Hysteria or Validated Concern? You Be the Judge.

As of October 19, 2016, there were 4,016 cases of Zika in the continental US. Of these cases, 137 were acquired in the US, and the remaining 3,878 cases were acquired in other countries[1].  Despite the low prevalence, Zika has gained wide media coverage across the US and is seen as a significant threat to many.

Here at BuzzBack, we were interested to find out what residents in the US and Brazil understood with regards to symptoms, transmission and prevention of Zika. According to our study, when asked to select the most severe among a list of outbreaks/pandemics, Zika was a close second to HIV/AIDS, selected by 20% (HIV/AIDS was selected by 24%). This may be surprising, given that HIV/AIDS impacts millions of people in the US[2].

Brazil, on the other hand, has faced far more Zika cases than in the US – over 90,000 new cases reported from January to April 2016 alone[3].  When asked to identify the most severe outbreak/pandemic, 24% listed Zika as their top concern (similar to that of the US) – whereas 44% indicate HIV/AIDS as the most severe.

zika graph

Data collected from PAHO & WHO: http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12390&Itemid=42090&lang=en

While it is not surprising that Zika is particularly top of mind and viewed as relevant at the moment, what is surprising is that (1) the concern in the US appears to be comparable to that of HIV/AIDS – despite having FAR less of an impact and (2) the general concern in the US appears to be comparable to that of Brazil – despite vast prevalence.

By utilizing BuzzBack’s eCollage (a non-lexical, indirect format to reveal personal feelings, using images as metaphors to reduce dependency on rational thoughts), the drivers of concern in the US are identified. The key source of fear in the US is the unknown. Individuals know there is a lot of information on Zika, but they are unsure of what is true or false. They worry about how much the virus will spread, and fear they will not see it coming or would not know they’re infected until it is too late. Not understanding the disease fuels fear – Are there clear signs of infection? Can it be stopped? Is there a cure?

Does Zika warrant this grave concern?  Or is this more of a reflection of people in the US being impacted by heavy media coverage?  Will the media ultimately help give individuals a greater understanding of what Zika is all about? Are there certain organizations (e.g. CDC, WHO) who can help clarify concerns about Zika? Only time will tell…

If this topic interests you, head over to watch our latest webinar which features more insights from our Zika study.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html

[2] In 2014, 44,073 people were newly diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States; in 2012, 1,218,400 people were reported living in the US with HIV; and in 2013 there were an estimated 12,963 HIV/AIDS-related deaths. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html

[3] http://www.rte.ie/news/2016/0427/784704-brazil-zika/

zika warning

Patients (and Doctors) Are People Too

I attended a great conference the other day – the MRS Consumer Health and Wellbeing Conference. I was expecting to be baffled by lots of technical jargon and impenetrable specialist content – but, instead, was struck by how the key themes were relevant to all of us in our modern lives, whether we are consumers, patients, healthcare professionals… or even insights specialists like myself!

It brought home to me how humankind is undergoing huge societal shifts that are impacting us all with ever increasing intensity.

Unsurprisingly, a key theme was the enabling power of technology. It is driving fundamental changes in how we access the information we need to make informed choices and decisions. It’s changing how we share our stories and our lives, and how we support each other. It allows us to track our activities (I’m a fitbit user and also use mapmyrun.com to keep track of my exercise); there is even an app to help people cut down on their alcohol intake and, amazingly, to help people proactively manage their cancer journey.

If we overlay major demographic changes such as an ageing population in the West, we have a complex mix of change driving our lives. And the faster the fundamental fabric of life changes, the more important it is for organisations to talk (and listen) regularly with their end-users. Whether we think of them as consumers, users, patients or physicians they are all facing a complex array of decisions and choices, some rational, and many more intuitive and emotional.

I was really encouraged by the people-centricity of the organisations who presented. They are facing up to the changes, and realise that the only way to stay relevant is by actively engaging with the people that matter to their organisations… and doing it early, and often.

It seems to me that market research is performing an important role and has a healthy future ahead of it (pun intended).

doctors and patients

Are Avatars What’s Next for Your Brand?

