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Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

Our guest is Mike Stevens, the author of The Direct To Consumer Playbook: The stories and strategies of the brands that wrote the DTC rules, this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection. Reflecting stories from the founders of Tails.com, Huel, and Casper, Mike shares valuable insights about what works in the DTC space today. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on The Direct To Consumer Playbook at KoganPage.com by using the promo code BIGEYE20 at checkout.

Episode Transcript


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

Mike Stevens: As a brand, you know, you’ve got the choices: you can do B2C, you can do third party marketplace, you can do retail, you can do direct, you can have your own shops, there’s more opportunities to build the business that you want to build.

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, we’re going to look at some of the founding stories and strategies of brands that have rewritten the rules of traditional retail and established dominant market positions by adopting the direct-to-consumer or DTC business model. Although many startups launch with eCommerce, few manage to successfully scale their DTC operations. A new book entitled The Direct To Consumer Playbook offers unique insights drawn from best-in-class DTC brands, and is this month’s featured selection for the Bigeye book club in partnership with Kogan page publishing. The Direct To Consumer Playbook’s author is Mike Stevens. Mike served his entrepreneurial apprenticeship on the startup team at Innocent drinks before co-founding the good-for-you confectionery and candy company, Peppersmith. After scaling and selling Peppersmith, Mike now works as an advisor, mentor, and consultant to those seeking to enter the increasingly competitive DTC space. To discuss The Direct To Consumer Playbook today, Mike is joining us from his home in Poole, England. Mike, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Mike Stevens: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Can you tell us a bit about Innocent drinks and what it was about working on that brand that inspired you to found Peppersmith?

Mike Stevens: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I was really lucky to join Innocent right at the beginning of that particular business. For those of you who don’t know, Innocent is now the biggest fruit juice company in Europe, so bigger than Tropicana and now owned by Coca-Cola, so a hugely successful business. When I first met Innocent back in 2001, it was a brand new startup. So, little did I know that it was gonna go on to be the success it has been. And I was very, very lucky to be part of that business in terms of rapid growth and learning a lot. But, the main reason I joined Innocent is because it was a startup and even, you know, back in the 2000s, outside tech, startups still weren’t really a thing. The words, “startup” and “founder” didn’t really exist. So, but I always knew that I wanted to start my own business. So I joined Innocent because it was a startup operation and I thought, what a great place that would be to learn, um, what it’s like being in a young business. And, I was so glad I did because it, yeah, ticked all the boxes and I learned so much. I mean, I always advise anyone who wants to start their own business, especially if they’re young as well, go and work for a startup first because you can see what happens. You can see the ups and downs, you can see the pressures and the different things that happen in a startup, which is very different from a nine to five, well-oiled corporate, and then you can see if you like it, but then also importantly, have you got the right skills, attitude, and aptitude, to prosper in an environment like that? And if you have, absolutely take those lessons and then you can start something for yourself. So that’s what I was doing at Innocent, but that took me on to doing lots of different things, including Peppersmith.

Adrian Tennant: Well, I mentioned in the intro that you took Peppersmith from concept through to acquisition. Was that what prompted you to write The Direct To Consumer Playbook?

Mike Stevens: The motivation for writing the book came out of, I guess, some of the challenges we had in the business and the opportunities. But going back to the beginning, I mean, I started Peppersmith because I wanted to do my own thing. And what happened was, at Innocent, we were sort of leading the food revolution. And what I mean by that is the major trends, which were, you know, sort of spearheaded by the likes of Innocent and some other great food and drink brands out there with natural, healthy, sustainable products with a brand to tell the story in terms of why they’re different from all the incumbent food and drink and on the shelf. And the insight that we had is that change was happening all over the food and drink industry. So in every category, whether it was ice cream or milk or bread or cheese, whatever, you know, those trends were apparent. Apart from one category, and that was confectionary. So confectionary was, um, still dominated by, huge multinationals who’d been doing the same thing, not for years, not for decades. But some of them, like hundreds of years through the likes of Mars and Cadbury, Wrigley, these businesses have been around for a long, long time. And, what they did, they did very well. But essentially it was high volume, cheap, not very good for you crap. So we saw the opportunity to mix that up and take the trends we saw everywhere else. And so, my hypothesis was, if natural health is sustainable, and was working in every other category, why shouldn’t it work in confectionery? And we were right. So we built this brand, it was a good-for-you confectionary company that we made chewing gum, mints, and other sugar-free, sweetened candy. And we built that business over nearly 10 years and eventually exited in 2018. But to your question about why I wrote the book, following my experience there, it really was about, you know, the way we were selling our products. So, right at the very start when we launched the brand in 2010, we had a direct-to-consumer offer – which was you could go on our website, hit a PayPal button, and we could deliver you our product directly to your home. But the reason we did that wasn’t ‘cause we thought DTC was an amazing sales opportunity. We did it because we knew as a startup, it was gonna take us a long time to build up distribution. And we wanted to ensure that anyone who’d heard about us and wanted to try the product could. Because we knew that we wouldn’t be in every shop. So lots of people, if they went out and about, they might not find us. So we had this DTC offer, but as we grew, what we found was that our direct-to-consumer business was just growing, organically. It was getting bigger and bigger without us putting a lot of effort into it. It also helped that we went onto Amazon very early on. We were in the UK, we were one of the first food products on Amazon. So that really helped us in terms of internet sales. So that part of the business was growing and we were also having quite a lot of success in bricks and mortar retail distribution. So, the big supermarkets, the main health food chains in the UK, and lots of travel sites were taking the products, but the one thing that I’m sure is true, whether it’s in Europe, or the US, or wherever, dealing with these big retail chains is incredibly hard work. They’re very demanding. They don’t always do what you want them to do as a supplier and I guess as a small brand, we don’t have all the resources to serve them as maybe they would like. Where we got to is that while we had generally a lot of success in retail, it was just getting harder and harder. And at the same time, DTC was growing and we weren’t really trying. So, yeah, we reached the point it was like, “well, if retail’s getting harder, and DTC seems to be pretty open and easy and it’s growing and we’re not even trying, why don’t we put more effort into the thing that seems to be working?” which was DTC. So we decided just to put more effort and resources into our direct-to-consumer channel. What I would say, you know, by the time we sold the business in 2018, DTC and internet sales were about a third of the revenues. So the bulk of the business was still via retailers, but, I think, you know, getting to a third was quite impressive because we were making confectionery products which people normally bought from the store. So to sell in bulk, as we were, and via DTC, I think that was quite a good effort. So we grew that side of the business, but what always played in my mind is “what are the right things to be doing? should we be investing more in marketing? Or is it in operations? How do we think about pricing?” And, what I did, I was asking around my peer group of other founders, who were all, you know, we’re all trying to do a bit of DTC. So it’s probably 2014, 2015, and the answer’s pretty much from all of my, founder, peer group was, we’re doing the basics. But we don’t really know what we’re doing, we’re all sort of learning on the job. And that was the whole community. So us as a bunch of founders, who own these great brands, we’re trying to sell more and more, using the power of the internet. We were all learning on the job. And my, um, my thought at the time was like, “oh, I really wish I could just buy the book to tell me how to do this.” But it didn’t exist. I mean, it didn’t exist, I guess, cuz it, you know, this, DTC selling was quite new. But then also just no one who got around to writing it. So when I sold the business in 2018 and finally stepped away from the brand in 2019, it occurred to me that no one still written the book for brands, in terms of the best practice to sell and direct to consumers. So, because I had the time, and I still had the motivation, and my main motivation was to help other entrepreneurs like myself, I thought I’d write the book. And so that’s why I spent the last two years doing.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you wrote most of The Direct To Consumer Playbook during the COVID 19 lockdowns. In what kinds of ways did that change how you approached researching and writing the book?

Mike Stevens: Yeah. So that was quite a change. So I started in earnest really, at the end of 2019, the start of 2020. And, um,  I guess, my strategy in terms of writing the book, hadn’t changed and didn’t change. And that was going to meet with the founders or CEOs of the best DTC brands that I could find and interview and tell their story. So I did that. And when I first started, I was determined to go and meet, face to face all of the founders,and that started. And then I think it was actually in February, 2020, for the first time, I wanted to meet the founder of Tails.com, which is a DTC dog food company. And in their office, you can imagine a DTC dog food company, every day is a “Take Your Dog to Work” day. So, there were dogs everywhere, but I’ve got quite severe dog allergies, so I was trying to figure out how we navigate that. So, I did have an interview with the founder, sort of away from their office, but I had to follow up, using Zoom, cause I couldn’t go back and see him. And, that was like, “oh, I thought that was okay.” And then the pandemic hit in March 2020 you know, and what was amazing then it meant that yes, it was impractical for me to go and meet all of the founders and I actually had to cancel some interviews that I already had lined up. But what really impressed me was how quickly everyone adapted. And, doing a video call for one or two hours, didn’t seem such a strange thing. So it was actually in the end, I think it was quite advantageous to me that I could ask people, “are you happy to sit on a video call with me for a couple of hours to tell your story?” and the answer was “yep. Cuz that’s what I do all day now.” And secondly, it extended my reach so I was able to find times that could fit with me and whoever I was interviewing and also expand internationally. So, there were Simon Griffith from Who Gives A Crap in Australia. There was Jeff, the co-founder of Casper. Hugh who did Ugly Drinks out of New York. So yeah, there were just lots more people who I could reach, and if I had to go and see them face-to-face that would’ve been more difficult. So in the end, while it’s always better to do face-to-face interviews, especially as you want to get a feel for actually what those businesses are all about, it was helpful in terms of writing the book.

Adrian Tennant: Mike, what can readers expect to learn from The Direct To Consumer Playbook?

Mike Stevens: Well, essentially it is the stories and strategies of the best in class DTC companies. I think the stories are quite important in terms of where the founders come from, in terms of what their background was, what their mission was, what they’re trying to achieve. But then out of those stories and out the growth, the scaling stories of their business, it was me trying to pick out what are the things that those businesses have done so well that has enabled them to be successful? And the way I approached that, I just asked the founders all the things that I wanted to know as a founder. And I think that gave me a real advantage. I was asking questions which I think were probably quite different than a journalist would ask or an academic would ask. I was asking the questions which were keeping me awake at night. How did you approach this challenge that I faced every day? Whether that was a marketing question, that was a finance question, it was an operations question. It was a team, it was investment. It was all the things that, you know, all these businesses have to do, including us. And I think what that enabled me to do is actually because I was a founder asking questions of another founder, it was easy to establish a rapport. I was so impressed with the answers and the time that the people interviewed were able to give me, they just gave me some really powerful, honest, candid answers. And I just don’t think that would be possible if I went in there as anything other than a founder.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for June is The Direct To Consumer Playbook: The Stories and Strategies of the Brands that Wrote the DTC Rules, by Mike Stevens. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of The Direct To Consumer Playbook, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Mike Stevens, an expert in scaling direct-to-consumer brands and the author of The Direct To Consumer Playbook, published by Kogan Page. In the book, you identify seven characteristics shared by best-in-class direct to consumer brands. One of your recommendations for DTC brands is to build community. So Mike, why community building?

Mike Stevens: Community building is so important and the reason, it comes up again and again, when talking about DTC businesses is because DTC enables you to build a community. And the reason that happens is that every transaction you have, you are interacting with that end consumer. In terms of old-school retailing, you’ve just got wholesalers, you’ve got distributors, you’ve got retailers in the way, which separates the producer and the consumer. But now they have this connection. And as you connect with those customers, they find out about you, you find out about them, and you work out, you know, which ones you have the most in common with. And the ones you have, most in common with become your people and they become more than your customers. They’re your supporters. They tell you what to do more of, they tell you what to fix. They buy everything you do, and they tell their friends to do the same. And they also, they interact with each other as well as that community. And it’s, it’s all built around who you are, what you offer and what you care about. And if you can build that community, it’s a powerful marketing tool, but it’s a really powerful reason for being, because they’re the set of people you’re gonna look after again and again.

Adrian Tennant: You also write about purpose needing to be at the heart of every brand. Why is defining the ‘why’ behind a business so important to DTC specifically?

Mike Stevens: When someone comes to you, whether it’s via or social ad or they’ve been told about you, they end up on your website, they’re looking for a connection. They want to understand what you’re about and the reason, having a purpose, and standing for something that’s so important is that competition is so abundant. You know, so customers really need to see what you do. And if they believe in the same things you believe in, they’re going to, become a customer, part of your community, become a friend of the business. And what this means, and this is quite important, as we move onto the internet, away from mainstream retailing, is that, because you care about something and you should be proud of sharing what you cared about, you’re not gonna please everyone. You know, there’s gonna be a lot of people who come to your website and it’s just not for them, and that’s okay. But the important thing to remember is the ones that do come back, because they believe in the same things you do, they’re gonna come back again and again, and be with you all the way.

Adrian Tennant: Here in the US, we’ve seen a lot of editorials recently predicting the end of the direct-to-consumer boom. Economics play a part. The social platforms that originally enabled relatively inexpensive advertising for startup brands have become more expensive in recent years. Distribution too, is changing, as many DTC brands that were once available exclusively online can now be found on traditional retail store shelves. Mike, is omnichannel retail now the way to go for most startup consumer brands, do you think?

Mike Stevens: Yes and no. I’d say no for startups because you know, I’m a huge advocate of using DTC to sort of hone your offer, to hone your product, develop your brand. You know, DTC just gives you a really great opportunity to do that without spending a huge amount of money. But beyond that, Yes, omnichannel or multichannel is really important. The landscape’s changed you know, 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago, Digital advertising costs were low. There wasn’t that many DTC companies around. Look at Casper, for example, they were really the first mattress in a box DTC company, and they worked out, for every dollar they spent on Facebook, they were given seven or $8 in return. That was fantastic. And this is why, you know, the VC community got so excited but what has happened over time, it’s just competition. So more and more people have come into the space. And that means it’s not only a problem in terms of your brand, you’ve now got lots of competition. You’ve got lots of other companies who are vying for the same customers as you. That competition has also hugely driven up the cost of acquisition. So what that’s meant for brands is actually, they now have a scaling problem. It’s hard to scale to either the level they need to be to become profitable, or the level they need to meet the requirements or the promises they made to their investors. So, that means they need to branch out beyond DTC to find more customers. And you know what? that’s perfectly okay. Because one of the really great interviews I had in the book was, Anthony Fletcher from Graze who told me, like, it’s crazy that more DTC brands are not doing multichannel because not only are there more customers to serve, it’s actually you work out, there’s just better ways to serve those customers as well, so you can become a better and stronger business. So yes, I think, multichannel, omnichannel is gonna continue to be the way that most brands operate, but isn’t that great? Because, you know, as a brand, you know, you’ve got the choices, you can do B2C, you can do third party marketplace, you can do retail, you can do direct, you can have your own shops. There’s more opportunities to build the business that you want to build. 

Adrian Tennant: One of the best-known brands in the DTC space, as you mentioned, is Casper, the mattress company, which was once valued at over $1 billion. Now, although it was listed on the NASDAQ in 2020, after 18 months of losses, Casper was taken over by a private equity firm. For The Direct To Consumer Playbook, you interviewed Jeff Chapin, one of the original co-founders of the company. So, Mike, I’m curious, how did you secure that interview, and what are some of the most important lessons you think we can learn from Casper’s experiences?

Mike Stevens: It was great to talk to Jeff and hear his story beyond Casper. Cause I do believe, you know, when the history of DTC is written in 50 years time, Casper will be one of the brands that mentioned they were real sort of trailblazers and pioneers. And it was great to hear the whole story from Jeff. Yeah, in terms of how I got that interview, like I got most of my interviews really from founder networks. You know, I was lucky that as a founder, that I knew quite a lot of the people I interviewed firsthand anyway, and then there was only one or two degrees of separation between the rest. So, was again, another advantage of being a founder. So, you know, Jeff was really kind to spend quite a lot of time with me actually, and talk through the Casper story. And one of the things that he said is that, yeah, they spent lots and lots of money, provided by the VCs, cuz they had some really decent valuations. It meant they could get a lot of money from VCs without being diluted too much. So it seemed like why wouldn’t you do that? But what, in the end they actually spent all that money on marketing and that was marketing to try to stay ahead of the competition. In the book I mentioned there wasn’t one or two competitors, I think in 2019 we got to a number of 176 mattress-in-a-box DTC companies in the US. I mean, that’s a crazy number. And as Jeff told me, if you needed to try and outspend five competitors, you know, if you needed to try and keep going longer than those five, you could probably do it. But when you’ve got, you know, 200 or 500, it’s like whack-a-mole. You know, you spend a bit of money, one disappears, and then the next one pops up. It makes life really hard. And I think where Casper got into trouble is they took on the strategy of “we were the first, we are the best. We want to stay top of the pile.” Um, and they spent a lot of money to try and achieve that. Where in effect, they should have been investing more of that money into new product development, new channels, in terms of business infrastructure. And I think they’ve got that now. And I think one of the reasons that they have been bought by private equity and taken private again is because they’ve gotten everybody really good value. Because, you know, Casper is, they make great products. They’ve got a really strong brand, so there is definitely still value there. What Casper and the management team failed to do over the years is turn that opportunity into profit. So hopefully they can do that now. For those of your listeners who might have come across Adam Grant and his book Originals, there was a great chapter in there about the fallacy of the first-mover advantage. As a first mover, you know, whoever’s following you can actually learn not only from your opportunities, from your mistakes. And it sort of makes it easier to follow than it is to lead. And I think, you know, Casper sort of led such a dynamic marketplace for so long, it wasn’t hard for some of the competitors to catch up and it caused them a marketing problem to stay ahead. Jeff was great and I’m a fan of the business still. And especially their branding. I love their attitude to customer service as well. Have a read in the book in terms of how they approach that, but did they make all the right decisions at the right time? Probably not, but they’re still going and they’re still learning.

Adrian Tennant: The Direct To Consumer Playbook has been out for a couple of months So, Mike, what kinds of responses have you had to the book so far?

Mike Stevens: Yeah. The book launched at the start of May in the UK and the end of May for the US and the rest of the world. So, I’ve been getting some responses from the UK market and it’s been going great. In the last month, it’s been number one on the Amazon marketing chart. So, I mean, that was just great to see and also I’ve been getting some really nice professional feedback in terms of endorsements for the book, but also really important, now is actually from people reading it and trying to use it. The book was written, you know, to be helpful for entrepreneurs. So when an entrepreneur sort of jumps on Amazon, alright, it gives me a review and says, look, this is, just a really helpful book. I mean, That’s the main thing. So now I’m just really interested in terms of how it translates to international markets and particularly the US. There are US brands in the book, so hopefully, it is easy for any of the readers, wherever they are, to relate. And I think, you know, DTC being sort of what it is, the fundamentals of DTC are the same wherever you are in, Boston or Brighton in England, or Bangalore, or Bahrain, or wherever – it’s the same stuff. So, yeah, I’d be really keen now to hear what international readers think of it.

Adrian Tennant: And Mike, what are you working on right now?

Mike Stevens: So, after selling, uh, my business, I’ve been doing two things. One has been writing in the book. And the second thing is I consult, I also mentor, I advise, I write articles. I love consumer goods and especially challenger brands. It’s really why I’ve been doing it for 20-plus years. So I’m really happy to interact with or help anyone who’s trying to do something new with a physical product. So, anyone who’s listened to this who needs any help, you should come check me out.

Adrian Tennant: And how do you see the direct-to-consumer landscape evolving over the next two to three years?

Mike Stevens: I mean, I think DTC will continue to be harder, for sort of new entrants. And that is only because it’s so competitive, but there are things that are getting easier. Firstly, there’s so many great tools that a DTC company can use. I mean, even when we started, I mean, Shopify wasn’t really around you know, we didn’t use Shopify for the first sort of three or four years we were doing DTC, but the, you know, tools like Shopify and Klavyo are just fantastic for creating an ecosystem you can use to get going. Then it’s saying, you know, making sure that you’ve got the right products and the right marketing messages. I mean, that’s really up to you, but the tools are there. I also do think in the next few years, we will see a correction in digital marketing costs, and the reason I say that is it’s about supply and demand. I think as more and more businesses realize that they’re not getting the right returns, from digital marketing, the cost of acquisition, it’s just actually higher than they can support. And more brands will be looking at sort of a different marketing mix. and that will mean, you know, demand will go down on those channels. So I think, yeah, the cost will come down, whether they will be as effective or not, as they have been in the past, we will see. But I do think there will be a correction there. 

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

Mike Stevens: Yeah. So, a good place to start if you’re into DTC would be the book, so that is available and I know you’re gonna share some links, Adrian, so thank you for that. But in terms of getting in touch with me personally, which I love, so please do, you’ll find me on Twitter. My handle is @OpenMikeStevens. My website is Stevens.earth. And also, you know, I’m quite active on LinkedIn as well. So Mike J. Stevens or just search, Mike Stevens, Direct To Consumer Playbook or Mike Stevens, Peppersmith, you are sure to find me.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like a copy of The Direct To Consumer Playbook, you can save 20% when you purchase directly from the publishers online at KoganPage.com. Just add the promo code BIGEYE20 at the checkout. Mike, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Mike Stevens: It’s a pleasure. Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week. Mike Stevens, an expert in scaling direct-to-consumer brands and the author of The Direct To Consumer Playbook. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select Podcast from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

Jerry Daykin: If you activate in Pride Month, you’re really saying, “I’m a brand that’s here for LGBT rights and I really stand up for those consumers,” which is great if you do. But I think that comes with a bit of scrutiny about, like, “well, what are you actually doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Daykin: Yes!

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

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for June is The Direct To Consumer Playbook: The Stories and Strategies of the Brands that Wrote the DTC Rules, by Mike Stevens. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of The Direct To Consumer Playbook, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Daykin: Yeah, I’m quite prolific on Twitter and LinkedIn. So yeah, look for Jerry Daykin and either of those are @JDaykin on Twitter. Of course, yeah, the book is now available to pre-order on Kogan Page, So it’s out in October, but you can read all about it then. 

