The Blank Stare

April 18th, 2014 in market research, quotes | Tagged , , , | by | Leave a comment

I really enjoyed reading Isiah Adam’s blog post on market research analogies. His compilation of quotes is a great reminder that people who don’t work in the MR world can easily be confused by our lingo. If you work in MR, you’ve likely experienced a blank stare after sharing your job description to a friend. Some of these analogies serve a reminder to talk about MR in a way that those who aren’t immersed in it will understand (whether that’s a friend, family member, marketing director,creative director, or CEO). Below are a few of my favorites, be sure to check out Isiah’s blog post for more. Enjoy!

“Starting a business without doing market research is like stepping out onto a tightrope without bothering to check the tightness of the knots that are holding the rope in place. You’re halfway across when the knots loosen, the rope wobbles; you lose your balance, and fall to the ground with a splat.” -Tim Knox

“Marketing Research is like panning for gold. You must sift through the dirt in order to identify the golden opportunities.” -Heather Hinman

“Some use research as the drunkard uses the lamppost, for support rather than for illumination.” -David Ogilvy


April 11th, 2014 in Uncategorized | by | Leave a comment

Every once in a while, we like to share what we’ve been up to,  including how our research engagements have helped our clients achieve their business goals and some of the lessons learned. This case study highlights W5′s approach and the resulting deliverables for a client testing a pilot program in their restaurants.

imagesMore and more, our clients need to share research results in an easily digestible fashion. Video brings the consumer voice to life, showing instead of telling. Videos are also more engaging and easier to share across diverse audiences. This case study highlights an engagement where the video deliverable was the centerpiece. For me, one of the key challenges of this project was ensuring all of the data and insights from the report was condensed into a short, compelling video segment. The solution was to combine footage highlighting consumer interactions with the program with a voice-over narrating key study insights to ensure the whole story was told.


A casual dining chain was in the early phases of implementing a new recycling program to responsibly address waste removal at their restaurants. The company partnered with W5 to explore patron and employee reactions to the program and create a video deliverable communicating the program’s merits. 


W5 designed and conducted a custom assessment of the program’s appeal. W5 ethnographers observed and interviewed store employees responsible for the program in three markets. W5 also conducted intercept interviews with patrons to assess the clarity of recycling instructions and the program’s potential to positively influence brand perceptions. A professional videographer recorded all interviews, intercepts, and encounters with the recycling program, including how employees and patrons disposed of product packaging and food.


To help communicate program benefits to internal stakeholders, W5 developed a six-minute video illustrating patrons’ and employees’ experiences with the recycling program. W5 structured the video to tell a story about the recycling program’s purpose, implementation, and the potential business advantages associated with environmental stewardship and advocacy. The video also allowed the client to better visualize the recycling program in action and identify areas of improvement.

Spotlight is a special feature of the W5 Blog showcasing W5 consultants’ approach to designing marketing research studies, creating engaging deliverables, and informing strategy. For more information on W5’s approach to qualitative or quantitative research contact:


Homestuck and Gen Z

April 1st, 2014 in branding, culture, market research | by | Leave a comment

I live with two self-proclaimed nerds. They love being nerds (as they should). They love nerd culture. They will watch nerd movies, read nerd books, and buy nerd things. Despite one being a Gen Xer and the other a Gen Zer, their nerd culture consumer behavior has been pretty much the same. Their world is one of Apple, cyber-punk, gadgets, Hackers, and niche cartoons.

I’ll admit I’ve been waiting for a generational split, a moment when today’s nerd of gadget culture and tech billionaires would no longer partake in activities enjoyed by the nerd from the time of Urkel and whiz kids. In my home, this split was exemplified by Homestuck.

Homestuck is a webcomic series. The comic uses a combination of static images, animated GIFs, instant message logs, Flash animations, and games created in HTML5. It’s interactive, it’s busy, and it’s filled with typing shorthand and meme language. Characters are connected and communicate almost exclusively through technology. PBS’s Idea Channel compared it to James Joyce’s Ulysses in its complexity and length. “They understand the language,” I hear from non-Gen Zers about Gen Zers. “They understand multimedia narratives.”


I largely agree with the overall sentiment Gen Zers are tech fluent. But what does that mean? Many talks surrounding the digital native generation mistakenly conclude the generation understands how technology works when what we’re actually seeing is a generation that is simply comfortable interacting with technology.  This tech fluency, as Forbes points out, is a strong indicator of how to communicate with this generation.

Gen Zers look for products that resonate with their reality instead of an aspirational product or message. Much like what we see with Homestuck, they gravitate towards serious, seemingly dark and complex story lines. Dystopian narratives (The Hunger Games) and post-apocalyptic themes (Adventure Time) rules this generation’s culture already. Their heroes are young and regular (not unlike the nerdy main character of Homestuck, John Egbert, who has difficulties communicating with his father). Their heroes, who literally change their whole society and not necessarily themselves for the better, reflect the Gen Zers’ need to change the world. This connectivity and social awareness will allow them to do the most thorough research on products and brands. Brands that instill confidence and reliability will be the true successful marketing stories of this generation.


