What was wrong?
Since 2004 the hockey equipment industry had seen declining sales. Even more worrisome was data that showed hockey becoming less popular with the younger generation, as well as the broader population. This situation resulted in a price war between the major hockey equipment manufacturers -- Bauer, CCM and Easton. Bauer could see that this was unsustainable, so it set itself two goals. The first was to collaborate with the NHL in order to rekindle the younger generation’s passion for hockey. This initiative would focus especially on children that have at least one immigrant parent. Bauer’s second goal was to establish flagship stores in the cities that are home to the ‘Original Six” NHL hockey teams -- Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York and Toronto.
Bauer turned to traditional market research to help it understand its target customer and formulate a strategy. Given a selection of options, customers indicated “safety” was the most important factor for parents when deciding whether or not to allow their children to play hockey. So safety was incorporated throughout the Bauer flagship store concept designs, but when these concept designs were tested, Bauer was left befuddled. Bauer’s safety-focused flagship store designs were not resonating with their target audience, and Bauer was no closer to reaching its goals. If safety was not the key to understanding how consumers think and decide when it comes to hockey, what was?
How did BrainMustard help?
When Bauer explained its predicament to BrainMustard, BrainMustard quickly realized that Bauer’s original market research had a fatal flaw -- the pre-defined options that had been offered as choices in consumer surveys. BrainMustard found that when “safety” was offered as an option it would dominate all other options in almost every scenario. Most parents would agree that the safety of their children is paramount. Bauer’s target customer, however, had already confronted and moved beyond the issue of safety by the time they were in Bauer’s store shopping for hockey equipment. In fact, reminding parents of safety time and again in the store only served to worry parents about an issue that they had already laid to rest.
BrainMustard took a different approach to market research for Bauer. Using its state-of-the-art technology, it collected millions of comments from all around the web -- comments from the parents of young hockey players, and comments from parents who categorically objected to their kids playing hockey. BrainMustard closely studied this information and identified over 100 factors that parents consider when deciding whether or not their children can play hockey, and when deciding what brand of hockey equipment to purchase. Safety did not even break the top thirty.
What Were the Results?
BrainMustard found that it was actually “ice time” (how much time their children would actually get to spend on the ice playing hockey) that was amongst the most important factors to hockey parents. Using a psychographic methodology that focuses on things like attitude and behaviour, instead of a demographic methodology that focuses on things like age and gender, BrainMustard was able to identify hundreds of customer microsegments, each with their own unique brand associations towards Bauer. These unique insights empowered Bauer -- it could now communicate its message to each of these microsegments and provide an invigorating experience to the visitors of its flagship stores.
Bauer was inspired to include in-store ice rinks in its flagship stores after working with BrainMustard. These rinks gave customers the opportunity to have actual ice time before purchasing Bauer products. Bauer’s move to emphasize ice time in its flagship stores ended up being a significant factor in the stores’ ultimate success. Not only has Bauer been successful in strengthening its brand presence among hockey players, it has also seen positive results with regards to its goal of increasing the popularity of hockey. Hockey’s popularity has had as upward trajectory for the last few years, and more immigrant parents are allowing their children to participate in this classic North American sport.
There are over 100 factors that parents consider when deciding whether or not their children can play hockey. Contrary to the findings of surveys, safety did not even break the top thirty.
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