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ABOUT US


The needs that you are solving for today are not necessarily the needs of tomorrow.

 

We are a research agency dedicated to uncovering today’s needs (insight) and reconciling them with tomorrow’s needs (foresight) to help seed and shape strategies, ideas and executions with enduring power.

 

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ABOUT US


The needs that you are solving for today are not necessarily the needs of tomorrow.

 

We are a research agency dedicated to uncovering today’s needs (insight) and reconciling them with tomorrow’s needs (foresight) to help seed and shape strategies, ideas and executions with enduring power.

 

Our Difference

 

What we believe in

We believe that research is a critical tool to help inform and optimize the developmental process of brand and innovation strategies, concepts and executions.

Insight can help us understand current motivations or pain points, and this is a critical step in the process.

However, the rapid pace of change in our world today requires a more dynamic view on insights. Layering foresight on top of insight can help frame different questions and ultimately identify richer and more forward-looking opportunities.

 

Why we are different

Our philosophy:  We ask the kinds of questions that will help us understand what our findings mean for our clients today as well as how these findings are likely to be challenged by future forces. We call this approach : solving forward.

Our team: Our accumulated knowledge and skill set bring new vision. We have 30 years experience of developing actionable insights across a broad range of categories.

We employ a dedicated team approach to each project to stimulate fresh thinking and develop the smartest methodologies and analytic frameworks.

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OUR EXPERIENCE


OUR EXPERIENCE


Our experience

 

 

 

 

We are proud of our repeat business with clients across industries.

Our experience spans from B2B to B2C categories including alcoholic beverages, beauty,
entertainment, fashion, financial services, food and beverage, health and health care,
hospitality/travel, IT, publishing, professional services and retail.

 

 

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OUR SERVICES


OUR SERVICES


Our Services

 

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Qualitative Research

Live groups and interviews in traditional and non-traditional venues

Ethnographic interviews

Shop-alongs

Online bulletin boards and groups

Custom panel research

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Customized foresight analysis

Interviews with experts within and outside of your category

In conjunction with targeted desk research

Strategic workshops to blend insight and foresight to form hypotheses and uncover opportunities

Quantitative Research

In combination with qualitative

Working with your preferred quant supplier or providing a one-source solution for your project

Ensuring that insights are seamlessly translated to quantitative attributes, or that quant data is brought to life through qualitative

Strategic Services

Business and brand innovation

Brand strategy

End user experience

Via our sister company, Black Bamboo

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OUR TEAM


OUR TEAM


Our Team

 

 

RUTH KREIGER,  Managing Director Ruth has over 30 years of experience in the field of strategic insight and foresight with a focus on brand strategy, product innovation, channel dynamics and creative development. In 1997 she acquired a qualitative research firm, JSC Consumer Insights, and has been growing it successfully since then. Before her entrepreneurial career Ruth worked in the strategic planning department of Ogilvy & Mather Partners and Grey Advertising. She also worked in the insight department of Renfield Importers and at the quantitative research firm, Stockton, Ott & Bortner. LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT RUTH : She fancies herself a New Yorker (moved in 1981), but is still an avid Chicago Cubs fan; is a crossword puzzle, Sudoku and Ken-Ken addict (really, it’s a problem); loves Food Network and Top Chef yet is a terrible cook; and has never met a store in which she couldn’t shop.

RUTH KREIGER, 

Managing Director

Ruth has over 30 years of experience in the field of strategic insight and foresight with a focus on brand strategy, product innovation, channel dynamics and creative development.

In 1997 she acquired a qualitative research firm, JSC Consumer Insights, and has been growing it successfully since then.

Before her entrepreneurial career Ruth worked in the strategic planning department of Ogilvy & Mather Partners and Grey Advertising.

She also worked in the insight department of Renfield Importers and at the quantitative research firm, Stockton, Ott & Bortner.

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT RUTH :

She fancies herself a New Yorker (moved in 1981), but is still an avid Chicago Cubs fan; is a crossword puzzle, Sudoku and Ken-Ken addict (really, it’s a problem); loves Food Network and Top Chef yet is a terrible cook; and has never met a store in which she couldn’t shop.

ANTONIA KNOBBE,  Sr Director Antonia has worked in the field of strategy and research for over 20 years, and has extensive experience across all types of categories in brand positioning, line extension, innovation, channel dynamics, creative development, and packaging design. She joined JSC Consumer Insights in 1998 and has helped to grow the firm while leveraging her creative and strategic skills in moderating and consulting, leading both domestic and global studies. Antonia began her career in advertising as a strategic planning at Wells Rich Greene BDDP, where she ignited her innate interest in human behavior and insight by moderating groups and devising strategies for key clients. LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ANTONIA : A born and bred New Yorker (currently transplanted to NJ but she still doesn't drive), Antonia is a secret poet with a fondness for fashion, design and all things healthy (despite her love of muffins). She finds great pleasure and inspiration when pushing her own limits in nature, whether running, snowboarding, mountain biking or just "being" at the beach.

