Virtual Reality & Qualitative Research: Fad or Here to Stay? 
18 Feb 2019

Written by: Pallavi Kalla 

Virtual Reality (VR) in the past was something of a whimsical idea, only thought to exist in Sci-Fi movies. However, today, virtual reality has started to become more accessible in the real world. Companies are implementing virtual reality in new creative ways, now more than ever.

Merrell, an outdoor footwear & apparel company, came up with a creative approach to implement virtual reality. The brand held a VR exhibition, in which they had people wear Oculus Rift headsets and walk along what Merrell called their Merrell Trailscape. People were put in a VR landscape of mountains and boulders, simulating a rigorous hiking experience with crumbling ledges and rickety wooden bridges, to help promote the company’s shoes. This experiment was Merrell’s first time using “walking around” virtual reality, which proved to be very intriguing for their audience.[1]

Other innovative methods that brands have employed the use of virtual reality: Six Flags debuted its first VR rollercoaster, in which riders wear Samsung Gear VR headsets on virtual fighter jets, offering consumers a unique experience.[2]

Marketing teams are not only utilizing virtual reality, but researchers have also found the technology as a new tool for qualitative research. Though focus groups are beneficial, we are just collecting information as the participants are sitting in the facility room. This is where VR comes into play, virtual reality can be used to understand the way customers behave when surrounded by the stimulus rather than just talking about it. The new technology allows participants it interact and respond to stimuli in a whole new light

Ethnographic research is another way that virtual reality has impacted market research. Ethnographic research is often costly, timely, and can feel intrusive to participants – as groups are typically conducted at a participant’s home or when they are shopping at a store. VR eliminates these barriers having the people interact in a virtual home or buy through a virtual store with a VR headset, and this way researchers can be capturing the person’s experience and insights in real time. Virtual reality will help researchers understand the consumer journey better without actually having the shopper gong to the physical store. 

Though virtual reality is still in the early stages, it looks like it is here to stay. Regarded as a useful market research device, with its endless new imaginative concept’s companies can create. VR has not only advanced and upped the way companies promote products but has helped market researchers in progressive and forward thinking when conducting qualitative research.

[1]“Merrell Thrills and Frightens People with a Crazy Oculus Rift Mountainside Hike,” Adweek. February 2015.

[2]“20 Innovative Ways Companies Are Using Virtual Reality,” October 2016.

Why Risk Isn’t Always Bad – IHOP vs. IHOB
12 Jun 2018
Provoke Insights was quoted in an article in NBC yesterday — you can check it out here. The article discusses International House of Pancakes (IHOP) decision to rebrand as IHOb — International House of Burgers. The temporary name change shows that the restaurant is serious about its burgers not just its pancakes.  

Carly Fink, the principal and the head of research and strategy at Provoke Insights, was asked what she thought of the famous breakfast chain’s strategic move. She noted that it is risky. However, risk can have both positive and negative results. Risk is not necessarily a bad thing; it can often pay off!

A name change is a major shift in a marketing strategy. IHOP is one of the top names that consumers think about when they think about breakfast. Changing the name will impact this perspective and result in consumers’ association shifting away from breakfast and to lunch/dinner instead. The key here is to avoid losing its association with breakfast.

IHOP has been trying to increase sales for lunch and dinner for some time for many reasons, one of which is because a restaurant can often charge more for meals later in the day. We can be sure that IHOP marketing team spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of changing the brand name for this marketing initiative. One way this risk can pay off is by causing controversy. There is value in controversy – it gets people talking. This has proven true for the IHOP strategy, as it has already caused a huge stir on Twitter, with Burger King changing their name to Pancake King and other burger vertical leaders commenting on the name change. The initiative has been somewhat successful, with an influx in press and chatter very visible.

