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

Market research innovators Holland Martini and Maria Vorovich, the co-founders of GoodQues, discuss why they’re on a mission to humanize research data. Learn how their unorthodox methods yield emotionally intelligent insights, the benefits of conducting taste tests in bars, and how using storytelling makes data more ‘sticky.’ Holland and Maria also address the role of AI in research and discuss examples where techniques drawn from psychotherapy yielded deeper consumer insights.

Episode Transcript

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

Holland Martini: I truly believe less is more because it helps you focus and make sure the decisions you’re making are based on the right questions and the right answers. 

Maria Vorovich: We tell stories so that our clients remember the data, so that they’re excited to read it, so that they’re excited to share it. 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and 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, brands look to their agency partners to create advertising campaigns that not only capture attention but also forge meaningful connections with consumers. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of this podcast, to understand audiences, market research typically uses tried and true tools like surveys and focus groups. But researchers working in marketing communications are increasingly looking for ways to bridge the divide between objective, rational behavioral data generated by quantitative research and the more subjective, emotional aspects of consumer attitudes and preferences revealed through qualitative work. This gap can be especially problematic in the development of advertising during strategy development, media planning, and creative briefing, all of which require a deep understanding of the target audience. One company believes that what’s needed is an approach rooted in data while also deeply attuned to human emotions and experiences. GoodQues describes itself as an anti-research market research company that aims to humanize the data collection process. Challenging traditional research norms, GoodQues combines psychotherapy techniques and academic research principles to inform and inspire mixed methodologies, with the common aim of providing concise yet informative data that clients can easily understand and apply. Well, it’s an approach that’s clearly working because GoodQues counts TikTok, Pepsi, Frito Lay, Meta, Tropicana, Jägermeister, and many other household brands among its clients. And this year, GoodQues has been named one of the top fastest-growing companies by Inc. Magazine. Our guests today are the co-founders of GoodQues. Maria Vorovich is the Chief Strategy Officer, and Holland Martini is the Chief Insights Officer. To talk about their unorthodox approach to audience research, Maria is joining us today from Denver, Colorado, and Holland from New York City. Holland and Maria, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Holland Martini: Hi, thank you so much for having us.

Maria Vorovich: We’re thrilled to be here.

Adrian Tennant: So Holland, first of all, how did you two meet?

Holland Martini: I love this question. It’s probably the first question we always get. Everyone thinks we were friends before GoodQues, but Maria and I actually met at our former job. We worked at one of the largest creative agencies in New York, which is Grey New York. Maria was the Head of Beauty for strategy within Grey, and I was the Head of Data Strategy. Our work fed a lot into one another. And we just naturally built a ton of respect for the way that we worked, the insights that we were looking for, and the approach to problem-solving. And then, ultimately, when we discussed research and what we wanted research to be, we realized we had the same vision for research. So definitely built off of a foundation of respect and colleagues, but we’re essentially family now. 

Adrian Tennant: Maria, you co-founded GoodQues in 2019. What prompted you to establish the company?

Maria Vorovich: In our experience, initiative tends to be born out of frustration. And this was very much the case for GoodQues. So Holland and I were working together, and we were constantly ideating the What-ifs and What if we could do this? and What if we could do that? And what happens is often long-established companies have really complex infrastructure and a way of doing things. That’s what a lot of the benefit is the strong foundation. But the downside of that is that they really struggle to adapt and adopt new approaches and new ways of doing things. And s, while we were working at this kind of behemoth company, we only had one option for our ideas, and that was to start from scratch. 

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the intro, you’ve positioned GoodQues as the anti-research research company. Can you unpack that for us?

Holland Martini: My background was predominantly in market research in the market research industry. I spent my entire career in it. And I can just say with experience that I think the primary goal of the research industry is to provide answers. And that was constantly what we were doing, scrambling for answers. Where the industry is really lacking is the emphasis on what those answers are, and how those answers are being used, and how those answers are being retrieved. And so what we decided to do, is buck that trend. So as Maria said, you know, GoodQues was founded on exactly that frustration. We were frustrated by all these age-old techniques simply to get the answers to the client. Instead, what we wanted to do was ensure that the answers we get are truly human, that people can really sense that those answers are something that they could work off of as opposed to trying to showcase rigor through these hundred-page decks of raw data. Which is, I think that was, you know, a big frustration I experienced in my career was that the bigger, the more complex [it] was, the better ultimately. And instead, what we’re trying to showcase is how to make deliverables that are designed for who is reading them and how they’re being used so that they become sticky throughout the organization. I can’t tell you how many times I would deliver a research report, and maybe it ended up in the trash for all I know. And for us, it’s really important to make sure that those insights are just top of mind, that they’re exciting, that people are using them, and that it’s something that you want to share. And that’s really where the anti-research research company came from. We all have the same goal, but we’re really almost doing the opposite of normal deliverables and the opposite of more of those traditional techniques.

Adrian Tennant: Maria, Do you work directly with brands, partner with agencies, or a mixture of both?

Maria Vorovich: So, we predominantly work with brands, not agencies, and it’s really due to a simple reason, and that’s just infrastructure. We absolutely love agencies. We hail from agencies. We know agencies. We speak agency language. But the problem with the infrastructure is actually on the client’s side. So by the time a creative agency receives a brief, the client has already done the rigmarole of going through the insights group, and their research vendors. So the agency receives this research-backed brief. And at that point, the agency might have some questions, but the research then becomes a stepping stone to getting creative output versus the main event, which happened a few months back. So what we found is that because we’re hyper, hyper specialists in our field, because we live and breathe data, we tend to be the most useful on the client side, developing even the brief that the agency gets. And then once the agency, the creative agency, is brought in, we’re more of the support team than we are, then we are kind of an equal partner.

Adrian Tennant: How do your skill sets complement one another? And I’ll begin with you, Holland.

Holland Martini: Yeah. We are very much yin and yang. Her strengths are my weaknesses, and I’m sure she would say the opposite for me as well. But we’re very left brain, right brain. And I think that’s actually what makes GoodQues so strong. I’m very much a math person, I think in numbers, I think very linear. Maria, you know, her background is in art. She’s very conceptual. She can think of things and piece together different facets of insights that I wouldn’t be able to. And so what that does for us is ultimately create a perfect storm of the rigor and the math and the analysis that makes very concrete insights. And then the story and the strategy and the creativity that makes them sticky, that makes them actionable, that makes brands want to use them.

Adrian Tennant: Maria?

Maria Vorovich: I couldn’t have said it better. You know, the part of the anti-research research model is that we’re able to have extremely creative methodologies, but never at the detriment of rigor. That’s kind of a yin and yang partnership that Holland was talking about. We can become really, really creative. We can think outside the box. We have that muscle, but we will never compromise on it being sound data. and that’s the magic of GoodQues.

Adrian Tennant: Last year, GoodQues serviced over $72 billion in client revenue, researching audiences including moms, bone marrow donors, juice drinkers, at-home chefs, and environmentalists, to name a few. Maria, you touched on how creativity is central to your research methodologies, could you give us a couple of examples of how GoodQues uses novel, non-obvious approaches to yield richer audience insights?

Maria Vorovich: Absolutely. One of my favorite examples is one of our more emotionally complex problems that came across our desk. So we were working with a government-funded agency that was studying racism in healthcare, specifically with the AAPI community. And they came to us to help understand the issue and help understand the source of any problems. And I believe a typical research agency would go about it qualitatively. They would conduct some kind of interview, even if it’s one-on-one, in-depth. But racism is such a difficult thing to talk about, especially with a stranger. And just asking the question we knew straight off the bat just wouldn’t be enough. So this is where the creativity came in and what we started to think about was how do we loop in some psychology principles, how do we put on our psychotherapist hat, and approach the problem that way. And that’s exactly what we did. We use the technique that we often use now, which is art therapy. And what this does is we gathered our respondents, and we gave them access to software that allowed them to create cartoons. And when they are creating these cartoons, they can choose their avatar, they can choose their clothing, they can choose the word bubbles, they can choose the environment, they can choose the characters around them, they can choose as many or as little panels if you imagine a cartoon as they’d like. And what we essentially got are these storyboards of situations where they were reenacting the moments that had happened to them in their lives. And through that, the kinds of things we were able to learn were absolutely extraordinary and we have never come out of a conversation. So the example I love to give is what we learned racism is very much felt in the healthcare environment by this group, but it’s rarely felt by the healthcare providers. So the doctors, the HTPs, the nurses, typically where it’s coming from is from the tangential surrounding staff. So from the billers, the receptionists, this kind of thing. And again, you know, if we had had just a conversation, I don’t believe that that would ever have come out. And so that kind of creativity is what takes us from mundane insights or surface level to real, real depth, giving people that comfort, thinking about how do we make them feel able to open up to us versus forced to have the conversation. So hopefully, that gives a little bit of a taste of what we do.

Adrian Tennant: It does, thank you. Now, Holland, you referred to the 100-plus page decks a moment ago. You, however, feel that less is more when it comes to – rather than more is more – less is more when it comes to research. Can you share some examples of how this is reflected in the work GoodQues does for clients?

Holland Martini: Yeah, absolutely. and I think the less is more is a bit taboo coming from a data nerd, so I do have a strong opinion on this, but I think what makes GoodQues extremely unique is the fact that we’re a team of not just researchers and analysts, but we’re built both by analysts and strategists. And that creates a different level of thinking. And it’s not just can we provide the answers to our clients’ questions, but it’s to make sure our clients are asking the right questions. Why are you asking the questions? And that helps us focus on the right answers. I think a big pet peeve with a lot of people who look at different metrics and data, for example, you have five different data points, two go up, three go down, and then it’s, then what, what are you doing? And people are making very large brand decisions off of this. And that’s why I truly believe less is more because it helps you focus and make sure the decisions you’re making are based on the right questions and the right answers. So I’ll give you an example to contextualize it. One of our clients is one of the biggest beers. You go in any bodega in New York or anywhere from wherever you’re listening, and you see this beer. And they really think that the backbone of their brand is quality, and all the decisions they make are off of these various metrics that showcase what quality is to them. Variables like the price, the packaging, what people think of the packaging, where it’s placed, the taste, and whether or not people know the heritage of the brand. And they’re making huge decisions off of these data points that they measure every month. And ultimately, our opinion of a beer isn’t necessarily changing every month. And are these even the variables we’re looking at to decide if it’s quality? So what we did with this brand is we actually focused the client. We asked the single most important question, which is: “What does quality mean to your consumer”? And we looked outside of the box. We strategized what other answers are there other than the ones that you just think of top of mind, like the taste, like the packaging, like where it’s located. And we actually found out that for this particular drinker, quality to them was scarcity, whether it was like hard to find, hard to get. We think of brands that have drops, for example, where you have to go out and be the first one to get it. And that’s how they were measuring quality. So different from the variables that the brand was originally mentioning. Now, yes, scarcity is a very complex thing to build a brand strategy around, so I don’t want anyone to run with that. But the point being is that it focused for the client. and they had kind of a North Star to look at when making decisions as opposed to, sorry for the bad analogy, a universe of stars that they were trying to digest and then make decisions off of.

Adrian Tennant: Maria, on your website, you talk about conducting qualitative work in bars instead of research facilities and gamified surveys versus standard questionnaires. What motivates these kinds of unorthodox approaches?

Maria Vorovich: So it’s interesting. It’s unorthodox for our category, but, it stems from a principle that’s been widely used, I would say, from the early 2000s of human-first principles and design thinking, and even product development. It’s very squarely fits in the tech space. It’s actually an idea that showed up on a TED stage as far back, I believe, as 2002. but what we’re doing is we’re bringing it into research, which is very novel and very, very fresh. And the main idea of it is to focus on people and their context more so than the goal, which, again, for our industry, is revolutionary. So if we think of a spirits company, for example, and if we think about them developing a product, and the goal is to determine which flavor drinkers will like best. So what happens historically is that taste tests are conducted in research facilities. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a research facility, but usually what that involves is fluorescent lighting, two-way mirrors, these office chairs, office tables, you know, three-day-old sandwiches. And it’s actually the opposite environment in which you might be drinking alcohol or taking shots. So yes, you’re going to achieve the goal in terms of, you’ll get some semblance of an idea of the flavor people like, but will it be accurate? Will it mimic a real-life environment? And so the human-first research design approach, we start to consider the people again, above the problem. So then it’s not just about getting the alcohol into people’s mouths, but it’s about thinking about what environment would they drink it in? Who would be there? What time of day would it be? What are they feeling in that moment? And the result is, and we’ve actually done this before, the result is a taste test, but it’s in a bar instead of a research facility. It’s at happy hour instead of noon time. And it’s with people of a similar age. Someone that they might actually be surrounded by in this environment. And again, the result of that is just a much more accurate reading of what will happen in the real world, than creating this kind of, you know, manufactured, environment because it’s more simple for research.

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

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with the co-founders of GoodQues, Holland Martini, Chief Insights Officer, and Maria Vorovich, Chief Strategy Officer. Maria, in a piece published in Inc. Magazine, you said that GoodQues reports read more like steamy novels than Excel spreadsheets. So what role does storytelling play in communicating data to your clients?

Maria Vorovich: So there’s a statistic that I can’t take credit for. I believe it was something that came out in the 1980s, and it says that people are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it’s wrapped in a story. And it’s as simple as that. We tell stories so that our clients remember the data so that they’re excited to read it, so that they’re excited to share it. And the more that our data and our insights and our research seeps into their minds and their soul, the more likely they’re going to use it for strategic decisions. So, you know, you’re much more likely to read a steamy novel than a spreadsheet!

Adrian Tennant: Makes sense! Holland, this year, has of course, seen a tremendous amount of interest in marketing and advertising circles about artificial intelligence and a lot of debate about the merits and demerits of using generative technologies in creative work. We’re also seeing new AI-assisted tools coming on the market every week, it seems, including research tools with ChatGPT-like features. So given that GoodQues’s mission is the humanization of data and more emotionally intelligent insights, what’s your take on AI’s role in research?

Holland Martini: So, AI is, it’s really useful in research, so I won’t ding it at all, but there is something to be noted that there needs some sort of human element to it. Every answer that you ask artificial intelligence, the output is based on the question that you give it. The brief that you give it. So unless you are asking from a human perspective, with background and context, and writing the questions in a way that are human, in a way that’s going to tell the artificial intelligence to deliver the right answers, you simply won’t get them. The other thing to think about as well that is really important to me is that artificial intelligence, especially if you think of the ones like ChatGPT, they’re all based on things that people wrote on the internet. It’s all human-based at the end of the day. And so that’s why it’s also really important to think about the way you write the questions because you have to probe this artificial intelligence to look for the right information based on the way people are writing it online, digitally, et cetera. So for us, again, it’s something that we see really adding to the future of research. It’s just how we use it and how we’re thoughtful about using it to make sure that it actually feeds our brands with the right insights.

Adrian Tennant: Maria, do you have anything to add to that?

Maria Vorovich: I like to think about it as an analogy. It’s almost the commander and cadet dynamic. Whereas the human is the commander and the cadet, no matter how talented, without the commander, won’t know where to go. And I think that’s the exact dynamic in AI. Again, AI is tremendous at analyzing data, and brainstorming formulas, but you can test it yourself using ChatGPT. The question that you input will so drastically impact the output you’ll instantly realize the power of the human element.

Adrian Tennant: Holland, What are some concrete strategies that marketers can use to build loyalty now to grow their brands through emotional intelligence? 

Holland Martini: I might be a little bit biased here, but I do think emotional intelligence is the key to building brand loyalty and seeing sustainable growth for brands. Obviously, as long as all functional needs are met within the product or whatever you’re delivering to the consumer. If research is done right, each strategy should really be bespoke to that brand, or that company, or whoever their client is, and it’s unique to that customer. But what I can give you is two concrete research strategies that we use that ensure you’re getting the right answers to build your emotional intelligence. I think the two that are most important are first, it’s always important to get to know your audience before you build a study for them. So we completely immerse ourselves in who the audience is, how they talk, the brands that they mention. We do it in things like Reddit and in forums, even just the people around us that we know. And I can give you an example of this. So one of our bigger clients had us researching developers. You don’t know how developers talk, their lingo, or what makes them open up. And we found actually that when you act like you know everything about. developing, that these people actually close up because it becomes almost this competitive, well, “I know just as much as you, I’m not going to give away my secrets.” But if you act like a newbie, if you will, then they love to teach you. They feel like they have the upper hand. And so it’s these small personality traits that you learn about your audience before you even write the study for them. That can evoke so much more meaningful responses and make them feel like they’re actually talking to a person within their community as opposed to talking to a person within a research facility. So we always say that, you know, and this leads me to my next point, the way that you ask a question is the way that you respond. So if a kid is like, “Mommy, I’m hurt,” like “I fell.” You respond, “Oh baby, is it a boo boo?” It’s a natural response for us to mimic the way that we are responding to people by the way that we are being spoken to. And so my second one is also to think about the questions. Copywrite your questions when you’re building a study for your different audiences, and you really want to ensure that you’re gleaning the right emotional intelligence. I’m going to steal this from Maria. This is Maria’s example, but it’s the best way to put it. So sorry, Maria. She always gives the example of these two statements. One is the difference between “Would you like to work with me?” versus “Would you like to work for me?” It’s asking the same thing, but that one change in the word changes the entire intention and the meaning of that sentence, and the way that you would respond to it. One is a little more closed off, and one is a little bit more open. For me is a very intentional, “This is what you would do for me” and with me is “What we would do together.” And so the one thing that I would really encourage people to do when they are trying to gather more intelligent, emotional intelligence through research is to make sure that they are copywriting each question and being very, very thoughtful about the way that they are asking the questions. It’s new to the world of research. We use this example a lot as well, but when you see a tagline on a commercial, Someone thought of those five words for probably six months. And then when we do research, we’re expected to turn around a research brief in a week, and it’s hundreds and thousands of words sometimes. So it’s really being thoughtful about how you ask the questions to gain the right emotional intelligence.

Adrian Tennant: An article in Adweek’s Agency Spy earlier this year revealed that at GoodQues you’ve developed a custom deck of playing cards, which you now consider essential work tools. So, what prompted you to create the deck? And how did you decide on the specific questions or prompts to include?

Maria Vorovich: Yeah, that’s a great question. So we’re very much culture vultures at GoodQues. We love to monitor what’s going on in the world. We live and breathe it, and these question cards were gaining steam. I’m sure you’ve seen some of them. And we were seeing our friends, our lovers, our coworkers, all kind of playing these games. With the intention of getting closer to each other. Again, whether it’s a co-working relationship, an intimate relationship, a friendship, et cetera. And so we were extremely inspired by it. And we thought, as a company named GoodQues, a good question, we should probably have our own stake in the ground around what good questions are. and the truth is, is that it could have been an infinite amount of questions. We chose some of the most hard-hitting, empathetic, and interesting questions that we like to ask of ourselves and our audience. And the way that the card deck was developed was not just a tool for GoodQues but also as a gift for our clients and prospects. So we sent it out, and again, in the hopes that people think twice about how they ask the question and the kind of question they’re asking of themselves and of others.

Adrian Tennant: Holland, can you share an example of a time when using your custom playing cards led to a breakthrough or significantly improved a session with participants?

Holland Martini: Yeah. So I think one thing that also was a catalyst for why we built these playing cards is because there are so many studies that suggest that people are more likely to be honest with you and open up to you if they know more about who you are as a person. And the playing cards are meant to do exactly that, provide more color, more context to who you are as a person based on these more intimate or interesting questions that really provoke thought. And so what we’ve done before is we’ve actually used these cards in qualitative focus groups to allow people to open up with one another, especially when these focus groups are about to talk about sensitive topics. By giving someone some background of who you are, there’s a little bit more context to why you are answering the questions the way you are, and it provides a little bit more empathy. It’s led to more fruitful conversation and a lot less beating around the bush, if you will, when suddenly being asked a sensitive question in front of a group of strangers. It’s a way to make people feel a little bit less like strangers, even though you kind of are. You have one hour with people you’ve never met before. And so we’ve seen a drastic increase in the insights we get and the authenticity behind them.

Adrian Tennant: Maria, looking ahead to 2024, in what kinds of ways can brands grow profitably by understanding customer emotions?

Maria Vorovich: As recently as 2022, a Gallup poll found that approximately 70 percent of consumer decisions are based on emotional factors and only 30 percent are based on rational factors, and that’s one poll. The truth of it is, and in my opinion, it’s probably something like 90%, it’s based on emotion. And so brands need to tap into that emotion in order to outmaneuver their competition, in order to truly understand their audience, to inform their strategic decisions. It’s the only way that a brand can go profitably is by, again, re-pivoting and beginning to focus on the people and the context, what we were saying that human design principles over just the goal or the problem, which will lead down the path of functional, rational, and uninspiring.

Holland Martini: So we actually did our own study that shows that people are willing to spend up to 20 times more on a brand that quote-unquote truly gets them. So for me, and I can speak to the rest of GoodQues as well, instead of thinking how customer emotions can drive profitability, I like to think of it as customer emotions and understanding customer emotions equals profitability. It’s a direct link as opposed to just a variable that will increase profitability.

Adrian Tennant: Maria, you led a session at South by Southwest in 2022, and you’ve also submitted an idea for 2024 centered around the language of digital culture. Can you tell us more about that?

Maria Vorovich: Absolutely. And some of the listeners listening to this podcast now might remember the era when digital was a separate work stream entirely from traditional. and that was a separate work stream from social. And it’s only recently that all of those social, digital, mainstream, and traditional are starting to blur together. And I would say that the same thing is happening with language. Digital language patterns are bleeding into everyday language. So people are very likely to say something like, “LOL,” when they find something humorous, which is just shorthand for a “Laugh Out Loud.” And that was born, that was birthed in text messages. And now it’s part of everyday nomenclature. And so this has so many implications for research, an environment where, again, how we communicate, what we say, how we write the question is really critical to getting the point across and getting the right insight. So we’re studying this phenomenon closely and we’re starting to integrate memes. We’re starting to integrate emojis. We’re starting to even integrate slang into how we write our research studies when it’s appropriate in order, again, to connect with people and speak like them. So it’s, it’s really kind of interesting to see how digital culture is just, making its way into everyday culture, specifically with language.

Adrian Tennant: This May, you both became new moms just two days apart from each other. Well, obviously, first of all, congratulations! What has the experience of being new moms and business partners been like, and how has it impacted your day-to-day involvement in the business?

Maria Vorovich: Wow! What an extraordinary journey. And to say that the two days apart was unplanned is an understatement. I think that it’s taught us so much in terms of how to be better business partners to each other, how to really practice trust with each other and with our team. And more than anything, for me, it’s taught me efficiency. Our involvement with the business is the same as ever, and we just have less time to do the same amount of work, if not more. and so, you know, again, it teaches you how to be really empathetic to not only your business partner, but your team, and also how to practice trust with not only your business partner, but your team. And Holland, I’d love to know if you have thoughts on that as well.

Holland Martini: Yeah, for me, it’s exactly what you said. It’s really reinforced the importance of empathy. My day-to-day involvement, it just requires way more flexibility, way more coffee, and way more patience! And I think the other thing that is more of a learning, if you will, is it also has given us room to allow our team to grow in a way that I don’t know it would have before without us with Maria and I both being out for a substantial time, which again was – it’s wildly unplanned. It’s given our team time to shine and really step into roles that we never expected. And we’re lucky to say that they’ve exceeded all of our expectations. And it’s not that we haven’t given them that potential before, but it was just a set of circumstances that allowed people to step into roles well above what was anticipated. And it was beautiful to see our company grow and shine regardless of us being less present.

Adrian Tennant: What are your future goals or aspirations for GoodQues? 

Holland Martini: That’s a good question. It’s a hard one. I think we’ve been very lucky to run GoodQues as a lifestyle business. We’ve had very good momentum. We’ve seen a lot of growth, but it hasn’t been at the expense of our personal lives and at the expense of hiring quality people, or at the expense of doing good work for our clients. So for me, it’s just maintaining sustainable growth. While delivering quality work and ensuring that we have a fun company culture and environment, it’s really rare to be able to say that you get to do a job that you love, especially in the industry that we are in. and to have hours that are comfortable and deliverables that you’re proud of. And for me it’s, it’s just maintaining that growth, and that will make me happy enough.

Adrian Tennant: Maria?

Maria Vorovich: I couldn’t have said it better than Holland. I’ll leave it at that.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about GoodQues, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Holland Martini: Yes, this is an easy answer, short and sweet. We respond to emails at That’s our primary form of communication. So that’s where to find us.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to learn why memes and emojis are the new language of research, you can vote for a session on the South by Southwest panel picker. We’ll provide a link in the transcript for this episode. Maria and Holland, thank you both very much for being our guests on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Holland Martini: Thank you so much for having us.

Maria Vorovich: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guests this week, the co-founders of the market research agency, GoodQues, Holland Martini, Chief Insights Officer, and Maria Vorovich, Chief Strategy Officer. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

Bioethicist Dr. Jessica Pierce joins us to discuss her newest book, “Who’s A Good Dog?” Our conversation addresses US dog ownership and pet care marketing, the trend of humanizing pets, and the ethical considerations it raises. Dr. Pierce also introduces us to three ‘C’s that she believes are essential for a fulfilling human-dog relationship: Collaboration, Curiosity, and Compassion. A must-listen episode for all dog owners and anyone responsible for pet product marketing.

Episode Transcript

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

Jessica Pierce: We often don’t recognize that dogs have a different sensory experience of the world in our keeping and care of them. Walking in the paws of a dog is a very different experience from walking in the feet of a human.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and 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. Pet ownership in the US has seen a significant rise over the past three decades. Today, around two-thirds of American households own a pet – that’s 87 million homes. Dogs are the most popular, with 65 million households owning at least one. Overall, pet owners spent $137 billion on their fur babies in 2022, an 11 percent increase from the previous year. Bigeye’s 2023 National Pet Owners Study revealed that 97 percent of owners consider their pets to be members of the family. Gen Z and Millennial owners are more open to purchasing premium and health-conscious products for their pets. For those responsible for marketing pet-focused products, services, or retail, understanding the social dimensions of our modern relationships with domestic animals is essential. A new book, Who’s A Good Dog? explores the complexities of living with dogs and offers insights into how humans can cultivate a shared life of joy and respect with them. The book’s author is Dr. Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist whose research and writing focus on human-animal relationships. Her work covers a range of topics, from hospice and palliative medicine for aging and ill animals to the considerations of animal welfare science. Dr. Pierce is affiliated with the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. To discuss some of the themes and important ideas in her newest book, Dr. Pierce is joining us today from Lyons, Colorado. Jessica, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Jessica Pierce: Thank you, Adrian. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Now, as I mentioned in the introduction, you are a bioethicist. Could you explain what that entails and what led you to focus on the relationship between humans and animals?