What does online dress game, Stardoll and virtual world game, Second Life have in common with consumer insights? You might not think much, but actually there’s a key link when it comes to personal expression. Today more than 2 billion consumers participate in virtual gaming communities using avatars to represent and express themselves. Participants create fantasy characters using menu options of physical traits and wardrobe. But, as it turns out, these avatars are not all about gaming and play (well maybe just a little). Recent research shows that an avatar’s virtual appearance subconsciously signals important clues into the individual’s own and very real personality.

So what’s the link to consumer insights?  Creative visualization and expression tools have proven to be an effective means of getting at richer insights. At BuzzBack, we use these daily to get consumers to holistically express themselves – both obviously and latently – to better understand their behaviors, choices and motivations. It’s why we’re proud to be part of the GRIT Top 50 as one of the most innovative companies in our sector. These conceptual ideas behind avatars are the foundation for what’s next in innovating our tools and techniques for consumer self expression.

One of the many new directions we’re going in at BuzzBack – stay tuned to see what’s next as we illustrate why we deserve to be on the GRIT…



BuzzBack Avatars

Marketing to the Millennial Food Shopper

There’s been a lot of talk about Millennials lately, and with good reason. Millennials currently make up the country’s largest living generation, and by extension, the country’s largest consumer group with $200 billion in annual buying power. This has not gone unnoticed, especially among big name brands. These days it seems that everyone is changing their marketing strategy to appeal to the Millennial consumer – a few months ago, we talked about TGIFridays removing the appetizer choice limits on their Endless Appetizer deal. Now, within the last month, we’ve heard about changes even more companies are making specifically focused on winning over Millennials.

First, marketers noticed the trend that Millennials have been moving away from beer, and choosing wine and spirits as their drink of choice. Frantically, beer companies have tried other tactics in order to win back the Millennial consumer with Anheuser-Busch releasing a spoof on classic cocktails including Bud Light Mixxtails and Bud Light Ritas. So far the canned cocktails have been a hit among Millennials, but only time will tell whether or not Millennials continue this trend or move on to drinking actual cocktails.

Then came the news that Target would be shifting its shelf marketing towards products that Millennials are more likely to buy. Consumers in general are starting to become more health-conscious and focused on buying natural or organic products. So in hopes of appealing to the “urban Millennial” Target is shifting the focus on their processed shelf staples to other items like Greek yogurt and granola. While this doesn’t mean that canned soup and boxed cereal will be completely removed from shelves, Target will be placing the spotlight on these products that today’s Millennial is more likely to buy.

However, the most surprising news was that Whole Foods (or as it’s more commonly called, Whole Paycheck) plans on launching a chain of lower-cost stores geared towards Millennials. While Whole Foods rose in popularity due to its early entrance into the organic grocery store scene, today healthy products can be found at almost any grocery store and at a much cheaper price. So while the demand for natural and organic products has increased, Millennials are still cash-strapped and price-conscious shoppers. The high cost of food at Whole Foods stores has generally been a turn-off for Millennials, but Whole Foods is hoping to gain their market share while at the same time being careful to not break the brand they have built up of “premium prices and premium products.” The stores, which will feature “a modern streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection,” are expected to start opening next year. And if prices are actually as reasonable as they are expected to be, you can be sure that this Millennial will definitely be shopping there.

The issue of Millennials being a younger generation and generally being less wealthy than the Boomer Generation is one that should be of particular interest to marketers. Affordability might just be the key to winning over the Millennial food shopper. Not every company can afford to just up and make a whole new chain of stores dedicated to winning over Millennials, however that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to lower the cost of food shopping. In our recent study on Millennials + Food & Nutrition, we briefly discussed how Millennials use a variety of sources for discounts and how over 90% of Millennial shopper use coupons (see clip below). This is something that not only applies to grocery stores, but also restaurants and product companies who also have the ability to control coupon deals. So, while Millennials do keep an eye out on the quality and freshness of goods they are buying, they are also aware of the limits placed on their food budget, and it’s up to marketers to find that balanced sweet spot.