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to secure a copy, you can get a 20% discount when you pre-order online at KoganPage.com. Just add the promo code, BIGEYE20 at the checkout. Jerry, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jerry Daykin: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Jerry Daykin, Vice President and Head of Global Media at Beam Suntory, and the author of the book, Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters To Your Customers And Your Brand, which is due to be released in October of this year. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com, select Podcast from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

Bigeye recently released ENVISION 2022, an on-demand video exploring key findings from our report, Retail Disrupted. This week’s podcast is an extended interview with ENVISION guest Andy Sheldon, founder of the direct-to-consumer consultancy Think Straighter. During our interview, Andy shared insights from his tenure as Chief Creative Officer at Home Shopping Network and discussed where he sees untapped opportunities for DTC brands to leverage social live stream shopping.

Episode Transcript

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

Andy Sheldon: Engagement is the key to conversion. If you have a consumer base that’s engaged and will lean forward and be a part of your journey as you’re talking to them or selling to them, that’s an experience that can be very authentic and they trust.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. Last October, Bigeye published a market research report entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We recently released a video, ENVISION 2022, in which four experts discuss key findings from our study and explore some of the potential implications for retailers and brand marketers. Our podcast today is an extended interview with one of our guests for ENVISION 2022, who discussed his tenure as a creative executive at Home Shopping Network, where he spearheaded the reinvention of the brand. Andy Sheldon has over three decades of experience working in the TV, radio, and music industries and has led an array of startups and turnarounds building infrastructure, and re-engineering operations here in the U.S., as well as in the UK, where I first got to know Andy back in the early nineties. Today, Andy is the founder of Think Straighter, consulting with brands, helping them establish direct-to-consumer marketing strategies, and growing their in-house media and production capabilities. He also helps develop top-line sales strategies, and consumer and audience engagement, enhancing the long-term value of customers with brand development and growth strategies. Andy took a break from a vacation in California to join us for this conversation. [Music]

Adrian Tennant: Andy, it’s great to see you again. Thank you for joining us for ENVISION.

Andy Sheldon: Absolute pleasure, Adrian. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: You were at Home Shopping Network for approaching a decade, first as EVP of Television and then as Chief Creative Officer of HSNi and General Manager of HSN Productions. What were some of the highlights of your time there?

Andy Sheldon: You know, Adrian, it was an extraordinary time. We had just had a new CEO who came in, Mindy Grossman, and she invited me to come over from the UK and basically take over television and help her, along with the rest of the leadership team, reinvent what shopping television could be. That was a very big and somewhat daunting but incredibly exciting task. To be able to suddenly take what had been this incredibly established, beloved, shopping behemoth we wanted to be able to turn it into something that was going to be certainly different, not quite as perhaps dusty, give it a new twist, so it could be a little bit more energetic. We relaunched in a little under seven months and that was taking over five studios and completely changing them. Had to do it very carefully when you rebrand, something like an HSN that had at that point, I think it was almost 30 years that it had been around. You have to be super careful how you do it because you know, there’s a core audience and if you shock a core audience and they go “I don’t know what this is anymore. This doesn’t relate to me at all” you can lose your core audience and you can have terrible problems with top-line sales. So I think the highlights really were being able to turn the brand around, being able to take the core audience with us, being able having recreated the brand, literally from the ground up every single component of its look and its feel from the way the camera shots were being used, to music, to lighting, to sets, it was such a huge process and a project to do. But as a result of it, we were able to not only keep our core, start to develop new and younger customers, which was very important to the base in order to be able to get those sales. We were able to integrate with really well-known celebrities and incredibly big brands that would, prior to Mindy coming in and the new team that she bought in, I think it would have been impossible to have got some of those brands, but because we suddenly were no longer that dusted somewhat dated shopping experience, which was fantastic and doing great, but it would have at some point staled on people, we were able to, as a direct result of all of the changes that we’ve made, honestly, we were able to get some incredible brands. And I think that for me, whether it was working with the movie studios in Hollywood, with musicians doing live concerts, bringing in some of the biggest names in entertainment, I think that was really some of the most exciting stuff.

Adrian Tennant: Back in 1982, long before it was available to millions of households via satellite TV and cable, HSN started on a local Florida station. Today it’s available 24 hours a day, and anyone can view the channel on TV or on the website. Andy, what do you think is the main appeal of shopping TV for consumers?

Andy Sheldon: So I think it’s changed somewhat, but I think the foundational reason why shopping television has continued to be popular is simply because it’s a friend. So the hosts have been, for example, on HSN and QVC, they have had many of those hosts for many, many, many years. So for a core customer base, there’s a real trust. There’s companionship, there’s somewhat convenience, because there are certain things that I do believe that the consumer does, very specifically go into purchase. A lot of it is you know, flybuys, people that are flipping through the channels and they will stop on something and go, “that’s interesting”, continue to watch and then buy something that they didn’t necessarily know that they needed, but then they bought it and they really loved it. You know, as you rightly say, it started in a very small way, but it’s turned into this sort of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week beast. There’s education, there’s surprises. It’s a form of entertainment if you like that style of entertainment, and I think that’s why it has continued to be as successful, but it has to change, because people and the way that they are interacting with content is changing every single day.

Adrian Tennant: If a brand is interested in being featured on HSN or QVC, what steps do they typically have to take in order to be accepted?

Andy Sheldon: So it really depends upon the category that you’re in. For sure the buyers, and there is a massive buying team across the QVC HSN sort of networks, they’re incredibly experienced. They’re really good at what they do. And by that, what I mean is, they understand their customer. And understanding your customer, knowing what they will want to buy is super important. Sometimes, you can have a miss, and it doesn’t go as well, a particular product, as you were expecting. But generally speaking, I have to say the buyers are phenomenal. So to answer your question, it is all really down to the category. If you, for example, Adrian, were going to be launching a beauty brand and you were making claims about what it was doing to your skin, or any form of claim, before you can go on to shopping television and because it is television and you’re also digital with online sales, there are different regulations for what you can and cannot say. So if you’re going to make a claim, you better make certain that before you go to any one of these shopping channels, you better make certain that you’ve got your ducks in a row and that you can substantiate the claims that you’re making, because they will want that. So if it’s a beauty product or something that is making a claim, you’ve got to make certain that you’re prepared to answer the questions. If it’s a product that is not based on claims, but there’s no demonstrability, meaning it’s boring. It’s static, it’s a box. There’s not much you can do from a demonstration perspective, you need to think very hard about how you’re going to tell that story, to visually entice somebody that’s watching to be able to understand what it is you’re talking about and what you’re selling so that they can really understand the product and decide themselves if they want to buy it. So I think that they’re important components. And what you also need to understand is that when you go into something like an HSN QVC, it can be a life-changing business decision for you. Meaning if you are hugely successful, the revenues that you can derive as a direct result and the units you can sell, not insignificant, but you do have to be enormously careful that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket, find that sales slow down, and then, because you really were just relying on that income, you lose the opportunity to be able to go somewhere else because you’ve got yourself locked into something that isn’t working quite as well as you expect. So I think it’s a great medium to use, but you’ve got to be very careful how you do it. And I would say, just take the advice of the buyers, the merchants, at those networks, because they really know what they’re doing.

Adrian Tennant: According to Foresight Research, social livestream shopping is projected to reach $11 billion in the United States by the end of this year, rising to $25 billion next year. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are all hosting live streams for shopping. You’ll typically find the host is an influencer or celebrity who highlights a product on the stream, which viewers can purchase during the broadcast. Viewers can engage directly asking the host questions about the product during the live stream or chat with other viewers for their feedback and opinions. Andy, how is the appeal of livestream shopping different from the experience of home shopping via TV channels?

Andy Sheldon: I think you need to look at the medium of shopping via television. If you think about HSN, QVC, think about it as a shopping mall. When you go into a shopping mall, you have lots and lots of different shops selling all sorts of different categories of products. And you go into that shopping mall because you are going to go shopping. And if you think about shopping television, it’s very similar. Now, you don’t have the choice with shopping television to say, “actually, I don’t want clothes today. I’d like to have jewelry.” You can do that online because you can go into any one of those categories and those brands online. But when you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping television. So, as I say, think about it as a mall and there are many, many different ways that you can buy products, lots of different brands, lots of different celebrities, all under one channel. When you look at live shopping, using social, you’re really going there very deliberately. It’s highly likely that you’re not flipping by and finding it. It’s more likely that you were alerted through social media, that there was an event that was going to be going on and that you went there specifically and deliberately to go shopping. And you’re right, very often it’s going to be influencers and celebrities that are going to be using that medium. So I think that there’s room for both, for sure, but they are very different and I think that there is going to be, as it continues to grow this livestream shopping, I think there is going to be rebalancing to a certain extent, because when you’re shopping from HSN or QVC, there’s a real trust, right? You trust the product is going to arrive on time. You trust that if there’s an issue that you can return it and there’s not going to be an issue. And you trust the information that you’re being given by the shopping television host or the guest is accurate so that you can make an informed decision and then decide to buy the product. So the net net is I think the two of them are here to stay for a period of time but I think that what we will start to see is this livestream shopping, which will be specific at a moment in time will continue to grow. But I think there are going to be some growing pains with it because there’s a lot of backend work that needs to be done from an operational perspective that QVC and HSN have got completely tied up, they know exactly what they’re doing.

Adrian Tennant: Skeptics might say that it’s not surprising that livestream shopping took off precisely when people couldn’t actually go to real stores and were doom scrolling social media doing lockdowns. But we’ve also seen major brands and retailers jumping in, including Amazon with its shoppable offering at Amazon Live. Andy, do you think live stream shopping has real staying power?

Andy Sheldon: For sure. I think being able to shop conveniently the way that you want to, I think, undoubtedly is going to be here to stay. And when you think about content and the consumption of content, the sheer amount of it that exists today, I have no doubt that livestream shopping will be here for a very long time. However, not all things are created equal and I think that, when you have livestream shopping, the audience are not going to be tolerant, in my opinion, of sitting and watching the same product being held up and talked about for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, which is what can happen on shopping television. So I think that based upon the very nature that the social media platforms and the other forms, I think Amazon is very similar, frankly, to shopping television. They’re almost doing the same things slightly differently, but the live streaming of social shopping, I think is going to be here for a long time. Now you’re right. For infomercials, for home shopping, for digital live streaming, when people were stuck at home and there was nothing, frankly, they could do, you saw sales exponentially increase across all of the platforms. It did great for them as did, of course, home deliveries for food and so on. So I think that the bottom line is don’t be too skeptical about this. I think it’s here to stay. I just think the forms in which it is going to change into and how the consumer is going to participate with it will also be changing. And I think that this will change reasonably quickly over the next sort of 24 months.

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


Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022.

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse construct, as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, that the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. to not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complementary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice, but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping teller.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s Envision 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a conversation with Andy Sheldon, founder of the consultancy, Think Straighter, and formerly Chief Creative Officer for Home Shopping Network. Andy was a guest on Bigeye’s, recent ENVISION 2022 video event.

[Music]

Adrian Tennant: Most recently, you’ve been advising brands on how to establish direct-to-consumer operations and leverage this new landscape of streaming services and social shopping. What are some of the issues that you’re finding are top of mind for brand owners right now?

Andy Sheldon: So before I said that not all things created equal when it comes to content. And, I think that what I’m experiencing and a lot of brands are really feeling at the moment is the need to pivot and start using content in a much more pervasive way than what has already been established as the norm. And because not all things are created equal, how you watch content on say YouTube is going to be very different from Instagram, which is going to be different from TikTok. What I’m seeing is that brands today are definitely struggling with the notion that they have to be spending marketing dollars in a different way. And making content is not necessarily the easiest thing to do if you overthink it. But the truth of the matter is that whether you have a new iPhone, max pro that’s 4k ability for filming, giving you really good, high resolution picture and sound quality. What you have from a content play is the need to think through, and this is where companies I say, I think are struggling somewhat, you have to think through what is the content going to be that’s going to be on TikTok, or on Instagram, and how different that needs to be presented and created to the content that you might be wanting to put somewhere else or even on your own website. So I think the companies are struggling again against having to spend marketing dollars differently. There are actually bigger spends that now have to be made, don’t fall into the trap, and I urge anybody that’s thinking of making content. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that content has to cost a fortune. It doesn’t. In fact, if you really want to be creating content that is believable, that the consumer or the fan base is able to look at and go, they really strategically can feel and understand what’s being said is authentic. Keep it simple. But if a product needs to be demonstrated, if somebody needs to understand why this product versus another product or how to operate something, bear in mind that there is a sort of a reasonably strict code here, which is: feature, benefit, and what’s in it for me? What’s the feature of the product that you want to talk about? How does that benefit the consumer’s life? And what’s in it for them, if they were to buy it, that you can help them understand that by spending that bit of money is going to really just, in some way, enhance their day-to-day experience.

Adrian Tennant: In our Retail Disrupted report, we highlighted the importance of social media in brand discovery and the role that influencers play in the customer journey. With relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use technology theoretically enabling anyone with a smartphone to live stream to their followers on social media, do you foresee more consumers becoming influencers?

Andy Sheldon: I think it’s inevitable that there’s going to be a growth, Adrian, in this world of talking to and directly selling to a consumer or a fan base. I think there is a certain amount of, I was going to say a misunderstanding, but I think people expect social influencers to be really much more impactful than they sometimes are in connecting audiences to a product. And just because somebody who’s got a very large following in social says, “you should buy this”, doesn’t mean that their base is going to do that. And a very good reason for that engagement is the key to conversion. If you have a consumer base that’s engaged and will lean forward and be a part of your journey as you’re talking to them or selling to them, that’s an experience that can be very authentic and they trust. You can have a very large base of people that are ultimately following an influencer, but they’re not that engaged. They’re following, they want to see what they’re doing, but they don’t care very much if they say they should buy something or go somewhere. And so I think that what will happen is they will continue to be a growth. There will continue, of course, to be high sales that are going to come from the right influencers at the right time. I think that will continue to grow, but if it becomes so saturated and if everybody is trying to do that, there will be a certain amount of a disingenuous experience. I think consumers are gonna feel they’re not going to trust as much. And I think it could taper off a little.

Adrian Tennant: Today, many of the channels that were once part of cable and satellite TV bundles, including Disney, Discovery, and HBO have established standalone streaming services with, of course, a direct-to-consumer subscription model. Since you left, how well do you think HSN, QVC, and other shopping TV channels are responding to new consumer behaviors and media preferences?

Andy Sheldon: I think they have work to do. There is so much choice of content today and prior to the pandemic, what was very clearly happening and it was happening, in fact, before I left HSN, was, you could see the overnight viewership had declined, which was part of everyday sales for live television shopping. You know, who would be, you know, wanting to buy something at 3:00 AM? Well, if you’re awake and you’re flipping through the channels, really the shopping channels where the only real live where a human being was talking to another human being experience that gave people company. That really has changed and it’s changed because of all of the options that viewers have now, where they can go on to, as you say to Disney plus, or go onto Netflix, go to Amazon, whatever they’re doing, there is a plethora of really great content on demand that you can see whenever you want it. So I think that, from an HSN QVC perspective, this linear experience of a product that you just may be flipping through and are not interested in, or you’re waiting to see what the next product is going to be. And you’re waiting 10, 15, 20 minutes to see what that product is going to be. I think those days are going to soon come to a close. I don’t think consumers have necessarily got the capacity to sit for that length of time, watching the same sell go on and on and on. So I think that what QVC and HSN have got to do, and I sort of revert back a little bit to what I was suggesting earlier is, they’ve got this incredible platform. It’s a marketing platform that goes into over a hundred million homes. That marketing platform could be used in a very different way, creating some forms of entertainment and monetization, but to drive consumers to the dotcom experience because at the dotcom experience, that’s where you have real control and you can choose what you want and when you want it. So I think that’s what will probably happen at Adrian over the next short period.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have any presentation tips for anyone that’s interested in presenting their own social shopping livestreams?

Andy Sheldon: I do. I have always believed, and I use this as my mantra, I did it for a long time in England: Be real. I was a disc jockey on the radio, and a television host. And the truth of the matter is that a lot of people, when they think about being a DJ, they sort of put on the DJ voice and they sort of turn into something that they’re really not. My opinion is it is far, far better to be authentic. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t oversell. Don’t say that everything is the best or the greatest. You’ve got to be real because consumers today have the ability to instantly check on what you’re saying, to see whether or not it’s accurate. And so it is vital that if you want to be trusted as somebody that’s going to be using social, to engage with your base, to sell something: Be authentic, be real. Don’t overly sell it because consumers are smart enough to know what they do and do not want. And tell the truth because the truth, ultimately, is the most important part of somebody buying a product, because if they get something at home and it’s not what they thought it was going to be, they’ll send it back. And that creates all sorts of other problems for you. So keep it simple, feature and benefit, tell me why it’s good for me, be real. And I think they would be the tips that I would give you.

Adrian Tennant: Andy, what is one aspect of retailing, whether online, in stores, or on TV that you think is most likely to be disrupted or look completely different by 2030?

Andy Sheldon: My gut feeling is that there will be an evolution and a continuous growth in the live streaming and shopping television. And I think that it will morph and it will change. I don’t think it’s going to be extreme. I think shopping television channels, like an HSN or QVC, they have still a lot of modernization that they need to do, and they really should be using, in my opinion, that television platform as a marketing vehicle to drive people to a lot more content that’s online. But I think the biggest change is going to come in brick-and-mortar retail. I think that there is going to need to be a different form of storytelling. There’s got to be a far, far better digital experience so the consumer is able to have as much of an insight into products and being able to shop conveniently, whether they’re going to the same store on the high street, in the shopping mall, or if they’re going online. So I think the biggest changes that you’re going to start to see are going to be with some of the, you know, the big high street retailers, because they really have no choice, frankly, if they want to compete with digital sales.

Adrian Tennant: Andy, thank you very much for sharing your insights with us for ENVISION.

Andy Sheldon: Been an absolute pleasure and thank you for asking me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to our guest this week, Andy Sheldon, founder of the consultancy Think Straighter. You can learn more about Andy and his services on the website at ThinkStraighter.com. As always, you’ll also find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com, where you’ll also find more details about Bigeye’s ENVISION 2022 on-demand video. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian’s Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

The LGBTQ economy is changing advertising, and provides many creators with a viable alternative to traditional employment. Guest Nick Wolny is a prolific writer and the founder of Camp Wordsmith, a business and writing incubator for entrepreneurs. Nick offers advice for anyone considering becoming an independent creator, and explains the LGBTQ economy is pushing the importance of values and ethics within brands. Nick also shares his views on artificial intelligence-based writing tools.

Episode Transcript

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

Nick Wolny: For gay men, there are two inflection points that happen in our lives. The first is the coming out process. And then the second is you know, actually the self-acceptance process and not feeling like you have to overcompensate for everything.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. Back in January, the writer, Nick Wolny, was our guest to talk about the creator economy. Nick is the founder of Camp Wordsmith, a business and writing incubator for entrepreneurs. He also writes approximately 200 articles a year for Business Insider, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur magazine among many others. In addition, he somehow manages to find the time to publish a weekly email newsletter. Today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS includes highlights from our first conversation as well as previously unpublished material. To discuss his life as a solopreneur and share his personal observations about the LGBTQ economy, Nick joined us from his office in Los Angeles. [MUSIC]

Adrian Tennant: Nick, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Nick Wolny: Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

Adrian Tennant: So Nick, what led you to your career as a writer?

Nick Wolny: Well, it’s funny that now I’m doing mainly writing, because my background could not be more opposite from what I’m doing today, which I think is probably a lot of people these days, actually. My background is that I went to music school. I went to school for classical music. I have two degrees in classical French horn, which is, quite unemployable as a degree as I soon discovered. But what was valuable in that is that in music school, or if anyone, you know, played a sport at an elite level growing up, anything like that, you focus a lot about practice and mastery of a craft or of a particular skill. There’s much more of an emphasis on developing skill, rather than just getting a piece of sheepskin that you can pin to the wall and tell everyone that you’re smart, right? Like you’re training to develop real time application. So when I started to get involved more and more in digital marketing, marketing consulting, in my foray into consulting was brick and mortar fitness studios. What we found is that, you know, working on copywriting and working on marketing strategies that were really writing based yielded a really good results. And I think that’s kind of countercurrent to what we often hear in marketing, which is the video is everything. Writing is still cool. Writing is still cool, everyone. And I think that the writing piece, what drew me to it as well is that writing is a craft. It requires practice. It requires skill, and fluency, having a way with words and developing a way with words. I also think what comes up a lot for us as professionals is that we think of ourselves as good writers or that we already can handle writing. Perhaps we wrote term papers or things like that in university. And then we go to write some content, and they’ve just start to fall flat on our face with that. Right? Like it is a skill, it’s a, it’s a muscle to be developed. It atrophies when you don’t work on it, when you don’t flex it or exercise it. And so all of the different modalities for creating marketing think writing is what really attracted me. And a lot of it’s based in that skill-building essence, yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Nick, you write and publish around 200 articles a year. That’s a lot of content. How do you generate ideas?

Nick Wolny: Now what I’ll say is I’m not a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan! I understand that Gary Vaynerchuk is all about being everywhere all the time. I’ve kind of mixed feelings about that. He does say something though that I think is really valuable and he says is “document, don’t create.” And I think what often happens when we get into content creation, particularly as this creator economy energy has really begun to surge, in our internet landscape, people get in their heads a lot about content creation and having to have it be especially rigorous with regard to research and making it more difficult than it needs to be. And so if you take the mentality of “document, don’t create,” just going in and capturing the things you’re already doing, the things you’re already saying with your clients, with your audience, with your peers, with your customers, that can be a really easy way to get into flow. You’re already pulling from your own expertise, your own experiences. If you just sat down and you spoke with a client about three recommendations for their strategy on Instagram, those three things that you just recommended, that’s content, you know what you’re doing with your clients and what you’re doing for your audience each day. Simply the documentation of that can often be the easiest way to break loose with regard to being more prolific with content creation.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Well, with that many articles to publish across multiple outlets, what does your content planning process look like?

