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Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Elevating brand storytelling with sound. We examine the evolution of audio branding. Dallas Taylor of podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz reveals the story behind the iconic Netflix sonic identity, Jon Rhuff and Yeosh Bendayan of Push Button Productions explain how jingles are composed, and author Laurence Minsky discusses his book, Audio Branding: Using Sound to Build Your Brand. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on Audio Branding with code BIGEYE20 at KoganPage.com.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS

Jon Ruhff: When you listen to music, if you’re under a scan, your brain is lighting up like a Christmas tree, because it takes all parts of your brain to process music.

Laurence Minsky: Anytime you’re using sound to help build your brand, it’s part of audio branding, and really should be thought through strategically.

David Courtier-Dutton: What you’re always trying to achieve with a sonic logo is people hear it, even in isolation, and immediately all the flood of emotions that they associate with the brand are triggered in the brain.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer at Bigeye. Thank you for joining us. A growing number of brands are using unique sounds and music, known as sonic identities, to support long-term brand-building. Audio branding can be defined as the use of sound that’s ownable by a brand to reinforce brand attributes. A sonic identity can be as distinctive a brand asset as a visual logo. How many of these can you identify from their sonic identity alone?

[AUDIO]

Adrian Tennant: In this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, we’re going to revisit interviews with guests who provided insights into how brands can harness the power of sound to elevate their brand storytelling, and tap into universal emotional responses to music. Laurence Minsky is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Innovation at Columbia College, Chicago, and an expert in sonic identity creation. He’s also the co-author of the book, Audio Branding: Using Sound to Build Your Brand, which describes in detail the theory and practice of creating entire audio languages for brands. I asked Larry why brand marketers need to consider audio branding.

Laurence Minsky: I’ll give you one reason why every marketer needs to consider audio branding today. And that is because of the growth of voice assistants. Right now it’s still in its infancy, but do you really want to leave your brand when there’s no picture, no visual, no colors, no fonts, anything of the traditional branding sense representing your brand, and you’re leaving your brand up to Alexa or Siri? In Europe, where audio branding is more advanced, you know, the countries are smaller, there’s more languages. It gets really expensive to have a brand in every country and you want something consistent and you want to be able to convey it consistently. In America, as we continue to diversify our populations, that will become an issue as well. But also, audio branding is a much quicker way of communicating your brand. Sound communicates much faster and sound also helps direct visuals.

Adrian Tennant: Some brands have sounds associated with their products. Think about the roar of a Harley-Davidson’s engine, the pop of a Snapple lid, or the sounds that accompany booting-up an Apple Mac or Windows PC. I asked Larry if he thought these qualify as examples of audio branding.

Laurence Minsky: Yes. Anytime you use sound to help convey an attribute, it’s an audio brand. The snap, a bottle for Snapple to pop. You’ll get reinforced when you’re opening the bottle. So there’s positive reinforcement there, but you could use that in your advertising. You could use that on TV, on radio, on your website, on your voice assistant applications. Anytime you’re using sound to help build your brand, it’s part of audio branding, and really should be thought through strategically.

Adrian Tennant: One US brand that has consistently employed music as part of its brand is United Airlines, which has used George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” since 1987 at an annual licensing cost of $300,000. Larry is based in Chicago, which of course is United’s home base, so I asked him what he thinks about United’s approach.

Laurence Minsky: What I like is Gershwin’s song is very adaptable to multiple situations and you still get it. It still reinforces. And there’s a lot of positive emotion attached to that and movement and energy and things that convey United Airlines. What I don’t like is really, it’s not ownable by United. Anyone can license that song. It’s now gone into the public domain, I believe. And so anyone can use it. It’s better to start with: what do you want to convey? Who are you? And then create something that you could own basically, permanently.

Adrian Tennant: Audio logos become recognizable through repetition. Here’s one that’s heard in over 190 countries:

[AUDIO] 

Adrian Tennant: Dallas Taylor, the host of the popular podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, joined IN CLEAR FOCUS in 2021 and explained the story behind the iconic sound.

Dallas Taylor: Yeah. This is about the Netflix, TA-DUM – that sound. So there’s a lot of ideas and speculation of where this came from. But we noticed that there was never an acknowledgment of actually where it came from. So there was this whole idea of like, “Oh, it must be the end of House of Cards, season two.” There’s this part where Frank Underwood bangs on the desk and he goes “ba-boom” like that. And if you listen to it, you go, “Oh, okay. That sounds a lot like the Netflix logo, pretty fascinating.” So there’s all this speculation online. “Oh, that must be it.” You know, and I can understand if they want to stay away from that or whatnot, but I wanted to get to the bottom of that. So immediately just in my circles wrote the sound designer of House of Cards, like who actually put the sound in. This person was Ren Klyce, very famous in the sound world. And I was like, “Hey, you know, a lot of speculation that the Netflix audio logo is this sound that you made or your team made…” And he immediately wrote back like no time at all, “Nope, not me. Like, you’d think that it sounds like that, but I know exactly who made it, this person Lon Bender, so reach out to him.” So then I went over there and then we talked and, kind of one thing led to another, I eventually kind of put it on Netflix and said, “Hey, you know, we got these people, but we really want Todd Yellin”, who was the client in this. So Todd Yellen was at Netflix, he was the one guiding Lon and Charlie to create some sort of sonic brand and they spent an entire year on it. But that really stalled because when you’re going into a multi-billion dollar company PR and they’re like, “Whoa, who are you?” Like, “What is happening here?” So we had to show our history, that first they were like, “Oh, okay. What are you about?” I think it took us about a year to get Todd. So, the actual episode came together pretty well. However, it just took a long time to get access. But once we had access to Netflix, everyone was super friendly, everyone was really open.

Adrian Tennant: During the interview, Dallas played a clip from that Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast episode that revealed the origins of the Netflix sonic identity. Here is Todd Yellin, VP of Product Innovation at Netflix.

Todd Yellin: First off and arguably most important, it had to be really short. And the reason it had to be short is, as opposed to in a movie theater when you have a captive audience and they’re going to be there and they paid their 10 bucks and they’re going to watch whatever you throw at them. So some of the grander sound idents you can imagine like THX – a great one. It’s really long. The “bom-bom-bom” from 20th Century Fox – long! Even Leo, the Lion was too long because, in our age of click and play, you get to Netflix. You want to be able to click. And there’s no patience. And you want that great experience and you almost want it immediately. So the first thing is it had to be short. Past that I said, I don’t want an electronic sound that is reminiscent of a game platform like Xbox or a computer, like Apple or an operating system, like Microsoft launching. Because we are in the entertainment business. And even though we are the double helix of entertainment and technology coming together, I wanted to make sure that it sounded more cinematic than electronic and computer-ish.

Dallas Taylor: And so another thing that Todd said earlier in the show that really hit home for me. And even Todd didn’t really like sink into this thought. One of the first things he said in the interview, he was like, oh, we just needed something short. And it needed to be like, ‘TA-DUM, it’s Netflix’.” And I was like, it sounds exactly like what you just said. That’s like the bones of what this was. So yeah, it’s just fascinating like that, that’s what they came up with, among multiple versions. They tried all kinds of like random sounds and random ideas and it took them, I think about a year to settle on it.

Adrian Tennant: Staying with iconic sounds, Twenty Thousand Hertz also produced an episode focused on sonic branding which demonstrated some of the most recognizable audio logos in history. In this clip, we hear from Scott Simonelli, CEO of Veritonic, a company that measures the commercial effectiveness of sound.

Scott Simonelli: The big benefit of an audio logo versus a visual logo is that it stays with you after you’ve experienced it. With a visual logo, you might remember what it looks like, but not in the way that you would remember an audio logo, and certainly nobody’s humming or singing a visual logo. As soon as you hear that three-note or four-note sequence, you know exactly where you’ve heard it before. That longevity, that memorability, and that recall is so powerful.

Adrian Tennant: Before sonic identities, jingles were the most commonly-used audio branding elements. A slogan or tagline that’s sung or spoken with or without musical accompaniment, jingles have been around since the advent of commercial radio in the early 1920s. To learn more about their history and how jingles are composed today, I spoke with Jon Ruhff and Yeosh Bendayan of Push Button Productions, based in Orlando. I asked Jon what it is about jingles that make them so memorable.

Jon Ruhff: So we’ve given a lot of presentations on the history of the jingle, the effectiveness of the jingle, and it’s actually a lot of science behind it. So the thing about music in general, when you listen to music, you’ve got parts of your brain that are in charge of your language and in charge of your movement and they’re just very specific parts of the brain. Well, there’s no specific part of the brain that actually helps you take in the music. So you’ve got one part of the brain that helps you work around the melody. You’ve got one part of the brain that helps you work around the rhythm. And you’ve got the other part of the brain that processes the guitar and things like that. So when you listen to music, if you’re under a scan, your brain is lighting up like a Christmas tree, because it takes all parts of your brain to process music. You have no choice but to be present when you’re listening to music. And that’s why you can always remember where you were when you heard your favorite song for the first time because you’re present and aware when you’re listening to music. And so brands have taken advantage of that for decades. So we always say for jingles, it’s the short, repetitive nature of the melody that’s what gets stuck in people’s heads.

Adrian Tennant: Push Button Production composes and arranges jingles for a wide variety of clients. I asked Jon what the process of creating a commercial jingle looks and sounds like.

Jon Ruhff: So most people don’t think in terms of musical genres or styles and things like that or terms. So it’s our job to get that out of the clients who come to us for a jingle. So what we do is, we have a 20, 25-minute brief call where we really get to know the brand. We get to know the target demo, we get to know the personality of everyone involved. And then what we do then is we gather stock music tracks or popular tracks, depending on which way we’re going to go for this particular project. And we send that over to the client for feedback. And what we do is we’re getting out of them, the things that they probably have never considered before, like, you know, “I actually do like the way that acoustic guitar sounds. And I actually never considered how much I hate the banjo. And I know I absolutely do not want banjo in this piece, but I liked the way track five made me feel. I don’t know why, but I liked the way track five made me feel.” So we take all of that feedback and compile it. And that’s where we lay the foundation for the custom music that we bring out for brands.

Yeosh Bendayan: And it’s just like you would with a visual mood board, the goal of all of that upfront research is to start pulling at common threads. And for us it’s like, okay, well the client, like this track, this track and this track, well, let’s look at the beats per minute and let’s look at what keys it’s written in and let’s look at the different instrumentation stacks that they’re using. And then we can sort of say like, Oh, okay, well, Like, this is the general vibe that the focus group or that the client seems to like.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Yeosh if he had any favorite jingle projects from the 500 or so that Push Button has produced.

Yeosh Bendayan: I will say we have worked on a lot of regional and national pieces that are fantastic. For me the best jingles that we’ve done have been for very small businesses like we’ll get businesses who’ll call us and say, “Oh, you know, I need something for the radio. I don’t like what the radio station is doing for me. I just need something,” but we take that and we do something really spectacular and, you know, it’s totally unexpected for them and they feel so pleased with the end product like that for me is the most satisfying. I know John, do you want to reference any specific?

Jon Ruhff: So when we were just getting the company off the ground, a national restaurant chain came to us and said, We’re paying too much for stock music and we want to do a custom piece that we can run for awhile. And so they said, “We just kind of want something with acoustic…”  and blah, blah, blah. So we got to know a lot more about the brand and found out that Genghis Khan was their brand ambassador.

Yeosh Bendayan: I don’t know that I would equate Genghis Khan with a lot of fun. 

Jon Ruhff: Well, they did.

Yeosh Bendayan: Yeah. 

Jon Ruhff: It’s amazing what a couple hundred years can do, you know?

Yeosh Bendayan: Right. Yeah.

Jon Ruhff: Yeah. It’s the hibachi chain of restaurants. So what we did is we were able to incorporate a lot of the sounds and then sizzles that you would experience when you go to the chain. We incorporated that into the music and we were also able to make it aggressive, but something that wouldn’t frighten small children, and they rolled it out and they ran with it for a long, long time. And we won an Addy award with it.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s listen to that.

[AUDIO]

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing. December’s featured book is Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers by Timothy Hughes. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Social Selling, go to KoganPage.com.


Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS on the role sonic identities can play as distinctive brand assets. In his book, Audio Branding, Laurence Minsky highlights Intel as an exemplar. The four notes that make up Intel’s sonic identity have been around for 25 years and while Intel has modified the instrumentation over the years, the four notes have remained the same.

[AUDIO] 

Laurence Minsky: You don’t see Intel chips when you’re buying, but it is a proof point for all the computers you buy with an Intel chip inside it. And that branding has helped Intel make a name and make it a proof point. What other chips are out there? What comes to mind really quickly? And you could see why Intel is so effective because I don’t think a lot of people are going to come up with other chipmakers that give them as much reassurance as an Intel when they hear that little sound.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Larry if he thinks all brands should aim for this level of discipline with their sonic identities.

Laurence Minsky: All branding should be disciplined if you’re doing it right: strategic and thought through. A brand is not solid where you don’t tweak it over time. You know, the best way to maintain a brand is to evolve it slowly, imperceptibly. So it stays up to date and it works in multiple areas, but still conveys the values and the enduring attributes that you want to convey. Good companies that manage their brands, spend a lot of time thinking about it and doing it visually. You should do that the same way with sounds. And do think of it as a long-term investment.

Adrian Tennant: Larry’s co-author for Audio Branding was Colleen Fahey, who leads the US division of the French sonic identity agency, Sixième Son. Larry explained the genesis of their book.

Laurence Minsky: I met with Colleen and she started talking about what she was doing with audio branding. And I learned that it was so much more than just a little logo at the end. It is a whole sound system. And one of the ways in terms of how to use it, even for a package goods or any brand, even for a business brand, about half of Colleen’s agencies, clients, Sixième Son, are business to business firms. And you think of all the different touchpoints, and it’s not just consumer radio spots, which is where jingles end up. But think of the sales meeting, you bring all of your people together. You introduced the CEO with one type of music. You introduced the head of marketing with another type of music. And you come across as disjointed to your employees. And your employees need to understand the brand just as much as your consumers. So you could bring a language to this. It has full flexibility, but still brings back the core notes. So it conveys what they’re about. So you could use it in an internal setting, such as a sales meeting. You could use it as a ringtone. You could use it on the website and voice assistance, all sorts of things. So it’s really a comprehensive solution. And that’s what I learned when I sat down with Colleen. We collaborated on an article for Harvard business review. Where we looked at one of Sixième Son’s clients, and that was the French railroad SNCF, which is one of the most recognizable sounds in Europe is their audio brand. They use it in the stations. They use it on the trains when the doors are opening and closing, they use it in their advertising. You name it, it’s used and it’s highly, highly recognizable. David Gilmore liked it so much he licensed the use of it for one of his songs. Every time that song gets played it reinforces SNCF.

[AUDIO]

Adrian Tennant: Jon Rhuff and Yeosh Bendayan of Push Button Productions described how they approached a sonic identity project for Pyrex.

Jon Ruhff: Well, when they came to us, they had pretty much everything ready to go and we had to sign like a thousand NDAs. Right. It was a new product that was coming out.

Yeosh Bendayan: You know what Pyrex is, right? It’s a baking dish and I appreciate when a brand really loves its products and they do, and they’re wonderful to work with, but I will say they made us sign a whole lot of NDAs for this new product that we thought, man, Pyrex is really getting ready. They’re going to zag. They’re going to go hard. They’re going to start making cars or something that changes the world. Wow. That’s something big is about to happen. and I mean, this was a few years ago, so the product’s out now, but it is that baking dish that, you know, it’s a little deeper. So you can now have an extra layer of lasagna. Like that was it. And so, when we did this audio logo for them …

Jon Ruhff: … Ten-second piece …

Yeosh Bendayan: I mean, look, maybe if you’re a cook, this is a big deal for you. I’m not a cook.

Jon Ruhff: Well, it’s a heritage brand that they haven’t really changed much over the years, you know?

Yeosh Bendayan: It’s a pretty quick ten-second piece and it’s so cool. They’d be like, kind of let us run wild with it. They’d let us do whatever we wanted within the confines of the brand. And we came up with this really cool thing. And now, it’s probably the most referenced thing that we get when people call us and they say, Hey, I heard this piece on your website, or I recognize this piece or whatever. and that’s oftentimes they’ll want to do something in that style because they’re so happy with it.

Adrian Tennant: Here’s the Pyrex identity.

[AUDIO] 

Yeosh Bendayan: We’ve probably written 500 jingles in the time we’ve been in business. Most of America probably knows one of our pieces.

Jon Ruhff: One of our singers was taking a road trip and was driving through Georgia and heard themselves on a Honda commercial. And they’re like, “Oh yeah, I forgot. We were at a Honda commercial in Georgia!”

Yeosh Bendayan: You know, I think the weirdest of all is finding tribute pages on Facebook and like it’s sometimes if we hear a piece is doing really well, we’ll go search for it on YouTube to see if anybody’s uploading and read the comments, which you’re not supposed to do. But it’s just weird. It’s weird whether they love it or they hate it. I get a kick out of it. Just very interesting to see that somebody has invested time in uploading something that you made and then people will comment on it. It’s very strange.

Adrian Tennant: Mobile devices, smart speakers, apps, appliances, and even electric vehicles all present creative opportunities for audio branding. I asked Yeosh how Push Button approaches these kinds of projects.

Yeosh Bendayan: The first thing that we ask and just like, I’m sure most ad agencies will do is why? You know, we’ll get the, “Oh, we’re thinking about running digital ads, for Pandora, Spotify, or we’re thinking about doing something with Alexa, a skill, or whatever” The first question that we typically ask is what are you trying to get the audience to do? What sort of behavior or, what are you trying to drive home by doing it this way? And then working within the confines of the application is often a little challenging for us. I think a lot of people don’t realize the limitations that many audio applications have. When we’re designing a commercial for car stereos, it’s a very different process, especially when you’re talking about mixing than if we’re doing something that’s going to be consumed digitally because we have to assume that people have laptop speakers. Right? They’re not great quality. And the same when you’re talking about Google Home. Like those aren’t necessarily the best speakers, so it can limit some of the things that we try to do. And we have to make sure that the way that those speakers process what we’re doing isn’t flattening the sound and creating a problem, right? Creating something, unintended. So the process it’s not really that different creatively because we’re still ultimately trying to solve a problem. And now it’s just happening on a new platform. It’s more of the technical execution. So it’s the stuff that clients are usually unaware of is all the things that we’re doing on our end creatively, as we’re developing the creative, where are coming up with ideas and going, “Yeah. But is that going to work on this platform?” And particularly, I think the biggest challenge for us is time constraints. like, you know, yesterday we were facing a challenge with a digital pre-roll six second ad. And it’s like, not just us, it’s everybody in advertising is facing this challenge. How do you attack this problem in six seconds? You know? That’s probably the biggest challenge.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Larry Minsky if he had any recommendations for marketers developing their own audio branding.

Laurence Minsky: I would guess the number one “do” is create one and start bringing your sounds together and making them consistent and aligned and working for your brand instead of helping communicate that your brand is disjointed. Do follow a disciplined process. Do it like you would do a visual brand, think it through, do the research, do the hard work upfront. think of it as a system and do think of it long-term. Don’t think of it as a short-term solution. It’s an investment in your brand, just like your colors, your fonts, your logo.

[AUDIO]

Adrian Tennant: In February of this year, I spoke with David Courtier-Dutton, the CEO of the UK-based sonic branding firm, SoundOut. David’s company has developed a powerful brand personality tool that measures the match between a client’s music and their brand. David described why getting the right match is so important.

David Courtier-Dutton: The key to a sonic logo is regardless of what it sounds like, the ultimate goal is to create what we call a Pavlovian Trigger or a signpost to the brand itself. So what you’re always trying to achieve with a Sonic logo is people hear it, even in isolation and immediately all the flood of emotions that they associate with the brand are triggered in the brain. 

Adrian Tennant: I asked David how he defines effectiveness.

David Courtier-Dutton: If you accept the fact that the sonic logo’s core goal in life is to trigger the brand association as a distinctive brand asset, effectiveness actually should be 99 percent defined as how well it does that. Not how well has it done it, but how well intrinsically it is at driving that because we start with appeal. People have to like it. If they like it, then it is easier to recall. So recall a fundamental tenet of effectiveness. If you can’t recall something, you can’t recognize it. It’s just simple logic. If you can’t recognize it, then you can’t attribute it to the brand. So recall, this is really the foundation of her effectiveness. And if you produce something that people find really easy to remember, then that will accelerate your route up to brand attribution and we know there is a very strong correlation between appeal and recall as well. So people really have to like it. Appeal also drives propensity to buy as well. The more you like it, the more likely you are to attribute value to the brand and end up buying it. But, in terms of effectiveness, how quickly, when that goes into the market with a million dollars of marketing budget behind it, will it find brand attribution with a meaningful percentage of consumers.

Adrian Tennant: One of the most effective examples of audio branding is this one: 

[AUDIO]

Adrian Tennant: In addition to being heard perennially during the Super Bowl, the Avocados From Mexico sonic logo has also inspired creators on TikTok to develop some really fun videos that have gone viral, extending the reach and repetition of the brand’s audio identity. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. My thanks to all the contributors to this podcast: Dallas Taylor, host of the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast, Jon Rhuff and Yeosh Bendayan of Push Button Productions, David Courtier-Dutton, the CEO of SoundOut, and author Laurence Minsky, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Innovation at Columbia College, Chicago. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on a print or electronic version of Larry’s book, Audio Branding by purchasing online at koganpage.com. Use the promo code BIGEYE20 at the checkout. The offer applies to all KoganPage titles. Please consider following IN CLEAR FOCUS wherever you listen to podcasts. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer at Bigeye. Thank you for listening and until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

With 166 million Americans shopping for deals, a special episode to coincide with the most important shopping week of the year. Previous guests Doug Stephens, Devora Rogers, Ibrahim Ibrahim, and Ksenia Newton discuss how retail is evolving. We discuss trends in shopping behaviors: the growing importance of social media for brand discovery, logistical challenges facing omnichannel brands, why stores are like media and their potential for re-invention as community spaces.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Devora Rogers: Shoppers want to be informed and the process of understanding how shoppers do that is through usage and influence.

Doug Stephens: The actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable – and frankly measurable – form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses.

Ksenia Newton: If an important brand is not aligned with the consumers’ values, consumers may no longer want to shop with them and they’ll go with somebody else, whether it’s more expensive or not.

Ibrahim Ibrahim: What makes great placemaking is this shift from a shopping or transactional rhythm to a community rhythm, and that rhythm of footfall makes a great place.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. I came to live and work in America almost 20 years ago, and it’s been interesting to observe how Black Friday has evolved from a single-day event to an extended long weekend. It now incorporates Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. And it’s no longer an exclusively American phenomenon. Some members of my family live in Spain – where, in common with many other European countries, retailers aim to get consumers excited about the holiday shopping period with what they call Black Friday Week. Back here in the US, the National Retail Federation estimated that 166 million Americans shopped during the long weekend in physical stores and online. So, to celebrate the most important week of the year for retailers, we’re going to revisit some conversations we’ve had with guests about shopping and consumer behaviors this year.

[MUSIC]

Adrian Tennant: Our featured Book Club selection for May was Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash The Power Of Your Brand To Win Customers. I was joined by the book’s co-author Devora Rogers, Chief Strategy Officer with the consumer insights research agency, Alter Agents, based in Los Angeles. Devora, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Devora Rogers: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: The first chapter of Influencing Shopper Decisions illustrates the impact of digital technologies and how they’ve transformed how many people approach shopping. You also introduce a new framework based on two immutable truths. So Devora, can you explain what led you to determine that usage and influence are key metrics for tracking and revealing today’s shopper journey?

Devora Rogers: Usage and influence became our North Stars, our key metrics, because we began to see that there were so many things that shoppers were doing. They were becoming prolific researchers and literally going everywhere all the time, sometimes for weeks or months on end. And in that process, they’re encountering such a large amount of information, that we felt like it was important that brands know where people were going for information. That’s the usage. And then what of those sources – and our list is about 45 sources plus – actually drive influence, actually cause people to purchase? And you have to separate them, you know, it’s “Did you do it? Did you use it?” And “Was it helpful?” and that today, as a marketer, with brand as a driver of shopper interest and purchase decreasing, what we see is that in place of that is really information. Shoppers want to be informed. And the process of understanding how shoppers do that is through usage and influence. And information is now a kind of value. It’s not enough for a product to be good. It’s not enough for it to be a decent price. When you used to ask shoppers, what made them make the decision that they did, it used to almost always be brand and value, you know, kind of what you paid for the price of the item and was that worth it? And today, both of those are increasingly being replaced by “Did I have the information that made me confident to make a decision?” And so usage and influence capture that shift to what Daniel Pink calls information parity.

Adrian Tennant: The third chapter of your book is The Age Of Shopper Promiscuity, in which you discuss how your research reveals a fundamental change in the way that people shop today, compared to a decade and a half ago. So Devora, what is shopper promiscuity?

Devora Rogers: It almost sounds naughty, right? And in fact, we had originally proposed to our very British publisher that we call the book Shopper Promiscuity and they were very concerned about that as, as a potential name for a book. But what it is is openness. Promiscuity, you know, often we think about it in terms of relationships and sex. But what it has to do with is an openness to things. So a promiscuous reader is somebody that reads everything, they’ll read anything and everything. And that is how it applies to shoppers. Shoppers will consider all kinds of things and they’re not held down by brand. They’re not held down by what they purchased a week ago. They’re willing and able to buy anything that works for them. And today, they have so many choices. Innovation has grown so rapidly. We cite numbers in the book about the rate of innovations and the number of new SKUs that have come out in the past five to 10 years. So they have more choices. There’s more innovation. There’s more accessibility. So yeah, in the same way, if you walked out of your house every day and there were 10 stunning-looking people standing outside, waving at you saying, “Hello, would you love me?” it might be hard to stay loyal to your partner! And it’s sort of the same kind of thing. Every time we go and buy, we have so many choices that are all amazing. And so it has brought shoppers to a place where they are open to anything and everything, and it makes it a much more challenging environment for brands to operate in.

Adrian Tennant: In 2021, your research agency, Alter Agents, undertook a study with over 6,000 recent purchasers examining shopping behaviors in six different categories, designed to reveal how shoppers are making decisions. One of the findings that you share in your book is that shoppers are using more sources of information than ever before when making a purchase decision. So Devora, how is source usage important in understanding the shopper’s path to purchase?

Devora Rogers: It’s incredibly important to understand source usage because the new currency is information. And if information is the currency – and we all are becoming researchers, which over a decade of research has shown us – shoppers are all becoming researchers. You might not do it on everything that you buy, but you’ll do it on a lot more things than our parents were able to do simply because the information wasn’t there and the internet wasn’t there and the mobile phone wasn’t there. So today, information is how people make decisions and they have a lot of information at their fingertips, but for brands it’s really tricky because nobody has infinite marketing budgets. Even the biggest media spender in the world has limits and they have to know where to put their efforts. And so what source usage tells us is where do people go for information? And when do they go for each of those types of information? Are they going online first and then eventually going to the store? Are they going to the store first and then going online? Are they never going to the store or are they listening to a podcast? Are they reading reviews? Are they using TikTok? There’s just so many different places brands could be. And there’s so many places that shoppers are researching. Sometimes when I talk to brands about this, they think, “Oh, this is like marketing mix modeling”. No, it’s about where you’re going to tell your stories and how you’re going to do that in each of these radically different environments. And which of those are going to reach the most people and be most likely to influence them so that they don’t end up going with a competitor who just happens to have more information in a place that that person was looking.