For more information on our Millennials & Nutrition study, get in touch with us below.

Nuts: Health Snack or Too Much Fat?

Are they or aren’t they?

The definition of healthy is quite possibly society’s most influential phenomenon. What IS healthy, exactly? As of late, it seems ‘Healthy’ has evolved from having a clear, cut definition to becoming the most effective chameleon in the food industry.

In 2013, BuzzBack conducted a study on consumers’ perception of ‘Healthy’ and found that it was associated with words one would expect to see – active, exercise, balance, and happiness; with unique callouts to predictable descriptors such as ‘organic,’ ‘wholesome,’ and ‘natural’ within various markets. Still, it’s no surprise that the concept of ‘Healthy’ is most often associated with food – top healthy snacks across the globe included fruit, yogurt, nuts, and dried fruit.

But healthy snacks seem to be a catch-22 in itself. Eat more fruit – too much sugar. Cut out carbs – you’re left with no energy source. Low fat or Gluten-free? You end up consuming more sugar used to make up for lack of taste. Eat more nuts…but watch out for high fat content!

This seems kind of nutty…

Last month, KIND bar fanatics were hit with some conflicting news – their snacks aren’t healthy. At least, they’re not FDA-approved healthy. The Food and Drug Administration had contacted the manufacturer, notifying them that their popular fruit and nut snack is not, in fact, in line with their healthy regulations at all. According to the FDA, a “healthy snack food” cannot exceed 3g of Total Fat or 1g of saturated fat per serving. The bars in question – four flavors in particular – contain up to 5 g of saturated fat.

When looking at a nutrition label, seeing 5g of saturated fat right off the bat might generate a red flag for the average consumer.  It’s here where things get a little subjective. Sure, there’s a high amount of fat in this food product – but should we be paying more attention to the amount of fat, or where it’s coming from? The first ingredient(s) in any of KIND’s products are nuts.


Personally, I believe the only healthy cliché that has proven resolute over the years and within every food fad is ‘moderation is key.’

We forget that overdoing anything – whether it’s eating (‘healthy’ food is still food), sleeping, or even exercising – is unhealthy. Sure, snacking on dried fruit is better than grabbing a bag of chips – but not if you’re swallowing buckets of the stuff. And sure, chomping through a bowl of nuts is a healthier option than going through a bag of candy, but you do need to look out for high fat.

It’s all about balance, right? Healthy means balance – a balance throughout all aspects of life, including what you’re eating.


Inspired by Magic

I am just returning from the SiriusDecisions conference where we co-presented with Lionbridge. Magic Johnson was the keynote – how awesome is that! The theme of the conference was sales automation and new ways to improve engagement and sales performance via content sharing and sales automation. At BuzzBack we are big believers of content sharing as part of our thought leadership strategy. You may have seen some of our whitepapers such as Healthy Snacking and Healthy Skin, and be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming study on Premium.

Interestingly enough, Magic Johnson, who, in addition to being a legendary athlete, is a very accomplished businessman, spoke about what makes him successful. He maintains a disciplined focus on three things:

  1. Competition. His advice is to embrace competition as motivation to improve. He shared that only when he began playing against Larry Bird did he begin to excel in his own skills – training and competing harder.
  2. Customers. His best business decisions came from better knowledge of his customers. He recalled stories of mistakes he made early on because he failed to understand his customers. So when he bought the Dodgers, for example, he talked to the season ticket holders about their needs to better understand how to meet them.
  3. Delivery. In all things, seek to over deliver, and set the bar higher each time. His success comes from never letting up, seeking perfection every day, and challenging himself by asking “Am I doing enough and how can I get better? How can I train harder?”

What strikes me about his focus is that there’s no mention of automation or fancy applications in those three things. Yet these are crucial building blocks to solid strategy and service.