Jessica Pierce: Sure. So bioethics is, it’s a multidisciplinary field that deals with moral and philosophical implications of, the biomedical sciences and particularly advancements in biological sciences and medicine, as well as ethical dilemmas that arise in healthcare and the life sciences. And it seeks to address questions that are related to human and animal life and how to value human and animal life, and how to appropriately and ethically apply new biological knowledge. Some bioethicists come from a philosophy background, some from theology, some from law, some from medicine, sociology, anthropology, and so on. My own disciplinary home is theology, so my Ph.D. is in religion, and I’ve been especially interested throughout my career in environmental and animal ethics and how religious and secular traditions shape human values toward and relationships with animals and ecosystems. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, your new book focuses on dogs’ relationships with humans. What inspired you to write Who’s A Good Dog?

Jessica Pierce: I’ve been researching and writing about dogs for a long time, and my sense is that dogs who are kept as companion animals, which incidentally is only about 20 percent of the billion or so dogs on the planet, live as pets. My sense is that group of dogs are, they’re struggling, and they don’t get a lot of attention from ethicists because people think, “Oh, they’re pets. you know, everybody dotes on their pets. And pets are well cared for, and there are really no ethical problems.” And, you know, there actually are a lot of interesting ethical problems in this realm, ethical issues. And the most popular choice among all those animals is the dogs. So there are millions and millions of dogs, living in human homes who need our attention. And we do love our dogs, and we love them abundantly, but I don’t think love is enough. My sense from looking at the veterinary literature and just from talking to trainers, behaviorists, and pet owners is that a lot of dogs are having behavioral trouble. One of the statistics that really jumps out at me is that about 80% of dog owners report that their dog has behavioral problems. That’s a lot. And another thing that I’m seeing in the veterinary literature is that more and more dogs are suffering from severe chronic anxiety. So there’s something about the home environment that’s challenging for dogs right now, and you know, I love dogs, and I want dogs to be as happy and healthy as possible. So I wrote the book to help think through why dogs might be struggling, and how we can help them do better. 

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you introduce us to your dog, Bella, who has some unique behaviors that could also be considered challenging. How has Bella influenced your perspective on what it means to be a good dog?

Jessica Pierce: So Bella, as the title of my book suggests, Bella has really challenged me to think differently about the idea of what a good dog is and what a bad dog is. I’ve lived with Bella for about 11 years now. And you know, for the first number of years that I lived with her, I was really stuck on the idea that she had behavioral problems that I needed to fix. if she went to a behaviorist, she would be labeled reactive, and training books would label her a bad dog, and they would label me a bad dog owner because I haven’t fixed my dog. You know, Bella does not like to be touched by people she doesn’t know. And, she even sets pretty hard limits on what I can ask of her. So she just doesn’t match the description of a good dog that you see as this kind of reigning cultural narrative. So, you know, a dog who’s friendly to everybody who’s compliant with all of their owner’s commands. But when it came down to it and over time, I realized that Bella isn’t – she is not a problem who needs to be fixed;  she is who she is, and I need to love her for who she is. And maybe the problem isn’t that she’s a bad dog, but that my preconceived image of what makes a dog a good dog was inaccurate. So broadening out to dogs in general, and having spent a lot of time in the literature on dog behavior and cognition, you know, I’ve really come to think that what we expect of dogs behaviorally is what needs to change. Our expectations are off-the-charts unrealistic. And, training a dog is basically the process of taking the dog out of the dog, as it were. I call it de-dogging in my book. teaching a dog not to bark, not to sniff other dogs’ butts, not to hump things, not to roll in stuff, not to beg, not to seek attention. All of these things are perfectly natural dog behaviors that they’re highly motivated to perform. And you know, in the veterinary literature, I think it’s really interesting that a behavior problem is defined technically as a behavior that the human owner doesn’t like. So it’s a human-centered definition of a behavioral problem. And what I’d like to do, what I’ve tried to do in my book, is shift that to a dog-centered definition. And there’s no doubt that dogs are struggling, and that manifests as behaviors that are challenging for dog guardians. But all dogs are good dogs; they’re just struggling to adapt to environments that are hard for them. 

Adrian Tennant: Dogs possess a sense of smell many times more sensitive than humans. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2022 revealed the senses of smell and vision are closely connected in the brains of dogs, something not yet found in any other species. Jessica, what are some of the most common challenges that dogs face living with us in environments we’ve created for humans?

Jessica Pierce: So as the study suggests, and it’s a fascinating study, olfaction or the sense of smell plays a role for dogs that’s really different from the role that it plays for humans. For dogs, as one of the headlines about this research put it, dogs see the world through their noses. Walking in the paws of a dog is a very different experience from walking in the feet of a human. And we often don’t recognize that dogs have a different sensory experience of the world, in our keeping and care of them. And one of the main ways that plays out is that we don’t let dogs adequately use their really impressive noses. And you know, I’m sure that you have seen this, more than once. I see it all the time. Somebody walking with a dog on a leash, and they’re pulling the dog along, and you can see them saying to their dog, “Come on, there’s nothing there.” And the dog is just saying, “Yes, there is! Somebody just peed here a little while ago, and it’s really interesting.” There’s all kinds of fascinating olfactory information left behind in this, this pee-spot, and, you know, it’s like a social media post or pee-mail! We don’t give dogs enough chance to use their sense of smell. And at the same time, our human environments can be full of sensory stimuli that are pretty frightening and overwhelming to dogs. And one of the ways that homes, I think are pretty hard on dogs is the level of noise and the kind of noise that dogs are exposed to. Dogs have ears that are more sensitive than ours, and they hear a broader range of frequencies. So some of the ultrasonic sounds in our homes we don’t even hear, but our dogs are perfectly aware of them. And it’s kind of like this, over-stimulation, and there’s been some really interesting research, just to give a specific example, on the effects of traffic noise on dogs and how dogs who live near football stadiums have much higher levels of anxiety on game days because of the increased noise. 

Adrian Tennant: In Who’s A Good Dog? you mention Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, a collection of talks given by Shunryu Suzuki, one of the most influential Buddhist teachers of the twentieth century and widely considered the founding father of Zen Buddhism in America. How can cultivating a beginner’s mind help us better understand and relate to our canine companions?

Jessica Pierce: So one of the things that I noticed about myself, and I think it’s true for a lot of people who live with dogs, is that we’re awash in human expertise about dogs. We’re endlessly being advised by trainers, by behaviorists, by nutritionists, by veterinarians, and a whole range of other canine professionals, including pet product companies, about what dogs need. And, you know, a lot of the information is really instructive. It’s good information, and it’s important to absorb it. On the other hand, I think there’s a danger in passing over to other people, to the so-called experts, the responsibility for being observant ourselves, of our dog, and being insightful about what’s going on for our dog and being compassionate toward our dog. And I think [a] beginner’s mind is the opposite of [an] expert’s mind. The beginner’s mind is empty, it’s free of the habits of the expert. It’s ready to accept, it’s ready to doubt, to question, and it’s open to all possible interpretations. And I think in relation to our dogs, there are two benefits to at least some of the time trying to inhabit a beginner’s mind. One is that I think it can help loosen some of the preconceptions we have about who dogs are, and especially, as I was talking about in the introduction, what makes a dog a good dog. So letting go of some of the expectations that have been handed over to us by other people. And then, secondly, I think a beginner’s mind can help us be with our dogs from moment to moment in a more mindful and compassionate way. And really, when you think about it, there are no true dog experts except for dogs themselves. So let’s ask dogs what they’re thinking, what they need. 

Adrian Tennant: The concept of “humanizing” pets has been a driving force in the pet industry since the 1860s, when James Spratt used shelf-stable crackers eaten by sailors at the time, known as hardtack, to create the first commercial pet biscuit. Humanization continues to fuel the industry’s growth today, with pet foods featuring human-grade ingredients, CBD supplements, and even La-Z Boy dog beds. As we learned from Bigeye’s national study earlier this year, 97 percent of owners view their pets as members of the family. Younger owners, in particular, the Millenial generation, who represent the largest cohort of pet owners, are concerned with sustainability-related issues and corporate transparency. Jessica, do you think companies who produce products for dogs have a responsibility to be transparent about their products’ sourcing and sustainability standards?

Jessica Pierce: Yeah, so I’d say that all manufacturers of all products should be transparent about sourcing and sustainability so that consumers can make purchasing decisions that align with their values. I don’t think that pet companies have a special responsibility in this regard. but I would say that companies selling pet products do have a special responsibility to be transparent about the effects of their products on animals, on the animals that they’re targeted for. If a product, for example, is designed to inflict harm on an animal, and I’m thinking here of products that impose what behaviorists would call an aversive experience, like a shock, and that are used in punishment-based training scenarios, And thinking here of ultrasonic bark deterrence. I don’t think that these should be marketed as safe and humane, which they often are. I think that is a non-transparent practice. I would love to see more alignment between the valuing of pets and the valuing of other animals. So more attention to cruelty-free sourcing and non-animal ingredients, and the example that comes to mind here is BarkBox, which I love, I love the concept of it, and I really, really want to get BarkBox for Bella, but they don’t have, a cruelty-free option at this point. So, it would be great to see more of that.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club brings you interviews with authors who are shaping the future of marketing. Our featured book for September is From Marginal to Mainstream: Why Tomorrow’s Brand Growth Will Come from the Fringes – and How to Get There First. This groundbreaking book by Helen Edwards explores the often untapped potential of fringe consumer behaviors and shows how they can be a renewable source of innovation for brands. The book provides a practical framework for identifying non-obvious opportunities and applying qualitative and quantitative research-backed insights for sustainable brand growth. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25% on a print or electronic version of this month’s featured book using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all Kogan Page titles, including pre-orders, and their free paperback and e-book bundle offer. Shipping is always free to the US and UK when you order directly from Kogan Page, and it supports the authors as well. So, to order your copy of From Marginal to Mainstream, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with bioethicist, Dr. Jessica Pierce, the author of a new book, Who’s A Good Dog? And how to be a Better Human. Many pet products are marked with terms like “natural,” “organic,” or, as you’ve mentioned, “humane.” How can dog guardians navigate these claims to make ethical choices?

Jessica Pierce: Oh, it’s really hard. I think, you know, as in the human realm, Consumers of pet products need to do a lot of research and approach shopping, armed with as much good information as they can. And I don’t think there’s any such thing as having full information because it’s just, there’s too much information to try to gather. And I think, you know, a lot of people experience that, in trying to choose what kind Of food to feed their dog and where to buy it. I think the labels like natural, organic, and humane don’t really mean very much and can be a source of confusion. I know that they sell products too, but I think they are often misleading, particularly humane. I think it’s useful for consumers, and I try to do this. It’s hard, but I think it’s useful to bear in mind the emotional power of advertising when it comes to our animals, who we love, and to recognize which narratives draw us in particularly, and why, for example, are we drawn especially to dog foods that are marketed as feeding “the inner wolf” in our dog. And why, what is it that makes those attractive to us?

Adrian Tennant: Well, I’m curious to learn more about what you think about the ways that dogs are portrayed in advertising. Are the mistakes that you see marketers making consistently?

Jessica Pierce: Yeah, I think one that I just alluded to is that dogs are often portrayed as, or described as little wolves. So you see advertising tags like, “Feed your dog like the wolf he is,” or something like that. But dogs are not wolves. they have been evolving in connection with humans for 20,000 years, give or take, and have a much different gut microbiome. They have a different feeding ecology. they have different nutritional needs. so I think that’s not beneficial to dogs. It also suggests that dogs are behaviorally like wolves, and they’re not. Another one that really bothers me is dogs being hugged by children. I know that tugs at our heartstrings to see dogs and children together, but I think it can create, an aura of safety about dogs that might be, Not the best for children and parents because a lot of dogs do not appreciate being hugged and are nervous around children and there are so many bite incidents that could be avoided. so I, I think that’s one that bothers me. sometimes I see ads where I think we’re supposed to think that they’re happy. but behaviorally, they’re actually showing signs of stress. There is one ad in particular that I’m thinking of, and every single dog in the advertising campaign for this company is panting, which is not actually necessarily a sign of a happy dog. It may be a sign of a stressed dog. I could go on and on in this category, but the final one I’ll mention is the glamorization of brachycephalic dogs like pugs and boxers. And they are cute, but they have so many health problems that I really think, we should be cautious in using them as the models of, you know, the happy, healthy, well-adjusted dogs who are selling whatever product it is. 

Adrian Tennant: Are there aspects of dogs’ lived experiences that you think could be depicted more effectively? 

Jessica Pierce: So yeah, I think depicting dogs, doing dog things! So depicting them as dogs, engaging in species natural behaviors like sniffing, and maybe it’s a little too risque, but even sniffing each other’s butts, which is a really important place to gather information. Rolling in the mud, cautiously checking each other out before engaging in a play session. just as dogs themselves, not as humanized, but as their own beings. 

Adrian Tennant: In Who’s A Good Dog? You also explore a concept inspired by Emily Dickinson of “Dwelling in possibility.” Jessica, I know this may have some sad memories attached to it, but how does this apply to our relationships with dogs?

Jessica Pierce: To give some context, my mother was a great fan of Emily Dickinson and often Used lines from Dickinson’s poems, and she said once to me, something about dwelling in possibility. And it was near the end of her life, and she was bedbound, she was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and was really close to the end of her life. had lost the use of her legs and was gradually losing the use of her arms as well. So she was under increasing physical constraints, but she described herself as dwelling in possibility. And that was, it was really touching to me that She focused on possibility rather than constraints, and I think in relation to dogs. I mean, the basic idea is that there are certain constraints that we and our dogs live under. Like the structural constraints of modern pet keeping that make it really hard for us to live well together. you know, for dogs, I think some examples are The lack of freedom to move about on their own, to roam around, or to reproduce on their own. And, you know, we have our own limitations in terms of our patients and our financial and emotional resources and so on. But within these constraints, the possibilities for mutually enriching relationships are endless. 

Adrian Tennant: How can keeping an enrichment journal aid in fostering a more mindful relationship with our dogs?

Jessica Pierce: There’s been a lot of talk in end-of-life care circles about keeping a quality-of-life journal for dogs. And it’s really focused on the things that are causing dogs pain, or are constraining things that their activities of daily living. and I think that’s a wonderful thing to do, a very important thing to do. But I also think that we can and should pay daily attention to, what makes our dog happy. And, you know, I think the contours of our dog’s life are determined almost completely by the choices that we make for them. So we’re in charge of when they eat, what they eat, where they go to the bathroom, who they get to be friends with, where they sleep, when and if they go out into the world. And I think because of that, one of our primary responsibilities as their caregivers is to make sure that they have an abundance of rich and interesting experiences to make sure that they experience joy. I. Whether that’s from going on a micro adventure to the lake or getting a new puzzle toy or playing with a new friend. And I think keeping a journal of what we’ve done to give our dogs joy is, well, it’s not, it’s fun for one thing because we’re reminded of their happiness and hopefully our shared happiness. And it reminds us that providing joy is something that we can and should do often, and we can keep track of what our dog likes the most so we can do more of that. I. 

Adrian Tennant: For all dog guardians listening, could you share some practical advice on how to improve our relationships with our dogs based on the three C’s you mention?

Jessica Pierce: Yeah, so in the book, I call these three Cs the Rules of Engagement for sharing a rich and mutually fulfilling life with a dog. The first rule, and I think the one that is most often overlooked is that each human-dog relationship is a delicate work of collaboration. Our dogs are working really hard to adapt themselves to our way of life, and we can work equally hard to adapt ourselves to theirs. We can meet them halfway. I think an attitude of curiosity helps foster collaborations. So being curious about who our dog really is. what is it like to walk in her paws and. Collaboration and curiosity can help us care for our dogs well and can generate compassion for animals and for people alike. 

Adrian Tennant: In Bigeye’s National Pet Owners Study results, approaching nine-in-ten owners say they understand what their pets are trying to communicate to them – 87 percent – and two-thirds of owners believe their pets understand most or everything said to them – 66 percent. Jessica, how do you interpret these data points?

Jessica Pierce: Overall, I take them as really encouraging numbers though I think they’re a little bit rose colored. What it tells me is that people value clear communication with their pets and are at least trying to understand what animals are trying to communicate. I suspect that the actual numbers are probably reversed and that animals are paying really close attention to what we are communicating. And it’s not just what we say, not just our words, but even more importantly, our body language, our facial expressions, our gestures, and so forth. And we are doing pretty well listening to our animals, but we could probably be doing better by trying to get more educated about dog behavior and cat behavior – the same goes for cats – and just, actually, trying to understand what their facial expressions, postures, tail position, gaze, et cetera, actually mean, and not just what we want them to mean.

Adrian Tennant: What advice would you give to marketers and advertisers in the pet industry to promote products that better align with ethical and mindful pet guardianship?

Jessica Pierce: I would encourage the first question about a product to be this: “Will this improve the quality of life for dogs?” And not dog owners, I think they come second. “Will it improve the quality of life for dogs?” And another, maybe even more important question should be, “Can this product potentially cause harm and in what ways? And what can we do to make sure that dogs remain safe if this product is on the market?” And I would say don’t assume that people know very much or anything about dog behavior or about the emotional experiences of dogs, and avoid supporting what you might call convenience practices. Which I would define as dog-keeping practices that squeeze dogs into human lifestyles and homes, sometimes at significant cost to dogs. And two examples that come to mind. I’ve mentioned one of them – bark deterrents I think are a convenience for humans, but they offer no benefit to dogs, and in fact, they harm dogs, and if I must be honest, I’d say they shouldn’t be on the market at all. A second example is crates, and it’s a tool that’s often used by people as a convenience practice. So a crate is often used to keep a dog confined in lieu of appropriate training or in lieu of spending enough quality time with a dog. On the other hand, crates are extremely useful, and it benefits every dog to learn to be comfortable in a crate. And I think everybody should have a crate. And when there’s a natural disaster, Crates are often a lifesaving intervention for dogs. And if a dog or cat is already comfortable in a crate, it’ll make a very stressful situation slightly less awful than it might be if they weren’t comfortable. And also, of course, veterinary emergencies, and also for dogs in a muzzle, which I think, you know, people have really sort of scary opinions about muzzles, and they’re a really useful tool in a very limited set of circumstances. And I would love to see more education with products about appropriate use and ethical use. pet product manufacturers have a huge amount of influence, and often they’re one of the only sources of information that a dog guardian will encounter. So providing behaviorally accurate, appropriate information would really, really benefit dogs.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in Who’s A Good Dog?, any of your previous books, or your articles in Psychology Today, what’s the best way to learn more?

Jessica Pierce: So my website is a good hub for information. It’s just My Psychology Today blog is really easy to find – it’s called All Dogs Go To Heaven if you just search “all dogs go to heaven” and “psychology today,” it’ll bring it up. And there are a whole bunch of different blogs on a zillion different topics.

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

Jessica Pierce: You are most welcome. It was nice to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, bioethicist Dr. Jessica Pierce, the author of Who’s A Good Dog? As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

To learn more about Bigeye’s pet product marketing solutions, check out examples of our work and client case studies at 
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

A thought-provoking discussion with Pepper Miller, author of “Let Me Explain Black Again,” about Black Americans’ lived experiences. Pepper sheds light on some of the historical misunderstandings about Black consumers and common missteps in multicultural marketing. Pepper also explains the growing influence of Black Millennials and the shift in societal consciousness surrounding race, calling for more accurate, respectful representations of the Black community in advertising. 

Episode Transcript

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

Pepper Miller: US-born Black people, in particular, have this lens in terms of how we see ourselves and how we perceive how others see us. So Black is a culture and not a color. 

Adrian Tennant: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and 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. Sixty years ago, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood before a quarter of a million people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to deliver his iconic I Have a Dream speech. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a pivotal moment in the US Civil Rights Movement, advocating for economic, racial, and social justice. Fast forward to today, and Americans have mixed opinions on the extent of progress made in achieving racial equality. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in April revealed that just over one-half of people believe that either a fair amount or a great deal of progress has been made in the past 60 years, but one-third felt that only some progress has been achieved, and 15 percent stated that little to no progress has been made. Notably, white respondents are twice as likely as Black respondents to believe substantial progress has occurred, highlighting a racial divide in perceptions of equality. As we’ve discussed on this podcast previously, evidence-based, research-driven perspectives are needed to assess US consumers’ ever-evolving attitudes and behaviors. And this is especially true for multicultural marketing. For those interested in really understanding the contemporary Black experience in America, a recently published book serves as a guide, Let Me Explain Black Again: Exploring Blind Spots And Black Insights For Marketing & Understanding Black Culture And Perspectives examines nuances that brands and individuals often overlook when interacting with the Black community. The book’s author is Pepper Miller, president and Senior Analyst of The Hunter-Miller Group, which specializes in multicultural market research and strategic planning. A recognized authority and thought leader, Pepper has dedicated her career to helping organizations better understand and engage with Black Americans. To discuss some of the themes and important ideas in her book, I’m delighted that Pepper is joining us today from Chicago, Illinois. Pepper, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Pepper Miller: Thank you, Adrian. It’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: What inspired you to write, Let Me Explain Black Again?

Pepper Miller: Well, you know, several reasons! I had written a couple of books before, but a lot, as you can imagine, has changed. So number one, there’s the growth of the Millennials. They have a lot of power, Adrian, they’ve finally surpassed Boomers in terms of growth. They’re on the front lines of political change and cultural change. And Black Millennials are driving the progressive growth. And when Black people talk about “progressive,” it’s not related to politics, it’s about our advancement. So Black Millennials are driving that advancement in the Black community, and they continue to be highly influential in American culture as well as Black culture. The second reason – there are five of them, you bear with me – is three American disruptors: Trump, COVID, and George Floyd. It really changed how people started thinking about race. Now, Black people tend to think about Blackness 90% of the time, versus whites who think about being white 10% of the time. But with those three disruptors, there was this increase in, “Maybe there’s something going on with the Black community that we didn’t know.” That’s to the positive. And then the other negative part is, we’re coming up with the great erasure, erasing our history, and that was the third point. So I wanted to be part of the discussion of people becoming aware of race. I wanted to have that. And then I felt like we needed something to counter the erasure of our history. And so the Black people needed a narrative to have – not to be defensive, but to be able to tell our story without being defensive. And because AI, artificial intelligence, is becoming so popular. So when we look at looking for artificial intelligence to write things for us, I understand that it’s out searching for this in cyberspace, on the internet, and there are so many negative messages about our history and how it’s hurting white kids and how that didn’t happen, and, you know, Black people were happy being slaves, that we needed to have something to counter that too, for artificial intelligence. And then the fourth thing is, I saw how strategists struggled to identify insights for Black people looking everywhere to find this and that and to substantiate. The book does that. And then, finally, four words that I’ve been continuing to hear since I began this journey in 1995: “Pepper, I didn’t know.” They would say that, many colleagues and non-Black colleagues, mostly white people, would say that after they heard my presentation or some research that I’ve done or a workshop that I’ve done, they pulled me over confidentially to say, “Pepper, I didn’t know.” Hence the title, Let Me Explain Black Again. Long answer!

Adrian Tennant: You’ve explained what led you to choose the title, but why the emphasis on Again

Pepper Miller: Because of the “I didn’t know.” Because particularly working with brands, a lot of brand managers stay there for a couple of years in a particular position or brand, and then they move on. And then you get new brand people, and you’re starting over again. They don’t understand or know the foundations of Black people. These books that I write, they’re very foundational to me. It’s like, “You’ve got to start here before you can get there so that you won’t make mistakes so that you can engage people in a relevant way. So you can have a better message, and so that you can have a positive bottom line.” My work life and personal life have been explaining Black over and over and over again. I love being Black, Adrian, I do. I’m proud of my culture. It is also exhausting. It’s exhausting. So it’s not meant to be punitive to people, it’s just that, “Okay guys, let, let me just try this again and let me go broader and let me go deeper.”

Adrian Tennant: You’re the author of two other books, What’s Black About It? And Black STILL Matters In Marketing. Pepper, how does this work differ from your two previous books? 

Pepper Miller: It is broader and deeper than the other two books. I do revisit some of the things from the other books, but I also connected to what was going on in current culture and pop culture. To go broader and deeper on that as well. So basically, it just goes a lot broader, a lot deeper, and it’s well-researched. The other books were researched too, but this is really well-researched. Whatever idea or insight I had, I made sure that I substantiated it with a source outside of my own work.

Adrian Tennant: In the cover notes, you describe your newest book as a resource tool to support the rationale for understanding “the why” about Black America. Could you talk a little about the kind of work you do at the Hunter-Miller Group and how it’s reflected in the pages of Let Me Explain Black Again?

Pepper Miller: Sure. So I am a market researcher, and I primarily focus on qualitative research. And my broad focus with that, obviously, is with the Black consumer market. So when we think about qualitative research, it does answer the question “Why?” and I call myself “The Why Girl.” Smaller groups of people, focus groups, and they could be small groups, or one-on-ones, or one person at a time, where you have a chance to explore and go deeper into how people feel their beliefs and their behavior. Quantitative research is more measurable. You’re talking to measurable groups. You’re collecting the “What” and sometimes the “How” from quantitative research. And the research industry has gone back and forth on that. There was a lot of emphasis on qualitative at one time, and then they switched to Big Data is important. So Big Data became the focus of the research industry for a number of years. But they realized they had this data. They had the “What,” but they didn’t have the “Why.” And so the pendulum is starting to swing back that way, from a research perspective. Well, it’s swung back, and now it’s going back the other way, I think, with artificial intelligence. So qualitative helps us understand the “Why”; quantitative is more measurable. Larger groups answer the “What” and the “How.”

Adrian Tennant: Throughout the introduction, I referred to the Black experience, not African American. Now, this is an adjustment I’ve made since reading your book, but could you explain why most Black people prefer the term Black over African American? 

