Put Down Your Partisan Positions and Pick Up Behavioral Economics

Put Down Your Partisan Positions and Pick Up Behavioral Economics

I was deeply saddened to hear that there was yet another mass shooting in wake of all the other gun-related tragedies that our country suffered in recent months. As I sit down to write this blog, I am listening to news sources blame causes from mental illness to domestic terrorism. All question when will it be “enough” before action is taken?

My thoughts on this matter are not politically based. Regardless of what your party affiliation is, gun violence is everyone’s problem- and worst nightmare. Growing up in Connecticut in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, I noted a drastic shift in statewide gun policy. Connecticut began working on legislation as far back as 1994 to curb gun violence. This effort worked well for the Nutmeg state but did not have an appreciable impact on nationwide gun violence beyond its borders.

With Left and Right politicians squabbling with each other over balancing the appropriate political response with protecting Second Amendment rights, many are left asking how long will it take before a compromise with action is reached to protect citizens going about their everyday life. Depending on whom you ask, the answers will range from 3 months to 3 decades to never.

While these politicians argue along partisan lines, there is room for Behavioral Economics to play a role in reducing the number of mass-shootings and gun related deaths across our country. Traditional economics focuses on supply and demand of the individual and the firm. Actors in this realm choose to maximize their own profit at every opportunity while maintaining a high level of utility per unit of goods consumed. Herein lies the problem- “rational actors” as they are known, focus on their interests and personal wishes, not towards their impact on society. An individual who chooses to exercise his or her own rights will fight tooth and nail to protect their stakes in the matter until there is a reason to shift their preferences or actions. Rational actors care about maximizing their own outcomes, often ignoring the actions of others. This concept is often known as following one’s personal dominant strategy.

Contrasting traditional economics is the field of Behavioral Economics. This field combines an understanding of economics and psychology to elicit change across multiple domains (healthcare, finance, marketing, etc.). Behavioral economics has been used to help individuals make better healthcare choices, save more money for retirement, eat healthier, and even live longer. Employing a solution based on Behavioral Economics is perhaps one of the only approaches to solve a social policy-based problem that takes into account the impact of initiatives on the individual and the society in which they live rather than focusing on a political solution, which has failed thus far.

Dr. Karla Hoff’s approach to explaining the differences between Traditional (Standard) and Behavioral Economics.

The time to shine is now for those who champion behavioral and decision sciences in the for-profit industry to lobby for its inclusion in public policy initiatives aimed at curbing gun violence.

In this blog, I won’t speculate specifically what types of interventions would best solve this countrywide epidemic. I do believe there is a role for behavioral economics to create solutions. I will pose this question to my colleagues: What does our discipline tell us can be done to reduce the amount of gun-related deaths in this country when one follows the next in rapid succession with barely any time to recover from the last?

Let’s start the conversation until we can provide solutions that are not politically based and accepted by both sides as a step in the right direction. We must keep this dialogue going so we can live in safety without fear of experiencing these heinous acts of gun violence. I invite you to reach out to share your ideas of how we can leverage psychology and economics to help solve this problem. I look forward to bringing together the brightest minds in academia and industry to start hypothesizing successful interventions to solve this problem. Stay tuned for more pieces covering the responses and ideas that have been received since the posting of this article.

The Value of Incorporating Qual Data into Cluster Analyses

The Value of Incorporating Qual Data into Cluster Analyses

Qualitative data comes in many shapes and sizes. When performing cluster analyses for marketing functions, the value of incorporating qual data along with traditional quant metrics is paramount.

Qualitative data are pieces of information that cannot be accurately represented by common numerical characteristics or methods. To a market researcher, “qual data” can be the most valuable, but often the hardest to acquire and analyze en masse. This data type differs from the more common quantitative data, which is classified as a piece of data with a numerical characteristic or classification.

For those not too familiar with market research and data types, I provide the following examples below:

Quantitative Data:

  • Question: Rate your satisfaction on a 1-7 scale below (1 = extremely dissatisfied, 7 = extremely satisfied).
  • Answer: 1

Qualitative Data:

  • Question: Please tell us about your meal in the space below:
  • Answer: “The pasta dish was too salty. Next time I want the chef to make it sweeter.”

While the brief example above is centered on a post-meal restaurant survey, it showcases the differences between the two types of data. While both types arrive at the same general idea, one type without the other only uncovers half of the diner’s true experience.

More advanced marketing techniques such as consumer segmentation and product groupings require advanced statistical tools known as “cluster analyses.” This type of analysis is an example of machine learning, a commonly heard phrase in today’s data-centric universe.

A cluster analysis is a statistical model that arranges data into groups with similarities that are significantly different than other groups which share their own unique sets of similarities and characteristics.