At BuzzBack, our focus is on these same basics – exceeding expectations is core to our client-centric culture. We innovate solely to help our clients advance, by delivering faster, richer insights. These successful collaborations are why we’re going strong after 15 years – and I think our clients would agree.

inspired by magic

There’s a Bug in My Soup…On Purpose

When the U.N. declared back in 2013 that we humans should eat more bugs, it was an idea that many couldn’t stomach. This suggestion was made as part of the UN’s larger and quite serious focus on global environmental issues and potential food shortages. And no matter how queasy the notion might make someone, edible insects are rich in protein and sourcing them has low environmental impact. In many parts of the world, bug eating is not some foodie trend, but a way of life. Deep friend insects can be bought from Thai street vendors as easily as a hot dog from a food cart in Manhattan.

National Public Radio recently profiled a Thai entrepreneur looking to bring this favorite street food to the grocery and minimart snack aisle. To woo the uninitiated bug eater, he is relying on familiar chip and crisps flavors like barbecue and cheese, while on-pack messaging promotes the health benefits of the treat inside. Are bug products on their way to becoming the subject of MR explorations of the future? Will BuzzBack soon be leading eCollage studies to determine the best positioning for mealworm larva puffs or cricket breakfast flakes (Try them with milk!). And how would we tackle the concept generation sessions on potential flavors?

It makes one wonder – is the ick factor culturally ingrained? Earlier this year we released a report that explored global attitudes around the idea of Healthy – which included snacking. No one in Russia, Brazil or the U.S. named a single insect to their list of sought after healthy snacks.

That would suggest that Americans probably aren’t quite ready to view bugs tossed in their salad as a welcome addition – this still ranks up there as a legitimate reason to complain to the waiter.  However, American consumers have been enjoying a bug-based additive already – and most are probably not even aware that they are. Chochineal, carmine or carminic acid is a colorant made from crushed South American insects that give many processed foods their red color.

But bugs by choice? It’s going to take some marketing brilliance and powerful positioning to make that idea palatable. And maybe it will be the Millennials who will lead the way on insect cuisine. Our most recent study of their attitudes and behavior when it comes to food & nutrition found them to be more adventurous and willing to try new things. But to be fair, we didn’t specifically ask them if those new things had antennae or ectoskeletons.

To learn more about our Healthy Report or get more information about Millennials & Nutrition, click here.

eating bugs

Read My Lips! And Eyes! And…

Affectiva, a pioneer in emotional recognition software, seems to be everywhere lately – from discussions in my office about new MR techniques, to a recent article in Wired. Their Affdex technology views a respondent’s face and can read what emotions are being expressed. The technology itself is impressive, but it leads me to the question: which of my devices will read my emotions, and what will they give me in return?

Affectiva recently offered a 45-day free trial to developers who want to experiment with their API – which got me thinking… what are some apps or devices I would want to read my face/emotions? I’m not a developer (just a dreamer) so here is my short list:


  1. Apple TV / Roku – Could the device please pause my show when I inevitably doze off while catching up with my shows on Sunday evening?
  2. eCommerce sites (Amazon, Gilt, etc.) – While I shop, can you tell which items I react positively to, and tailor my experience like a virtual personal shopper?
  3. Dating sites – maybe Tinder can tell exactly how you feel about a potential match, so you don’t have to keep swiping left/right? Perhaps you would find different matches based on your initial emotional response, which you may not even be aware of.


What about the rest of you – any other ideas for places you do (or maybe don’t!) want to have your face/emotions read?

Read the full post here on The Market Research Event blog.

face reader

Turning Data Into Insight Into Action

I recently moderated three one hour sessions with marketing professionals at the Richmond Events Marketing forum exploring the ‘thorny issue’ of Turning Data Into Insight Into Action. Over the duration of the discussions it became apparent that it would have been better to describe the subject as From ‘learning to kick’ to ‘Golden Balls’* since this described the diversity of experience levels of those in attendance.

Although the footballing metaphor may seem a little far-fetched, the expression ‘learning to kick’ and ‘golden balls’ were actually used by participants – and no it wasn’t an all-male audience. I think that the footballing expressions were useful because they reflect a sense that you have to practice to achieve excellence. Further, to achieve success you have to experiment and try new things. This spirit of testing, learning and applying was a key discussion point and the learning from our shared collective experiences proved the most useful outcome.