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Adrian Tennant: Doug Stephens is one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. As the CEO of Retail Prophet, Doug’s thinking has influenced many of the world’s best-known retailers, agencies, and brands. Doug joined us from his home office in Toronto, Canada to discuss his third book, Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World

Adrian Tennant: One of the themes in your new book, Resurrecting Retail, is the idea of store as media. Now, as you know, one of the fastest-growing areas of ad placement is in-store media, with retailers including Walmart, Target, and Kroger, creating in-house solutions to offer ad space to CPG brands that they sell. But that’s not what you mean, correct?

Doug Stephens: That’s correct. What I mean is that the actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable, and frankly measurable form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses. The problem is most of them don’t treat it that way. They don’t treat the experience as a media experience. Historically, as retailers, we’ve gone out to the open market. We’ve bought media, we’ve bought advertising, in an effort to acquire customers, to gather brand recognition or brand awareness. And then if we’re successful in doing that, we move those consumers to a point of distribution or points of distribution to transact sales. The problem is stores are now the media itself and media in many ways is becoming the store. As a consumer now I don’t look at advertising as a mere call-out to go to a store. The advertising is the store. I can buy directly from TikTok, from Facebook, from Instagram, from any piece of media that falls within my grasp. So, many retailers would say, “well, if media is becoming the store, does that negate the necessity for stores?” And my argument is no, not at all, because it’s actually a trading of roles. Physical stores are becoming a very powerful media channel. And I’ll just explain very briefly what I mean by that. We have to sort of start from a place where we accept that the going in premise of effective media is that there is an audience for it. Obviously we want to try and create media experiences, wherever there’s an audience that can enjoy that. If we go back a thousand years ago, that point of gathering an audience was the marketplace. That was really the primary channel through which consumers got information, where they communed, where they connected with friends and family, and ultimately where they conducted commerce. Over time, that was displaced somewhat by other forms of media, whether it was print media, radio, television, and today, of course, digital is the campfire that we all gather around. But the problem is digital is actually becoming prohibitive as a means of acquiring customers. From a cost standpoint, there are brands today already that are saying, “look, we just cannot afford to acquire incremental customers using digital media. That cost is too high. And in many cases, it exceeds the lifetime value of that consumer.” So, when I refer to stores being media, I’m certainly not talking about the networks that, as you mentioned, many retailers are putting in their stores to just inundate us visually and audibly with more and more advertising. I’m suggesting that the experience that I have in a Kroger is actually the most important form of media that Kroger can execute. So it’s a different philosophy entirely.

Adrian Tennant: Amazon has plans to open several large physical retail locations in the US that will operate like smaller department stores. This could extend the company’s reach in its sales of clothing, household items, electronics, and other categories. So Doug, what’s your take on this latest development from Amazon?

Doug Stephens: Yeah, it’s a really interesting development. Um, it’s one of those that when you read it, is not surprising, but it’s certainly interesting and compelling. And in a weird sort of way, you know, one of the old credos in any investment community is that you try to determine where everyone is running to, and if you’re smart, then you run in the opposite direction. And right now, the retail industry as a whole is running away from physical retail and running toward digital. So what does Amazon do? Amazon takes exactly the opposite approach and they run toward the physical world. Now, this isn’t Amazon’s first foray into physical retail. Of course, they bought Whole Foods several years ago. They have opened, Amazon GO stores, Amazon Four-Star stores. And if we’re being completely honest, their track record in physical retail isn’t that extraordinary, really. Having said that, this makes a lot of sense. There are things that are simply difficult to buy on Amazon and difficult to buy on any retailer’s website, frankly, things that require more consideration, things that require touch and feel – complex products that really require more information or confidence before a consumer’s willing to make a purchase. And of course, apparel falls into that category as well. So that makes sense. This also provides a local logistics point, a point to distribute products from, a point to collect returns from, which would only add efficiency to Amazon’s bottom line. It also gives them an opportunity to collect more data about how consumers do shop in physical environments. Amazon knows full well how we behave online, but it gives them an opportunity to create yet another data point in the marketplace to begin to connect consumer behavior between the online world and the physical world. And then there’s the more sinister side. It also gives them the ability, as we know from past announcements, it gives Amazon the ability to absolutely tank the market caps of companies like Kohls, who could potentially even become acquisition targets. We know that anytime Amazon merely clears its throat and sort of fixes its gaze on a category, they have a tendency to really rock the market caps of incumbents in those categories. We’ve seen them do it in the pharmacy sector. We’ve seen them do it across various categories. So that could be potentially the play here as well. But I think the big message to the marketplace, Adrian, and my opinion is that this is a warning shot across the bow of all physical retailers. And most specifically, I’m thinking of categories that have sort of dodged the bullet up until now. Categories like home improvement. If Amazon can open a quote-unquote department store and sell in the physical world, well, that brings them one step closer to selling lumber and concrete and building supplies and maybe doing a much better job of it than the incumbents in that category. So, I think everyone has to take this very seriously. And above all, Amazon has the luxury to spend a tremendous amount of money doing this and sticking with it and experimenting. So, yeah, not a surprise, could have many, many strategic dimensions, but something that everyone in the retail industry should be taking note of, for sure.

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Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Tim McCormack: I’m Tim McCormack, Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as media professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused media and analytics to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for November is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Inclusive Marketing, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS looking at retail in 2022. Our featured Bigeye Book Club selection for July was Future-Ready Retail: How to Reimagine the Customer Experience, Rebuild Retail Spaces, and Reignite Our Shopping Malls and Streets. I spoke with the author, Ibrahim Ibrahim – a futurist, retail strategist, and designer. To discuss some of the ideas in his book, Ibrahim joined me from his office in London, England. In the first chapter of Future-Ready Retail, you observe that retail today is less about prime real estate and more about content, which you define as the curation of blended commercial offers and compelling experiences. You go on to talk about the importance of placemaking. So Ibrahim, what is place-making?

Ibrahim Ibrahim: I like the idea of redefining retail, not in terms of real estate, but in terms of content, because – and I’ll come to answer your question about what is place-making – but this is the context. Because retail has always been and will always be about four things: recruitment, transaction, fulfillment, and retention. But what’s interesting is that transaction and fulfillment are migrating away, if you like, from the physical space increasingly. And therefore, the physical space is increasingly being used to recruit and retain audiences. Which means that if you are a recruitment and retention space, you are actually behaving like a media brand, and therefore it’s content that’s going to help you recruit and retain. And if we agree that that is the case, then that changes the whole paradigm. It changes the design of that space. It changes its physical makeup. It changes the service proposition. It changes the experience, of course. It changes the master plan. It changes its connectivity to the public realm and how that works. It blurs much more with the public realm. So to answer your question with that context, placemaking for us is about three things: the three Cs. It’s about content which I’ve just explained. It’s about community. Localism. Reaching out to community, moving away from a hermetically sealed development that looks inwards, and creating a permeable connected development shopping center or whatever that locks outwards and connects to the urban grain, to the streetscape, and to community. So that’s community. And thirdly, culture. Placemaking, to be successful, has to resonate with the culture of its audience and not just be driven by agents that help fill spaces with tenants, without any reference to the cultural drivers that impact the behavior of our audience. And I think that is key. And I think that is where if you like shopping centers have been going wrong with this cookie-cutter approach. So we refer to – and I refer to it in the book as well – the four pillars of placemaking, which goes towards answering your question directly, what is placemaking? It’s based on four pillars. The first is convenience. So placemaking must deliver on one big expectation of our audience, and that is hyper convenience, simplicity, an experience that’s intuitive. That is devoid of complexity. I think that’s the first. And of course, if we drill into that, really extensively by understanding the impact of things like quick commerce and the whole kind of area of convenience. The second is fast. The polar opposite of slow, which is about a place creating programmable content about creating and delivering participatory experiences that are about community – and I don’t mean local community – communities of interest, brands that bring those communities together, and places about activation of public realm with those experiences. Not about a fixed demise that separates the public realm with tenanted space. These are blurred. And I think this blurring of the inside and the outside also is about placemaking. The third pillar is about localism. How do we create a place? And only a successful piece of placemaking must be connected to and align with the local community and the local environment, and its local heritage and its local makeup of audience, whether they are citizens, whether they’re influencers, whether they’re local brands. And very importantly, when we are master planning a place – and again, this is what makes a great place – is how we blend in one master plan local independent brands, influencers, local groups, community groups, not-for-profit organizations, social enterprises, with big brands. And whether those big brands are retail, leisure, entertainment, culture, the days of separating them and putting local small brands into tertiary spaces and giving prime space to big brands are over. And that is the death of place-making. And the fourth pillar that really, I think, cements a place and makes it sustainable in terms of futureproof is what we refer to as belonging, how we create a place that delivers on, and aligns with the values of our audience – their values in terms of the role this place plays in their day-to-day life and in the wider world, and not just somewhere to sell them stuff. And I think that means – and again, to answer your question maybe in another way, which is a very succinct way – what makes a great place making is this shift from a shopping or transactional rhythm to a community rhythm and that rhythm of footfall makes a great place.

Adrian Tennant: You believe that retailers and brand marketers need to shift our focus away from traditional demographic consumer segments, and instead consider cross-boundary, psychographic segmentation, which reveals what you refer to as Generation C. You highlight Nike, Apple, and Patagonia as exemplars of this approach. So Ibrahim, could you give us an overview of Generation C and explain how their traits inform how you design brands and place experiences?

Ibrahim Ibrahim: Yeah, I think the five Cs plus the sixth one is really key, but the sixth one is the first one is control. You know, the overriding demand of our audience now is control. Being in control, feeling in control, that gives them dignity. It gives them hyper-convenience. It means that their experience is intuitive. It means the business is transparent. It means there’s authenticity, all the elements, and what can go on and on about what do we mean by control or being in control, an experience that’s devoid of complexity. Those kinds of things. As I move on to the Cs, the first is convenience, which is exactly what I’ve just said. This idea of hyper-convenience, this idea of creating an intuitive experience. The idea of queuing is anathema in retail. Quick commerce is taking hold. We want – obviously COVID’s really driven the kind of demand for digital experiences – the whole fulfillment ecosystem, how we can have different aspects and types of fulfillment to meet the demands of our audience, how convenience delivers on this, a new way of working, this fragmentation of work, how people want to work as a dip-in, dip-out culture of work, how we fit working increasingly around other activities. We work a bit. We shop a bit, you know, go and eat a bit. We have a yoga class, we go back to work, we then meet a friend, and we work again. And what that work could be 10 minutes of emails, or it could be an hour Zoom call. And we do it all between moving from home to somewhere public, to maybe the office. If you think about how quick commerce is changing our behavior, how we can be anywhere, deliver, order anything, whether it’s a sandwich or a toothpaste, and get it delivered to us within 10, 15 minutes. What does that mean? I mean, at the moment, mostly that’s being done from home, but as we start getting used to that, and we start using quick commerce, wherever we are, we could be sitting on a park bench. I had a call the other day, and someone was literally sitting on a park bench in the call. I’m thinking, “Actually, you know, how we design public seating is no longer just about sitting. We gotta have public seating, which is where we work, which is where we eat. This is where we shop”, you know? So what does that mean in terms of the public realm? So anyway, all that is around convenience, and then, of course, the brands we choose, the brands we select, and the brands we put into our experience master plan are those brands that can deliver community, that have got communities following them, that are what we call community-first brands. It’s not product-first, it’s community-first. And I think that delivers on the S in the ESG. How can we bring brands and our selection of brands and in a master plan that drives social value? And drive the activation of the public realm. And of course, then those brands that we bring in are ones that should drive also what we call the third C is co-creation, brands that are open to helping the audience kind of shape their product. You know, thinking about brands like Fenty, for instance. Fenty is a cosmetics brand, as you know and that is what we call circular commerce. It started as a social network, it’s a social-first brand. And from that social network, from the learnings, from the interaction and the engagement of that social network, they developed a series of products, and they continue to develop those products through their social network. So it’s a circular commerce. So co-creation is really important. The fourth one is collaboration. That’s part of the same thing. How do we create environments, places that drive collaboration? We work with a really interesting group called Incredible Edible. Incredible Edible or a social enterprise that come to a place, they work with a local authority or a developer, and they take space, whether that’s a disused car park or a roof space, and they develop allotments where they grow produce. And they reach out to the local community and get the community to own these allotments. They help them grow the produce. And then the intermediary between that produce being sold to restaurants in this development and Incredible Edible take a cut of that. And so do the community who have been growing it. So collaboration is really important at a community level, at a place level, if you like, but also at a brand level, how we introduce brands and encourage brands that are collaborative with their audience as opposed to what you call monologue brand. And finally, the final C – and the most important C – is conscience: brands that have a conscience that prioritize the role they play in people’s lives and in the wider world. And of course, increasingly, that’s becoming a driver of preference, brands that are a purpose that look at sustainability ESG as a priority. And of course, we can see that also through the growth of B-Corps and triple bottom line. And I know that, and I think that will become universal, a kind of narrative at a kind of everyday level. Not many people have heard now of B-Corps, I’ve been talking about it for three or four years, and as I speak to more and more people, I see it’s becoming more and more kind of universal. And I think that it will get bigger and more kind of popular.

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Adrian Tennant: In September, I spoke with Ksenia Newton, marketing content specialist at the social listening platform, Brandwatch. Based in New York City, Ksenia had just published a report about retail trends in 2022, which identified elevated expectations around delivery and fulfillment. I asked her what the implications could be for retail and e-commerce brands.

Ksenia Newton: Logistics plays a huge role in building a solid reputation for any brand out there. And it’s been really hard for brands, right? Retail and e-commerce – the expectations that consumers have right now, as I already mentioned, are very high. So for retailers and e-commerce companies, it’s really important to expand their delivery options if possible. Because consumers want to have what they purchased, they want to have it right now. They want to have it on the day they need to have it and they can’t wait for it for a month. that means that all these brands need to expend their delivery options, not just offering delivery to your house, but maybe, setting up, pick up location or pickup point or curbside pickup, whatever it might be,the focus needs to be on delivered because consumers are really expecting that convenience level right now. . and the other thing that we saw online as well is that it was also a tweet that I’m going to quote, because it was very important to gain a lot of engagement. A person literally said, “if it’s sold out, please take it off the website, thank you.” and, one of my favorite tweets from that research, with 300,000 likes, you can tell that it resonated with consumers, quite a bit. Got a lot of engagement because consumers don’t want to spend time on the website looking for that product that they’re really want to purchase, just to realize that product is off, is not in stock anymore. So make it easier for consumer, please make sure you’re update your website so consumers don’t have to waste their time because not only they will waste their time, it will also affect how they view that brand moving forward. They may not want to shop with you again, right? And the other thing that we saw, I guess again, when it comes to elevated expectations and going back to the payment that I just talked about, placing an order and payment methods, something, again, that’s very important. I just did a whole report on the financial sector and kind of what are the most popular payment methods out there. And what I saw is, sure, credit cards and debit cards are still very, very popular, but payment methods like Buy Now, Pay Later, Klarna, and AfterPay and ClearPay have been gaining popularity rapidly. So consumers are looking for different ways to pay for their purchases. And with Buy Now, Pay Later, specifically, it allows you to split the purchase, the larger purchase and pay in installments, taking that pressure off a little bit. And then, you know, potentially, it will become kind of a differentiating point. As a consumer myself, I just used Buy Now, Pay Later to pay for a larger purchase, which was a mattress. And it really helped me personally, that I could just break down that price and just not have to look at this one large number. And it did help me in a way to choose between two brands as well. So this is something that we’re seeing consumers talk a lot about, online as well, Buy Now, Pay Later specifically, and adding additional payment options to the existing payment options on the website, because as you know, if your consumers can’t pay with the payment options that you have listed on the website, the business might lose their revenue. So there’s that.

Adrian Tennant: How do you think inflation will shape the upcoming holiday shopping season? Will consumers buy even earlier to avoid price hikes?

Ksenia Newton: One of the things, one of the trends that we saw in our research, we call it Revenge Spending. And that means consumers who were stuck at home because of the ongoing pandemic. Now that they’re out now that the restrictions have loosen up a little bit and they have a little bit of money to spend, they are now spending in revenge for all the waste of time. So that’s one of the trends that we saw, that I’m pretty sure is going to affect how consumers shop during the holiday season. The other trend, again, going back to Buy Now, Pay Later, I think it is very important that consumers these days have an opportunity to break down that price and maybe, between purchases something right away and paying for it right away. It’s too expensive. They can’t afford it. They now have an opportunity to pay for it over time, which I do think is going to positively impact sales in my personal opinion. So it’s a great option to attract consumers who might be hesitant to spend that money during the Holidays. And, another thing that I saw in the recent research around the financial sector is consumers are very enthusiastic when it comes to the topic of spending and payment options, they’re constantly researching. So it doesn’t sound like people are not going to buy. It sounds like they’re looking for better ways to shop whether it’s coupons, discounts, whether it’s buy now pay later or different payment options or whatever it might be, consumers are looking to spend. And then something that I also saw, I’m part of this Facebook group it’s called secret. I don’t know, it’s no longer secret, but it is a private, Christmas focus group on Facebook, where about a month ago people started reporting how they finalized their Christmas shopping. Again, and I know I mentioned this last time in our podcast, but this time around, people are spending a lot more money and they buy multiple presents. Again, this isn’t based on any data that I saw using our technology. This is something that I literally scope from just reading through comments in this Facebook group. People purchase multiple presents per person, again, it may not be representative of the rest of the population, but it also doesn’t sound like they’re trying to save up either.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks again to contributors: Devora Rogers, Doug Stephens, Ksenia Newton, and Ibrahim Ibrahim. And if you’d like a copy of Devora and Ibrahim’s books, you can get a 20% discount when you order online at KoganPage.com. Just add the promo code, BIGEYE20 at the checkout. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com, just select “Podcast” from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

A special episode to coincide with this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Inclusive Marketing: Why representation matters to your customers and your brand. This week, previous podcast guests discuss the benefits and potential pitfalls of including all of a brand’s prospects and customers in the design process – from product development to marketing, advertising, and in-store experiences. Hear perspectives from white, Black, Hispanic, male, female, and non-binary identities.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Jerry Daykin: It’s our job as marketers to understand all the different consumers that we try and talk to. And so, true inclusive marketing is just when we get outside of our own bubbles and we truly talk to all the consumers out there.

Sonia Thompson: Representation matters. But representation isn’t only about the photography or the talent that you’re using. It permeates through every part of your organization and that includes where your brand spends money.

Michael Solomon: There are a lot of very, very fundamental assumptions we make about the way we categorize people that no longer work in terms of how we think about customers and more importantly, how they think about us as marketers.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. As we look forward to joining family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we’re going to reflect on the people that make up the United States. Immigration and shifts in societal attitudes over the past several decades mean that today’s America is more diverse than ever. This month’s featured Bigeye Book Club selection is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. As Jerry’s book and previous guests of this podcast have pointed out, it makes good business sense to take an inclusive approach to marketing. But what is inclusive marketing? Here’s Jerry’s answer:

Jerry Daykin: Oh, it’s a big one. I think sometimes it’s just better marketing. Like it’s our job as marketers to understand all the different consumers that we try and talk to. And so, true inclusive marketing is just when we get outside of our own bubbles and we get outside of our own kind of narrow view of the world and we truly talk to all the consumers out there. But yeah, definitely can manifest itself in terms of, kind of better representation, inclusion, et cetera, on the screen. But it starts definitely with the kind of thinking and the strategy and the people behind the screen as well. The whole process needs to change to just better do our jobs.

Adrian Tennant: Sonia Thompson is a customer experience strategist and consultant with international experience. Here’s her definition:

Sonia Thompson: So inclusive marketing is all about acknowledging all the many ways in which people are different. And then intentionally choosing which of those differences you are going to serve as a brand, and then incorporating the ones that you’ve selected throughout all parts of your marketing mix.

Adrian Tennant: Today, you’re a recognized expert in inclusive marketing. So Sonia, what led you to focus on this particular area?

Sonia Thompson: I would say it came a lot from frustration. I’m somebody with a lot of differences. So I’m a marketer, that’s been my background, my experience for my entire career. I focus a lot on customer experience, but as I started talking more about my frustrations, and maybe if you’re a marketer, I feel like you’re always viewing the world through the lens of a marketer. I just kept running into challenges where I felt like brands struggled whenever trying to figure out how to engage people who had quote, unquote differences that made them not so cleanly fit into what was considered mainstream. So I’m a Black woman. I follow a gluten-free diet. I saw things, especially change whenever I started gluten-free, because I just realized how many brands struggled to cater to that. I lived outside the US for a little while. I’m left-handed, so that, you know, my adjustments started early on with scissors back in school. So the more I started talking about that and just exploring it within my columns – and, I went to a bootcamp that was all about public speaking to help prepare me and give me assets to get on the stage. And I did a talk on inclusive marketing and I started to see the responses that people were having to it. I started to receive the responses that people were having to my articles because people talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Very few people talk about it from a marketing standpoint. So thinking about things from an inclusivity standpoint, because even whatever people are talking about, diversity and marketing or multicultural marketing, they’re focusing it more so on ethnicity and race rather than all the different types of dimensions of diversity that exist. So if we think about that, that’s where we get the definition of inclusive marketing, because it’s not just multicultural or ethnic marketing, it’s thinking more broadly about all the ways that we’re different. So I got started in it because there was hunger in the market. People were latching onto the information because there wasn’t a ton out there. There’s a little bit more now than there was previously. But, yeah, I just started leaning in heavily where people were clamoring for information.

Adrian Tennant: Sonia, what are some of the most common misconceptions you find marketers and brand managers have about the Black community?

Sonia Thompson: This is a pet peeve of mine: whenever people assume that the Black community doesn’t have any money – so whenever they feel like they want to reach out and engage the community, sometimes the default is what types of programs do we need to do to offer some type of financial assistance or scholarships or other types of things that have an economic solution to them. There are groups of the population that may struggle economically, but that exists with all groups, all racial and cultural, ethnic groups, across the US. And I think that while there are systemic challenges that have impacted the Black community in particular, that hasn’t allowed us consistently, collectively to advance in as many areas, the assumption shouldn’t be that we’re all poor and economically starved. I remember I was having a conversation with some girlfriends and there was something that came out that had kind of had that air of it. And she was, “Am I poor?” Right? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but we just don’t think of ourselves in that way. That’s not our lived experience. And it feels insulting that’s what people immediately equate with people who are from this community.

Adrian Tennant: In October of last year, Bigeye published the results of a national survey of shoppers aged 18 to 55 called Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. Reflecting their experiences in physical stores, we asked respondents if they typically pay attention to visual signage and photographs of people modeling clothes or using products. Among respondents identifying as white or Caucasian, 79% said they sometimes, often, or always pay attention. But among Black consumers, 92% said they do so. We also asked about the models featured in-store displays and photography. Among respondents identifying as white or Caucasian, 48% said they are noticing greater racial diversity more or a lot more often compared to before 2020. But among Black consumers, it’s a bit higher at 55%. So I’m curious, are you seeing more beauty and skincare brands representing a wider range of skin tones and ethnicities and their marketing?

Sonia Thompson: A little bit, right? So there’s a Fenty effect that’s happening from a beauty standpoint, from makeup. Rihanna’s brand Fenty Beauty launched with 40 shades of foundation, they kind of rocked the industry because they were super inclusive and took into account people who had a broad variety of skin complexions all over the world. As a result, 40 shades of foundation became the gold standard. It became the barrier to entry for other makeup brands. So other makeup brands have started to showcase that they’ve got all these different shades and that has then translated into a broader degree of representation and showcasing models of those different shades. Outside of that, there are more high fashion brands and brands that tend to have more well-known models that have in the past had a range of colors. Victoria’s Secret is one that generally tended to have a good range of skin tones and complexions with their models. There is still work to be done for more brands that aren’t high fashion, that aren’t specifically connected to makeup to do a better job with that representation, particularly of darker-skinned people. This happens because I think that people feel like when it comes to representation, if they’re putting a person of color that seems to be racially ambiguous, they feel like they’re, for lack of a better term, killing two birds with one stone, right? They’re feeling like they’re checking a couple of boxes or covering a broader base of people by having racially ambiguous people. However, because in many cases they don’t have the cultural intelligence to know that skin color and skin complexion has long been a topic of conversation, and one that causes a lot of dispute and communities, particularly communities of color, whereas Black and darker-skinned has often been viewed as less than those who have lighter skin. So the idea is that people think, and people feel that only showing racially ambiguous people of color is harmful. So more brands can lean more heavily into this of both men and women and showcase a broader range. But knowing that it’s not just about putting a Black person or a Brown person or a Person of Color, you definitely have to think about the layers and the dimensions of the skin colors and that representation isn’t just about an ethnic group. There are a number of other factors that are important to consider like skin color and complexion. When Amazon Alexa did a commercial last year for the Super Bowl and they had that dark-skinned woman with natural hair, I still love it. I still have a visceral reaction thinking about it and how much that meant for people, including me, to see someone like that featured in an ad.

Adrian Tennant: Michael Solomon is a consumer behavior psychologist, a marketing professor, and an international speaker. He’s also the author of the book, The New Chameleons: Consumers Who Defy Categorization. I asked him about the book’s title.

Michael Solomon: Well, as, you know, a chameleon is a reptile that changes color to adapt to its environment. And so it’s very malleable. It adapts to what’s going on around it. It also apparently adapts to its own moods. So it’s kind of like those old mood rings we used to have – remember those? That changes color according to your mood. And so I thought that was a very good metaphor because today we really are like an animal that changes its colors very, very frequently. By color, I refer to our identities, our social identities, how we think about ourselves, the aspects of ourselves that we want people to know about. And so sociologists have long talked about this notion of having multiple selves. You know, when you’re in a business environment, that’s one part. When you’re playing the role of devoted parent or child, that’s another. And on and on. And much of consumer behavior is oriented around that. In other words, in every one of these identities, we have certain goals that we want to reach. One of the main functions of a good advertisement is to show people how your product or service will get them closer to that goal. So the chameleon metaphor reminds us that, unlike the old days, you know, back in the forties, fifties, sixties, where we talked about these very large, relatively unchanging blocks of people who could be counted upon to behave in pretty similar ways. Today, you can just throw that out the window because consumers are much more proactive. They’re looking for new identities, they’re looking to experiment and as they do that, So to speak, they change their colors because they alter the constellation of products and services that they choose to express that identity.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you identify and discuss seven fundamental oppositions or dichotomies that are either headed toward obsolescence or already obsolete. The first of these focuses on a long-established foundation of market research, as well as media planning and audience segmentation, namely consumer demographics. Michael, why are they obsolete? And in what way should we rethink how we define consumer groups?