Nick Wolny: For writing for different publications or writing on Medium, or perhaps even my personal email list, the first thing that we look at when we want to separate out the different types of content is we look at what the verticals are going to be for these different publications. So for me, writing for different media outlets, what I’m going to write for Entrepreneur magazine is obviously going to be squarely in the field of entrepreneurship, solopreneurship, WANTrepreneurship! A lot of Entrepreneur magazine’s readership is people who are not yet entrepreneurs, but they want to be someday, right? They want those more entrepreneurial tips, but they are still an employee, or if you’re a manager or an executive. That’s fine. And then you have an outlet like Fast Company, which is going to be much more focused on creativity, innovation, productivity, and new approaches to classic problems. And so we first look at that, that kind of helps me determine what I’m going to write for which outlets. And also, I think more importantly, what content is not going to work for certain outlets, and how I need to be planning that accordingly. The other big piece is I want to make sure that I don’t, fry myself, right. It’s a lot of articles! I get that it’s a lot of articles. And so in terms of pacing it to ensure that I don’t get stacked up with too many deadlines in a given week, for example, I’ll plan, maybe three to four weeks ahead at most, just so that I can keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening on the internet and in the creator economy landscape. Looking specifically at what do I have to complete each week? What has to be turned in by a certain time? What deadlines are flexible and which deadlines are not flexible? for anyone who’s pitching media on a regular basis, anything like that, something else that I try to do with editors is once I’ve developed a rapport with an editor pitching multiple articles at once. Saying, “Hey, I’m planning out my quarter. Here are eight article ideas that I have, and here are the deadlines that I would project having them done by. Do you like this? Should we proceed in this way? Are any of these a ‘yes.’ Are any of these a ‘no’?” And almost every single time, the first thing the editor will say is ” thank you for doing this so that we have some semblance of planning.” And then the other piece is, “okay, let’s do it, let’s make it happen.” And so that kind of forms the skeleton of my editorial calendar and my content planning. What are the things that have non-negotiable deadlines? Those things come first. And then I will build some of my other writing efforts around those deadlines to ensure that I don’t have a week where I hate my life with regard to how much stuff is due by Friday afternoon.

Adrian Tennant: Today, you’re the founder and CEO of Camp Wordsmith, a business and writing incubator for entrepreneurs. What inspired you to start the business?

Nick Wolny: So the first thing I’ll say is that I think there is a shift happening in the creator economy and online entrepreneurship landscape. Historically, we’ve had a lot of activity happening at the opposite ends of the spectrum. You have a lot of people who are doing low ticket, online courses, trip wires, other information products that are low in price, you get to whet your appetite a little bit in terms of learning about, someone in particular. We look at platforms like Udemy or Skillshare or Masterclass that have really exploded over the last couple of years with these low ticket, information product style offers. So you had a lot of activity happening there, and then you have a lot of activity happening at the very high end, right? Done for you services, agency services, one-on-one coaches, business coaches, VIP days, lots of intense one-on-one activity for a higher price point. And historically, there’s been kind of a gap in terms of that group program experience or having an accelerator experience where you’re working on the business, or you’re working on growing your platform and you want some handholding. But you don’t need someone to feed you the baby food with a spoon, right? You’re just wanting a little bit of guidance. You can ride the tricycle, or the bicycle with the training wheels on it, but you want someone to push you along the way. Adrian, I’m seeing how many analogies I can smash into this one response. So the idea of that, and in my experience as well with regard to digital marketing, is that it would either be these lower ticket courses or it was these higher end copywriting or digital marketing build out services. And I wanted something in between, that people were saying that they wanted, they wanted my eyes on what they were doing. They wanted a small, intimate community of people like them who are at a similar stage of business to where they are. So Camp Wordsmith, it’s intended for coaches, consultants, and creators. It’s a business and writing incubator. So we focus on writing, improving your output of writing, but at the end of the day, we want that content to drive toward an offer of some type. There’s a lot of writing energy online that is a little bit more influencer-focused or perhaps, you know, even like having an online diary and there’s not enough conversation happening about how written content leads to sales: how written content leads to landing more clients, making more money, being able to measure your content marketing efforts effectively, right? We want that feedback. We want those metrics. and so having an incubator, having a group program container that is specifically writing focused, that’s the intention of the program. It also speaks to my music school background. My experience was always that when I went to summer camp for music, I was there with other people who were working on getting better, together. Even if people play different instruments and they were taking different classes over the course of the summer, whatever. People were there to get better together, you loved being there, there was a rapport and you were improving your craft, your skillset that you were there to work on. And so that’s really the spirit of the business as well.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Well, when we talk about the creator economy, many of us, think of influencers, YouTubers, Instagram, and TikTok, but there are also platforms for writers. Now, before we get into those, what do you see as the main differences between the so-called “gig economy” and the “creator economy?

Nick Wolny: I think there’s a lot of crossover between the two of them. Probably the biggest difference I see is that if someone is pursuing the creator economy, they need an audience. With the gig economy, you don’t necessarily need an audience, right? You can go on Fiverr. You can go on Upwork. People make good money on Upwork, right? If they have a very niche skillset, that’s in demand. And even LinkedIn recently announced that they’re going to be building out a freelancers’ platform, a jobs platform within LinkedIn itself. With those different platforms, you don’t need to necessarily have an audience, you just need to have something that people want, a skill that people want to outsource, right? That’s the only prerequisite. If you have a track record, that’s certainly going to help. If you have a portfolio of past happy clients, that’s certainly going to help. But the need for a specific audience, that is reading about your methodology and your perspectives on a regular basis is not necessary to be successful in the gig economy. People are still going to order their Uber’s and their Lyfts, regardless of who’s driving. With the creator economy, on the other hand, you do have this need for an audience. You’re sharing a perspective, you are sharing an opinion. You are seeking out a lane and looking to be a presence in that particular niche. And then from that audience, from that engaged, critical mass of followers, that’s where you’re able to take it in wherever direction that you want to take it. Some people want to be influencers. They just want absolutely as many eyeballs as possible, and they want to then monetize the access to those eyeballs that’s totally fine. And you’ve got other people who are more in the space of, what I like to call infopreneurs, right? That would be myself. Having people in my audience who want to do business similar to how I do business, or they want to learn something specific about writing or about email marketing, something very writing based. And they’re gonna follow me for that. I’m a subject matter expert in their eyes for that reason, so they want to purchase something from me. They want to hand me some dollars later on. My presence, my opinion, and my perspectives are part of what have led them to make that decision. Whereas with the gig economy, they just want their Uber so that they can get to the club at a reasonable hour, right? So I, I think that’s the biggest difference that, that I see at my end, from a 10,000 foot view.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash the Power of Your Brand to Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Influencing Shopper Decisions, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022.

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse construct, as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, that the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. to not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complementary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice, but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping teller.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s Envision 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to an interview with the writer, Nick Wolny, who joined us back in January of this year. In this previously unpublished interview, Nick discusses the LGBTQ economy and how being a part of the queer community has influenced Nick’s approach to business. [MUSIC]

Adrian Tennant: In an article from last year, published on entrepreneur.com, you wrote that being gay is one of your most powerful weapons. How so?

Nick Wolny: Well, I think the first piece of it is the coming out process, right? You know, for me, there was a stage of life where I was not out of the closet. And then I had this inflection point in which I was coming out of the closet. And it’s a rip the bandaid off experience. It is awful for the first 70 times you do it, right. And there’s just a lot of self-reflection that happens before, during, and after that process. Um, you know, for me, it was really easy to catastrophize the potential consequences of all of that. There’s a book by a psychologist named Alan Downs called The Velvet Rage, talking a lot about how, for gay men, there are two inflection points that happen in our lives. The first is the coming out process. And then the second is you know, actually the self acceptance process and not feeling like you have to overcompensate for everything, to, kind of make up for this inherent part of yourself, um, who you are as a person. I think another piece of it is that you often have to develop a chosen family. People have varying degrees of family relatedness after their coming out process. And unfortunately for some people, the subsequent family relatedness is that they’re not related to their family anymore. Their family doesn’t want to be connected to them anymore. And so they have to sort of rebuild their definition of family, what family means to them. And with that comes choice and intention. And so I think for me personally, anyway, that process of determining, “okay, who am I going to be around and why?” and “how am I going to redefine the word family for myself?” Um, you know, it just causes you to discern who you want to be around, what you want to be around, what you’re going to let in, what you’re not going to let in. And I think a lot of that carries over into entrepreneurship. You have resolve, you have intention with what you’re doing, and you absolutely need that when you’re in the hot seat. Even if you’re in management, you’re an executive, you know, or if you’re an entrepreneur or a CEO or a founder, there is a degree of discernment that happens. And when it’s already happened in your personal life, whether it’s a coming out process or otherwise, that often carries over into your work aspirations in my experience.

Adrian Tennant: In that same article you wrote for Entrepreneur magazine, you sought out perspectives on resilience by conducting interviews with several members of the LGBTQ community. Nick, what did you learn from your research?

Nick Wolny: A big theme that came up that was really interesting was resilience and also how being out and proud or being this fully realized version of yourself, was part of the vision for a lot of these different founders, right? They wanted to feel fully expressed. They wanted to, in most, if not all cases, be free from any kind of corporate dynamic, any kind of corporate situation where who they were as a person was going to potentially impact their trajectory in life, and their future. And so being able to step in and call the shots for yourself, you know, for many of us, we ended up becoming entrepreneurs because of something we’re passionate about, or we’re interested in pursuing, or we want a higher degree of control over our careers or our work lives or our personal lives. And I think for several of these founders or these CEOs, it wasn’t just that they wanted to do that, it’s that they needed to do it. Like they actually needed to do it. They weren’t going to have the same degree of opportunities or wealth trajectory or visibility even, if they were to stay in the systems or in the corporate environments that they were currently in. It just kind of left things up to chance, right? Like if their new manager didn’t like who they were as a person, there’s like a loss of control there over your career and over your work life that you don’t have in entrepreneurship, right? You don’t have that when you’re the boss. There are plenty of other really fricking hard things that come up when you’re the CEO, but that isn’t one of them. Like you have the locus of control back in your court. And that was the most consistent theme that came up, um, in the research for that particular article.

Adrian Tennant: Gallup’s February 2021 update on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identification found that 5.6% of US adults identify as LGBT up from 4.5% in Gallup’s previous update, which was based on 2017 data. The 2021 data also showed that one in every six adults belonging to generation Z considers themselves LGBT. Nick, do you see the LGBT economy evolving to reflect these data points?

Nick Wolny: Absolutely. I think on a macro level, people care about the values of the brands that they work with. You see consumers much more interested in where corporations are, donating dollars potentially to different political organizations, things like that. There has never been a time where consumers cared more about the values and ethics of the companies that they purchase from. And so I think on that level, that definitely within the LGBTQ economy, there’s a shift happening there. There’s just a shift in buying styles in that way. I think also we’re seeing a lot of different layers within the LGBTQ experience and it’s a pleasant surprise. It’s exciting to now get to this point where people are aware that LGBTQ means more than one thing, considering the, the phenomenon of rainbow washing, for example, which is that, you know, we have these pride parades. We were, how are having these pride parades and they’re great. But it’s kind of like a superficial way of saying, “we care about you. We care about your experience.” But my experience as a white gay cisgender man is very different than someone else’s experience within the LGBTQ community. And we’re just starting to realize from a consumer perspective that there are all of these different subcultures and sub experiences, things like that. And just an increased appreciation for that. I also think in terms of the numbers and in terms of the needle moving, I mean, we know that sexuality is a spectrum. The Kinsey scale first came out in the 1940s. This is not new information, but it appears that there’s like a normalization happening. You know, for Gen Z to self-identify as queer in those numbers indicates a degree of normalization, regarding sexuality and gender identity that I don’t think we had in previous generations. And so with that level of comfort and looking at what younger generations like Gen Z are looking for in brands and in organizations as they become working adults with disposable income, I think that that will actually cause the LGBTQ economy to really expand in a lot of different ways. So it’s exciting to see how it’s going to play out.

Adrian Tennant: So Nick, how has being part of the queer community shaped you as an entrepreneur?

Nick Wolny: Well, I think a lot of entrepreneurship feels like activism in a way. You see that there are needs, and you see forces that are preventing those needs from being met. And then you get to decide whether you’re going to do something about that. Like, are you going to sit on the sidelines and let it happen, or are you actually going to get on the court and start to take action towards creating the changes that you want to see? And that is how activists are operating. And that is also often how entrepreneurs are operating. They see that a need for change exists and that if they’re just sitting on the sidelines, nothing’s going to be done, nothing’s going to happen, nothing’s going to change. And that they’re fed up with that. And so I think that drawing on that drawing on, the lived experience of “this is important. I need to take action. If I’m not taking action, nothing’s happening, nothing’s gonna move the needle is not going to move. No one else is going to do it. I’m going to step in and do it.” That really helps to stay proactive, I think. And, and to not, uh, sit back on your heels and to not take anything for granted, and I think also even going back to what you were speaking about earlier, Adrian, one of the challenges of the LGBTQ economy is that we just don’t have a lot of data. You even look at things like the United States census. We’re at the beginning of documenting the experience of LGBTQ people, just even being acknowledged we exist, you know. Nielsen added LGBTQ couples into their household demographics only recently, I believe certainly within the last 10 years, if not sooner than that. We don’t have much information about trans and non-binary entrepreneurs and, what they’re making, and what the size of their payroll is, and stuff like that. It hasn’t been that level of data and that’s not granular in that way. You know, we have that data for, women. We have that data for BIPOC entrepreneurs. We are still in an emerging stage with getting that information from the LGBTQ community. And so I think as more and more of that is done and published, and more data appears that can really help people get a clear picture on how the two of those things connect.

Adrian Tennant: Nick, what are you working on next in your business?

Nick Wolny: Two words, Camp Wordsmith. We spent a lot of 2021 iterating, testing different frameworks, working with clients and determining what leads to results. And what emerged from that was this program, camp wordsmith. I don’t think there are a lot of other things like it on the market right now. There are loads of courses I could throw my coffee mug right now down the hallway and probably hit six online courses on the way down. You know, it’s not a course and it’s not a full-out one-on-one coaching or agency services. It’s in between. It’s the best of both worlds. Often what happens when people purchase high ticket group programs is that you get intimacy with the face of the program on a webinar or on a sales call. And then you sign up, you fork over your $5,000 or whatever, and then you are dumped into a VAT of prerecorded content and you’re told thanks for the dollars. Good luck, sayonara. See you later, right? Here’s a Facebook group where you can ask some questions and get answers from your peers. And so you know, that’s not enough support. That’s actually still not enough support. There is going to be an emerging interest in incubator programs and accelerator programs, particularly as you have millions of people who are now thinking about the creator economy, maybe they resigned from their job and they are getting started with their online business. They are in the process of buying a $20 course here, buying a $20 course there. They’re in that process right now. In a year or two, they’re going to be like, okay, you know what? I need a little bit more handholding. I’ve got some traction. I need a little bit of assistance, a little bit of help. And so, I’m gonna enroll in an accelerator or in an incubator of some kind. And now we’re ready to tell everyone in their mom about this program. We think it’s fantastic and yeah, and I think that it’s going to be a pleasure to have some other fellow business and writing nerds, here in our corner, writing quickly and well and getting monetary results along the way.

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

Nick Wolny: Thank you so much for having me. This has been great.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been listening to an encore episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS with guest, Nick Wolny. To learn more about Nick, his writing, and Camp Wordsmith, go to the website at NickWolny.com. The transcript for this episode is posted on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com – just select Podcast. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

Bigeye recently released ENVISION 2022, an on-demand video exploring key findings from our report, Retail Disrupted. This week’s podcast is an extended interview with ENVISION guest Ingrid Milman-Cordy, who leads digital marketing and e-commerce for Seattle-based Nuun Hydration. During our interview, Ingrid shared surprising insights about channel strategy, Nuun’s e-commerce tech stack, and why she believes the metaverse and Web3 offer brand marketers exciting opportunities.

Episode Transcript

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

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are meeting your consumer where they are is important. And I think one of the things that has unlocked a lot of growth for Nuun is to not think about our channels as competitives to each other but thinking about them as complimentary.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by BIGEYE: A strategy- led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We recently released a video, ENVISION 2022, in which four experts discuss key findings from our study, and explore some of the potential implications for retailers and brand marketers. Our podcast today is an extended interview with one of our guests for ENVISION 2022, who discussed how a direct-to-consumer brand originally developed for endurance athletes successfully adopted an omnichannel approach, entered mass retailers, and expanded its line to attract a broader range of consumers. Our guest is the e-commerce expert, Ingrid Millman-Cordy, who’s held leadership roles in and built digital platforms for companies including Estee Lauder, Ann Taylor LOFT, and e.l.f. Cosmetics. Ingrid also spent some time agency-side, as the senior producer of digital marketing at Barbarian, working with brands like Clinique, Sam Edelman, and John Barbados. Ingrid is currently the head of digital and e-commerce for Nuun Hydration and produces and hosts the Future Commerce podcast, Infinite Shelf. For this conversation, Ingrid joined us from her home in Seattle, Washington.

[MUSIC]

Adrian Tennant: Ingrid, thank you for joining us for ENVISION.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Hello. I’m so happy to be here.

Adrian Tennant: So Ingrid, what drew you to a career in digital marketing and e-commerce?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Oh, well, it definitely was not a straight line mostly because when I was in college, that wasn’t a thing. It didn’t exist. So actually, I have an economics degree and my first job out of school was at Goldman Sachs because that’s what I thought, you know, people with economics degrees do. But I didn’t work in banking or anything like that, I worked in technology because that’s always been something that I’ve been really, really interested in doing. And then I realized that, while I was at Goldman, we had built one of the first, like, consumer-focused web experiences. So for the clients at Goldman Sachs, they were able to finally not get everything mailed to them in paper, they could interact on the internet with their brokers and that was revolutionary at the time, not to date myself, but it was. And, what I realized was I really loved creating web experiences for people, but I didn’t really love banking so much. And so I went ahead and actually took a role at the Estee Lauder Companies and I was there for about six years. And that’s really where I quote-unquote “grew up” in e-commerce and then digital and I had a few different roles there while I was growing up and understanding the world. And I started sort of on the platform side, cause that’s where my skill set was like in technology and building features. And then I moved on to helping brands specifically. So I did all four of the MAC and Rihanna partnerships, and that was where I got bitten by the brand and the marketing bug. And so when you combine the technology experience and the love for brands and brand experiences and marketing, that sort of where you get into digital marketing and that’s where I am.

Adrian Tennant: Well today, you’re the head of digital and e-commerce for Nuun Hydration. Could you tell us a bit about the company and the scope of your responsibilities there?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Sure. So, Nuun hydration was started about 15 years ago and it was a very niche, at that time, product for triathletes, marathon runners, people who were identified, not just as a hobby, but just as their entire identity as endurance athletes. And at the time, there was a lot of need for being able to separate your hydration needs from sugars and carbohydrates, because the biggest, sort of most well-known, and most used hydration product – that was, aside from water – was Gatorade. And Gatorade is great, except they hadn’t figured out how to separate the sugars and the carbohydrates from the electrolytes, which you need. And so the innovation was born from there and that actually endurance athletes need. And I would say for the first like 10 years of Nuun, you could only really get it at sports specialty stores, maybe even like an REI and then eventually Whole Foods. And now, we realized that the need for hydration is so much greater. And so it’s now becoming available for regular consumption: people just putting it into their waters and we’ve expanded our product portfolio into products that have immunity components for electrolyte replenishment and vitamins and things like that. We’re still very much supporting of, and in the industry of endurance athletes, but we’ve expanded our product portfolio to hydration needs as a whole. So that’s what Nuun does. And we were bought by Nestle Health Science in 2021, which I think is going to continue to unlock a lot of access to the general public, and really our mission hasn’t changed from enabling movement. We’re just enabling movement for all types of people, not just endurance athletes. So that’s Nuun. My part of that puzzle is I own the digital and e-commerce experience of connecting with our brand and transacting with our brand online in the most fundamental sense. So NuunLife.com is within my world as well as any kind of e-commerce. So whether it’s on Amazon.com or ThriveMarket, which are both pure-play ecommerce, for the most part. And then also retailer.com, so walmart.com, target.com. All of those. So anytime you transact online for e-commerce that falls within my jurisdiction at Nuun.

Adrian Tennant: Got it. Ingrid, what does your tech stack at Nuun Hydration look like?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: We mostly rely on Google Analytics and we actually now with, the Nestle Health Science connection, we have GA 360 for the first time and DV 360 and DM 360 and all of that, which is great. We’re starting to use Segment as a CDP and we use a bunch of other things to help, connect, creating quizzes, and things like that. We have little plugins from Shopify that you can use. But yeah, the big pillar ones that we interact with every day are just like the Shopify Plus platform and then Klaviyo, Yappo, Attentive, that kind of thing. 

Adrian Tennant: What are some of your favorite e-commerce tools or plugins that your team probably couldn’t live without?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Oh, man. Frankly, all three of those that I just named my team could not live without. The entire loyalty program is on Yappo and that’s a really big one for us. We love it. Klayvio is just incredibly easy to use and to look at your data and understand your customer segments and things like that. I think both of those, and then frankly, so we just launched Attentive about a year ago for SMS and my initial concern was, oh, it’s just going to cannibalize your email revenue streams. And in fact, it’s been pretty incremental. So Attentive SMS has been a pretty big win for us and they’re really easy to use. And I think our team really enjoys working with their team. It’s been really good. Oh, the other one that’s important to talk about, I think is Recharge. So we use Recharge for our subscriptions.