Pepper Miller: So while all African-Americans are Black by race, not all Black people are African-Americans. So we have this tremendous, wonderful growth of Africans from the continent of Africa. And then we have a lot of Black Caribbeans. They prefer Black over African American because they like to be part of America, but they want to stay connected with their homeland. And then there are people like me, who like to see themselves connected with the larger global community of Black people as well. Now many of us, particularly US-born Black people, are not offended if you interchange Black with African American. Most of us don’t, even though there is a preference, and several studies tell us that there’s a preference for that. That is the number one question too, Adrian, that I am asked, is, “How do we reference Black people? Is it Black or African American?” And I’ve been posting on social media, on LinkedIn and Instagram, some information about that. I have a post called Cap Black: Why We Capitalize Black because Black is a culture and not a color. And so there’s more reverence and respect that comes with that – or needs to come with that. And that’s something that most Black people embrace, but we’re not offended, most of us, if you reference us as African American,

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you identify seven blind spots that prevent businesses and brands from getting it right with their Black customers. Pepper, could you give us an idea of some of them? 

Pepper Miller: So I often talk about the top three: the avoidance of America’s history;  misunderstanding the language of Black culture; and Black identity. So the number one insight and blind spot about Black people, and I’ve been talking about this, Adrian, for years and years, is not understanding our history. Black people, US-born Black people in particular, have this lens in terms of how we see ourselves and how we perceive how others see us, this historical lens. And as a result of that historical lens in slavery that causes is the reason behind the lens, it’s the “Why” behind the lens. We have different beliefs and behaviors. And the different beliefs and behaviors we don’t leave in our households; when we go out of our dwellings, we take our Blackness in everything in this lens with us and how we see things in how we perceive how others see us. And it is the most important insight for understanding Black people because all these beliefs and behaviors, they ladder back up to it: colorblindness; the need to respect, which is king; being unapologetically Black; smoldering coals, which is the pain and shame around history that comes out in many ways, it’s like a little spark that something could happen and it could ignite. Why? The reason why we sometimes have these riots and marches and things like that. So understanding this history and the beliefs and characteristics associated with it, it is so important to connection, and messaging, and understanding this segment. So that’s an example of the first insight. And then there’s identity in terms of how we see ourselves. Black, African American, as you brought up, there’s mixed race. There’s the Black LGBT+. There’s the Black Africans and Caribbeans, and identity is just so important. So those are a couple that I talk about a lot in my, presentations. And language is the other thing that’s important. So for marketers, because we speak English, English becomes then the cultural identifier, and I’ve heard it’s been said in my presence, “They speak English, don’t they?” as a reason for not investing in Black research, Black marketing, Black advertising. My response is, “Yes, we speak English,” or “Yes, I speak English, and are you talking to me?” So helping them understand the importance of language and how we talk to each other. And not necessarily Ebonics, but how our culture is intertwined with our language. The language of Blackness and what we see and what we do. And that’s really important, as well. So those are the top three insights that I talk about often in my presentations, and I share with clients.

Adrian Tennant: What are some actionable steps that you recommend to rid marketers of their blind spots?

Pepper Miller: I think one of the biggest stereotypes about Black people that’s related to our history is stereotyping. And it’s been this cloud that continues to hover over Black people. You know, some whites say, “Suck it up. What’s wrong with you all? We had Barack Obama, and you got these leaders, and what’s wrong with the rest of you people?” And they have these stereotypical messages about us. If one Black person does something wrong or smaller groups, then that’s all of us. So an opportunity, in terms of an actionable step, is to make it the mission to overcome stereotyping. One of the examples that I talk about is Black men and how they are stereotyped. You know, when you think about crime, that’s one of the platforms for getting elected today with politicians. And when you think about crime, it’s usually Black or brown people and mostly Black people. And then that becomes Black men. And then we hear on the news about the carjacking and the shootings, and it’s all Black men are like this, and that is so not true. So there’s a commercial, and I show a lot of commercials how they’re starting to show Black men as caring caretakers. And usually, that comes from Black agencies. And there’s recently, there’s been a commercial, Adrian – and maybe you can share in your podcast – it’s a commercial done by Amazon, or it’s a commercial for Amazon, about this Black guy who’s a security guard that wants to be a chef and he buys these knives and cooking utensils from Amazon, and he’s practicing his cooking, and he is sharing it with one of his coworkers. It is so wonderful. But it is a stereotype breaker because it shows this guy, a Black man, typically a security guard, who has a desire to do something else, but it’s what we see versus what white America sees. We see more, and we see differently. We tend to scrutinize commercials and images about our culture differently. And that’s an example of overcoming a stereotype, showing a Black man who wants to progress. And what I learned is when you get it right with Black people, you get it right with the mainstream. If that had been a white guy, that was going through that, I just don’t think it would have the same impact on Black people. We’re like, “Yeah, we get it.” But because of that, it’s positive realism. It’s what we know in our community. So this mission to overcome stereotyping is important. And there’s, there’s a lot more speaking, you know, to us in terms of what matters. And there’s a lot more, but that’s an example because I know we have limited time here.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club brings you interviews with authors who are shaping the future of marketing. Our featured book for September is From Marginal to Mainstream: Why Tomorrow’s Brand Growth Will Come from the Fringes – and How to Get There First. This groundbreaking book by Helen Edwards explores the often untapped potential of fringe consumer behaviors and shows how they can be a renewable source of innovation for brands. The book provides a practical framework for identifying non-obvious opportunities and applying qualitative and quantitative research-backed insights for sustainable brand growth. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25% on a print or electronic version of this month’s featured book using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all Kogan Page titles, including pre-orders, and their free paperback and e-book bundle offer. Shipping is always free to the US and UK when you order directly from Kogan Page, and it supports the authors as well. So, to order your copy of From Marginal to Mainstream, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Pepper Miller, president of the Hunter-Miller Group and the author of, Let Me Explain Black Again: Exploring Blind Spots And Black Insights For Marketing & Understanding Black Culture And Perspectives. In Let Me Explain Black Again, you examine how many well-meaning folks misunderstand Black identity, especially in the context of product development. could you talk about the example you give in the book, about sunscreen?

Pepper Miller: Sunscreen, yes! So it’s interesting how in the medical world as well as day-to-day life, there’s a perception that melanin protects our skin. and it was really something that Black people believed as well. From a medical standpoint, doctors believed that we didn’t need pain medication and all of that, that was related to that, but that fosters that belief about not needing sunscreen. So Black people were dying from skin cancer at a very high rate. They were getting diagnosed at a lower rate, but dying from it at a higher rate. And so there was this need for Black people to use sunscreen. And women, in particular, were not using it. “I don’t need it. My melanin was protecting me” until social media voices came on board. So it was Black dermatologists and just everyday social media gurus, or people, not necessarily experts. So the Black female dermatologist talked about the importance of sunscreen. And then these gurus were talking to us in very raw, realistic language. And these women got hundreds of thousands of followers, and people started paying attention to them and then looking for sunscreen. So the sunscreen products that were out there, they would leave an ashy residue, so the gurus would encourage the people to do sunscreen tests to make sure that it would blend in with your skin, and then that wasn’t working. And then a young woman created a Black girl sunscreen, so that is an example of language and how you talk to people and letting the Black community know that you need this, and to do the sunscreen test and your melanin won’t protect you. That’s a message that we were not getting from mainstream companies. And I’ve done a ton of skincare research for these companies and tried to get them to include sunscreen As part of their messaging, and they wouldn’t do it. But it was the Black community that was galvanized on social media that figured it out, and I was very delighted to hear that.

Adrian Tennant: In addition to blind spots, you also write about five segments of what you call “cultural shapeshifters.” Pepper, what characterizes a shapeshifter? And could you give us a couple of examples? 

Pepper Miller: A shapeshifter is one that not only has influence over people to do something, but they are impacting from a revenue standpoint, the bottom line of America’s revenue. Or they are changing the cultural standards in our community. So an example I often use is Rhianna, the popular singer who launched a skincare line at retail. And she had 40+ shades of skincare that she insisted to be launched at retail. Nobody had ever done that before. Now, L’Oreal, and Lancôme, and Maybelline also had 40 shades of makeup, but they never launched it in the way that she did, so they followed her example. That opened up the possibilities of makeup to more women of color, and then it had a positive impact on the bottom line for those companies. Cultural shape-shifting. 

Adrian Tennant: You write about the perception of a post-racial America during President Obama’s time in office. How did this impact marketing and advertising targeting the Black community?

Pepper Miller: When President Obama was elected, there was a perception that we have a Black president and we are now post-racial. Again, we don’t need to invest in Black media, Black research, Black advertising. It was a really tough eight years for me and for many Black-owned agencies that were Black-focused. I mean, it was tough, you know, it was rolling, and then revenues went down. Even the second book, I purposely wanted it to launch during the Obama presidency. I thought there would be more interest in Black people, and it was less interest in that. And it wasn’t until Donald Trump was running for office, and that was when people had an “Aha!” Moment. But those were really, really tough years. And we are still not post-racial. We still aren’t.

Adrian Tennant: Do you think the Black community had unrealistic expectations of what Obama’s presidency would mean? 

Pepper Miller: I think we did. I think. I know I did. I felt really happy because he was not elected by just Black people, that white America stood up and voted for him, and I thought we would be embraced more. I thought people would come to us more. I thought we would bond more. I thought we would work together more. I thought we’d have more conversations. I thought we’d be included. That was all of these things that I thought, and I think many in the Black community thought as well. That was the feel-good moment. Yes, we felt pride and America electing a Black president, but it was also “Woo! Finally, now we can come together a little bit more!” And we knew it was not going to be easy, but we became more divisive instead of coming together. That’s what I didn’t see coming, and I don’t think the Black community saw that as well. 

Adrian Tennant: Let Me Explain Black Again has been available for a few months now, and I know you’ve spoken at a number of high-profile marketing and research-focused events about it. What kinds of conversations has it sparked? 

Pepper Miller: I have been blessed to be interviewed on other podcasts by people from the Black community, like Black Enterprise, and then, for your audience, Mallory Waxman, and Mario Caruso. I’ve been very blessed to be able to keep these types of conversations going in podcasts, so I’m delighted to have that. Professors have reached out to me more. I did a lot of presentations for college students. I always tell professors if you want me to speak to your students on this topic, I am absolutely happy to do so. So professors have been asking their students to buy my books, read them, they’ve been writing papers on it, and I come in and do a Black Insights presentation. And I love that. And these students are not necessarily the Black students, they’re more non-Black students or Asian, white, Hispanic students, more so than Black students, but I’ve been grateful for that. So to be able to keep the conversations going and with those young minds has been really good. So I’m grateful for the brands that reach out for presentations, the podcast community, and the professors and the higher-level education community who see the value in my message. So it’s been great.

Adrian Tennant: What advice would you give to young professionals looking to enter the research or consumer insights industry?

Pepper Miller: For young people who want to get into this industry, I do think this mindset of curiosity is so important. To have an intellectual curiosity and wonderment: “I wonder what that means? I wonder why they do that? I wonder why people feel like that?” Curiosity is very important. Having a sense of written and oral communication skills is also important. Being comfortable with tedious work. When you do research, for example, like focus groups, sometimes you, you know, you get transcripts, and maybe you’ve taken copious notes, but sometimes you miss something. You have to go back and look for it. Or if you’re doing secondary research, you have to search around to find out what might substantiate a thesis or another idea that you may have about something. So you have to understand that. I think it’s important to bring your whole selves to the table. Don’t be afraid to bring your culture and history to the table. It helps people understand and learn it and expands the learning and insights process. And then to work for positive change. The research industry is notoriously not diverse. Seventy percent of the research industry is white, 13% is Asian, and I think 10% is Hispanic, and only 4% is Black, and the Native American is point something. So we need to work for positive change that is more inclusive, that we change the standards of research, the questions, how they’re asked, the orders of how we ask. It’s not necessarily relatable to this multicultural segment. So that’s important, as well, being curious, bringing your whole self to the table, working for positive change, and having excellent, or working toward excellent written and oral communication skills. And understand that you might have to be tedious, with this work.

Adrian Tennant: What are your future goals or aspirations for the Hunter-Miller Group? 

Pepper Miller: Well, the Hunter-Miller Group is Pepper Miller. Here we are. I do have some partners that I work with on particular projects, but I like to do more workshops and public speaking on this topic of, Let Me Explain Black Again and Black Insights. I’m working with some young people who have started a Black research organization, OverIndex, and there’s another Black CRX organization, and we are thinking about combining and making some of these positive changes. So those are the things that I want to keep doing: writing and speaking. More articles: I’d love to write an article about that commercial, for example, that I saw. I’ve written an article about why being woke is not anti-white and anti-American and anti-flag, things like that that I want to continue to do, to keep pushing out these messages of our truth. 

Adrian Tennant: Pepper, what do you hope readers will take away from Let Me Explain Black Again? 

Pepper Miller: I hope probably overall that they learn that Black people we have value, we have value as a people, and we have value as a market segment, and that we’re different but not deficient, and that Let Me Explain Black Again answers the question: “Pepper, I didn’t know”; that statement becomes, “Pepper, now I know.” 

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about you, the Hunter-Miller Group’s services, or your books, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Pepper Miller: They can find me at They can find me on LinkedIn at Pepper Miller. I’m on Instagram at @PepperMiller40. And I’m on Twitter @PepperMiller. So if you Google me, you’ll find me.

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

Pepper Miller: Adrian, it was truly my Pleasure. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week. Pepper Miller, President of the Hunter-Miller Group and the author of Let Me Explain Black Again. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at Just select podcast from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Additional Resources Recommended by Pepper:

Widen the Screen

The Look

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

Dr. Andrea Laurent-Simpson of SMU discusses Bigeye’s 2023 US Pet Owners Study, revealing that 97 percent consider their pets family members. Hear how owners derive personal happiness and emotional support from having pets, and why the data reflects consumers’ desire for healthier lifestyles, holistic well-being, and the growing number of child-free or involuntarily childless individuals who treat their pets as family. Download the full report at

Episode Transcript

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

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Today, we have dogs and cats specifically being thought of as actual family members, and in many cases, being given human identities, like brother, sister, and child. Some of us are choosing the properties that we buy to live in based on what works for our dogs and cats. This is not a pet anymore – it’s very clearly a family.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on 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. Back in March, Bigeye published its second national study of pet ownership. The report reflects responses from over a thousand pet owners nationwide, revealing what kinds of pets are most popular, how owners acquire them, and the food and non-food pet products that are purchased most regularly. The report is available on our website at, and you’ll also find a link in the description and transcript for this episode. To discuss some of the findings from Bigeye’s 2023 national pet owner study, and to provide some context around why dogs and cats have evolved from domestic animals to cherished members of the family, we were joined at the launch by an expert in the field: Dr. Andrea Laurent-Simpson – a research assistant professor and lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Laurent-Simpson is also the author of the book, Just Like Family: How Companion Animals Joined The Household, which examines how pets have become so integral to families in America. Today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS is another opportunity to hear our conversation. 


Adrian Tennant: Andrea, welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: The last time we spoke on this podcast, we discussed your book, Just Like Family. For anyone who didn’t hear that episode, could you explain the book’s thesis and what the multi-species family is? 

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Of course, I think the main thrust of that book was to try and make an argument based on family demography, about how changes in mortality rates and fertility rates post-industrial revolution have changed just the American family structure in general, from one that say, early to mid 19, 20th century and earlier was more of a nuclear family. Got a biological mother and father, heterosexual couple, living under the same roof with very traditional gender roles. But with changes in mortality and fertility rates, drops in both of those rates, we started to see some fracture of that traditional family structure. Probably around the 1970s, we started to see increases in divorce rates, decreases in marital rates, and increases in cohabitation. And so the emergence of single-parent families, divorced families, stepfamilies, like lots of non-traditional family structures, that became emergent, and eventually eroded away that more traditional family structure, which continues to be somewhat dominant today, but is definitely, a much smaller percentage of family structures in the US today. In the midst of all of those changes, the argument in my book is that the multi-species family,began arising in the 1970s. When I think of multi-species families, I’m thinking of the families that we see today where we have dogs and cats specifically being thought of as actual family members, and in many cases, being given human identities, familial identities, like brother, sister, child,within the family. And as a result of that, actually being afforded the privileges that come with being a family member. Also the disparity that comes with being a family member. Whether that’s domestic violence or impoverished states, economic states, right? But being included as part of the family. The historical kind of movement in that direction I think was prompted by, industrialization and prompted by movement, within kind of technological innovation in the United States, towards forms of relationships with pets that were no longer as utilitarian in nature, that were no longer as rural in nature. Certainly, our relationships to pets became much more urban in the late 18 hundreds and into the 19 hundreds with the disappearance of the draft horse by the early 20th century actually, so as most of our population was living in urban areas, I guess our relationships became much different with pets or domesticated animals in particular pets, dogs, cats, and birds. So we kind of started to perceive them as pets, defined more like animals that have names, that live indoors, and that don’t really have any other purpose than entertaining us. Some researchers point to that and say, well, that’s the multi-species family. And you talk about this being, kind of a new, relatively new emergence, in terms of relationships within the family structure. But I don’t think we’re thinking of our dogs and cats anymore as simply entertainment, right? And we’re not just simply giving them names and letting them live indoors. We’re actually, as some of your research has shown, sleeping with our animals in bed, where some of us are making food from scratch for our animals, and some of us are choosing the properties that we buy to live in based on what works for our dogs and cats. This is not a pet anymore. It’s very clearly a family. And so this is what the book is about. How that historical demographic drift and changes in family structure have really helped to lead towards the emergence of a multi-species family where our dogs and cats are like people with familial identities, and that they’re no longer disposable. They are indispensable in our families now.

Adrian Tennant: In Bigeye’s Pet Owners Study, 97 percent consider that patch to be family members. More than four in five owners say they love and spoil their pets as if they were children, and approaching three in five owners describe their pets as being like a child to them. Andrea, did these statistics mirror what you’ve seen in your qualitative research?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: I think definitively, especially for child-free families and for involuntarily childless families, dogs and cats have taken on a very significant role. Where these families are very aware that their dogs and cats are not actual children, but that they have bonded with them as if they’re children. And their behavior suggests that they think of them as children where they are engaged in reading stories to their pets, where they travel everywhere with their pets, where they are willing to lay out thousands of dollars for things like veterinary care to ensure that their pets have the absolute best lives possible. I think definitely the qualitative work that I have for those family structures indicates empirical support for your quantitative findings. I would also say that for families who have human children, who have young human children, there is also the tendency to identify their dogs and cats as babies, as kids, as four-legged family, but they’re much more, I think, careful to draw a line of distinction between their human children and that of their furry children. So while they may refer to their animals as children, and say that they willingly think of them that way, their behavior suggests a little bit differently, which makes sense because US society is very pro-natalist, it’s very supportive of having human children. And so once you’ve had human children, if you begin equating them or holding them on an equal level with furry children, stigmatization becomes a very real thing very quickly. So I think that that also probably lends some support to the quantitative data that you’ve found here. Just kind of, I think, refining it a little bit with thinking about how different family structures are gonna impact the ways in which people think of their dogs and cats and how I think their behavior exhibits the ways in which they’ve identified their dogs and cats that way.

Adrian Tennant: In our study, four in five owners report gaining personal happiness and emotional support from having a pet. Approaching three in five owners report that they experienced less anxiety or depression from having a pet. And half of all owners report that having a pet helps relieve stress. Andrea, what did these stats reveal about the perceived or real benefits of pet ownership? 

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Well, Adrian, I think this is, an interesting, ongoing methodological dispute between those in psychology, sociology, and human-animal interaction research. There is a good deal of research to support the idea that companion animals support human health, mental health, and physical health in a number of ways. The CDC argues that bringing dogs and cats, in particular, into our households helps to bring on decreases in blood pressure, decreases in loneliness and anxiety, and even symptoms of PTSD. That triglyceride levels are likely to drop, as well as cholesterol, bad cholesterol levels are likely to drop, and that dogs, in particular, bring on increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities that we may not otherwise be engaged in given the ways in which we live our lives: sitting in chairs working and staring at screens all day long. But also for older adults, the CDC has highlighted particular benefits for older adults who are likely to experience isolation and depression, and owning a dog especially, but a cat as well, leads to greater opportunities for our elderly to socialize. Some people argue a little bit against this, like they counter that, well, maybe we see qualitative reports – although your research has offered quantitative reports – qualitative reports, where participants highlight all of these benefits that they perceive as happening with their animals and their relationship. There is quantitative psychological research that says the impact is actually negligible. But I think that ultimately – and this is an argument that I’ve made multiple times as a qualitative researcher – I think that it’s better to foundationally actually listen to what people’s perceptions are and the ways in which they see their lives being bettered by this relationship than to necessarily depend on statistical measures and operationalization of variables through researchers who have well, based in the literature, decided how or what they think is the most important way with which to measure this so-called pet effect. I think those perceptions are much more important and was actually very pleased to see this quantitative support, for the pet effect in your work. 

Adrian Tennant: Thank you. Well, we found that pet owners are pretty brand loyal. Over two-thirds say they’ve always purchased the same pet food brand, but if they do switch to trying new pet food brands, the top three reasons are related to price (46 percent), availability (44 percent), and the quality of ingredients (42 percent). Three-quarters of owners report that they strive to feed their pets only ingredients that they would be comfortable eating themselves. And three in five Gen Z owners say they would prepare meals from scratch to ensure the quality of what their pets consume. Andrea, do you find anything interesting in these findings? 

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: I find this report to be very interesting. I especially find the Gen Z reports to be very interesting. There’s an increasing tendency – and there has been, especially for the past decade – for human trends in eating to be reflected in the ways in which we’re feeding our animals. And so I think that generally, US society is moving towards healthier eating habits, at least encouraging healthier eating habits, healthier lifestyles, and even, although affordability is an issue here, even towards more organic lifestyles, right? Eating cleaner. And so, looking at Gen Z, the results were 60 percent of those owners are reporting that they’d actually prepare their pet’s meals from scratch, represents a couple of different things to me. First of all, it represents this continued trend where we are just seeing more and more focus on how we take care of our bodies and what we put into our bodies,the kinds of ingredients that we put into our bodies. But I think also it reflects, potentially, a continued trend for Gen Z coming out of Gen X and, Millennials and now Gen Z, where I think that probably as they get older, as they start building their own families or choosing to be child-free within their family structures, that they’re going to turn to their pets in particular as child-free persons. Gen Z certainly has the potential to have greater child-free choices, I think, percentage-wise, as they grow older, to turn to their pets. And really treat them behaviorally as if they’re human. So we prepare our meals from scratch, and parents of human children, sometimes, depending on whether they have the time or not, are preparing meals from scratch for their human children. Such a high percentage of Gen Z reporting that they would be willing to prepare meals from scratch is not surprising to me at all because I think there’s an increasing trend for child-free – and involuntarily childless owners especially – to think of their pets as children, but also the Gen Z finding was really interesting to me because I think also it might, I wanna be cautious in that analysis because I think it might also reflect, at least currently, a trend that includes opportunity, time opportunity of Gen Z. They’re in their late teens, into their early twenties right now, and so they’re still, you know, when you look at their income, a good chunk of their income is still coming from their parents, right? As their parents hand them discretionary income. They still have some time on their hands, especially since the younger ones might still be in High School, and the older ones may be in college, right? So a lot of them may not actually be living that adult life yet that has so much demand on, time resource,as well as a financial resource. They may actually have more time on their hands with which to engage in this kind of behavior. So I think that analysis is such a young generation, we have to be a little bit cautionary about it. But certainly, I know marketers and research in marketing that is examining discretionary income, is watching Gen Z really closely because of the percentage of discretionary income that they have right now, but also because of how careful they’re being children coming out of the Great Recession. I think that they’re more prone to saving and being a little more frugal instead of going out and buying prepared foods, they are probably more likely to be preparing from scratch, which is a cheaper alternative.

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

Lydia Michael: Hi there. I’m Lydia Michael, the author of Brand Love: Building Strong Consumer Brand Connections. Reflecting my experience as a multicultural marketing and brand strategist, Brand Love is for any marketing and brand professionals, entrepreneurs, and those who oversee brand messaging, communications, and other consumer-facing strategies. Whether you work for a big or small brand, the book is designed to provide you with actionable strategies to grow and build any successful brand. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25 percent on a print or electronic version of Brand Love by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free paperback and e-book bundle offer. When you order directly from Kogan Page, shipping is always free to the US and the UK, so to order your copy of Brand Love go to And thank you!

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking to Dr. Andrea Laurent-Simpson about the results of Bigeye’s 2023 US Pet Owners Study. We found that approaching four in five dog owners celebrate their pets’ birthdays or adoption anniversaries. In multi-pet households, approaching one-half of dog owners have birthday or adoption parties for their pets. Well over two-thirds of all owners purchase birthday or adoption anniversary gifts. Christmas is the most popular occasion for owners to purchase gifts for their pets, with 57 percent of owners doing so. More than one-half of dog owners with annual household incomes of $200,000 or more also report purchasing gifts for their pets for Valentine’s day and Halloween. Andrea, can you unpack this consumer behavior for us?