There is a need to be careful. Acronyms can cause complication. Acronyms are often engrained in people’s memories and consumers find it difficult to stop using old ones. It is important to conduct research in order to determine if the name change will cause confusion among consumers. Will people be aware that the chain still sells pancakes? How else, besides the acronym, will IHOP promote burgers? It will be key to see how their advertising focus, such as its television commercials, changes in the following months. If ad spend is less focused on breakfast would this impact the brand overall equity?

It is also important to remember that this is a global brand, and as such, each market/country may react differently.

The burger market is very saturated. Entering the direct competition with the burger industry will be difficult as IHOP is not known as the king of this vertical and there are many brands competing for the crown.

The risk may pay off, though. A name change could help their positioning. People might start to think of IHOP when they think about lunch and dinner. The key when a brand is changing their name or acronym is to conduct thorough research about their consumer, the brand, and their advertising initiatives to make sure no wrong turn is taken! Will the name change really move the needle? Or will this simply take away from breakfast spending, resulting in loss of revenue? Check out more about naming research on the Provoke Insights blog.

Marketing in the Summer
05 Jun 2018

Like many industries, advertising is notoriously slow in the summer season. However, there are also plenty of seasonally specific opportunities to take advantage of for advertisers across a number of categories. In many parts of America, summer is the only season that affords a real chance to get outside; consumers enjoy the beach, sporting events, water parks, summer camps, vacations, and a generally more relaxed few months. Summer is also associated with fun foods, socializing, and a cheery attitude.

So, how is a summer audience different than one in other seasons? How can you incorporate seasonality into your advertising strategy? The key lies in the features of the season.

Summer sunshine means getting out of the house. It brings to mind barbecues and the pool or beach. June through August is all about spending time in the open air and participating in leisure activities. As such, out-of-home advertising is a natural fit – billboards, videos, flyers, and other media at concerts, fairs, movie theaters, airports, water parks, and sporting events are hugely effective, especially when they are advertising goods or services that are directly related to the location. Radio is also can be a great opportunity, as consumers more often take road trips. The lighthearted nature of summer also calls for fun television and print campaigns with strong creative appeal. In addition, there are plenty of opportunities around holidays and events that pertain to families as much as they do to individuals, including Graduation, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Flag Day, Summer Solstice, LGBT Pride Month, Fourth of July, Back to School, and Labor Day.

Particularly for retailers, summer marketing is a time to test out new and different methods, according to Forbes. Businesses can try various communications and execution tactics like expressing appreciation to customers in email campaigns (as opposed to promotion alone), partnering with businesses to promote complementary products or collaborations, introducing limited edition lines, sending out seasonal “swag” like t-shirts and ice coffee cups, pushing loyalty programs that incentivize sales during a typically slow period, or opening up pop-up stands or store locations at some of the aforementioned summer-friendly venues.

Keep in mind the various demographics and segments that can be addressed when thinking of these summer events. Graduation is all about students; these days, this means every school-ending ceremony from kindergarten through college and beyond. Independence Day brings to mind family cookouts, but it is also a day for adult beverage consumption, namely beer and related spirits. Many of these events conjure parties, parades, and ceremonies, all of which require planning, supplies, furniture, technology, food and beverage. Even industries that do not seem directly related to warm weather can likely be pegged to one of a few broader summer events.

Finally, summer is also a great time to catch up on future advertising plans, spruce up your business plan, update your website, or improve your SEO tactics. Instead of viewing summer as down time, use it as a time to strategize. It is crucial for advertisers to use these months as an opportunity to conduct competitive research, build better business infrastructure, develop your marketing plan, and gain as many potential leads as possible in order to boost performance during other seasons.

The 3 Most Popular Blogs of 2017
03 Jan 2018

We are looking back on 2017’s most popular blog posts on Provoke Insights to determine what people want to read about regarding brand strategy, advertising research, and brand research.

Interestingly, the number one spot is Tech Companies… What’s Your Brand Strategy? This is one of our oldest blogs. We wrote this way back in September 2015 but it just goes to show, first of all, that nothing is ever lost on the internet! And secondly, this blog becomes more relevant everyday as the tech industry continues to grow at a rapid rate. With more and more technology based brands launching, there is a need to have a consistent marketing strategy based on research and insights. Often we see tech companies who start with tactics first and result in a flimsy advertising plan. Having worked with several technology companies this year, we have learned that each brand has a diverse and unique need. We also see that more and more tech firms are making sure that they have the right brand strategy in place.