Traditionally, cluster analyses have included quantitative metrics with little inclusion of qualitative data. Only recently however, has there been a way to quantify this qualitative data. Using a technique known as metaphor elicitation (analyzed through Meta4 Insight), market researchers uncover insights by asking respondents to select an image, and then to answer a brief question describing how or why that image relates to the question being asked. This data is then analyzed with a text analytics tool, and is codified based on similar words or phrases used throughout the responses in the data set.

By employing this technique and incorporating the results into cluster analyses, the statistical model can account for a “whole brain analysis”. This whole brain analysis accounts for both implicit and explicit thoughts that are uncovered using the combination of traditional quantitative and qualitative metrics. Rather than asking respondents to answer with a set of pre-formed responses, the free response aspect and interpretation capabilities of the metaphor elicitation exercises allow for previously uncoverd thoughts to be conveyed. Incorporating qualitative data into cluster analyses strengthens the probability that the research team has captured enough viable, and emotionally relevant data to feed into the model.

Traditional quantitative metrics have the ability to tell a compelling story driven by insights and hard numbers, but when qual data is incorporated into the mix, trends and groupings are uncovered that wouldn’t have been otherwise predicted.

Welcome to the new-age of market research.

Garrett Meccariello is a brand strategist and market researcher based out of Boston. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring a new city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

Millennial Migration: What Will Happen to Branded and Curated Content?

Millennial Migration: What Will Happen to Branded and Curated Content?

As I sat at my undergraduate graduation this past weekend, I saw hundreds of my peers taking photos, Instagramming, Snapchatting, and posting photos to other social media sites. A quick glance through my various social media timelines confirmed my suspicion. Their actions were not simply to capture memories but to share a change in their social status with the digital world.

For Millennials, the act of posting photos to social media is a chance for instant gratification. Quantified by likes and comments, memories have evolved far from the old shoebox in which my parents used to store 4×6 photo prints. With so much thought devoted to the caption and composition of each photo uploaded to social media, it is easy to understand why little thought is given to the future of said content.

Similar to the migration of downloaded music to streaming (this reference definitely labels me as a Millennial because I said “downloaded music”, and not CD’s), social media usage trends are bound to change with the demands of future generations. What will happen to all of the memories that my peers deposited on Facebook? Will they be lost forever when platform use declines? Will an entrepreneur charge to migrate and reformat digital content?

While I do not have immediate answers to the questions I posed above, I do foresee a major challenge for brands that invest heavily in their digital brand across the most popular social media platforms. Simply posting branded content and investing heavily in digital brand management is not enough as culture rapidly advances into an uncertain digital abyss. Millennials are known for varying heavily in preferences depending on the day and social climate.

Gen Y’s behavior is driven by an innate desire to stay in the know and on top of current trends. Shouldn’t brands and digital content producers do the same? It is important for brands to choose their digital investments wisely in the coming years as what is popular today may not be in six months.

It would be a shame for thousands of dollars of branded and curated digital content housed on social media platforms to be lost because of a brand’s inability to keep up with consumer trends and preferences. I’d suggest that brands and individuals refrain from investing all of their money and memories so heavily into just one or two social media platforms. It’s hard to tell a consistent story when the content that contributed greatly to the company’s advertising economies of scale is inaccessible or rarely viewed on an extinct platform.

For all of you social media and brand managers out there, heed this message: monitor your consumers’ media consumption habits and platforms, and be prepared to migrate curated and branded content from platform to platform. Afterall, it’s called brand management, not brand sit back and watch!

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist and researcher based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

Photo Credit

Millennial Minute: The Degradation of United’s Brand in 11 Memes

Millennial Minute: The Degradation of United’s Brand in 11 Memes

I had originally planned on writing an in depth piece covering the latest United Airlines fiasco, but it occurred to me that this situation calls for a visual representation of the degradation of their legacy airline brand. United is a hallmark example of a brand that has yet to understand millennial consumers. If this was observation was not evident when they banned two female teenage passengers from wearing leggings aboard a plane (on an award ticket), it has to be now.

I will not delve into the politics and practices of the airline, but will briefly touch upon their response to the latest explosive situation. Rather than getting ahead of the “internet” (referring to the trolls and meme lords) and issuing an authentic apology, the brand defended their gate agent’s decision and refused to budge on their corporate stance. In the short time following the incident, thousands of likes, shares, and comments were traded on social media platforms that placed the brand in an unflattering light. As if the brand hadn’t already faced issues with attracting millennial fliers, they managed to turn thousands of them into enemies overnight. Individuals who may have been considered passive or non-rejectors of the brand have been exposed to this brand-damaging content every time they scroll through their social media feeds. This exposure builds to create subconscious brand biases that ultimately influence consumer-buying behavior.