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: I think for sure, and that last point on household incomes of over $200,000 purchasing Halloween and Valentine’s Day gifts, discretionary income, right? There’s just plenty of discretionary income there with which to do so. But I think that probably the most interesting finding, and I’ve always been very fascinated about the celebration of birthdays for our dogs and cats. I think that this really has a root in the historical processes of birthdays in the United States, in particular, in the history of birthday celebrations. If you look throughout history, usually birthday celebrations were reserved for the elite, for nobility, for rulers. Birthday celebrations for the average family or Joe we’re not engaged. But with the Industrial Revolution – I always tell my students, “Look to the Industrial Revolution for why we’ve changed so much!” – with the Industrial Revolution, that brought decreases in family size with increasing importance placed on human children. Certainly, the 19th century is probably when we first see in the US this kind of emergence of birthday celebrations at all. And it rested on children,and it comes alongside some demographic changes where as those families are getting smaller, because of drops in fertility rates and mortality rates, and children are increasingly being seen as more valued emotionally. Whereas in the past, they were more valued economically, right? They could go work in the fields – “We’ll have lots of kids and they can help support the family.” But with industrialization into the 20th century, you start to see kind of this shift over to that smaller size format and greater emotional and financial investment in human children, and part of this is the birthday celebration, and this emphasis on the importance of these children coming into our lives. It’s also, I think, the emergence of birthday celebrations are rooted in or increasing awareness of how time impacts our lives. again, not something that really was paid attention to pre-industrial revolution. Keeping track of time was not something that was really done. Clocks, if there were clocks, they were not usually very accurate , but industrialization brought on urban jobs, right? And brought on the need to be at your job on time and to leave on time. As education became more widespread for children, same thing, getting them to school and back home on time. All of these things shifted our understanding of how time changes, and the birthday celebration is just part of this, thinking about how our lives are changing, and thinking about the importance of those in our lives with birthdays. So, what does all of this have to do with how people are spending money on buying gifts for their dogs and cats today? This is, to me, a very predictable trend. Thinking of dogs and cats as family members, as valued family members and needing to spoil them as such, needing to demonstrate to them in the same ways that mid 19th century into the early 20th century, children were increasingly celebrated. These four-legged children are now being increasingly celebrated and being doted upon with adoption or birthday gifts and anniversaries and other holiday celebrations as well. It’s simply a demonstration of the emotional value we place on you and your presence and the time spent in our family. It’s a little bit morbid, but you can also see the same thing in terms of the evolution of the ways in which pets pass away, and how we memorialize them when they pass away. In the early 20th century, you can see the emergence of some very early pet cemeteries. but when you go back and look at those stones, the names that are on them, for the pets, are not human-like. They’re not usually dated, like you don’t usually have a date in terms of how long the pet lived. And you don’t usually have any kind of In Memoriam statements. Right? Whereas today, when you go and you look in places where we bury pets now, pet cemeteries, you’ve got all of that information just like you would in a human cemetery. It is really just literally this kind of historical shift over towards assigning personhood over to our animals. The birthday piece, right, is thinking about how you’ve come into our lives and celebrating these yearly markers, and then the passing away and recording of some sort of historical markers about your life on your headstone as how we kind of sum up our pets as well.

Adrian Tennant: Last year, we saw devastating wildfires in the west and the deadly impact of hurricane Ian across the Southeast. Emergency orders from the authorities to evacuate can present pet owners with terrible dilemmas, especially when their closest shelters don’t accept pets. In our study, almost two-thirds of owners report, they would be extremely or somewhat likely to risk their own lives, to save their pets from a dangerous situation. Owners in households without any children are more likely than others to say this as our owners, belonging to generation X. Andrea, this data suggests that we need more pet-friendly locations for people to shelter during natural disasters. Have you seen anything in your research that reflects this willingness to save pets during dangerous life-or-death situations? 

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Definitively, in my research, while we didn’t speak as much about disasters, I certainly saw evidence that people were either willing to sacrifice their own safety for the safety of their pets, whether that was physical safety or emotional safety. I think that that broke down by family structure, especially the physical safety piece. It broke down by family structure, again, with people who had human children reporting that if you put me in a situation where I have to choose between my dog or cat and my human children, I’m going to choose my human children every single time. But speaking with child-free families or involuntarily childless families, it was a very different story right? There was definitively an increased willingness to put themselves out there, for what they might have perceived as emotional bullying of their pets, either by partners or by friends, but even physical safety. I remember a particular participant, talking about his dog being endangered. He had a Dachshund and he had let his dog down, I guess off of his porch onto the sidewalk to go for a walk. His dog was on a leash and another dog that was not on a leash came barrel, a much bigger dog came barreling down the sidewalk, and could have easily killed his dog and was growling and very aggressive. Well, the participant had some chronic knee problems that made it very difficult for him to move around. And really going up and down steps was an activity that he’d been advised against in totality. and what he reported to me was that he went as fast as he could down the steps. He stumbled a little bit as he went down them, got to his dog, picked his dog up to keep his dog safe from being attacked. Not only did he put his own physical health, kind of at risk going down those stairs, but he also put his physical health at risk because the other dog could have easily attacked him instead. But in his mind, as he reported to me, he didn’t care. He just wanted to make sure that his dog was safe, secure, and that he would be able to ward off any kind of attack. So there’s that. In terms of actual, natural disasters or human disasters like war, and I think that the most common example that human-to-animal interactions think of, maybe I should say the most influential example would be Katrina. The response during Katrina to evacuation was for first responders to go in and get the people out. that was their imperative: you go in and get people out before they die. And what they ran into was people saying, “Okay, I’ll go with you. I’m gonna bring my pets too.” And the first responders had no policy or procedure to take animals with them. They didn’t have shelters to take their animals to. and so essentially, what they were left with was saying to evacuees, “you either come with us without your animal, or we have to leave you behind.” Guess what happened? People stayed behind. They stayed behind, and there’s increasing amounts of research and just empirical evidence and news stories of people saying, “Okay, I’m gonna evacuate, but I’m going back in and I’m going to get my animals. I don’t care if you say it’s safe or not. I will go back and get my animals.” Post-Katrina, the federal government answered this issue with pet evacuation and transportation standards. And essentially, what that did do for natural disasters was govern first responders’ policies about how they would evacuate humans and their pets. Essentially, what they were given was imperative that if you go in to evacuate a person and they have an animal they want to bring with them, you must also bring the animal. and so I mean, different emergency response organizations respond to that in different ways. But ultimately, what it means is now people get evacuated with their pets because there’s obviously a public health concern if people are willing to stay behind with their animals, then that means that we are increasing the risk of public health with, damage from natural disaster, physical injury, disease and the spread of disease, but also post-disaster in terms of post-traumatic stress, disorder and depression and anxiety being much higher amongst pet owners who were forced to leave their animals behind. So, and I will just add this other piece cuz I find this fascinating and it’s not about the United States, it’s actually about Ukraine, right? And the invasion of Russia into Ukraine. there were lots of pictures, as just the mass exodus from Ukraine, with Russia invading the country, of people carrying their animals with them and walking, you know, hundreds of miles to try and get over the border. And some research that’s been done since then found that, 39 percent of people actually reported staying behind in Ukraine, in part because of their pets. They didn’t feel like they’d be able to take their pets with them, so they stayed. and of those that left, less than about 10 percent actually left their pets behind. So one thing that I’ve argued in my book is that this is not actually just an American thing. I think what this is, alongside, looking at total fertility rates and mortality rates and levels of development, is it really is unique to post-industrialized nations that have, higher GDPs, and that have opportunity to build in these kinds of relationships with their pets. They’re not no longer just focused on their own physical safety and survival. they’re no longer focused on building big families with human children. and this opens up opportunities for, bonding with dogs and cats in the way that we see here in the US. one more thing. some more kind of interesting research from the ASPCA indicates that about 90 percent of pet owners say that they bring their pets with them in an evacuation. So the vast majority of pet owners in the USA say “I’m taking my pet with me during evacuation.” Interestingly, 84 percent of them have no like emergency pet sheltering planned, so they would take their pets with them, but they don’t know where they would take them to. And as you mentioned earlier in your introduction to this question, that’s a problem. Like we need some more government funding or something in terms of setting up more pet shelters as we Come upon and approach more and more natural disasters. 68 percent of the people, according to A S P C A that were interviewed, said that they actually feel like the government needs to put some funding in place to support that. So, you know, I mean that’s kind of another, piece of refinement about thinking on natural disaster preparedness is that most pet owners really want that in place, but either they don’t know how to do it or they haven’t gotten a chance, the opportunity, to do it. Vast majority of them don’t have that planning in place, but also a large majority want the government to be the ones that take that responsibility on.

Adrian Tennant: So 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: Well, they can find me on and with my name, Andrea two-thirds, or they can email me at

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

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Thank you for inviting me. I’ve had fun!

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, 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. Andrea’s work was a source of inspiration for the Bigeye Pet Owners Study, and she very kindly reviewed the questions with us before we fielded the survey. If you’d like to obtain a free copy of the report, please go to our website at And if you have any questions about the results or the insights contained in the report, please let me know. You can email me directly at Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS this week, and I hope you enjoyed learning more about pet ownership in the US. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

As advertising grapples with the challenge of capturing and holding viewers’ attention, Lumen Research has emerged as an industry leader, providing innovative solutions to help brands develop effective creative and plan media more efficiently. Bill Forelli, Lumen’s VP of Sales for North America, explains the components of Lumen Research’s suite of attention measurement, targeting, and activation tools and discusses the impact they can have on clients’ campaign performance.

Episode Transcript

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

Bill Forelli: The target isn’t high attention, the target is selling things, brand awareness. It’s the outcomes that the advertising is trying to generate. Biometric response is critical for understanding how to optimize media to serve the outcomes. 

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. Thank you for joining us. One of the most famous quotes from advertising legend Bill Bernbach is: “If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.” In today’s fragmented media landscape, the quality and amount of attention consumers pay to advertising varies significantly across different channels, platforms, and contexts. Studies showing how much or how little attention people pay to ads reveal that some channels are better than others in capturing and holding viewers’ attention. Failure to capture attention means that a brand’s advertising goes unnoticed In Ehrenberg-Bass terms, unseen advertising won’t contribute to building mental availability for the brand. Although lab-based eye-tracking technology has been available for several decades, recent innovations in the field, including the miniaturization of devices, advances in phone cameras, and machine learning algorithms, have made it possible to track people’s eye movements on personal devices like smartphones and tablets in their natural environments, rather than in artificial laboratory settings. This has enabled researchers to collect precise measurements and analyze attention across various media platforms at scale. A leader in attention and eye-tracking for over 10 years, Lumen Research serves the industry with solutions designed to help advertisers use attention to develop effective creative, and plan media more efficiently. To discuss Lumen Research’s suite of attention measurement, targeting, and activation tools, we’re joined today by Bill Forelli, the company’s VP of Sales. With career experience spanning sales, marketing, and content creation, Bill has been instrumental in launching Lumen’s attention measurement products in the North American market. Before joining Lumen, Bill led global sales for in-game ad campaigns with Frameplay and served as global marketing manager at Newegg. Bill’s also a Twitch streamer and YouTube content creator in his own right. To discuss his multifaceted interests and how they intersect with attention measurement, Bill is joining us today from The City of Orange, California. Bill, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS

Bill Forelli: Thank you very, very much. That was a very professional intro. The imposter syndrome is real on that one, so I really appreciate you having me on, Adrian, and happy to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Bill, could you tell us a bit about Lumen Research’s history? 

Bill Forelli: Sure. So Lumen Research is a little bit over 10 years old. It was started by Mike Follett, who’s still our CEO, and Mike really started his career on the planning side in Media. And he’s a brilliant guy. If anyone listening has had the pleasure of meeting Mike, you know he’s as brilliant as he is kind, and he’s a lot of both of those things. But his brilliance really led him to the realization that within the media planning process, there was no real data that led to his job being easier and the outcomes being more accurate and better. So what he did is shift his focus from the actual media planning to finding new ways of acquiring data to help in the planning process. That led him directly to attention. So he started the company with the idea that he wanted to learn more about human interaction with media itself. What are the biometric responses? What are the cognitive responses to the media, as the industry was planning, you know, where that media went. And it started with eye-tracking and looking at what the biometric responses were from an eye-tracking perspective. From there, the company has evolved to add technologies that help us use the research that has been gathered over the last 10 years to expand that and duplicate that over billions and billions of impressions using things like the big buzzword of the day now, aside from attention, which is AI and machine learning. So we’re leveraging these new technologies to harness a lot of the data and the biometric stuff that Lumen and Mike have captured over the last 10 years.

Adrian Tennant: What does your role at Lumen Research entail? 

Bill Forelli: So I’m the VP of Sales in North America for Lumen. Late last year, Lumen started to expand its footprint within the US on US soil. So, I oversee all of the sales operations in North America, so a rather large region. But it is super fun. I have a lot of experience in marketing and product commercialization, and messaging that help me tell the Lumen story in the US. So it’s a big responsibility, and I take it very seriously, but I have so much fun doing this, and it’s incredibly interesting to me. When I get hooked on something, I like to deep dive into it. And what I’ve found, what a lot of people are finding, is that there’s so much stuff to dig into with attention that it’s a daily, fulfillment to uncover as we go and help spread the word of attention.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Mike is certainly a pioneer, but as you know, over the past couple of years, attention has been the topic of multiple industry events, numerous articles in Adweek and AdAge, and reports published by the Advertising Research Foundation and the Association of National Advertisers among others. Bill, what’s driving the interest in attention within the advertising industry, would you say? 

Bill Forelli: I would honestly say that it’s as simple as we simply can now! I really think this highlights what happened in the advertising industry based off of what we were able to measure before, and it comes to one of my favorite laws. I have a favorite law, which is Goodhart’s Law. And that law states when a measure becomes a target or the target, it stops becoming a good measure. And one of my favorite examples of this was from, Colonial India, actually in Delhi. And some of you might know the story, it’s referred to as The Cobra Effect. But what happened was the local Delhi government had a problem with venomous cobra snakes, you know, an explosion in snake populations, biting people and livestock. So they wanted to come up with a way to help lessen the snake population. So similar to what we do here in California, where if you turn in a Coke bottle, you get 5 cents refund. They did the same thing with cobra snakes. So people would bring in dead snakes. They would, you know, bring in the severed head of a snake and then get a monetary reward. So what some industrious people started to do was breed cobra snakes. So there were these big snake breeding grounds where people would breed snakes, cut the heads off, bring it into the government. The government caught wind of this, shut the program down, and those people had all these cobra snakes, and they just let ’em roam free. So the idea was that they wanted to lessen the population of snakes, but the target became the measure. That led to an explosion in Cobra snakes. And that’s what advertising did with viewability – we bred cobras by saying the measure is viewability, and we started to breed impressions. So you get this explosion of websites and publishers trying to deliver as many impressions as possible without considering what that’s doing to the target, which is selling stuff. The explosion of ads out there leads to all the statistics – you know, “People are exposed to 10,000 ads per day and they only see this many of them” – really have done a disservice to what the original target was, which was to figure out if someone was seeing the ad or not. With attention measurement, now that technology has advanced, now that we have a better understanding of what starts to lead to outcomes and where eyes are actually falling on these ads, it’s becoming way more accessible for people to measure and understand. “Did somebody see my ad? Yes or no?” Being able to accurately measure that and then make planning decisions off of that has really led to, I think, the fact that now attention is also the buzzword – along with AI – that kind of works hand in hand. So I think that’s really the cause of the explosion and interest of attention in the last couple of years.

Adrian Tennant: Could you explain how eye-tracking works?

Bill Forelli: There are a couple of different methodologies for eye tracking that we utilize. They’re largely the same in terms of how we take in the data, but we use them in different situations. So the first one is what we call our biometric data set. So we have this opt-in passive participant group that is being eye-tracked on a daily basis to help feed our AI models. So we have access to forward-facing cell phone cameras, webcams, and on desktop and laptop devices. So they open up a portal, sign in to Lumen, and they go about their business online, and they’re being passively tracked in those natural environments. The other method is where we have a recruited panel, where we actually recruit an audience for a specific creative measurement. So those audience members are recruited specifically for geodemographic reasons and then taken through a forced exposure experience where they look at a social media platform website, and we eye-track them and produce heat maps, gaze plots, and feature analysis based off of those one-to-one eye tracking results.

Adrian Tennant: Lumen Research offers a suite of products around attention. Bill, could you give us an overview of each of them?

Bill Forelli: Yeah, so the three product lines that we have are the Attention Review, live measurement, and then SPOTLIGHT. So the Attention Review is a product that looks at a historical analysis of a campaign. So we can go back six to 12 months, and we take in all of the campaign data for that time period for a brand. And we analyze attention over that period of time. Gives a bunch of data in a relatively short amount of time to really benchmark where the brand is at with attention to help make, planning, and buying decisions moving forward. The live measurement piece, which we call LAMP – the Lumen Attention Measurement and Planning Suite – is designed to measure live. So we tag and ingest live impression data on an ongoing campaign, and we can look at optimizations and actually measure the effects of those optimizations live in a campaign. The other side of that, on top of the measurement, is the opportunity actually to activate for attention. So we have high attentive PMPs and custom pre-bid algorithms where we’re actually buying for attention ahead of time. That comes with the live measurement as well. And then, finally, SPOTLIGHT is that kind of second eye-tracking piece where we’re looking at custom creative eye-tracking studies that are conducted in a number of different realms. So we can do cinema, out-of-home, digital out-of-home, print, social media, rich media, you name it. We will do an eye-tracking study on that. So that’s a little bit more of an open-ended component of attention and more of the cognitive side of things to go along with the replicable, digital stuff.

Adrian Tennant: The Association of National Advertisers held an event last year to discuss attention metrics. Data showed that shorter ads tend to attract a greater percentage of high attention compared to longer ones. Live events such as sports and award shows drive more attention than prerecorded or on-demand viewing. And there’s a correlation between the attention paid to programming and attention paid to advertising during live shows. And this might be a surprise to some: brand-building ads typically attract higher attention than performance marketing or direct response formats. Bill, what myths about creative effectiveness or media performance are you seeing being busted by Lumen’s attention measurement?

Bill Forelli: I’m going to try to be … I’m going to try to answer this question as carefully as I can because it’s a very interesting question, but as a research company, we really try to look at measurement as an open-ended question, we can definitely see patterns. We definitely see trends, you know, one of them being the larger the ad size, the more attention it gets – that’s an obvious one. But what’s really interesting that we find on a campaign-per-campaign basis with clients is that we want to understand how attention works for that particular client, and in a lot of cases, for that particular campaign too. I don’t like using brand names because we’re in advertising, but it’s really hard to make this point without using a brand example. But Coke is a good example of a brand that will have vastly different attention criteria than a pharmaceutical company would have. So Coke, for a branded campaign, might only need a couple hundred milliseconds of attention for it to reach their outcomes, whereas a pharmaceutical company might need much longer attention on an ad to get across their message. Attention is different for every campaign, for every brand. Some brands have branded campaigns and performance campaigns running at the same time. We’re going to optimize those completely differently because one’s going to need more time per user. The other one’s going to need more users in order to perform at its maximum. So being able to communicate directly with brand teams and with clients to help walk them through how to use attention and how to look at it specific to them, I think is a really important thing that we try to, really instill in our clients right off the bat.

Adrian Tennant: Some listeners may be curious about the accuracy or efficacy of the data collected from eye-tracking studies. So could you tell us about the study that Lumen commissioned from the global consulting and professional services network PwC?

Bill Forelli: If you want to see a bunch of ad tech people sweat, tell them that you’re having a third-party audit done on your data! When Mike told us all that he was doing, everyone in Lumen was just like, “Oh my gosh, Mike, what are you doing?” And he was so confident, and rightly so, and in hindsight, he should have been. But yeah, we all were like, “What is going on? Hope, hope this goes well.” And it did go really well. One of the things that is really interesting about AI right now and is important to remember with how we deliver data is that there’s no instant verification of its accuracy. So if you go into ChatGPT and type in whatever, “Write me a poem about Lumen in the style of Edgar Allen Poe,” or something, it’s going to deliver something that you can read and go, “Yeah, that’s actually pretty close. That’s pretty good.” Stable Diffusion, you know, “Make me a picture of a blue car.” It’ll do it, and you can look at it and say, “Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.” Or, you know, “That’s not very accurate. It’s got five wheels!” Or whatever. But you have that instant recognition of its accuracy. And that’s something that this PwC audit really did for us is show that the amount of data that we’ve collected and the AI models that we’ve built off of them are incredibly accurate because what they were able to do is say, “Okay, predict attention here.” And then they actually measured the attention there with actual people. So it was really kind of replicating that “type something into ChatGPT” and using the eyeball test to verify it. But it was using the actual attention predictions that we were making, comparing that to what was actually happening.

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

Lydia Michael: Hi there. I’m Lydia Michael, the author of Brand Love: Building Strong Consumer Brand Connections. Reflecting my experience as a multicultural marketing and brand strategist, Brand Love is for any marketing and brand professionals, entrepreneurs, and those who oversee brand messaging, communications, and other consumer-facing strategies. Whether you work for a big or small brand, the book is designed to provide you with actionable strategies to grow and build any successful brand. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25 percent on a print or electronic version of Brand Love by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free paperback and e-book bundle offer. When you order directly from Kogan Page, shipping is always free to the US and the UK, so to order your copy of Brand Love go to And thank you!

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Bill Forelli, VP of Sales for Lumen Research, an industry leader in eye-tracking and attention measurement. Could you talk a little about the work Lumen Research has been doing with the marketing and advertising agency network, Dentsu, over the past few years?

Bill Forelli: The work with Dentsu is really fun. They’ve obviously leaned into attention for a number of years. I think Dentsu’s The Attention Economy hit a five-year anniversary this past year. But they’ve obviously leaned heavily into attention, and the best part about what they’ve done is they’re focused on the outcomes. And that’s some of the most exciting things that we’ve done. The exciting studies that we’ve done with them is showing that high attention equates to better outcomes. That’s an obvious thing to say. A famous Orwell quote is, “The first order of an intelligent person is to restate the obvious.” And in the case of advertising, the obvious is an outcome is far, far more likely to happen when an ad has been seen than if it hasn’t been seen. But it really took Lumen and Dentsu joining forces to do studies to prove that with The Attention Economy, to really show that that is the case. That’s really the foundation of what’s made our relationship with Dentsu so strong: our absolute belief that this is about the outcomes. You know, go back to Goodhart’s Law: the target isn’t high attention; the target is selling things, brand awareness. It’s the outcomes that the advertising is trying to generate. 

Adrian Tennant: Do you have any favorite client success stories or case studies that illustrate the impact of Lumen’s work? 

Bill Forelli: I actually do, I have a really good one that this is the perfect platform for because I don’t think this would work in a case study that we’d publish on the website. When we set up a new campaign with an agency team, we will typically have a cadence of optimization calls with them, whether it’s weekly, biweekly, to go over the dashboard and look at the results and help walk them through how to use attention. And there was this team that we were meeting with, and a portion of their campaign started to lag below benchmarks for attention. And they were trying to figure out how to help improve that, what they could do to help improve their attention on this campaign. So we walked them through and got all the way down to domain-level attention. And we look at actual domains from average time to percent viewed to our APM, which is attentive seconds per thousand impressions, which is an aggregate of both percent viewed, which is, “Did they look at it or not?” and then average time, which is “For how long did they look at it?” So we went through this domain list, and we pointed out a few domains. “See this domain, this is serving a lot of impressions, and it has a very low attention score. See this domain, this one has a, has very good attention, but is not serving as many impressions. So what you could do is let’s shift some of that budget from the lower performing domain to the higher performing domain and shift those impressions over.” So they said, “Okay.” They went back, they made some adjustments to their media plan, and it only took, I think, two days for them to come back, and we jumped on, not an emergency call, but we jumped on another call with them, and they could not believe what was happening. They could see in the dashboard the attention, their overall attention score going up as a result of those optimizations that we made. That was really fun to see that happen, and it was in such a short amount of time that it really highlighted how cool it can be when you look at attention data to make optimizations and actually see those effects happen.

Adrian Tennant: Lumen recently announced a partnership with Nexxen. What are the main goals of this collaboration? 

Bill Forelli: The main goal of the partnership with Nexxen is to really do cool stuff! So Nexxen has some awesome technology that we’re able to complement and a lot of companies do too. To be fair, a lot of companies have cool technology that we can also supplement. But what we’re doing with Nexxen is using their AI facial coding that optimizes creative dynamically for brands. From the creative perspective, we come in and then help place that creative in the most attentive locations. It’s similar to what we do with SPOTLIGHT, where SPOTLIGHT deals with what’s in the box, and LAMP deals with where that box lives. The same thing goes with this partnership with Nexxen and the CTV inventory. We’re able to do things that are incredibly efficient for brands. Again, to that eyeballs per dollar, in cognitive response per dollar, you’re optimizing things in a biometric way. That’s the key with Lumen and, Nexxen and a lot of the partnerships we have, even with our partnership with TVision, for example, who’s a huge partner for us with Linear TV and CTV, is that biometric response is critical for understanding how to optimize media to again, serve the outcomes. We want to get to those outcomes as efficiently as possible, and that human interaction is key.

Adrian Tennant: Bill, I mentioned in the introduction that you are a Twitch streamer and YouTube content creator. What I didn’t mention is that you also have a passion for aviation and hold a Private Pilot License. Could you explain how these are linked? 

Bill Forelli: They’re incredibly linked In a very funny way. I was living in the Seattle area, and anyone who’s lived in that region knows that in the winter months, you need to have a very good indoor hobby. And I had been out of PC gaming for a long time and decided to build a gaming PC. After I had built this PC, did all the research, CPU, GPU, RAM, all the stuff, put it together, didn’t have anything to play! So I was browsing this online game website and saw this sale price for a flight simulator. It happened to be XPLANE 11, and I hadn’t played a flight simulator since, I think ’95 or ’97, like Flight Sim 95. And I was like, “Wow, I bet flight simulators are really advanced. Now I’ve got to check this out.” So I download the game, and I’m sitting on the ramp with the default plane, Cessna 172, and I couldn’t figure out how to start it. My dad happened to be an ex-Navy jet pilot and private pilot himself. He hadn’t flown in years and years. I only flew with him a couple dozen times, but I knew that General Aviation existed, and I knew that he knew how to fly a 172. So I called him, and I said, “Dad, I’m on the ramp with this 172, and I can’t figure out how to start it.” He couldn’t figure it out. I was like, “I am on the ramp on a video game, in a 172. Can you help me start it?” So my dad on the phone, on the speaker phone, is walking me through based off of a plane he hadn’t flown in 20 years, walking me through how to start a 172 on a computer program, and it started right up. It was that exact moment that the light bulb went off when I thought I could actually learn how to fly a plane using computers and using a flight simulator. So that’s where the passion came from, and the ball started rolling from there where I said, “Hey, if I stream this, if I post these on YouTube, this would be fun content to make.” And I took it all the way through Private Pilot’s License, and still to this day, my real-world flying and simulator flying are completely intertwined where I will brief a flight before I do it on Twitch, go do the flight, film it, post it on YouTube, and then do a flight debrief back on Twitch and continue that process. And it’s been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you are in the unique position of having experience both as a marketer and as a content creator. How do you foresee the intersection of technology and creativity playing out in the advertising industry?

Bill Forelli: I think it’s similar to what it’s done in the content creation industry, and that’s enable people to do things more quickly and easily and be more nimble in the creative process where you don’t have as many gatekeepers or, you know, I mean just from when I started on Twitch and making YouTube videos, the software that you use to just edit the videos and post the stuff has become way easier. And now, with AI you can offload some of the more tedious tasks where you can focus more of your time and energy on the stuff that really matters, which is the content, which is the messaging, which is the emotional side of things. You’re not so held to the actual production stuff that can take a lot of time and money. So for the advertising industry, I think a lot of this technology is going to help make brands and agencies quicker to react to changes within the media landscape – react more to different content that comes out just with cyclical news cycles and, you know, sports teams. So, you know, more attention’s going to be focused on sports and we’re coming into an election year, you know, so that content’s going to change. And being able to react to those things quicker, I think, is going to make the messages become a little bit more honed rather than spending a lot of the time on chasing your tail with some of that more tedious stuff.