Next up, Millennials, Fine Jewelry, and the Luxury Category – this blog again is an oldie but a goodie. The piece was written in December 2016 but gained traction for what I can only assume to be the need to understand this generation’s uncommon spending habits within the luxury category. The media talks endlessly about how millennials behave, how to reach them, and what they’re buying. This blog’s popularity may have stemmed from the need to better understand this generation that has caused such a stir. We were so interested in the topic because we did a four-part research project with Jewelers of America in 2017. It included qualitative research among suppliers and retailers, as well as a segmentation that highlighted millennials as a primary target for a national jewelry campaign. You can read more about that here.

The third most popular blog was written at the beginning of 2017 – 7 New Trends in Market Research in 2017. In this blog we ran down a list of new technology and innovative ideas to revitalize a market research strategy. We  are happy to say our predictions were right and we used almost all of these trends in 2017 and plan to use more of them in 2018. From what we know, these trends are going to continue into 2018 with the added rise of smartphone-based research. Applications on smartphones have the ability to track users locations, gender, age, purchasing habits, and app usage. All of this data can be sold to whoever wants it – there’s a possibility that market research firms will take advantage of the data. Until there is a framework in place to regulate this – all of the data is fair game.

We would like to wish you all a Happy New Year from the Provoke Insights Team. We are launching our updated advertising research study at the end of January. Keep an eye out for new blog posts with original information from the research study about advertisers, in-house marketers, the pitch process, stress levels in the workplace, media and advertising budgets, and much more. You can also sign up here to be the first to receive the newsletter about it.

2018 Trends: Advertising & Marketing Industry
27 Nov 2017
As 2018 approaches, advertisers and marketers are preparing for the new year, Provoke Insights is providing a comprehensive look at what to expect over the next 12 months.

In the last decade, the marketing industry has changed immensely from new technologies to more specialty advertising agencies. In-house marketers have pushed for more project based work and an ever-increasing number of consumers have cut-the-cord to their TVs.

How has this affected advertisers as well as in-house marketers? How has this impacted advertising and media budgets, as well as the longevity of the relationship between an ad agency and their clients? What advertising initiatives are marketers commissioning in today’s market? How satisfied are marketers with their job in this fast-evolving environment?

In 2014, only half of advertisers surveyed were very satisfied with the process. With the ever-increasing frequency of ad pitching, are agencies and clients still dissatisfied with this process? Are there areas that can be improved? What makes marketers most likely to select an advertising agency?

Provoke Insights, a brand strategy and market research firm, conducted a survey looking at both advertising and in-house marketers to best answer these questions. This extensive advertising survey among 736 respondents will help you plan the 2018 year right.

If you would like to learn more about the results of this research survey and receive the whitepaper of this research in December, just follow this link and it will be sent to you. Click here to learn more about other services Provoke Insights offers.

Market Research and New York City
29 Nov 2016
Written by: Rachael Ryan

For generations, New York City has been held in the heart of the world’s population as a land of opportunity, the city that never sleeps and a city where just about anything is possible. Because of that, the industries in New York City not only drive the state’s economy but it is a driving force for the national and global economy. According to Fortune, New York City is the ‘center of the business universe’. There are more industries, more companies and dozens of new start ups every single day. With that in mind, market research is more important than ever in NYC.

New York, the center of the business universe

Historically, New York has been the hub of numerous industries such as construction, media, publishing, tourism, the clothing and financial sectors. Lately, it is the hub of incalculable industries. There are also many new and upcoming industries and brands in the city, NYC is now home to new industries such as biotechnology companies and science industries; other industries such as the health sector, the arts and film industries are thriving here now more than ever. New York has so many new industries and innumerable established industries that it makes it difficult to stand out in such a competitive market. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to get your brand name out there and have it resonate with the right people. New brands need to make an impression with their target audience and more established brands need to reinvigorate their brand amongst existing and prospect customers. This seems like an overwhelming task in such a competitive market until you realize there is only one step that you need to take in order to make this a lot easier for you and your brand: research.