My home’s Gen Zer spends a lot of his time sharing his thoughts on Homestuck through Instagram, deviantART, Google+ and kik. He identifies with characters (namely trolls), has inside jokes with other Homestuckers and exchanges excited, rapid-fire texts with me when I text him about it. Conversely, the Gen Xer struggles with Homestuck. “I just don’t understand it,” he says. He genuinely tries. He tried reading it several times, sighed ‘meh’, and went back to looking up new gadget toys on Kickstarter.

It makes sense when you put the Gen Xer in the context of his generation; a whole culture of apathetic ‘mehs’. But if there is one trait that holds these two together and excludes the overly-optimistic Gen Yer, it’s being realistic. While Homestuck can’t deliver on realism for the Gen Xer, brands that stand for reliability and long-term will have both generations’ loyalty.

Find Your Donkey

March 28th, 2014 in Uncategorized | Tagged , | by | Leave a comment
photo by bagsgroove

photo by bagsgroove

At W5 we’re always looking for ways to make our reporting and deliverables meaningful to our clients. We make films, create graphics, and experiment with forms for printed work, but at the core is clear, concise writing that tells a story.

This is hard. Problems can be complex, issues not easy to explain.

But I recently came across some sage and memorable advice on telling stories.

Lawrence Wright is the author of two of the best non-fiction works of the past decade, “The Looming Tower,” and “Going Clear.”

His advice on a recent Longform podcast recorded at SXSW was to find your “donkey.”  For Wright, this is the person that by force of their personality and context within a situation can help deliver the message and make the reader care.

“A donkey is a very useful beast of burden and it can carry a lot of information on its back. It will take the reader into the world that he may not understand or may not have thought he cared about until you have this donkey.”

I love this as a mechanism for telling a story. It feels human and starts from a place of empathy for both the subject and reader.

Coming Soon: Happy Hour at Starbucks

March 21st, 2014 in branding, market research, Press | Tagged , , | by | Leave a comment

USA TODAY recently released an articlestarbucks-wine-glass announcing Starbucks plan to serve beer and wine at retail locations. Over the next several years, thousands of Starbucks stores all across the country will offer alcoholic beverages. The offering seems like a great move for a coffee chain whose locations stay busy through the morning but trail off into the late afternoon. Offering alcoholic beverages will certainly drive more customers during the “happy hours” of the evening. Also, having a place to grab a cold micro-brew with free Wi-Fi and a table provides an alternative space to meeting in a bar.

I imagine there will be a greater sense of community at my local Starbucks as regulars congregate in the evenings. With the busy day coming to an end and the requirement to drink alcoholic beverages in store, it provides for a chance to sit down, enjoy, and talk with others rather than the grab and go experience of the morning.

Are you suddenly craving a white chocolate truffle espresso martini? Not so fast! Starbucks has no plans of selling alcohol beyond beer and wine in retail locations. While that may be disappointing to some, it’s probably a smart move on their part. Let’s all watch as Starbuck’s market share grows as they find ways to increase average ticket spend with their new found “happy hour” loyalists.

Welcome Spring

March 20th, 2014 in Uncategorized | by | Leave a comment

The first day of spring is finally upon us. In North Carolina, much like the rest of the country, it has been an unusually harsh winter. The warmer spring temperatures can’t get here fast enough. And, with the arrival of spring comes spring allergies.

Do you live in Knoxville, Louisville, Chattanooga, Charlotte or Jackson, MS? What about Philadelphia, St. Louis, Dayton or Wichita? If so, did you know your city is in among the Top Worst Cities in America for Spring Allergies according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation? This spring, don’t be defeated by pollen and mold counts. Instead, turn to your local farmers market and pick up some local raw honey.

Now, raw honey is different from the average store bought honey at the grocery store because it has not been pasteurized, heated or processed in any way, holding its minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and powerful antioxidants. And, while raw honey is great, local raw honey is even better (!); especially when it comes to defending against seasonal allergies. How?

The prevailing theory is that it works like a vaccination. Vaccines introduce dummy versions of a particular virus or germ into the body and effectively trick it into believing it’s been invaded, triggering an immune system response [source: UNICEF]. This produces antibodies designated to fight off the foreign invaders. When the body is actually exposed to the harmful germ or virus, the antibodies are ready for them. Although there have been no scientific studies that have conclusively proven whether honey actually reduces allergies, you can find plenty of people that swear by this approach. And, for those that suffer severely from seasonal allergies – it’s worth a try. Anything to keep the tissue box and sneezing at bay.

To kickoff spring and get a little honey in your life, try this easy No-Bake Oatmeal Balls recipe:


2 cups Old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup Raw local honey
1/4 cup Dark Chocolate chips
Mix all the ingredients and form into balls. You can also add flax seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, wheat germ, raisins, etc.  Adjust the amount of other ingredients as needed.