Adrian Tennant: Well, as you mentioned, Nuun Hydration did start life as a direct-to-consumer brand focused primarily on endurance athletes. It’s since broadened its product range and now has national distribution in mass retailers, including Target. So from your standpoint, what advice do you have for other brands that want to grow their customer base through physical retail distribution? 

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Yeah, there’s probably a good couple of hours that we can spend on this particular topic. I think broad strokes, one thing that I think has kept Nuun true to its brand and true to its audience as it can be is that we have not compromised on our values. And our values are clean planet. So we are never going to ship you know, ready-to-drink water because that’s just really impactful on the environment. It’s also using single use plastic, which we’re also not fans of. We sell plastic tubes but there are 10 uses in here and it’s fully recyclable except for the top. So you just pull off the top and we’re even, we’re working on that. So that’s another big thing that we have the opportunity to do, with a bigger company backing us. So again, these are principles that you have to know what makes your brand and what brought those really loyal consumers who self-identify as Nuunies and being part of the Nuun-iverse is actually a thing. Like I was at the DMV the other day, and I was wearing my mask that had a little Nuun logo on it. And the guy who was helping me at the DMV was like, “Oh, you’re part of the Nuuniverse! Cool.” And it was just like the coolest, funniest little interaction. And so you have to figure out what draws that emotion out of your consumers and just never take your eyes off of that, regardless of whether you’re continuing to be direct to consumer or when you eventually hopefully, you know, expand out into broader distribution nationwide.

Adrian Tennant: Well, one of the things we often hear from direct-to-consumer clients is the desire to build brands for the long-term while also driving short-term sales. So Ingrid, how do you think about the sales funnel?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Yeah. So the sales funnel is very much for us right now about education. So there is a portion of society that doesn’t really understand the benefits to water additives. So there’s a part of understanding how, if you put something, you know, that is aiding hydration into your water, you get more out of it. The easiest way to describe that, I have found, is it makes your water more sticky. Aand so that actually helps you with your actual hydration and it also makes drinking water a little bit more fun. And so there’s elements to introducing your brand into people who didn’t even know that they need additives in their water to make it work harder for you. And then the other component is just understanding, like meeting people where they’re at. So some people only drink liquids, don’t drink water at all, because water is boring. It’s not tasty. It’s not interesting. And so people would rather drink, you know, either soda or some kind of sugared water to make it a little bit more interesting. And so our goal for those people is to introduce a component to your water, that it can make it work harder for you, but it’s also a little bit more fun and interesting, and doesn’t have a whole lot of sugar and also is, cleaner ingredients. So non-GMO certified, vegan, cruelty-free, like all of the things that you want to feel good about putting into your body, there’s an education component to that. And then the rest of the sales funnel is frankly, this might be a little bit controversial, but we don’t actually care where you buy Nuun. And yes, I do own the P&L for NuunLife.com. I would love for you to buy our products on NuunLife.com. But frankly, if it’s easier for you to pick it up on the shelf at Target or Walmart. Great. If you’re at REI and you are prepping for your camping trip and you want to make sure you’re hydrated after a long hike. Great. If you’re on Amazon and you’re buying a bunch of stuff for the home and you want to buy some Nuun on there, that’s also great. And so I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are meeting your consumer, where they are is important. And I think one of the things that has unlocked a lot of growth for Nuun is to not think about our channels as competitives to each other but as thinking about them as complimentary.

Adrian Tennant: So just to dig a little deeper into that, whether it’s those top of the funnel, I guess in traditional times or mid to lower funnel, would you say that all your paid media pretty much has some kind of call-to-action?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Certainly, yeah, I would definitely say that. So we don’t do out of home because we’re not quite big enough yet, but if there were to be like an out of home, I would call that as top of the funnel as you get. there would still be a call to action where you can show where you can pick up the products, so there’d probably be a logo for a Target or a Walmart or an Amazon, and then NuunLife.com of course. Yeah, every single piece of content that we put out has some form of a call to action. Sometimes it’s not a “shop now” call to action, right? That’ll be like on your lower-funnel tactics. Sometimes it’s just a “learn more” so you’re educating them on a blog. One of our most successful blog posts is, “Five reasons why you’re dehydrated,” and people just really want to know. They feel it and they know the difference between when they’re hydrated and when they’re not. And so we do feel like our role is to educate people on hydration and we also connect feeling great and feeling hydrated with the ability to move and enabling movement. And so there you are, and that’s a full circle back to making sure that we are really true to our principles.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash the Power of Your Brand to Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Influencing Shopper Decisions, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022.

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse construct, as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, that the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. to not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complementary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice, but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping teller.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s Envision 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a conversation with Ingrid Millman-Cordy, the head of digital and e-commerce for Nuun Hydration and the host of Future Commerce’s Infinite Shelf podcast. Ingrid was a guest on Bigeye’s recent ENVISION 2022 video event.

[MUSIC]

Adrian Tennant: Ingrid, you produce and host a weekly podcast now in its second season called Infinite Shelf, which you describe as a human-centric retail podcast. So what prompted you to create the podcast and why that tagline?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Sure, it’s produced by the guys over at Future Commerce. You know, I started as just someone who got interviewed and then Uh, friendship and a rapport and I just ended up being a guest host every so often for the past couple of years. So that’s where the podcast bug hit me. I’m also a podcast listening junkie. Like there’s a rare moment where I’m walking or doing something around the house or doing anything and not listening to a podcast. So as a listener, I realized that there was this gap and opportunity to create content for people like me. So people who are e-commerce operators and digital minded and are interested in brands, not just for, you know, how we’re going to grow our brands and how we’re going to grow the bottom line. But those things are quite important and not trying to minimize them, but there was content that was around those topics. And when I was trying to create a place where we can have conversations with brands, with service providers, and software that talked about why they exist to serve people and the people that are inside of the brand, serving the people that are on the other side, consuming their brands. And the conversation of that felt very, very, commercialized, but at the end of the day has a big human component to it. I felt like there was a lot of talk around commercialization and optimization, but I really wanted to not ignore that, but sort of understand the one layer or two layers deeper than just the commercialization. So that’s where Infinite Shelf came through.

Adrian Tennant: In an episode from season one of Infinite Shelf, you discussed non-fungible tokens, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies. I actually really enjoyed the way that you broke each technology down for listeners. Since you published that episode, of course, we’ve seen coverage of the metaverse everywhere. What are the technologies or aspects of web three that you think could have the greatest impact on retailers in the near future?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Oh, that’s such a great question. And since that episode and a few other books and podcasts and articles that I’ve been reading, I’ve definitely gotten bit by the web three, cryptocurrency bug. Mostly because I’m fascinated by economics and just creating a new currency and all of the things that is behind creating a new system and a new way of making decisions and centralized versus decentralized and that kind of stuff. It just is philosophically fascinating to me. But going back to your question about what brands can do, really, I think of the best opportunity that brands can have now is knowing and acknowledging the fact that we spend at least a third, some people, two-thirds of their time in what we call the metaverse. I think the biggest distinction is when you hear the word, the metaverse, it feels so futuristic and it feels like it’s so far away. But in reality, when we think about how much time we spend on our iPhones and in front of our computers and everything, like, we already exist in the metaverse. So having that fundamental acknowledgment is important and then how to be relevant within that world is critical. And so I look at it right now for brands, depending on what you do, as an opportunity to speak to a consumer or remind a consumer that you are there. So remember to imagine the metaverse is this mall that people are spending hours and hours and hours of their time browsing and being within. And you have this opportunity right now to experiment with showing them a product that is from your brand that might be relevant to their life or what they’re doing in the metaverse. And so it’s just an opportunity for you to sort of get people to be aware of your brand, especially physical products, it’s hard to sell that in the metaverse, but I think again, thinking about how fashion and Nike and all of these brands are doing it is interesting. I think it’s hard to talk about it in an absolute, so if there’s like a specific example, but I hope that answers your question in terms of understanding that people are already existing in the metaverse and then it’s only going to get bigger and consume more and more of our time. Um, whether that’s a good thing or not is a whole other topic, but yeah, I think there are huge opportunities for doing it. I just think that the same way that I would give the advice for when you expand into retail to stay true to your brand and to figure out what your principles are and what your values are and stay within that realm when you’re expanding into physical retail. I think the same thing for the metaverse. So don’t become a different brand or put on some other face of your brand just because they’re now operating in the metaverse. I think it’s yet another test of being true to who you are.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways are you thinking about these emerging technologies in relation to Nuun Hydration’s business, specifically?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Yeah, so obviously if you’re sitting in front of your computer, or you’re in the metaverse, or you’re doing something online, you may forget to drink and you may forget to move your body around. And so if we can connect the opportunity to make sure that you’re hydrated and also then make your body, your physical body, feel good to take a break. You can probably have your Nuun and then remember to use that as a trigger to go for a walk, go walk your dog, go walk around the block, and get some fresh air. And then come back and do whatever you are doing, whether it’s work or whether it’s fun. So in terms of use case, I think that’s where I would A: connect it to our values and why we exist; and then B: getting people to it. So we’re looking at streaming platforms like Twitch. For example, I think Twitch is an incredible opportunity for getting into worlds that are very saturated and people have a lot of loyalty and excitement around. And so I think Twitch is a really cool way to attract people within the metaverse. Um, and then the same thing with like other streaming platforms everyone’s dipping their toe, but again, so figuring out the application for it. I think of an application for it that someone may think of is creating an NFT of a Nuun tube or something like that. So that your avatar in the Nuuniverse or in the metaverse is, not the Nuuniverse, is using it or showing that they use it. And for me, I would probably be apprehensive about creating something like that because it doesn’t feel connected to our brand in the physical space. And so again, it’s like staying within the rules and the value proposition that we’ve created in the real world.

Adrian Tennant: Which brands or e-commerce companies do you think are doing the most interesting work in this emerging Web3 space right now?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Nike and Adidas are doing really incredible things and they are not only doing it for their brand, but they seem to also be exploring other brands and other creators and investing in them. So it’s not just like thinking about how Nike or Adidas is going to exist within the metaverse, but being part of the infrastructure of building the metaverse, which I think is very cool. and also is buying them a lot of street cred within the people who are creating the metaverse right now, because they’re not just in there and trying to commercialize it, they’re in there and like building and that’s what is interesting in that world right now.

Adrian Tennant: What is the one aspect of retailing that you think is most likely to be disrupted or look completely different by 2030?.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I do think that the line between sort of the physical world and the digital world will continue to be completely blurred. And, I think that the same way that in the past five or 10 years, retail brands have struggled to understand omnichannel and understand, “oh, there’s this like weird digital space and e-commerce, and like, that’s not really where our brand is going to be,” but then like everyone sort of went there. Um, whether it’s through social media and magazines going away and just the power shifting. I think that the sooner companies and brands start realizing that the actual delineations between the physical and the digital worlds are going to get more blurry and create their teams in that way, create their budgets in that way, I think the more well-suited they will be for being relevant in that

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the intro, you spent some time on the agency side, leading digital projects with Barbarian. So Ingrid, I’m curious, did that experience influence how you interacted with agencies once you were back on the client-side?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Oh, definitely. Yeah, so this kind of goes to something I say all the time, which is that I won’t hire someone typically unless they have had experience working in retail or waiting tables. And that’s because you learn this skill of serving the general public and you learn these ways of serving people. And I think to the next level of that, the agency experience gives people that additional context. And frankly, I think the biggest lesson I learned, that I hope to carry with me, is that when I hire an agency, I don’t consider them to be a different company. Like I hire them and I make them part of our company. and I don’t want them to be full-time because I actually really value the perspective and the fact that they’re not in our echo chamber and four walls. And so there are reasons to hire an agency and keep them as an agency. However, when you actually are in the trenches together and you’re working and you’re in meetings, there is no separation. Like I treat them the way that I would treat any other new employee and I expect them to behave that way and hold our values true and speak our language and really embody our culture and the same way as I give them, you know, respect and autonomy and the ability to do what they do. So I would say it’s boiled down to mutual respect, but also just really deep incorporation into our brand and our brand values.

Adrian Tennant: Ingrid, if people would like to learn more about you, your work at Nuun Hydration, or your podcast, Infinite Shelf, where can they find you?

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: So you can find us @_InfiniteShelf on all of the socials. And, you can also catch me on my LinkedIn and it’s just Ingrid Millman-Cordy on LinkedIn.

Adrian Tennant: Ingrid, Thank you very much for sharing your insights with us today for ENVISION.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: Of course happy to be here. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to our guests this week. Ingrid Milman-Cordy, the head of digital and e-commerce for Nuun Hydration, and the host of Future Commerce’s Infinite Shelf podcast. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on theIN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com, where you’ll also find more details about Bigeye’s ENVISION 2022 on-demand video. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

Our guest this week is Devora Rogers, the co-author of Influencing Shopper Decisions, this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection. Devora discusses how retail and brand marketers can use agile neuroscience and two new metrics – usage and influence – to provide fresh insights into shoppers’ needs, priorities, and context. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on Influencing Shopper Decisions at KoganPage.com by using the promo code BIGEYE20 at checkout.

Episode Transcript

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

Devora Rogers: Shoppers want to be informed and the process of understanding how shoppers do that is through usage and influence – and information is now a kind of value.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Today’s podcast marks the fifth episode of the Bigeye Book Club in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page Publishing. Our featured Book Club selection for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash The Power Of Your Brand To Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. The book makes a case for approaching shopping behavior research in an entirely new way: focusing on shopper needs, priorities, and context. I’m delighted that we’re joined today by co-author Devora Rogers, who is Chief Strategy Officer with the consumer insights research agency, Alter Agents. Devora works with global brands across multiple industries, including Snapchat, Activision, Nespresso, and Google. Her TEDx talk, The Science Of Shopping And Future Of Retail has been viewed over a quarter of a million times. To discuss some of the key ideas in Influencing Shopper Decisions, Devora is joining us today from her office in Los Angeles. Devora, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

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

Adrian Tennant: What prompted you and your co-author Rebecca Brooks to write Influencing Shopper Decisions?

Devora Rogers: I mean everything. This has been our area of focus for over a decade. And we got to a place where it was like, the book was bubbling out of us. And a publisher saw me speak in New York right before, the whole world changed with COVID and, she was like, “You need to have already written a book. You need to have already written five books. You have a viewpoint here.” And once we started writing it, it was clear that everything prompted us to write it because so much of our focus has been on what drives people to behave the way they do. And how does that impact their decisions.

Adrian Tennant: So, what did the writing process look like for you and Rebecca?

Devora Rogers: Yeah. So this was a lot of fun for me. I mean, I’m a writer, right? So I’m a researcher during the day, but I’m a writer kind of always – for life, right? That’s just who I am. I’ve been scribbling in journals since I was 10 and realized that that was a thing. Rebecca’s a very good writer, but she didn’t necessarily view herself that way. And so we each approach this kind of differently. And what we decided to do was trade off on chapters. And so the chapters that I felt like I really had a handle on, I would write. And those that were very close to her, she would write. It was a nine month process and one would take a chapter a month and then the other one would take the next sometimes, maybe two or three weeks, but every two or three weeks, we would switch off. She would go get a hotel room where she could be safe from her children and stay up all night writing. And I was afraid of like taking myself too seriously and so I would just invite children over to my house and have chaos and write.

Adrian Tennant: Two very different writing styles from the sounds of things. 

Devora Rogers: We both had something similar, which is that we would like to write the first pass and then hand it off to somebody and let them review it. And so the other person could come in and say, “Oh, we think we missed this.” Or, “Oh, you petered out here, let me help you here.” So it was a really great, natural process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Another new metric you introduce us to in the sixth chapter of Influencing Shopper Decisions is net influence. Could you explain its origins and how it works alongside source usage?

Devora Rogers: Sure. So net influence was the brainchild of John Ross who had been my boss and was my partner when we were developing this work with Rebecca originally. He had been the CMO at The Home Depot, a prolific retail marketer. Today, he’s the CEO of IGA, a large grocery store alliance. And he had had one of the largest media budgets in the world. And he had all kinds of consultants constantly coming and looking at his data and he had data analysts. And so, in theory, he should have had every single possible choice available to him to reach and influence shoppers. And when he came to us, he said, “You know, I still don’t understand why people do what they do. We need a way to unpack that.” And so we began looking at source usage and realize it’s not enough to just say, “What do people do?” because you could have heard a recommendation for a book on a podcast. Or you could have been on Amazon and seen a recommended algorithmic suggestion. But which of those actually made a difference for you? And as a brand where to really put your efforts, what do you value? And if you have different categories that you work in, how does that change? And so net influence gave us a way to make sense of what people were doing by really revealing, did this actually drive your purchase decision? How influential was it? And net influence was the metric that we landed on and in many ways, I mean, make a case for this in the book, we think it ought to replace that concept of ROI: return on investment, which looks at what did you spend. Oh, you spent all this money on all these things. Well, here’s what you got for that. But what about the things that were never on your list? How do you measure ROI for that? If you’ve never invested in podcasts, how do you know you don’t have a return on investment because it’s not even on your list? And so net influence allows us to see where influence is taking place. And what’s cool is that even if a brand isn’t investing in a particular source, maybe social media in the past, or maybe today it’s certain types of events or certain types of direct response advertising. Net influence allows us to say it appears that your competitors are investing in these things and it kind of lays bare where influence is taking place, regardless of whether that brand was invested in it or not.

Adrian Tennant: Chapter nine of your book is Unlocking Hidden Shopper Insights Through Agile Neuroscience. In it, you describe your own traumatic experiences with traditional electroencephalography or EEG headsets as a child, but this is not the type of consumer neuroscience equipment you’re talking about. Could you explain what you mean by agile neuroscience?

Devora Rogers: So this is one of my favorite topics. I was 10 years old and I had epilepsy. I had a form of epilepsy called petite mal, which isn’t the worst as epilepsy goes, but it was having an impact on my life and so they would put EEGs on me and lay me down in dark room with bright lights shining. And I swear at 10 years old, I said, “I’m never going to do this to anyone.” Rebecca, my co-writer and partner said, “There’s no way at 10, you said that you weren’t going to do this to anyone.” And I said, “No, I did. I really did.” Now, of course, I didn’t know I was going to become a marketer and a researcher and that, as one of those things, I might be able to use neuroscience to answer questions, but I did. And early on when we began looking at different ways to understand shopper decision-making – quant, qual, neuro – I was clear that I didn’t think that it was appropriate to put EEGs on shoppers and call that good research. It’s also not realistic to put people through MRIs. In most cases, brands just cannot afford that at scale and also it doesn’t really replicate the experience because you’re not usually an MRI when you make decisions. And so we looked for a long time at different ways of incorporating neuroscience. For a while, we looked at facial coding, we then looked at galvanic skin response, which is essentially sweat conductance. And, we finally landed on a solution that came out of the Claremont Graduate University and Dr. Paul Zak and a number of his collaborators had developed a product we really liked called Immersion. And Immersion has about 20 years of testing and experience behind it. But what they did is they evaluated what were the best, most scalable and consistent, and also predictive measures that emerge from the body and the brain that could be captured. And they did that through blood draws initially, they did it through heart rate, they did it through all kinds of techniques. And ultimately, what they landed on is something called variable heart rate, which is the distance between the beats. And that, that can actually be picked up by fairly inexpensive sensors. They’re called Scosche devices, or today, the thing that many people have – about 40% in this country – which are Apple or smartwatches, and they produce very consistent and predictive measures of future intent. so future buying behaviors. And so agile neuroscience is a term that we’re really fond of because it speaks to how this works. It’s flexible. It’s scalable. You can recruit people easily for it. You don’t have to be in a lab. You can be in a lab if you want to be. But today, a lot of the agile neuroscience that we’re doing happens with users at home in front of their computer and they are wearing a Scosche device or a smartwatch, and we expose them to different experiences, or we bring them into a store and have them walk around. But in either case, it’s a very easy way to capture what’s happening inside people’s brains that’s far more scalable and cheaper than traditional neuroscience.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash the Power of Your Brand to Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Influencing Shopper Decisions, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022.

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse construct, as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, that the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. to not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complementary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice, but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping teller.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s Envision 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Devorah Rogers, the co-author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash The Power Of Your Brand To Win Customers. The tenth chapter explores the evolution of shopper values. You include a quotation from anthropologist, Michael Donovan, illustrating how successful retailers provide cues, symbols, and spaces designed to engage our – quote – “cultural imagination.” He goes on to define shopping as a central creative activity of American life, a kind of popular Performance Art. So Devora, in what kinds of ways do shoppers’ values influence their purchase decisions?

Devora Rogers: Of all the questions we’ve talked about up until now, I think that in some ways, this is the one that is my next book. I have a lot of thoughts on this and I don’t know that I, or anyone really, has all the language to speak to what we mean by shoppers’ values. Right? So we use terms like “storytelling” or terms like “corporate social responsibility”, “values”, “sustainability”, and none of those fully encapsulate how shoppers are thinking about things that matter to them. So their values have a huge part in their purchase decisions. And we looked at it from a lot of different perspectives. We looked at it from fair labor practices, ethical, sustainable manufacturing, whether,the brand is authentic and does what they say they do, whether they give their employees healthcare, in the United States, that’s not a given. And so we looked at this from a lot of different perspectives and of course, any generation, any group of shoppers, any number of people, values mean different things. But generally, if we were to limit it to like, just help our minds wrap around it, it would be you know, in what ways do good brand behavior influence shoppers’ decisions? And what we see is that a pretty sizable portion of the consumer audience – maybe a little bit less as they get older, so Boomers are maybe a little bit less likely to have values play as central of a role – but pretty much for everyone else, it’s really this good brand behavior is playing a role and has shoppers able to look for brands that align with things that matter to them. Whether that’s that you are authentic and that you do what you say you’re going to do, or whether that’s that you are speaking to me in a way that feels aligned with things I care about. I mean, I could go on and on, but the quick answer to the question is shopper values influence their decisions quite a bit. And we think that this is going to continue to evolve and that brands have to be really thoughtful about how to understand what matters to shoppers at any given point in their servicing of those consumers.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. In practical terms, how should brand marketers adapt to meet shoppers’ evolving values?