Where to start

Every inch of New York is wrapped in logos and slogans, sponsored and product placed which means that that valuable space is becoming more and more expensive. The New York City subway is laced with advertising and there are more advertisements in Times Square than in a lot of small towns. And that’s only one corner of the city; every single corner of this city has been marketed. There are so many that it all becomes white noise to New Yorkers. Don’t forget New Yorkers consume traditional media as well. At some stage, New Yorkers have to start drowning it out. Hence, if you don’t have a deep knowledge of your target audience – all of your costly marketing efforts will be drowned out and it will all have been in vain. The only way to avoid this is by researching your target audience before you do anything.

People are more different than they are similar

The population of New York City is projected to grow to 9 million people by 2040. People move to New York from all over the United States and from foreign countries daily. There are more people moving to New York City than are moving out. This means that the market is growing everyday and it is one of the most culturally diverse markets in the world, the people in it are more and more complex and less difficult to make assumptions about. New York is more diverse than any other city in the USA; there are more ethnicities, there is a bigger range of income, there are more members of the LGBTQ population here, and marriage trends are unconventional in New York– everything about everyone here is unpredictable. The only thing you can predict about a New Yorker is that they all more different than they are similar!

Therefore, your brand needs to conduct research accordingly if you plan to thrive in NYC.

For more information on how to research your target audience, have a look at Provoke Insights blog here. Market research can at times be time-consuming; therefore brands often reach out to market research companies, like Provoke Insights for a helping hand with this important research. As a New York City based research and consultancy firm, they have a great understanding of New Yorkers and the perfect base for conducting research in this complicated and sometimes dumb-founding city. Sign up for the Provoke Insights newsletter here.

Video in Today’s Cluttered Marketplace
10 Sep 2015

For the past decade the battle cry of marketing has been, “Content is King! Content is King!”  Well guess what?  Now everybody has content.  And by everybody, I mean – everybody.  Your dentist, your place of worship, and even the makers of the cereal you ate for breakfast all create content.

Of course, content has always been available; there just used to be infinitely less of it in the world. The overproduction of content has made it more difficult for brands to stand out.

The goal is to generate engagement with every item you publish. This provides a challenge for content marketers. While blogs, decks, and newsletters are important, these forms of content can fail to connect with busy prospects.  That’s why it is more important than ever to incorporate video into the marketing mix.

A video can require a bit more of an investment, but it is an effective way to hook consumers and drive them toward more comprehensive information. No video will close a deal but it can get you one step closer to it by peaking interest and opening the door for discussion. Also, a video is more enjoyable than opening and reviewing a deck, or reading a newsletter.  Instead of being confronted by a screen full of text there is just a big red “play” button to push.

Here are three keys to developing a successful video for marketing initiatives:

  1. Keep it short.  Remember, the video is being used as a door opener, not a deal closer.  Potential viewers will often glance at the total running time of a video; if it is longer than a minute or two it will be moved to a “watch later” list and likely never be viewed at all.  A good target is 60 seconds.
  2. Keep it moving.  Whether a video or animation, never let your video become too static.  Even a “talking head” video should include cuts between camera angles or the inclusion of supporting graphics and photos.  You should never to be able to count to ten between cuts or camera moves.
  3. Keep it specific.  Your video should have a job to do.  This might be encouraging the viewer to call for a free consultation, join a mailing list, or dig deeper into your website.  End your video with a clear call to action.

One last thought: when it comes to producing a video, trust it to the pros.  Just because you can buy fabric and a sewing machine doesn’t mean you should make your own clothes.  And just because you can make videos with your phone doesn’t mean you should produce it for professional purposes.