Michael Solomon: Yeah. So market segmentation, especially demographic segmentation as you know, is the bedrock of modern marketing strategy. And, it was actually invented back in the early part of last century by the good folks at general motors. And they were actually responding to, I think, in some way to Henry Ford’s assertion, that his customers could have a car in any color they wanted, as long as it was black. And I love to tell that story because that was the impetus for them to start to think about divisions, you know, Chevrolet versus Cadillac and so on, and largely based on income segmentation, but it reflected a – really, for the time – pioneering realization that not everybody in the market is the same. We’re not all identical. So let’s identify these large, homogeneous groups where we can message a group, say men in their fifties or women in their twenties who live in urban areas, what have you. And that approach worked very well for a long time when we lived in a broadcast kind of environment. You know, at one point we had in the US three and then later four television stations that basically reached everybody. And anyone listening to this knows that that is totally outmoded. Today, we have thousands of stations and thousands of interest groups. We have basically a fragmentation in our culture, as people are picking and choosing much more proactively, you know, “I like this.” “I’m going to sample that”, and so on. And what that means is that sure, it’s great to start with demographics. For a long time, we’ve advocated, layering over that psychographic kinds of data, psychological differences and so on. But I think even that doesn’t capture the nuances that we often pick up today. And so I think in many cases, it makes more sense to talk about so-called, “markets of one”, where, especially in the online world, we are able to customize and personalize the messages and the products to some degree that every individual gets. That’s a very, very powerful tool. And not only that, you can get trapped by thinking that just because you’ve assigned someone to a demographic category, you understand them. And so for example, one of the dichotomies is the old one of male versus female. And so, if you do that and you say, “well, I’m going to pick the male or I’m going to pick the female market.” Well, by definition, you are already leaving half of the population off the table because you’re not going to consider them. And so there are many, many examples of that when we relax those old dichotomies, that’s where we see the real market opportunities are hidden.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also to learning about their prospects’ and customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and collectively inspire the account, creative, media, and analytics teams working on our clients’ projects. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused consumer insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for November is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Inclusive Marketing, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS conversations about Inclusive Marketing. The Hispanic population is the second-largest minority consumer group in the US and one of the fastest-growing, accounting for 57% of the population growth over the past two decades. Over 64 million Hispanic consumers have a combined buying power of 2 trillion dollars and will contribute disproportionately to growth in consumer spending over the coming years. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Bigeye’s Research Specialist Camila Swanson chatted with friends and family about Hispanic representation in the media and their lived experiences.

Camila Swanson: Do you primarily watch English-language TV shows, Spanish-language TV shows, or a mixture?

Haroldo Montero: I will say about 70% of the entertainment that I watch is in English, I would say, because growing up as a teen here and going to college here, that’s kind of what you’re starting to develop the things that you like and being here. I was a little bit more familiar with entertainment in English, but I still watch a lot of media in Spanish as well. Like mostly sports though, because I liked the sportscasters in Spanish a lot better than in English. 

Nidia Swanson: It’s a mix of both because when I watch the Spanish one, it’s the news. That’s the way I can get in touch with my country because sometimes they have news from my country on Spanish TV and English, I watch most of my shows, they’re American shows. So I watch both, but in different – news for the Spanish one, and then my shows and some news from the American one.

Jorge Sedano: And when you watch Spanish language programs, how do the ads you see on those channels influence the type of brands or products that you buy?

Haroldo Montero: That a lot of times it has some influence on the things that I pick. For example, like if, if I know there’s like a business or a brand that’s, it was started by somebody who is from Venezuela and they’re trying to get it kicked off. Sometimes that resonates with me and like, yeah, I’ll pick that particular brand. But sometimes they’re also like more focused on like the demographic, like myself as Hispanic, let’s say as a skin product. Right. So may not have the same skin tone with somebody else who’s born in the United States. So maybe those kinds of things are aimed more towards kind of what I want. So yeah, that does affect sometimes the products that I buy or services.

Camila Swanson: While watching Spanish television programs do products you see advertised stand out more than those shown in English language shows?

Jorge Sedano: I believe they do. And I think it’s really based on the fact that I do watch mainly English television. So like when my mom is watching Spanish television, it’ll be a different type of situation. The commercials will be in Spanish. So I retain them like more, more than an English commercial because it’ll be like, it’ll be something different in my day. So I definitely, yeah, I think I’ll remember a Spanish commercial more than I would an English one.

Camila Swanson: Is there anything about the portrayal of our cultures on TV or in movies that really annoy you or you feel is consistently inaccurate?

Nidia Swanson: I feel annoyed because they advertised the Latin country like a third world country instead of advertise us as a beautiful country with nice people. Spanish people, most of us, we are really welcoming people. So I think it’s annoying when they think about us like a third-world country.

Camila Swanson: A stereotype about Hispanics that I think is overplayed in the media would be when they show any foreign place and they put this yellowing filter over it to show that they’re an equivalent to a third world country, because I know I’ve seen pictures of the Dominican Republic from when my mom lived there or when our family goes on vacation and it’s the most beautiful, clear skies, clear waters, but in movies, they’ll portray it as some war-torn area. There’s no culture, there’s no vibrancy to it, which I don’t believe is true.

Jorge Sedano: Yeah. And I definitely agree with that as well. I think there’s that movie, Sicario where they transfer from the U.S. to Mexico. And you can tell just the difference in like the way they portray it and the filter that they use. Like she said, and yeah, I think there’s a lot of things in the movie scene where they may not get it like we would want them to get it. So maybe one day it will be a little more accurate.

Haroldo Montero: What sometimes tends to happen is that they try to like put us all into one group of people. I don’t think they do a good job at separating where they’re from. Let’s say there’s a Hispanic kid on the soccer team and everybody just kinda assumes they’re all from the same country. I feel like there could be a little bit more and like, say, “Hey, no, he’s actually from Venezuela. Oh, this guy’s actually from Columbia. He’s actually from Argentina.” Like sometimes I feel like there are just put us all into one bucket rather than like, explaining how we’re all different. Like, yes, we’re all coming from like the same continent, but it’s like putting, I guess Americans and Canadians in the same bucket, but no, you’d never see that you always see like the separation. “Oh, he’s Canadian.” “Oh, he’s American.” So I feel like for Hispanics, we tend to get put in the same bucket.

Adrian Tennant: In retail too, we’re seeing a greater focus on inclusivity. World Global Style Network is a trend-forecasting company that analyzes consumer shopping behavior focusing on fashion. They reported that products labeled as genderless, gender-neutral, and unisex have surged by 109 percent year on year since October 2020. So will the future of fashion be androgynous? Michael Solomon offered his opinion.

Michael Solomon: Androgeny, which means a blending of the two genders, is certainly nothing new. You know, if you look just throughout our own immediate history, you see a lot of clothing of certain periods of time when clothing styles were relatively androgynous. And other times when they’re really sex-typed, in other words, clearly quote, male or female. And so, as with many other things in fashion, the pendulum swings back and forth. So the biggest mistake we can make is to assume that just because the pendulum is here, it’s not going to swing back to here. But having said that we’re seeing a resurgence right now in androgynous fashions. Before it was more like just a, maybe a cute fashion statement, but today it’s more fundamental where, for example, if you look at the fashion industry, You’ve got some of the leading design houses who are literally merging their men’s wear and women’s wear businesses. And literally having fashion shows when we’re able to attend them again, but who even before the pandemic started to have runway shows where both male and female models are coming down the runway

Adrian Tennant: A significant number of fashion designers and brands are following suit. Marc Jacobs launched a capsule collection called Heaven, which is described as a line “For girls who are boys and boys who are girls and those who are neither.” Tommy Hilfiger, in partnership with activist and actress Indya Moore, designed a capsule collection called Tommy X Indya, clothing free from gender binaries. And Target debuted the gender-free clothing brand Phluid in all of its US stores to coincide with Pride Month in 2021. But inclusivity in fashion and clothing extends beyond gender. I asked Sonia Thompson which brands she thinks are truly inclusive.

Sonia Thompson: You know, I spent a lot of time studying Savage X Fenty, and they are very clear that their lingerie line is for everyone to the point where they have lingerie for men. They have, if you look at their fashion shows, they’ve got women of all shapes and sizes. They’ve got people with disabilities. They’ve had pregnant women. They’ve had people who are transgender.  They’ve had men, they’ve had the gamut in terms of people who are different for a variety of reasons. And even supermodels that people are normally used to seeing model lingerie. And they lean very heavily and are very serious into their mission of wanting everybody to feel sexy. And they’re very clear about saying that’s EVERY. BODY. Right? And so that means that there’s a great diversity in our bodies and what we need to feel sexy. Another brand that does a good job with inclusive marketing is David’s bridal. If you think about wedding dresses and wedding accessories there are a ton of people who need that. And if you were to go to David’s Bridals’ website, or if you were to go to their social media, you will see white women, black women, mixed-race couples, same-sex couples, people in wheelchairs, people who are tall, who are short, all over the world, all in different types of wedding dresses and accessories and telling their stories. So it’s not just about the advertising in the visual imagery. These are actual customers telling their story, their experiences, that people are able to see themselves reflected not just in some stock photography, but in the actual imagery and the people behind the stories. And I also think that Nike does a good job as well. In particular because, if you go back to their mission, it’s to inspire every athlete and they define an athlete as anybody with a body. So they have done a very good job as of late, in particular, if you go to their social media, you’ll see all different kinds of people, reflected in the imagery that they put forth. But even with the products that they have been releasing over the past couple of years. It is really starting to think about inclusivity more so, so an example of that is whenever they launched the Pro Hijab line of sportswear that would be accessible that women,  who were Muslim and who wear a hijab could still participate in sports. And a hijab that is designed for sports, not these makeshift ones that they were having to make out of necessity. So just starting to think about who are all the people who are athletes. And what are the types of challenges that some of them might have, and then they’re actually building products by co-creating them with those communities to give them products that meet their needs.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Jerry Daykin which brands he feels do a good job of being inclusive of consumers who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Jerry Daykin: Yeah. I like brands that kind of have been in it for the long term. In the UK, and I think to an extent globally, the Skittles brand is one that I’ve seen do that, part of the Mars company’s portfolio. I know they’ve had sort of a multi-year partnership with Gay Times. So they’ve been working with and talking to a publication that represents that community and helps them have an authentic voice. This past year or so, they did a great activation, which was sponsoring the digging out of old black and white photos from historic Prides, recoloring them, and sharing them in their editorial. And I think they’d been doing that for four or five years. Having special packaging where they remove the rainbow from their packaging because their message is that there are other rainbows that matter. So I love that they’ve stuck with it for a few years and that it’s not just a brand manager somewhere who decided, “Oh, this year let’s do Pride.” They’ve really built a platform and worked with the community on it. They’re a big organization, but I think Procter and Gamble, P&G, do a really good job. They actually have a dedicated person, I think, whose job is LGBT inclusion and how their business can work with those communities and things. And you see that comes to life in a whole load of different ways. I know in the US they’ve done a partnership with GLAAD, and I think they’ve even created resources that other advertisers can get for free and can tap into, to help them do that. That’s a really deliberate approach, you know? This is a community that matters. These are some of our own colleagues that matter. This is an audience that we want to do the right thing with and by. And so you find other examples of brands that done kind of one-off campaigns and really nice things. But those two stand out as brands that have said, “We’re really going to do this. And we’re going to still be doing it in four or five years’ time. And we’re going to invest in the people and the resources and the partnerships to get there.” Rather than just, you know, “Oh, we’ve got a bit of money left over this year. So let’s throw it at a Pride float,” which isn’t a bad thing to do, but it’s not a thorough thing to do.

Adrian Tennant: So, how can brand marketing teams developing campaigns or crafting in-store experiences ensure that they’re taking an inclusive approach? Sonia Thompson has this advice:

Sonia Thompson: Bake inclusivity into the process from the very beginning. I think a lot of brands do what they’re going to do. They build their plans, they build their materials, they build their campaigns. And then the last 10% they start thinking about how they can make sure that it’s inclusive. It’s like they’re doing a check at the end and figuring out, “Okay, we might need to make some tweaks!” versus starting from the beginning of the process and baking inclusivity into it from the very beginning. For instance, my husband is from Argentina and he’s a new immigrant here to the US, and he still very much operates in Spanish. So whenever we moved, we had to get a new car. We had to get two new cars, of course. And so I have mine. He has his. His car operates – like, everything is in Spanish, right? The dashboard where you’ve got the radio, all the other controls and different things. The control panel, it’s all set up in Spanish. His cell phone whenever we got here, we had to get his cell phone. It’s all configured and set up in Spanish. Whenever we watch TV – if we’re watching Netflix, for instance, we watch it in English, but there are Spanish subtitles. These are all brands that didn’t think about inclusivity at the end, they baked it into their product development process. Each of them has done it in different degrees, but they thought about who are all the different types of people who have the problem that our brands solve. How might they be different? So how can we deliver products, services, and experiences that allows them to participate, that allows them to be successful, that allows them to solve the problem that we help them with, even with the differences that they have? And you have more leeway to figure out what are the right solutions to bring more people along when you plan for it at the beginning versus doing it at the end and figuring out how can you retrofit or even if you can retrofit it at the end.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to all the guests who contributed to this special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: Jerry Daykin, Sonia Thompson, Michael Solomon, Haroldo Montero, Jorge Sedano, Nidia Swanson, and Bigeye’s own Camila Swanson. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of this episode on our website at Bigeyeagency.com – just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving, until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

The consequences of climate change are evident globally. It’s clear that action needs to be increased to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Our guests today are innovators working in an emerging marketplace focused on carbon reduction. Dr. Toby Green is the co-founder and director of MyCarbon, and Dr. John Whittle is the director of strategy. We discuss the roles marketing and advertising can play in helping businesses and individuals accelerate the move toward Net Zero.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Dr. Toby Green: We are in real trouble. What can I do to have the most impact I can on the climate crisis? 

Dr. John Whittle: With good marketing, we will get better climate action. If you are a marketer, this is on you! 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. The consequences of climate change became even more evident this year. We saw drought in the western United States, Africa’s famine, Pakistan’s floods, and record-breaking heat waves across Europe. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. Its goal is to limit global warming to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius – that’s 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit – in average global temperatures, compared to pre-industrial levels. Formally adopted by 196 countries in December 2015, the ultimate aim is to achieve a climate-neutral world by 2050. World leaders have been convening in the Egyptian vacation resort of Sharm El-Sheik for two weeks of climate negotiations for the United Nations Annual Conference, this year known as COP 27. Delegates face many challenges as the war in Europe, and rising inflation contribute to a global energy crisis, making it even harder to cut greenhouse gas emissions. While it’s clear that action needs to be increased to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, there is still hope that we can get there. Our guests today are innovators working in an emerging marketplace focused on carbon reduction. Dr. Toby Green is the co-founder and director of MyCarbon, a UK-based firm helping businesses and individuals accelerate the move to Net Zero and general sustainability. Toby is joining us from his office in London, England. And we’re also joined by Dr. John Whittle, Director of Operations and Strategy at MyCarbon. Previously with the research firm, Further, John is making his second appearance on IN CLEAR FOCUS and joins us from his home in Cheshire, England. Toby and John, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Dr. Toby Green: Oh, hi! Thank you, yeah.

Dr. John Whittle: Thanks for having us.

Adrian Tennant: Toby, I’d like to start with you. Can you define what Net Zero is?

Dr. Toby Green: I absolutely love this question. We actually ask it as an interview question for the applicants, for our jobs here at MyCarbon because it’s such a confusing one. There are so many different terms out there, like carbon neutral, Net Zero, climate positive, green, eco this, that and the other. So it is really easy to get muddled. So it’s a great first question to ask. When we quantify greenhouse gas emissions, when we calculate our business carbon emissions, we do so into three categories. You’ve got your scope one, which are your direct emissions, any emissions arising directly off your site. Scope two, which are your indirect energy emissions. Really easy. These are just your energy bills, electricity, or if you’re any district heating. And then you have scope three, which your indirect other emissions. And this is essentially everything else across your value chain from all your goods and services, your transportation, business travel, employee commuting, like your downstream effects as well. So I’ll start with carbon neutral. To achieve that, you must know your scope one and your Scope two emissions, and you have to offset these emissions with any type of carbon credit. so carbon credits are split up into avoidance-based and removal based. The avoidance based generally are a bit cheaper, and so for a carbon neutral you just have to calculate your scope one and two and offset your scope one and two. Now for most businesses, this can be about just about 5% of total emissions, so you see that carbon neutral is actually really easy to achieve. Net Zero on the other hand, is much more difficult. So Net Zero, you must know your scopes one, two, and three emissions. And if you wanna offset these emissions, you must use the more expensive type, the carbon removal credits. and that’s where we get the net in Net Zero. So everything you’ve put into the atmosphere you must remove to balance it out and get that Net Zero. Now under S BTI guidance, which is the Science Based Target initiative, their guidance to say, “Right, in order to actually make this feasible, you need to reduce your emissions as much as possible before then removing.” So it’s all about, we still really need to reduce, we need to prioritize that reduction of emissions before achieving Net Zero. but really it’s knowing your scope one, two, and three, reducing them as much as possible and then removing what you’re putting into the atmosphere. So quite a long answer to a quite simple question. 

Adrian Tennant: Toby, you co-founded the company. What led you to establish MyCarbon?

Dr. Toby Green: So I took up a PhD at the University of Leeds in bioenergy, and this had a master’s year attached to the front of it. To be honest, I wasn’t super keen about it, but I’m so glad it happened because I really got to learn about the wider context of climate change. I knew what climate change was. You know, I sort of knew of it, knew it was a thing. In about the first six months of that year where I really became awakened to the climate crisis, where I had that moment of clarity and it was, “We are in real trouble. What can I do to have the most impact I can on the climate crisis?” And I thought, do I stay in academia? But I thought, no, it’s a bit too blue sky thinking for me. Do I go into politics and policy? I’m not a politician, Adrian. So then it was going into the private sector and it was trying to find, you know, the need. And originally, it was trying to focus on individuals, but then we pivoted towards businesses. But yeah, it was really just having that moment of clarity on the climate crisis and what can I do as an individual, where’s my skills? And from that, it was MyCarbon.

Adrian Tennant: John, it’s very nice to talk with you again. Last time you were on the podcast, we discussed projective techniques for qualitative research conducted online. Now, on the face of it, this seems like quite a different role than the one you held previously. What led you to MyCarbon?

Dr. John Whittle: Yeah, my background is as a social scientist, so at my core, what I’m always fascinated in are the fundamental dynamics of social behavior. I have an element of psychology in my training, but group theory and how people respond in response to big events and small events and how they bond and create identities, and then how they form structures and then how those structures work with agency. That’s where I get my kicks, right? That’s where I really love it, where I start to explore what people are doing in the face of these big things and how that filters down into their everyday actions. There is perhaps no bigger challenge in terms of understanding that than the climate crisis. You know, we talk a lot in research and you know, when we discuss projective exercises, one of the things that fuels a projective exercise is moving beyond what people say to what they do. You’re tapping into a different type of their brain. I think, again, we come and we look at the climate crisis. We all know how bad it is. We all know really what we’ve gotta do, and yet it’s not happening. You know, we know that governments have to make huge changes. I firmly believe if you gave people a choice, a very clear choice, moment by moment and said, If you do A, this is gonna affect the planet in this way badly. If you do B, this is gonna make it harder for you to do this, but it will, you know, affect the planet in this way. I firmly believe people would choose B. But I don’t think we’ve very clearly communicated that. So in terms of sort of the passion for it that came about there. I was also reaching a point where maybe rather cynically, maybe rather unpopularly, I was looking at a lot of the work that I was doing and I felt increasingly, like I was just putting money into the pockets of people who already had a fair amount of money, which, which happens. That’s a natural part of the world, where you live in a capitalist society. But I thought, you know, I’ve done that. I’ve want a bit of a new challenge. And Toby, and Mike are the two co-founders I’ve actually been best friends with for over a decade, really at this point. And I’d in the background, because of my experience, because of the transferable skills, because of helping to grow a company, it was kind of one of those things where everything seems to align at once and there was an opportunity to come in, to help to be a part of that, to use those skills, uh, yeah. And to tackle that challenge. So here I am in a slightly different role, different industry, but still sort of bridging that gap, with the social element. 

Adrian Tennant: So John, what services does MyCarbon provide to businesses? 

Dr. John Whittle: MyCarbon has quite a simple process, which is really good because of the climate crisis and climate change. There’s a lot of information out there and you can get lost quite easily. We like to boil it down into, you know, three stages of calculate, reduce, and offset. Toby explained, the scopes and what we look at there. And that is really, for anyone listening to this as an employee, as a business person, as someone who knows a business person, the first step that you can really take is to calculate. You can’t manage what you haven’t measured. You have to have conducted that measurement process. So calculating those three scopes. From that, you can reduce our offset. Offsets can have a really bad name because unfortunately, there are some people out there who are taking some liberties. They’re trading in things that might not necessarily exist or purport to do the things they say they do.. But there are some really good offsetting schemes out there. And offsets are where you are, using an initiative like Toby spoke about, like capture, to take carbon out of the atmosphere. And there are a number of different ways you can do it. Some are technological, some are natural, some are biological. And you are paying for an initiative that is taking that carbon out,over a certain period of time. That’s really good in a way, but there is only actually a certain amount of offsetting we can ever do. A, because if you’re looking at nature based solutions, there’s only a certain amount in nature on the planet. The planet is a finite resource, and also some of these technologies are in their infancy. The key bit and the hardest bit, as Toby’s alluded to with the Net Zero is the reduction element. Reducing, changing the actual logistical processes, the production processes, the manufacturing. That’s really what we need to do. That’s what a lot of our governments are kicking their heels on, if I’m honest with you. People love offsets. Most people will pay anything to assuage, you know, guilt, a Catholic guilt to, to feel like they’ve checked it off their balance sheets. Actual long term change where you are substituting a manufacturing process, you are using a different material, you are implementing from the ground up, a brand new way of doing something. That’s the challenge, but that is actually what we need to do more of. But as you know, as I said earlier, it’s a very different case of saying it and doing it because it is a complete systematic, ground up reversal in a lot of ways of what we are doing.

Adrian Tennant: Toby, when we were chatting a couple of weeks ago about what topics we might want to cover during this discussion, you commented on Tesla’s reliance on credits from a carbon offsets. Could you explain this for us in non-technical terms, please?

Dr. Toby Green: So a carbon credit, for starters, represents one ton of carbon dioxide, either being avoided from entering the atmosphere or being removed from the atmosphere. So one credit equals one ton. Now we currently have two different marketplaces for carbon credits. You have the voluntary carbon credit market, and then you have the compliance carbon credit market. The compliance market is for companies sort of a certain size that have emission caps, like car manufacturers for example. So for carbon credits to be a credit, there must be a degree of additionality. It must be against business as usual. That is and is usually quite a costly thing. So the carbon credit therefore gives economic incentive to do that thing that isn’t otherwise, normally done, as it were. Now really before electric cars, the only thing I can think of is the quite buggy Nissan Leaf, like the old-school one. So Tesla really brought the electric car, I think to the mass market and made it sexy as well. That’s what we need in sustainability. We need more sex appeal. And so Tesla we’re getting awarded carbon credits on the compliance market because their cars didn’t have any tailpipe emissions, whereas say Ford, a lot of their cars have these tail pipe emissions. They all get measured as part of Ford’s ESG in their governance, and they still have to be underneath an emissions cap. If Fords goes over this emission cap, they must buy from the compliance market to bring them under. Now for Tesla, they might have an emission cap of X, but because all of their cars aren’t producing these tailpipe emissions means they got to sell these credits effectively back to the compliance market and make themselves viable. Without the carbon credits, Tesla would never have been viable. It was only last year Tesla first ever made a profit without the sale of carbon credits. So that’s more on the compliance market. And then on, if you go into the voluntary side, it’s setting up biochar projects, it’s carbon capture storage, on sort of big levels where these projects just aren’t feasible at all without additional income. And that is the whole purpose of carbon credits. 

Adrian Tennant: Toby, what does a client’s engagement with MyCarbon typically look like? What does embarking on a journey toward Net Zero typically consist of? 

Dr. Toby Green: I mean, predominantly you get some wonderful meetings with myself and John, and it really is quite a holistic approach. We love to really engage with who we are working with, and within that it’s education. We really want our clients to understand the journey that they’re going through. So, a client generally comes to us being like, we want be sustainable. We don’t know what we do. We start over. Right? We need to calculate your carbon footprint. So that’s the starting point. And then depending on who the client is, the big company, small company, that’s where we then say. Right, this is the strategy for your reductions. Are we gonna do a full-on Net Zero roadmap, or if you’re a smaller business, can we just give you some good advice, structured advice on what you can do to reduce and then it’s the offsetting piece as well. So we always like to say, be carbon neutral along your journey to Net Zero. So it’s not necessarily about splashing out millions of pounds on removals today, but it’s about what can you do to mitigate your impact on a climate crisis, and then how do we change that as we go to Net Zero.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also to learning about their prospects’ and customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and collectively inspire the account, creative, media, and analytics teams working on our clients’ projects. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused consumer insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for November is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Inclusive Marketing, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Dr. Toby Green and Dr. John Whittle of MyCarbon, which helps businesses and individuals accelerate the move to Net Zero and general sustainability. When it comes to consumers’ attitudes towards sustainability and environmentally friendly products, the global research firm Kantar has been tracking the behavior of a segment it calls Eco Actives across 24 countries. Its latest report finds that Eco Active households are grown from 16% in 2019 to 22% in 2021. These consumers care about how brands affect the environment, and one of their most consistent concerns is the environmental impact of plastic waste, especially from packaging. John, as a social scientist with experience in marketing research, you know that there’s often a difference between what someone says in a survey and how they make decisions in real life. In what kinds of ways can marketers bridge this knowing-doing gap?