ANTONIA KNOBBE, 

Sr Director

Antonia has worked in the field of strategy and research for over 20 years, and has extensive experience across all types of categories in brand positioning, line extension, innovation, channel dynamics, creative development, and packaging design. She joined JSC Consumer Insights in 1998 and has helped to grow the firm while leveraging her creative and strategic skills in moderating and consulting, leading both domestic and global studies.

Antonia began her career in advertising as a strategic planning at Wells Rich Greene BDDP, where she ignited her innate interest in human behavior and insight by moderating groups and devising strategies for key clients.

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ANTONIA :

A born and bred New Yorker (currently transplanted to NJ but she still doesn't drive), Antonia is a secret poet with a fondness for fashion, design and all things healthy (despite her love of muffins). She finds great pleasure and inspiration when pushing her own limits in nature, whether running, snowboarding, mountain biking or just "being" at the beach.

ANNE BROWN,  Sr Director Anne has been working in marketing strategy for over 30 years, having begun her career in the private practice of Booz Allen & Hamilton, Inc. She joined JSC in 1992 and, as a moderator, develops strategic insights for both established and emerging brands. Areas of special interest and expertise include: innovation, positioning development and creative exploration across a range of categories. Anne has also lead the development of JSC's quail-quant research capability, as she has passion for the power of combining statistically significant data with rich insights that help illuminate this data. LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ANNE : A direct descendent of Pocahontas, Anne left New York in 1989 for small town life in Telluride, Colorado; in 1995, was featured in US News & World Report as one of the first tele-commuters in the Rocky Mountains; Anne and her husband are avid skiers, hikers and mountain bikers; they have two giant sons (6'6 and 6'7" tall).

ANNE BROWN, 

Sr Director

Anne has been working in marketing strategy for over 30 years, having begun her career in the private practice of Booz Allen & Hamilton, Inc. She joined JSC in 1992 and, as a moderator, develops strategic insights for both established and emerging brands.

Areas of special interest and expertise include: innovation, positioning development and creative exploration across a range of categories. Anne has also lead the development of JSC's quail-quant research capability, as she has passion for the power of combining statistically significant data with rich insights that help illuminate this data.

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ANNE :

A direct descendent of Pocahontas, Anne left New York in 1989 for small town life in Telluride, Colorado; in 1995, was featured in US News & World Report as one of the first tele-commuters in the Rocky Mountains; Anne and her husband are avid skiers, hikers and mountain bikers; they have two giant sons (6'6 and 6'7" tall).

OUR POV


OUR POV


Our POV

DOES GENDER STILL MATTER IN MARKETING?

 

 

Rarely have societies been transformed as deeply as western societies have over the past ten years. With the advent of new platforms of exchange of ideas as well as the emergence of a more educated middle class, it is now commonplace to openly assert one’s gender, age, religion, sexual preference or ethnicity. So in a day and age when anyone can claim a gender and gender roles are being re-defined, does it still matter to think in terms of gender-based marketing?

As we are evolving from gender exclusivity (specific roles exclusively allocated by gender) towards gender equality (equal roles across genders), the concept of gender marketing needs to evolve as well.

Long gone are the days when women were viewed as mere housewives who couldn't express a personal point of view, let alone lead a career. Women can exert power on their own terms and are less and less defined in relation to men, or asked to fit within a male model. Now men are evolving too - from the stoic, macho provider to the enlightened, sensitive, intuitive man. Goodbye John Wayne (or Bruce Willis). Hello Eddie Redmayne or even George Clooney, previously a sort of a bridge between the two worlds, and who has vaulted into 'enlightened man' territory with his new role as supportive "arm candy" to his wife, a woman of formidable power. The image of the aspirational man is being transformed

So why should brands continue to target women as the shopper of household products when increasingly, men are equally likely to go and pick up those items at Wal-Mart? As gender evolves from specificity to equality, the gender equation needs to evolve from pre-determined gender-based needs towards a more complex combination of: a) shared NEEDS (the basis for gender equality + b) specific gender-based VALUES and WANTS 

As the progression towards gender equality is redefining the attributes ascribed to men, many men are looking for ways to reconcile old and new values

While Millennials are primary drivers of gender equality, Boomer and Gen X men seem intrigued but unsure how to make the transition. And many are not fully convinced—is this really what women want?, we hear them wonder. Is it who I am? Will I be respected at work?