Devora Rogers: I think the critical piece is more transparency and more information. That’s at the top of the list: share what you know, be honest, tell the truth, and give people as much information as possible. You know, people will ask me, “Do people really research nail polish?” Oh, yes, they do. Oh, yes, they watch hours of videos on nail polish. So no brand should think that they are exempt from this, however big or small. And, at the highest level, most critically, it’s providing as much information as possible. And then I think being in the places where people are going for information is really important. So understanding that, and that varies for every category. There’s categories where YouTube plays an insane role in terms of the amount of content people are watching before buying. In others, it’s Snapchat, in others, it’s not social media at all, but a promoted item from a retailer on their website. So, I think information, and then understanding where they’re going is really the most critical step for brand marketers.

Adrian Tennant: Devora, thinking about all of the data you collected to inform the book content, was there one data point or insight that really surprised you or stood out? And if so, what was it?

Devora Rogers: One key piece that we saw is that we identified a new cohort of shoppers that we had not anticipated, not been looking for. In hindsight, we should have, but it wasn’t clear to us that this was like a whole new group of shoppers. And that is the remote worker. And so what we found is that remote workers present a sort of hyper shopper. We have seen for years that shoppers do more and more research, that’s been growing steadily and they’ve become savvier and pickier as their research has increased. But over the last couple of years, with a portion of the working population able to work from home – you know, primarily white collar workers – that has meant that they don’t have somebody looking over their back, they can kind of manage their own time, and they use that time between calls to sometimes research and then come back to something and they have, you know, the privilege of being able to spend time looking for vacuums, or blow dryers, or whatever it might be, or a new type of milkthat doesn’t hurt their stomach. And so I think one thing that really surprises is the uncovering of that cohort and how different they are. And then also the fact that among that group, they are the most likely to say that they found something during their discovery and research process that caused them to stray from the original brand they had intended to buy. So these are like the ultimate promiscuous shoppers, these remote workers, and I think that brands who have a large percentage of their buyers who arepotentially these white collar remote workers, they’re going to have to do even more to keep them engaged and to give them the content that they need to feel comfortable, because you can bet that they’re doing huge amounts of research.

Adrian Tennant: Well, the trend towards remote working of course, was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 11th chapter of your book is The COVID Inflection Point. What do you believe are some of the most significant lasting impacts of COVID on shoppers’ behaviors?

Devora Rogers: Yeah. Great question. I mean, the obvious thing is, is that going into stores in person, or buying online, those are obvious things that shifted. And some of those has those have, come back a little bit to pre-pandemic levels. But, that’s kind of obvious, but I think a less obvious findingis, in our book, we talk about the share of shoppers that say a particular issue is important to them cut by whether they were impacted by COVID. Did they have a job loss? Did they get sick or did they experience a death in their family due to COVID 19? And COVID-impacted shoppers are significantly more likely than non-impacted shoppers to say that treating employees well is important to them. That brands should make a positive difference in the world, by 18 percentage points. That equality, gender, sexual orientation, race, equal justice is important to them, by just really significant margins. And so I think that one thing that we may want to keep our eye on is not just where people buy or, you know, moving more to digital, but how COVID is impacting shoppers’ values, which we spent some time talking about. Because our research indicates it’s having quite a big impact. Now that will decline, in the coming years a bit. But I think that for people that were truly impacted by COVID in meaningful ways, there may be a quite long-lasting impact on how they make decisions and what kinds of brands they trust and what values they expect from the brands that they buy.

Adrian Tennant: Well, the book’s only been out for a couple of weeks, but what kinds of reactions have you had to Influencing Shopper Decisions from brand marketers and other consumer research professionals?

Devora Rogers: Sure. Well, there’s a whole chapter that we didn’t talk about in this podcast, but it’s basically on brand narcissism and it’s where my partner Rebecca lays down her Jerry Maguire letter and says brand tracking is broken for the world we live in. And that certainly has been an area of intense conversation among brands, and marketers, and, you know, really asking themselves what does it mean to be a narcissistic brand and what would be the alternative to that? And why does it matter? And what do shoppers actually need? And that’s really the answer, right, is find out what shopper needs are and deliver against that. And automatically, you will become less narcissistic. So I think that that is one that’s been very interesting to people and certainly the promiscuous shopping is of great interest. Like a lot of questions have come around you know, what’s the role of brand in this day and age, and we see it declining and that the way that brands can provide value is by informing people. It’s a very different, framework if you’re somebody that’s been in marketing and advertising for 30 years where it was all about awareness and my brand and my logo and my matching luggage, all my different sites. It’s a very different orientation. So those have been areas that we’ve gotten a lot of interest from and we also get a lot right now about these values. I think a lot of brands are asking themselves, like, what does it mean to be a good brand partner? What does that encompass? So we’re getting a lot of questions about that..

Adrian Tennant: Devora, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and your work at Alter Agents, or Influencing Shopper Decisions, where can they find you?

Devora Rogers: Yes. Influencing Shopper Decisions is available everywhere books are sold! And that is true, and kind of amazing to me, having published books on my own before versus this time through a publisher. And we are at AlterAgents.com and you can find more about the type of research we do, the types of clients we work with, and that kind of thing.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to obtain a copy of Devora’s book, Influencing Shopper Decisions, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you’ll receive a 20% discount when you purchase online at KoganPage.com. Just enter the promo code BIGEYE20 at the checkout. Devora, thank you very much indeed for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Devora Rogers: It was my pleasure, thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Devora Rogers, the co-author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection: Influencing Shopper Decisions. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights”, just select “Podcast”. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts and contributing a rating or a review. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

Melina Palmer is a Behavioral Economics consultant whose podcast, The Brainy Business: Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy, is listened to in over 160 countries. We discuss Melina’s book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You, and how advertising professionals can benefit from understanding framing, priming, and herding. Melina provides practical applications of Behavioral Economics that maximize the impact of advertising and marketing.

Episode Transcript

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

Melina Palmer: The brain doesn’t work the way we think it should. In reality, the subconscious is making 99 percent of the decisions at any given time. Because we are a herding species, we look to others for making decisions. So when we see testimonials and star reviews we feel more comfortable making a decision.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Last week, guest Kevin Perlmutter of Limbic Brand Evolution discussed how neuromarketing research and an understanding of behavioral economics can guide the development of brand strategy. Continuing the theme, this week’s episode provides another opportunity to hear an interview with behavioral economics consultant and CEO of The Brainy Business, Melina Palmer – which we first published last June. [MUSIC] Over the past couple of decades, our knowledge about the relationships between neuroscience, psychology, and real-world consumer behavior has grown considerably. Notable contributions to the literature include Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking: Fast and Slow, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, and Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely. These works and others collectively provide insight into how social and psychological factors influence us every day and reveal that personal decisions are made at a subconscious level more often than not. With implications for advertising, marketing, product design, and customer experience, the principles and techniques that influence consumers to change their behaviors through non-conscious persuasion are categorized as Behavioral Economics. Our guest today is an expert and practitioner in this fascinating field. Melina Palmer is the founder and CEO of The Brainy Business, which provides Behavioral Economics consulting to businesses of all sizes around the world. With a Bachelor’s degree in business, Melina worked in corporate marketing and brand strategy for over a decade before earning her Master’s in Behavioral Economics. Melina’s excellent podcast, The Brainy Business: Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy, is listened to in over 160 countries and used as a resource by many universities. And her first book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You was published just last month. To talk about the book and how brand marketers and advertising professionals can leverage Behavioral Economics, Melina is joining us from her home office in Tumwater, Washington state. Melina, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

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

Adrian Tennant: Well, I attempted an introduction. Melina, how do you define Behavioral Economics?

Melina Palmer: I think you did a wonderful job with your introduction. And I typically just say that, you know, if traditional economics and psychology had a baby, we would end up with Behavioral Economics. The field really came about because traditional economics assumes logical people making rational choices in everything that they do. And because we’re all human and we know that’s not the world we live in, you end up with a bunch of models that don’t accurately predict behavior. So over time, you had economists and psychologists and neuroscientists entering into one another’s fields or working together on projects to see if there were these themes within the brain that could be used to more accurately predict behavior and what people will actually do instead of what we all think they should do. And Behavioral Economics was born.

Adrian Tennant: Now, prior to establishing your business, you had a decade of experience in corporate marketing and brand strategy. When were you bitten by the Behavioral Economics bug and realized it was something you wanted to go all-in on?

Melina Palmer: Well, it’s actually when I got my undergraduate degree in business administration and marketing, there was just one section of one book and one class had this like little tidbit that was about buyer psychology. And I remember reading it and thinking, “Oh, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. This is so awesome!” And saying, “I’m going to go back and get a Master’s in this someday.” Like at that moment, I knew it wasn’t going to be an MBA, this is what I was going to do. And I spent the better part of ten years calling universities and seeing what schools and options they had available and was continually told, “That’s not a thing, that doesn’t exist, sorry!” And I was a little bit discouraged, but just working in my marketing space and loving what I did and doing some research and innovation and things like that. And I was part of an innovation program for credit union professionals. It’s kind of like a fellowship program and they brought in some people from The Center for Advanced Hindsight to talk about what they were doing in their work.

Adrian Tennant: What is The Center for Advanced Hindsight?

Melina Palmer: Yeah. The Center for Advanced Hindsight is the group out of Duke University. So that’s led by Dan Ariely, and I remember seeing the studies and had that epiphany moment of, “Oh, this is what I’ve been looking for.” And so I like cornered them, like “Tell me everything! What is this?” And so found that it was called Behavioral Economics and got myself into a Master’s program and here we are.

Adrian Tennant: Consistent themes of IN CLEAR FOCUS are developing customer intimacy and using consumer insights to inform strategy. What are some of the ways that a knowledge of Behavioral Economics can help us improve the ways we design and conduct marketing research?

Melina Palmer: The biggest thing to note across Behavioral Economics, and just anything that you’re doing in life is, is that the brain doesn’t work the way that we think it does or the way we think it should. Like to say that “should” is a four-letter word here at The Brainy Business. And in that way, we like to think again, that we’re logical conscious creatures and we’re using these computers in our brains very strategically in everything that we do. And in reality, the subconscious is making 99 percent of the decisions at any given time using rules of thumb, things that have worked in the past that help us to survive as a species: we need to operate in this way. But if you don’t understand those rules that are being triggered and your logical brain is trying to communicate with what you think is your buyer’s logical brain, that’s not what’s doing most of the actual buying and leading people through a grocery store or on a website or whatever it is. So understanding that 99 percent is done using these rules and then having some awareness of some of the most common ones can help you to just be much more effective and efficient in your communications, both internally working with team members as well as when you’re creating marketing materials, presenting prices, putting things on a website, whatever it is to be built out so that it works with the 99 percent instead of only that little bit of logic when you are able to trigger it.

Adrian Tennant: Reflecting on your past experience as a corporate marketer and the need for brands to develop creative messages that really resonate with consumers, which three principles drawn from Behavioral Economics would you say are the most important for advertising and marketing professionals to know about?

Melina Palmer: Well it’s hard to narrow to three, but I shall rise to the task. So the first one that I would say is most critical would be understanding the concept of framing. So the way you say something matters much more than what it is, you’re actually saying. One of my favorite examples of this would be: imagine you’re going to the grocery store and you need to buy some ground beef and you see two stacks. One is labeled as “90% Fat-Free” and those next to it labeled as “10% Fat.” Which one would you rather buy? And most everybody says “90% Fat-Free”. It just sounds and feels better, you know, “10% Fat,” you think, “Ooh, I haven’t been to the gym in like 18 months. Where’s that going to go? I don’t like this at all.” And “90% Fat-Free,” you think, “Oh, I’m making such a great choice for myself and my family.” It’s exactly the same thing. And we know that logically, but the subconscious hears it differently. So looking for places within your business or where your competitors may be are all talking about 10% fat, you know, where can you be the 90% fat-free message that’s going to just easily resonate? Even if the packaging looks exactly the same or the pricing is different, it’s just not about that. The way the subconscious hears it will trigger the behavior in that way. So framing, I would say is number one – there’s a reason it’s the first of the concept chapters. So I think that one is easy enough. The next would be looking, I think, at herding and social proof, they go super hand-in-hand. So it’s one thing there, but because we are a herding species, like cows and sheep and guppies, we look to others for making decisions and especially people who are like us. And when there are many people who are like us. So when we see testimonials and star reviews and long lines at a particular restaurant or whatever it is, When we see others have been there and have done something, we feel more comfortable making a decision. So that has a lot of power. or even being able to say that this particular product is the most popular can increase the likelihood that it’s going to buy it and it will become even more popular when you put that moniker on it. So be truthful, but if you have something that is popular or the best value or whatever, may feel like you don’t have to say it, but when you do it can increase the likelihood that more people will pick it. So that is one more. And I would say a third, we’ll go with priming, which is whether it’s imagery or word choice, something that happens just before the action can be very influential on a choice that someone is going to make. One example being: people were asked to work together on a project, put into a room and in one instance, there happened to be a briefcase that was in sight. The other half, there was a backpack in sight. Nobody said they even saw or noticed it. But those in the briefcase room were a lot more combative and keeping information to themselves on these cooperative tasks they were supposed to be working on. Whereas those in the backpack room were more cooperative. Because when we think about the associations that our brain has with a backpack is when we were, you know, in elementary school or high school and working on team projects. And briefcases are for boardrooms and battling it out over money or whatever it is. So again, everybody said they didn’t see it just like people may say they never notice Facebook ads or “Commercials don’t work on me.” That’s just wrong. Even if they don’t realize it, these things are happening in our brains all the time.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common mistakes that are made in marketing communications, which could be avoided if Behavioral Economics principles were applied?

Melina Palmer: So I do have… and this was the second episode of my podcast. And at the time of recording, we’re coming up on three years, so there are many episodes there! But number two was the top five wording mistakes businesses make. So I would recommend checking that one out as it’s the second most downloaded podcast episode, still three years later. So one of the biggest things there is too much. And we like to think that people want tons of choices and they need all this additional information to be able to make a decision, when presented with too many options or features or whatnot, our brain just sort of gets overwhelmed, and the status quo, in that case, is to do nothing. And so “I’m going to think about that later” sort of a deal. So you can always say it in fewer words, whatever it is, if you boil it down,  how can I say this in the least possible amount of words? What’s the fewest bits, I can put here to help someone take a next step? And I do have a chapter in the book that’s dedicated to thinking about things in a series of small steps. We tend to think when we’re building out a marketing plan or whatever it is to say, “Well, you know, we’re going to mail the postcard or we send that email and people either buy or they don’t and we’ll track it.” and in reality, there are a lot of little micro-decisions in that process that are being ignored. That is what we would call a “nudge-able” moment. You mentioned the book Nudge. and so if you think actually with the email, as an example, you have to get through a spam filter. You have to then make sure that the subject line is enticing enough that someone doesn’t immediately hit delete, but they’re actually going to open it that then when they see what’s in there, they don’t go, “Oh, this is spam” and delete it. They keep reading and then they go to the next step of maybe going to click to learn more. And then they’re on your website and you have to not get distracted, especially if they’re on their phone and maybe they decide to open up Instagram and you want them to read something else and fill out a form, like lots of stuff happening. So, the least steps as possible, but think about how do you get them just to the next tiny little moment in each of those points and using behavioral tactics along the way to really just kind of keep them moving through that process.

Adrian Tennant: Pricing is an area that product and brand development professionals often have to consider. While there are quantitative research and statistical analysis tools that can help us find optimal price ranges for new products, as you describe in your book, Behavioral Economics can also be our friend here. Melina, can you tell us about the one word that increased sales by 38 percent, and the concept that’s at play there?

Melina Palmer: Yeah, absolutely. And pricing strategy is one of the biggest things that I do. I teach a course on it at Texas A&M, I also have a DIY course that’s available for anyone to go in and get. And so check those out. There’s lots of stuff for where Behavioral Economics applies to pricing. In the case of the 38 percent, that is another of my favorite stories and one that had a study. So they used grocery store end cap displays. And so one said, “Snickers bars – buy them for your freezer.” And the other says, “Snickers bars – buy 18 for your freezer”. Of which most of us can agree eighteen’s a lot and not really what we would buy in our logical brains. If you were the marketer setting up this ad, you would probably say, “I don’t know that I want to put out 18. It’s a big number and it’s arbitrary. And I don’t want to have to justify why I picked it and them is unlimited and people get a hundred snickers, if they want blah, blah, blah”. All your conscious brain trained to logic, why your subconscious feels uncomfortable and it maybe feels like it’s not that big of a difference. But when the number 18 was used instead of the word “them”, you had an increase of 38% in sales. And so there are actually a couple of things at play here. One is the concept of anchoring and adjustment. So the number that’s presented sets an anchor in the brain via priming, like we’re primed by the number to make a decision here. And in that case, “them” is like a fancy word for zero when we’re logic-ing about it, we’re talking about how it’s like unlimited, but someone going to buy, like “Maybe I’ll pick up two or something.” When we have the number 18, it’s more likely to get through that subconscious filter and your brain is going to then say, “Oh, 18. I’m so much better than everybody else. I don’t need 18. I’ll just get 6.” And you don’t even realize that you adjusted down from the high number instead of up from zero. And you still feel good about yourself and the decision and you move along with your day. The other really critical piece to this is underneath and kind of like behind the statements, there’s an implied question happening with the brain of the customer. So in the case of the word “them”, the question being asked, it’s being framed as “Would you like to buy some Snickers?” In the case where you swap that out for the number 18, the question is now “How many do you want to buy?” So there is this implied sale that’s in that framing of that kind of like subtext underneath the message that can make buying that much easier.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash the Power of Your Brand to Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Influencing Shopper Decisions, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022.

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse construct, as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, that the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. to not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complementary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice, but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping teller.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s Envision 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Melina Palmer, CEO of The Brainy Business and author of What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You: Unlocking Consumer Decisions and the Science of Behavioral Economics. Melina, what led you to write the book?

Melina Palmer: So I started my podcast while I was actually still in my Master’s program, because when I started, you know, I knew I was sort of early because I had been calling for years trying to find a program like this. And you know, on the academic side of Behavioral Economics, the field is built on decades’ worth of research. But in the applied space, it was surprisingly little that existed in the materials that my teachers were providing for me, just in what you could find. And so, things that were really clear to me as far as how this applies to brand strategy and pricing and communications and all of that, you just didn’t really see anywhere. And so I had gotten some advice to start a podcast and mine, as far as I still know, is the first real Behavioral Economics podcast that existed. Which is why there were so many people finding it from around the world. And in that way to make it really this applied space of being able to say, “This is what it is, and this is how you can do something with it.” And it really resonated with the audience to be able to get what you need without all the extra stuff and not having to go read oodles of academic journals and research papers. I can do that, so other people don’t have to. In the same way with the book, finding from the podcast was still having people reach out from around the world with this kind of common question of like, “You talk about it and it makes total sense. Like I get it, I hear what you’re saying. But where do I start?” And really, it just became clear that being able to put some of the boiled down to the most important, applicable stuff for people in business, to be able to go use without having to go get a doctorate and become an academic researcher because they have some interest in Behavioral Economics. So that’s I guess where the book kind of came from.

Adrian Tennant: Certainly one of the things that I really enjoyed about the book is the use of practical examples throughout the text. So, after introducing each concept, you present the reader with ways in which it can be applied in a business context to solve real-world problems. What prompted you to take this more action-oriented approach?

Melina Palmer: I would say it’s just my style more than anything. It’s – while I’ve only begun teaching professionally recently, I would say I’m a teacher at heart. And I think the podcast – for anyone that listens – knows that. And so, so many episodes of my podcast I have a worksheet, that’s a freebie that goes along with it. And just for me, I really wanted to do anything possible to make it so this book wasn’t something that would just sit on a shelf proverbial or otherwise collecting dust. I really want people to understand and get some comfort in using Behavioral Economics in their business in a way that it can, it just can change so much with really simple tips and tidbits.

Adrian Tennant: Purchasers of What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You also receive access to a companion workbook. Could you tell us more about that?

Melina Palmer: Yeah. So I just can’t help myself when it comes to making everything as applicable as possible for listeners or readers. And so while the book does have a thing to try at the end of each chapter to start applying, there are additional worksheets and things to go about trying yourself in that companion workbook, which is 111 pages long. So lots of great content there for anyone who wants to continue to apply Behavioral Economics from the book and make it just really usable.

Adrian Tennant: You offer an example of how the temperature of coffee can make a difference in how people perceive each other. Can you tell us more about how Behavioral Economics concepts can be applied to our personal lives?