The learning can be summarised using Lamoureux’s Experiential Learning cycle reproduced below.

The participants segmented the subject Turning Data Into Insight Into Action into three broad themes: collection, analysis and action. We discussed examples in each area where the participants had seen success and also (from those brave enough to share) failure. None of us were surprised that we don’t typically hear many (any?) failures. The perfectly manicured PowerPoint slides about marketing success at conferences are the equivalent of airbrushed models in Vogue magazine. Funny that!

We mapped out some key thoughts:

Collection: how to incentivise stakeholders who have little motivation to collect data that will be of use to marketing further down the line (not seen as their job). How to provide a case to senior management for funding for market research and/ or data capture.

Analysis: from the advanced (latent class analysis was mentioned – click here to learn more!) to the simple tracking of responses to direct emailing campaigns were covered. What provided most interest was individual case studies of successful analysis and action. One campaign (has to remain nameless I am afraid) had led to significant success and a ROI of 30 plus. Jealous?

Action: we didn’t always get time to get to this point in the discussion (let’s face it covering the first two topics in the hour was already a Herculean task). However, one key insight was that the results of any analysis needed to be presented ‘carefully’ to senior management. It was felt that if the analysis was consistent with management’s view of the world it was more likely to be embraced yet ran the risk that it was perceived as waste of time since ‘I already know that’. If, on the other hand, it challenged senior managements view of the world it could well be ignored.

Overall, and it may seem obvious, we concluded that action based on recommendations with evidence from case studies is the most impactful in improving decision making. Easy isn’t it?


*For those of you who are not familiar this was one of the nicknames attributed to David Beckham by the UK tabloid press. Yes, it does have a double meaning!


Humanizing the Patient-to-Medicine Connection

One of the challenges facing the healthcare sector at large is patient adherence. It’s a topic of continuing importance and increasing interest.With on average 50% of patients not taking their medication as prescribed (and 33% never even filling their prescription in the first place), there’s much work to be done in understanding how to drive compliance.

We recently explored the impact of emotions when it comes to adherence, co-presenting our new study with Merck at the Pharma MR conference. We found that diving deep into patient feelings about their experience provides clues to how to positively influence their behavior and affect better outcomes. For example, in this study, we explored how they feel about managing their condition and their feelings about their physician relationship.

But what about the roles other individuals play in the complex puzzle? For example, what is the role of the pharmacist? Recent industry data shows the pharmacist holds an influential position. For example, a 2013 study by the National Community Pharmacist Association identified patient connectedness with their pharmacist as the leading predictor of adherence.

This pharmacy/pharmacist connection was the focus of a Wall Street Journal article that caught our eye here at BuzzBack earlier this month. It featured CVS CEO, Larry Merlo, who focuses on this exact issue: the need to humanize the patient-to-medicine connection with a clearer understanding of emotions. He sees the role of CVS as one to “help people on their path to better health.” Mr. Merlo believes that one of the ways CVS can truly make a difference is in making sure people take the medications they are prescribed.

CVS has made improving adherence a central goal, looking to improve it as much as 15% over the next two years by working on the pharmacy-patient relationship, and not just the administration of the drug. Mr. Merlo sees the pharmacist as integral to the equation: “CVS figures a one-on-one conversation with a pharmacist is two to three times more effective than any other method to change patient behavior – in a way, the human element that often goes missing in the U.S. health-care debate.”

At BuzzBack, we are excited to be part of the debate. Through innovative tools and creative expression techniques, we help consumers find the language to articulate the obstacles that need to be removed on their road to better health. And we uncover more effective ways that pharma companies can prepare physicians and pharmacists to communicate and lead patients on their adherence journey. In fact, we’ll be conducting an upcoming webinar presenting the results of our study around this important topic. Click to attend the webinar on Wednesday, March 4th or Thursday, March 5th.

patient taking medicine