Branding and the Maker Movement

March 17th, 2014 in branding, culture, emerging technology | by | Leave a comment

The new generation of business owners familiar with Etsy, Kickstarter, and Quirky is being dubbed ‘the maker movement’ and watched for the past couple of years. Demand for hand-crafted, local, and unique is met and grown with the social and e-commerce tools not available eight years ago. An army of professional DIYers have developed businesses for the anti-mass-produced; anyone from seamstresses and programmers now have the tools to share and sell their craft on their own terms. When we take into account American culture, with its emphasis on self-reliance and abundant open-source learning tools, it makes sense the maker movement hatched here.



Brands, even the large mass-producers, are leveraging the niche appeal of the maker movement. Levi’s recently started promoting and selling many makers’ products through its Levi’s Makers stores. It might be challenging for a system that functions on a large scale to begin managing business owned and operated by one person but brands understand this is an opportunity to charge their brands with a sense of uniqueness. As Tom Bernthal, CEO of Kelton a brand strategy consultancy, put it when speaking to AdWeek, “It’s all about the emotional tug of the maker movement. Even if a maker product is not better than a mass-produced version, people have a more positive feeling about it because the makers’ stories are personal.”

General Eletrics started a few different projects in the maker movement sphere. Their smart home is a collaboration with Quirky and launches app-enabled gadgets. In another project, GE Garages, the company provides inventors with 3-D printers and other tools to encourage the resurgence of hands-on manufacturing. Home Depot, also through Quirky, has held maker competitions.
While many participants of the movement find these brand partnerships just another flavor of the month, the benefits are undeniable for brands that stand for innovation or uniqueness.

Method to the Madness

March 14th, 2014 in culture, Data Visualization, knowledge | by | Leave a comment

Located in the middle of a college basketball battle zone (Durham, NC), we here at W5 get a “little” excited this time of year. As March Madness approaches, we’re gearing up for the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament.  Brackets are being prepared, wagers are being made, and everyone is looking forward to being crowned,

“The Official 2014 College Basketball Championship – Lord of the Office Bracket Pool – Winner”

While many will battle to become the office bracket champion, there can be only one crowned winner. If you want a bracket that is carefully constructed, overanalyzed, and backed by statistically sound data, then you should try to learn how Muthu Alagappan is designing his bracket. In 2012 as a medical student at Stanford and an intern at Ayasdi, Alagappan used statistical data to change the way many view individual basketball positions and overall team dynamics. Alagappan’s model categorizes players into thirteen (13) positions rather than five (5). This model is able to see which teams have a great balance of talent versus teams who don’t. Alagappan has gained a lot of attention as his findings have been a hot topic in the world of sports.

Here is a video of Alagappan explaining his model:

For those less obsessed with winning their office tournament there are a number of other ways to fill out a bracket, all of which may lead to a new and wonderful life at work. Here are just a few:

  1. Pick your favorite team to win it all – Don’t worry about the odds. Go with your heart.
  2. Navigate by way of “prettiest” jersey – If you look “good,” you feel “good.” If you feel “good,” you play “good.”
  3. Copy someone else – Just use the old “I’m just curious, who did you pick?”

However you decide to pursue this journey, good luck and happy “bracketing.”

Computational Creativity

March 8th, 2014 in emerging technology | by | Leave a comment

As one who loves data, I always find it interesting when it is used in new and creative ways. However, IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education have taken the creative use of data in an entirely new and exciting direction.
I’m sure we all remember Watson from Jeopardy, but now he’s entering a whole new world – the culinary arts!

At SXSW this year, IBM has a food truck with ICE and all of the recipes have been created by Watson. “How??” you may ask. Well watch the video below and see:

It’s really incredible how data is used to not only come up with new and exciting pairings but also understand how humans will react to these combinations. Now we need to figure out how to get the food truck to the IBM site in RTP!

America’s Obsession with Bacon

March 7th, 2014 in culture | Tagged , , , , , | by | Leave a comment

Oscar Mayer Bacon AppAs if we needed further evidence that America has officially gone hog-wild over bacon, Oscar Mayer just released an alarm clock app that wakes you up to the sound and smell of sizzling bacon! I think it is safe to say that Oscar Mayer may have just outdone every other gimmicky bacon related marketing campaign or product out there.

I remember first becoming aware of this growing obsession with all things bacon when a friend began working for Skillet Street Food  out of Seattle who, while they may not have invented bacon jam, certainly was a trailblazer in the alternative bacon products category. My friend on the Skillet Street Food team spoke about bacon jam with a zeal that is most commonly heard among born again Christians, or UNC fans (and everyone else but Duke fans) discussing their hatred of Duke basketball.

Well our bacon obsession has finally reached a fevered pitch. Bacon sales increased 9.5% in 2013 to an all-time high of $4 billion!!! At this rate bacon may soon surpass Facebook and Twitter in terms of year-over-year growth. It seems like the sky is truly the limit when it comes to the potential for bacon. And now we have this app that wakes you up gently with the soft sounds and sweet smells of sizzling bacon?!? Incredible!

Now if only it could also cook bacon so it would be ready for you when you got out of bed! Oh wait – that already exists!!