Melina Palmer: Yeah. So that is priming again, and in that study where someone unrelated held a coffee for just a few seconds before doing a study, those who held an iced coffee were more likely to rate people’s personalities as being cold and distant and difficult, compared to those who held the hot coffee and something they had no idea was related to what they were working on. So, you know, I kind of joke in the book of like, “Don’t deliver bad news to someone holding an iced coffee.” But I would say I do a lot of work with people and I have episodes dedicated to mindset and goal-setting. And so if you take this too, this is the same as the backpack and briefcase, there was another study that was just for a tiny fraction of a second people where they were watching a video. And there was a flash of a logo that you consciously couldn’t even pick up on. Half the people were shown an Apple logo, the other half an IBM logo. And then they were working on a project. And those who were shown the Apple logo were much more creative and innovative in what they came up with even though they didn’t notice that they saw the logo. And those who saw a Disney logo were more honest than those who saw the E Entertainment logo, you know, going on. And if you think about the power of a brand for one thing, that where people don’t even recognize that they saw it, but Apple is so impactful on the future decisions and actions that someone is making, if you want to be more innovative and creative in the work that you are doing and the way that you interact with others, you want to be more friendly. Yeah. Think about what’s around you in your office space. And if you have a bunch of, notebooks that say “TGIF” or like, “Ugh, another case of the Mondays, can’t wait for the weekend”, I’m a big fan of sarcasm, but I don’t have a lot of little sarcastic quotes around me when I’m working, because I know that they will impact everything that I’m doing. So if you want to be more innovative, put a big Apple logo on your wall and it’ll be constantly reminding you throughout your day. And if you want to be more friendly, I guess maybe have some Disney characters for when you’re talking with coworkers or other people in your life. But those priming things we don’t realize our eyes are scanning the world around us constantly two to three times per second. And it’s picking up on all of that, even if you don’t consciously recognize it and it impacts your behavior.

Adrian Tennant: In the final pages of your book, you offer advice for readers to help internalize Behavioral Economics concepts. You suggest that we all become curious questioners in the context of reading advertisements, so can you walk us through that?

Melina Palmer: Absolutely. It’s one of my favorite things. I love asking lots of questions and I think just approaching the entire world around you with curiosity is a great way to get started in thinking about things differently. So when you have a postcard in your mailbox. If you just go to throw it away or you go “Nah!” take a moment and go, “Why didn’t I care about this? Like, what does this look like? And how is that different from what I’m sending out to people?” Or if there’s an article that you want to click on a link, or when you’re walking through the grocery store, if your eye is drawn to a particular product, why is that the one you looked at? Why do you think they put it on that shelf instead of somewhere else? Going back to some of the priming, you know, there’s prime real estate in the cereal aisle, where and you’ll notice potentially now that the ones that are targeted for children, the mascots’ eyes are looking down. And there’ll be closer down on the shelf. And those targeted at adults, the eyes are looking straight on to try to have that relationship with the ultimate buying person who wants that particular product. So being able to look and just ask, “I wonder if they did that on purpose and if I was doing it, why would I have done that? Or why might I do something else?” Getting to question what others are doing can help you be more thoughtful about your own products and services and approaches as well.

Adrian Tennant: Another of the things that I really like about What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You is the inclusion of links to episodes of your podcast that offer additional examples and further discussion of the principles you introduce. How many podcast episodes have you recorded to date?

Melina Palmer: 155 is the most recent and within the book, you know, there were a few less, I think we were in the one twenties or one thirties or something. But there are many links to episodes and some I knew were coming and conversations that have been recorded and things. So, really again, it is about being that additional resource. I know from my podcast, I have people constantly say that my show notes are some of the gold standard just very extensive with timestamps and tons of links to articles that I was reading, or the book that this quote came from, or where you can get more information in past episodes. So there’s just tons of stuff in those show notes. And people really value those who do want to dig deeper. It’s nice to have a reference that you can go to and know that that’s where that fact came from or whatnot. So the book itself outside of my podcast episodes, even there are over 200 citations within the book, so there’s lots and lots of past content and additional information for people to go find if they want to dig deeper.

Adrian Tennant: Melina, how does your company, The Brainy Business, typically work with clients?

Melina Palmer: You know, there’s a bit of a mix to make sure that there is kind of something for everyone. We have everything from for entrepreneurs and small business owners, some DIY courses and the books and the podcasts and things that people are able to get. And then also we have for corporate consulting, so that’s more like I would be going in and working with a team on a project if there’s a specific goal. I teach at Texas A&M University through the Human Behavior Lab there. And so having a tie-in, if we were wanting or needing to build out a project, that’s using the research lab to where we’re able to bring in the eye-tracking, and EEG scanning, and facial recognition, and all of that, we have the human behavior lab to lean on for those types of projects. So it’s a bit of a mix, which I enjoy. I like to say I’m kind of like a chameleon that would work best for the business instead of saying, “This is how you work with us and you have to fit within our box” I like to see what is the best fit for a company and what would work well for them in their team. And, we usually just sort of make it work.

Adrian Tennant: Do you foresee a greater adoption of Behavioral Economics in marcomms over the next few years?

Melina Palmer: Yes, and I really, really hope so. There’s so much more buzz and interest in questions and where I’ve been speaking at market research conferences. There’s a huge awareness of the field now. A lot of books have been coming out that are more mainstream. Bloomberg named Behavioral Scientists the top job of this decade back at the end of 2019, and there are programs in universities. I hope that every business school, honestly, Behavioral Economics should be a part of every single business curriculum. So hopefully, resources like my book, What Your Customer Wants, and Can’t Tell You, and those from others will be making their way in to help people to really use the information and have it be adopted across the industry.

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

Melina Palmer: Well, the best thing is everything is, easily found at thebrainybusiness.com and you can find the book, the podcast, social links, things like that. I am on all the socials pretty much as TheBrainyBiz, or you can find me as Melina Palmer on LinkedIn. And, yeah, if you want to even send an email – Melina@TheBrainyBusiness.com, you can find me that way too.

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

Melina Palmer: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been listening to an encore edition of IN CLEAR FOCUS with guest Melina Palmer, behavioral economics consultant and CEO of The Brainy Business. Since we first published this episode last June, Melina has announced that she has a new book coming out later this year, entitled What Your Employees Need and Can’t Tell You: Adapting to Change with the Science of Behavioral Economics. Her new book is available for pre-order. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights”. Just click on the button marked “Podcast”. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

A conversation with Kevin Perlmutter, Founder and Chief Strategist of Limbic Brand Evolution. Kevin explains how he established his brand strategy and neuromarketing consultancy, and shares some of the ways he helps brands increase consumer desire, engagement, and loyalty with emotional insights. We discuss the use of agile consumer neuroscience research tools to evaluate creative, and Kevin recommends three books that can help apply neuromarketing concepts to brand strategy.

Episode Transcript

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

Kevin Perlmutter: I’ve created a Limbic Sparks approach to brand strategy. And that is all about finding the intersection of emotional motivation between a brand and the people that brand is trying to reach.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. If you listen to IN CLEAR FOCUS regularly, you’ll know that throughout this season we’ve been discussing brand strategy. We’ve looked at what brands are, how to audit existing brand assets, using semiotics to decode brands’ signs and symbols, and how consumers attend to brand messages. As we’ve learned, contemporary branding practice is influenced by psychology and behavioral economics. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink published in 2007, and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, published in 2011, resulted in a broader awareness among marketers of how non-conscious thought processes shape our experiences and the role that emotion plays in how we respond to brands. Our guest today is a brand strategy, customer experience, and a research innovator. Kevin Perlmutter is the Founder and Chief Strategist at Limbic Brand Evolution, a brand strategy and neuromarketing consultancy, helping clients increase consumer desire, engagement, and loyalty with emotional insights. He’s created the Limbic Sparks approach to brand strategy. Prior to founding Limbic, Kevin led strategy, innovation, and research for Made Music, a sonic branding studio, where he created their award-winning consumer neuroscience research capability. Prior to that, Kevin was a strategy leader at Interbrand where he created their first global customer experience offering. He’s also a regular contributor to Branding Mag, where he writes on the science of emotion and how it can impact brands. To discuss how emotional insights can be turned into a competitive advantage for brands, Kevin is joining us today from his office near New York City. Kevin, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Kevin Perlmutter: Thank you so much for having me. It’s wonderful to be part of this.

Adrian Tennant: Limbic is a brand strategy and neuromarketing consultancy. Could you start by defining the term neuromarketing for us in the context of brand strategy?

Kevin Perlmutter: Certainly, I mean, neuromarketing is such an important field and of course its origins are in the study, from a research perspective, of how the brain is operating: people going into labs, FMRI studies, and truly monitoring brain activity at an individual respondent level. But as it relates to brand strategy, it’s really about understanding relevant human emotions. It’s about understanding what causes people to think certain ways, how stimulus affects their understanding and context of a situation, and how they go about making decisions as it relates to products and experiences and interactions that they’re having in daily life.

Adrian Tennant: What kinds of brand strategy challenges do your clients bring to you at Limbic?

Kevin Perlmutter: Well, the primary focus of my business at Limbic Brand Evolution is brand strategy through the lens of emotional insight. So I’m doing the same kind of strategy work that most brand strategy consultants do. But my practice is exclusively focused on making decisions about a brand strategy through the lens of emotional insight. So I’m all about creating stronger connections between brands and people. And I’m tapping into the limbic part of our brain, the system one part of our brain, that operates at the subconscious level to control emotion, motivation, behavior, and memory to guide people toward decisions about brands based on how they want to feel in life in general. So the challenges that I’m helping my clients deal with? I’m helping them focus. I’m helping them connect. I’m helping them evolve. I’m helping them have deeper consumer insights that lead to more differentiated and relevant brand positioning, helping them have better customer experiences, messaging that actually connects with people. I’m helping them create those stronger connections between themselves and the people they want to reach.

Adrian Tennant: You just referred to system one thinking. I did mention in the introduction, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman who introduces this metaphor of system one and system two. So Kevin, what does an engagement with Limbic typically look like for a client?

Kevin Perlmutter: Well, the primary work I’m doing is foundational brand strategy at the brand level. And, that leads of course, to all kinds of activations. So it’s not just a brief for advertising. It’s a brief for how the brand presents itself through experiences, through messaging, through any kinds of marketing communications. So the typical work that I’m doing is: First, there’s a lot of insights discovery involved to create that strategy development. So the first phase of work is getting to understand more about the brand that I’m working with, their challenges, and all the things you would typically expect in a strategy engagement. I’m going very deep in the time that is allotted, given the project size, on understanding the customer and truly helping my clients understand what makes people tick. What is it that they need to know about people and how they’re going about life so that they could understand the relevant ways that their brand could play a valuable role? So once the project is set up and defined, I’m able to come in and out as a project-based strategist or in some cases I’m a retainer-based or a fractional Chief Strategy Officer for a brand over a longer period of time where I’m not helping them with just one project, I’m helping them with a variety of rolling challenges that they’re trying to solve.

Adrian Tennant: Do you typically engage with agencies’ or clients’ in-house creative teams? And if so, what are the dynamics like in those relationships?

Kevin Perlmutter: Yes. I mean, that’s some of the greatest work I get to do is the collaborations I have with other agencies, creative agencies, or in-house client creative teams. I love to collaborate and the work that I do requires collaboration at some level, because I’m not doing all of the activation work. I’m doing the strategy, I’m setting the brief. I’m setting up the creative activations for greater success and effectiveness. So sometimes that results in a handoff of my work to other teams. Sometimes I bring in the creative resources to do that work with my clients. And sometimes my work is extended to be a seat at the table with those teams, and help them through the activation process. Sometimes I’m doing projects independently with my clients, and sometimes I’m being brought in by creative agencies to fill a void in their roster and actually create the Limbic Sparks strategy that is going to help their work be more successful. 

Adrian Tennant: As someone who worked agency-side yourself for many years, do you think you’re viewed with less suspicion than other types of consultants?

Kevin Perlmutter: Yeah, it’s an interesting territory. And it kind of says a bit about our industry, that the question has to be asked that I might be brought in with suspicion. But the true answer is that my best relationships in the business are with agencies and creative teams. And I understand how to work with creative teams. I’ve worked in many creative environments as a strategist and what I bring to the table starts with a trusting relationship between me and my creative partners. They trust that I understand their job and their stresses and what they are on the hook to deliver. And they know, through the work we do together, that I’m going to help their work be more successful as a partner in the process. I’m not there to trip up their work. I’m not there to just represent what the client wants, which is the last thing that they want to hear. I’m there to actually help uncover insights that will make valuable contributions to the creative process. In fact, you prepped me a little bit and I knew this topic was going to come up. And interestingly, just the other day, I got a note from a partner of mine at a creative agency. We just finished a project together. And I was brought in as a strategist on the project and the creative team is continuing to do their work. And she actually wrote to me, and this is worth noting. She says, “it’s been an absolute joy to collaborate with you on this work, your ability to insert emotional resonance, and translate it to focused outputs for the team has been simply outstanding.” I mean, and that’s the best kind of compliment I can get from a creative partner when my work is part of their work.

Adrian Tennant: Oh, absolutely. Well, as I mentioned in the introduction, you’ve held senior positions in the industry. I’m curious, Kevin, what led you to an interest in emotion-based consumer insights?

Kevin Perlmutter: Well, thank you for that. And yes, I’ve worked on the agency side for many years, ad agencies in the beginning of my career, seven years, as you mentioned at Interbrand, where I launched the customer experience practice. And then four and a half years at a music studio where I led strategy, innovation and research. And when I was at Interbrand, I went there because that was the stage two of my career, where I was looking to get out of advertising and stop making promises that brands weren’t keeping and focusing more on delivering great experiences. So the ability to focus on a customer experience practice and launching that was an amazing moment for me in my career because I was able to innovate something new. When I went to the music studio, I learned a lot about the science of emotion, and I learned about neuroscience when creating that research capability with my outside partners. And I have neuroscience friends right now that continue to help me to understand how the brain works and how to apply that insight to brand strategy. So after years of working in customer experience, years of learning about how the brain works, I recognized there was an opportunity, a void in the market, to create a brand strategy consultancy that brings those worlds together to focus exclusively on emotional insight, how the brain works, and apply that to strategy. So that was really the inspiration to create the business that I’ve created, is my interest in bringing emotion-based insight into brand strategy, not as a side note, but as the epicenter of how I think.

Adrian Tennant: Well, before we get to your work with Limbic Brand Evolution, I would like to talk about that experience with music. Traditional market research of course relies on self-reported data, which means survey respondents or focus group participants consciously consider a question before making a selection or answering the moderator. The pioneering work you did with Made Music Studio focused more on non-conscious or implicit responses. Kevin, could you tell us what you learned about the subconscious impact of emotion on consumer desire as it relates to sonic branding?

Kevin Perlmutter: Yeah. Well, the biggest thing that I learned is that if our job as marketers is to motivate people to take action, to learn about a brand, to desire that brand, to move in that direction. If our job is to motivate them, then we need to be operating in a way that has the greatest impact on what motivates human beings. And when we were working in the music studio and wanting to understand how the sound that we were creating was impacting people, we recognized that sound affects people at a subconscious level before it affects them consciously. So trying to evaluate the work at a conscious level, how does that sound make you feel? Well, it made them feel something. You’ve asked the question, and now they’re thinking about their answer and telling you a story that may not be what they originally instinctively felt. So the biggest takeaway from working at the music studio for me, was that our brains have a lot going on that we are not consciously aware of. And it’s informing a lot of our feelings, our associations, and our behaviors. And as marketers, as brand people, if we’re not tapping into those instincts that people are having, and we’re only focused on their conscious responses, then we’re not getting the full story and we’re not doing our jobs most effectively.

Adrian Tennant: Kevin at Limbic Brand Evolution, you offer clients a process you call Limbic Sparks. Could you explain what it is?

Kevin Perlmutter: Yeah, well, my company is named Limbic Brand Evolution. That was very deliberate because my practice is focused on the limbic part of our brain. So I had to think, “Well, what am I actually doing for my clients?” So I came up with this term, Limbic Sparks. It’s my trademark, it’s my IP. And, I’ve created a Limbic Sparks approach to brand strategy. And that is all about finding the intersection of emotional motivation between a brand and the people that brand is trying to reach. You see, the thing we have to understand is that brands should exist to make people’s lives better. All of them are in the world, but not all of them are dedicated to making people’s lives better. And people on the other side of that equation are not walking around, looking for brands. They’re trying to have a good life. So my job as a strategist is to do what I call: create Limbic Sparks and Limbic Sparks happen when people intersect with a brand and they feel like, “Wow, this brand gets me. They are there for me, their experience, their offering, their products, their messaging was designed with me in mind and it just feels like a perfect fit.” Sparks fly and the instinctive part of our brain and all of a sudden we desire that brand. That’s what my process is designed to achieve.

Adrian Tennant: So in what kinds of ways does the Limbic Sparks process impact outcomes or deliverables for your clients?

Kevin Perlmutter: So what my process does first and foremost is it focuses very efficiently on what matters most. It’s focused on how we want people to feel and it leads to differentiated brand positioning that is proven to be more effective simply because it’s focused on the things that matter most to people and the things that will inspire the greatest action that’s compelling.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash the Power of Your Brand to Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Influencing Shopper Decisions, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022.

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse construct, as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, that the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. to not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complementary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice, but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping teller.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s Envision 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Kevin Perlmutter, Founder and Chief Strategist of Limbic Brand Evolution, a brand strategy and neuromarketing consultancy. During a recent webinar for Branding Mag, you said that bringing neuromarketing insight into the creative process has to start with an understanding of people and what they want to accomplish in their lives. In what kinds of ways do you translate those insights and use them to inform creative or strategic briefs?

Kevin Perlmutter: Yeah. So as I’ve been saying, you know, I’m focused on the things that matter most, and the single most important question that I help my clients answer is why should people care about your brand? With an emphasis on the word care. I mean, honestly, most people are indifferent. They’re not walking around looking for brands. They’re just looking to have a good life. So, by focusing on that question, why should people care? I’m constantly seeking to understand through questions, through research, through conversations, through observation, I’m trying to understand what is it that this brand is doing that is so wonderful that more people should know about? And what is it that people that this brand wants to reach are actually trying to achieve in life? And how can I create a strategy that leads to messaging and experiences that bring those two worlds together? So really, that’s how it affects the creative process and how it informs the briefs that are more powerful than briefs that don’t focus on that question.

Adrian Tennant: Once creative has been developed, do you typically test to evaluate the work?

Kevin Perlmutter: I’m a big fan of testing and evaluating work. And you know, that question really has more to do with a client’s budget and their ambition for understanding more reliably that the work is solid and will achieve their goals. So, when there’s an opportunity to test the work, I’m certainly all for that, I’m a proponent of testing. Sometimes the gap between where you started and where you’re going is so large that testing may not even seem necessary because you’ve clearly solved the challenge in a new and interesting way that everyone on the team feels is definitely taking it to a new level. And the investment in research is not necessarily there. Sometimes you’re working on such a big stage with such a big brand, where the investment that comes after the strategy is so large that spending a little extra money on research is definitely worthwhile. And you want to just have that extra bit of validation before you move forward. So, I am a big fan of testing the work, but I don’t always feel it’s necessary. But I’ll never shy away from it if it’s something that the client wants to do.

Adrian Tennant: So Kevin, what are some of the most interesting projects that Limbic has undertaken recently?

Kevin Perlmutter: So, yes, I love that question because there’s some really awesome projects that I’ve been doing. I’ve had my company now for about three years. And in that time, you know, there have been a handful of projects related to brand creation, actually launching a brand new offering that has not been put out into the market yet. So I’ve worked with several new brands to determine how they should be positioned, what their value is to the world, originating and helping them define their personality, and their messaging, and guiding how they come to life. As I said, I collaborate with creative agencies on visual identity and website designers. Oftentimes my role is both strategy and copywriting for the website. So that’s brand creation has been one category of really interesting projects. Another one is portfolio architecture. Oftentimes I’m working with a client on their offering architecture or sometimes working with a very large brand that has multiple offerings and emerging offerings that are becoming broader than their original core and they’re trying to figure out how they can make the entirety of their offering clear and compelling, and making sure that each offering that they put out there is distinctively adding value to the overall brand promise. So that’s a very interesting type of project that I get to do. Sometimes it’s an individual project. Sometimes it’s an ongoing relationship where I’m rolling through their different offerings and helping them figure out how to make them distinct and valuable. And then the last one is typically repositioning. I do a lot of work with service-based businesses. Sometimes they’re a commodity in their space. You know, you have one company in this field, it’s offering the same exact services as five others in their field and geographic territory. But my job is to help make them distinct in that competitive set and, oftentimes the answer lies in their style of service and what customers love about them and what makes their style of service distinct from their competitors. And, oh yeah, “Of course we offer all of these things that are the same as our competitors, but when you’re working with us, this is how you will feel differently, how you will be treated differently as a customer.”

Adrian Tennant: What are the most common misconceptions that you find clients or agencies have about consumer neuroscience and neuromarketing?

Kevin Perlmutter: Well, I think first of all, they hear those words and it’s new. So a lot of times people shy away from the new. It’s an instinct that we have. It’s a cognitive bias that we go down the path of least resistance and avoid things that are new and complicated and require a lot of investigation. So, first of all, I think that the fact that it’s new causes people to not understand or overestimate how complicated it is. I think the second thing is that, the perception is that it’s expensive because neuromarketing is often associated with pulling people into a lab and doing FMRIs and very expensive research and it’s not like that anymore. There are research methodologies out there that are much more efficient, can be done at a quantitative level, can be done online. And if you find the right partner, then you will be working with a research methodology that is reliable, validated scientifically, and has high degrees of proven reliability and it’s not that expensive to bring that into the work. And I think the biggest misconception is that it’s not that important. I’ve bet my career on the fact that that is not true, uh, that it is incredibly important, that there is research and data that proves it’s incredibly important. And I think it’s a misconception that ignoring this is OK.

Adrian Tennant: So Kevin, how do you keep up to date with the ever-expanding universe of research platforms and possibilities?

Kevin Perlmutter: You know, I have a lot of friends in the business. I have a lot of friends at research companies. I read a lot. But the most important thing is to recognize that technology is allowing us to get better and better at understanding people’s instincts and motivations and giving us more of an ability to predict their behavior. There’s evidence out there that this is an important thing that’s happening. There are a lot of research companies out there claiming that they do this kind of work. I would caution that not all of them have gone through the rigor of validating that their methodologies will get you reliable results. So you really need to vet the companies that are out there, because this is a bit of a movement and people are jumping on and finding ways to do research that imitates those that have been pioneers in validating their methodologies. But, I keep up with these conversations and it’s important to me to know where this is going, because it’s very important for our industry.

