CMB Spotlight: John Conti

CMB’s Spotlight Series brings to life the CMB Difference through our people and clients. Read all of our spotlights here.

It’s about a 6 min. read.

John Conti
VP, Travel

John partners with clients to uncover deep consumer insights and define effective marketing and brand strategies. He is skilled in designing custom qualitative and quantitative research studies that provide a solid foundation for making sound business decisions. With over 15 years’ experience, John has led a broad range of engagements including segmentation and targeting, brand positioning, new product development, customer experience, marketing communications, and pricing for some of the world’s leading brands such as American Express, Amazon, Disney, Hilton, Panera, Sanofi, Total Wine & More, and Major League Baseball.

1. What brought you to work in market research? How about CMB?

I’ve always wanted to help companies define strategies that build their brands and better engage with clients and prospects, and I enjoy using data to inform those decisions. I love the marriage of insights and strategy.

I joined CMB about a year ago, and what appealed to me about it was the team, the culture, and the clients. The team has a lot of expertise and world-class knowledge, and it helps that everyone is so collegial, collaborative, and fun! Because CMB works with some of the world’s leading brands on very exciting and very impactful projects, I knew it was an exciting opportunity to work with an amazing team and an excellent set of clients.

2. Tell us about a project/initiative you’re particularly proud of. What about that experience helped you to adapt, innovate, and/or grow?

There are so many, but the repositioning of a large, global brand sticks out in my mind right now. I remember sitting in my hotel room after launching the rebrand with my clients, and seeing the press come in. Hearing the commentators discuss the pros and cons of our work, and our strategy, was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. It really highlighted the importance of the work we do to shape the future of our client’s business.

3. Is that your favorite kind of work? What does your ideal project look/feel like?

I’d have to say segmentation, targeting, and positioning projects. These kinds of projects provide me a way to take a 360ⷪ view of consumers and prospects—using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, as well as a multitude of data sources to create a comprehensive picture. It’s why I got into this business: to shape brand and marketing strategies and help companies better engage with their core audience(s). I enjoy learning about the differences in consumers, and it’s fun to make use of every tool in our toolkit in to get the most out of insights (especially consumer psychology).

4. Sounds like you have a lot of long-term partnerships with your clients. What’s your secret to developing not good but great client relationships?

It’s all about being a true partner, which means helping clients identify opportunities that can make a real difference. It is important as a partner to think through the best way to support our clients and ensure their long-term success. Our success is their success.

It helps to think of ourselves as a part/extension of their team so that we can maintain a collaborative relationship. It’s not transactional. We’re truly invested in our clients for the long-haul. The fact that we’ve had the same clients for 25+ years is a strong reflection of that. In some cases, we’ve become more than just business partners, we’ve become friends and family. That’s a key ingredient of the CMB Difference.

5. Since you mentioned it, what does “The CMB Difference” mean to you?

A part of the “The CMB Difference” is our ability to know what their business questions are and translate those into research questions. It’s not always one-to-one, but we understand what the client is really trying to solve for so that our insights are truly actionable.

This unmasks itself in our reports. We don’t focus just on one or two data points. As we create our deliverables, we ask ourselves “so what,” and intertwine the comprehensive data to tell the story or who their consumers are, and how we can engage or motivate them. We tell a story to help our clients understand what direction they could go as a result of the data. At the end of the day, it’s all about how our clients are going to turn information into winning strategies.

6. At CMB, we like to think ahead. What do you think market researchers need to address for their longevity? How should they/we be evolving?

There are two trends market researchers should be plugged into: the management of multiple data sources, and the need to dig deeper in understanding consumer motivations.

As our access to data continues to overwhelm us, we need to master its collection, i.e. combining survey with database, transactional data, and syndicated data. For years, researchers have debated the need for stated importance v. derived importance. But now, the debate is moot. We need to tap into both what people are doing and why people are doing it, which brings me to consumer psychology.

Applying consumer psychology lets us dig below the surface to truly understand consumers in a new way. Consumer behaviors, attitudes, and preferences are constantly evolving, but it’s imperative for researchers to think about getting to the next level of insight. And that’s why it’s at the basis of everything we do at CMB, including our tremendous offering of consumer psychology services, from BrandFx and Fast-and-Slow Thinking to Habit Loops, and more.

This is even more obvious amid COVID-19 where these changes are happening rapidly. Researchers must answer a lot of business questions in a very condensed timeline. Many of our clients are operating without a safety net, so our insights are giving a landing pad to have the confidence to make the right decisions.

7. How have you grown since starting your career? What advice do you wish you received earlier on in your career?

Since the start of my career, I’ve been better able to identify opportunities that add value for my clients. Being more entrenched with their business, and their lives, helps me to identify ways to overcome their challenges and to innovate. Going from a Project Manager to an Account Director was a big step in this direction. Being an opportunity seeker is something that keeps me motivated, especially now. There’s so many opportunities and avenues that my clients can take to re-emerge from COVID-19 better and stronger than ever. Our clients have a lot of important, pressing questions, and we’re anxious to help them find the answers.

In terms of the advice I’d give, I’d say that to trust yourself, be confident in your abilities, and make sure that it shines in everything you do. People will value your opinions, so don’t be shy!

8. Tell us about your family #HumbleBrag!

Family is the most important job, and my wife and children are the most important part of my life. It’s amazing to see my children—who are 9 and 7—explore the world, learn new things, and accomplish new skills. When I’m not in the office, I’m usually outside playing with our kids and puppy or bringing them to hockey practice…or gymnastics, football, soccer, golf, baseball, or whatever new sport they’re trying. I don’t think I’ll like it when my kids start beating me on the golf course, but it’s probably going to happen pretty soon!

9. What character are you, and why? [book, movie, tv series]

Optimus Prime (from the 80’s cartoons—I’ve never seen the films) because I tend to be an optimistic and flexible person. I think about Optimus Prime’s ability as a transformer to morph and change to get through challenging situations by using the different tools in his toolkit, which is what I try to do in my work. I also think about his leadership style, and how he’s fighting right alongside his team. So, I can probably model my leadership style in his image.