Adrian Tennant: What’s the coolest piece of technology that you’ve seen employed at Lumen Research? 

Bill Forelli: The coolest thing that I’ve seen at Lumen is really the AI algorithms succeeding in the PwC audit. That really was something that opened my eyes to how to explain better what we were doing in a way that drove a lot of the new marketing materials that we’ve come out with over the last couple of months. I’ve used a lot more AI-generated artwork in our collateral as a maybe not-so-subtle nod to those findings from that PwC audit to really highlight that the validation is important to trust in AI-generated data and content, and that was a really important thing for me to recognize and realize just from a messaging standpoint, that we really do need to see that in order to believe it. You asked the question – rightly so – how do people, really look at the accuracy of these models. It’s way easier to look at the accuracy of a ChatGPT or Stable Diffusion output; it’s not so easy with attention measurement. That audit really helped tell that story.

Adrian Tennant: How do you believe attention measurement and technology will evolve? And what role do you want to see Lumen playing in the future?

Bill Forelli: I think that attention measurement in technology will really become what viewability data is now. Frankly, I think it’s more of the true story of what we’re trying to do in advertising. I would love to think that Lumen’s methodology and our research-focused take on that will be a key part of how that evolves. I really do want measurement, and attention measurement, in particular, to be a measure. I keep going back to Goodhart’s Law, but I love it so much because it highlights a lot of, I think, the follies that we can get into in ad tech measurement and so forth, I want it to be a measure. I want the target to be outcomes, and I want that to be the legacy that Lumen with attention has in the industry. I want us to be the company that really made attention a measure again and made the outcomes the target. 

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about Lumen Research’s suite of attention measurement, targeting, and activation tools, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Bill Forelli: The best way to get in touch with me is Bill.Forelli – that’s F O R E L L I You could also go to the website, which is, and hit the Contact Us page.

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

Bill Forelli: Thank you so much. This was an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Bill Forelli, VP of Sales for Lumen Research. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at – just select “Podcast” from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

This week’s guest is Lydia Michael, CEO of multicultural marketing consultancy, Blended Collective. Lydia discusses her new book, Brand Love, explaining the eight stages of brand love, the importance of incorporating emotional and rational drivers, and the power of multisensory marketing. We also examine how brands like Warby Parker and Trader Joe’s cultivate meaningful customer relationships. For a 25 percent discount on Brand Love, use promo code BIGEYE25 at

Episode Transcript

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

Lydia Michael: Brand Love is an emotional connection and a long-lasting connection between consumers and brands that results in loyalty and advocacy.

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. Thank you for joining us. In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive market, brands of all sizes seek ways to foster connections with their customers, transforming them into loyal advocates, and creating communities around their brands. In this episode, we’re going to look at some of the strategies and tactics successful brands employ to achieve high levels of consumer engagement and explore how brands can cultivate meaningful relationships with their customers. Our Bigeye Book Club Selection for August is Brand Love: Building Strong Consumer Brand Connections. The book’s author is Lydia Michael, the founder of Blended Collective, a multicultural marketing and brand consultancy based in Detroit, Michigan. Lydia works with organizations to develop brands and marketing strategies, and her experience includes working with startups and scale-ups as well as established companies such as Deloitte and L’Oréal. To discuss the process of building culturally inclusive, long-lasting consumer brand relationships and some of the ideas in “Brand Love,” Lydia is joining us today from Detroit, Michigan. Lydia, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Lydia Michael: Hi, Adrian. I’m happy to be here today. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, congratulations on the publication of your first book. What prompted you to write Brand Love

Lydia Michael: Thank you. So, you know, looking at the market and the different books around emotional marketing and Brand Love, I saw an opportunity and really a gap in the market to talk about Brand Love and approach it from a different perspective. And that perspective being culture. So I wanted to write a book on the topic of Brand Love that would consider the role and the relevance of culture in marketing. So that was really one of the key drivers. And then on a personal note, I’ve been really researching this topic since 2016 and have been really passionate about the concept of Brand Love and have integrated that into my work over the years. And so at some point, I had so much information, and again, just so much passion that drove the need for a book I think that I’m able to share with everybody across the world. 

Adrian Tennant: Lydia, how do you define Brand Love?

Lydia Michael: In the book, I define Brand Love as an emotional connection and a long-lasting connection between consumers and brands that results in loyalty and advocacy.

Adrian Tennant: And what are the benefits for brands of attaining Brand Love? 

Lydia Michael: I think there are so many different benefits, right? I mean, the definition already says part of it is the loyalty and advocacy portion, but really when you want customers to be loyal to your brand, to your products, it’s all about creating this level of trust and making sure that people want to stick around, making sure that people want to choose you, and really become a brand champion for you. So in order to do all of that, there are a lot of different stages that you have to go through, both as a brand and a customer. But I think once you’ve attained these different levels throughout the consumer lifecycle, in the end, it’s all about having a loyal customer and somebody who advocates for you. 

Adrian Tennant: Your book is structured around eight sequential stages toward attaining Brand Love, beginning with awareness, and culminating in loyalty and advocacy. Now we’ll dive deeper into some of the steps in a moment, but could you give us an overview of the Brand Love drivers and the eight Brand Love stages? 

Lydia Michael: Yeah, so I created the Brand Love Drivers sort of in association with the eight Brand Love Stages model. And the idea is to create this practical tool for companies of any size at any stage to be able to use this in their day-to-day. And so when we look at the Brand Love drivers, I introduce both emotional and rational drivers. And in the book, I talk about 10 of these on each side. This is not to say that there are only 10 Brand Love drivers on each side, but it really is an idea to help you understand the concept. And I take the idea of the brain, the right side of the brain, and the left side of the brain. And a lot of times we hear that the right side of the brain is the more emotional side, the more creative side, and the left side is the more logical side that’s focused on rationale, on reason. And so I take that foundation and I created those Brand Love drivers around that. And, you know, on the emotional side at least, things from authenticity, empathy, humanization, personalization. Those are all drivers that contribute to that emotional experience that we have with brands. And then on the rational side, you have things such as innovation, convenience, relevance, differentiation, things of that nature. And so taking all of these and looking at the Brand Love stages, which again are eight stages, there are the stages that take us through the brand consumer connection, right? And so when we start with things like awareness, familiarity, those are all foundational elements that we need in order to, at some point, get to the level of trust and attachment, love, and of course in the end, loyalty and advocacy. And so all of these drivers ideally happen throughout these eight stages. So it’s not to say that we only have one or two drivers that appear, but more so the fact that the more drivers you have as you’re building your brand, the more you’re setting yourself up for success, the more you are setting yourself up to achieve different levels of Brand Love, if that makes sense.

Adrian Tennant: The first part of your book lays out the foundations of Brand Love in which you make the point that a brand isn’t owned by a firm or an individual, but by its consumers. Lydia, can you explain what you mean by that and the implications for marketers? 

Lydia Michael: Yeah, absolutely, Adrian. When we look at any brand that we build, a lot of times we’re very intentional, or we should be, at least, we should be intentional about the brand that we are creating and building. And many times that is the brand identity that we as the brand owners or the founders, or even just anybody in that role, we control that brand identity, but the brand image, the way that we are perceived by our customers, a lot of times it’s outside of our control. And so the brand image is owned by the consumer. So a lot of times when we talk about the brand identity that we want to create, and the brand image, which is the way we want to be perceived, the best way to make sure that that aligns is through brand positioning. But what happens a lot of times is, because the brand image is outside of our control, our customers really define and tell us who we are at the core, based on the experiences that they have with our brand, based on what they see on social media, their interactions, you know 360 degrees, just from a holistic perspective. I think in the end, they tell us who we are, right? We can tell them all we want, as to who we want to be or who we strive to be. But in the end, it’s all about how we are being perceived. And so if you’re actually perceived the way you want to be perceived, that is successful branding. That means that you are positioning your brand in the right way to make sure that those two worlds align.

Adrian Tennant: Now you believe it’s important for brands to build communities. Do you have any examples that illustrate this approach? 

Lydia Michael: I give a few different examples in the book. You know, I focus on streetwear brands, for instance. So in the fashion industry, the clothing retail space, you see a lot of streetwear brands that are not just about the products, but they’re really about people over product. And so you have brands like Melody Ehsani, for instance, a woman-owned brand that has been around for a decade or longer. You have brands like The Hundreds; they’re both very different but very successful streetwear brands that, again, prioritize people over the product that they sell. And they really focus on community, and they do that by activating their brand. So things like activating the store, the retail store, for instance, to have panel discussions and talk about relevant topics and social topics that are important to the community, to create a space where people can come to and have these uncomfortable conversations sometimes that are needed though for growth in order to really drive that community element forward. 

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you write that Brand Love is achieved through a mix of emotional and rational drivers. Can you explain the differences between them?

Lydia Michael: I think I talked a little bit about it when I explained the concept of the brain and sort of focusing on the right side of the brain and the left side of the brain. And so similar to that, when we talk about emotional and rational drivers, the emotional drivers are the ones that really tap into that right side of our brain, right? The ones that allow us to be more empathetic, the ones that allow us to be more human when we tap into brands. Other drivers on the emotional side include things like desire, inclusion, and nostalgia, which is a big one. Or, you know, these days, a lot of brands focus on purpose and sustainability, and those are all the emotional drivers that are important on that journey to Brand Love. When we talk about the rational side, again, that’s sort of the left side of the brain that’s more logical, it’s rational. There’s also a function that’s involved on that side. So we look at drivers such as consistency, convenience, performance, quality, uniqueness, and things of that nature that are just as important for the journey between a brand and a customer. So what I want to highlight and what I want people to take away is that you don’t just need one or the other. You always need a combination of drivers. You need both emotional and rational drivers to really build a successful brand. And again, really important to remember, the more drivers you have, the better, right? The more, the merrier! 

Adrian Tennant: The second part of your book focuses on the emotional drivers. In chapter four, you discuss authenticity and values, including reliability, trustworthiness, truth, honesty, and transparency. And you also include a case study of the US grocery chain, Trader Joe’s. So Lydia, what can Trader Joe’s teach marketers about authenticity?

Lydia Michael: Trader Joe’s is an interesting example because I think that they check the box for a lot of different things. And so Trader Joe’s is a popular choice among customers and, you know, when you look at Trader Joe’s, they don’t actually do any marketing. They don’t really have any advertising in place, and yet it has become such a popular brand that resonates with people. And I think authenticity is a big factor, whether you look at it from the cultural perspective of them really tapping into different cultures in an authentic way. I think authenticity comes through in even just their product innovation and their product selection. When you see that certain products are actually imported from that part of the world, which really makes you feel like, “Oh, I’m getting this unique, this different food or, you know, anything, from this part of the world here locally.” So it has a very local vibe, but at the same time, it also has a very global cultural vibe that adds to the authenticity of brands. And so I think that that makes it a very unique case study. And even outside of authenticity, we look at different drivers, such as experience, which can be both emotional or rational, but we look at that experience, and every time you walk into that store, there is warmth. There’s greetings. There’s this connection that you have with the staff that is very different than your traditional grocery store that you just run into to grab an item or two and leave. Again, it’s this experience that you have every time you’re in that space.

Adrian Tennant: Well, of course, Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldi. Most consumers that I’ve spoken to are quite surprised by this. Do you think it’s something to do with the human element? I mean, Trader Joe’s prioritizes human interactions between what they call crew members and customers versus Aldi’s focus on low prices and a self-service model.

Lydia Michael: Yeah, I think the human element and the human interaction are huge when you compare the two brands, and just like you said, a lot of people don’t know that Trader Joe’s is actually owned by Aldi. But when we look at that, there are a few different elements that are important here. One is the value proposition is very different for the two brands. Even though they’re owned by the same company, they target a completely different audience, which is why the value proposition is different. So again, you have the low price and the self-service model with Aldi, but then you have this human element with Trader Joe’s. And the way that this is achieved, again, goes back to brand positioning. So, based on the values that are associated with each brand, we position them completely differently, targeting different audiences. So when you have that human element and that people interaction, it does tap into more of the emotional side of connection, right? And I would say Aldi probably taps into more of the rational drivers and elements versus the emotional drivers. And this is a really good example where you see how that can result in Brand Love. Personally, I haven’t really heard of anybody talking about Aldi as a loved brand necessarily. But it still gets the job done, and it’s still very successful. It’s because it checks off a lot of the other drivers that are still very relevant in the customer journey, whether it’s the low price, the convenience, or the different values that are still relevant for success.

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

Lydia Michael: Hi there. I’m Lydia Michael, the author of Brand Love: Building Strong Consumer Brand Connections. Reflecting my experience as a multicultural marketing and brand strategist, Brand Love is for any marketing and brand professionals, entrepreneurs, and those who oversee brand messaging, communications, and other consumer-facing strategies. Whether you work for a big or small brand, the book is designed to provide you with actionable strategies to grow and build any successful brand. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25 percent on a print or electronic version of Brand Love by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free paperback and e-book bundle offer. When you order directly from Kogan Page, shipping is always free to the US and the UK, so to order your copy of Brand Love go to And thank you!

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Lydia Michael, the founder of the Detroit-based multicultural marketing and brand consultancy Blended Collective, and the author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club Selection, Brand Love: Building Strong Consumer Brand Connections. In chapter eight, you write about opportunities to develop brand experiences and illustrate some of the ways brands can engage with consumers more holistically by engaging all of their five senses. Lydia, how can brands effectively incorporate multi-sensory experiences into their marketing? 

Lydia Michael: You know, when we look at marketing and advertising, we naturally, I think, are so used to focusing on visual assets, things that stimulate the eye. And all of that is important, but I think over time, focusing on the senses has really shown us that the more we do that, the more we connect with the human that is behind our brand, the human that is supporting our products and our services. And so this is really where connection happens, where we all realize and recognize that we are human at our core. And things that affect our memory and our emotions are very much tied to different senses that we experience things with. And a big part of that, for instance, is olfactive branding. It’s the scent, but a lot of times it’s also the sound, for instance. And in the book, I talk about the five-sense marketing approach that MasterCard actually does very well, if you ask me, because they have been really good with tapping into all five senses and provide brand experiences that deliver a holistic customer experience. So, with MasterCard, to give you an example, they have this innovative touch card, which is a card that’s specifically designed with unique notches to help the blind and the visually impaired so that people are able to differentiate their cards when they make a purchase, right. The brand has also tapped into the sense of taste by opening restaurants around the world that are called “Priceless.” And then they use that same brand to also tap into the Sonic brand identity, which is the sense of sound, where they’ve created a music album so that people associate the company with features outside of the logo that again, tap into things outside of just the visual marketing that we’re so used to. And I think when we’re able to tap into all of those senses and provide a holistic experience like MasterCard does here, for example, I think that we’re able to really connect with customers on all different levels in a very natural way. 

Adrian Tennant: The third part of Brand Love speaks to the rational drivers, including relevance, differentiation, and consistency. Lydia, in what kinds of ways are rational drivers helpful to brands that want to stand out from the crowd?

Lydia Michael: Rational drivers are just as important, like I was saying, whether they focus on function or not. But it’s important to stay relevant and to provide value nonstop. And so when we look at those rational drivers, things like consistency or offering convenience, we see that brands that are able to tap into one of these drivers or more are really, really successful. Amazon is a good example that I give in the book, and I think that that’s a no-brainer for a lot of people that are listening. It’s the element of convenience, right? People almost don’t care anymore to support a brand if it’s not convenient for them. You know, so people want to save time. People want things to make sense for them and their lifestyle. And so convenience plays a huge role in that, and getting things quickly and getting things on your terms and how you want that. So that’s one of the key drivers on the rational side of things that explains a lot of that. 

Adrian Tennant: What’s the strategic value of a brand’s founding story? 

Lydia Michael: It’s interesting. I see it a lot of times when I work with small businesses, but I also certainly see it with larger businesses. One example that I give in the book talks about the Warby Parker brand, you know, the eyewear brand. And I think the brand really does a good job at going beyond just the store experience, beyond the website, beyond the emails. And they do that by tapping into their founder’s story. So when I bought my first pair, I opened up the case, and I saw that there was a cleaning cloth that had a message on there that was short and sweet. And to me, it was really inspiring because it tells the story of the brand, the founder’s story essentially, and it talks about the why, basically, the reason why the brand was born into that world of eyewear. And you know, it talks about wanting to make eyewear more accessible and more affordable and that traditionally eyewear has been really expensive, especially if you need to get a pair with a prescription. And so this is their differentiator as to why they came to be, but also this founder’s story to me as a customer. And, of course, I look at it from both the lens of a marketer and a customer. But you know, looking at that cleaning cloth, I mean, I don’t remember the last time I celebrated a cleaning cloth, right? For a pair of eyewear. But looking at that, I was like, “Wow, this is such a great way to connect and to tell your story.” And I think Warby Parker is one of those brands that is really successful in connecting their values to their story, but also telling their story everywhere the customer is.

Adrian Tennant: In the final part of your book called “Love Reinforced,” you discuss some of the things we learned about consumer behavior during COVID-19. You write that quote, “empathy is the new relevance when it comes to important brand factors,” end quote. Lydia, can you unpack this for us? 

Lydia Michael: Yes. So empathy is also an emotional driver that I highlight in the book. And I think if we go back to the basics and we as brands understand that the people that are buying our products or services are human at the core and that they need to be dealt with as such. So really this empathy, this understanding of who is our customer, why do they matter? How do we connect with them besides just selling them our product and beyond just being this transaction? And so the brands who show that they get you, that they feel you, that really understand who we are as customers, I think are the ones that show the most empathy and the most humanization. And this, again, translates into success. So one example that I also just remembered is that as I was on a flight last week and I was heading to New York to meet the publisher, I was on Delta and I remembered the story of when Delta one time threw a pizza party for their passengers because the flight was delayed or canceled. And so that created so many feelings of joy and excitement and people started sharing different pictures on social media and it began trending. But that example shows you that brands really need to embrace the moment marketing. They need to embrace the human behind all of their brand support and connect with them in the simplest way possible.

Adrian Tennant: One of the early reviewers of your book described you as a global citizen. To what extent has your personal background influenced how you approach client projects at Blended Collective? 

Lydia Michael: So I grew up in Germany, and I have a Middle Eastern background, and then I came to the US years later. And so for the better part of my life, I’ve been navigating three completely different cultures, three different continents, essentially, on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s in my personal life or in my business life. That has been a big part of who I am and also the way that I show up when I work with my clients at Blended Collective. And so I think the way that that has impacted or influenced the way I approach my work is I can easily adapt and be very agile and flexible in any work environment that you put me in. And I think a lot of that comes from understanding the different cultures so well, but also being able to read people very well based on whether it’s their cultural background or different diverse factors that they bring to the workplace. And I think that that only adds richness to any project because, you know, I’m basically practicing what I preach, right? I’ve lived all of those cultures. I’ve lived the multiculturalism. I’ve lived and worked in different spaces and different places. And so I think being able to bring that to any project adds a lot of value.

Adrian Tennant: Well, in the book, you recount coming to the United States and your first experiences with drive-throughs. Lydia, why do you think American consumers prioritize convenience compared to European counterparts? 

Lydia Michael: You know, I think it’s something that’s simply embedded in the culture. Anytime I go back to Europe, and I come back here to the US, the element of convenience is something that sticks out to me very much. And even though we as humans are creatures of habit, I also believe that we’re creatures of convenience. And so consumers are really addicted to convenience and they trade their money for convenience. And I think a lot of times we see that more so in the US because again, I think it’s part of the culture that we grow up in and sort of our surroundings that shape the way we are as customers. So whether it’s our attitudes, our lifestyles, I think a lot of it is built around convenience here in the US, or in North America compared to our European counterparts where convenience can be important, but I think only in certain categories. Because again, growing up in Germany, convenience wasn’t always superseding other values for us as customers. It wasn’t always at the top of that pyramid if that makes sense. 

Adrian Tennant: You write passionately about the value of having a diverse workforce and growth in supplier diversity programs. Yet, as you know, legislation has been introduced in at least a dozen states aimed at cutting DEI spending and rewriting hiring guidelines at colleges and universities. Lydia, what impact do you foresee for business and culture?

Lydia Michael: I am a huge proponent of culture in the workplace because of everything I just explained. When you add that richness and that understanding to the workplace, I think one, having that representation in the workforce to then better create campaigns and projects that are touching customers directly and targeting specific audiences is really important. And when we look at the cultural landscape of companies and especially corporations where a lot of times you think that they would have the manpower and the resources and the staff to make no mistakes, that’s actually where the mistakes happen. And I think it goes back to not having the right representation in-house to work on those campaigns, to really bring this cultural understanding to the drawing board. Reducing that, I think, will have a more negative impact than anything because when we look at research studies, and this is not just an opinion, but it really is a fact that has been researched by multiple studies and McKinsey and Company, for instance, is one of them. But if we look at different diversity studies, they do show that people who have a more diverse workforce are not only more innovative in the work that they do, but they also bring more creativity to the table. They provide better problem-solving skills, and, you know, all of those different positive elements that contribute to the work that we do that is not just internal, but also that’s consumer-facing, which is really important for that to resonate with your customers. 

Adrian Tennant: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Lydia Michael: I want readers to really go back to the basics in marketing. I think there’s so much happening in the world of marketing and business every single day, it’s tough to keep up, but there’s a lot of foundational elements that we need in our day-to-day work, that sometimes we might forget. And those things are brands are human. Customers are human. And so finding that common line and that connection to create a more human brand is really, really important. But at the same time, also making sure that culture plays a relevant role in marketing and so does emotion. 

Adrian Tennant: So Lydia, can you describe your book in just three words?

Lydia Michael: My book in three words: Brand Love is human, emotional, and multicultural. 

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about the book or your work with Blended Collective, what’s the best way to connect with you? 

Lydia Michael: The book can be found on Amazon and anywhere you can find books. Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, by the way, it always helps authors. And you can find more information about me and my company, both on and also And of course, I’m on all social media, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and everywhere else. 

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to read Lydia’s book, Brand Love, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you’ll receive a 25 percent discount when you purchase a print or electronic version online at the publisher’s site: Just enter the promo code BIGEYE25 at the checkout. Lydia, thank you very much indeed for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Lydia Michael: Thank you for having me, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Lydia Michael of Blended Collective and the author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club Selection, Brand Love. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at, just select “podcast” from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

Greg Dolan of Keen Decision Systems joins us to demystify Marketing Mix Modeling. Greg explains how Keen’s AI-driven model offers real-time insights and simulations, facilitating financial optimization and long-term brand value creation. Greg emphasizes the need for continuity in marketing, citing case studies that illustrate how going dark can result in loss of profitable demand. Learn how MMM supports decision-making with Keen’s predictive and prescriptive planning outputs.

Episode Transcript

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

Greg Dolan: There’s a big difference between what was traditionally marketing mix consulting and what we do. The use case for both marketing teams and agency partners is that they’re using this as a planning tool that they can understand and simulate outcomes and then execute those plans and be able to validate the original plans through the system. 

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. Thank you for joining us. Today’s media environment is increasingly complex, with a myriad of online and offline channels available to marketers. Understanding hybrid consumer journeys and the effects of advertising in newer channels like retail media is a significant challenge. Economic uncertainty, tighter privacy regulations, and the death of the cookie have all renewed interest in one analytical tool, in particular: marketing mix modeling, or MMM for short. It promises to provide marketers with a holistic approach to planning and media optimization by combining data from multiple sources to generate historical analysis and future marketing planning scenarios. To discuss marketing mix modeling, we’re joined today by Greg Dolan, the co-founder, and CEO of Keen Decision Systems, an Inc. 5,000 software-as-a-service company whose unified measurement and optimization platform enables brand marketers to make data-driven decisions. Prior to co-founding Keen, Greg had brand and corporate strategy experience at CPG companies, including Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup Company, Nabisco, and Mondelēz. He frequently contributes to research publications and is a guest lecturer at UNC Keenan Flagler Business School, teaching MBA students advanced analytics. To discuss how marketing mix modeling can help brands understand the effectiveness and efficiency of their marketing investments, Greg is joining us today from Keen Decision Systems’ offices in Durham, North Carolina. Greg, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Greg Dolan: Thanks, Adrian. It’s great to be with you.

Adrian Tennant: I gave a brief description in the intro, but can you tell us more about your background before co-founding Keen Decision Systems?

Greg Dolan: Absolutely. My background really led to the creation of Keen, so I started my career as a consumer packaged goods brand marketer. So I worked in the food industry at Nabisco and then Kraft Foods and the Campbell Soup Company, and I was primarily in general management-focused P&L management of brands. I had responsibility for large marketing budgets. And my biggest lever in generating profitable demand was marketing. And unfortunately, I had, you know, old fashioned marketing mix, where I had a marketing mix study that was delivered, you know, once a year, about six months after the data was delivered to the consultant. It gave me a report card of what happened in the previous two years, but it didn’t give me a good understanding of what I do next. And as a P&L owner, as someone managing a business, I really had to understand, you know, “How do I make better decisions based on the information I have?” So I was lucky enough to meet my technical co-founder, John Busbice, who had been doing marketing mix analytics for the pharmaceutical industry, and he was tired of putting together the marketing mix presentation, a 200-page PowerPoint deck, and delivering it to marketers for it not to be used for decision making. So we felt together there was an opportunity to disrupt the market, develop a next-generation solution that was delivered through software, and not only really focused on just measurement, but more importantly, started to guide decision-making as information became available, and really tie that directly to the financial outcomes that the brand was being held accountable for. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, in the context of today’s still uncertain economic outlook, an article you wrote for Quirks recently discussed the shortsightedness of companies slashing their marketing and advertising spending. Greg, why is it important to maintain long-term branding efforts regardless of the prevailing economic conditions?