Adrian Tennant: Well, when you and I first spoke about how we might structure this podcast conversation, I noticed that you and I have many of the same books on our office shelves. So are there any particular titles that you found especially helpful or insightful that you’d recommend to IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners interested in learning more about the topics we’ve been discussing?

Kevin Perlmutter: Yeah, certainly there are. You know, one of the most informative books on the topic that you mentioned earlier is Daniel kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is an incredibly in-depth read that I would work hard to get through or at least, you know, understand the highlights of, because that’s the foundation of a lot of the things that we’re talking about. There’s a book called How Emotions Are Made that I think is a very insightful book that recognizes a lot of the principles that I believe in, regarding emotions and context of experiences and how that affects people’s emotions. And slightly off the topic of emotion in the way that we’ve been talking about it, is a book that I’m a huge fan of called Nine Lies About Work. And what Nine Lies About Work does, is it busts nine myths about corporations and policies and how things typically happen. And one of the biggest conversations in that book is around leadership. And I think this does apply to what branding is all about. It asks the question, what are the common traits of leaders, the biggest leaders in the world? And the answer to that question is that, in fact, you know, while there are many articles that have said, well, “leaders are this, this, this, and this and this,” that the common traits of the most famous leaders of the world, there are no specific common traits. In fact the biggest leaders in the world, the biggest innovators in the world are such usually because they’re very good at one or two things. And then they surround themselves with people who could fill in the gaps of what they’re not as good at. So the common traits of leaders aren’t necessarily about how they lead. It’s actually about how they inspire. The biggest leaders in the world are leaders because they’ve inspired the most followers. And being inspirational and understanding how to inspire people is the most important thing that we need to be thinking about, not only as leaders, but as leading brands.

Adrian Tennant: Kevin, how do you see the role of brand strategy evolving over the next five years or so?

Kevin Perlmutter: Well, I certainly see it moving more in the direction of the way that Limbic Brand Evolution and the Limbic Sparks approach to brand strategy is set up to help customers. I recognize that people are going to catch on, that the research methodologies are out there, that the data on the power of emotion is becoming more well-known. That me being out there as a writer for Branding Mag, and as a podcast speaker and a podcast host, I’m putting information out there that I’m hoping people catch onto. I think that, in general, strategy and the creative brief that people have been using for the last many, many, many years, is in need of a major revision. I think it focuses too much on the brand and the client. It focuses on what they do as opposed to why people should care. So it’s sending creatives down the wrong path by focusing them on reasons to believe and proof points. And I think those briefs and strategy will spend more time focusing on the people that that brand is trying to reach and what makes them tick. And why they should care. And that should actually become the most important question that brand strategists answer going forward. And, if that happens, I think we’re going to find that brands who take that road will become more engaging. They’ll become more desirable. They’ll inspire more loyal customers. And there’ll be bigger parts of people’s lives.

Adrian Tennant: Kevin, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about your work at Limbic Brand Evolution, or check out your podcast, Let’s Talk Limbic Sparks, where can they find you?

Kevin Perlmutter: People can find me on LinkedIn, of course, Kevin Perlmutter is my name and I’m easily found there. But the best place to learn about my business, my practice is the Limbic Brand Evolution website. And on that website, there’s a lot of information about how I approach strategy. There’s also the Limbic Sparks podcast page where I do interviews with brand leaders who are turning emotional insight into a competitive advantage and driving business growth for the brands that they serve. And I’m hearing their stories about how they’re using the types of strategy and research and insights, develop insights techniques, that I use in my practice. And I’m hearing how they’re actually achieving that business growth in these ways. There’s also an emotional intelligence blog on my website, where articles that I’ve written and podcasts that I’ve been on are posted. So that is the best way. And if anybody wants to speak with me, there’s a Meet with Kevin link on my website where people can book time and I would be happy to talk with anyone who wants to have a conversation.

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

Kevin Perlmutter: Thank you so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week. Kevin Perlmutter, Founder and Chief Strategist of Limbic Brand Evolution. As always, you’ll find a full transcript and links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under insights, just click on the button marked podcast. And if you haven’t already please consider subscribing to IN CLEAR FOCUS wherever you listen to podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

In October, Bigeye published an exclusive report, Retail Disrupted, and recently released ENVISION 2022, a video exploring key findings. This week’s pod is an extended interview with ENVISION guest Syama Meagher, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scaling Retail, an innovative business consultancy. During our interview, Syama shared new insights about traditional and digital fashion – and why she believes the metaverse and Web3 offer retailers exciting opportunities. 

Episode Transcript

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

Syama Meagher: I consider myself a consumer futurist. I’m always following the money, right? I’m going, “Where is new wealth being created? How are customer values shifting? And how are we looking at being able to take some of that market share, take some of those dollars and be able to create value?”

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. Last October, Bigeye published a market research report entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed over 1,500 consumers aged 18 to 55 across America to find out how their shopping behaviors have changed as a result of the pandemic. Now, we’ve recently released a video, ENVISION 2022, in which four experts discuss key findings from the retail disrupted study and explore some of the potential implications for retailers and brand marketers. A consistent theme of our conversations was the metaverse. Decentraland, a virtual world, hosted the first Metaverse Fashion Week last month, featuring dozens of global brands. Visitors were able to virtually experience fashion shows, attend live music sessions at branded after parties, and buy and wear digital clothing directly from catwalk avatars. Our podcast today is an extended interview with one of our guests for ENVISION 2022, who joined me to discuss the new world of digital fashion. With a background in traditional retail and e-commerce, Syama Meagher has held senior positions with Macy’s, Barney’s, and Gucci among others, and today is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scaling Retail, an innovative business consultancy, specializing in launching and scaling successful fashion retail companies. She’s also an in-demand keynote speaker, a regular contributor to Forbes, and a sought-after fashion industry commentator. Syama joined us from her home in San Francisco. Syama, welcome!

Syama Meagher: Thank you, Adrian. I’m so happy to be here. 

Adrian Tennant: When did you first develop an interest in fashion?

Syama Meagher: When I was nine years old, I was that girl who went into Macy’s and went, “Oh my gosh, why are things on sale?” And wrote one of my first papers on it. So I think from a retail interest point of view, sadly, I think I’ve been curious about the retail industry since about the age of nine. And what I think has been so interesting is to kind of see how that very first inclination on why things go on sale has led me towards a whole new world of building and growing business.

Adrian Tennant: So, was there a particular time or an event that prompted you to pursue a career focused on fashion?

Syama Meagher: You know, what was so interesting is I realized that I had developed a very strong love of economics, and I always was very passionate about how systems worked. But I was also very much in love with fashion and style. And what I’d realized was the best way to execute these macro principles, these ideas around behavioral economics, but to do so in a way that was very tangible, is really what got me to fall in love with fashion because fashion is so personal. It is our identity. It is how we engage with others. So I would say, you know, it actually came out shortly after college. In university, I studied economics and philosophy, and I said, “You know what? I don’t know if I want to apply these things that I know how to do to the finance world. I think I want to be able to apply all of these great principles and ideas to the fashion world.”

Adrian Tennant: Are there particular fashion houses, designers, or entrepreneurs whom you particularly admire, or who have had a significant influence on your own approach to the business of fashion?

Syama Meagher: That’s a fantastic question. You know, I find that when I’m looking to the innovators of tomorrow, I try to look at very cross-disciplinary types of folks. So for example, thought leaders like Tom Goodwin is someone who I very much look up to. I love the ideas and thought leadership that he’s brought to tech companies. And as we look to see how fashion is growing and what happens and what moves in it, I find that actually, people from other arenas are able to provide some very interesting insight. So specifically, in terms of fashion designers, I mean, look, core to my heart, I would say I’ll always be a Phoebe Philo fan from Celine. She’s always been someone who I just admired: tastes, aesthetic, strong points of view, and commitment I think to community. And so what I think is so fascinating is when we think about the early luxury and advanced contemporary fashion brands, like, you know, Comme de Garçons and some of these brands that were so niche early on. They really garnered the love and attention of fashion fanatics, and they stayed so true and core to their identities that they’ve really been able to stand the test of time. Like Rick Owens, for example. And now you have all of these direct to consumer brands who are trying to build community, but what we’ve seen through designers like Rick Owens is the ones who stayed true to their core, their core aesthetic, their core consumers, those are the ones who continue to stay forever.

Adrian Tennant: Syama, could you tell us a bit more about your company, Scaling Retail, and the types of clients you typically work with?

Syama Meagher: Absolutely. So the thing that I love the most about Scaling Retail is we take a very 360-degree approach to business building, which I think is very different for most consultants who will come in with a very particular lens. What we’ve been able to do working with first time founders, and those who are interested in getting into spaces for the first time, is hold their hands across five main pillars. And that’s understanding your finances, your operations, looking at your product, your sales, and your marketing. And those are really five integral pillars. You cannot have siloed business models anymore, right? We need to be able to work integratively. So that is a very unique approach that we take to business. Now, in conjunction with that, we’ve also been able to attract an assortment of very interesting and exciting brands. Everything from working with the United Nations on product launches, to working with cities like the City of Coral Gables to help them with their city revitalization of their small businesses, to cannabis, fashion, lifestyle, you name it. It’s been an incredible gamut of companies and the impact that I think that’s been so incredible to see is when you see a business go from $250,000 in revenue to 10 million in revenue. That takes a moment to pause and say, “Oh my gosh, how do we actually start to create the secret sauce and to do so with every client in their own unique way?”

Adrian Tennant: Now of course, Syama, you’re also an investor and advisor. What elements typically need to be in place for you to consider investing in a startup?

Syama Meagher: That’s a really great question. So when it comes to the types of businesses, I invest across multiple verticals. And what I’m looking to do is get in on that pre-seed or seed stage round. So that’s either on the cusp of having product or good product market fit, very early stages to be able to see great accelerated growth. I am looking for companies that are on the forefront of innovation, whether that is sustainability, supply chain innovation, business model innovation. And predominantly these days I’ve been really focusing and doubling down on female-owned businesses and really starting to support the ecosystem of female entrepreneurs.

Adrian Tennant: What kinds of companies have you invested in?

Syama Meagher: So one of my favorites so far is a company called Rebundle and what they’re doing that’s fascinating is they’re the first product to innovate in the hair-braiding beauty space. Traditionally, when women get their hair braided, they’re pulling hair, either it’s synthetic hair that’s been produced for the purposes of being braided, or they’re getting hair that’s coming from other countries. And so what’s so important here is that beauty is obviously a tremendous market. And what I love so much about the thesis of Rebundle is they’re actually sourcing natural fibers that are recyclable in order to create this product that traditionally contributed to so much waste. And so this kind of innovation and product development in the supply chain, I think is so incredible. So that’s one. Another one that I’m so excited about is called The House of Wise and that is a CBD brand that’s really geared towards women. And what I love about the thesis around this business is it’s empowering women to create their own communities, to have conversations around sex, sports, wellbeing, sleep. And to be able to talk about these things very candidly while building these friendship networks and connections. So again, another female-driven business across different sorts of verticals, but focused on innovation and community.

Adrian Tennant: Now, you mentioned Rebundle as one of the companies you’ve invested in. In our retail disrupted report, we saw a greater level of interest among Gen Z consumers in recycling and reselling clothing and accessories. How are you seeing fashion brands adapt to younger consumers’ social and environmental concerns?

Syama Meagher: One of the things that I love so much about contemporary new businesses, and small businesses in particular, are the ability to be agile. You know, over the last 10 years, the ability to shift and change whether that’s supply chain, sustainability focuses, that has been really to the benefit of many young brands today. Some interesting innovations that I’ve seen are really building in the end of life of the product into the onset of the business model. So therefore right, when a Gen Z consumer is purchasing that product for the first time, there is already a resellable or recyclable program that is built into the business model. And that, I think, that circularity, of being able to sell to a consumer, have there be a platform to resell it or even to buy it back, I think is going to be fantastic, not just for Gen Zs, who want to feel more connected to their products and have products with more values, but ultimately, Adrian, to the environment, right? For us to be able to have a much healthier planet and a much healthier lifestyle.

Adrian Tennant: Digital fashion, nonfungible tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, the metaverse. I know you believe they all offer opportunities to revolutionize the ways in which fashion brands conduct business and connect with consumers. So Syama, I’m curious, was there one particular moment or event that triggered your interest in Web3?

Syama Meagher: So, back in 2014, which is now nearly 10 years ago, I had the privilege of opening up a retail store for a client in the West Village. And that opening of that store was also the advent of when we first launched the Bitcoin ATM. So you can say I’ve been crypto-curious since about 2014. And what’s hilarious is that at that time, people care less about a Bitcoin ATM, but for us at that time, it was extremely innovative and exciting. And it really was my first toe in the water that let me say, “Hey, there’s something here.” Now, fast forward nearly seven years later, we saw the first sale of that Beeple NFT from Christie’s. And what I thought was so fascinating about the sale of that was it showed not only that we were ready to have a new form of art and a new form of communication, which obviously artists are always on the forefront. But we were actually able to see a market that was hungry, rich, and ready to spend. Now for me, I consider myself a consumer futurist. I’m always following the money, right? I’m going, “where is new wealth being created? How are customer values shifting? And how are we looking at being able to take some of that market share, take some of those dollars and be able to create value?” So the moment that I saw that there was really an abundance of transactions that were happening on the marketplace in terms of people buying into crypto, crypto really kind of increasing its value. So now we have more crypto millionaires in 2020 and 2021 than we’ve ever seen before. Combining that with the utility, right? Of being able to now express that into art, into having a commodity, to me was like whoa – my mind kind of exploded. And I said, “oh my gosh! We need to be able to educate brands into how to properly execute this new invitation for our consumer to come and play with them in a new way.” And it’s not using the US dollar, it’s using Ethereum or Bitcoin or any of these other tokens and solutions. So I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for April is Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World by Faris Yakob. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Paid Attention, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts, including this week’s podcast guest, Syama Meagher.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand.

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s ENVISION 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a conversation with Syama Meagher, the founder and chief executive officer of Scaling Retail, who was recently a featured guest with Bigeye’s ENVISION 2022 video event. Well, I mentioned in the intro that you worked with Gucci in the past. The iconic fashion house released a digital version of one of their purses that actually cost more than the physical version did. Syama, what’s the appeal of investing in an NFT from a luxury brand compared to purchasing a physical product from that brand?

Syama Meagher: So interesting, right? Because it’s not like the person who bought the NFT got the handbag, right? They just got the NFT. Now, what I think is important to project ourselves into is, a future or a lifestyle where we want to represent who we are, wherever we’re engaging with people, right? You and I are engaging right now. How do I best represent myself? How can I show you who I am in the context of this digital conversation? And so when I think about things like the value of an NFT, you know, there are so many different utilities for it, but someone who’s going to buy that Gucci NFT, who wants to engage with that brand digitally. Chances are they’re spending a lot of their lives, right, and their life online, engaging with other people digitally, right? If I’m spending a lot of time going to parties and events, and I’m seeing people in real life, well, you better believe I’m going to want the social capital and status that comes along with having that Gucci handbag so I can show it off in real life. So if you think of our products and the things that we buy as extensions of identity and extensions of self, one doesn’t have to look much further than saying, “Well, where am I showing up every day? And where do I want people to get to understand and know me better?” So that digital version of a handbag, right, having those NFTs from luxury brands or from artists are going to become increasingly important as we have more platforms and opportunities to showcase and share with each other, our social capital.

Adrian Tennant: Well, I understand how that works for really well-established, large luxury brands. I know your client base also includes pre-revenue, or early growth stage companies. So in what kinds of ways are you thinking about NFTs and web three in relation to their businesses today and into the future?

Syama Meagher: Great question. NFTs are an invitation for consumers to be a part of a journey. As a small brand, there are so many ways in which you want people to be evangelizing and to be a part of your community. And so many reasons why it’s so valuable. The first is we are seeing now smaller brands use NFTs as fundraising mechanisms. That means instead of going to, let’s say a crowdfunding place in order to raise capital for your business, you can raise non-dilutive capital. So that means capital from consumers that are coming into your bank account that are not going to require a line item on your cap table. They’re not going to own a piece of your business, but they’re going to own a piece of that journey. So what I’ve been working with brands on is really not only how do we get you Web3, but truly, what are the consumer problems that you’re solving that actually Web3 is going to help you solve a lot easier? So good examples of that would be: let’s say I’m building community and I’m inviting everyone to come to an event. And this event that I’m doing is going to be one in 20 events of the year. And I want to see who are my most loyal fans, right? Not even consumers, but loyal fans. Well, I might, for everyone who shows up to my event, I might airdrop them an NFT. That’s almost like a ticket for the event and that way we can see who’s attending the event. Now let’s say they collect 15 out of the 20 events. Well, that person may not have been a purchaser of my product, but they sure as hell are brand loyal. These are our evangelists. So I’m going to go ahead and reward that person who’s now unlocked these different NFTs with some sort of reward mechanism, right? They’re now part of a certain segment of loyalty. That’s just one way of being able to engage a consumer. The other ways are being able to offer collectibles alongside physical products. So, hey, you’re going to now have, and there are so many companies that are working on this problem, but you’re going to have a digital gallery of all of the art that you own that’s an NFT. Well, if I’m a small brand, I might say, “well, you know what? With every product that I sell of this limited edition collection, I’m going to go ahead and give an NFT alongside it. And that NFT is going to be proof of ownership and proof that you actually have an authentic piece of the small collection.” Now, if someone wants to resell it, they’ll resell the NFT, right? And that I think is a very simple and easy way for smaller brands to say, “Hey, I’m already producing sustainably, limited edition quantities. I already have a niche consumer. How do I help my consumer evangelize what I’m doing on all the spaces that are important for that consumer to show up in?”

Adrian Tennant: We’ve seen sports brands like Nike and Adidas selling virtual sneakers, and then of course, as we’ve been discussing, many luxury fashion brands are also active in this NFT space. It’s still very early days, but are you getting a sense that metaverse consumers are the most enthusiastic brand loyalists in real life? Or do you think these fashion consumers in the digital realm are representing different types of buyers?

Syama Meagher: Hmm, this is interesting. If you were to look at the saleability factor of let’s say a new hot, like you mentioned, Nike, a new hot Nike sneaker. Right? Well, think of it like this: if a new hot Nike sneaker, sometimes people are buying those products not to wear them, but they’re buying them to resell them. We hear about this all the time. Right. People who are sneakerheads, or sometimes, you know, the ones who own them and wear them and like to look at them. But also there is an entirely new ecosystem of the resell market. I would say some of these NFT loyalists might also be flippers, they’re looking to invest in new hot drops, and then they’re looking to resell them. That’s just one slice of it, right? And that would be almost very similar to that kind of StockX sort of equivalency. Get first in line, buy the sneaker, and resell it. So think of the NFT as also having that brand loyal resell ability. Now also think of who these brand loyalists are, right. Or who’s consuming these NFTs as also people who were very interested in terms of what is community and what’s going to be building. So what we haven’t yet seen because NFTs are so young, like we’ve established, we actually haven’t seen any sort of NFT program launch full circle in terms of customer experience over time. So all we’ve seen so far are the beginning stages of this, right? And in the beginning stages, it simply means like, “join this and we’re going to give you the promise of Y if you buy X. ” but we haven’t actually seen is: are those promises being made good on? Right. Like, what is the actual loyalty community program over time? Now, certain companies have done well in terms of getting their foot in the door. Breitling did a launch of an NFT blockchain project that helped with authentication of their products so that people who had one of the watches, had the NFT, they could join an exclusive club, but we have yet to actually see many of these roadmaps take off in a way where we can track how frequent someone is engaging with the community. Are they truly buying more items from that brand or do they just continue to buy NFTs? lots of questions TBD.

Adrian Tennant: What is the one aspect of retailing that you think is most likely to be disrupted or look completely different by 2030?

Syama Meagher: I can only pick one? Um, okay. So one thing about retail, that’s totally going to change. Oh, my gosh. I want to say two things. I’m going to say one, and then if you, if you let me have the second, I’ll have the second.

Adrian Tennant: Syama, of course, I’ll let you have a second.

Syama Meagher: Okay, great. So I think the first thing that I’m so excited about actually is what all of the shifts in our supply chain are going to mean for how we consume products and our value of products. And what I mean by that is we’ve seen so many shifts and changes, obviously with disruptions in the supply chain, in manufacturing, and shipping and logistics and where we are producing products that I actually do believe that consumers are starting to understand how fragile our supply chain infrastructure is. And also the value of buying a domestically produced product. This is something that really suffered in the last 10 years. We heard a lot early 10 years ago about made in USA and how great that is. But very few consumers were actually willing to be able to put their resources or money behind those products because they were more expensive. But now, as we’re kind of looking at where, you know, supply chain shifts are happening and people are starting to understand that they’re not going to get those products in time, or as quickly as they want unless they’re manufactured locally. I think consumers are gonna be willing to spend more money for the product they want in order to have them in time. And so I think that the supply chain shifts now are going to change how we look at the value of domestic manufacturing. And I think more consumers are going to be willing to spend the money, whereas before they might’ve seen it as a vanity or fad To be able to luxuriously pay for me, made in the USA. So I think that’s a huge shift. Now, in terms of how we, and the second, thank you for giving me the second. Um, I think the other thing that’s going to be so fascinating or exciting is going to really be how we think about shopping and what it means to be able to have our identity showing up in all of these different spaces. And so when I’m looking at how consumers right now are thinking about, being brand loyal or having repeat purchases or what they’re buying from, there is going to be a synthesis of the metaverse within real life. And that means it’s not only going to be having a seamless, e-commerce experience, but it’s truly going to be, I think the advent of having an iPhone, being able to hold it up to something, being able to buy, have access and see through layers of engagement. And I think that our smartphones will be the gateways to how we start to purchase and consume more on-demand.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent! Syama, if people would like to learn more about you, your consultancy, Scaling Retail, or attend upcoming events that you’re speaking at, where can they find you?