“Give the Internet a meme, and they’ll laugh for a day. Teach the Internet to utilize an open source template for creating and sharing memes, and they’ll laugh for a week.”

Take a look at the top memes below:

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist and researcher based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

Image Sources:

Is Your Professional Brand Recession Proof?

Is Your Professional Brand Recession Proof?

In times of consistent month-after-market growth and near perfect employment (occurs when the unemployment rate is between 2-7%), professionals rarely think about how they will recruit clients in tough economic times. It is too late to start thinking about your business back up plan once a recession hits.

Personal and professional brands, similar to those of large corporations are susceptible to market slow downs. Whether you are a lawyer, doctor, or entrepreneur working on a side hustle, it is imperative that you strategize a plan B (or C) to prepare for a market downturn.


When the market performs well, economists see increased levels of disposable income spent by consumers throughout the economy. Once leading indicators predict a slow down, news sources and pundits herald calls for recessionary spending cuts and budgeting. Unemployment levels will begin to rise simultaneously as companies and families cut back spending habits and the economy contracts.

What does this slowdown in personal consumption habits have to do with your side hustle or law practice you may ask? Simply put: when confidence in the market drops, discretionary consumer spending also drops.

Since the rise of the .COM boom in the early 2000’s, entrepreneurs have monetized the Internet, and capitalized on its benefits during economic slowdowns. Three simple digital marketing strategies below will add to your armamentarium to recession proof your personal or professional brand:

Content Marketing: It’s a free way to exhibit thought leadership and increase the authority of your personal or professional brand. If you aren’t able to convert clients or customers during their first experience with your brand, a consistent flow of content can help convert them sometime down the road.

PPC Advertising: Rather then spending money to attract business with traditional outbound marketing initiatives (while an individual is not in the market for your products or services), refocus your marketing budget towards inbound channels such as pay-per-click marketing on Google, Yahoo, or Bing (to quote a Millennial friend of mine, “Eww lol”). By targeting spending toward interested individuals when they are ready to purchase, you have the ability to ensure a higher ROI on your campaigns.

SEO: Inbound marketing efforts touch individuals in the research phase of the digital customer acquisition cycle. Enhancing one’s search engine optimization strategy will improve digital authority and entice individuals to click through to your website and engage with your products or service. The best part about SEO initiatives: they’re free!

Strategize your recessionary marketing plan today before it’s too late. During economic dips, turn your free time into a marketing asset that can boost and maintain your digital brand for your professional services or products. Discounting marketing and advertising initiatives during a recession can spell out the death of your brand. Do not, I repeat do not, fall victim to a slow down. Utilize your understanding of consumer behavior and economics to build out a robust, recession proof marketing plan that will keep your personal brand afloat in challenging economic times.

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist and researcher based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

Marketers, Agencies: Don’t Pass Over Millennials

Marketers, Agencies: Don’t Pass Over Millennials

As an aspiring brand strategist and researcher, I spend a lot of time trying to get into the heads of the “dreaded bunch”: darn Millennials with their insatiable demands, expanding minds, and lack of brand loyalty (often called nomadic). This crowd has a reputation of being a thorn in the side of brands of all sizes often leading to poorly planned brand executions. The solution is so obvious. So mind blowing, that it just might work. That’s right. I’m suggesting what most dread: hire them.

Incorporate Millennials into your culture. Encourage them to educate your staff. Most importantly, allow them to lead your company’s expansion and growth in the coming years. Millennials are often overlooked for mid-level job positions at agencies and client side companies due to a common perception held by older hiring managers who value experience. While some Millennials lack on the job experience, they may possess a native understanding of how their peers view marketing and advertising efforts and what it takes to uncover the deep seated insights that drive them. The best way to market to Gen Y is to have them quite literally market to themselves.

Some brands have understood this, however. The effort to include Millennials is displayed prominently on the digital front. Social media influencers saw a rapid expansion across multiple platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, & Instagram. These influencers, often peers, leverage their personalities and real life anecdotes to influence millennial purchase decisions by up to 20%-50%.

What happens when agencies and client side companies alike neglect refreshing their workforce with Millennials? They miss out. Take the example of Adidas. An independent filmmaker created a short spot that blew Adidas’s previous creative out of the water and attracted mass attention, without ever receiving a response from the brand’s communication department. Adidas missed out on a captivating piece of creative that combined a riveting story. This short story is one that draws an emotional response, as well as artistically showcasing the brand’s purpose. Take a look for yourself. Bravo, Eugene Merher!

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.