Dr. John Whittle: Mmm, yeah, I love surveys like this, because when I’m a research director or designing them, self-reported data to me is interesting. I think previously marketing teams were almost worried to even consider climate change or the climate crisis for fear of the fact that people would just poo-poo it. They go, “Oh, that’s not a thing.” And then they get so irritated that this brand would be deeming to have a conscience, particularly after the last 12 months, I don’t feel like that’s gonna be there. We are finding that in many of the companies we work with, it’s the marketing directors and the marketers who are being given this task of, well, we think sustainability is really important, so here you go. You need to deal with it. And not only do you need to deal with the messaging, but you need to deal with the initiatives behind it as well. And we get quite a lot of marketing directors come just going, “I’ve got no clue. Like What do we say? What do I avoid? What do I not avoid? What do we need to do internally?” Because again, this is one of those things where you can’t preach about it unless you’ve done it. Toby has a great term of green hushing rather than greenwashing. And green hushing is where actually you avoid any mention. I didn’t coin that term. Just, just for reference. You raised it to our attention. I think it’s such a key term, which is where you know you are hiding your eco sins as they were, or even just deliberately avoiding talking about this in your messaging because you are so worried. And so one of the things we do is we support a lot of marketing teams on what they can and cannot say. Obviously, a large part of that is making sure that they have got their house in order a little bit. But in terms of particularly say you’ve got your house in order and you wanna talk about this and you wanna talk about marketing and make no mistake. marketers are really key in this actually. They’re actually one of the most important things. With good marketing, we will get better climate action. If you are a marketer, this is on you as much as it’s on us, we need you. We need your skills. Your skills are about engaging with people and getting them to do things. I think the biggest thing that we consider when we write our own messaging, is we have a very careful blend of what I call, a quarter shame, three-quarters pride. If you keep banging on about the negatives, people aren’t gonna do anything. They’re gonna feel depressed and they’re not gonna be happy. But you need a little bit of a core there to get people motivated. Pride. When I’m in pride, I’m talking about social norms. Okay? When people say, and what they do individually is very different when they’re surrounded by other people. Social norms are really powerful. In your marketing, if you think about social behaviors and how to make people accountable to others, about how to inspire them with the actions of pride. Can they take pride in what they’re doing? Can they take pride in your brand and your messaging and what you doing? Are you able to display that you are on a journey, a journey where you’ve been very transparent, very honest, very accurate. And are you able to tie that in with your products and your campaign and bring those individuals along? Because people wanna feel proud about this. They wanna know that they should have been doing more and there’s that little bit of shame. But are they with you, are you part of their journey to Net Zero as it were? How do you include them? And it’s that sort of medium of journeys, using that very careful mixture of shame and pride. That’s how you move on. Because it, it has that social element, it has that social accountability and it moves away from just the glib. Oh, of course I’m doing that. Of course. That’s good for me. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, acknowledging the need to respond to the urgency of the climate crisis, the UK Advertising Association’s Climate Action Group recently produced a report with recommendations known as the Ad Net Zero initiative. It proposes action on five fronts with supporters committing to curtail their carbon emissions by reducing travel, fossil energy use, and waste. Advertisers, agencies, and production companies commit to adopting tools and training to curb production emissions. While media agencies work with their clients to develop lower-carbon media plans. and leveraging advertising’s influence. Agencies and clients commit to harnessing the power of their advertising to promote more sustainable consumer choices and behaviors. worthy goals for sure, but focusing on that last statement about promoting more sustainable consumer choices and behaviors, John, do you foresee advertising strategy needing to focus on the kind of nudges associated with behavioral economics?

Dr. John Whittle: Yeah. Toby, Mike, and I have always said, Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some sort of app that someone was going about their day? Think about washing. Actually, and there’s a really good example of this in the UK like Aerial. Aerial pods. They say really good at washing at 30 because 30 it’s 10 degrees less. It uses less energy. It’s better for the environment, and actually it’s really funny that those campaigns, particularly in the cost of, um, living crisis, that we’re all dealing with, you know, they stick quite close in your mind. That’s an example of marketing that is really good for their brand because you think of Ariel, I could call it the top of my head, and is good for the planet as well. We need those in a lot of areas of life. I think we need marketing teams to be thinking about their product. And what are the right sustainable choices that they need to be doing, and how are they then communicated in a way that isn’t judgmental, that isn’t preachy, that brings people along. And it goes back to what I was saying before, it’s how do you bring them along with the journey? And if you are, you know, listening to this as, as someone who works on a marketing team or a marketing director who’s been given this big sustainability burden. As I say, get your house in order. Make sure you know the impact of your business, of your product, that you know where you need to improve and that you’ve got a plan in place. And you know, we’d very happy, be very happy to help you. Once you’ve done that, what actually falls quite neatly out of that, are marketing campaigns. We’ve worked with a lot of companies who have brand new products and by reducing certain materials they’ve used obviously they can talk about that. Consumers are more interested now. They are making choices where they are siding with brands who are showing they’re committed to making a change. By bringing them along with that, you then have a wealth of content that you can engage them on and that you can start to focus on and say, “Well actually choose this rather than that.” and you start to become a part of their everyday life. It will encourage brand loyalty and things like that. And actually listening to the Net Zero initiatives that you’ve got there, we actually do a lot of work where we help, calculate the impact of specific events, and specific products as well. We’re always very conscious, you know, we’d love to have gone to COP 27, but, we’re big fans of traveling by train, not by plane. for the reasons, you know, that are evident there. We’re always thinking about that. But you know, in terms as well of sort of the advertising streams that people use, you’d be probably shocked at the actual impacts that a campaign has often because of the servers that are used putting messages out there. And again, that’s advice that we can consult on. But, yeah, I’d say thinking about where your product sits in someone’s everyday life, what’s the sustainability-focused choice that you can help with and how can you guide them. You know, there’s a lot of information out there in this day and age. I think the job of any good marketing team is to show that you are curating the experience of the user, of the audience, and that you’ll work there with them day to day.

Adrian Tennant: Toby, I’m curious about how you calculate individuals’ and businesses’ carbon footprints. Without going too deep into the math, how do you arrive at the numbers?

Dr. Toby Green: For a business, we’re great because we’ve got standards. We’ve got the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and we’ve got ISO 14064, part one and we adhere to the five key principles: transparency, relevancy, accuracy, consistency, and completeness. So we’ve got the principles. We’ve got the standards. And then as I said earlier, it’s broken into your three scopes. But what does that actually mean yet? How do you actually get to the numbers? So ideally, if we lived in an ideal world, we’d have a CO2 sensor that could measure every kind of emission being produced from any type of activity. So that’s quite easy in manufacturing if you’ve got a chimney, most of them have sensors and you can directly measure the CO2 coming from that process. So that’s the ideal, but that’s quite rare that we can get that. So the next tier down is via geometric method. So via chemical equations. So for example, if you’re working with breweries or distilleries, we know that there’s a fermentation process that occurs. We can use the equation of alcohol production and of fermentation to chemically know how much CO2 is produced from the volume of alcohol that is produced. So that’s kind of the next level down, but obviously, That can’t happen every day with every kind of activity you do. So the next tier down is that we use emission factors based on activity data. Now, this is the most common one and it is pretty accurate, So it means if we’re working with this brewery, they say, “Right, we bought 1000 glass bottles for all of our beer.” I go, “Right, well how much did those glass bottles weigh?” They say, ” a thousand kilograms.” And then I use an emission factor that terms the weight of glass produced into a CO2 I time. So the two numbers together, and then I get a carbon footprint associated to the glass bottles. And then the Second to last tier is we use an economic basis. So the brewery goes, “I spent a million pounds on glass bottles,” and I use then have to use a cost-based emission factor to determine a million pounds into a footprint. The tricky one with that is, I don’t know, and the emission factor doesn’t really know, is a million pounds on glass bottles, is that a million glass bottles? Or is that 10 million glass bottles? There’s a lot of fluctuation that can happen there. So that’s why we really try to lean away from cost-based. And then the final one is essentially just having a guess. Just using an industry app, which we really, really rarely try and avoid. So they’re the type of tiers and we always try our best to get the primary source of data. Might not always be the case. And again, each business is very different in how they store their data and what data they can provide us. So in the first year, we might be working a lot with the cost base because in financial reporting, companies generally have their ducks in a row with financial data. So then it’s then, okay, next year when we go through this process, start collecting your data like this. Again, it’s putting in the steps to improve it. Not everyone is gonna be perfect right away, and it’s not about being perfect right away. It’s starting the journey. So that’s with businesses, with individuals, there are no standards. Okay. So there are quite a few different carbon footprint calculators out there on the internet. Ours is obviously the best, but it’s all about. There are no standards. It’s about trying to include what an individual might do, but it’s also gotta be quite engaging so the individual sticks through the calculation process. You know, for our calculator, for example, when it comes to flights, we’ve not tried to say list every single flight and destination. It’s more about, right, how many short-haul, how many long-haul? And then we’ve used quite average distances just for that engagement. 

Adrian Tennant: Since the holiday season is now upon us, I wonder if you’d like to suggest a gift for someone fairly early on their journey toward Net Zero.

Dr. Toby Green: This is a fun question because we had this conversation at MyCarbon last week about gift-giving. You know, we wanna treat our clients to some nice gifts. So we had a scrolling internet, you know, sustainable hampers this, that and the other. And it all seemed to be a bit of a marketing hogwash. It was really difficult because they say they’re eco-friendly. But why? Why are they eco-friendly? I had no idea what is actually eco-friendly about this product. It might be less environmentally harmful compared to a competitive product, but I don’t know, there’s no evidence to back up the claim. So actually it’s a difficult question. We went for a suggestion that kind of what I’d like to think would help more individuals adopt this sustainable practice. So we went with some bars of natural soaps. Bars of shampoos, cuz that’s quite a good one. Okay. Not necessarily in terms of Net Zero, but it’s a good one to reduce plastic from your homes. And you know, we have to take that into account sustainability as well. So, I thought that’s a bit different. You know, when I was a kid growing up, you always got a lynx body set. So I think that’s AXE in America. You get your deodorant, you get your body wash, and there’s a lot of plastic, you know, a lot of cardboard wrapping. Whereas actually a little bar of soap, it’s in a little cardboard. So trying to adopt that practice at home. There’s a great company out there called, Two Drifters and they produce rum. John said we’re not allowed to buy our clients alcohol. So, um, but these are great because it’s a rum and they’ve done the full life cycle assessment of their products and they purchase carbon removals with a company called Climeworks, which are literally top, top, top of the tier in terms of carbon removals in this novel technology. So that’s a company who’s really done the homework to say, “We were making this a sustainable run. We’ve done our footprint, we’ve put in actions to reduce it so they even bottle it in a special glass that’s x percent lighter than other glasses, they source sustainable materials, they’ve really worked hard at it. And there are other companies out there who have done the same. don’t just trust something that says it’s sustainable. You know, have a little bit of due diligence. are you actually? And if you’re unsure, ask them a question to see what they come back with. Unless they’re actually presenting on their website, their credentials, they probably don’t have any. So challenge them and yeah, do a little bit of homework on that.

Adrian Tennant: Great. if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about MyCarbon’s work, where can they find information?

Dr. Toby Green: Oh, www.MyCarbon.co.uk, or of course, please follow us on LinkedIn. There’s the MyCarbon page, myself, Toby Green, John Whittle on LinkedIn. we’re always producing fabulous content where I always like to say we’re never trying to sell anything on LinkedIn. I try and use it as an education platform. Um, so yeah, there are two ways. .

Adrian Tennant: Toby, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Dr. Toby Green: Ah, you’re incredibly welcome, Adrian. Been a pleasure. 

Adrian Tennant: And John, thank you for being our guest again.

Dr. John Whittle: No problem. Thank you for having me. If I manage to get a third time, I hope I get a badge or something. 

Adrian Tennant: We’ll see about that. Thank you very much, guys! Thanks to my guests this week, Dr. Toby Green, the co-founder and director of MyCarbon, and Dr. John Whittle, Director of Operations and Strategy at MyCarbon. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week. Goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

The advertising industry is constantly changing – yet managing change is hard. Our guest today believes that we can adapt to change more easily by leveraging the science of behavioral economics. Melina Palmer is the author of a new book, What Your Employees Need and Can’t Tell You, which sets out a roadmap for managers tasked with instituting organizational change by reflecting how our brains work. Claim your free chapter of Melina’s book at thebrainybusiness.com/INCLEARFOCUS.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Melina Palmer: We can actually leverage knowledge of how the brain is making decisions to make it so change is much easier instead of trying to will our brains into doing things that they’re not wired to do.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. The advertising business is perpetually evolving in response to popular culture, platforms, devices, technology standards, and economic conditions. Historically, print advertising was disrupted by radio, which was in turn disrupted by network TV. Then cable and satellite channels came along further fragmenting viewing audiences. The Internet has probably been the most disruptive of all, and today’s consumer has an overabundance of choices for their news and entertainment. These media disruptions have forced companies, including ad agencies, to reexamine their standard operating procedures, staffing levels, communication strategies, and in some cases, their entire business models. But of course, advertising is not alone in this regard. Adapting to change is part of professional life in most organizations today, large and small. The reality is that for many of us, making changes to how we work, what we work on, and even who we work with is hard. Managing change across multidisciplinary teams is even harder. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Our guest today believes that we can adapt to change more easily by leveraging the science of behavioral economics. Making her second appearance on IN CLEAR FOCUS, Melina Palmer is the founder and CEO of The Brainy Business, which provides behavioral economics consulting to businesses of all sizes worldwide. Melina worked in corporate marketing and brand strategy for over a decade before earning her master’s in behavioral economics. Melina’s podcast, The Brainy Business: Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy is listened to in over 170 countries and used as a resource by many universities. Melina talked to us in June, 2021 about her first book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You. Now in her sequel, What Your Employees Need and Can’t Tell You: Managing Change With The Science of Behavioral Economics, Melina sets out a roadmap for executives and managers tasked with instituting organizational change. To discuss some of the ideas in her new book, Melina is joining us from her home office in Tumwater, Washington state. Melina, welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Melina Palmer: Oh, thanks so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Melina, first of all, congratulations! What Your Customer Wants And Can’t Tell You was published only last year and received rave reviews, but you’ve already published your second book. That’s quite an achievement. For people who missed our first interview, could you explain what behavioral economics is? 

Melina Palmer: Absolutely. And thank you. Yes. It’s been a whirlwind having both of those books come out so close to one another. So what I like to say with behavioral economics is that it is the psychology of why people act, choose, change, and buy. And essentially if traditional economics and psychology had a baby, we would have behavioral economics. So you know, traditional economics assumes logical people making rational choices and absolutely everything that they do. And because we’re human, we don’t always do what we think we should. So behavioral economics allows us to better communicate with people in what they’ll actually do instead of those shoulds.

Adrian Tennant: Well, your new book is entitled What Your Employees Need And Can’t Tell You: Managing Change With the Science of Behavioral Economics. What prompted you to write a book focused on managing organizational change?

Melina Palmer: Well, it’s an aspect that I’ve been focused on for a long time. I teach a class on this at Texas A&M, and in addition to that, so it’s, you know, something that’s been on the mind, I’ve been training on for a while. Looking at the environments in the fall of 2021 when it was, you know, pitching and starting to work on this book, “the great resignation” was in full force, you know, really at that time and was able to just sort of look into the future and see that this wasn’t something that was going to be going away, but was something that was really important as we were looking at returning to work and hybrid workplaces and coming onto the other side of a pandemic and all these things, knowing that the role of employees and organizationally, you know, all these things are gonna be changing. And seeing that this was a book that was really gonna be needed for people to be able to understand themselves and their teams and their businesses better, and to be able to be more effective while also having more engaged employees that don’t want to leave. You know, don’t even think about that. So that was why it was pretty clear it was the right time, even though it was so soon after the first book. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, it’s become a cliche to say that the only constant in business today is change. Yet it seems humans aren’t very good at responding to change. The problem is the way our brains work? 

Melina Palmer: Yeah, definitely. So if you think about your decision-making and for the person who’s listening right now, if you think, how many decisions did you make yesterday? How many decisions do you make on an average day? When we think about the stuff we’re aware of, there are 25 big decisions or 500 things, or maybe even 2000, right? That we would say, which seems a bit excessive, right? If you think about yesterday, you probably couldn’t think about 2,000 decisions you made. But the average person makes 35,000 decisions every single day. So there’s so, so much that our brains are doing all the time, and in order to be able to exist, we need our subconscious to be doing the bulk of that decision-making, using rules of thumb for things that have worked well in the past. Being able to easily predict, this has happened, and so this should happen next, and to be able to carry on throughout our day. So because of that, our brains rely really heavily on the status quo and have familiarity bias and like to be able to hold on to those habits. That makes it so when we are looking to make changes, it can be very difficult, especially because we try to rely on willpower, which is needing that conscious brain, but the subconscious is doing most of the processing. So in understanding the rules the brain uses to make decisions and how that processing goes about, we can actually leverage the knowledge of how the brain is making decisions to make it so change is much easier instead of trying to will our brains into doing things that they’re not wired to do.

Adrian Tennant: Your new book is divided into three sections. In the first, in addition to explaining how the brain works, you write about what makes a great manager and how anyone can become one. Now, in your opinion, and I’m gonna quote, “Every conversation and interaction at work is a change initiative because we’re in an environment with lots of change. We’re always in the wake of change that has already happened, some that are actively occurring, and others that we need to prepare for” end quote. Melina, can you unpack this for us?

Melina Palmer: Sure. Well, this is definitely built again on those 35,000 decisions that I was talking about. So one of the big problems that happens in business when we think about change and where we need to be preparing employees and getting ready for changes is that it only would occur when it’s something really big. You know, you have a CEO succession, you have a merger, you have a big rebrand, or you’re moving offices. But it’s not just that because of how the brain makes decisions, we really need to look at those micro moments, those 35,000 daily decisions of the little stuff really adds up in a way that’s either gonna work for us or against us. And our conscious brain can get overwhelmed really, really quickly to where we then really rely on that status quo even more and become resistant to change even when it’s objectively better for us, we can really, you know, dig in our heels and say, “No, I hate it,” for whatever it happens to be. So in this way, if we’re thinking about those little tiny moments, we can see That either we’ve got too much going on and because of a previous change, we’re still kind of living in the wake of that. or again, in the middle of changes that we’re asking for because little tiny habits being upended have a similar impact. It’s not just that big stuff. And if we do have some free space, making sure that we’re aware of what’s coming down the line in the next minute, or hour, or week, or a year, so that we can be properly prepping and getting it so those brains are ready for change instead of just having way too much going on at once that is probably not as important and it makes it so we’re unable to do the big stuff because we try to throw in too many little changes that weren’t as important.

Adrian Tennant: You do use some incredibly evocative metaphors. why do you think we need to become elephant whisperers

Melina Palmer: Oh, thank you. I do love a metaphor and, it, can be problematic whenever I’m writing for academic journal type of stuff, where you can’t write that way, but it’s my favorite. So in this way, there is a really great way that’s been proposed to think about the brain from a psychologist out of nyu, so I don’t get to claim this full idea. It’s from Jonathan Height. And he talks about thinking about your brain like a person riding an elephant. So the rider is that logical, conscious processing, knows where you wanna go, has a plan, is the best way to get there and is ready to go. The elephant though, May not want to go in that direction. It might wanna sit down or go towards a pool of water or something you know, that it happens to see. And so as the rider, you can’t push or pull or logic the elephant into doing what you want it to do because they don’t speak the same language. And it’s the same with our conscious and subconscious brains. They don’t communicate that well. When we sit down, we’re thinking about change initiatives. And again, this is anytime when we’re saying, “Oh, people should love this. People should be able to see the value in this.” All those shoulds, you know, that’s a four letter word around here, so we’ll steer clear of those. So when you’re thinking about planning for change, You’d like to think that your rider’s communicating to their rider, and it’s gonna be a, you know, easy conversation, simple to move forward with, and people will see the logic in whatever this thing is. But in reality, you have to understand what’s gonna be motivating the elephant and then becoming that elephant whisperer to help nudge it along the path and to see, you know, the best way so that it’s gonna be taking the rider where it needs to go.

Adrian Tennant: Mmm. Well, it’s certainly a powerful idea that a manager’s main job is to lead their team through change, but not all initiatives need to be dramatic. Melina, I feel some more metaphors coming on, so what do snowflakes, snowballs, and icebergs have to do with managing change? 

Melina Palmer: Yeah. So in this way, if we look at the snowballs of change, as I talk about them in the book, they are made up of those micro-moments. So we can have snowflakes moving us in the right direction. And it takes a little bit of time to be like collecting our snowflakes as we’re starting to work toward a culture of change, which doesn’t mean that we’re throwing changes at people all the time, as you’ve already learned from what we’ve been talking about here – that’s not the right approach – but instead, we have to have that awareness of change. And if we’re constantly stacking all these little moments toward this positive outlook, we can be creating those snowballs. It’s important to know where you’re coming from, because if you’re just starting in this process, you know, those snowflakes have been accumulating whether you were thinking about them or not. And if you have a giant icy tundra of nightmares, that you have to be undoing to get through to the other side, just having that awareness, it doesn’t mean that if you’ve had, you know, 10 years of stuff stacking into this tundra that that’s gonna be a problem. well, it will be a problem, but it won’t take 10 years the same amount of time to undo it, but you will have to be really thoughtful about those snowflakes and know that it’s not something that you just say, Oh, we think about change differently now, and everyone is just on board. Because again, that would be too logical.

Adrian Tennant: What are the icebergs in the scenario?

Melina Palmer: The icebergs are that tundra of change, right? The too much bad stuff that’s all packed in, and is where we’ve been setting up a culture that is maybe not one of having room for thoughtfulness and not being packed in with too many deadlines and all that sort of stress, and not having an awareness about those micro- . Those are icebergs that we have to kind of chip away at as we’re working on our new snowballs of change.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for November is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Inclusive Marketing, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Melina Palmer, CEO of the Brainy Business, and the author of What Your Employees Need And Can’t Tell You: Managing Change With The Science Of Behavioral Economics. Well, in the second part of What Your Employees Need And Can’t Tell You, you explain that biases are inevitable, while reassuring us that we can still understand and work with these tendencies to be more effective. Now you worked in corporate marketing and brand strategy for a decade. Melina, which three principles drawn from behavioral economics would you say are the most important for advertising or marketing communications professionals seeking to implement change within their organizations?

Melina Palmer: Yeah. So for me, I always lead with framing. Framing is that how we say something matters more than what we are saying. And I think that is a really great place to start. So if you were to think about going to buy some ground beef at the grocery store, and there are two stacks that are almost identical. The only difference is one is labeled as “90% fat-free” and the other is “10% fat.” Which one do you want to buy? Most everyone from around the world says “90% fat-free” is the one that they want. Logically, we know they’re the same, but they hit our brains in a different way. So understanding those frames and how you communicate information is really, top. And what’s great about that? It’s really easy to be making adjustments and doing little tests without having to invest a lot of money. So that’s a really great one. When we’re talking about communicating any sort of change also, then priming, I think, really has to come into play as well. So this is that things that happen around the communication, what happens just before the ask is really, really important in the messaging and how people feel about whatever the change is that’s being presented to them in those communications. In an advertising space, you know, we would look at all of our senses are a part of this, and there’s an example of, say at a gas station where they were looking to sell more coffee. And we could have had all the ads in the world, and they might have had a little bit of impact, but they had the scent of roasting brewing coffee at the gas pumps and increased their sales by 300 percent! Just by having the scent around, because that is gonna trigger our brain in a really impactful way. So when we think about change communications, I look at the scent of popcorn. So popcorn can be really amazing when we’re going to the movies, and it has this whole experience tied in with it. But we’ve all been in the office when someone burnt a bag of popcorn, and it’s all anyone can talk about for the rest of the day, it’s just really terrible. So seeing if our communication has any burnt popcorn that’s there, that’s making it so it’s gonna be derailing the idea of any change along the way. And the last I would say for all communication is overwhelm. You know, having this awareness of cognitive load and not trying to be asking for too many things, in which case people will do nothing. So being more thoughtful about, in this one communication, if it can only do one thing, what is its job? What’s the most important thing? And being really, really focused on aligning everything toward that and not trying to ask things to do too much to where they do nothing at all.

Adrian Tennant: Incorporating behavioral economics into business practice itself requires change. In your first book, you introduced a concept called behavioral baking. Can you explain how it applies to managing organizational change?

Melina Palmer: Sure. So behavioral baking is just the idea of when you think about applying this, it’s not a one-off, you know, you try something and it works perfectly. Context really matters. We need to have an awareness of what we’re going to be doing. And just like if you decided you were gonna open up a bakery, if you were to start trying to learn how to bake to be able to do that, and you baked a cake, and it was dense or soupy, you wouldn’t say, “Oh, you know, I tried baking once, and it’s not real. Like my cake was bad. Baking’s not a real thing.” That’s a ridiculous thing to say. But we do that in business all the time. You know, “We tried Instagram once and we didn’t go viral. That’s not real.” And that’s just not how that works. So in the way of also trying to incorporate this level of thoughtfulness, of thinking about change in a different way, of understanding the brain differently, and finding the right habits to be working on adjusting, and looking for those snowflakes. There’s a lot of opportunity there, and it’s not something that is going to happen overnight with one bout of willpower. Again, we have to be really thoughtful about that process, and it will take some time, some testing, some tweaking, but it’s worth it in the end because it can all be much more beneficial, on the other side. So an example of why this is worth it, now that maybe people are listening and going, “Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work!” is if you consider the email communication that you’re sending out. So in general, you probably don’t send an email if you think that people won’t understand what you’re saying, right? By the time you send the email, you assume you’ve done enough that the person on the other side is gonna get it and you’ll be able to move on to the next step. So what research has actually found is that about 50% of our emails are misunderstood, and people don’t know what we’re talking about. Half the emails you send, people don’t know what you’re talking about! And that creates a lot of work on the other side of people saying, you know, let’s just use the example of “Hey, we should get together to talk about this.” When? Do we need to talk soon? Is this going to be virtual or in person? How long do we need to be meeting? Your office or mine? All these conversations that need to happen, that turn into confusion for the team, they’re having a lot of conversations about what comes next. They’re following up with emails. They’re looking at calendars, proactively sending you a Slack chat, coming and knocking on the door and saying, “Oh, do you have five minutes?” Which turns into 20. This all really adds up and over 60% of the work people are doing at any given time has been deemed to be unimportant. So we have stress from all these deadlines and busy work, a lot of which is not really important. And if you would’ve been a little bit more thoughtful with the communication on the front end, it can free up time to be more effective and get the right things done. So just imagine if – being conservative here – 25% of your emails, Slack chat, stop-bys, quick calls, text messages for you and your team, all magically disappeared immediately. That seems worth it for a little bit of thoughtfulness up front. 

Adrian Tennant: Another idea in your book is that managers can apply what you are describing as micro shift moments to overcome time discounting, and kick off their journeys toward change. What is time discounting? 