Syama Meagher: Absolutely Adrian. All of our socials are quite robust, but I would say the Scaling Retail Instagram is a fantastic way to see all of the fun and exciting things that we’re up to. And then also on our newsletter and Adrian, I’d be remiss not to mention we’ve got an extensive YouTube platform with just a ton of fantastic retail and business information. I mean, I think being on the forefront of what’s happening in this rapidly changing world and being able to see the vision and execute tactically is something I’m so deeply passionate about. And I think people will be excited to see more.

Adrian Tennant: Well, that definitely comes across. Syama, thank you very much for sharing your insights with us!

Syama Meagher: Oh, thank you so much, Adrian. Such a pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to our guest this week, Syama Meagher, the founder and CEO of Scaling Retail. As always you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyegency.com, where you’ll also find details about Bigeye’s ENVISION 2022 video event. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host. Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

Friday, April 22 is Earth Day. While many profess a desire to help fight climate change by engaging in more sustainable behaviors, there’s often a gap between people’s expressed intentions and their actual behaviors. Applied consumer neuroscience expert Michael Smith joins us to discuss his book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices. Hear what Michael believes marketers and advertising creatives need to do to encourage more consumers to purchase sustainable products and services.

Episode Transcript

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

Michael E. Smith: There’s a great need for brand advertisers to educate consumers about the real personal and societal benefits of sustainable products and environmental behavior.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today. This Friday, April 22nd is Earth Day, which marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The website at earthday.org chronicles how, over the decades, hundreds of millions of people have been brought into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteerism in 193 countries. Of course, the fight for a cleaner environment continues as the impact of climate change becomes more apparent every day. So to mark earth day, our podcast this week is an Encore episode, featuring the author of a book exploring the ways in which our consumer economy affects the ecosystem we inhabit and explains why efforts to mitigate humanity’s impact have to start with an improved understanding of consumer behavior. The book is entitled, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices: Leverage Neuroscience To Reshape Marketplace Behavior. Its author, Michael E. Smith, is an applied cognitive neuroscientist and management professional experienced in consumer research, neurotechnology research, development, and commercialization. Michael was a senior partner in Nielsen’s NeuroFocus consulting practice, president of Cortech labs, vice-president of Nielsen’s consumer neuroscience practice, and is the founder and principal scientist of Adaptation Research. Currently focused on challenges at the intersection of psychology, behavior change, and environmentally sustainable products and services, Michael joined us for this interview last October from his home in La Jolla, California. Michael, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Michael E. Smith: Adrian, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Adrian Tennant: So, Michael, what prompted you to write Inspiring Green Consumer Choices?

Michael E. Smith: Well, several things. First, it integrates two topics I’ve had a long interest in. One of those is the emergence of the discipline of consumer neuroscience over the last decade or so. That discipline attempts to better understand consumer decision-making through advances in neuroscience, experimental psychology, behavioral economics, and other disciplines. As you noted in the introduction, I had been working in this field for many years and watched it grow from a niche discipline to something that’s become much more mainstream. The second topic was a growing interest in the expanding effort of marketers to both reduce the environmental footprints of the products and services they are creating and to promote those efforts and their marketing communications, there didn’t seem to be much overlap and the related literatures on these two issues. So I recognize that gap in the discussion and identified a need to introduce the fields to each other. Of course, another proximal backdrop that motivated me, was the growing impacts of extreme weather across the globe and evidence that increasing numbers of consumers were voicing both greater recognition of environmental problems and greater desire to adopt more sustainable ways of existing in the world.

Adrian Tennant: Well, the first chapter of Inspiring Green Consumer Choices includes some eye-popping stats reflecting American consumerism. You write that the average individual living in a modern home now has over 200% more personal space in which to stretch out, consume media and store their personal collections of stuff than someone would have done just a few generations previously. And yet, even with all this extra room, often including one or two car garage is filled to the brim with more stuff, almost one in every 11 Americans pay for storage facilities outside their home, fueling the $40 billion a year self storage industry. Michael, how did we get here?

Michael E. Smith: Well, slowly and then much faster. following world war two and more developed nations and especially in the US which suffered much less than the Homeland from the war, consumer behavior grew to become an increasingly large component of GDP. this mainly reflected the growth of the middle class in the U S with increasing prosperity and increasing availability of consumer goods. After a slow and relatively steady growth and demand for consumer products, essentially from the beginning of the industrial revolution onwards, beginning in the 1950s demands for such goods, enter a period of essentially exponential growth. that has put unsustainable impacts on the resources available to meet such demand and on the ability of planets, physical systems to absorb the polluting byproducts of meeting those demands. The period from around 1950 to the present is sometimes referred to by resource management experts and economists as the great acceleration. And while one might assume that much of this increase in environmental impact simply reflects population growth, in fact, most of the growth of the consumer economy has occurred in developed nations, which haven’t witnessed that much population growth. Whereas much of the population growth instead has occurred in less developed nations that are least responsible for the growth and consult.

Adrian Tennant: What are the psychological factors behind our seemingly irrational consumption and hoarding behaviors?

Michael E. Smith: Well, this is not fully understood. So let me just be clear on that. But we have inklings of what’s driving it. It is clear that the same reward systems in the brain that are involved in more extreme and pathological psychiatric aberrations, such as compulsive shopping, gambling addiction, extreme hoarding behavior, and also physical addictions to substances. Those same mechanisms are also engaged when clinically normal people buy things. the process of shopping for and purchasing attractive products, engages deep brain structures involved with reward anticipation. Which provides a bit of a dopamine rush to the shopper, you know, when they select the purchase and decide to buy it. This is a very transient effect and our emotions regressed to a kind of equilibrium after a purchase. And, you know, in a pretty, rapid fashion. As a result, the last shiny new thing we purchased is no longer quite as exciting anymore. And we step back on what is sometimes referred to as a hedonic treadmill and pursuit of other goals and desires and in a largely unconscious effort to reinstate the positive feelings we experienced on previous shopping occasions. Over time, based on that reinforcement, we develop automatic habits that drive purchasing of preferred products in a relatively autonomous fashion. We don’t give it much thought once it’s become a habit. And because we live in a social world, we tend to model our own behavior around what we see others doing and those others are also busily out there shopping. And because of that it becomes a societal norm to do exactly that behavior. and to some degree, because people are concerned about how they are perceived by others, some purchasing relates directly to an effort to convey taste and status to our peers, you know, to look good in the eyes of others.

Adrian Tennant: This is the concept of self where what we choose to buy is really an expression of how we want others to perceive us?

Michael E. Smith: Very much so.

Adrian Tennant: Michael, in Inspiring Green Consumer Choices, you describe mental models of the relationship consumers have with the environment and the history of earth day, which has been celebrated in April every year since 1970. Could you just briefly explain the roots of the circular economy movement?

Michael E. Smith: Sure. So it’s this acceleration beginning in the 1950s, by the early 1960s, people were becoming more aware of the growing problem than many forms of environmental pollution. And by 1970, as you note, there emerged widespread concern about the impacts we were having on the planet and hence the emergence of the earth day phenomenon. Accompanying this concern was a growing realization that planetary resources were not unlimited. If we are to have a long-term future on the planet, we would need to move beyond the traditional. What sometimes referred to as a linear take use, dispose of view of consumption to end, that was less wasteful and that better mimics what happens in nature and in nature, nothing is really wasted or use it up, but rather materials are cycled through ecosystems, such that the outputs from one use becomes the inputs to another process. Since this period, was also the dawn of the space age, late in the 1960s, the sociologist and economists Kenneth Boulding characterize this the emerging difference in worldview, as essentially on the old perspective, he is the metaphor of a cowboy exploring and exploiting a limitless frontier versus the emerging relatively closed system of a spaceship astronaut dependent on life support systems that minimize environmental contaminants and that recycles limited resources in more recent decades, this notion has evolved to a discussion of a circular economy, largely building on those metaphors one where waste is minimized, and the end of life of one product cycle provides resources for the next or for some new upcycled phenomenon.

Adrian Tennant: All of us engaged in quantitative and qualitative research know that pro-social biases often result in marked differences between what survey respondents and the focus group participants say they’ll do and what they actually do in real life. Environmentally conscious behaviors are no different. The problem which you lay out in your book is the gap between what consumers say about the importance of sustainability considerations in the purchase decisions and their actual choices and post-purchase, pro-environmental behaviors they engage in. Can you explain this intention action gap?

Michael E. Smith: Pro-social response biases undoubtedly play some role in explaining the gap. Additional influences may be at work as well and some of those influences may be inherent in the psychology of the consumer, while others may reflect a market failure of one form or another. On the consumer side, people just aren’t very good accountants of their own behavior. They may lack insight into how often they actually engage in pro environmental behaviors. And because they’re well-known to rely on a variety of mental heuristics, one such being the availability bias, or how easy something comes to mind when you try to think of it, they may overweight the frequency by which they engage in such behaviors, especially if it is easy to remember instances where environmental concerns weighed on their decision-making, if that comes easily to mind, it’s easy to assume that you do that more often than you actually, frankly, do. People also tend to discount some benefits such as environmental benefits if they promise to pay off only in the future, we discount future rewards to a great degree, whereas when they are trying to satisfy some immediate need, state hunger, thirst, a need for a new pair of shoes, they may be more attuned to immediate functional benefits rather than sustainability claims of more environmentally friendly products. And generally consciously considering the pros and cons of environmental benefits typically require more mental effort on their part. They might not fully understand a potential benefit and they may be skeptical of brands emphasizing such claims, and they may not really be willing to spend the extra mental effort to think through that problem. I’m reminded of a frequently cited quote, usually attributed to the Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahneman: ” thinking is to humans as swimming as to cats, we can do it, but absolutely hate it!”. So part of the gap may be intrinsic to human psychology. but another part of that gap may be attributable to problems brought on by marketers themselves. They have made claims that are difficult to understand in the first place. And those claims may in some cases, be rightly viewed with suspicion as there is a long history of brands engaging in greenwashing and purpose, washing, activities of that nature. And it’s well documented, so it’s not really controversial for me to say that, and I should be obvious. marketers tend to price more sustainable products at a premium to more traditional products. Yeah, many consumers may not be able to afford that differential. And a third part that might contribute to this is that some barriers that are more institutional and structural in nature, a pro-environmental consumer may sincerely want to engage in a behavior such as say, purchasing organic foods are recycling packaging, but if they live in a place where organic foods aren’t widely available or where recycling infrastructure is underdeveloped or undeveloped, they may not have the opportunity to engage in the behavior despite their desire to. So while the intention action gap is real, I think there are many things that contribute to it.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm, that’s interesting. Because the limitations of research instruments that rely upon respondents and participants self-reporting are generally well understood within the industry, there are also researchers and suppliers that offer implicit methods, including biometrics, like eye tracking, facial expression analysis, galvanic, skin response, and electroencephalography, or EEG that aim to decode consumers non-conscious thoughts. Michael, you’ve gone a lot further than most in understanding the shopping brain. Could you tell us a little about your experience as a leader in Nielsen’s consumer neuroscience practice and how the learnings could inspire brands to make it easier for consumers to make green choices?

Michael E. Smith: Happy to, and, I will say that of all the types of tools you described, it is the case that much of the applied research I’ve been involved with, and commercial endeavors I have relied heavily on those tools. my experience in the domain actually precedes my being a direct, employee of Nielsen because I previously worked for many years, and a startup that Nielsen, subsequently acquired much of that work focused on traditional, market research associated with evaluating, commercial communications about brands and their benefits and, their, attempts at persuasion in the marketplace. But such tools can serve the same purpose for the sustainability market as they do for traditional marketing. In fact, the portion of the research agenda I was directly responsible for at Nielsen examined how the brain measurement tools frequently employed in the field for optimizing commercial marketing in general could also be used to optimize communications, promoting different types of prosocial behavior. Some of the tools are really good for identifying what grabs your attention and what fails to. Others are good for estimating whether communication imposes too high of the mental workload to be effectively processed and which in turn can lead to negative emotional response. And still others could help identify whether a communication promotes a positive emotional response, and whether it’s memorable. And the commercial world, these tools can be used to pre-test communications in order to evaluate what is working well and what requires some creative optimization before it’s unleashed into the media sphere of one form or another. I’m sure you’re well acquainted with that process. Yeah, for example, for an application in this domain, I’m reminded of one project that we did on behalf of a non-governmental organization that was developing public service advertisements to promote recycling behavior. We were able to identify parts of, you know, a 32nd ad or a 62nd ad under development, that was either eliciting confusion as to what the point was or failed to elicit an emotional connection. And in turn the feedback from that measurement exercise provided information to the creative team, working on the spot that they were able to use to increase the degree by relatively minor edits and the advertising copy to increase the degree to which viewers engaged with the advertisement. So applying these tools to sustainability marketing really are not intrinsically different than marketing in general.

Adrian Tennant: And the other title by which some of these tools go, of course, is neuro marketing. I’m wondering how you feel about that term.

Michael E. Smith: Well, I have mixed feelings about it. neuro-marketing is really in my mind, the difference between consumer neuroscience and the use of the term neuro-marketing is I think of the, term consumer neuroscience applying more specifically to evaluating brain responses in response to marketing materials, whereas neuro-marketing, and my mind is more. Well, it sounds scarier to some people, rightly so in some instances, but it’s also really the application of the insights that come from consumer neuroscience to marketing strategy. So it really, those insights may help a brand marketer or an advertising team construct effective communications. And if you rely on neuroscience inputs to construct those communications, and you’re the person putting those communications out into the wild, well, that’s more of what I conceive of as neuro-marketing per se. Many other people would just equate the terms.

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for April is Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World by Faris Yakob. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Paid Attention, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022. 

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse constructed as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense. 

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. To not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complimentary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping television.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: Join us for a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing. Bigeye’s Envision 2022, coming soon.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to an Encore episode, featuring Michael Smith, author of the book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices: Leverage Neuroscience To Reshape Marketplace Behavior. Due to the pandemic, many US consumers had no choice but to order products online and have goods delivered to the homes. As previous guests on this podcast have noted, while we like the convenience of home delivery, it presents us with a lot more packaging waste to dispose of. Michael, you write about the important roles that habit and intent play in consumer behaviors. Could you explain why these are so important if we want to change how we shop in order to be more sustainable?

Michael E. Smith: Well, let me first say something about the first issue and then talk about habits, which are indeed very important. the other side of increased packaging for deliveries is that you’ve dramatically decreased, the human time resource and the, you know, vehicle miles traveled by everybody going out, driving to the supermarket. and then when they’re wandering around in the marketplace, maybe buying things they never intended to in the first place. So I think there are pros and cons on the sustainability front, in terms of e-commerce and further, there’s a lot of pressure on the major e-commerce providers to clean up their act as much as possible, so there’s that going for it. but to get to your point about habits, Psychologists have documented that habitual patterns of behavior influence a significant fraction of all consumer choices, especially if those choices are about products, typically purchase frequently or routinely and purchase and the context of your favorite shopping center that you’ve been to many, many times shopping for many of the same products. mainly because during the habitual behavior is relatively easy: it requires a little thought and has fairly predictable rewards associated with it. You do the same thing over, you’re likely to have the same outcome that you did in the past, whereas doing something new has the risk of remorse associated with the purchase, something that you short circuit by relying on habits. For highly ingrained behaviors, such as habits, explicit intentions, to do something different or to do the same thing more frequently, appear to have relatively little influence and academic research on this topic, if you compare the strength of an existing habit versus an individual’s explicit claims about their behavioral intentions, habit, strength in general appears to be a better predictor of actual behavior than stated intent is. One way to overcome that: habits are driven by a familiar contexts, providing cues that activate the habitual behavior. So one way to get around that is if you’re a marketer who wants to overcome existing habits is to disrupt the context in some way. And by disrupting the context, you’re more likely to give people the mental space to adopt new behaviors. and sometimes you don’t even need to disrupt the context. Sometimes life does that for you. So for example, if someone’s starting a new job, going to a new school, moving to a new neighborhood, they have to recalibrate all their routine behaviors to better adapt to the new environment. And if you can identify people, who’ve switched the context on themselves, you can approach them when they’re in a state of mind to actually try something new, with greater acceptance than they might otherwise.

Adrian Tennant: Michael, you cite a McKinsey and Company study that found that consumers feel that it’s largely the responsibility of companies and governments to reduce barriers to green consumption. What do brand marketers need to do to adjust to consumers’ growing intentions 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. They also 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: Hmm, that’s a great point. What are the kinds of adjustments that those of us working in the advertising industry will need to make to support green consumption and adoption of a post consumerism mindset?

Michael E. Smith: There’s a great need for brand advertisers to educate consumers about the real personal and societal benefits of sustainable products and environmental behavior. More generally, there’s a growing body of evidence that more informed consumers tend to be more receptive to sustainable marketing efforts. Whereas less informed consumers tend to be more skeptical. so advertising and creative development teams really need to work with marketers to convey, where we’re headed and, fashion that is informative, without eliciting so much despair that people just give up and try not to be,more sustainably thoughtful, beyond that, I think the advertising community needs to help marketers to build more trust with their consumers. They need to rely more on things like trusted third party verifications of claims. especially on topics such as sustainable sourced and fair trade bonafides rather than promoting claims that lack such certification, or that may seem otherwise self-serving, You know, the creative agencies need to be conscious to avoid communications that smack of greenwashing. Consumers will be quick to detect it and will be turned off by it. And we’ll be more likely to engage in negative word of mouth to disparage it. and finally, I think one thing that’s really critical and that’s missing and a lot of sustainability marketing, is a failure to highlight the immediate, personal benefits that a product might convey, rather than focusing on abstract environmental benefits that might be remote and in space, because if you’re not helping people to, satisfy their immediate needs, they’re not going to have the bandwidth, to try to aspire to help to satisfy a future generation’s needs. 

Adrian Tennant: When it comes to beliefs and attitudes about climate change here in the US there is polarization among the general public, as the topic has become as politicized as mandatory precautions against COVID-19.Michael, how can marketers address those skeptical of climate change? 

Michael E. Smith: You know, the first thing to realize, trying to rationally argue this point With extreme deniers it’s likely to get you nowhere. They’re likely to just harden their position because they’re not reasoning about it in a rational way, but rather in an emotional way, that may be based on their values, that may be based on their peer group, and the place of that peer group or many other factors. So, you know, one way to address this is, personalized to the extent possible communications, that makes sustainable goods and services more personally relevant to climate skeptics. And you can do that by not focusing on carbon emissions, but rather focusing on the functional and personal benefits of the sustainable products. For example, Tesla, they didn’t become a trillion dollar company. By highlighting environmental benefits. In fact, they do little direct advertising at all. And you very seldom hear Elon Musk tweeting about, you know, their impact on, carbon emissions. Rather, in a variety of ways, they try to highlight their cars being cool, sexy, high performance, and fun to drive. Their cars are an offering that also has the benefit, frankly of lifetime costs that although they seem expensive on the surface once you take into account, fuel savings, reduced repair costs because they’re actually mechanically simpler than an ice vehicle, they’re cheaper than other premium vehicles. So by convincing people, this is a cool choice,that you’ll have fun with, and that you’ll even save money on, none of that says anything about climate and, you know, that’s worked really well for them. You know, similarly you might be able to convince a denialist to nonetheless soak up their house with led lights for many of the similar reasons: they last virtually forever. they’re a little more costly, but they have such a dramatic reduction in your energy use that they paid for themselves many times over once they’re installed. who wouldn’t want to be receptive to that? I know before I got my,solar panels, I put LEDs all over the house and monitored the impact, and it actually reduced my electrical bills by about 25% because we live in a climate where we don’t have to do much heating or cooling. so lighting is actually a big component of electrical expenses. And again, you don’t have to talk about the environmental benefits to highlight those benefits. So I think that’s a good strategy with those denialists, but you know, and this is,my activism coming to light, focusing particularly on,your industry, and not to be too pointed about it, but advertising creatives should follow the lead of the organization, clean creatives, which you could look at at CleanCreatives.org, which is an organization of advertisers bringing together leading agencies, their employees, and clients to address the ad and PR industry’s work with the fossil fuel industry, which is documented to be extensive. And the ideas, to stop profiting from the sale of fossil fuels at the agency level. And instead, begin to combat the longstanding corporate greenwashing the fossil fuel industry has engaged in, that has, in fact, encouraged climate disinformation and denialism in the first place. They kind of manufactured that whole cognitive positioning. So, just again, my activist thoughts that given the question, I can’t help, but bring up.

Adrian Tennant: I’m very glad that you did.. Michael, if in clear focus, listeners would like to learn more about you, your work in consumer neuroscience and psychology, or your book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices, where can they find you?

Michael E. Smith: If they want to have direct communications, the best thing is just email me at michael@adaptationresearch.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn. And if you’re interested in the book, it’s available for order either on major e-commerce platforms like Amazon or Walmart, or from my publisher, Kogan page, just Google Inspiring Green Consumer Choices, and you’ll get lots of hits on the topic.

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

Michael E. Smith: Thank you, Adrian. It’s been a real pleasure to be with you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to our guest on this week’s Encore episode, Michael Smith, applied cognitive neuroscientist and the principal scientist of Adaptation Research. If you’d like to obtain a copy of Michael’s book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you’ll receive a 20% discount when you purchase online at KoganPage.com. Just enter the promo code BIGEYE20 at the checkout. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com under insights, just select podcast. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week. Goodbye.