Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research

Go beyond the obvious to uncover deeper, more meaningful insights and richer truths.

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We are empathetic, humble, journalistic storytellers.

Brands rely on our team to uncover the next big idea, co-create new solutions, and make those solutions a reality. We work seamlessly across our practices to bring a wide array of B2C and B2B expertise to our clients. We’ve come to deeply know the lives and aspirations of the underbanked and the high net worth, of students and Medicare enrollees, of gamers and tech novices. Whoever you need to understand, motivate, or engage, we can help bring your customers out of the shadows and into the light.

Our Agile Approach

In addition to digital and traditional techniques, we deliver agile methods with rock-solid project management, industry expertise, and deep experience to ensure we deliver rigor and insight.

Our agile techniques include:

  • Iterative Focus Groups: Immersive and flexible on-the-spot ideation
    • Expand on several solutions under consideration followed by concept test screen to identify which to move forward.
  • Pop-Up Communities: Ongoing insights at speed
    • Target consumers are recruited for a specific length of time to participate in creative, immersive activities and discussions that iterate and build insights over time.
  • Co-Creation: Building the future with your customers
    • Include the consumer in expanding on and brainstorming new ideas for a defined topic (e.g., a digital relationship). Our half-day co-creation workshops can include on or offsite, in-person or online, with exercises leveraging our proprietary Fast + Slow Thinking approach rooted in consumer psychology.


Telling richer, truer stories with empathy and insight.

We bring the voice of the consumer into your organization and help you socialize it for high impact. By evolving our portfolio of Qual techniques to include the latest innovative methodologies, with a spotlight on your customer and through engaging workshop techniques, we work side-by-side with you to embed richer, truer insights that are memorable and actionable.

Journey Mapping

Our journey mapping goes beyond path to purchase (P2P) to encompass the entire experience, including a holistic look at the setting or environment of people’s needs, their expectations, challenges, all the influences on their purchase journey and even post-use evaluation. We uncover the triggers that begin your customers’ search for a solution, then comprehensively map the key touch points and related emotions and mindsets along the way.

Applying principles of behavioral psychology, we disentangle System I and II thinking, e.g.: what captures attention when thinking is fast? what hesitations does slow thinking raise? what works to address those hesitations? Our process works equally well for B2C or B2B, and you end up with comprehensive journey maps and implications for influencing your customers and prospects.

Persona Development

When segmentation is complete, your segment profiles may feel incomplete. CMB Qual specializes in bringing those profiles to life–creating personas you come to know as people that serve as muses for product and messaging development. We get to know them deeply through ethnographic experiences and one-on-one conversations, collecting images, video, and artifacts that create vivid and memorable stories of who, not what, each segment is. CMB then assists you in Socializing and Activating the segments/personas through live workshops that we’ve planned and facilitated for anywhere from eight to 125 relevant stakeholders.

Note: in COVID we have successfully moved Innovation online, using an engaging platform and including large and small group creative exercises.


The customer experience is our business, and we see UX as an indivisible part of that. While internal UX teams eat/sleep/breathe the product, UX researchers at CMB bring outside perspective–we can see the forest because we’re not in the weeds. We draw on varied methods such as user interviews, usability sessions, card sorting, eye tracking, and contextual inquiry to explore both strategic and tactical goals, and give your designers actionable takeaways.

Brand Positioning

With customer needs and tastes ever changing, the work of positioning and re-positioning your brand is never ending. CMB Qual integrates seamlessly with our quantitative colleagues to provide you with a clear, current view and understanding of your brand–plus a plan forward.

We apply qualitative methods to our proprietary BrandFxSM framework in a multitude of ways:

  • We uncover Emotions and drivers: How customers/prospects are feeling, why, and how to shift them deeper into positive territory; Competitive context: How other brands are successfully driving positive or minimizing negative emotions and Brand outcomes; Risks and rewards linked to how the brand makes people feel (e.g., consumer actions)
  • Related to Social benefits we explore in-depth how a brand facilitates social relationships and where and why the brand and competitors succeed at driving expression, community, conversation, and connection — and where and why they might be failing
  • Identity benefits are demonstrated through the capture of and bringing to life the brand’s users. Qualitative research reveals insight into your brand’s Tribe Image vs. competitors’ and what’s driving those perceptions, including the Tribe Image communicated by your marketing

Design Thinking & Innovation

CMB believes that Innovation should not be done inside the walls of the corporate HQ, in a conference room, with distracted employees. Our process takes you outside of your office and into a creative space where you and your customers engage in a ½ day of exercises that engage both the right and left brain, include System I and System II thinking, and divergent and convergent techniques. We elicit scores of new ideas, then narrow the list and envision the path forward.

