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

Melanie Deziel is an award-winning branded content creator and author of the bestselling book, The Content Fuel Framework. Melanie discusses how she became the first editor of branded content at The New York Times and shares what she’s learned about the art and science of creating engaging and effective inbound marketing. We discuss Melanie’s framework and learn how individuals and teams can easily generate up to 100 content marketing story ideas on any given topic.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS is a conversation we first published in June of this year. Our guest is Melanie Deziel, an award-winning branded content creator who discusses her bestselling book, The Content Fuel Framework. If you’re currently planning for 2022, this episode offers a practical guide to generating up to 100 content marketing story ideas on any given topic. Enjoy this encore episode with Melanie Deziel. Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Melanie Deziel: Every content idea is really made up of two things: the first part is the focus. So that’s “What are we going to say? What are we going to talk about? What’s the perspective?” That’s really the message. And then the second element is the format. How are we going to bring that idea to life, visualize it, and make it something people can consume?


Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Content marketing aims to provide relevant information that helps brands’ prospects and customers solve problems or address challenges. Content acts as a magnet, which attracts leads. The term content marketing was first used in 2001 by Penton Media, but it’s not a new concept. American businesses have been telling stories to attract customers for almost three centuries. Benjamin Franklin was probably content marketing’s first exponent, publishing the annual Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote Franklin’s printing business starting in 1732. At the very beginning of the 20th century, tire company Michelin developed The Michelin Guide to help drivers maintain their cars and find decent lodging when traveling; that guide is still published today. And a more recent landmark: in 2014, The Lego Movie debuted, making it the first example of a feature-length, major studio film that doubles as branded content marketing. So we’ve never consumed as much content in as many forms and in as many places as we do today. And yet in a 2020 survey, 60 percent of marketers said their biggest challenge is creating content consistently. So how can we fill web pages, social feeds, and YouTube channels with content that people actually want and respond to? Our guest today has some practical answers and advice. Melanie Deziel is a keynote speaker, author, award-winning branded content creator, and lifelong storyteller on a mission to share the power of compelling and credible content with others. Melanie is the Director of Content at Foundation Marketing and the author of the bestselling book, The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas. Prior to joining Foundation, Melanie was the Chief Content Officer of StoryFuel, and before that, the first editor of branded content at The New York Times. Melanie was a founding member of HuffPost‘s brand and storytelling team and served as director of creative strategy for Time, Inc. building branded content strategy across more than 35 media properties, including Time, Fortune, People, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly. To discuss her career and share some of what she’s learned about the art and science of creating, engaging, branded content, Melanie is joining us today from her home office in Raleigh, North Carolina. Melanie, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Melanie Deziel: Hi there. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Melanie, how do you define branded content marketing?

Melanie Deziel: I think there’s a lot of ways that you could define it and I’ve heard people define it as specifically advertising content that you’re sharing to communicate with your audience. For me, I think it’s not just the advertising content. It’s also the organic content. So anything really that you’re creating that is a means to communicate with your audience and create a connection there to communicate some sort of value or information. I think that counts. So that would be anything from a blog post that you might create, a video you share on YouTube, a course you create, a map that you circulate. I mean, really anything that you are creating to provide value to the audience, that falls in that bucket for me.

Adrian Tennant: Today, you’re the Director of Content at Foundation Marketing. What does your role at Foundation entail?

Melanie Deziel: It’s a really fun role and very different for me. So I’d never worked in an agency environment before, I’ve always worked at a publisher. And so in this role, my job is twofold. On one side, I’m helping Foundation with our own content, right? I’m helping to increase the level of quality and the frequency of content on our blog and on our social channels, some of the info products that we have. But I also work on a lot of our client content as well. So I’m overseeing many of the writers and creators on our team, since we primarily focus on written content: overseeing that copy, helping them improve their writing skills. So basically I like to say that if anyone’s creating content and that falls under my purview.

Adrian Tennant: Melanie, you earned your BA degree in journalism at the University of Connecticut, and your MA in arts journalism from Syracuse University. From there to becoming the first-ever editor of branded content at The New York Times, what did your career journey look like?

Melanie Deziel: It was an interesting journey. I always struggle to connect the dots because I think honestly, a lot of it was just following the opportunities that popped up. It wasn’t necessarily a plan or a journey that I had planned out ahead of time. It was really saying “Yes” and figuring it out later in many cases. So, when I graduated from graduate school, I had a really hard time finding a job, I think like many people around that time. The newsrooms were downsizing, they were going from print to digital. And there weren’t as many journalism jobs as I would have imagined – and certainly not when you try to specialize in either in-depth investigative or arts criticism. Those are generally the first two teams that lose budget. So it was actually a really savvy recruiter who said “I have this role at The Huffington Post and it’s creating content. So it’s like journalism, but it’s for brands.” And at the time I thought, “Okay, well I’ll take a job. And I’ll certainly take a job in New York”, which was part of my goal to get there. So, you know, it wasn’t something I thought I’d be doing for life but what I discovered is that my journalism background was incredibly helpful in a branded content environment. And luckily from a timing perspective, other folks who are on the team moved on to new positions. And so I found myself very soon after arriving you know, sort of leading this team overseeing our interns, overseeing our fellows. And suddenly I became an expert in a thing that I didn’t know existed a few months prior and it’s all gone from there.