Melina Palmer: Time discounting is one of my very, very favorite concepts, I like to call it the ‘I’ll Start Monday’ Effect. So in this way, we’ve all had that occasion on a Saturday night where we have an extra piece of cake or glass of wine and you say, “Okay, this is the last one, and I’m gonna be eating better, and start training for a 5K or a marathon or whatever on Monday. And maybe you spend all day Sunday prepping and planning and throwing out other food, and you’re so excited, and you set your alarm, and you go to bed. Then when the alarm goes off, feel like a completely different person on the other side and go, “Oh, well obviously I didn’t sleep very well, and you know, when I’m, you know, on this path to the new me, it’s important that I’m well rested, so I’m gonna hit snooze. I get one more day of rest, and then tomorrow I’m gonna go for that run.” And tomorrow never ever comes because we keep kicking that can down the road. So in the way of where we feel like a completely different person, it’s actually been shown that when we think about ourselves in the future, our brains light up like we’re thinking of a completely different person. So committing future Melina to get a lot of projects done tomorrow to get up at 5:00 AM and go run, to not eat french fries or whatever it is, is super easy. It’s really easy to do that. When it’s me, and I have to do the thing, I like the idea of pushing that off again, even five minutes. “I’m gonna finish this one thing, and then I’ll do that thing on my to-do list,” right? So if we allow ourselves to keep pushing things to future you, whether again, that’s Monday or five minutes from now, those things really never get done, and we can be wasting a lot of time on other things. If we instead break down and have less priorities, so say, imagine you only had one thing on your to-do list. There’s only one really important thing that you have to get done today. That’s it. Just one. It’s a lot harder to not do the one thing. You can’t justify it as well as if you had 15 things on your list and none of them got done, because you made a little bit of progress on each one or whatever that is. So, being able to have less stuff on your to-do list to make it more of a priority and not allow yourself to put those important things off for future you is how you can overcome time discounting. And like you said, in the book, because it is a long game, I made sure to sprinkle in some of those micro-shift moments. Little things you can do right away that will have an immediate impact. So you get some of those little wins to start that snowball of change moving.

Adrian Tennant: Melina, what are nudgeable moments and how can managers find them? 

Melina Palmer:In the world of behavioral economics, we work in nudges, which is, something where someone still has free choice. They can do something different, But we think about the way we present information and how it might make it so someone is more likely to go down one path versus another. And so if you think about a project you may say, Like in this, whole project, say it’s the merger situation, and one item on your to-do list is tell the team. Tell the team, is full of lots and lots and lots of little micro-moments that matter, and could be that burnt popcorn if we’re not careful and just derail everything. So if we think about then even it’s the email to set up the meeting for people to come learn that there’s going to be a merger, right? The subject line matters. What time of day are we sending it? What other communication is happening? Is it marked with the exclamation point is important when nothing else we’ve ever sent out is, or are we sending out an email telling people they have to sign an NDA to know what’s gonna happen in three days? All these little things are those nudgeable moments, which are opportunities to look for the behavioral interventions that should be going into place to help make it so that change is going to be easier. And not everything is telling the team about a merger, right? But we still want to be looking for nudgeable moments with all the communication that we’re sending out. So we’re getting those snowflakes going in the right direction. So when we do need to communicate about the big stuff, it’s a lot easier for everyone.

Adrian Tennant: In the final pages of your book, you write about the importance of fun and suggest ways to incorporate it to boost effectiveness and engagement within an organization. So do you have any favorite examples that work particularly well with marketing and communications teams? Asking for a friend. 

Melina Palmer: Yeah, so when Troy Campbell was on the podcast, he talked about some really cool stuff, which I mentioned in the book. And so looking at things like, a one-word story to be able to start a meeting if you want people to be collaborating and working well together. So that’s where, you know, you start with the prompt of, “In a world…” and then everybody says one word to help build the story. And these seem like silly little things, but they really do prime us for the experience that we’re looking to have moving forward. So it’s a simple one, but it’s one that makes a difference. One thing that my team did when we’re hiring people for our marketing department, and this was actually a recommendation from one of my graphic designers, was that we would have everyone that came in for an interview, we would play a game of Jenga with them. So in the interview, we played Jenga. And people kind of let their guard down when you’re playing a game, and you can see if someone is really not gonna be a fit for your team, you know, in the heat of the Jenga moment, if they throw something or scream at you or whatever, and so, and it shows that we’re a fun, team that, that likes to get along. So, you know, even simple things like that, that are a little bit different can be really helpful when you think about employees all the way back to when you’re hiring.

Adrian Tennant: I understand that you’ll be taking the stage at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas next year. Tell us more.

Melina Palmer: Oh, thank you. I’m so excited. That was just announced two weeks ago or less, I think, actually. Yeah, like one week. Oh my goodness. But, South by Southwest, for anyone who doesn’t know, is just an amazing, huge conference that has a film festival, comedy festival, music festival, technology, innovation, and business. And they. I would like to say invite the best of the best to be there, that now sounds a bit braggadocious, but I’m very honored to have been invited to be a speaker, and my topic is using brain science to be a better manager. It’s based on content from the book, so it’s gonna be really, really exciting to be there in Austin in March of 2023, and hopefully, I’ll see some listeners there.

Adrian Tennant: Melina, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, The Brainy business, your podcast, your online community, or your new book, where can They find you?

Melina Palmer: Absolutely. Well, thank you. And the best place is the website, TheBrainyBusiness.com where you can go find the podcast, the books, consulting, speaking, the community, all of that is there. For your listeners, for everyone who is thinking, “Hey, this sounds interesting. But I’m on the fence. I’m not sure if this is fully for me,” I have it available for you that you can get the first chapter really, of either book, and any future books, for free. If you go to TheBrainyBusiness.com/INCLEARFOCUS all as one word, then you can go and get the first chapter of any of my books for free, to be able to give them a read, make sure it’s for you. Do that sort of try before you buy piece, and hopefully, you enjoy it as much as I hope and believe that you will.

Adrian Tennant: Melina, thank you very much for being our guest again on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Melina Palmer: Of course. Thanks so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Melina Palmer, Behavioral Economics Consultant and CEO of The Brainy Business. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today, including Melina’s new book, What Your Employees Need and Can’t Tell You, Managing Change With the Science of Behavioral Economics on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Our guest is Jerry Daykin, an internationally recognized expert in inclusive marketing. Reflecting on his personal experiences as a gay man, Jerry speaks to the business benefits of representing marginalized groups of consumers and discusses how brands should approach activations during Pride Month. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount when ordering Jerry’s new book, Inclusive Marketing, at KoganPage.com, using the promo code BIGEYE20 at the checkout.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Jerry Daykin: It’s our job as marketers to understand all the different consumers that we try and talk to. And so, true inclusive marketing is just when we get outside of our own bubbles and we truly talk to all the consumers out there.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. This month’s featured Bigeye Book Club selection is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. The book was published by Kogan Page last month, but we had a preview of its contents when Jerry joined us for a conversation about Pride Month in June. Here’s another chance to hear that interview. 

[MUSIC]

In June of 1969, patrons of the Stonewall Inn in New York City staged an uprising to resist frequent harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender folks at the hands of the police. This was a time when it was all too common for LGBTQ Americans to be subjected to persecution. That uprising marked the beginning of a national and then international movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices. Today, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, allies, and supporters celebrate queer history, culture, and creativity during June, designated Pride Month. But how should brands navigate support for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalized groups of consumers? As we’ve discussed previously on this podcast, a majority of the youngest generation of consumers, Gen Z, expect brands to be inclusive. To discuss the opportunities and challenges that inclusive marketing presents our guest this week is uniquely well-qualified. Currently writing a book on the topic, which promises to provide clear, actionable guidance for folks working agency-side and client-side, Jerry Daykin is a global marketing leader who has held senior roles at brands including GSK Consumer Healthcare, Diageo, and Mondelez. Jerry is also a Diversity Ambassador and co-chair of the World Federation of Advertisers’ Diversity Task Force, where he created the WFA’s framework for representation and inclusion, and sits on the diversity and inclusion boards at the Advertising Association, the Conscious Advertising Network, and Outvertising. Jerry also writes for publications, including The Drum, Ad Week, Campaign, Marketing Week, and The Guardian, and is a regular conference speaker. Currently the Vice President, Head of Global Media at Beam Suntory, Jerry is joining us today from his home in London, England. Jerry, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Jerry Daykin: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

Adrian Tennant: What’s your definition of inclusive marketing?

Jerry Daykin: Oh, it’s a big one. I think sometimes it’s just better marketing. Like it’s our job as marketers to understand all the different consumers that we try and talk to. And so, true inclusive marketing is just when we get outside of our own bubbles and we get outside of our own kind of narrow view of the world and we truly talk to all the consumers out there. But yeah, definitely can manifest itself in terms of, kind of better representation, inclusion, et cetera, on the screen. But it starts definitely with the kind of thinking and the strategy and the people behind the screen as well. The whole process needs to change to just better do our jobs.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you’ve had many articles and opinion pieces published in marketing and ad industry publications, and today you’re recognized as an expert in inclusive marketing. So when did you realize that this was an area you really wanted to focus on?

Jerry Daykin: I am a gay man myself. I think, as a kid, I was when I was trying to work out who I was or what I was, I was quite aware that certainly in the ‘80s in the UK, literally it was illegal in schools and things. You didn’t see yourself anywhere. You didn’t see what that was. And when I first started to glimpse TV shows like Queer As Folk or occasionally adverts, maybe more in queer spaces, but you know, trying to talk to that. I realized from a fairly young age, the power of media advertising to either positively normalize or, more often than not, exclude. So I think it’s in the back of my mind been something I’ve been thinking about for quite a long time, but I’ve naturally fallen into it over the last couple of years, I think, and it’s obviously become a bigger topic in the industry and I’ve been someone who’s been willing to talk about it. I got involved in an organization called Ouvertising about five, six years ago now. And they are specifically focused on LGBT inclusion in the industry, both trying to make people who work in the industry feel more comfortable and welcome, and really challenging brands to push things externally. And so it started from that. And I think because I was one of the fairly small list of like brand side marketers, willing to sort of chat about this, I ended up getting involved in the British Advertising Association‘s D&I Forum, and eventually graduated somehow to the World Federation of Advertisers, where, over the last couple of years, I’ve been one of their Diversity Ambassadors. So I sort of slightly fell into it by it being a personal passion of mine and just going along with the ride and the opportunity and just seeing how critical it is that we do drive this change. So we need some people to shout about it.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you’ve been writing a book, entitled Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters To Your Customers And Your Brand, which is due to be published in October by our friends at Kogan Page. Jerry, what prompted you to write the book?

Jerry Daykin: Yeah, I’m feeling slightly that this is an exclusive teaser of that because it’s the first time I’ve spoken to anyone about that. But, two things that prompted me: one, chatting to the Kogan Page people and they just thought it was a real opportunity because kind of, no one has written a book on that and it’s a fairly new topic. There were certainly guides and plenty of panels and thought pieces out there, but not really kind of a book that goes into more detail. And secondly, it was building a lot of the work that we did at the World Federation of Advertisers over the last couple of years with a whole bunch of other advertisers. We’ve been digging into this kind of question of like if so many advertisers nowadays accept that they want to do more inclusive marketing, why is it still quite slow to happen? And we got to talk through the whole creative process and decided that there were like every sort of every stage of that process there were moments where your bias, where your lack of experience, where your own narrow vision sometimes stops you from seeing the opportunity for inclusion or perhaps actively excludes people. And so we created a bit of a small guide last year, and it just felt like a perfect storm to dig a bit deeper into that guide for people who really wanted to go a bit further. The “representation matters” bit in the subtitle – it’s quite key to me because one of the main things I’ve done in the book is actually interviewing over 20 different marketers from different big companies and agencies and brands and things. I’ve really started every conversation kind of like we have almost today by saying, “Why does this matter to you personally?” I think some of those personal stories and those personal insights are some of the most persuasive things because we can bang on about the stats of inclusion and the business opportunity as much as you like, but when you hear some of those opportunities, so yeah, I wanted to have a chance to bring that framework to a bit more depth, to a bit more life and really to talk to some of those marketers and share some of their stories.

Adrian Tennant: What has the writing and editing process been like for you? has it required a different mindset than say writing articles?

Jerry Daykin: Yeah, I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into when I did it. And I actually, It kind of worked out really well because I was on gardening leave for a couple of months between jobs. So it sort of worked out perfectly and I thought, you know, I’ll do a bit of this whilst I’m enjoying my gardening leave. And it took up a lot more of that gardening leave than I expected it would, perhaps naively. And certainly, I think to begin with, I thought it was a clever shortcut to interview lots of other people and use their words to fill up. But actually, I’ve really enjoyed those conversations, but they took a huge amount of time to, you know, have the conversation, edit them down, write them up, and things. And yeah, I was quite conscious throughout that I think it’s one thing writing an article and giving people a sort of a headline of, you know, this is what you should do. When you get to a book and you want about a whole chapter or even just a few pages, going into each of those phases, you’ve got to be kind of really clear on another depth of guidance, of advice. I suppose I’m conscious that people hopefully are gonna pay for the book. So I feel like quite a high, like, duty for it to be actually quite interesting and good. And I have peak imposter syndrome some days. So yeah, it was quite different, but I’d be lying if there wasn’t a few late nights in the last week or so when it was due and I was up, gone midnight, just, editing and adding a few bits in here and there. I tried to be well-planned and disciplined.

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the intro, June is Pride Month. As brands seek to align themselves with the LGBTQIA+ community and show support, this requires more than slapping a rainbow on the packaging. What are some of the most common misconceptions you’ve found marketers and brand managers have about LGBTQIA+ consumers?

Jerry Daykin: Yeah, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s fantastic, that lots of brands do slap a rainbow on the packaging, because as I said, when I was a kid I’d have loved it to see rainbows everywhere, you know, I love it when, my mum goes into Marks and Spencer’s, and she sees Pride everywhere. And, it’s sort of wonderfully, middle-class normalization of it. But yes, there’s a fine line. A lot of members of the community feel that some of those brands are doing it much more to cash in and make a profit, et cetera, than they are to truly, support. I think one of the biggest issues we have is the LGBT community, even within itself, is highly stereotyped. And if you look at the portrayals of that community, certainly, to begin with, I think it’s getting better, but they’ve been quite male. They’ve been quite gay, and they’re often quite young, it’s often about partying and clubbing and drinking, which of course is a fabulous part of the gay identity, but a very small slice of it. There are plenty of gay men who don’t enjoy that. There are plenty of, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and everything else in the spectrum, who don’t necessarily feel massively represented by that. They probably still think it’s nice that brands are moving a little bit in their direction. So I think there’s a sort of caution that, although we talk about this community, it’s a community of, Hundreds of millions of people. So like any other audience, there’s a lot of nuance, a lot of different aspects of it. So I think brands have to be a little bit careful of that. And I think whilst Pride Month is always a great chance to nudge ourselves in the right direction and think about this, I’m always cautious and that may not be the best place to start. Because I think if you activate in Pride Month, you’re really saying like, “I’m a brand that’s here for LGBT rights and I really stand up for those consumers,” which is great if you do. But I think that comes with a bit of scrutiny about like, “well, what, what are you actually doing? What are your actual policies? What are you actually doing internally? How do you treat your LGBT customers? I often think it’s almost if you want to start this journey, it’s maybe a bit safe to start around the year and try and do something, Outside of that peak season, start talking to LGBTQ, consumers, start advertising in LGBT publications, start making sure that, you know, your own internal LGBT employees are well looked after and resourced. And then perhaps Pride can be the icing on that cake, but I don’t mind companies like changing their logos to rainbow for Pride, but I wouldn’t make that the first step I take, I would start elsewhere. Really start representing and talking to that community. And then if you want to do that, brilliant. Sure. Why not? I think if you don’t, you can easily get called out by people who are like, “Why have you changed your logo when you don’t have a policy towards trans people in your own company?” or “You’ve had this bad issue” or, you know, various different things.

Adrian Tennant: Which consumer brands do you think do a really good job of engaging with the LGBTQIA+ community authentically?

Jerry Daykin: Yeah. I like brands that kind of have been in it for the long term. In the UK, and I think to an extent globally, the Skittles brand is one that I’ve seen do that, part of the Mars company’s portfolio. I know they’ve had sort of a multi-year partnership with Gay Times. So they’ve been working with and talking to a publication that represents that community and helps them have an authentic voice. This past year or so, they did a great activation, which was sponsoring the digging out of old black and white photos from historic Prides, recoloring them, and sharing them in their editorial. And I think they’d been doing that for four or five years. Having special packaging where they remove the rainbow from their packaging because their message is that there are other rainbows that matter. So I love that they’ve stuck with it for a few years and that it’s not just a brand manager somewhere who decided, “Oh, this year let’s do Pride.” They’ve really built a platform and worked with the community on it. They’re a big organization, but I think Procter and Gamble, P&G, do a really good job. They actually have a dedicated person, I think, whose job is LGBT inclusion and how their business can work with those communities and things. And you see that comes to life in a whole load of different ways. I know in the US they’ve done a partnership with GLAAD, and I think they’ve even created resources that other advertisers can get for free and can tap into, to help them do that. That’s a really deliberate approach, you know? This is a community that matters. These are some of our own colleagues that matter. This is an audience that we want to do the right thing with and by. And so you find other examples of brands that done kind of one-off campaigns and really nice things. But those two stand out as brands that have said, “We’re really going to do this. And we’re going to still be doing it in four or five years’ time. And we’re going to invest in the people and the resources and the partnerships to get there.” Rather than just, you know, “Oh, we’ve got a bit of money left over this year. So let’s throw it at a Pride float,” which isn’t a bad thing to do, but it’s not a thorough thing to do.

Adrian Tennant: One of the things I learned about you during the COVID lockdowns, Is that you’re a hardcore LEGO fan. You posted images to LinkedIn of, I think it was an amusement park that you’d built …

Jerry Daykin: Yes!

Adrian Tennant: … which generated a lot of engagement. So I’m curious, what do you think about the initiative LEGO announced at the beginning of this month to encourage more open conversations among families about sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression?

Jerry Daykin: Yeah. I was always a fan of LEGO, since a kid, and, with a lot of spare time on my hands, and a few canceled holidays and things, I was like, “Right, I’m going big!” So yeah, I built a huge roller coaster thing, which is a great set. And also they launched, I guess it was last Pride, an LGBT set. It was a progressive rainbow with all the different colors, all the different characters, and things. And it was designed by one of their senior designers, who I think is LGBT himself, so it was a passion project from someone in the business. And it was sort of interesting at the time because whilst I think it was very largely warmly received, there’s always going to be those people out there being like, “Oh, LEGO’s a kid’s brand and how dare you show this rainbowy stuff to kids?” So that’s why I think it’s a great thing because I think you have to approach conversations around sexuality and gender things carefully with kids because they are young. You wouldn’t talk to them about straight sex, you probably wouldn’t want to, you know, discuss certain things with them. But I think it’s also important to normalize that conversation and be like, well, it’s kind of, if you don’t talk about it at all, I mean, you just like surprise them with it when they’re 18 or something. That of course, that’s going to be weird and messy. You know, LGBT inclusion whilst for the most part, everyone loves it. And it’s great. It’s brilliant. It comes with a risk and especially I think, if you’re a kid’s brand, there’s the potential of backlash. There’s the potential of, you know, conservative groups to challenge you and try and cancel you and things. I think it shows that they, you know, they are genuinely committed to their colleagues, to the consumers, that they’re willing to say, “No, we think this is an important thing to do.” If it was a chocolate bar trying to do that, you might be like, “Why are you doing that?” But they play a key role in the development of kids, like it’s part of how you learn to build and construct and their sets represent all sorts of different aspects of societies. So yeah. why wouldn’t they also go on that journey? Yeah, for me, that’s a great example of a brand, again, trying to do something for the long-term and positively and not just change its logo, but actually change its products, change its messaging, really, really try and push things forward.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for November is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Inclusive Marketing, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also to learning about their prospects and customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and collectively inspire the account, creative, media, and analytics teams working on our clients’ projects. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused consumer insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jerry Daykin, an expert in inclusive marketing, and the author of a new book due to be published later this year, entitled Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters To Your Customers And Your Brand. Florida is now one of five states in the nation where educators and the staff at public schools are explicitly prohibited from discussing LGBTQ topics as part of the curriculum. Other active “don’t say gay” bills exist in Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Yet other states have been moving in the opposite direction, establishing legal foundations for LGBTQ inclusive curriculums. This is true of Connecticut, Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, and Colorado. Headquartered in the UK, Lush Cosmetics has released a limited edition soap in the hopes of raising $50,000 for Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights organization here in the state. The sparkly gold soap boasts that hashtag gay is okay. And it’s just the latest step Lush Cosmetics has taken to support the queer community. So Jerry, while Lush has decided to provide very visible support, should other brands in other categories respond to these kinds of issues? When is it appropriate to take a stand?

Jerry Daykin: Without getting too drawn into the politics of it, as I said earlier, I grew up in the ‘80s, and we had a somewhat similar law in the UK where schools are prohibited from talking about things. And, from my own personal experience – which, by the way, is backed up by statistics, I still ended up gay! – as you know, there’s no implication that talking about these things actually changes what people do. But in my own experience, as others’ was, I found it really hard. I was quite depressed at Uni because there was no positive role model, there was nothing about it. So I think ultimately, in my humble opinion, that’s what these laws create. They create a world in which you still have people who are gay or non-binary, trans, or whatever they are. They just don’t see the kind of positive support around them and don’t understand what that means for them. And that does nothing but bad, but, as for brands, in the book, I talk about this sort of spectrum of where brands can support. It starts from the bad end, which is like, you know, advertising excludes minorities where, it’s all just happy white middle-class men having a lovely time, you know, and then there’s a sort of a step beyond that, which is you start to try and show different minorities, but you’re probably stereotyping them. It may be a better step, but maybe the worst step. There’s a stat from the Geena Davis Institute, which looks at Cannes Lion winners, recognizing the best advertising in the world. They looked at Black representation. They said actually Black people are reasonably well-represented in Cannes Lions winners, but they are generally portrayed as less successful, and less intelligent. Well, is it good that they’re in the adverts if you’re, you know, putting them down? And so if every brand can go beyond that, to the point, which is positive inclusion. So you’re just genuinely doing our jobs, reflecting the consumers around us, which of course includes a wonderful spectrum of people on the LGBT spectrum. You know, not every ad needs to feature gay people, but if you’re producing lots of different adverts, lots of different e-commerce creative, and all sorts of things you know, some of them really should, and you should try and like totally reflect that broad intersectionality. You should try and start talking about some of the stories. And actually, when you dig into different communities, you find really interesting, really emotive stories that are probably better than some of the boring advertising we’ve been doing. And there’s a step beyond that, which is really about activism, taking a stand. I think sometimes brands think that, you know, turning up at Pride is a small step, but actually, that’s quite a big step to make because Pride – it’s a riot. It’s a challenge. You may not feel that always times, but it’s really about standing up for rights. And yeah, certainly as you get into that more purposeful marketing, should my brand take a political stand on various things? I think the answer is, it depends a bit on the brand, on the category. Like Lush Cosmetics is a really great example where their whole brand is they didn’t really do advertising. They’re built around good values, where their product is made, and what they stand for. So it’s really clearly a part of their journey. Ben and Jerry’s is another famous company. When Australia had a vote on gay marriage, they literally campaigned for gay marriage. You know, they were running adverts and things, and that’s in their DNA. It’s part of who they are. If that’s not a part of your company, I think you need to think about what right your brand has to play in various spaces. And I think it works well when brands find a kind of a purposeful cause that fits and they can get behind. But if you’ve never done anything in that space at all, and you’re suddenly campaigning really publicly for rights over there, you know, it can be a bit disconcerting. And I think not every brand needs to campaign and you’ve got to be careful because, you know, whilst I might not agree with them, of course, there are many millions of people who hold very different political views to me, and you have to unpick what is just politics and what are the absolute rights of your consumers and things. So it’s a tricky space. I think every brand can positively represent the LGBT community. And I think it’s great when brands want to go further than that, but you know, it needs to depend on the fit around the brand, the cause you can get behind. Yeah, things like that. You’ve got to think carefully about that and why it makes sense. Because you know, it still needs to be marketing to your brand. It still needs to come back to what is the promise of your brand in the first place.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the techniques that you’ve found most effective in educating colleagues or clients about the value of inclusive marketing?

Jerry Daykin: You know, there’s loads of great research over the last decade that shows it’s more effective, you know, inclusive teams work harder, and inclusive marketing delivers better. Various different organizations who measure advertising have proven that more progressive advertising is more memorable, and is more effective. So, you know, there’s that sort of brutal fact that it’s a good idea. I’ve always found that when I’ve run sessions, webinars, and things like that, it’s actually the personal take on it that really persuades people like me sharing how seeing Queer As Folk and some of these adverts when I was young was the first glimpse I got that there were other people like me and quite a lot of people, not just LGBT people, but women have examples of when they first saw empowered women in adverts and that they weren’t doing the laundry anymore or things like that. And I think that kind of opens your mind a little bit, not just to the fact that there’s a business opportunity, but actually a real consumer cultural opportunity. For the most part, I’ve worked with people who nod along and broadly agree with all this, and they want to achieve this, but they’re also juggling a million other things. They’re busy, they’re not experts in inclusive marketing. They are from a narrow world view and they’ve lived in their little bubble, their whole lives. And, they don’t really know where to start. So that’s where in terms of education, we’ve really focused on breaking down the marketing process into different stages, thinking of some of the different questions you could ask yourself. And then the two things I’d say that is that one: like anyone, wherever your background is, you can do inclusive marketing. Like you can be a super straight white middle-class man, English speaking, everything you can still do. Great inclusive marketing. But to do that, you’re going to need two things. You are going to need empathy. You’re going to need to think outside your box, because you’re going to talk to people who have very different life experiences, very different ways of reacting to content and products and things. So you really need to force yourself to be empathetic. And it’s a lot easier to do that if you are surrounded in some way by people who do have some of that lived experience, who do come from different backgrounds, either in your own team, in your agency, with consultants and focus groups and things. But yeah, anyone can do inclusive marketing, but if you want to do it and you’re nodding along to, “oh, this is a good idea.” You have got to be deliberate about it because if we’re not deliberate – we’re busy. We’re rushed. We fall into our own assumptions about things. We only give ourselves a few weeks to cast things. We find the same people, the same actors. So yeah, you’ve got to twist people’s arms emotionally, and then arm them with the practical tools to do it.

Adrian Tennant: When we first chatted a couple of weeks ago about the topics we might discuss in today’s podcast, you mentioned that you work with the United Nations. Could you tell us more about that?

Jerry Daykin: Yeah, it’s not what I signed up to be a marketer. I wasn’t expected to be dragged in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council, but I’ve actually been, and I say “been” in inverted commas because I’ve been once I’ve virtually been two other times. So three times, I’ve been to the United Nations. Unfortunately, COVID got in the way of the other two. The Human Rights Council is asking a lot of questions about the treatment of minorities, of migrants, of the LGBTQ community. And, unfortunately, a lot of those communities remain very, very badly treated. Even in the media still quite negatively presented, especially in the UK, we sometimes have quite a toxic media towards immigration, and they’re kind of asking a fairly, naive question about, why do advertisers support this stuff? And the simple answer is in many ways advertisers do fund hate speech. A lot of advertisers here trying to do Pride stuff may accidentally be funding anti-LGBT hate speech at the same time. And there are different extremes of that. There are sites out there, clickbait sites that exist that just post horrible stories, often made up, like really nasty stuff – but they are funded by advertising. So advertisers need to have brand safety approaches. They need to have ways that stop their adverts funding that really bad stuff. Many of them do, but not enough. There are middle grounds, you know, there were very substantial newspapers and TV shows that have frankly, quite anti-trans agendas or in other ways phobic towards communities. I think advertisers need to ask themselves whether they really want to support those. And there’s a more positive, other side as well, which is as well as avoiding the bad stuff, you know, make sure your advertising is funding the positive voices. So where mainstream media is covering minority communities, LGBT people, make sure you’re sponsoring those shows and funding that content. And yeah, partner with the pride media, the Gay Times, the Divas, The Pink News, or all the organizations out there and, and sponsor their content. I’m part of this organization called the conscious advertising network which is who I’ve gone with, and they also try to provide guidance and frameworks and things for marketers. And also because the United Nations is quite an important organization that people listen to, we’re also encouraging them to lean on big companies, them to lean on organizations that they work with and just to spread this point of view that we need to make sure advertising is not funding hates, not encouraging the spread of negative content. And a lot of that hate is literally spread because of advertising. People find controversial stories that are negative and make up shocking claims are shared on social media, they get more clicks, they get more eyeballs, and they make more money than actually telling the truth. So, you know, it’s not even necessarily people who want to be hateful, it’s we want to make money. So we just need to remove that incentive and try and calm down some of the negative media that is unfortunately out there still.