The Importance Of Mobile Marketing
10 Sep 2015

Mobile marketing is one of the fasting growing areas in marketing. Approximately 99% of Americans own a cell phone, with roughly 64% of those devices being a smart phone1. Additionally, around 20% of Americans own a tablet1. And users aren’t just utilizing their devices to make calls and surf the web, as smart phones and tablets are allowing consumers to get their news, follow political campaigns and elections, and most importantly for marketers, shop and make purchases.

At the end of 2012, about 11% of retail spending was done via a mobile device2. By the end of 2013, that figure had more than doubled, as mobile spending accounted for 25% of all retail purchases2. But the importance of mobile for retailers is even more significant, because even when customers don’t buy something directly from their mobile device, they’re interacting with company websites and apps. This in turn helps shape their image and perception of that particular brand, and more than 75% of mobile interactions lead directly to an in-store purchase2. With figures like this, it’s evident that brands should utilize smart phones and tablets to not only drive sales, but also interact with the consumer and help foster strong brand identities.

Smart-phones and tablets are becoming an increasingly larger part of American life, especially for the younger generations. Currently, roughly 23% of our free time is being spent on a mobile device. Because of the wide array of media channels available today (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, YouTube ect.) in addition to storage devices like TiVo and DVR, Americans can squeeze 12 hours of media into a 9 hour day1. Many mobile users are able to utilize of these streaming services directly from their smart-phones and tablets, making mobile marketing even more important. Furthermore, of those mobile users who are watching TV at home, around 86% of them are surfing the web while watching TV3. This gives brands and advertiser a unique opportunity to simultaneously target their audience through TV and mobile. Since the proliferation of mobile users show no signs of slowing down, it essential that marketers and advertisers take advantage of the unique opportunities that mobile marketing provides.




3- Arbitron, Omniture, and Comscore

Research for Content Marketing & Thought Leadership
10 Sep 2015

Check out our latest article on how market research can be used to create more interesting and insightful content for your business or brand.  Research can be used to generate awareness and increase engagement among your prospects and customers.  Additionally, conducting research on a specific topic deepens your understanding a particular segment of your business and allows you to tout your expertise in that area. Despite its numerous benefits, most companies think of market research solely as a Public Relations initiative; research needs to be more than a simple press release and should transcend multiple facets of your business. A single study can be used for social media, sales material, SEO, Slideshare, infographics, just to name a few. That is why it is essential to have a strategy in place for how your research will be utilized for a content marketing initiative.

When using research for press purposes, it is important that you get the most out of your study.  To do this you must be able to integrate the research with your SEO, social media and press initiatives. As your company successfully dovetails the research data with the different aspects of your business, you will see the full benefits of your study. The article is great resource for advertising agencies, public relations firms,  businesses of all sizes, and brands that want to become thought leader.

75% of Small Businesses Want to Use More Analytics
10 Sep 2015

Big data can sometimes seem like the cosmos; a nebulous mix of analytics, cloud storage, and private information that can be both mysterious and intimidating. This is especially true for small businesses. A recent survey conducted by Provoke Insightsa brand consultancy and market research firm, found that two-thirds of small companies still don’t know how to navigate big data. Despite this, most companies desperately want to be able to harness the power of analytics. Though intimidating, big data should be analyzed and leveraged appropriately; otherwise a company is not operating to its fullest capacity and money may be left on the table. Small businesses can’t afford to have others eat their lunch.

It is crucial for small businesses to have a well-defined marketing plan in place. Analytics and big data should be a big part of the plan. The power of big data and analytics can be harnessed in a number of ways. Some of these ways include using analytics to inform marketing initiatives, as well as using analytics as a way to gauge what’s working and what needs some improvement. Without analytics, a small business is simply guessing the right move opposed to using data to help them make more intelligent and informed decisions.

If you are a small business and you need help with your marketing plan, Provoke  Insights can help. Feel free to contact us for tips on how to create a marketing plan that uses analytics to make informed decisions.