Greg Dolan: Well, as marketers, we know that marketing drives value and value over time. And I think that this is missed in a lot of traditional marketing analytics. So what we’ve been able to do as a system and as a software application is account for the timing impact of marketing. So in our system, we were able to build in long-term effects and really understand how each dollar of marketing is impacting both short-term revenue and long-term value. And what we found was – and this is supported by Ehrenberg-Bass and others who really, you know, focus on continuity of marketing – is that when you cut marketing, and you go dark and even flight the business in intervals, then you’re not in front of the consumer. And that marketing that you have put into the marketplace and deployed starts to decay, and it takes that much more spending and time to get the same amount of volume back. So it’s more expensive over time to build back after you’ve gone dark and cut budgets and not invested in the consumer. 

Adrian Tennant: I probably gave an overly simplistic description in the intro, so could you explain in a bit more detail what marketing mix modeling is and how it differs from the kinds of research and reporting that brand managers are likely already receiving from their marketing teams or agency partners? 

Greg Dolan: So there’s a big difference between what was traditionally marketing mix consulting and what we do. In the past – and again, I was a consumer of the traditional marketing mix – every single year, you would go through an exercise with a consultant where you would deliver to them your financial data, all of your marketing activity data across your marketing mix. So your TV data, radio, all your digital, your trade for the CPG world. And those consultants would build a custom analytics model, primarily time series regression. So they’re looking at the correlation between all of your activity and spend and your sales. And they would deliver that analysis in a PowerPoint presentation that gave you a report card for how the brand or business had done over the past two years. And that is an exercise that’s recreated and basically, done over every single year, created from scratch. So it was helpful in terms of, “Hey, I have an understanding of what worked in the past,” but it wasn’t, as I mentioned, as you know, helpful when it came to making the next decision and understanding what you do next. And that’s really what we are looking to disrupt. So the brand manager in the past would use that as validation for what happened in the past. What we’re trying to do is really pivot that from measurement to decision-making. So we know in this world where it’s a lot more complex, there are a lot more channels, a lot of silos within organizations that it’s important to have an omnichannel perspective when it comes to planning your marketing. So we are focused on bringing in all the information that we can bring to bear. So that’s a combination of the traditional time series data that you would give to a traditional marketing mix, but combine that with industry knowledge through our proprietary marketing elasticity engine, which serves as an information base for our models, but also any other analytics that is being done across the organization, whether that’s MTA, or copy effectiveness studies, or A/B tests or any of that information that can also inform the model. So we’re bringing the full knowledge state to the table in order to inform not only what happened in the past but, more importantly, on a real-time basis. “How do I make the next decision? Where am I going to get the most significant return on the next dollar invested? And how do I show continuous improvement for the brand looking forward?” So the use case there for both marketing teams and agency partners is that they’re using this as a planning tool that they can understand and simulate outcomes and then execute those plans and be able to validate the original plans through the system. So it’s a continuous planning, execution, and validation system.

Adrian Tennant: What typically prompts brand marketers to seek out a marketing mix modeling solution, do you think?

Greg Dolan: Well, it’s becoming a lot more complex to understand all the different pieces of marketing, and how do you balance the top of the funnel, mid-funnel, and bottom of the funnel? I think what we’ve seen is that, you know, where we’ve had the best luck understanding impact is at the bottom of the funnel. And, you know, those revenue-driving transactions. So, what we know is that there’s a lot of complexity, a lot of fragmentation across the funnel. It’s as important to have a balance at the top of the funnel as it is to have a heavy investment at the bottom of the funnel. So brand managers and marketers, in general, are looking to understand the full impact of the marketing mix on financial performance. And that’s been largely something that marketers haven’t been able to demonstrate. And that’s one of the reasons why, You know, CMOs have a very, uh, short tenure in the C-suite. They’re not able to demonstrate with accountability the impact of the decisions that they’re making across the marketing mix in service of those financial objectives they’re looking to achieve. Really closing that marketing proof gap, being able to understand, “I’m putting a dollar in all these channels, what does it mean for the value that I’m driving for the organization as well as the short-term impact from a revenue perspective?”.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common use cases for MMM? 

Greg Dolan: The primary use case – and it’s a little bit different for the way we approach it. So we approach it from a decision-making perspective, and we’re working with clients and agencies to develop a decision frame around what decisions they’re looking to make. And the best way to think about that is in terms of a hierarchy. So if I’m the CMO of an organization and I have a lot of different brands across my portfolio, the first decision I want to make is understanding, “How much do I put behind brand A versus brand B?” And then, we can get to lower levels of granularity. So, for brand A, maybe I want to understand sub-brand A versus sub-brand B and then across all the channels within each one of those brands. So it becomes a deeper and deeper understanding of how all of the marketing pieces, all the marketing channels, are contributing to the financial outcomes. And that’s really the primary use case for us: in a brand-based, macro-down perspective, around marketing mix from an omnichannel perspective. But then we can get to more granular use cases. So an example would be, a huge use case in CPG right now is understanding retail media and how that plays, you know, across retailers in interaction effects with shopper marketing and trade. And how potential retail media investment in, say, a Walmart impacts Target and other retailers. So we’re able to build models at the level where decisions are being made and give unique perspective on how to optimize those resources. 

Adrian Tennant: Marketing mix modeling has traditionally been offered by large well-known marketing and shopper measurement companies, and it can often be several months before clients are presented with a model. These engagements also typically require a six-figure investment. Greg, your disruptive approach considerably compresses the traditional timeline and reduces the cost with a system designed to provide real-time insights. How do you achieve that? 

Greg Dolan: Well, the secret is software. So we realized early on that the market was moving a lot faster then a human could actually inform decisions. Back when I started my marketing career in the late nineties, you know, I had a decide between tv, radio, and print, right? So there were a couple of channels, we could take the time. There were long lead-time buys, right? A lot of upfronts. And we were able to do that, and it was perfectly fine to have, you know, a report that was provided once a year. And as digital became more prevalent and that fragmentation started happening, and then we got into shopper marketing on the CPG side. And then there’s retail media. There’s more and more fragmentation, and the buying cycles are shorter. So you can’t make decisions or understand impact without technology and without the right amount of data to be able to support that. And if you’re looking at a pure consulting model, it’s cost prohibitive because each model is very expensive, to your point, north of six figures. So technology had to drive efficiency there. So we were able to build a model that leverages information, ingests and maps information in real-time, builds models with the click of a button. And then you have a historical perspective that’s based on the latest information and a foundation then to run planning optimizations and look forward and start to build, you know, prescriptive plans based on the latest information, based on a learning model that embeds machine learning and AI into that decision-making process. So really all enabled by technology, and the ability to quickly ingest and map data, when it’s available into something that’s actionable that the marketer can though go execute.

Adrian Tennant: Keen recently published details of a study that reveals the most effective flighting strategy for linear TV advertising. Greg, could you share with us what you learned? 

Greg Dolan: Absolutely. It’s fundamental to the math in our system. So as I was talking about before, you know, we’ve accounted for long-term effects in our models. So in our marketing elasticity engine, we have different decay rates for every single marketing channel you can think of – so for TV versus radio, print versus couponing, and some of the shorter transaction-driving tactics as well. So we’ve built, based on that, a response curve weekly into the future. So we know exactly, based on both internal and external factors, what the point of diminishing returns are for a given channel, including TV. So we can see what the marketer is giving up from a revenue and profitability standpoint by going dark, right? So if you’re flighting, and you’re two weeks on, two weeks off, or three weeks on, three weeks off, those three weeks that you’re off actually, there’s an opportunity cost that’s created where you’re giving up profitable demand. So we’ve been able to show the power of continuity, and the impact that has on building value over time. And as I was talking about before, when you are dark, it’s more costly to then get back on, get in front of consumers, and have that spend drive profitable demand in the short-term. So really it is all about driving continuity of activity as a means to continue to build, as marketing decays over time.

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

Lydia Michael: Hi there. I’m Lydia Michael, the author of Brand Love: Building Strong Consumer Brand Connections. Reflecting my experience as a multicultural marketing and brand strategist, Brand Love is for any marketing and brand professionals, entrepreneurs, and those who oversee brand messaging, communications, and other consumer-facing strategies. Whether you work for a big or small brand, the book is designed to provide you with actionable strategies to grow and build any successful brand. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25 percent on a print or electronic version of Brand Love by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free paperback and e-book bundle offer. When you order directly from Kogan Page, shipping is always free to the US and the UK, so to order your copy of Brand Love go to And thank you!

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Greg Dolan, the co-founder and CEO of Keen Decision Systems. Artificial intelligence is currently very much in the news, but at Keen Decision Systems, you’ve been using it for several years. Greg, how does the inclusion of machine learning impact your platform’s predictive and prescriptive planning outputs?

Greg Dolan: So we think about ourselves as an AI decision-support agent, right? So the system is based on the fact that the model will learn from new information as it’s ingested in the model, right? As we were talking about before, old-fashioned, more traditional marketing mix is a point-in-time analytics exercise that’s recreated every year. So there’s no learning from the new information. It’s actually a new analysis. Ours is actually built and additive over time. So our model is based on, you know, thousands of data points over time from our marketing elasticity engine that’s built on with every new model that’s published in the application. So marketers using our system are learning from the rest of the industry as they go, but also new data that they ingest that’s their own as part of their custom models. So every single data point that comes into the model teaches the model based on that data point. So the marketer is constantly making decisions based on the newest, most recent information.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you’ve mentioned it a couple of times: a patent-pending feature of your platform is the marketing elasticity engine. Greg, can you explain what that is and how it supports the optimization of marketing investments across different channels?

Greg Dolan: So it’s the best industry information possible. So we built our models based on Bayesian regression, which means that there’s prior information that becomes a starting point for all of our models. So we’ve built this database that’s initially populated with about 40 years of academic research. How much does a GRP for TV deliver on average for typical brands and businesses across industries? We’ve then built in this automated mechanism where every single elasticity is blinded and informs the elasticity engine. So, when we publish a model, we learn from the changes in the data patterns and signals for businesses across industries. It helps to infuse the marketing mix model with more information, more relevant information, we’re able to source from businesses across industries. So it actually makes the model, you know, more predictive and more prescriptive over time. The other aspect I’ll just add is that, we can use that information to simulate marketing channels that have not been executed in the past. So if the brand is considering as an example, investing in a new social media platform, we will have an elasticity in our engine that can form that initial investment. So you can actually simulate, if you’re looking to optimize a fixed budget, you can simulate the allocation for a new channel, and we could see exactly where we’d pull those dollars to be able to fund that new channel.

Adrian Tennant: So that’s very powerful – if a client is considering adding a new channel to the media mix but has no prior data of their own, Keen Decision Systems’ model can predict their performance.

Greg Dolan: Correct. And then, as we get experience in that channel, so we execute the spend and we then incorporate that new data in the model, the model will adjust based on that data signal, and the actuals coming out of the market. 

Adrian Tennant: Does your model typically allow for factors such as pricing changes, new distribution partners, the broader economic environment such as inflationary pressures, and seasonality? 

Greg Dolan: All of the above. So you can’t really forecast the right investment plan or forecast, you know, the top and bottom line without a good understanding of the external factors that are impacting your business. So we incorporate all of those into the model, and their key factors that contribute to what the right amount of spend is and what the impact of that spend is across channels. You know, a good example obviously, is COVID. I mean, as we went in, we really leaned in with our clients, with all that uncertainty, incorporated a hundred-year pandemic into the models. So we were able to see in real-time as the pandemic unfolded, you know, how behavior was changing, how channel performance changed, and we were able to make changes with a lot of agility through that time period that, you know, helped the brands grow even in the face of all that adversity. 

Adrian Tennant: What types of data integrations does your platform support? 

Greg Dolan: This was always historically the biggest challenge for marketers. With marketing mixes, you know, the heavy lift associated with collecting data. So we’ve spent the last, you know, 10-plus years really focused on the data problem and have as much flexibility in ingesting data as possible. So we have APIs, so we’re able to connect into data systems. We have data connectors that are connected in, so all of your major platforms can connect directly into our system. And in the absence of that, we’ve developed some CSV templates that can be automatically uploaded and mapped. And we have smart mapping within our application, so based on how we’re modeling and at what level we’re bringing the right amount of data into the system to quickly model and build plans.

Adrian Tennant: How frequently are Keen Decision Systems’ models updated?

Greg Dolan: So it depends on the client’s decision cycles, as we call them. You know, how often are they looking at marketing and understanding marketing performance and then making any changes to marketing? So the system is set up to update every single time there’s new data. But on average, we see clients that are updating quarterly. Some of our clients are as they get more accustomed to the model and leverage it more their decision-making have moved to monthly, which also then can inform their monthly forecasts, for the business as well. So as often as, new information is available, they can update them. But it also depends on when the information will be utilized for decision-making.

Adrian Tennant: Typically, what’s the margin of error for revenue forecasts generated by your system? 

Greg Dolan: So generally, it starts pretty accurately. As I was mentioning before, we use a lot of data, a lot more data than just time series data to inform our models. So a combination of the marketing elasticity, priors, as well as other analytics, as well as the time series and financial data, actually leads to more prescriptive and predictive models. So on average, to start, we’re less than 4% error. And as the model learns more over time, through the course of our relationship with brands and businesses, that will tighten even further. And the more we get to know the business and can incorporate the right information, that will tighten as well. 

Adrian Tennant: Greg, could you walk us through some case studies that illustrate your platform’s capabilities? 

Greg Dolan: Sure. I mean, we work with a pretty diverse group of clients. So we’ve built the system to be industry and data-agnostic. So, you know, we’ve worked with clients anywhere from direct-to-consumer cleaning products, to golf grips, to food delivery systems, right? So there’s a lot of different brands we work with. The primary use case really is around financial optimization. So, you know, on the DTC cleaning products, we really wanted to get to a monthly optimization cycle with them using the platform to refresh data channel optimization, timing optimization. And for that brand in particular, and this is the key that I’ll mention across all the case studies I’m going to talk about, we’re able to identify pretty sizable financial opportunities. And in this case, we’re able to identify a $33 million top-line opportunity. So there are real dollars and cents once you understand where the waste is, to be able to reallocate and optimize. You know, I mentioned the frozen food delivery company that we work with. You know, they had some challenges from COVID. During COVID, you know, a lot fewer people were going to restaurants, a lot more people were getting food delivered to them. So their business really peaked as they went through 2020, but then had to cycle it in 2021. So our role changed from ‘20 to ‘21, where we’re helping them to fuel the growth in 2020, but then had to identify how to cut back in 2021, right-size the investment to make sure that we’re still optimizing the ROI, and able to drive some growth even though there were external headwinds. And then, you know, the example with golf grips, right? They were looking to, one, get a lot more impact with the same budget. So we’re able to show them a path to optimize both their timing and their mix of spend across channels to drive –  and I know it’s going to sound crazy – but a 344% increase in ROI increased revenue by $14 million. So real dollars and cents, real value being driven, just knowing in real-time where the dollars are most effective and where you can step on the gas and invest more.

Adrian Tennant: Over the past several weeks on this podcast, we’ve been examining how brands grow, discussing some of the universal laws established by the work of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. Greg, how does Keen’s analysis reflect or support Ehrenberg-Bass’s principles?

Greg Dolan: So we talked a little bit about continuity of spend and I think, paramount to Byron Sharp and How Brands Grow is making sure that you’re constantly in front of consumers, and as broad reach as possible. And I think that’s what we’ve scientifically proven out as well. So you can’t be dark. You have to be in front of consumers. You have to maintain continuity and consistency in your spend to be able to continue to drive growth in the brands. And we, given that we have that long-term effects viewpoint of how businesses grow, we’re actually able to show the layers of rock. And we have a chart in our system that show layers of rock and how marketing year after year is building value over time. And that’s very consistent with what Ehrenberg-Bass would promote as well. 

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about marketing mix modeling with Keen Decision Systems, what’s the best way to get in touch with your team? 

Greg Dolan: Please reach out via our website, and you can request a demo or an introductory conversation, and we’d love to share more.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to see some of the platform’s capabilities, follow the link to the short video included in the transcript for this episode. Greg, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Greg Dolan: Thank you, Adrian, I really enjoyed it. And again, we’d love to have a conversation with anyone that’s interested in more background on Keen.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Greg Dolan, the co-founder and CEO of Keen Decision Systems. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at Just select podcast from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

With 43 million rental units in the US, it’s crucial to stand out from the crowd. Bigeye’s Tom Mahoney and Rhett Withey discuss property marketing strategies for today’s competitive housing market and share insights about building successful multi-family and student housing brands. Learn about Bigeye’s 4-step process for creating distinctive property brands, including logo creation, designing color palettes, and drawing inspiration from nature and neighborhood elements.

Episode Transcript

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

Tom Mahoney: I think building a brand that can reach a wide audience range can certainly be challenging in the property world.

Rhett Withey: A lot of times, people forget that a brand is not just a logo. You can’t just slap a logo on every single item and say, “Here’s my brand.”

Tom Mahoney: Now more than ever, there’s a need for strong marketing to help set a new community apart from the rest. 

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. Thank you for joining us. The rental housing market makes up a significant segment of the US housing industry, with over 43 million rental units, according to the US Census Bureau. Rising single-family home prices and interest rate hikes also make multi-family housing a more affordable option for many people. At the time we are recording this, it was just reported that the median price for a single-family home is around $416,000. Meeting strong consumer demand for rental options increases the number of multi-family developments, which in turn makes the market itself more competitive. Property developers and management companies increasingly need to find ways to differentiate their properties to attract tenants. This includes offering unique amenities, of course, but also creating compelling brand identities and marketing strategies focused on specific markets. For this episode, we’re joined by Tom Mahoney, Bigeye’s Account Manager dedicated to guiding engagements with our clients in multi-family, active adult, student living, and co-living community development and management. Tom has built a career in real estate and property management with a focus on sales, marketing, and customer relationship management. Prior to joining Bigeye, Tom worked on the client side as an assistant property manager for Greystar for over five years. And before that, he was a leasing professional at Carter Haston Real Estate. Tom is joining us today to discuss the role that creative services can play in differentiating properties and ensuring they’re fully leased. Tom, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Tom Mahoney: Thank you for having me, Adrian. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, Tom, I gave a brief description in the intro, but can you tell us about your background? 

Tom Mahoney: Yes. As you mentioned, I was in the property management industry for several years prior to joining Bigeye. I worked on 13 total properties during my time, including new lease-up projects, takeovers, and stabilized deals. I also worked on varying types of communities, including garden style, mid-rise, and downtown high-rises, mixed-use developments as well. Back in 2017, I obtained a North Carolina Broker’s license to learn more about the real estate industry as a whole. I do have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, so it seemed like a natural transition to take my experience in the property industry into a property-specific role within a creative agency.

Adrian Tennant: And we’re very happy to have you. So Tom, what does your role as an account manager at Bigeye entail? 

Tom Mahoney: I oversee all property-related accounts here at Bigeye. I am the main point of contact for our clients, while also working directly with our amazing creative team to help the projects stay on track and ensure that we are building brands that will help these projects stand out in a very competitive and sometimes oversaturated market. 

Adrian Tennant: Based on your experience before joining Bigeye and now as our lead account manager for property projects, what are some common challenges faced in property marketing?

Tom Mahoney: I think building a brand that can reach a wide audience range can certainly be challenging in the property world. For example, upscale, high-rise buildings in a metro area tend to have everyone from young professionals to empty nesters living in their communities. So how do you market your building to a younger demographic to make it seem hip and cool while also reaching an older demographic that wants a luxurious, quiet, downtown living experience? I saw communities during my time in property management lean too far in one direction, resulting in prospects thinking certain communities were quote-unquote too old or too young for them. This limits your prospect pool and makes it harder to reach and maintain stabilization. So building a brand that says we have something for everyone can certainly be a challenge. 

Adrian Tennant: Do you typically see differences in how the team approaches multi-family versus student housing projects? 

Tom Mahoney: The initial process tends to start the same for our team, but along the way, they do start to differ. Student housing has a much more defined target audience, while multi-family projects may be trying to reach a broader audience. Student housing projects also tend to have a foundation that is already somewhat established. Most, you know, want to incorporate the university colors, their sports teams’ mascots, or maybe historical landmarks that are found around the university. For multi-family projects, our team really needs to dig deep into the location of the new development, to build the new brand from the ground up to make sure it not only fits but is elevated from other brands in that area.

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye has developed a four-step process to consistently deliver differentiated creative solutions for our clients. Could you give us an overview of what the process looks like? 

Tom Mahoney: So the four phases of our process are discovery and audience, naming and identity, the brand campaign, and implementation. The first phase of the process, discovery and audience, I believe, is the most important. This is where we build the foundation for the new brand by learning everything that there is to know about the community details, the location of the property, the audience, and the creative direction that the client envisions for their new community. 

Adrian Tennant: And of course, this is the phase that I’m often involved with too. Typically helping set the strategy by using syndicated data sources and sometimes primary research to understand the demographics, attitudes, and behaviors of the types of renters we’re targeting in the area. As you know, sometimes we’ll identify groups that over-index on particular behaviors or participation in specific sports that can provide some preliminary insights for the creative team to explore with the client. Uh, but we also run qualitative mobile-based research studies, inviting residents to record their impressions of an area, point out places of interest, and even chat with us in real-time as they review our proposed creative and messaging concepts. Then, of course, we hand that back to you for the next stage.

Tom Mahoney: Yeah, so continuing in phase one, we do go through a series of creative exercises with the clients as well, to create brand adjectives, brand mentors, and a personality for the new brand. For example, we recently worked on a project in Miami, where the brand adjectives included vibrant, energized, captivating, and bold. While some of the brand mentors were Selena Gomez, Jimmy Choo™, a BMW 4 Series, and a vacation to the Dominican Republic. This was the foundation of a brand that is targeting young working professionals that want to live in a high-growth, prime location that’s walkable to local conveniences like shopping, dining, and nightlife. So learning about the location and the target audience allowed our team to create a brand that fits in the Miami market, but also feels like a community, that’s unlike anything else in that area.

Adrian Tennant: Tom, the next part of our process is naming and developing a brand identity. Can you walk us through how Bigeye approaches this phase of a project?

Tom Mahoney: So in this phase, we take everything that we learned in phase one during the discovery and immersion session, and through our research to establish the new name for the community. We develop their logo and create a color palette that will be further developed in the brand campaign. So here’s where we really start to lay the visual groundwork of the brand.

Adrian Tennant: And how does the creative team come up with unique and fitting names for each community?

Tom Mahoney: The naming process is always fun for our team, as we really have the opportunity to take a deep dive into the location and conduct a lot of our own research to find a name that really fits the brand we are creating. We named a student housing project in Gainesville UFORA, but we spelled it with a “UF” at the beginning to associate it with the University of Florida, but also fits the brand personality of a state of euphoria. So we try to create unique names that can really work on a lot of different levels. This is our most time-consuming phase as we have to ensure that the name is not used elsewhere, that there is great domain availability for the new name, and that this new name will resonate with our target audience, not only during the lease-up process but in the future as well. Our terrific creative team, led by our VP of Creative, Seth, they’re not only looking to just come up with a name that sounds like an apartment community, but names that we can build a strong brand story around. I’m always impressed by how the team can take the information from phase one to create multiple unique name options for the client. 

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, me too. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, branding influences many aspects of our daily lives, our food choices, clothing preferences, vehicle selection, travel decisions, and even vacation accommodations. So it makes sense that when it comes to relocating and seeking an apartment to rent, it’s familiar and distinctive property brands that capture our attention and are more likely to be considered and visited. To discuss the role that creativity plays in the branding process, we’re joined now by Rhett Withey, Bigeye’s Art Director, who has a decade of experience developing creative solutions for our property clients. Rhett, it’s nice to have you back on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Rhett Withey: Thank you for having me back, Adrian. Always a pleasure. 

Adrian Tennant: Could you walk us through the process of designing a logo? What are the key considerations you have to keep in mind? 

Rhett Withey: Well, usually, we have a discovery meeting with the client, and that’s when we really dive into the client’s thought process on what the brand and what the logo they have in mind. So we usually find brand adjectives and brand mentors. We ask some really fun questions like, “If your brand was an animal, what kind of animal would it be?” And really start to try to get our clients’ creative juices flowing and make it a fun environment for them to give us more candid details that they may not necessarily give in a Google form, let’s say. After that, we look online for some inspiration at some other similar brands that they identified with, finding highlights of aspects of designs that they might potentially, enjoy. And we put together a mood board of different brands, different colors, and different elements of logos across the entire design gamut. From there, we make a black-and-white logo first. We always do black-and-white logos because if a logo is going to be successful, it will work in any color. That means if a single color is successful, then it’s gonna be a great logo. After that, we then do a color exploration where we will deliver a handful of different color concepts. Same thing around the client’s feedback that they gave us in the discovery meeting. So we’ll look at color theory and try to match those color palettes with their brand adjectives. And from there, it’s just happy client, deliver files, and big success!

Adrian Tennant: How do you handle feedback and revisions during the design process? 

Rhett Withey: Well, if they’re giving us feedback in the meeting, I try to have the best poker face I can possibly have while I’m internally screaming! But most of the time, our clients are pretty good, and I’ve been around the block long enough to know that, as a designer especially, which I always tell young designers, is to not take anything personally. I know that we spend hours and hours and hours on crafting something, and we’re so used to the show and tell like, “Hey, look what I made!” That, feedback can be tough sometimes, but remember, it’s not for us. It’s for our client. So as long as they’re happy, then you should be happy. 

Adrian Tennant: Is there a logo you’ve designed for a property that you are particularly proud of?

Rhett Withey: Yes. So it’s not one particular property, but it’s a neighborhood district. When we did the logo for the Hourglass District, I was particularly proud of that one because that was, basically, my stomping grounds where I grew up, and it was really cool to see that a developer revitalizing this one particular area of Orlando that was kind of depressed and ignored. And making it into something cool where people want to be, and then inviting us to help be the ones that, set the tone for the design of that corner, of that little neighborhood district. So that one was a very special, close-to-my-heart project that I worked on.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways do brand assets contribute to the overall identity of a property?

Rhett Withey: A lot of times, people forget that a brand is not just a logo. You can’t just slap a logo on every single item and say, “Here’s my brand.” A brand is all the intangible elements, like the color palette, the little tiny, brand extensions, like maybe a swash, or a brush stroke or some sort of illustrative element that ties into the logo and ties into like the messaging and photography, like all those pieces and all those items will come together and create the overall brand. It’s not just your logo. 

Adrian Tennant: How do you approach the design of other brand assets, such as illustrations, icons, or patterns?