Adrian Tennant: Following the death of George Floyd and others, and the global demonstrations in support of the black lives matter movement, the US retailer Target publicly committed to spending more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025. Jerry, do you have any data on retailers or brands pledging to support and buy from businesses owned by LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs?

Jerry Daykin: I don’t honestly know that I have clear evidence or numbers of things. I know, for instance, one of my competitors – and I work in Beam Suntory, an alcohol company – one of the competitors that I used to work for, Diageo, has been quite vocal that they are going to commit tens of millions of dollars of their media budget to minority-owned publications. And I do know from the WFA diversity council I sit on that most big advertising, big marketing companies do now have supplier diversity initiatives. GSK, where I used to work does, where I now work, they also do, where they look at their spending and they look at it right through their supply chains. And you have like tier one, the partners you actually pay, and tier two, the people that supply them, et cetera. And some real concerted efforts to try and move money to a range of minority supporting businesses. I don’t know that there are many businesses that like specifically split out, for instance, LGBT or Pride organizations within that. They would kind of be looped into that kind of supplier diversity initiative, which would include any sort of minority-owned, operated, targeted businesses. But I think it is a big part of what brands advertise or whatever company, if you didn’t work in advertising at all you know, companies have a huge footprint outside of their own company in terms of what they buy, where they source from. And of course, there are practicalities, like if you’re in a huge company trying to source huge amounts of materials and things, you know, the big companies that supply that stuff are probably owned by shareholders, publicly traded companies, diversity is well lost within them. But there definitely are real opportunities. Most advertising companies that have a whole load of different agencies, and different partners. There are real opportunities to work with organizations owned by different people, which actually fund LGBT communities and other minorities. And it isn’t just to tick a box and it’s nice, but coming right back to what we talked about at the start, if you want to do good marketing, if you want to be a good business, you need to better understand the breadth of the consumers you work with. And if you tap into some of these organizations, they bring experience that you almost certainly don’t have in your business. They bring different perspectives, different understanding, better ways of doing things. Like they may be small, but you can really be challenged and changed by that. And I definitely think, like, George Floyd was an interesting moment, certainly in the marketing industry where it caused a lot of companies to really reflect on what are they doing to support their black consumers, their black colleagues, and ultimately to a broader extent, total diversity. I think it’s interesting now that years passed, and we know that to an extent starts to fade. And then that’s why it’s important to have conversations like this, to write books if you really want to, and to keep people talking about these. And I think it’s great when brands then do make a public commitment like that because they are then held accountable for it. They actually have to deliver on it and it can’t just be like, post the rainbow flag, post a black square on Instagram and then a year later, slightly forget about it. So I think, I think more brands probably could make public commitments around that and think about the fact that their advertising money, their production money all the millions and billions of pounds that big companies spend, even if a small percentage of it, like it’s often, you know, just a few percentage is still millions of pounds that could fund businesses, keep different perspectives in the media alive, really make a huge difference. So definitely do that.

Adrian Tennant: What are you hoping readers will take away from your upcoming book?

Jerry Daykin: Well, I hope they achieve the two things that I said that I think you need to do. Which is one: an emotional sense of why this really blooming matters. Because I love doing interviews with the 20 marketers I spoke to. I loved hearing their stories. Some of them really unexpected, personal experiences. There’s a fairly famous marketing professor called Mark Ritson, who is quite a serious marketer, he swears quite a lot, but he’s a bit OTT, he’s a very sort of working-class, straight man. And chatting to him, he has his bunker stories of how he spent a year or two doing ethnographic research of the Pride movement in the US. So he was going to all these Pride parties and learning all about Pride culture in the US and being totally immersed in this world. You’re like, “Oh, I didn’t expect that story to come out.” I didn’t expect him to be so passionate about inclusion, as he was. If anything, I’ll be honest, I thought he might be a bit of a cynic towards it and think it was all a bit nonsense. I’ve talked to CMOs and other people who have, like, really personal experiences, both how they’ve been treated in the industry and what they’ve seen externally. Diversity is such a personal thing. There’s no one right way of being inclusive. So I hope that people that read some of those different perspectives are emotionally challenged by them. I hope they’re really also armed practically. The second half of the book is these 12 chapters that go through these 12 stages of the marketing process. I think you can, like, read it through as a book. I think you read it through and you get a good sense of the overall marketing process and that’s interesting, but I’d love to think people also bookmark it and they come back to it and then they say like, “Right, I’m about to start production on my next TV ad. Let’s read that chapter again and remind myself.” There are checklists in there as well about, you know, have you done this? Have you done that? Have you done this with your casting? Have you made your production space open and friendly and inclusive and things? So I hope it tells an emotional story. It kind of really inspires people. and then it practically helps them. and I guess my biggest wish, which is still a barrier we have to work through, is that I hope it doesn’t just preach to the choir. I mean, I think there are going to be, like, people who talk a lot about inclusion, who are going to hopefully read it and nod along. I hope we can get it into the hands of some people who maybe, have given it less thought or haven’t been able to prioritize it and persuade a few of them to start thinking a bit more about it.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Jerry, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and your writing, where can they find you?

Jerry Daykin: Yeah, I’m quite prolific on Twitter and LinkedIn. So yeah, look for Jerry Daykin and either of those are @JDaykin on Twitter. 

Adrian Tennant: Jerry, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jerry Daykin: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to our guest, Jerry Daykin, Vice President and Head of Global Media at Beam Suntory, and the author of the book, Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters To Your Customers And Your Brand. If you’d like a copy, you can get a 20% discount when you order online at KoganPage.com. Just add the promo code, BIGEYE20 at the checkout. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com, just select “Podcast” from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Cindy Casper is a seasoned consumer marketing researcher and the Principal of boutique consultancy, Casper Insights. Cindy discusses how her career in marketing research began with ad effectiveness testing and explains the role that secondary, syndicated data can play. We discuss Cindy’s innovative approach to customer segmentation and the creation of authentic personas for collegiate clients. Cindy also shares her go-to tool for results analysis and data visualization.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Cindy Casper: I wanted to find a way to make segment profiles more realistic, to be more useful. And by using personality as the basis, I was able to create segment profiles that felt more authentic or human. 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tenant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. 

As we’ve discussed previously on this podcast, COVID-19 forced many folks to work from home, accelerated the growth of e-commerce, and boosted the popularity of direct-to-consumer and at-home fitness brands like Peloton. Today, it’s inflation that’s influencing how many consumers make decisions about which products and services to buy. For marketers, understanding the drivers behind consumers’ evolving purchasing behaviors and their sentiments toward brand advertising is important. So to help us understand how consumer research can contribute actionable insights for marketing teams, our guest this week is Cindy Casper, the Founder and Principal of Casper Insights, a boutique consumer research consultancy. Cindy has over 20 years of experience in consumer research, which includes assessing TV ad effectiveness for advertising agencies, and developing custom research studies for Proctor and Gamble brands. Cindy’s career also includes managing marketing research and analytics for Jo-Ann stores, directing promotional planning and advertising effectiveness for OfficeMax, leading the insights team at American Greetings, and holding the position of Senior Director of Insights and Research at Sam’s Club. A move to Arizona saw Cindy become the Managing Director of Knowledge and Insights at Arizona State University, a position she held for over six years. Today, Cindy is joining us from her home in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Cindy, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Cindy Casper: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

Adrian Tennant: So Cindy, when did you first consider consumer research as a career?

Cindy Casper: Well, it was during college exploration time, really, And having spent time in higher education, I know that people frequently change majors and trying to figure out what they wanna do with their life. And I started out as an electrical engineer because I loved math. And then I came over more your way and studied journalism because I also really enjoyed the creativity and art and advertising. And I thought all of that was fascinating. And I was fortunate that my advisor in college encouraged me to take some business classes and I discovered marketing research and it really was a connection between math and statistics and creativity and advertising. And so then I knew what I wanted to do and I was about ready to graduate, so I didn’t wanna change my major, but I just went on and got an MBA then, went straight through and learned a lot more about business and marketing research that way.

Adrian Tennant: Well, over the course of your career, you’ve worked with many brands and organizations that are household names. What types of consumer research have been the most common across all the brands you’ve worked with, would you say?

Cindy Casper: I was trying to find a connective thread because there’s been a wide variety of things I’ve worked on, and I think that perceptions about brand is really the most common denominator there. People wanna understand how people think about their brand and whether that brand is a product or a company or a service, there are ways that people think and feel about their brand that influences their decisions about how to engage. And so I’d say that would be what links those things together.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have a personal preference for quantitative or qualitative research methods, and if so, why? 

Cindy Casper: Well, I think the listener could probably predict, just based on my first couple of answers, that I am definitely more quantitative, um, because I love math and statistics and I appreciate qualitative, but I think most people are either wired for deductive logic or inductive logic, and I’m definitely more of a deduction, take all of the data, try to reduce it down and find the patterns and it’s like puzzle solving, but with the creative twist because there are multiple solutions, but it’s finding that truth that’s hiding in the patterns of data that I just find to be so much fun.

Adrian Tennant: In addition to managing primary research studies for brands, you’ve also worked with syndicated research providers. Could you explain what they are and how you’ve used them to supplement in-house consumer insights functions?

Cindy Casper: Sure. So syndicated is typically when a third party obtains data from other people and aggregates it to sell it off to other people so that they can use it. And the most common is aggregators of product sales from retailers. And so different retailers could agree to make their data available, and then product manufacturers can purchase it from aggregators like Nielsen or IRI or NPD. And it’s really helpful because it’s really the gold standard, I’d say, in behavioral data, in sales information, and that can then supplement attitudinal data about products so it can tell you what’s happening in sales of your product across different types of outlets, and you can drill down, not only by the channel type or the retailer, but category product details by time, by geography, units, or dollars. And so with all of those different combinations of lenses, you can develop hypotheses about why your sales are trending a certain way and then, you know, typically in my world, then you’re gonna need to go use something like primary research to explore those hypotheses. Because the behavioral data itself can’t tell you why 

Adrian Tennant: So Cindy, I can understand how the use of syndicated data works for CPG brands that are in most supermarkets, or any kind of measured channel. What happens when you want to know more about unmeasured channels? 

Cindy Casper: Well, different vendors are getting into that space so that they can become measured. in fact, I was working on a plant-based seafood product and found that there is a data source called SPINS, which aggregates for those types of products,that are not often captured by the big syndicators, covering more vegan, alternative foods, foods that don’t have a UPC code on them, like organic fruits and vegetables often, are not captured. So, and then, you know, online channels, there’s more and more data providers and so, I often tell my students that wherever there is increasing demand, there’s gonna be a supply that pops up. So if people wanna know it, someone’s going to find a way to offer it.

Adrian Tennant: Cindy, in many of the positions you’ve held, you’ve been responsible for customer segmentation. For people new to consumer research, could you explain what it is and how segmentation can help marketers? 

Cindy Casper: Sure. I love segmentation and I don’t know why. I just think differences are fascinating. and I guess it’s that contrast, instead of just knowing something in the absolute, you’re able to compare different groups of people, which is really what segmentation is, is just finding ways of grouping individuals, or I guess organizations, whoever your customer is. In order to treat different people differently is the basic idea so that you can be more relevant and not treat everyone the same. And so it’s a middle ground between one size fits all – everybody gets the same product, the same message, the same approach – and treating everyone as unique individuals, which you can do if you only have a handful of customers like me. But that’s hard to scale. As your audience or your customer base grows, you need to start treating people as groups of people just so that you can manage it. And so you can segment based on demographics as the original, traditional way, because that’s how media would be bought would be, I wanna have, women, 25 to 54 is my target, and so that’s my primary audience. And so you might use it just to decide who is the one group that I wanna focus on the most , or you could use it to say, I have multiple groups, multiple segments, and here’s the ones that I want to focus on and how I wanna treat each of them differently, whether that be based on demographic things or behavioral things. You know, these are my frequent loyal buyers, these are my infrequent, less loyal or less profitable customers. Or it could be, the use of attitudes or psychographics to understand what are the drivers or the reasons that they buy or the barriers for them buying so that I can message them with something that is going to resonate with, what they value or appreciate.

Adrian Tennant: Correct me if I’m wrong, modern segmentation, as we know it, really began with General Motors.

Cindy Casper: I find that completely believable because I grew up in a GM household. my father was an engineer for General Motors, and my sister and I both worked at General Motors in college. Turned out that everyone there had a parent who worked in General Motors. I think it was more than a coincidence, but, we would often hear, around the family dining table about how the different brands appealed to different income groups and how they were each positioned. I think some of that has deteriorated over time, but I think in the heyday that was really how they thought about the positioning..

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most important issues brand managers or their agency partners need to consider when planning and designing segmentation studies? 

Cindy Casper: So I often hear from people not just with segmentation, but frequently with segmentation that, I need a segmentation and whenever anyone says they need a method, I’m always skeptical of cuz no one needs a method, no one needs a focus group. They need to make a decision . And so my first question is always, how are you going to use it? What is this going to help you do differently that you can’t do today? And then that often leads to an understanding of what capabilities do they actually have, because depending upon what types of data or technologies they have, what they were originally thinking of might be, you know, a very interesting intellectual exercise, but they won’t be able to actually action it. because if they don’t have the ability to treat different people differently, say with a CRM system that can, push different things out to different people or, a creative staff that can create multiple versions,if they don’t have enough resources to create more than one approach to something and they don’t want to limit their communication to one audience. So this happens a lot in higher ed. they want to communicate with all of their alumni or all of their students or prospective students. They don’t want to limit that audience. And so that’s what we often get into conversations about is let’s figure out how you’re going to use this to make different decisions or create different solutions. And if they need to be able to make a bridge, for example, from something you learn in a survey to something that is known from everyone in the database, then we need to think ahead about how are you gonna build that bridge, Because you’re not gonna be able to get your entire customer base to take a survey. So we’re gonna need to figure out a way to predict what we learn to something that can be actionable for everyone. So just some thinking that needs to go into it before they pull the trigger.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for October is Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies by Christina Inge. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Marketing Metrics, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Cindy Casper, the Founder and Principal of Casper Insights. We’re discussing the role that consumer research can play in marketing and advertising. At Bigeye, we typically undertake segmentation studies to inform the creation of customer personas, fictional identities that capture the demographics and characteristics of addressable groups of customers and prospects. Cindy, you’ve developed a new methodology for collegiate clients to create personality-based segments called Authentic Personas. Could you tell us more about that? 

Cindy Casper: Sure. So authentic personas were inspired by something I noticed when I was doing segmentation in higher ed. It seemed that no matter how I segmented people, whether it be prospective students, students, alumni, and I was doing that based on their attitudes, their profiles almost always showed skews by major of study. So certain majors were more concentrated in certain segments than others, and I thought there must be something personality-based underneath there that’s driving that, that’s driving both their attitudes about the brand or the topic and what they’re choosing to major in. And so if you just think about all the stereotypes and the jokes about people in different occupations. You know, my husband’s an attorney, so I hear a lot of those about lawyers, and you know, that’s true about engineers, accountants, probably sales people, you know, any occupation has stereotypes around it, and jokes, and that they’re funny because there’s some truth that what people study and do for a living reflects something about their personality in a predictable way. And I was also troubled, of course, by the use of something called fictional in the world of fact-based decision-making and fiction in fact. And, but I saw that, fictional personas, Were useful to people, especially in user experience because they were very humanistic. And the creative people, the designers, writers, wanted to be able to picture a real human being and that told me then, Well, my segment descriptions don’t feel like real humans, even though they’re rooted in fact, and I have segment profiles, they’re not doing the job of feeling real and I think the more clearly you can picture a person, the more useful it is. But I wanted it to also describe a real person and more than one real person, because if you’re only designing for one person, you might be missing the mark with the other millions of people that need to be able to use the same website or product or whatever. So I wanted to find a way to make segment profiles more realistic, to be more useful. And by using personality as the basis for segmenting, I was able to create segment profiles that felt more authentic or human. And it turned out that, the obvious application would be for higher ed in talking to people with different majors, but because different majors correlate with different occupations, it can be useful for anyone who’s targeting people who have jobs, which are most people who have money to spend, have jobs or at least used to have jobs, and are now retired. So if you can get third party occupational data that’s pretty cheap and easy to append to any customer list, you then have a way to infer something about their personality, and then of course you could message according to what they value and prioritize.

Adrian Tennant: How have you used Authentic Personas? 

Cindy Casper: Sure. So, I’ve always been fascinated by personality segmentations, and so the one that I use to actually collect data to validate this authentic persona idea was the Myers-Briggs approach, the M B T I, that takes into account intuitive versus sensing, thinking versus feeling, and individual versus group, which is the, perceiving, judging dimension. And it turned out that the intuitive sensing part didn’t really fall out, but the thinking versus feeling and the individual versus group definitely fell out. And so then you just end up with a nice little two by two or a four quadrant typology of, you know, you have thinkers who are more individual focused. And it turns out that those are people pursuing legal, public administration, psychology, or biology studies or occupations. And then you have the individual feelers, which are more your arts, English, communicators. And then group thinkers are more of your math and scientists. And interestingly, history falls in there. And then feelers with group focus are really more the social sciences, education, health, but also business. And so that group becomes large because so many people, study business. So it, it ends up with just a simple four different types of people in the world and ways that you might wanna communicate with them.

Adrian Tennant: Cindy, you now run your own consulting business. What prompted you to start Casper Insights? 

Cindy Casper: You know, I’d love to say that it was, really, strategic intention, but honestly I just really wanted to find a way to keep working from home after the pandemic. I love being able to be in my house and, just love the lifestyle benefits that come from that. And I was fortunate that people just kept asking me to help them on a freelance basis while I was trying to figure out how I was going to find a remote gig. And I’ve been doing this for two years now. just picking up different contracts. I teach marketing research. I help, universities with some of the proprietary techniques I developed at ASU, but all kinds of different clients from market research firms need staff augmentation, ad agencies need research support, different brands may not have research in house or they need extra help. So it’s really just been a happy accident that, I’m hoping I can just continue doing and I needed, an LLC to be able to do the billing. So that’s how it came to be.. 

Adrian Tennant: What kinds of projects do you typically undertake for clients?

Cindy Casper: It’s really so diverse. You know, given the different types of clients and situations that I mentioned, but I suppose what they must all see value in the things that I have experience and expertise in, which is using data to better understand why people do what they do so they can make smarter, more data-driven marketing decisions..

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways does being a solopreneur differ from working in an enterprise insights department? Are there things you miss about working in house? 

Cindy Casper: So I solve pretty much the same types of puzzles or challenges. I suppose I am more hands-on, which I kind of appreciate. when I got to have situations with larger teams, I often felt all I was doing was going from meeting to meeting and assigning problems to solution providers, whether they be on my team or outside vendors. And so I missed some of that hands-on work. So I was having a hard time thinking of anything that I missed because I really just love what I do so much and my new lifestyle that comes with it. But then, while I was pondering this, preparing for the interview, my modem broke the other day and Casper Insights was shut down, and so I really miss tech support!

Adrian Tennant: You also teach research methods for Research Rockstar, which offers real time and recorded instructor-led classes online. Cindy, how are you seeing personal technologies impacting the practice of consumer research, both for researchers and study respondents? 

Cindy Casper: So the world is changing so quickly now. The world of education is changing. I saw it just in my six years and my two years being away from higher education that technology, especially with the pandemic and having to figure out social distancing and education technology was the solution to being able to continue classes and a lot of new models for education are coming out. I was just reading about, Google providing a lot of education solutions in lieu of degreed credentials. And that is allowing people to have more just in time learning than going away to study for four plus years and learning everything you need to know to get you through your career. People need to continuously learn, and that is a marketplace that Research Rockstar serves as well. And then data collection technologies are constantly changing so that you need to constantly be retooling. You know, even just in the two years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve needed to adopt new technologies, with data collection or data analysis. And so the days of doing everything one way, that you learn at the beginning of your career are gone. And so, you know, technology I think is really the reason behind all of those changes. And so the opportunity though, even though it means we have to keep learning more, it also means that we can rely more and more on technology to do the things that are tedious or time-consuming and free up the human contribution to be the creative thinking about hypothesis generation or applying techniques in a new way. and I think it’s not as tedious as it used to be. You know, having to go in and say code verbatims by hand is tedious, right? I mean, there’s just no other word for it, but in order to extract meaning someone had to do it. And so now with text analytics becoming smarter and smarter, you know, AI and machine learning can really give a great assist to that and just allow you to derive benefit out of it without having to invest the grueling labor, that would go into it. You know, same thing we used to have to key punch all of the surveys that would come back, you know, these poor people were sitting there in front of a keypad and typing it all in, you know, and then, we were able to scan it and then we were able to, you know, just collect it electronically from the beginning. And technology I think just allows us to be able to get more into what only human brains can do, which is the creative aspect.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have one or two favorite research tools that you just couldn’t live without? 

Cindy Casper: Yeah, so those are tools really that do exactly what I was talking about. They take the tedious part out of it and allow you to think about the data instead of spending your time trying to get it into the buckets you want it to be and get it properly structured. And so, SPSS, used to be my primary tool and I still use it quite a bit for analytics, but it never was great at data visualization. And so I guess about a year ago now, I picked up DisplayR and that was my holiday project when I did not have as much to work on. I taught myself how to use that tool, and it’s great not only for data visualization, but for categorizing open ends with its machine learning. And the really slick thing that it does is you can get a partial data file as soon as you go into field,you know, so the day that you launch, you can grab the data file and it has everything structured. You can start creating your final report with partial data just to get everything tidied up and looking the way that you want it. And then it’s just like a magic trick. You bring in the final data file, you click a couple of buttons and your final report is completely populated, and you then saved, probably a week turnaround on being able to deliver the final report and people are just blown away it’s a great magic trick.

Adrian Tennant: Cindy, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about your research consultancy, Casper Insights, or the courses you teach for Research Rockstar, where can they find you?

Cindy Casper: So I have different hats. So if you are interested in my instructor hat, I can be found at Research Rockstar. I teach secondary research, quantitative data analysis, and data fluency, or I can be reached for consulting engagements at Cindy@CasperInsights.com.

Adrian Tennant: And we’ll be sure to include links to those in the transcript accompanying this episode. Cindy, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Cindy Casper: Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Cindy Casper, the Founder and Principal of Casper Insights. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

The author of this month’s Book Club selection, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies is Christina Inge. Confused about goals, KPIs, and metrics? Christina shares strategies applicable to brands and ad agencies and explains how ancient military tactics can inspire innovation in marketing. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on Christina’s book, Marketing Matrics, by using the promo code BIGEYE20 at KoganPage.com.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Christina Inge: Most of us go into marketing to either be strategic or to be creative. We don’t go into marketing to do rote and repetitive work. if you position yourself to be a data-driven creative or a data-driven marketing strategist, there are really, really major opportunities.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tenant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. At the beginning of this year, Jason Davis wrote an article published by Adweek that discussed the increasing sophistication of the technology platforms agencies use to access, share, and integrate ad performance data. Digital marketing produces prodigious amounts of quantitative data, of course. And as we move towards solutions built around first-party data, brand marketers and agencies are keen to leverage that data to drive business decision-making from optimizing paid campaign performance to enhancing digital customer experiences. Our guest today is a pioneer and expert in data-driven marketing. Christina Inge is the Founder and CEO of Thoughtlight, a consultancy specializing in digital marketing and analytics strategies. She’s worked with major brands including Nissan and the Smithsonian, as well as many startups and nonprofits. Christina is a member of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and has served on the board of the American Marketing Association. She’s also an instructor at Harvard University Extension School and Northeastern University College of Professional Studies, and the author of a new book published by Kogan Page, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. To discuss the book and share her insights on how brand marketers and agency teams can make better decisions based on data, Christina is joining us today from Boston, Massachusetts. Christina, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Christina Inge: I’m very excited to be here. Thank you for having me on, Adrian. 

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the intro, your new book is entitled Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. What prompted you to write it? 

Christina Inge: I have to say, I saw a huge need out there. People are really struggling with “How do I get to the bottom of all of this data that I have?” A lot of our clients come to us with an enormous amount of data that they have within their organizations or have access to through third parties, but no clear plan of how to leverage it. They struggle to even organize it. Most of us do, let alone use it to make marketing decisions. So this is really a hands- on, practical guide for marketers and business leaders at all levels in any kind of organization to finally get a handle on their data and see the big picture, while also getting actionable tactics for every kind of data, from their social media data to their email, to their web analytics. So it’s really to help people start to work with their data. That’s the inspiration. 

Adrian Tennant: Now, before this interview, I searched for marketing metrics in Amazon’s book section, which returned over 350 results. So Christina, what can readers expect to learn from your book that typically isn’t covered in others? 

Christina Inge: Well, I’ve got a couple of things that we use at my marketing agency, Thoughtlight, that I developed, and I’m publishing them for the first time in this book. One is my content marketing analytics framework which can really help you optimize your content marketing. This is proprietary to us. I developed it within our organization to help our clients. And so this is a completely new way of looking at your content analytics. I think the other thing that this has uniquely, I’m gonna quote from one of the wonderful reviews that have popped up on Amazon about the book is that it’s really a college course in a book. It is a distillation of the components of the course that I teach on marketing metrics. So I feel that it is the most comprehensive strategic guide for managers on how to use marketing metrics. 

Adrian Tennant: Christina, you are also an instructor at Harvard University Extension School and Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. I imagine that some of your students will have come across words and phrases, including metric, performance measure, and key performance indicator sometimes used interchangeably. What’s the difference between a key performance indicator and a metric? 

Christina Inge: Oh, I’m so glad you asked that question, Adrian. So I teach graduate management students, and this question comes up all the time because again, they’re managers, they’re in charge of a lot of different functions within their organizations. And I always say the key performance indicator is the thing that you are measuring that speaks to the goals of your organization. And that’s something that managers especially are responsible for within their organizations. Whether they have full P&L responsibility or not, they’re often responsible for driving towards those big goals like growth, brand awareness. Those are key performance indicators. Metrics are the ground truth. Those are your numbers. So you may be tasked with monitoring growth, but how do you measure that? That’s where metrics come in. Metrics are things like your ad click-through rate, your email open rate, your marketing automation open rate, your social media followership, they’re the tactical, actual numbers that tell you whether you’re driving towards your goals and the key performance indicators are what you are measuring that ties into those goals. That’s where the big picture numbers come in.