These are good questions. Women do want an enlightened man, but they don’t want “wimpy.” And society and the workplace are fraught with contradictions—dads are encouraged to care equally for their children, but don’t get paternity leave; men are supposed to respect and desire successful women, but are still pressured to be the breadwinner; and who the hell is supposed to pay the check on a date anymore? The feelings associated with this societal transformation range from frustration among Millennial men who want to spend more time at home with their kids, but whose bosses don’t understand, to men who are embracing “dude stuff” with a veneer of irony to protect them from being judged. This can lead to lots of self-editing (“I love my wife’s cooking. I mean, I cook too, I actually enjoy it…”). Meanwhile, “Man Cave” is practically a chapter in the Ikea catalogue, as men try to create a space where they can let loose and just “be a guy". 

Brands should therefore start analyzing how the shift towards gender equality is creating new tension points for men who feel caught between potentially radically opposite expectations.

As this transformation towards gender equality is taking place, the pitfall to avoid is to confuse it with gender neutrality

Ultimately, the only part of the gender equation that is really changing is the evolution from arbitrarily pre-determined gender-based needs towards shared needs across genders. However the reality is, men and women are not the same, and should not be marketed to as such. Men and women definitely want different things from life and from each other. Perhaps unexpectedly, the recent explosion of transgender people in pop culture has fueled more conversation about these differences, as males who’ve transitioned to female sing the praises of essentially female traits, and vice versa. Being a woman or a man means something—it always has, and it always will.

So at the end of the day, gender-marketing needs to free itself from the gender needs (what genders are supposed to do) to better address the gender wants (what genders really like to do).

So as you think about addressing the new terms of gender marketing, marketers should think abut the following questions:

·      How much of your current marketing strategy is supported by gender specific assumptions?
·      Which of the needs that are gender-specific now are most likely to become shared needs across genders?
·      How does your brand help men ensure a smooth transition between old and new masculine values—either by helping them avoid the pitfalls (too wimpy/too macho), or by making them feel more comfortable with where they currently stand?
·      How can your brand uniquely target men and/or women, speaking to what their genders uniquely want while also respecting the new landscape of equality in terms of needs?

 

 

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FROM AN 'ECONOMY OF GOODS' TO AN 'ECONOMY FOR GOOD'

 

At Black Bamboo, we believe that purposeful innovation is good for business. Around the globe, we are witnessing major societal and technological shifts embed the idea of 'human progress' into innovation, whether it is in the way that new products and services are thought about, or in the way entirely new business models are designed.

Say goodbye to the 'economy of goods'. Here comes the era of the 'economy for good'.

With the rise in consumerism and gazillions of products to chose from, more and more people are choosing to buy from brands and companies that share their beliefs, values and passions. Some consumers do this to feel part of a greater cause, others do it to foster bonds and be part of a collective, while a final set of consumers sees these purposeful brands as a symbol of their ales to wear with pride. Companies and brands need to tap into these new consumer needs by showcasing their unique sense of purpose, becoming part of a community or showing that they care about more than just profits.

Some ways to rethink how you can innovate for good to align with these consumers needs are by:

· Creating new business models with a built-in purpose that allows consumers to feel like they are buying into a cause and not just purchasing a product. Two companies that successfully achieved that are Toms and Warby Parker, which started with a buy-one-give-one approach and are now expanding into more causes that people can rally behind. This allows more cause-conscious consumers to move away from mindless shopping and satisfy their need to make a difference.
· Developing new partnerships that allow companies to become active participants of a community and not just a faceless corporation. An interesting example of this is West Elm's Local initiative to carry locally designed and made products. This allows consumers to connect with local artisans and feel like they are a part of a greater collective while helping these small businesses grow from the ground up.
· Expanding offerings to content, products or services that are not just profit-driven, but allow people to embrace them for their purpose-driven badge value. Product (RED) and Prius are great examples of this. They allow consumers to celebrate their beliefs through the purchase of these products that they can then proudly display.

 

Meanwhile, as corporations are increasingly competing for talent around the world and looking to act as good corporate citizens to woo partners and capital, finding ways to create innovative business models that can fuel human progress ends up being a good business practice. For instance, some organizations and institutions are looking for ways to adapt existing technologies to promote progress:

· GE's Ecomagination initiative to create portable EKGs in India using smaller, battery-powered tools that are more affordable and logical for doctors-on-the-go who don't have constant access to electricity
· Unicef Innovation Lab's use of SMS technology for safe pregnancy monitoring and early HIV detection of newborns in countries where access to information and mail are not always reliable or fast.

 

On another level, more people are adopting values of 'sharing' and 'meaningfulness' and starting their own businesses as a way to address deeply human problems.

· Hot Bread Kitchen sells multi-ethnic breads inspired by different countries as a way to incubate programs dedicated to increase economic security and integration of foreign-born and low-income women in NYC.
· Soup Detroit's micro-granting dinners fund creative projects that promote community development in Detroit
· New crowd sourcing and funding platforms such as Kickstarter are helping more individuals pursue their dreams by allowing others to participate in a way that is beneficial to all

 

We'd like to leave you with a few thoughts:

·      Is your business vision adjusting with the mega shift from an 'economy of goods' towards an 'economy for good'?
·      What is your business' competitive advantage in leveraging a strategy 'for good'? What is your risk and disadvantage not to do so?
·      Can your business model help you adjust to the 'economy for good'?
·      What is your target audience's motivation to do or be associated with an 'economy for good'?
·      How much of these insights are driving your product innovation strategy?