Rhett Withey: So we usually will try to find certain elements from the logo that we designed. So in one case, it might be an icon. If we have an illustrated icon, then we might pull that icon out and make patterns, or maybe we do some sort of badge where the icon is centered, and there’s type circled around it. in the case of hourglass, we use the icon in different illustrative ways with different textures and different, images cropped into the icon and, bits and elements like that. 

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

Lydia Michael: Hi there. I’m Lydia Michael, the author of Brand Love: Building Strong Consumer Brand Connections. Reflecting my experience as a multicultural marketing and brand strategist, Brand Love is for any marketing and brand professionals, entrepreneurs, and those who oversee brand messaging, communications, and other consumer-facing strategies. Whether you work for a big or small brand, the book is designed to provide you with actionable strategies to grow and build any successful brand. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25 percent on a print or electronic version of Brand Love by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free paperback and e-book bundle offer. When you order directly from Kogan Page, shipping is always free to the US and the UK, so to order your copy of Brand Love go to And thank you!

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Tom Mahoney, Account Manager, and Rhett Withey, Art Director, who work with Bigeye’s clients in multi-family, active adult, student living, and co-living community development and management. Rhett, what’s your process for creating or developing a color palette for a property? 

Rhett Withey: So usually, when I develop a color palette, I will again go back to the creative brief and the initial discovery meeting we have with the client and look at those brand adjectives. So if they say, the property needs to be calm and serene, well then I might incorporate color theory like blues and beige to bring those calm and serene elements in. We take a lot of influence from nature and the surrounding neighborhood of the property. So if it’s a property that’s located in North Carolina – in the backcountry of North Carolina, not necessarily the city – we’re gonna look at the mountains. We’re gonna look at the type of trees and the type of leaves that are on those trees. Maybe it’s not the green that’s year-round, but maybe it’s the brown or the red that the leaves change in the fall. Elements like that are very, very particular to the property.

Adrian Tennant: In your experience, what kind of impact do color choices have on how a brand is perceived? 

Rhett Withey: Well, color is probably one of the most important parts of a brand. Can you imagine Starbucks, they have the green right now, if they were magenta, completely different feel than what you’re used to with Starbucks? Or even McDonald’s, yellow and red. You know, that yellow and red feeling of happiness and bright, but what if McDonald’s was lime green and orange? Completely different feeling and vibrant and a different kind of energy. 

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye’s creative team typically develops guidelines for photography and logo usage. Why is consistency important for maintaining a strong brand identity?

Rhett Withey: The more often your audience sees your logo in a consistent way, the more obvious it is going to be and easier for you in the future to get your message across because they correlate this look to your brand. So if you’re constantly changing or like adding little elements or tweaking the logo in this and that way, and there’s no consistency, then you’re losing that familiarity with your audience. 

Adrian Tennant: Tom, how do you ensure that the overall brand identity aligns with the target audiences and stands out in competitive markets? 

Tom Mahoney: In phase three, we merge the name story, graphics, language, imagery, and tone of voice to bring the brand to life. This is a highly visual phase, showcasing the possibilities that lie ahead in expressive conceptual environments and examples. This is where we can make a project that is, say, a high-rise in downtown Denver targeting young working professionals look and feel completely different than a high-rise project in Atlanta that has a similar unit mix and amenity offering and is targeting a similar audience. We know no two projects are truly alike, so here we build a new brand that makes its own mark.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have a couple of examples?

Tom Mahoney: I mentioned that high-rise in Denver versus a high-rise in Atlanta, which is an example of projects we have worked on recently that were very different because of the geographical locations, even though they had a similar target audience. And then, we worked on a project in Sugar Hill, Georgia, which is roughly 40 miles outside of Atlanta. But for that project, we created a brand that had more of a main street feel, that is completely different from the downtown feel of the Atlanta project. So even though they were both around the Atlanta area, the two brands were just very different in how they looked and how they felt.

Adrian Tennant: Well, the quality of the implementation is critical in bringing branding to life. Could you explain how Bigeye executes this phase? 

Tom Mahoney: So the final phase, in our process is implementation. In this phase, we take everything that was established with a new brand and apply it to everything from collateral pieces to social media graphics, signage, website design, and more. This is where the onsite team can really use the brand elements that we develop together to help launch the new community and set it up for success both immediately and in the future. 

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned onsite partners. Who are they typically?

Tom Mahoney: So this will typically be the property management team, including the onsite leasing team and their marketing department. But it can also include signage vendors, print companies, and website designers, that take the designs that we have made to create the physical pieces for the property. We want to ensure that these designs look just as good when they’re produced, as they did when our designers were creating them.

Adrian Tennant: Well, as I’m sure anyone listening can tell, Tom, you are very plugged into the industry. What emerging trends are you seeing in property development? 

Tom Mahoney: So there’s a lot going on in the property world right now. There’s been an extreme amount of growth in the multifamily industry in the past few years. In 2022 alone, there were 420,000 new units nationwide. I read an article recently that stated that there are currently 7,700 planned apartment units, 2,600 that are under construction, and another 5,100 that have been announced in Charlotte, North Carolina alone, between now and 2025. So this is in an area that already has a lot of options to choose from. New supply is currently outpacing demand for the first time in years, leading to the highest vacancy percentage since 2020 during Covid. Rent prices have decreased in 48 of the 100 largest cities in the country from this time last year, that’s according to the National Apartment Association. So I believe now more than ever, there’s a need for strong marketing to help set a new community apart from the rest. Everyone has a pool and a gym. Free coffee in the morning for the residents. So how do you reach prospects that can go online and find 12 other options in the same area, knowing they’re only likely to visit maybe four to five communities during their search for a new place?

Adrian Tennant: Well, you made the move from client side to agency. So Tom, what advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in agency account management? 

Tom Mahoney: I think finding something that an agency works on that you are passionate about is very important. I’ve always had an interest in the real estate world, so being able to help create brands in that space has been amazing for me. Also, find an agency that is an expert in what they do. Property is one of the main pillars for Bigeye, so it gives me full confidence in our creative team on each and every project because I know they’re going to create something special for the client. So that certainly helps make my job a bit easier.

Adrian Tennant: Now, I know this might be like having to choose a favorite child, but do you have a recent project that you are particularly proud of or one that was especially well received by a client? 

Tom Mahoney: So this may be your most difficult question yet, as we have had the opportunity to work on some really amazing projects recently. This may be cheating a bit since it involves more than one project, but our work in the mid-city district in Huntsville, Alabama, has been a great example of how to build different brands in the same area. We currently have four projects that we are working on that are all right next door to each other, that are all being developed actually by the same client. All four are completely different. We have been tasked with building brands for a more traditional multi-family community, but then also a loft-style community, a community of micro-units, and the first fully sustainable apartment community in the southeast. So what our team has been able to create for these new communities is truly amazing. Being able to build new brands that are so different, even though they are in the exact same location, has been really impressive to experience.

Adrian Tennant: Rhett, do you have a property project that you are particularly proud of?

Rhett Withey: So, my favorite property project that I helped work on was probably Infield, which was a property in Kissimmee on an old baseball facility, and baseball is my favorite sport. And one that I’m very passionate about. So it was fun coming up with street names and baseball jargon and lexicon to use in messaging and headlines and bringing in some deep cuts for baseball knowledge into the branding. 

Adrian Tennant: Decades of marketing effectiveness data show us that long-term awareness-building campaigns build strong brands. The consistent use of distinctive visual and auditory assets that become uniquely associated in buyers’ minds with the brand drive higher rates of growth in most consumer categories. Now focusing on long-term branding typically results in lower acquisition costs and higher customer lifetime values. Tom, based on what you are seeing in the market, do you think branding will become a more significant factor in the multi-family industry, especially among the larger players? 

Tom Mahoney: Absolutely. With a growing number of households opting for rental properties, the competition among multifamily property management companies is intensifying. Establishing a strong brand identity can differentiate a company from its competitors and attract more renters. There are also rising consumer expectations as well. Renters expect a positive and memorable experience when choosing a place to live. A well-established brand that offers desirable amenities, excellent customer service, and a sense of community can meet these expectations and build loyalty among renters.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in seeing examples of the types of work we’ve been describing today, what’s the best place to find them? 

Tom Mahoney: The best place would be our Bigeye property website, which is We also have a few work examples on our agency site, You can also submit a contact form through either site to get in touch with our team to discuss any of this further.

Adrian Tennant: Tom, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Tom Mahoney: Thank you for having me, Adrian.

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

Rhett Withey: Thanks, Adrian. Anytime that you need me to ramble about design, I am here to do it!

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to both of my Bigeye guests this week. Tom Mahoney, Account Manager, and Rhett Withey, Art Director. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at – just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. And if you’d like to see more of Bigeye’s creative work for properties, take a look at Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

An interview with Jay Mandel, author of Brand Strategy in Three Steps: A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding, Bigeye’s featured book for July. Jay discusses how after leaving corporate America, he spent five years teaching, consulting, and coaching – and why he wanted to reflect on his experiences in this book. Blending marketing principles with personal insights, and guided by candor, curiosity, and collaboration, Jay explains how to adopt a more meaningful marketing mindset.

Episode Transcript

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

Jay Mandel: I wrote the book to give people permission to show up fully to marketing, and give people the tools that I have found to be very effective that basically make it really difficult to separate yourself out from your work. It’s about being a meaningful marketer. 

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. Thank you for joining us for this first episode of our twelfth season. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of this podcast, consumers have become more conscious of the social, environmental, and ethical implications of their purchasing decisions, with younger consumers, in particular, prioritizing brands that align with their personal values and beliefs. We’ve also heard from experts in sustainability about the importance of changing consumer habits and mindsets, plus the opportunities for marketers and brand owners to create meaningful change. Our Bigeye Book Club selection for July is Brand Strategy in Three Steps: A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding. The book explains a new way of building a meaningful brand strategy centered around identity, intention, and authenticity in implementation. The book’s author is Jay Mandel, the founder of Your Brand Coach, a brand management and professional coaching company. Jay is also a corporate trainer for the Association of National Advertisers, a member of the faculty at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, and an adjunct professor of marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. To discuss some of the ideas, thought exercises, and case studies described in Brand Strategy In Three Steps, Jay is joining us today from his home base of New York City. Jay, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Jay Mandel: Thanks for having me. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, congratulations on the publication of your first book. What prompted you to write Brand Strategy In Three Steps?

Jay Mandel: I went on this entrepreneurial journey after I was in corporate America, and it’s been a five-year entrepreneurial journey that started with teaching and consulting and coaching, and over the last five years, I’ve taught thousands of students marketing strategy, but I didn’t find that the textbooks that I was reading and using were adequate based on the reality of marketing today. And to be honest with you, I didn’t want to write a textbook. but I wanted to have an experiential book that really encapsulated my experience as a corporate person, my experience as an entrepreneur, and my experience as a person who’s watching the world of marketing transform right before our eyes. And I took inspiration from the great Seth Godin and other people in this world, and I really created a modern-day book that brings not only together this idea of marketing. The way marketing should be, but more of this personal approach that I’ve been living by myself for the last five years where I’m bringing more of myself into my marketing, and that starts with my core values. So when I define the core values of candor, curiosity, and collaboration, in 2018, that was basically the seed that led me to this book, five years later. 

Adrian Tennant: Jay, why is purpose-driven thinking essential for brands today?

Jay Mandel: Well, I don’t know, um, if you ever have this feeling that, someone is disingenuous or some company is disingenuous or someone’s just taking from you, I get that feeling all the time. I feel like there are things that we are paying for that we would’ve never thought to pay for in the past. Like for example, the way tipping is these days is, a little bit out of control in, my mind. And I just got to thinking as a business, the burden of proof that you are in it with the customer that you are adding value is a lot different than what it was in the past. Where in the past, you’re like, “I sell a widget. It costs this much, and people will buy it.” But now, with almost every product there is today, people are looking for something more, and they’re doing a lot more research, and it’s much more helpful if you feel that the company that you’re working with is in it with you. So, you know, I don’t like cliche purpose, meaning the purpose that is manufactured like we’re going to be celebrating every made-up holiday. That’s not purpose. Purpose is more along the lines of, “This company was built for a reason, for a particular audience, and I’m going to tell a story that connects with what my audience wants and needs.” 

Adrian Tennant: Brand Strategy In Three Steps is organized into 10 chapters. The first of these is The Meaningful Marketing Mindset. Jay, how do you define meaningful marketing? 

Jay Mandel: Meaningful marketing is the feeling you get when you are making a difference. That’s the long and short of it. There are plenty of people that are in marketing that don’t really understand the difference between a strategy and a tactic. If you don’t understand the difference between a strategy and a tactic, you can’t do meaningful marketing. When you have an overarching purpose, and you are out there doing good in the world, and you feel good about it, then it’s meaningful. So you talked about the ten chapters of my book, and the way my book is organized is a lot different than a lot of other books in the world. I don’t even know if there is a book that exists. My premise for being a meaningful marketer is that you need to know who you are first. And so I told you that my core values exercise that I did in 2018 was a pivotal transformation in my life: Candor, curiosity, collaboration. Those values help me choose who I engage with, who I don’t engage with, what job I take, what job I don’t take, and what people to hire. And my belief is that those core values need to translate into a promise that you are going to make for yourself and for other people. And that’s the simple marketing promise:

My product is for people who believe ____,
I’ll focus on people who want ____, and
I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get ____.

That is Seth Godin‘s Simple Marketing Promise, and it is such a good, simple marketing promise that it helps me every time I start a project. When you’re a purposeful marketer, when you’re a meaningful marketer, you know what your customer believes. And when you know what your customer believes, you also know that they don’t believe that they want to buy from you. They believe that they need something in their life that maybe you have to offer. So my product is for people who believe that air conditioning is absolutely essential on a hot day. That’s a really important belief statement, but that’s not your product. That’s the answer. The answer is that they want to be comforted, they wanted to be cool. And when you say then, okay, my product is for people, believe, I’ll focus on people who want, then you could start to get into what your product offers and how you can help the person, to, achieve your purpose and their purpose.

Adrian Tennant: As you’ve mentioned, the five chapters which make up the first section of your book, explore identity, inviting readers to reflect on breaking down personal barriers and determining who they are as people and as professionals. Jay, why was it important to include this in the book? 

Jay Mandel: When I worked in corporate America, I felt like a little bit of a shell of myself, in many, cases. I always remember when I worked in corporate America that I would have to put on Twitter or Facebook or wherever I was posting that whatever I say and whatever I do is not the reflection of my company. And I always felt quite awkward about it. I felt like I wasn’t fully showing up. I felt like I was just a representative of the company. And I feel that times are shifting these days I feel like the social media landscape, the younger generations, the way that they engage, and the reality of the world that we live in today, it’s much harder to separate that. And what I realized is that the sterile way that a lot of corporations go about doing business is not the same way that you or I would post on social media when things happen in our lives. So if you start to think about these corporate settings, and they’re posting stuff, and it’s just a schedule, and they’re saying, “Okay, well, today’s National Ice Cream Day and tomorrow’s National This Day.” What are you actually doing when you’re posting your content? So really, what I’m trying to do in this book is basically say, “You know what? You need to find a place to work where you can show up and not be afraid to be who you are. Then you need to be able to translate that fully showing up into something that will allow your corporate social media or your corporate communications or whatever it is you’re putting out into the world, to feel a lot more sincere than what a lot of the bigger legacy companies out there are doing.” Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of companies out there that are quite sophisticated and have really nailed the way of marketing, where it’s customer-focused, and you’re really adding value, and you’re not trying to sell, and you’re really following a modern-day buyer’s journey. But, there are so many companies out there that really are just talking to themselves, and no one cares. So that’s really what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to bridge the gap of being an individual, being a person, being a person who has a personality and an opinion, and being able to share that opinion in whatever setting you choose to work in. 

Adrian Tennant: In the second chapter, you write about how marketers’ empathy and self-awareness can help us to understand our audiences. Could you give us an example drawn from your own experience? 

Jay Mandel: Absolutely. I’m working with a client right now, called Agile Brain. And Agile Brain is an assessment that helps people to understand emotions. And, the way it works is it’s a fast-moving assessment, and it goes so fast, and people are frustrated, “Why is it going so fast?” But the reality is that they don’t want you to think, they don’t want you to think about your answers. And when you don’t think about your answers, you get to the truth. As I’m doing my marketing strategy for this client, I can’t help but think about my life and my son and the experiences I have with my son to really get to know who he is and, understand him. He has ADD, and Autism, and that work is literally making my life better. When I do the work for Agile Brain, I am literally inserting myself in a way that is purely empathetic to the people that are struggling in this world that don’t really understand how emotions affect them. And I literally think of my son. And I think of all the other people in the world, you, me, everyone who is post-pandemic, you know, still trying to figure out what life in 2023 looks like. And I’m able to do that because I showed up to this company as myself. They hired me because they wanted me and what I had to offer, and the way I presented myself. And then I’m able to really bring that empathy into every conversation I have. So not only do I do better work for this client, we can have fun doing it as well. And we could really deliver work that could change the world. But if you go into upsetting and you are just saying, “I’m just doing a money grab here, and I’m just going to take this,” usually it doesn’t work out. People can sense it, they could smell it, that you’re looking to make money. When I needed to make money the most, in the early part of my entrepreneurial career, I was unable to sell. The reason I was unable to sell was because I didn’t have the confidence, I didn’t have the methodology, I didn’t have the experience, and I didn’t believe in myself enough to really, command the sales conversation. But now that I have taken the time to do the work on myself, I’ve taken the time to really do the work to understand who it is that I could potentially get into business with, and I have a standardized, repeatable methodology that could be customized based on who I’m engaging with, which is basically the book. Now I have the confidence that no matter what situation is put at me, I’m going to understand myself, and I’m going to understand my client, and I’m going to understand my audience because I’m going to do the work, and I’m not going to rely on cheap tactics to convey the message. 

Adrian Tennant: As you’ve mentioned a couple of times, to achieve long-term brand growth, you believe marketers need a clear understanding of the difference between strategy and tactics. Do you have an example that you think helps differentiate the two? 

Jay Mandel: Yeah. there was a Marketoonist cartoon, that I always use in class, and the cartoon says, “So what are we doing?” “We’re going to do Facebook, we’re going to do YouTube, we’re going to do Instagram.” And then the person says, “So what are we doing on those channels?” And then they say, “I don’t know. I’m going to figure it out later.” A lot of people say that strategy is, “I’m going to do Facebook, strategy is “I’m going to do Twitter,” strategy is, “I’m going to do Instagram,” or strategy is, “I’m going to do an event.” No, those are tactics. A strategy is an overarching approach, a vision that leads you to a place. And there’s this thing that I use that’s from this guy named Julian Cole, who is an internet strategy person that I follow, and he calls it the Nesting Doll Strategy. And basically, what the Nesting Doll Strategy does is – it’s like a target. And on the outside of the target, it talks about, “What is in it for the customer?” And then you’re able to figure out how you, as a brand, by doing what you do, deliver value specifically to that customer. And so with any project that I’m working on, I really try and deconstruct the project to look at it from the perspective of if this strategy is effective, what place are we going to take the customer from and to? And then as a result of taking the customer from that place to that place, then the money comes in, then the adoption comes in, then all that stuff comes in. But it’s more of a customer-first strategy when you think about helping people to achieve something remarkable. And then you profit as a result of that help. That’s strategy. 

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

Each month in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in consumer research, retail, and branding. Our featured book for July is Brand Strategy in Three Steps: A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding by Jay Mandel. The book walks readers through a new way to build a meaningful and authentic brand strategy focused on identity, intention, and implementation. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 25% on a print or electronic version of this month’s featured book by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all Kogan Page products and pre-orders and applies to their free paperback and e-book bundle offer. Shipping is always free to the US and UK when you order direct from Kogan Page, and it helps the authors too. So to order your copy of Brand Strategy In Three Steps, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jay Mandel, the author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Brand Strategy In Three Steps, A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding. In chapter six, you write about Edward Bernays, often referred to as “the father of public relations,” and you described the four elements Bernays felt were essential for creating a successful brand. Now, Bernays was active in the early and middle years of the last century. How can contemporary brands apply these elements, especially in today’s digitally-driven marketing landscape?

Jay Mandel: Well, what Bernays did, you know, was not stuff that we would be proud of today. He used symbolism and really took products that were not necessarily good for people, like, for example, cigarettes. And he literally did his research and really determined the root cause of why cigarettes were not selling, men versus women having cigarettes, et cetera. And he did this event where he – I think it was the Easter Parade – and he created these things called torches of freedom. If you look at modern-day marketing and you look at the stuff that you’re seeing on TikTok, and you look at the way that people are using these psychological details, the reality is, as I studied Bernays, I realized that nothing has changed in the way we market. You know, it’s really understanding your audience. It’s creating a movement. It’s creating symbolism. So a lot of the things that I did, based on my experience, reading about Bernays, talking about Bernays, I don’t care that he was a PR guy versus a marketing guy. The idea of understanding your audience and creating a movement and really, you know, helping people to participate in the movement, which will lead to an increase in adoption of the product. That’s all he was talking about. And so that’s why I found it important to include. in the book. 

Adrian Tennant: You suggest that one role of an agency is to create tension between stakeholders and team members. Jay, can you unpack this for us? 

Jay Mandel: Sometimes, when I worked with agencies in the past, I felt like I was the smartest person in the room. Sometimes when I worked at agencies, I felt like I wasn’t at all. And there were these strategists that were in there, and they were looking at the work that we were doing from a perspective that was just leaps and bounds beyond what anyone could see or believe. And as a corporate person in the corporate world, we are so stuck and bogged down with stuff that doesn’t really help a consumer to understand anything better. As a corporate guy, I was constantly partnering with legal, constantly partnering with all these people. It was too much reality to be effective at times. And so what I look for the agency to do is to suspend reality and to be so effective and believe in it so much that it causes the clients to also suspend reality a little bit and deliver something that truly, can achieve, meaning, for the customer, the client, for everyone. And so those are the best agencies that I’ve worked with, and that’s what I try and do. When I do work with clients, I really try and get them into a space that is just a little unsafe compared to the box of where they work, just to imagine what the possibilities could be.

Adrian Tennant: To what extent did you reflect your own experiences and those of your clients at Your Brand Coach in planning and writing your book?

Jay Mandel: Well, the book includes The Yanovsky Method, and it’s sort of funny that I call it The Yanovsky Method because I’m really acting like a marketer. I literally invented The Yanovsky Method. One day, I’m like, “Wow, the outline that I use for all my clients is the work of my partner, Jon Yanovsky. And it’s good, and I want to include it in the book.” So I created The Yanovsky Method, and that’s the way we do market research that leads us to an insight and leads us to a strategy. And the work that I do for Your Brand Coach is literally what the book is about. So if I’m working with a client, whether it’s an individual or a company, I always start with the core values. Then I always do the simple marketing promise. Then, depending on the depth of what the client needs, then I start to dive into thorough competitive analysis marketing, analysis of who they are, what they do, how they speak, and what their tone is. And that’s all in the book. And when I taught it, over the years, which is part of my career, I realized where people’s eyes glossed over, I realized where people, got perked up. And so that sort of iteration and refinement of my approach and perspective is very much alive in that, in the book. And by the way, it’s a movement. So I know that, you know, at the end of the book, my movement is exactly what we’re talking about here. It’s about being a meaningful marketer. That’s what I wrote this book for. I wrote the book to give people permission to show up fully to marketing and give people the tools that I have found to be very effective that basically make it really difficult to separate yourself out from your work. 

Adrian Tennant: In addition to working with clients, you teach students about marketing. What advice would you give to more seasoned creative and communications professionals, whether agency- or client-side, who want to make a greater impact with their work?

Jay Mandel: Well, the advice I would give you is to get out of your comfort zone. You know, I was that person that was scheduled to be with a bunch of middle-aged and older people for the rest of my career and, not question that, not question anything about the diversity and the perspectives of the people that I was engaging with until I defined those values. Now, as a professor who’s taught at several universities, I’ve experienced so many things that are just above and beyond anything that I ever thought I would experience. So I think that it’s incumbent for marketers to do exactly what we’re doing right now, which is to talk to other marketers but to talk to other marketers that are outside of your comfort zone. I was teaching segmentation in a university class, and I mentioned this in the book, and I said, “So let’s segment – who is he? Who is she?” And the person in my class said, “It’s not a he. It’s not a she. It’s a guy that doesn’t know, and he wants to wear the lip balm,” and that was a really humbling experience to sort of look at my perspective of how I was teaching segmentation and realize that with all the changes in how our society is acting and behaving and all the sort of way that we share these days, it’s fluid. It’s much more fluid than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. So how can I reflect that in my work? Well, it just becomes second nature when I’m sitting with 10 students last night for three hours in a conference room, solving a big problem in a way that I wouldn’t have solved it had I just been in a corporate office setting. So my advice to a seasoned marketer is get up, get out, talk to people, get uncomfortable, and also share your perspectives. As a coach, my, advice is that you know, you’re not going to get a job or another job. There are plenty of people that are out of work in marketing these days that are very talented, creative people, okay. And those creative people are not going to get a job by going on a job board and just applying, because there’s just so much in the way of that. The way that seasoned professionals get a job these days is to network, and it’s not networking when you need a job. It’s networking when you don’t need a job as well, so that when the time comes and you need the job, you don’t have to make that awkward conversation that’s like, “Oh, hey, can you help me get a job?”. No, that’s not what you talk about. What you talk about is, “Hey, I have something valuable to share with the world. I’m going to post it on LinkedIn. I’m going to post it on Substack, I’m going to post it to the world. I have a content calendar, I have an editorial voice. I’m doing all the things that I would do if I were a client or if I were your agency. And I’m going to demonstrate to you that I’m adding value. And when you see that on a regular basis, then you contact me when you need me.” But as a marketer these days, I’ve done a lot of thinking about like cold outreach, and I think in our world of a services business, I think that cold outreach is incredibly difficult to do. And I think there’s a lack of trust, but there isn’t a lack of trust when someone introduces you to someone they know and says, “Jay is the guy to take you from where you are to where you need to be.” And how does that happen? That happens from constantly showing up and always being open to whatever it is that the world may give you on any given day, and keeping up with people and showing genuine interest. And when they experience that, and they’re part of your circle, they’ll just call you and say, “Okay, now it’s time. I have some work to do. Let’s do it.” So that’s the advice. Always be aware that your work and your livelihood can change, especially in this industry. Most people that I know in the world of marketing have had many, many, many jobs. You always need to be aware that you could be on the market, and you need to pave your way. So I went extreme, and I created all this new life for me, and I created a diversified career with teaching, coaching, consulting, and every day is different, but, you could do that with side hustles as well to be an insurance policy in the event that something unpredictable happens in, your world. 