Adrian Tennant: When we chatted last week about what topics we wanted to cover in this podcast, you mentioned that your Northeastern students are creatives who anticipate being in marketing for the next 20 years or so. Christina, how do folks interested in the creative side of the business benefit from developing an understanding of marketing metrics? 

Christina Inge: Well, this is where I’m going to get a little geeky on you because one of my lesser-known interests happens to be business lessons that we can learn from ancient military tactics. Do you know who ultimately defeated the Spartans? Who defeated them? People are stumped by that. And it was a little city-state called Thebes. And what they did was they stopped playing by the rules that you would see in ancient warfare, which was that you would confront people head-on, one line to another, kind of like a rugby scrum, and instead, they were able to regain their democracy, throw off the tyranny of Sparta by figuring out a strategy whereby they went around the Spartans who expected them to attack head on and hit them obliquely. It was a very interesting geometric configuration because they had a mathematician general running their show. And in doing so, they were able to get around the problem of “How do I confront a larger and stronger force with fewer and lesser-equipped people?” By finding that data that allowed them to see, “How can I get around a problem?” And so I use this as an example to show that creativity and data and innovation are not mutually exclusive. A lot of times creatives will think, “Well, if I start looking at the data, if I try to innovate based on data, I’m going to lose that aspect of my creativity.” But it actually makes your creativity more effective and allows you to have a greater impact with fewer resources, because it lets you concentrate your innovative efforts in directions where you know they’re going to have the greatest impact. And so it’s much more exciting when I act this out with Sharpies in the classroom. But that is my answer – that it allows you to concentrate your efforts in directions where your creativity will have a strong impact toward driving revenue growth and results.

Adrian Tennant: In the second chapter of Marketing Metrics, you identify four basic types of customer metrics, which you call The Core Four. These are revenue-based metrics, conversion metrics, communications data, and customer loyalty, value, and retention data. Christina, could you give us an overview of each of these in the context of how brand marketers and agency professionals might work with them? 

Christina Inge: Great question, Adrian. So, first I’ll start with the overview. So your revenue-based metrics are those that look at what are you doing to generate revenue and where is that revenue coming from? You know, I’ve been in marketing for 20 years now, and we always had to account for marketing investment and prove ROI which was much more challenging before we had all of the tools that are available to us today. So revenue-based metrics are those metrics that essentially prove ROI. Those are, for instance, what awareness channels, what sales lead generation channels are driving the highest return on investment? Where is not only your highest revenue but your highest profit coming from? Is it from people who’ve had a social media engagement with your organization? Is it from advertising? Is it from SEO? So that’s where you find out which of your marketing efforts are driving the most revenue. Now, the challenge with revenue-based metrics is that there’s such temptation to stop there. However, as marketers, we know that revenue doesn’t happen overnight, and so we need to look at other metrics on the road to revenue. You’re not necessarily going to publish an ad and have that generate immediate revenue. You are going to need to do incremental steps to build awareness, push your consumers through the sales funnel, through the customer journey, and build relationships with your consumers. So that’s where the other three of The Core Four come in. First is conversion metrics, and those are metrics that look at where are you getting your conversions from and what marketing efforts are converting the best. I’ll give you an example of what’s the difference between a conversion and revenue. I actually keep props on my desk for this very reason. So this is a $2 lip balm and I, I purchased it, I’m very happy with it, but I’m sure that the manufacturer of this $2 lip balm is less than happy with the amount of profit they’ve generated off of this. If it costs $5 to acquire me as a customer, and I’m not loyal, I don’t ever come back, the conversion – it really happened, right? I went out and bought this, but the revenue’s just not there. I’m a net negative revenue purchaser with this $2 lip balm. So conversion metrics are important. because they tell you what was working in the moment, what ad got me to click or email got me to open that email with what subject line to have me make a purchase. And from there, that’s where the really fascinating marketing activities come from. What made this customer click? What made them purchase begins to answer “What makes my customer tick?” And you wanna look at it separately from revenue because again, revenue may not necessarily be tied to a conversion that click, that sign on, or even that purchase may not be revenue-driving, but it’s still incredibly valuable data in terms of your consumer psychology, but also what channels are working for you, what marketing creative is working for you. We often, for instance, at Thoughtlight, A/B test and multivariate test different creative just to look at what the conversions are. And that leads me to another value you get out of conversions, which is that frequently, especially in B2B, revenue is not immediate. You know, If you’re selling millions of dollars worth of construction equipment, that conversion may be three years down the line to revenue. But the immediate conversion of the lead is something that you can always measure to determine marketing effectiveness. And of course you tie it back to customer lifetime value when you have that data. But you don’t need to wait for that data to come in if you have a slow sales cycle to begin to gather important information on what marketing is working. And that’s where your conversion metrics come in. That brings me to communications data, and that’s data that tells you what sort of messages are resonating, and it could be a particular value proposition you are emphasizing. It can be particular kind of creative and also in what channels are those communications resonating. And that really helps you go even deeper into your customer’s psychology. Conversions are partly a product of consumer psychology, but they’re also a product of time of day, happenstance. Communications data really gets to the core of what messaging delivered in what format is truly resonating with your customers. And then that finally, drives us to customer loyalty, value, and retention data. So if we envision revenue-based metrics being the company’s big picture, how is marketing delivering ROI for us? And then conversion metrics being around the mechanics of how well is marketing working. And then communications data goes one step more specific into what messages are resonating. Then you have customer loyalty, which is who are our customers, what is keeping them loyal, and how are we keeping them engaged so that we have built a long-term relationship with them? And that really gets to the heart of the individual relationship with customers and more broadly, but still very specifically, with customer segments. 

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Tim McCormack: I’m Tim McCormack, Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as media professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused media and analytics to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for October is Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies by Christina Inge. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Marketing Metrics, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Christina Inge, the Founder and CEO of Thoughtlight, and the author of this month’s featured Bigeye Book Club selection, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. At Bigeye, in common with most agencies, we’ve seen a shift from traditional media to digital channels over the past couple of decades. Over the past two to three years, many clients have been increasing their investments in social media relative even to other digital channels. Because social strategy often combines organic content, boosted content, paid campaigns, and influencer content, how do you approach creating a dashboard that combines data from many different sources?

Christina Inge: Well, there’s two ways to answer that. One is tactically and one is strategically. Let’s start with strategically. You need to figure out which of your metrics truly matter because otherwise you’ve got a dashboard that holds you back more than it pushes you forward because there’s just so much data there that people get frightened away, don’t look at it at all. And then that’s a useless dashboard. So strategically, the first step is to have clarity on which metrics are most important and reach consensus. And that may mean determining that you need a range of different dashboards. That’s what we recommend, it’s what I talk about in greater depth in the book as well is the need for different levels of dashboards, depending on the stakeholders, um, from strategic to tactical. Now, the next step though is then there’s a ton of tools out there, but use something where you can get the talent to manage that dashboard. You know, Google Data Studio has a lot of proponents. There are many people certified in Tableau, Power BI. A lot of times you want to make sure that your selection of dashboard aligns with what you have as in-house talent, because good data analysts, a good people with skills even in dashboards beyond just data science, are very hard to find. But that is tactics. Most importantly, you need to get clarity on what that dashboard should be talking about. Not everyone needs to stare at all of the same data all the time.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned organic and boosted content as components of social media. In Marketing Metrics, you have a chapter devoted to content marketing metrics frameworks. Could you talk a bit about why establishing a framework is foundational? 

Christina Inge: Absolutely, Adrian. I think number one, hands up everybody here who has always kept up with their blogging schedule and never, ever failed to do their blogging. I don’t think there’s a hand raised out there, and so, most of us struggle to generate content at the level that we need to, right? At the volume and for the quantities that we need. And so having a framework where you have solid metrics, again, it goes back to that example of using your data to push your creativity in the right direction. You want to figure out where you can concentrate your blogging efforts or your other video efforts or your TikTok-ing efforts, whatever your content work is, where it’s gonna drive the most results. And so having a framework like the CV: the Content Value Framework that we talk about in the book, that I developed at Thoughtlight, it helps you identify which content is the most important to create. We look at different factors such as its propensity to convert, as well as its importance and relevance to your brand. And if you wanna learn more about this framework, buy the book! But the value of that framework is that instead of wondering, “Is my blogging actually doing us any good? Why am I writing all of these blog posts?” You figure out where to put all of your efforts so that every piece of content that you create delivers the maximum ROI, and that actually builds momentum and builds a strong content program.

Adrian Tennant: In Marketing Metrics, you write, quote – “The tools that are today’s must-haves will be tomorrow’s forgotten technologies, and the platforms that we rush to today may not be around in five years” -end quote. So based on your two decades of experience, what skills do brand marketers and agency professionals need to develop to be metrics-driven and enjoy long careers? 

Christina Inge: Number one is divergent thinking. You know, I keep getting back to my analogy of the Battle of Leuctra, which I bet you didn’t think was a good metaphor for marketing, but it was won on the basis of divergent thinking of there, here’s this paradigm, right, of you hit your opponent head on like a rugby scrum, and if they had done that, we would’ve never heard of Thebes – not that we’ve heard of them anyway! But, the ability to use data, not just to validate, “Oh look, we sold another lip balm,” but to think about, “Well, what is this telling me about the path forward? How is data pointing to creative new directions?” Computers are gradually taking over all of what I call the bread-and-butter work. You know, just being able to crunch numbers no longer makes you special. Just thinking about, “Oh, these numbers tell us that this ad had a higher click-through rate than that ad. Google Ads, for instance, has already taken that work out of marketers’ hands. They’re testing your ads and optimizing and delivering the highest click-through or highest conversion rate ads automatically all the time. So simply being able to do math and make very simple tactical decisions such as, “This ad got more clicks than that ad, let’s run the ad with more clicks” – it’s over. If it’s not already over with the particular tools or the skillset you use, it’s going to be over within the next five, maximum 10 years. What’s not going to be over is what I call being a general of data, being able to look at the whole field, look at all of the information that’s coming into you, look at the situation and the players, and make new breakthrough decisions based on that data that move your organization forward, that help them come up with creative new approaches. So if you are focused right now on what’s called convergent thinking of just analyzing things, and coming up with this is the one and only, you know, sole version of the truth on this very simple level of what ad to click on or what creative is performing the best, that’s great data to observe, but now you need to deduce, and more importantly, you need to be able to strategize from those deductions. So don’t be afraid to come up with crazy ideas based on the data. Don’t be afraid to think. 

Adrian Tennant: We’re seeing more AI-driven and machine learning-assisted data analysis tools emerging in the marketing space. Do you view these as threats or opportunities? 

Christina Inge: I actually see them as opportunities, and I’ll tell you why. They are elevating what marketing can do. Throughout my whole career in technology, I’ve always seen newer and newer tools come up that take some kind of tactical work away, and that it always causes shifts, right? It always causes changes, shifting landscape of what jobs are available out there. But ultimately most of us go into marketing to either be strategic or to be creative. we don’t go into marketing to do rote and repetitive work. And so if you position yourself to be a data-driven creative or a data-driven marketing strategist, they are really, really major opportunities. It’s a threat if your focus has been on carrying out somebody else’s plan on doing very, very basic work. I know that some entry level work does not have as much of a creative component, and some of that may shift also. But ultimately for marketing, it’s going to take away that impression a lot of the C-suite often has, all due respect to the C-suite, that we are makers of posters and senders out of pretty newsletters, and make marketing more of a strategic job.

Adrian Tennant: In this interview, we’ve only scratched the surface of what you cover in Marketing Metrics. In addition to the 285 pages of content, you also include a chapter of resources, a dictionary of marketing metrics and related terms, and end notes that allow readers to learn more about the sources and case studies you include in the book. Christina, in the period that’s elapsed between submitting your final manuscript to Kogan Page and the book being published, are there any topics that you wish you’d covered in more detail or perhaps ideas that you’d like to expand upon in a future book? 

Christina Inge: Yes, absolutely. So Marketing Metrics was designed to be a broad overview of all of the data-driven thinking that today’s managers, especially marketing managers, but also executives need. It’s meant to be your 360-degree guide to everything you need to know about marketing metrics. What I’d like to dive into deeper in the future is customer analytics, and in fact, I’m building out a course on data-driven customer journey mapping to get very specific. So that’s an area that I hope to. Stay tuned.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners want to learn more about you or your consulting firm, Thoughtlight, where can they find you? 

Christina Inge: You can look me up on LinkedIn. Send me a message and say you listen to this podcast if you wanna connect there. and you can also go to my website, which is thoughtlight.net. “Thought” as in thinking. “Light” as in light bulb, and it’s the dot-net. 

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to obtain a copy of Christina’s book, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 20% when you order directly from the publisher at KoganPage.com. Just enter the promo code BIGEYE20, that’s B I G E Y E 2 0 at the checkout. And that discount applies to printed and electronic versions of the book. Christina, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Christina Inge: Thank you again. It was wonderful to be here. And again, if you’ve got any burning questions about marketing, I’ve probably answered them in the book.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Christina Inge, the Founder and CEO of Thoughtlight, and the author of Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

An encore episode with Dr. Andrea Laurent-Simpson, the author of Just Like Family: How Companion Animals Joined The Household. Andrea explains why most pet owners regard their animals as members of the family and suggests how pet product manufacturers and marketers should approach the emergence of the “multispecies family.” Andrea uses contemporary advertisements to illustrate how dogs and cats are increasingly identified and treated as legitimate members of the household.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Family is changing and that we are increasingly as a culture accepting this idea that there are multi-species families where the dog and the cat aren’t just pets anymore. They aren’t just kind of accepted into the family fold. They literally are family members now. 

Adrian Tennant: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, chief strategy officer at Bigeye. Thank you for joining us today. Many of the Bigeye team have pets in their households and, as an agency, we’ve recently undertaken our second national study of pet ownership. We’ll be sharing the results from that study in the coming weeks. But to help us understand how dogs and cats have evolved from domestic animals to family members, today’s episode is another chance to hear a conversation with Dr. Andrea Laurent-Simpson, the author of the book, Just Like Family: How Companion Animals Joined the Household. Examining how and why pets have become so integral to families in America, the book provides a compelling view of the “multi-species family.” Dr. Laurent-Simpson is a Research Assistant Professor and Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and joined us from her home north of Dallas to discuss the book last March.

[MUSIC]

Adrian Tennant: Andrea, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: So what prompted you to write Just Like Family?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: So the introduction in my book talks about this, so that would be my dog, my first dog as an adult anyway, was a Chow Chow named Chewbacca Bear and she came into my life when I was probably 20 years old, maybe 19, and she really was my means of giving me some interaction as I lived on my own in an apartment and stress relief, I guess as I went through the undergraduate process. But when I met my husband or my future husband, he and I really bonded over her and we wound up kind of creating a little family and that family just intensified and intensified the further along he and I went and as we got married and, put off having human children, we really kind of turned all of that attention towards her. And at the time I wasn’t really aware that we were doing that. I didn’t think about it in terms of treating her like a child. It just came very naturally to us and so, around the time that I found out that she was 10 and I found out that she had lymphoma and she was like stage three lymphoma. I went through a series of visits with different veterinarians and specialists and oncologists kind of in complete denial about it until I landed at Texas A&M Veterinary School, where we kind of went back and forth, this resident and I went back and forth about her diagnosis and I realized that talking about these things in front of her was something that was disturbing to me. In front of the dog that is, in front of Chew Bear. And so I asked them to take her out of the room and I finished up that meeting with the oncologist and when I got in the car, the sociological piece of me after 10 years finally kicked in and said, “What just happened? You literally had your dog removed from the room as if she could understand these things that you were talking about.” And my brain said, “yes, she could. She could understand all of that. And these all have massive repercussions for her life and our lives.” And I think I just took off from there, in building the idea in my head and thinking about whether or not I was the only person that might be interacting with their dog or cat like this. And eventually, it turned into at least a piece of it turned into my dissertation for my doctoral work. And then I expanded from there into some other things with it and continue to expand on it now.

Adrian Tennant: Just Like Family is about what you define as the multi-species family. Could you explain your hypothesis?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Sure. So I guess it helps to explain what a multi-species family is in the first place. A multi-species family, at least I would say currently in a post-industrialized, high-income nation, like the United States, is a family that has not just human members, but non-human members as well and identifies those non-human animals as family. When you look at the research, primarily, at least for now that tends to be dogs and cats. There are not as many people identifying Guinea pigs and snakes and tarantulas, right, as family. So the dogs and the cats would be like a primary part of that. And the multi-species family that we see today, is one that is marked not just by having this pet in the family or even just thinking of the pet as family. It’s actually literally identifying the pet as a family member and treating him or her in that way. So identifying the dog or the cat as a sibling to your own children or identifying the dog or cat as a child to you, or that extended family piece, again, thinking of your adult children’s pets as granddogs or grandcats. I keep reinforcing the idea of contemporary, post-industrialized, high-income countries like the US, because some researchers and I’m included in this would say that multi-species families have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. It’s not so much that the multi-species family is new. It’s the incantation of it that’s very new.

Adrian Tennant: Your book discusses the many different roles that pets play in people’s lives. For example, as siblings to human children and as children or “fur babies” among child-free or childless couples. In the book, you recount a story from your personal experience when your dog was treated like a grandchild. Could you tell us more about that?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Sure. So I talked about Chew Bear a few minutes ago, but my husband and I were dating and clearly very committed to each other and became engaged. His mother, so in the book, I referred to her as Famoo because she’s Finnish. And so Famoo was very, very fond of Chew Bear and loved the way that we interacted with her and kind of accepted her as a primary family member. And so she engaged in that as well. She was very willing to babysit Chew Bear. She was willing to cook natural foods for Chew Bear. She was willing to, which is phenomenal to me, get on an airplane with us when we moved to Los Angeles, literally so she could take care of Chew Bear while we went and looked at different apartments and help us apartment hunt in order to find places that would be adequate for the three of us, not just Mark and I, but Mark and I and Chew Bear. And this, this wasn’t just these kinds of things, it was little things too. Talking to Chew Bear like she was her granddaughter and talking about Chew Bear as if she were a granddaughter to other people, to her friends, like outside of our family circle, talking to her friends and showing her friends pictures of Chew Bear. And these are all behavioral elements that kept popping up in my own participants, especially the child-free and involuntarily childless participants, really recounted a lot of similar activities where their parents would invoke this idea of grandparent and treat their animals in that way. Famoo had a really special connection with Chew Bear too, so it wasn’t just grandchild in name, it was grandchild in behavior. She would often talk about how she loved Chew Bear more as a grandchild than she loved some of her other human grandchildren, which obviously were not our children, so it’s okay. She had a very special connection with her and I had fun writing about some of that and I saw it replicated with other people as well. So I’ll add one more thing to that. I think that the key piece for me thinking about this sociologically, Famoo’s involvement wasn’t just sweet to watch. It was also very much so reinforcing of my own behavior and of my husband Mark’s behavior in treating her like a child. So the more that Famoo thought about and treated Chew Bear as if she were a grandchild or one of our kids, the more Mark and I were motivated to continue treating her that way. We didn’t feel stigmatized by it. We didn’t feel embarrassed by it. We felt supported in it. And again, that was something else that I saw replicated again and again, for people who really found value in their own parents supporting their ideas about their dogs and cats being like children to them, was really important. And when that support was not there, it was painfully evident in my participants’ narratives as well.

Adrian Tennant: Chapter five of Just Like Family focuses on how mass media has embraced the concept of the multi-species family. You describe your findings from a qualitative review of a series of print advertisements spanning roughly two decades. Now there’s a lot in this chapter of interest to pet care brand marketers and advertisers, so let’s start with the ways in which animals are depicted. Andrea, to what extent did you find animals in ads had human traits applied to them?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: I would say that, especially over even the past 30 years, definitely the past 20, but over the past 30 years, companion animals have increasingly been anthropomorphized, in ads, not only in the images but also in the copy. In terms of anthropomorphization, that is kind of giving these human traits to animals, I think that that’s something advertisers have done for a really long time. You know, I think about like Joe Camel, right? The depiction of the tough, like Navy man smoking cigarettes. Well, you know, they used a camel to depict that and it was a very, very, effective marketing tactic. Right? That spoke to masculinity in the United States. So I think that that’s not new at all. I think that the anthropomorphization of dogs and cats into actual family members, actual social actors is a different level than simply applying human traits. So that as I pulled these ads and analyzed them, yeah, definitely they were applying these traits of, I guess maybe dressing an animal like a person or maybe, having the animal held like you might hold a child. Like one ad stands out in my mind. You can just, it’s a woman and you just see the back of her head and body. And the dog is upon her shoulder peering back at the camera, right? So obviously that’s anthropomorphic, right? Applying emotions so you have copy where there’s a word bubble and the dog says, “Oh, I’m so happy!” Right? Those things we’re applying human traits, but it’s when we get into ads that are very specifically kind of replicating particular identities like the child, right? So the dog looking over, peering back at the camera as if it’s a child – or he or she is a child – or having copy that gives words to the dog or cat like, “Hey mom, we love this dog food!” Things like that are, they’re stepping a little bit more into the realm of actually depicting the dog and the cat as, as a social actor, number one. Number two: a social actor that communicates effectively with their human. Not just through a bark or a meow, they’re actually using language to communicate with their human, and that are, number three, actually aware of and involved in creating very intimate bonds, familial bonds with their parents or their pet parents, right? So when I think about this mother-child relationship, one ad that pops up for me the copy is really informative. It’s a woman who’s out running and she’s got her Siberian Husky with her. And the copy says, “Bella is part of my family.” Okay. So maybe a general family member. But then she goes on to say, “I believe her happiness and health come before anything else.” So, the copy in that is really telling it’s not just that the animal is like family to me. It’s actually that “the animal is like family to me and more she’s like a child to me.” Because they are invoking kind of this verbiage, this intensive mothering verbiage about your children always coming first. Her happiness, her health comes before anything else. And so this particular ad is advertising Natural Balance dog food. 

So it’s a dietary thing. Verbiage like that, copy like that symbolically communicates, I think on the advertisers’ end, that family is changing and that we are, increasingly as a culture, accepting this idea that there are multi-species families where the dog and the cat aren’t just pets anymore. They aren’t just kind of accepted into the family fold. They literally are family members now, like a child, grandchild, or a sibling, or whatever it happens to be.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for October is Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies by Christina Inge. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Marketing Metrics, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to an encore of my conversation with Dr. Andrea Laurent-Simpson, a Research Assistant Professor and Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Southern Methodist University and the author of the book, Just Like Family, published by New York University Press. 

[MUSIC]

The pet care category is a growing multi-billion dollar industry in the US. Andrea, in your research, did you come across any pet-related products or services that you’d never seen before, or that struck you as particularly interesting?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Yes. I mean, they’re not, they’re not strange to me anymore, but as I was initially doing the research, coming across products like dog seat belts was something that was interesting to me. Strollers? I’d seen strollers before. What I had not seen was double strollers. So, you know, we have double strollers for twins or kids that are similar ages, but these were double strollers for dogs. And probably the one that stands out the most to me was the high chair. So Ikea, there’s a really neat ad from Ikea. 

And we could sit here and analyze this ad together for hours, it’s so fascinating to me. But there’s an Ikea ad with a blue high chair in it. And there is a Labrador, a golden lab sitting up in the high chair, eating, there’s two bowls kind of recess down on the highchair, eating from the bowls. And the copy is interesting to me. The copy actually refers to the dogs, as family, right? So dinner time is when the family comes together. So it makes sense to include the family’s best friend. So it’s interesting, the copy, right? That it refers to the dog that’s in the high chair as a family’s best friend. And then it also later on in the copy refers to the dog as a dinner guest. These feel very fuzzy to me. They don’t feel like solidly family, right? They sound like visitor. Here’s a visitor. When this visitor comes, put them in this high chair at your table. It’s the image though that’s the most striking and really the copy is almost like it’s not an afterthought. It’s very carefully crafted, but it’s not what stands out in this ad. What stands out is that bright blue high chair, bright silver, or shiny silver bowls in it, and that beautiful golden lab sitting in it. And all you see, looking at it, is a child. A best friend doesn’t come to a house and get put in a high chair. You don’t buy a high chair for your best friend’s baby, right? You buy a high chair for a baby that’s in your household and then you utilize it to have them at the table with the family. They’re not separate from the family, sitting, or anything like it, they’re sitting there at the table with the family. They’re one of the family. and so I think that that particular ad and, and the high chair being advertised, and it was really interesting to me. And I think too, I will add this. I think too, that the reason the copy seems a little counter to what the image is because families today, even though this idea of a multi-species family, even though that is becoming more accepted, I think it’s still stigmatized. So looking at that copy, I think that that was probably the advertiser’s way of walking that line real finely and saying to the consumer that doesn’t buy into this, “Hey, we’re not trying to say anything about, we’re not trying to say that this dog’s a child”, but then also with that image that really stands out saying, “Hey, you guys that see your dog as your child? Look at this product that we have for you!” so it’s really interesting to me, just the line walking, very careful psychological kind of analysis that went into that particular ad.

