumer’s mouth, so to speak.

Ethnography

Ethnography is a scientific research strategy often used in the field of social sciences, particularly in anthropology and in some branches of sociology, also known as part of historical science that studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture. It is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies and cultures. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing. In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a “field study” or a “case report,” both of which are used as common synonyms for “ethnography”.

Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, ethnographic research methods began to be widely employed by communication scholars. Studies such as Gerry Philipsen’s analysis of cultural communication strategies in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Speaking ‘Like a Man’ in Teamsterville, paved the way for the expansion of ethnographic research in the study of communication.

Scholars of communication studies use ethnographic research methods to analyze communication behaviors, seeking to answer the “why” and “how come” questions of human communication. Often this type of research results in a case study or field study such as an analysis of speech patterns at a protest rally or the way firemen communicate during “down time” at a fire station. Like anthropology scholars, communication scholars often immerse themselves, participate in and/or directly observe the particular wikt:social group being studied.

Facility Source

The secret

Start-up FacilitySource had an innovative and creative technology solution for retail facility maintenance management. The question was, how do you put this new company on the retail map?

DISCOVER: FacilitySource had a prime opportunity to introduce themselves to their target audience with a fresh
and unique message reflecting the innovation of their company’s services.

DEVELOP: With the leading industry annual trade show being the most efficient and effective awareness opportunity for the desired target audience, we developed a plan to blitz the event to create unprecedented buzz.

DELIVER: The launch theme was “Retail’s Secret Weapon.” The ultrasecret black box booth was designed to create an air of exclusivity and actually keep uninvited guests out – atypical of tradeshow marketing. We mailed out cool kits to top prospects of FacilitySource. They contained a special booth access card and sunglasses.

RESULTS: The booth won the National Retail Federation Best Booth award and was a huge crowd pleaser – a turnout of 60% invited. More importantly, FacilitySource launched its brand with a bold statement and in two years has now converted many top retailers into customers including Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath & Body Works, Wendy’s, Darden Restaurants, Victoria’s Secret, Domino’s and many others. They are now the big player in this industry and growing at triple digit speed.

Tween Brands

Everything in between

Tween Brands (Justice and Limited,Too stores) was interested in reconnecting with their consumers. By gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamic between the “girl” (8-12 years old) and her mother they would better understand the consumers’ decision-making process.

DISCOVER: We used a combination of in-home ethnographic research, in-store shop-alongs and elicitation exercises to explore the complex relationship between girls and their mothers.

DEVELOP: Our strategic insights revealed that girls face enormous social pressure to conform – to be one of the “cool” girls. Clothing and accessories are an important part of the social code of these young girls and their mothers.

DELIVER: The powerful insights into the world of the girl and her mother were captured on video, and were delivered in a creative, engaging, and informative presentation.

RESULTS: The videos and “The Girl’s scrap book” are now mandatory viewing for any new associate at the company.

Wayne-Dalton

 

Opening the door

How do you create a brand in an unbranded category?

DISCOVER: Our consumer in-home interviews and telephone surveys with consumers and dealers revealed that homeowners had no idea who manufactured their garage door. It was a low-involvement category. Even though it represents the key point of home entry and up to 33% of a home’s exterior – consumers typically rely on a dealer to decide on a brand.

DEVELOP: First things first, place a metal Wayne-Dalton brand plaque on the back of every garage door. Next, to support brand and product differentiation we created marketing materials that infused each garage door model with a unique consumer-friendly brand personality — helping the dealers and builders upsell the product.

DELIVER: We created a program to engage dealers and builders while increasing demand from consumers. This included print ads, new collateral, sales materials and an online Garage Door Design Center to boldly demonstrate the visual benefits of a new Wayne-Dalton garage door.

RESULTS: Major homebuilders overwhelmingly selected the Wayne-Dalton doors as the preferred brand for their new homes, which pleased the supplying dealers. Builders also agreed to add the garage door openers and the new home controls systems in many of their homes – opening doors to a whole new product category for the company.

Big Lots

The Big Question

How do you align store operations and marketing to optimize the brand and convert Hesitator shoppers into fanatical customers?

DISCOVER: XRS researchers conducted 60 shop-alongs in 20 Big Lots stores in 5 different markets throughout the United States. Approximately half the shop-alongs were conducted with Hesitators and half with Cores. We compared and contrasted both groups and were able to determine the differentiating factors between the two groups’ in-store experiences.

DEVELOP: Our research findings demonstrated that store operations, performance standards, policies, and in-store marketing issues were significant barriers in creating a shopping experience that delivered on the brand promise and resonated with both Core and Hesitator customers.

DELIVER: We made numerous operational suggestions to enhance the shopping experience. We also uncovered opportunities to engage the customer in product categories previously underperforming.

RESULTS: Test stores were unveiled deploying the recommendations and ideas we proposed. Follow-up shop-alongs revealed a successfully enhanced shopping experience, yielding higher sales. Same store results are up 26% and some product categories are up 41%. Chain-wide changes are planned to reflect the new standards and policies.