We are experienced in and believers of the application of Design Thinking to problem solving. We believe this agile approach can be applied to most of your problem/solution and innovation needs.

5 stages of design thinking including empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test

In the Empathize phase, you obsess your target, research them, and broadly share that knowledge.

This leads to your honed Definition of the problem, answering the question, what are the ‘jobs to be done’? Quoting Albert Einstein: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

CMB’s process for Ideation is based on principles of improvisation, System I and System II thinking and using divergent/convergent methods, where you and your customers collaborate in a ½ day session to ideate and build out promising new ideas. Innovation with your customers tends towards disruptive innovation versus the incremental innovation you are likely to get when ideating internally only. 3M has found that product ideas from users generate eight times the revenue of ideas generated internally.

The Prototype phase is initiated at the ideation workshops. Often we include an illustrator who can visually record the day’s conversation and progress and also sketch out the ideas that teams have iterated and built out.

We accomplish the Testing phase both qualitatively, as we agilely build out ideas with customers, and quantitatively as we move towards commercialization.

You may be asking yourself… what if I’m not starting at Step 1, can I still apply Design Thinking? Yes! For example, research on your target may be abundant and just in need of updating or organizing. Perhaps the problem is well defined and agreed to by stakeholders and you are ready to include customers in your planning and ideating. Clients have come to us at various stages and we’ve applied DT as needed:

  • For a large investment firm, we began at Step 2, bringing internal stakeholders together to align on what was in scope and out of scope, narrowing the problem to an agreed upon solvable need.
  • For a theme park we began at Stage 3, bringing together consumers and engineers to build out a vision for an updated park.
  • A hotel chain brought us in at Stage 4, once they’d already ideated scores of new ideas for their loyalty program.


Burst open the door for real impact with the stories you need to hear.

We have decades of experience amplifying consumer voices to the C-Suites of Fortune 100 and 500 businesses, both B2C and B2B, including Silicon Valley clients, the largest entertainment companies in the world, the top banks and investment companies around the world, plus large hospitality and retail clients.


  • Next-Gen Investors for Fidelity: mobile capture of in-the-moment thinking/feeling + in-home ethnography; video deliverable to the CEO.
  • Hilton Loyalty: uncovered scores of ideas and new ways of thinking about loyalty and benefits through Co-Creation.
  • Medicare planning for UPMC: Run a pop-up community each fall during the enrollment period to understand considerations, how messaging is being perceived in addition to innovating new benefits.
  • Many more, including health tech innovation, re-imagining theme parks, self-expressing through apparel, building out a hotel for Millennials.

The pop-up community is some of the most impactful work we do—including marketing. Listening to our customers as they are going through the enrollment process provides so much insight. The ideation session is especially impactful.

Alicia McVey

Director, Medicare Marketing, UPMC Health Plan

A master class in facilitation! You get a lot of value out of Kathy and team…long days with excellent outcomes and happy clients.

Fortune 100 client

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Our People

Working with us means you’re matched with the best.

We match you with the best people for your unique business challenge. Here’s a sampling of our friendly, top-notch, RIVA-trained moderators.

Brittany Meier Qualitative Insights Consultant

Casey Mohan VP, Qualitative Insights & Strategy

Christelle Kamaliza Sr. Insights Consultant

Emily Meier Qualitative Research Specialist

Lawrence Booker Moderator

Morgan Williams Director, Qualitative Insights & Strategy Operations

Navreet Bhangu Qualitative Research Specialist

Shanna Washington Senior Moderator

Terez Hobson Moderator

Vanessa Shelby Director, Qualitative Insights & Strategy