Adrian Tennant: What do you hope readers will take away from Brand Strategy In Three Steps

Jay Mandel: I hope that people will take away core values. And when I say core values, I’ve talked to many people who have read the book already, and then they’re like, “Oh, you really wanted me to create core values?” Well, yeah, I did. So, I’m giving an open invitation to anyone who listens to this podcast. If you read the book and you put forth a good effort in trying to define those core values, but you find yourself stuck, or you find that you want to review those core values with me, just LinkedIn message me or message me on my website, and let’s talk about them and how I could challenge you in a way that will force you to do a more effective job at your core values than if you were to just do it alone while reading the book. So what do I want people to take away? I want them to take away that everything that’s in the book is stuff that I did, and it was difficult for four years. It’s still difficult in my career, but I am at an inflection point right now with my career in life, and I am ready to take on what’s next, and this book represents that methodology. and if I could do that and start with my core values and then make a simple marketing promise to myself, then create a book like I did. So can you. So my message to you is, I want you to believe that you could do more than what your, job, which might be, “I am just a social media expert”. No, you’re more than that. You are doing meaningful marketing, and sometimes you’re going to need to connect the dots between, you know, what your assignment is and what the bigger mandate of the marketing is. 

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and Your Brand Coach, what’s the best way to connect with you? 

Jay Mandel: The best way to connect with me is on my website, There is a free consultation link. You could click it, and I’d be happy to meet with you and talk about your core values or whatever it may be. But I live on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn. I am, publishing on LinkedIn daily. I’m engaging with people and so if you just message me on LinkedIn with a thoughtful message, just saying, “Hey, I read your book,” which is better than a lot of the messages saying, “Hey, do you need a new assistant in the Philippines to help you?” It’s like, “No, I don’t, I have enough of those inquiries!” So you know, if you write a thoughtful message to me, I’d be more than happy to respond and engage and help you. 

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to read Jay’s book, Brand Strategy In Three Steps, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you’ll receive a 25 percent discount when you purchase a print or electronic version online at Just enter the promo code BIGEYE25 at the checkout. Jay, thank you very much indeed for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Jay Mandel: Thank you for having me. This was a true pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jay Mandel of Your Brand Coach and the author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Brand Strategy In Three Steps. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at – just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thank you again for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye. 

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

Experts in sustainable development, retail, innovation, and consumer behavior explore the challenges and opportunities for marketing sustainability. We discuss topics including the shift to a purpose-driven economy, the advertising industry’s impact on carbon emissions, and ways in which brand marketers can influence eco-friendly consumer choices with verifiable claims. To receive a 25 percent discount on books published by Kogan Page, use promo code BIGEYE25 at

Episode Transcript

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

Renee Hartmann: Sustainability is becoming much more important to the consumer. the days of retailers and brands not thinking about sustainability at all are almost over

Marley Goldin: Deepening our commitment on an individual scale to sustainability can actually make a change over time. 

Rohit Bhargava: We could do exactly what you said, which is reverse some of the impact that’s happened on the environment 

Solitaire Townsend: We’ve now been given our marching orders by the climate scientists in terms of the role of our industry.

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. Thank you for joining us. Here in the US, temperatures have been surging as greenhouse gasses trap heat in the atmosphere, and combine with effects from El Nino. We’ve also faced severe pollution caused by extensive wildfires in Canada, resulting in smoke-filled skies and air quality warnings. On July the fourth, global average temperatures reached a record high of 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s 17 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest day since record-keeping began in 1940. When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, survey data from Ipsos reveals that less than one-fifth of people worldwide believe humankind is capable of and committed to resolving climate change, just 17 percent. Our guest a few weeks ago was Solitaire Townsend, a sustainability expert, and the co-founder of the award-winning agency Futerra, which focuses on sustainable development. Solitaire believes we must shift our thinking on climate change from the context of fear and despair to one of hope, purpose, and confidence. And it’s a theme she explores in her book, The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix The Future, which was the Bigeye Book Club selection for June. I asked Solaire to explain what a Solutionist is.

Solitaire Townsend: A Solutionist is a solver of problems, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. I discovered the term, and I applied it to those of us who are working in this field because we didn’t have a collective noun. We were change-makers, or we were sustainability people, or we were social entrepreneurs, or we were just business people doing sustainability. But, there wasn’t a word that really summed up this huge growing thousands, if not millions, of business-minded, sustainability-focused, purposeful people who are out there using the power of the business sector to actually make a difference in the world. And so the word solutionist sort of sprung upon me, and I applied it to myself first to remind myself of every day what I’m supposed to be doing. So, as well as co-founder of Futerra, I’m Chief Solutionist. And before the book came out, I noticed there were about 11 other people using it on LinkedIn. So as a word, there’s about 11 other people using it. Now, post the book, there’s about 10 pages of people using it. There’s over a hundred people who are now using the term for themselves in terms of identifying as a solutionist.


Adrian Tennant: In today’s episode, we hear from past guests who might also be considered Solutionists. First, combining food ideas and tips for an attainable, eco-friendly lifestyle, Marley’s Menu is a web-based collection of recipes that promote sustainable living. It’s the brainchild of Marley Goldin, a mom, foodie, creator, and qualified environmental scientist. I asked Marley about her belief that people can live a modern lifestyle while still making sustainable choices.

Marley Goldin: Yeah. So what I really mean by modern lifestyle is kind of the convenience we’ve all really grown to, really have ingrained into our lifestyle. So, food is available to us regardless of its seasonality or its regionality. Or maybe single-use plastic that is targeted to be more convenient for the consumer. And, what I’ve found is that that modern lifestyle or that convenience that we’ve grown to know and love, doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with sustainability, and what that means is the idea of sustainability can sometimes be overwhelming to consumers. And I think because of that, a lot of people think, “Oh, I can’t make a difference” or “What I do doesn’t matter,” “What I do in my own household isn’t gonna really move the needle.” And I think it’s important for people to realize that yes, while we do need systemic change on a higher level, deepening our commitment on an individual scale to sustainability can actually make a change over time. It can make an impact. So what we’re doing, not only over time, can make an impact in our own individual lives, but it can also, you know, encourage other people around us to be more sustainable. And it can increase demand for more sustainable practices within corporations or within governance. So, what I mean by that is: Yes, it can be overwhelming, and yes, we do need change at a higher level, but that doesn’t mean that what we’re doing doesn’t matter in our own individual lives.

Adrian Tennant: So Marley, how can consumers be confident that the food they’re purchasing is from sustainable sources or ethically produced?

Marley Goldin: Mm-hmm. I think, what we’re touching on here is greenwashing, which is, you know, when marketers use buzzwords like “sustainably sourced” or “responsibly sourced,” “all-natural,” terms that aren’t necessarily regulated, so can be used by anyone without any evidence to back those claims up. And it’s used as a technique to sometimes over-exaggerate or even trick consumers into thinking that the practices that these brands are using are environmental friendly when they’re sometimes not. And, you know, that’s a problem because even people seeing like a green label or packaging with like a tree on it. Sometimes they just automatically assume that this is a safe choice in terms of sustainability. But, what people really need to realize is that these terms are not regulated at all. So I think the easiest way for consumers to be more confident that purchases they’re making align with their ethoses, I even do this at the store, like I’ll take my phone out and do a quick Google search of the brand. And if a brand is really sustainability-focused, oftentimes their website will have a whole page dedicated to sustainability and the practices and the steps they’re taking, the goals they have for sustainability. If you get a brand that just says sustainably sourced or all-natural and then you Google them and there’s nothing more on their website at all about those practices that actually give you proof that these are real things that they’re trying to make a difference on, you can safely assume this might be a way of the brand greenwashing. So aside from doing a quick Google search and doing your own little research, you can also look for a certification. So within food that would look something like a Rainforest Alliance certification, Fair Trade, in coffee and chocolate, you can look for UTZ certification, USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project. When it comes to seafood, we have Marine Stewardship and Friend of the Sea, and these are all just certifications within food. So outside of food, other brands can have other green certifications, and if you’re interested in learning more about that, you can just do a quick Google search of green certifications for business, and you can see lists of different certifications that you can look for on different brands, and the process to getting certified is pretty rigorous. So if you’re seeing any of these certifications, you can feel confident that the brand is sustainability-focused. 


Adrian Tennant: Renee Hartman is the co-author of Next Generation Retail: How To Use New Technology To Innovate For The Future, our Bigeye Book Club Selection in March. I asked Renee about consumers’ post-COVID priorities.

Renee Hartmann: I think when you talk about the consumers and how things have changed, you know, the number one thing consumers are wanting products that are sustainable and they want the selling methods to be sustainable too. So sustainability is becoming much more important to the consumer, and we think the days of retailers and brands not thinking about sustainability at all are almost over, and consumers are really looking for that. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, sustainability is the focus of a chapter in Next Generation Retail, and you acknowledge that it can be daunting to navigate the sheer volume of issues that fall under the umbrella of sustainability. You also cite a statistic from which finds corporations that plan with climate change in mind secure an 18% higher return on investment than those that do not. Renee, what are some ways retailers can achieve more sustainable business practices?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah. I mean, you know, we talk about different ways that companies can look at sustainability and I think, one of the people that we interviewed through the book, his name was Andrew Sullivan, and he really made some good points. He kinda, he focuses on sustainability and his point is you have to look across every aspect of all of the business. It’s not just one person’s job, it’s not a sustainability officer’s job. It has to be something that goes back to the CEO and has to be infused throughout the organization. And so, we encourage everybody to look at all different aspects of it. So in the retail store, it could be everything from looking at the types of lights that you have in your retail environment. How can you make lower energy use? How can you reduce waste in your packaging? We talked to another interviewee who talked about automated checkout and how that freed up time from the checkout person to go out and do shopping, and then when you deliver it to the customer, you’re using routes that are using less energy. You’re using electric cars, things like that. So even everything down to, you know, delivery can become a more sustainable option. And then looking at the product, we always talk about looking at the product backwards, right? Look through the circular part of your supply chain. Would people wanna reuse the product? We’re seeing retailers all the time are actually starting their own areas for resale of products themselves. So people who have used the product and wanna sell it back, they’re actually creating marketplaces for that themselves. And of course, obviously going through the entire supply chain, right? In terms of, you know, how can you reduce waste, how can you reduce energy, how can you use better materials? We’re even seeing, we have a chapter in the book on blockchain, and we’re even seeing people use blockchain and sustainability efforts as well. So I think it’s really, you know, examining every single piece of the business and really just thinking through, how can everything be more sustainable? And then we always talk about reporting it, right? You know, one of the areas that we’ve talked about is some brands I think are a little bit shy to talk about their sustainability efforts because they’re worried about greenwashing, they’re worried about consumer backlash. But really, the more that you’re reporting to your employees, to your customers, to your suppliers, it keeps you accountable. And so really having these methods to track your sustainability efforts, and of course, nobody can get there overnight, but to have an ongoing vision and something that’s created from the top of the organization is really important. So, sustainability, one of the things that makes it so hard, I think, is that it really can be affected through every part of the organization. And it really does take, a sort of an organization-wide, real mandate to make it become a reality.


Adrian Tennant: So, how should companies design and develop sustainable products and services? Thomas Klaffke is the head of research for the Amsterdam-based firm, Trend Watching, leading the team responsible for mapping out global consumer trends and insights. I asked Thomas about the framework Trend Watching has developed to facilitate purpose-driven innovation.

Thomas Klaffke: Throughout the last couple of years, we’re seeing a move more towards what we call the purpose economy. To really, an economy that of businesses that solve the big problems that we have, and that’s why we call it purpose-driven innovation methodology. And the idea here is that you still have, on the one hand, three pillars that we look at. One is, as you were already saying, as a quite innovation lab is innovations. Then, we look at what we call basic human needs. So, what kind of basic human needs is this innovation really satisfying? Because it’s basic human needs are never changing. They’re quite certain, it’s something. So, as an example, you have, like, convenience there or safety. It’s very general kind of principles. And, the third pillar is drivers of change. So these big, major shifts that are happening like urbanization or climate change. So we bring these three things together: drivers of change, the innovations, and the basic human needs. And out of that, we look at what are some consumer expectations that are emerging from that. So for example, you could ask yourself like, “Okay, if consumers are using this product, or are seeing this ad, what would they expect from other companies after that? So, this is kind of the questions that we ask, and the new framework that we add to that is the impact bit, basically. And here, we’re using two kind-of things that are quite, one of them is quite known, which is the UN SDGs, UN Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals for sustainable development in the world that we’re using as basically like a purpose filter. So on the one hand, we are mostly looking at innovations that relate to these 17 UN SDGs, and are then looking at all of these other elements. And on the other hand, we also use another framework, called the eight sustainability principles. It’s from a bigger work of a Swedish scientist and sustainability expert called Karl Henrik Robert, which is called The Natural Step Framework, and he talks about these eight sustainability principles that are basically rules that you have to abide by in order to bring sustainable innovations to the market. And we use those basically as a filter when we teach our clients our methodology and when we go from looking at trends and turning them into innovations or into opportunities, and these principles are these rules. You could say, for example, don’t extract from the earth, don’t produce harmful substances, don’t recreate nature, don’t overwork people, everyone’s voice should matter, help people to self-develop, don’t discriminate, and celebrate diversity. Now of course, you won’t find a lot of innovations right now that really check all of those boxes, of course. Yeah, this is also not what we want to do. Like, we don’t want to completely say that we have these rules, we even have these SDGs and that’s where we should focus on totally. But, we’re using it more as like a mental exercise to think differently about what we’re doing and what the impact of our actions will have, and just doing that already helps you come up with, I think, more creative ideas also. But also, most importantly, ideas that are really fitting to I think today’s world into this purpose economy.


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

Each month in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in consumer research, retail, and branding. Our featured book for July is Brand Strategy in Three Steps: A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding by Jay Mandel. The book walks readers through a new way to build a meaningful and authentic brand strategy focused on identity, intention, and implementation. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 25% on a print or electronic version of this month’s featured book by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all Kogan Page products and pre-orders and applies to their free paperback and e-book bundle offer. Shipping is always free to the US and UK when you order direct from Kogan Page, and it helps the authors too. So to order your copy of Brand Strategy In Three Steps, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, exploring sustainability. Just before the break, we heard Thomas Klaffke from Trend Watching describe a framework for purpose-driven innovation. Sharing a background in consumer trend analysis, Rohit Bhargava is a serial entrepreneur and the bestselling author of nine books on marketing and innovation. Rohit joined us on the podcast to discuss his latest book, The Future Normal, a section of which focuses on how humanity will survive beyond the next decade. I asked Rohit if he saw ways to slow down or even reverse the current trajectory of climate change.

Rohit Bhargava: There are some. And, so some of the ideas that were presented in this third section of how humanity will survive need to be further future-ranging in terms of solar geoengineering, for example, where we’re looking at ways of cooling the earth artificially and all the ethical issues that come with that. There’s a great entrepreneurial company called Daily that makes shoes out of recycled bags and recycled plastic bottles. And I just got my pair that I ordered. It took a while to come, but now I just got my pair. And, so trying out a lot of those types of technologies that have potential farther into the future was really fascinating. One of the trends that we wrote about in this section specifically was what we called inhuman delivery, and that was an interesting exercise for us because it was basically about drone delivery, which is a topic that’s not necessarily new, although it’s not mainstream. I mean, most places don’t have drone delivery yet, but it has a lot of issues attached to it too. Do we really want all these drones flying around overhead, and you can picture the dystopian landscape of just walking down the street and having all these drones in all these places. But what was fascinating about this one is that I was, we started to look at the test cases of it. First of all, using a platform called What Three Words, which is a platform that allows you to map the entire grid of the earth into one cubic meter squares and give every one square meter space, a three word address. You could allow drones, for example, to deliver things to people who are standing in the middle of a forest or standing at a place that doesn’t have a physical street address. So that’s transformative to allow drones to deliver. But the huge opportunity is really to allow drones to deliver to places that are hard to deliver to. So we tend to think of innovation as, “Oh, it’s gonna happen in the city first. It’s gonna be like this urban thing first, and then the people in the country, the rural customers will be left behind.” And what was interesting about this one is that it was actually the reverse. The drone delivery may take off for rural environments much more quickly because it is the best option to be able to get delivery of packages to people in far flung areas, but also, essential medicines, vaccines, things that are difficult to transport in other ways might start happening through drone delivery. And obviously there’s more space out there as well. So you don’t have this issue of other things flying overhead or trying to navigate buildings or things like that, that make it difficult to enable this sort of delivery. So sometimes when we started looking at these innovations, what you think about innovation, the assumptions we make, “Oh, it’s gonna happen for this group of people first, and then these other group of people,” turn out to be exactly the opposite.

Adrian Tennant: Sustainability is a theme that appears several times in the pages of The Future Normal. What are some of the most interesting or inspiring examples for you?

Rohit Bhargava: You know, I would say that there’s a lot of talk about net zero, or like having zero impact. And the final chapter that we concluded the book with actually, was titled Beyond Net Zero. And the reason we called it Beyond Net Zero is because there’s some really interesting examples of companies looking at ways of creating things that have a net positive impact on the environment. So instead of just saying, “Oh, we didn’t have a negative impact, and we’re at zero, we’re indifferent.” What some of these companies are starting to say is, “Well, we could make the world better through the process of the work that we’re doing. Through the process of taking seaweed, for example, we can remove more carbon from the air and we can make the earth a better place.” And to me, like this idea of the climate positive vision as opposed to just do no harm, which has kind of become the standard, was really an interesting evolution because what it said is we could do exactly what you said, which is reverse some of the impact that’s happened on the environment by unlocking these new methods of making things, of making products, and of making them in a way that delivers a net positive to the earth.


Adrian Tennant: Returning to the role of marketing and its impact on carbon emissions, a typical online advertising campaign produces around 5.4 tons of CO2 equivalent, which is approximately one-third of the annual carbon footprint of an average American. Now this data is from the UK-based ad tech company, Good-Loop, which distributes ethical advertising in premium placements and allows consumers to make donations funded by the advertiser in return for watching ads. I asked Solitaire Townsend whether models like Good-Loop’s can be as effective in terms of reach and engagement compared to traditional models.

Solitaire Townsend: So I think what Good-Loop is doing is super fun and I really, really enjoy seeing the growth of what they do. But, I am gonna push back for a second. Because the impact of our industry actually isn’t the direct carbon impact of our adverts. If you are advertising through Google, if you are advertising through Facebook, if you’re advertising through Instagram, or on any of the major platforms. Actually, there isn’t a significant carbon footprint because all of those major platforms are already using renewable energy for their data centers. So a lot of hand wringing, which was very appropriate a couple of years ago isn’t really the case anymore. So, what I wouldn’t want anyone to do is to think that the footprint of our adverts are what matters. What matters is the brain print of the messaging within them. So whilst as every industry should, we need to clean up our house, and we should have probably cleaned up our house some time ago in terms of our own carbon footprint. That’s not what is called the material impact of our industry. The material impact of our industry is what we are asking consumers to do, not the carbon footprint of our adverts.


Adrian Tennant: Michael Smith is an applied cognitive neuroscientist and management professional with a deep interest in sustainability. He’s also the author of the book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices: Leverage Neuroscience To Reshape Marketplace Behavior. I asked Michael what brand marketers need to do to encourage consumers to shop more green.

Michael E. Smith: Brand marketers need to make their sustainability claims more trustworthy and transparent if people are going to be more accepting of those claims. They also need to focus more on highlighting the immediate and concrete functional benefits of their products. And then more as a secondary consideration, focus on the more long-term and abstract environment mental benefits. Because at the end of the day, if we’re not getting our needs satisfied by a particular product or service, we will explore other ones. So, shoppers need to be convinced that whatever their primary need is be it taste or health or identifying something aesthetically pleasing, they’re not going to go after the secondary needs. Also, they need to ensure that their offering has some degree of mental and physical availability. Byron Sharp, in his book, How Brands Grow, emphasizes that having something top of mind as a brand and have it physically available where you’re shopping, are the keys to increasing sales and growth of your brand within the broader category, and this is as true for sustainable brands as it is for any other brand. And then, I think marketers really need to get comfortable with letting go of the notion that just because somebody filling out a survey says they’re willing to pay more for more sustainable products, doesn’t mean when the rubber hits the road, that that’s true. Some people can be distracted by a discount on a neighboring product that they find at the shelf. And many people, the majority of the population, really, especially these days, don’t have the resources to spend more money on fulfilling their product needs. And so, I think there needs to be a greater emphasis for marketers marketing more sustainable products to do everything they can to achieve price parity with the competition if they want to have more success in this sphere. 


Adrian Tennant: Our Bigeye Book Club Selection for May was Purposeful Brands: How Purpose And Sustainability Drive Brand Value And Positive Change, written by Sandy Skees. Reflecting there over three decades of expertise in management consulting and strategic communications, I asked Sandy about the challenges of communicating purpose and sustainability.

Sandy Skees: There are two things I want people to understand about communicating purpose and sustainability in all kinds of communications, from advertising and marketing through to corporate communications, all of it. The first is these are very complex dimensions of a business that require a whole range of communications across all of your owned, earned, and paid channels. There’s so much complexity in what a company is doing to reduce its carbon footprint, for example, or reduce its greenhouse gasses, improve the way it manages water, all those things. Highly complex. This isn’t just one report you’re gonna issue. You need to be communicating it over and over throughout the course of the year. Think about on-pack as a place to communicate those messages. Think about it on-shelf, on your website, on your socials. This is a complex story that needs lots of ways in, et cetera. The second thing I want you to know is that the language you use to tell the story runs the spectrum from highly technical, highly factual, extremely transparent, very detailed, and data driven all the way up to inspirational, aspirational, and visionary. A CSO that I’ve worked with who I love dearly who’s been a leader in this space for years, she said, “It’s up to us to set the highest order vision of the kind of world we want to create with our business. That we have to both set that vision and then explain in scientific terms how we’re gonna get there.” And that is a very interesting communications challenge. We need words that are aspirational and pulls people along with us as a business and a brand, and we need highly technical information so those who are trying to really understand the progress we’re making can find the facts in the things that we’re saying. 

Adrian Tennant: What advice would you give to other creative and communications professionals looking to make a positive impact on sustainability and climate action?

Sandy Skees: I think there’s a couple of ways. One is, in the way in which we depict people in commercials, in ads, in visuals. Can we have a recycling bin somewhere in the shot, for example? Can we have two people who are chatting instead of each holding a disposable coffee cup? Maybe one’s rinsing out the peanut butter jar to throw it into the recycling bin. Like, all those social cues that we as creators have access to. Yep, we can change behavior very subtly or using those subtle behavior cues, you know, in the shot and think about how do we do that? How can we use this commercial for, you know, hand soap? Maybe we show the person washing their hands and turning the tap off in between soaping up your hands, like it’s all those little behavior cues that will drive behavior change. So I think that’s number one. The second thing, and I actually said this, I was a guest speaker at a very large food and consumer goods packaging company. I was a guest speaker for their Earth Week all-hands employee kickoff, and what we were talking about was product innovation. Brand managers are always looking for, what’s the next product we’re gonna bring to market? We’ve got a budget, we’re in the innovation pipeline. We’re thinking about, you know, let’s go with a vanilla flavor this year. Let’s add vanilla. And my question to them was, “Hey, instead of a new flavor, how about using that capital and developing a bottle that’s based on bioplastics, not petroleum plastic?” Like, let’s let the innovation not necessarily just be one more SKU on the shelf, but improve the SKUs that we have. Or, if people are currently enjoying your products in a particular form factor now today, which involves packaging that they peel away and throw away, what might be an innovative way they could enjoy what you make in a completely different form factor that you haven’t thought about yet? That’s a product innovation and a marketing innovation that can have both social and environmental impact. Another is, are there swaths of the market that you’re leaving out? We were working with a yogurt company that was looking at places where there were food deserts, and a food desert is a place where communities that are economically challenged don’t have access to healthy foods. And so what they were looking for is, “How do we get our high-quality yogurt in convenience stores and bodegas and other places that are, that the choices for consumers are less?” So they had a product strategy that had a social dimension to it, and I think those are all ways that we, as marketers, communicators, brand strategists can use what we do. It’s how do we leverage our communications vehicles and platforms, and then how do we think about the products that we’re using? 


Adrian Tennant: As we’ve heard, there are many ways to join the ranks of the Solutionists. To conclude, let’s hear what Solitaire Townsend believes are the key contributions advertisers can make to reshaping public perception and encouraging more sustainable behaviors. 

Solitaire Townsend: Actually, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC – which some folks might have heard of, who are the sort of preeminent scientists around the world – every seven years they come up with a big report about what we need to do about climate change. And for the first time in 20 years, they actually included our industry in that, which is quite a big deal because that will trickle down through governments and will trickle down through regulation to us pretty quickly. There are two things that they said that they needed from us. One is they need us to not greenwash, to not support destructive industries, to not advertise the problem, and to avoid climate misinformation. And, that is a difficult and true challenge for the industry. On the other side, they said sustainable lifestyles. We are the people who can show that living in a more sustainable way, eating, traveling, clothing, buying in a more sustainable way is desirable. That’s what we are good at. And so there’s a whole chapter in the IPCC report that goes into how can we as marketers, for example, make plant-based eating much more desirable, help people to transition towards, electrifying everything in electric cars, help people desire different ways of consuming, particularly consuming better quality and less repairing of vintage. There’s a whole section in there around how we travel and making it so that people can feel that actually perhaps that they don’t need to take their car for a 15-minute trip, that they’d be able to walk for it. So they set out 61 behaviors that would make a significant difference to climate change. And they call upon us, the marketers and the influencers in the world, the people who affect society, to help make them desirable and to help change behaviors. And so, you know, we’ve now been given our marching orders by the climate scientists in terms of the role of our industry.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to all the guests who contributed to IN CLEAR FOCUS. In this episode, you heard Solitaire Townsend, Marley Goldin, Renee Hartman, Thomas Klaffke, Rohit Bhargava, Michael Smith, and Sandy Skees. You’ll find links to these contributors’ details in the transcript for this episode on our webpage at – just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. And you can save 25 percent off print or electronic versions of the books by Solitaire, Renee, Michael, and Sandy when you order direct from Kogan Page. Use the promo code BIGEYE25 at the checkout. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.