Adrian Tennant: So I’m curious, Andrea, are there any human and product categories that you think are untapped opportunities for pet product manufacturers?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: I think Adrian, that that is a million-dollar question! I think that that’s something that if I could come up with the answer to, I maybe might quit my job and go into pet product innovation. But what I would say from a sociological perspective is that there are particular, I guess categories in terms of family and household structure that advertisers need to pay attention to. They need to think about not just the multi-species family with a dog and a cat and whether or not they have a dog or they have a cat, but they need to think about the household structure. So are we like targeting multi-species families with human children? Multi-species families who are child-free, or involuntarily childless? Are we targeting empty nesters? Like who are we targeting? Because in my own research, each one of those household structures had different perceptions and different internalized identities, related to their dogs and cats. So that the family without human children, you could very much so see this kind of parent-child identity pairing present. Sometimes they were aware of it. Sometimes they were not. Like me, if you had interviewed me 10 years, 15 years ago with Chew Bear, I wouldn’t have been aware of it. But right, that parent-child identity pairing or like with the empty-nester, there’s the grandparent-grandchild identity pairing, or with the family that has human children, there is this identity pairing of sibling-sibling, and sometimes like best friends kind of thing that they see in their own children with the family dog or cat. And so that would be the first part of this right? In trying to figure out what else could we do? I mean, because obviously innovating products from the ground up, I think that’s probably fairly rare. I think that most products come from extensions of products we’ve already got on the market. and so looking at those family structures and thinking about the identities that are present within each multi-species family structure is important because you can figure out what the varying needs are based on the family structure. So for me, I have human children now and I’ve got my three German Shorthair Pointers, and I would absolutely love to have a product- I have no clue what it would look like- but I would love to have a product that would really help me cut down on dirt, even more at the entries to my home. Right now, what we’ve got is towels and these innovative pet product cups where you dip their feet. Like they’ve got these little teethy things inside their silicone, you dip their feet down in there in the silicone, but those are disgusting and messy and the dogs are always turning them over. So, you know, something like that would probably be more important to a family with human children and their dogs and dogs in particular. Because I’ve got double the mess coming through the door every time my two-legged and four-legged children walk in, right? Whereas a child-free family, maybe, yes, obviously they want to make sure that their floors are staying clean, but they don’t have double the mess. So maybe it’s not as big of a concern right? So thinking, along the lines of travel. Child-free families travel a lot. They spend a lot of, well at least middle-class and upper-class professional families are traveling a lot and they wanna take their pets with them. So focusing more on that family structure, the identities that are present there, I want to travel with my kid, my pet, my fur baby. I wanna take my baby with me. So what can we do to kind of improve upon some of the products that are available now to help them travel better? So taking like that family who is child-free and paralleling them with the family that has human children. What are the children’s products that are out there right now? And for travel, for example, what do we have for kids that ease parents’ burden? I’ll say that lightly! When you travel with kids, what do they have for kids that we could extend upon and expand upon for child-free families that want to travel with their pets, with their dogs and cats? So that’s part of it. The other part of it is thinking generationally, which I know that advertisers are well aware of, right? But today, millennials comprise 35% of all pet owners. They have just recently become the biggest pet-owning category percentage-wise in the US. So they’re a really important group to pay attention to. When we look at research on real estate and property purchases, a third of millennials have reported actually purchasing a home for their dog. And in that research, the survey questions ask them to rank, “Why have you purchased a home?” And purchasing a home, percentage-wise, for the dog was number one. Under that came just got married, I have a spouse, we want a home. And then after that was, we’re gonna have kids or we have kids. The dog for a third of them was number one. This is a really important piece to pay attention to when people are purchasing their homes, when millennials, and this is only getting more intense with Gen Z, and moving forward, I think they’re just gonna get more and more intense because fertility rates are dropping and as fertility rates drop, obviously this means that there are fewer children entering the population. And the question, interesting research question to me is are people feeling kind of a need to nurture if they’re not gonna have children, human children, whether that’s because they don’t wanna add the population growth or they’re not able to have human children or human children just gross them out- whatever the reason is if they’re not having children, I am wondering if we are, with a desire to nurture, we are filling that with bringing more and more dogs and cats into our lives. And part of some future research I’d like to do is really kind of examining that and trying to figure out what increasing levels of dog and cat ownership and multi-species families, where the dog’s a child, like almost a bonafide child in the family, if that’s reinforcing falling fertility rates not causing it, but reinforcing it. Thinking about things like that as an advertiser, being able to kind of foresee those trends coming, I, I think is the bread and butter of advertising and marketing, right? But I think really having a clear-cut understanding, for example, that rental properties, that home builders are now designing their either rental properties or they’re designing the houses they sell to answer to pet parents. Like, “Oh, look at this perk. Look at this thing we could build into your house. We could have a whole, pet bathing area back here instead of a mudroom.” like a traditional mudroom where the kids come in and throw all their garbage on the floor. You tell I’ve got children. We instead have, you know, this nice kind of bathing area, for your dog to bring in and spray them off and get them ready to enter the rest of the house. Thinking about things like that and understanding how these different household structures see their animals and the way that they interact with the family will be the best way to figure out new extensions, really on human categories of products.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you cite some previous research studies, some of which have found differences between how dog owners view their pets compared to cat owners. Having reviewed almost two decades’ worth of ads, what are some important considerations you’d highlight for marketers seeking to appeal to dog or cat owners?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Well, the research in the past, that I’ve looked at, so from Harris poll and American Pet Products Association, even the AVMA obviously shows dogs and cats with this special family status applied to them. It seems to show dogs as having a greater likelihood of having the status applied to them but cats, cats do too. Cats aren’t so far off of dogs that we should just write them off as bonafide members of the multi-species family in the US. Dogs in particular, it seems, are privileged with things like birthday presents, holiday celebrations, especially things in my mind that I think of as very social, like a birthday celebration is a very social activity. And when you think about the ways that dogs and humans interact with each other, they’re very social. If you think about the way that they kind of evolved and that evolutionary niche, the reason they evolved alongside one another, was because of that kind of increasing, intertwined social interaction that they had. It’s almost like the disposition of a canine is one that makes him or her very social to start with. But I really think that has a lot to do with evolution alongside humans, right? Whereas cats didn’t evolve in the same way, right? They didn’t evolve right alongside the leg of a human or a hominid, an early hominid. They kind of evolved as an independent isolated category of species. And today their personalities are very, so the domesticated cat, the personalities are very similar, right? Very independent, very aloof. And so it’s not unusual to me to see that maybe more social types of behaviors, going out with a dog, walking the dog, taking the dog to dog parks, that just kind of lines up with the way that humans have evolved alongside of dogs. It lines up with dog personality. Thinking about cats, things are a little bit different, right? People also report birthday celebrations. They also report including them in holiday celebrations and letting them co-sleep. Although cats co-sleep more than dogs do. I think probably of everything I looked at, that was the one thing where cats outranked dogs was co-sleeping. Nut again, I think that’s a personality thing. I think that has to do with the disposition of the feline, right? Is kind of claiming areas as their own. It doesn’t really matter what you say is theirs or isn’t theirs. They’re going to tell you what’s theirs, right? I mean, if this bed is their bed, then you may share it with them. It’s not your bed. It’s my feline bed. You may come sleep in it, if you would like, kind of thing, just a different disposition. And so, you know, looking at those ads, I think that if you are a marketer that is wanting to appeal to dog owners, you’ve gotta think about the household structure, and the identities that are present based on what the household structure is. But then you’ve got to think about the disposition of the dog. In your ads, you don’t wanna make the mistake and in your marketing plans, you don’t wanna make the mistake of portraying or depicting the dog in a way that owners are gonna be like, “Oh, I see through this, you don’t get it. You’re just trying to sell me something because if you weren’t just trying to sell me something, you really cared about me as a consumer, you would understand, not only is this dog like a child to me, but this dog has a specific personality. and it is one that maybe is outgoing and gregarious, or is very interested in being social all the time and being by my side. And in this ad, you’ve got this dog that you wanna market a pet product to me with, sitting off to the side while I sit forefront in the ad drinking my beer, right?” That you’re trying to sell me dog beer. And the dog’s like over here on the side or whatever it happens to be right? Now, if it were an ad that you were trying to sell cat beer, I don’t see a market for that right? Trying to parallel it with the same ad. If you were, if you were, trying to sell cat beer, then maybe that would be the way that you might kind of create that ad, right? Because the cat is aloof. And in fact, maybe what you would do there is put the cat in the forefront of that, and maybe put the human off to the side, drinking their beer. but it’s a personality thing, right? And I think that sometimes, and not just advertisers, but I think social scientists, I think researchers, anthropologists, sociologists, I think sometimes they miss that piece of it, right? If you are an advertiser and you are, or somebody that’s trying to innovate and then market new products or extensions on products, only thinking about the human side, the anthropocentric side of this is gonna get you into trouble. Now, it wouldn’t have gotten you into trouble 20, 30, 40 years ago, because I don’t think that this kind of post-industrialized, multi-species, high-income society had emerged yet. It was emerging, but I don’t think it was front and center the way it is now. You have to remove yourself from that anthropocentric focus, thinking of the human as the one that you’re selling this to, and really think of the dog and cat as a consumer and put that in your ads. You’ve got to think the same way you would a child, right? If you’re marketing games, if you’re Milton Bradley or Hasbro or whatever it is, you’ve done extensive research on children’s behavior, what games they like, the way they play with them, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? It’s the same thing with a dog and a cat. You’ve got to think about them as a consumer and the ways in which they demand, request, want, need, desire, and make sure it comes through in that ad. Because for the multi-species families that I’m describing today that are very, very emergent and becoming increasingly accepted in this millennial generation, to not do that will be insulting to the person who actually has the money, right? The person who actually lays that money down. You need to talk to my dog, right? Talk to my dog to have them talk to me. 

Adrian Tennant: Andrea if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, your academic work, and your book, Just Like Family, where can they find you?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: They could find me on my email. ALaurentSimpson – so just “a” for Andrea, and then Laurent-Simpson @ smu.edu. Or they could also go to my website on academia.edu. So any of those ways would work.

Adrian Tennant: Andrea, thank you very much indeed for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Thank you, Adrian, for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest in this encore episode, Dr. Andrea Laurent-Simpson of the Department of Sociology at Southern Methodist University and the author of the book, Just Like Family: how companion animals joined the household. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select podcast from the menu. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts, submit a review, or tell a friend about IN CLEAR FOCUS. It really helps us out. Thank you for listening. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye!

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Making a return visit to Bigeye’s podcast, our guest this week is Ksenia Newton of Brandwatch. Ksenia explains how she triangulates different sources of data, including social listening, to derive fresh consumer insights about shopping behaviors in-store and online. Ksenia shares insights from her recent Brandwatch reports and makes some predictions about how inflationary pressures might impact this year’s Holiday shopping season, based on what she’s seeing in research.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Ksenia Newton: A lot of the time, if an important brand is not aligned with the consumers’ values, consumers may no longer want to shop with them and they’ll go with somebody else, whether it’s more expensive or not.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. The shopping experience was transformed for many of us during the COVID-19 lockdowns. As footfall in physical stores dropped, eCommerce boomed, innovation in retail tech accelerated, and competition among online retailers grew exponentially. Today, things look a bit different. Shoppers are back in physical stores, while direct-to-consumer brands, including Allbirds, Carvana, and Warby Parker are struggling. Understanding the ever-evolving patterns and trends in consumer behavior is essential for retailers and brands who need to forecast their manufacturing needs and plan their inventory months ahead of products actually hitting the shelves. One way of closely monitoring changes in consumer behavior is through social listening, enabled by tools that can track information about products, consumers, and purchase intent in near real-time. Marketers can use social listening platforms to understand consumer sentiment and improve their brand’s presence on social networks. Making a return visit to IN CLEAR FOCUS, today’s guest is Ksenia Newton, Marketing Content Specialist at the digital consumer intelligence company, Brandwatch. Ksenia describes herself as part social analyst and part writer, deriving insights from social data and turning those into helpful reports and data-driven stories. To talk about current retail trends and what the future might hold for omnichannel commerce, Ksenia is joining us today from New York City. Ksenia, welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Ksenia Newton: Hey Adrian, thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: For listeners who didn’t hear our conversation last year, could you explain what Brandwatch is, and the types of clients it serves? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, absolutely. So I guess I’ll give you the company spiel first. Brandwatch is the world’s premier social suite, empowering thousands of the world’s most admired companies to understand and engage with customers at the speed of social. And to make this line a little bit more digestible for the listeners, what we do is we scope the internet over a hundred million different online publicly available sources on different topics depending on what we’re trying to cover. And using our technology, not only can you scope the internet, you can then segment that data and kind of craft consumer trends, or really understand and answer questions that you have about your consumers at a speed of social, because social media data is available in real-time. So yeah, our products combine a couple of different things such as AI technology, as well as social media listening and social media management tools.

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the introduction, your title is Marketing Content Specialist. What does your role at Brandwatch entail? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah. you can think of me as a data journalist. I’m part analyst, part content writer. So I do use our proprietary technology to scope the internet depending on what the topic I’m working on at the moment in time. And then I analyze that data. Build trends, write reports, guides, blog posts, and sell those stories, data stores that brands really like to hear. yeah.

Adrian Tennant: You recently wrote and presented a report for Brandwatch, which explores how consumer behaviors have changed since COVID-19. Your report identifies five key trends, presenting both opportunities and challenges to retailers. So before we talk about the findings, Ksenia, could you explain how you obtain the data for your retail-focused reports? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, absolutely. Actually, the consumer trend report that you mentioned is by far, one of my favorite ones. It took a lot of work and we ended up involving our existing customers. We have a Brandwatch community whom we reach out to and ask, besides doing some initial research, we also reached out to our community and asked them what are the different topics we could cover that would help them their job probably. the data was obtained using our proprietary technology, Brandwatch consumer research. And I used quite a few queries or search strings if you will, the number was 23 or 24. And we also use social panels, which I think is very important to mention, like it’s becoming one of my favorite, proprietary tech that we have in fact, because it allows us to analyze different groups of people based on certain criteria. So we use that to analyze different generations. You can also use them to analyze people according to certain interests or their job titles and so on and so forth. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: The first trend I’d like to discuss with you is retail therapy. Could you tell us what this is and how you’re seeing consumer behaviors being impacted by it? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah. It’s a great question. Such an interesting topic to discover actually. As you know, the pandemic kind of accelerated the shift to shopping online and because consumers who were stuck at home tended to shop a little bit more. So we saw a lot of topics covered, such as delivery payment options, and checkout process that consumers discussed during that time. But also because retailers realized consumers are shopping a lot more, they have a little bit more disposable income. We were talking about 2021 and people spent a lot more time shopping online. Retailers did their best to kind of optimize that experience for them. So this is what we saw in terms of retail or shopping experience that consumers just relied on the delivery and, kind of discuss the existing payment options and checkout process and so on, so forth. But kind of the downside of that, that we saw online, is consumers a lot of the time discussed how it’s negatively impacting them because some of them literally stated, and I’ll quote this tweet because I thought it was very important. the person literally said, “Why do I feel like I need to order something every single day?” And, that tweet received a lot of engagement because a lot of people, a lot of consumers feel the same way just because everything is catered to them. The delivery option you can choose from, you know, one day delivery, you can, do the curbside. You can go to the store and so on and so forth because, they had so many different options. They felt the pressure that they had to shop every single day. And kind of that shopping behavior has probably become a problem for a lot of consumers and that’s, and because in a way, they used that behavior to kind of cope with depression that they had last year.

Adrian Tennant: Next, could you talk to us about the window shopping trend?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, that’s also a very interesting trend. Again, last year when people were still kind of homebound, we had very little to do, right? We were online at all times and a lot of the time we were just shopping online. So, the window shopping trend online, we saw two different, topics there. People would just add things to the shopping cart, pretend that they have a place to wear clothes or shoes or whatever it might be. and then just exiting the shopping cart and never really finalizing that transaction. So there are two reasons that we saw why that was happening. One trend is because consumers were still very much kind of concerned about their financial security. and then didn’t necessarily want to spend that money and they wanted to save up. But the added trend was, it was wishful thinking if you will, consumers never really intended to finalize that purchase at all. But what’s important to know about window shopping online is it actually is costing brands a lot of money. So one of the recent research that I read stated that about 58 to 84 percent of shopping carts are abandoned online. So you can only think about how many billions of dollars they can be translated into. so with the first trend, with consumers trying to save up, there is really not much brands can do. We’re just going to have to hope the economy is going to get better and, consumers will regain that kind of confidence, when it comes to spending. But with the second trend, When people are exiting shopping cars, there is something brands can actually do. and we were talking about optimizing further shopping experience for consumers, such as making very easy, updating the UX experience. And these are all the things. What I’m mentioning is everything that we saw throughout our research, right? People actually mentioned confusing, UX experience, not understanding how to properly find where is the shopping cart. And actually my personal experience that I, I purchased something the other day and I write about this and I took me a minute to figure out how do I actually finalize my purchase? And, I would love to let the brand know I’m not going to mention them, but I’d love to let them know that they’re really confusing me and I’ve been a loyal customer for a long time. so yeah, so this is something that brands can actually do as really trying to optimize that shopping experience such as UX, checkout process, limited payment options. Actually, it’s the other thing that we saw online as well. A lot of the time consumers complain how there are just not enough options for them to choose from. For example, the brand only features credit card, maybe PayPal or something else. But there are other payment options that consumers are looking for these days. And that’s also something that brands can really optimize for to hopefully avoid this shopping cart abandonment trend.

Adrian Tennant: Last time you were a guest on, IN CLEAR FOCUS, we talked about the impact of emerging technologies on consumer behavior. In your recent report, you highlight shopper’s expectations being raised when it comes to virtual try-on, can you unpack this for us?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, absolutely. Going back to what I was just talking about, how retailers and eCommerce brands tried really hard to cater to consumers who were home bound and really trying to optimize their experience when it comes to delivery. When it comes to checkout process, virtual try-on was anotherway for retailers to kind of hopefully get those consumers to buy, right? And we saw a lot of interest, relating to the topic of virtual try-on online. So there’s definitely the search spin up. People are looking up virtual Tryon. Consumers are curious. Are probably lean towards brands that offer that type of experience on the website. And, we saw a lot of happy mentions from consumers saying how much they enjoyed their experience with a brand when they offered that particular feature. And one, we, I will reference specifically it was L’Oreal I believe the brand, and a consumer was saying how happy they were with their experience with purchasing lipstick off of the website, because the website offered particular shopping experience for them. They were able to find the right color without going to the store. But the downside also is now the expectations are very high and consumers are looking for that type of experience. So when they’re promised that, for example, there is a virtual try-on option or feature on the website and they go in and it’s only offered to specific type of users, they’re very unhappy and they take to social media to really talk about it. And I’m referring to a specific brand that only offers virtual try-on for users who have an Apple device versus those who have say Samsung device. When it comes to consumer expectations, they’re really high right now because they were sold this idea and now brands really have to keep up. 

Adrian Tennant: During COVID, some US brands adapted to the lockdowns and store closures by introducing live streaming. But this summer, in addition to Meta’s announcement that live shopping on Facebook will end in October ,TikTok backed away from its plans to expand live stream shopping capabilities to the US. Could you give us a quick history of live streaming and what the Brandwatch data is telling you about social commerce?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah. Great question. So live streaming is another convenient way to shop online if you will, which I haven’t tried. I’ll be very honest have yet to try live streaming even though by far is one of the biggest trends right now when it comes to retail. The trend kicked off in China back in 2016, with the arrival of Alibaba and Taobao. And now it’s seen tremendous growth all around the world, not without the help of K-pop stars like BTS and Got7 and the likes. From what we’ve seen online, consumers really enjoy this type of experience. They join in these live streams. That pretty much look like shows, right? they get to be entertained. They get to interact with their favorite celebrities and host because it’s all live and they also get to buy products that are recommended by their favorite again, celebrities and icons. So it sounds like an amazing experience. from what I know, the global video streaming market side is expected to reach and surpass $330 billion by 2030. That sounds like a large number. And I actually can’t wait to try it myself. I feel like now I’m lagging behind. I have not tried live streaming, but it’s huge. Absolutely huge. And people love it! 

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Tim McCormack: I’m Tim McCormack, Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as media professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused media and analytics to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for September is Using Behavioral Science in Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses by Nancy Harhut. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Ksenia Newton, marketing content specialist at Brandwatch, about retail trends in 2022. The fifth key trend you identify in your report is elevated expectations around delivery and fulfillment. Ksenia, what are the implications for retailers? 


Ksenia Newton: Logistics plays a huge role in building a solid reputation for any brand out there. And it’s been really hard for brands, right? Retail and e-commerce – the expectations that consumers have right now, as I already mentioned, are very high. So for retailers and e-commerce companies, it’s really important to expand their delivery options if possible. Because consumers want to have what they purchased, they want to have it right now. They want to have it on the day they need to have it and they can’t wait for it for a month. that means that all these brands need to expend their delivery options, not just offering delivery to your house, but maybe, setting up, pick up location or pickup point or curbside pickup, whatever it might be,the focus needs to be on delivered because consumers are really expecting that convenience level right now. . and the other thing that we saw online as well is that it was also a tweet that I’m going to quote, because it was very important to gain a lot of engagement. A person literally said, “if it’s sold out, please take it off the website, thank you.” and, one of my favorite tweets from that research, with 300,000 likes, you can tell that it resonated with consumers, quite a bit. Got a lot of engagement because consumers don’t want to spend time on the website looking for that product that they’re really want to purchase, just to realize that product is off, is not in stock anymore. So make it easier for consumer, please make sure you’re update your website so consumers don’t have to waste their time because not only they will waste their time, it will also affect how they view that brand moving forward. They may not want to shop with you again, right? And the other thing that we saw, I guess again, when it comes to elevated expectations and going back to the payment that I just talked about, placing an order and payment methods, something, again, that’s very important. I just did a whole report on the financial sector and kind of what are the most popular payment methods out there. And what I saw is, sure, credit cards and debit cards are still very, very popular, but payment methods like Buy Now, Pay Later, Klarna, and AfterPay and ClearPay have been gaining popularity rapidly. So consumers are looking for different ways to pay for their purchases. And with Buy Now, Pay Later, specifically, it allows you to split the purchase, the larger purchase and pay in installments, taking that pressure off a little bit. And then, you know, potentially, it will become kind of a differentiating point. As a consumer myself, I just used Buy Now, Pay Later to pay for a larger purchase, which was a mattress. And it really helped me personally, that I could just break down that price and just not have to look at this one large number. And it did help me in a way to choose between two brands as well. So this is something that we’re seeing consumers talk a lot about, online as well, Buy Now, Pay Later specifically, and adding additional payment options to the existing payment options on the website, because as you know, if your consumers can’t pay with the payment options that you have listed on the website, the business might lose their revenue. So there’s that.

Adrian Tennant: Inflation has forced many consumers to shop in off price and discount stores. According to data from In Market during the period from October, 2021 to June, 2022, average spending on grocery items rose 71% at discount retailers. For some context, spending on those same items in traditional grocery stores fell 5% in the same period. Dollar General plans to offer fresh produce in 10,000 of its stores over the next few years. Ksenia, do you think Dollar General is right to bet that cost conscious shoppers will stick with discount retailers in the long-term? 

Ksenia Newton: That’s a great question. I’ve actually, I’ve not heard of dollar general doing this. I might, if I see one, I might have to check it out. What I can say is from our research, we saw that the spending levels remain per pandemic, which means consumers are spending the same or a little bit more. But also consumers are interested in coupons the same, because one of the terms that I actually heard of on the radio yesterday, depressed consumer sentiment when it comes to spending, I had to write it down because I thought it was brilliant. so the sentiment is still sort of a depressed when it comes to spending and consumers are staying conscious and I imagine everybody is going to try to save up, right. If there is an opportunity, people are looking for coupons and that’s why,there is some potential there,I do think that consumers might stick to the discount brands that they’ve been shopping with for a long time.some consumers could all depends on the audience because other consumers might want to lean something towards brands that actually align with their values. And that’s something that we also saw as part of our research that a A lot of the time, if an important brand, is not aligned with the consumer values, consumers may no longer want to shop with them and they’ll go with somebody else, whether it’s more expensive or not.

Adrian Tennant: As prices rise, customer loyalty is weakening. 38% of the consumer brand categories analyzed by data firm, Brand Keys are experiencing declining loyalty. E-marketer recently reported on this highlighting some of the ways that rewards programs can help counter the trend. They cited a study from Salesforce, which found that 61% of consumers would use loyalty programs more often if they automatically applied rewards. And 44% would do so if they offered simpler terms and conditions. Ksenia, what are you seeing in the world of loyalty programs? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, it’s a great question, uh, something that we should probably unpack in our next report. In fact, I think it’s a very interesting topic. Personally, I have a lot of I’m part of a lot of different membership programs. Of course, I’m a consumer and I like rewards. I think rewards programs are here to stay because who doesn’t like to save money? But again, consumers are moving away from brands if those brands don’t represent their values, if you will. And we’ve seen that quite a bit with consumers moving from shopping at one store to going shopping with smaller, local stores, local farmer’s market, for example, if we were to talk about groceries. And I see this in New York, specifically where consumers encourage each other to shop with their local farmer’s market versus going to a brand supermarket, for example. I think that’s going to play a bigger role because Today’s consumers are very focused on social matters. So if brands are not aligned with where they stand, I do think it doesn’t matter whether they’re discounted brands or not. Consumers might move to other brands to shop with. 

Adrian Tennant: How do you think inflation will shape the upcoming holiday shopping season? Will consumers buy even earlier to avoid price hikes?

Ksenia Newton: One of the things, one of the trends that we saw in our research, we call it Revenge Spending. And that means consumers who were stuck at home because of the ongoing pandemic. Now that they’re out now that the restrictions have loosen up a little bit and they have a little bit of money to spend, they are now spending in revenge for all the waste of time. So that’s one of the trends that we saw, that I’m pretty sure is going to affect how consumers shop during the holiday season. The other trend, again, going back to Buy Now, Pay Later, I think it is very important that consumers these days have an opportunity to break down that price and maybe, between purchases something right away and paying for it right away. It’s too expensive. They can’t afford it. They now have an opportunity to pay for it over time, which I do think is going to positively impact sales in my personal opinion. So it’s a great option to attract consumers who might be hesitant to spend that money during the Holidays. And, another thing that I saw in the recent research around the financial sector is consumers are very enthusiastic when it comes to the topic of spending and payment options, they’re constantly researching. So it doesn’t sound like people are not going to buy. It sounds like they’re looking for better ways to shop whether it’s coupons, discounts, whether it’s buy now pay later or different payment options or whatever it might be, consumers are looking to spend. And then something that I also saw, I’m part of this Facebook group it’s called secret. I don’t know, it’s no longer secret, but it is a private, Christmas focus group on Facebook, where about a month ago people started reporting how they finalized their Christmas shopping. Again, and I know I mentioned this last time in our, podcast, but this time around, people are spending a lot more money and they buy multiple presents A again, this isn’t based on any data that I saw using our technology. Right. This is something that I literally scope from just reading through comments in this Facebook group. People purchase multiple presents per person, again, it may not be representative the rest of the population, but it also doesn’t sound like they’re trying to save up either.

Adrian Tennant: So Ksenia, what are you working on at the moment? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, I’m super excited on this project actually it’s called The State of Social. It is going to be a mega report, featuring over 560 different brands and me analyzing over 530 million brand mentions. And it’s going to be really focused on finding the right benchmarks, trends, and talking points, and best practices for social media marketers out there. We’re analyzing 15 different industries and we’re going to really try to find what are the best practices, benchmarks, and so on. So that every social media marketer out there can actually use to build a successful social media strategy, for next year. Super excited, I think is going to be really a guiding life for everyone. And, it’s currently over 70 pages. please go to our website about a month from now when we publish it is going to be brilliant, I promise you!

Adrian Tennant: Ksenia, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, where can they find you? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, absolutely, you’re more than welcome to shoot me an email at KNewton@Brandwatch.com or send me a request on LinkedIn. happy to answer any questions if you have, if I don’t have an answer, I might be able to research that. That’s what I do! 

Adrian Tennant: And if people are interested in learning more about Brandwatch, where should they go?

Ksenia Newton: Check out our website, www.Brandwatch.com and you’ll find a lot more information there. You can also go to our resources page. We have a lot of different things from webinars before it’s guides, blog posts, best practices. You name it, we have it, but check it out. You will not regret.

Adrian Tennant: Ksenia, thank you very much for being our guest again this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Ksenia Newton: Thank you so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Ksenia Newton, Marketing Content Specialist at Brandwatch. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.