 

 

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NOW & NEXT: 4 macro forces that could re-frame the future of alcoholic beverages

 

At Black Bamboo, we believe that innovation is a force for progress that not only solves for today’s needs but also paves the way to future growth.

That’s why we constantly strive to understand how macro forces are likely to create paradigm shifts in any given category, opening the door to new growth opportunities, but also creating new challenges for incumbents.

This is the first of a series of point of views that we will be developing to stir a forward-looking discussion among the marketing and innovation community.
 

1.    What will be the effect of the progressive legalization of cannabis on alcoholic beverage consumption?

With Jamaica, Alaska and DC recently joining the ranks of places where cannabis has been legalized, the question seems to be how (and probably no longer ‘if’) open consumption of marijuana will re-define recreational alternatives.

Food for thought: Will marijuana have a positive or negative impact on the spirits category at large? Will marijuana have an impact on socialization patterns and activities, therefore shifting the balance of on / off premise spirits consumption? Will it inspire new kind of brews?

 

2. How will new culinary trends open the door to new kinds of spirits?

Around the world, chefs are re-mastering and re-discovering local ingredients (e.g. edible flowers or yuzu) and old techniques, blending them with foreign or more contemporary ones. These new culinary trends eventually trickle down in the consumers’ plate (e.g. quinoa, amaranth…).

Food for thoughts: Can we expect a new range of alcoholic beverages based on or accentuated by these new ingredients? How could molecular gastronomy redefine the spirits industry?

 

3.    Can boomers become value creators in an ageing world?

The so-called ‘developed world’ is getting older. Yet most brand building efforts in the spirits category have been openly targeting younger demographics, hoping to recruit them early on and keep them in the brand franchise for life. Meanwhile boomers are going to be increasingly retiring with high disposable income and could fuel the trend towards premiumization.

Food for thought: Should the spirits category re-think its marketing strategy to more openly target boomers? What new alcoholic beverages could better cater for Boomer’s taste palates and overarching needs?

 

4.    Will the sharing economy open the door to new kinds of relationships and brand ambassadors?

From Airbnb to Uber to crowd funding, the idea of sharing an asset for the personal benefit of all is transforming the way people get access to products and services and the level of personalization they expect. Meanwhile these disruptive business models are creating a new definition of brand ambassadorship and consumer loyalty. Mass brands may need to re-invent themselves if markets become more informal and consumers start to expect greater personal (emotional and financial) upside from the products and services they buy.

Food for thoughts: Should national wineries and brewers consider dedicating part of their production facilities to smaller scale brands? Or should they embed the idea of part ownership into their business model?


We’d love to hear your thoughts on how future macro forces can help us think differently about the future direction of the alcoholic beverage category.

 

 

 

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Re-thinking individualization in the digital era

 

Consumers have always been drawn to individualization.

And it’s become a given today, with technology streaming the world to our fingertips and the 3D-printing revolution approaching. People expect to buy and consume exactly what they want—and to be able to choose how and when to consume it. It’s a brave new world that poses challenges not only to manufacturers and retailers, but also to consumers. 

Historically, manufacturers have tried to meet the demand for individualization by offering a plethora of options: Choose your color and finish! Add a salted-gojiberry swirl! Put a bird on it! But it didn’t take long before this approach became unsatisfying for consumers (who felt both overwhelmed by all the options, and underwhelmed with the choices), and challenging for manufacturers to implement.

Meanwhile, consumers have come to realize they don’t want to be given carte blanche to individualize. They don’t always know what they want until they stumble upon it—and the process can take more time, effort, or creativity than the average consumer can give. Ultimately, the feeling of exploring and discovering that comes with individualization ends up being just as important as the need to assert their personality.

We believe we are at the dawn of a new era we call “open/ended individualization.” Individualization in this era will be simultaneously:

·      open because it encourages exploration and discovery (vs. presenting a closed set of options)

·      ended because this discovery happens within a manageable framework (vs. a blank canvas)

Instagram is an example of open/ended individualization: using a set of filters and frames, the user is empowered to create something original (without feeling overwhelmed). At Chipotle, or the west-coast chain In & Out Burger, the consumer chooses from a handful of options on a limited menu board—then modifies it with a fun request from the ’secret menu’ (“quesarito,” anyone?)

We leave you with two questions:

·      Does your brand tap into the desire for exploration and discovery?

·      Are there new or innovative ways your products and services can allow for open/ended individualization?