Adrian Tennant: Which examples of branded content produced under your leadership in any organization are you proudest of, and why?

Melanie Deziel: So my gut reaction is to talk about a piece we did at The New York Times for Netflix, for their show, Orange Is The New Black. We created a piece for them around what it’s like to be a woman in an American prison. And that piece won a number of awards. It was very well-trafficked, very well-liked. But what’s interesting to me is I actually like a different piece that we made that got a lot less fanfare. It was very similar in its design, its layout, the features that it included, but the topic was the New York City ballet. And so we were working with a shoe company who had sponsored some of these ballerinas to be their spokespeople. So once again, I embedded with the ballerinas for a series of days seeing all the things that it takes – we called it “Grit and Grace” – seeing how much hard work and pain and struggle goes into making something look so completely effortless. And to me, that was wonderful because it was tying back into that arts criticism background that I had to be looking at the arts and talking about dance and the costumes. I think I enjoyed creating that piece the most.

Adrian Tennant: Your bestselling book is called The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas. Melanie, what prompted you to write the book?

Melanie Deziel: So the book actually came out of necessity as well. If you’re noticing a trend here, I guess I’m a “go with the flow” and “follow the opportunity” kind of person! I had been thinking about this idea. It was something I was using in my workshops – it didn’t have the structure and the name that it does in the book, but conceptually, I was working on this kind of thing with clients all the time. And the opportunity that struck was when I was on my way to a conference where I was slated to give a speech. And at the very last minute, while I’m boarding the plane, they tell me that the speaker before me has had an emergency, and could I do two talks? Could I do a completely separate, second talk to help fill the time slot? And so I had this opportunity of, “Hey, I’ve got to come up with a 45-minute talk out of nowhere.” And so I fell back on that idea. I sort of forced myself to articulate it in a new way: to build visuals to complement it. And what happened is after that conference, that talk got much more traction and positive response than even the keynote that I had planned and rehearsed and put all this effort into. And so I realized that you know, it resonates with people, it connects with them, it’s helpful for them. And so I sort of decided I need to further develop that idea. And ultimately it turned into the book.

Adrian Tennant: Well, there’s a couple of themes there. Number one: necessity being the mother of invention and second of all, actually not knowing necessarily when you create content until you look at the analytics to figure out how it’s going to land.

Melanie Deziel: That kind of is true of all kinds of content. I think that’s universal in many ways. If all of us knew the exact recipe to do it perfectly, we’d all be doing it. You know, It is still very much experimentation. And I think as a speaker, you generally get that feedback in real-time. You could see people’s faces if you’re in person, you can hear them gasping or laughing or clapping. So it’s really interesting to be able to take that live feedback – you know, the feedback you’re getting on a human level – and then take a look at the data you get afterward, which would include things like speaker ratings or I like to measure how many people proactively reach out to me, because to me that’s a lot of effort, to track me down or, or send an email. That to me is a good indicator of resonance. And so that is how I knew that this concept that people really are drawn to this idea of “How can I create better content? How can I come up with more ideas? I need some structure around that process.” So I just leaned all the way into that.

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the key challenges marketers face is producing content consistently. The Content Fuel Framework provides a straightforward process for generating up to a hundred content ideas around any given topic. Briefly, could you explain how the system that you’ve developed works?

Melanie Deziel: Absolutely. So, In short, every content idea is really made up of two things. Whereas our instinct is to maybe say, “I need an idea.” What we really need to think about is the two parts of the idea. The first part is the focus. So that’s “What are we going to say? What are we going to talk about? What’s the perspective?” Right? That’s really the message, when you talk about the focus. And then the second element is the format. How are we going to bring that idea to life, visualize it, and make it something people can consume? And the book really walks you through, “Here are a bunch of options for focuses, for approaches you can take through your stories, and here are a bunch of options for formats.” And it kind of helps you create this system. I visualize it as a matrix with all the focuses on one side, all the formats down the other side, and that creates all these possible intersections, these different ways you could bring stories to life. The goal, of course being, you know, you don’t need to make all of these ideas, but it’s just to help you see the potential and to not feel like there’s nothing to draw from. That when you have an outline like this, you could choose one or the other and see how they match up. It really makes it a lot easier to come up with ideas that fit a prompt versus staring at a blank screen or a blank whiteboard and just hoping something comes to you fully formed.

Adrian Tennant: Now you recommend that content creators start with the focus, then determine the format. Melanie, why that approach rather than the other way around?

Melanie Deziel: I like to answer this best with analogies because I think we see the value of this type of approach in other parts of our lives. So my guess is all of us have received a package in the mail, probably from a big box store that we won’t name, where they undoubtedly chose the box before they chose what was actually going to go inside of it. And it either barely fits and it’s horrible, or most often it’s this tiny little thing in a box that’s far too large, right? So I like to think of choosing your format first the same way. You’re saying, “Okay. No matter what I create, it’s got to go in this container”, and oftentimes, when you do that, just like with your deliveries, you get something that’s not well-suited to the container that you’ve picked. And so if we start with, “What is it that we’re actually delivering to our audience? What are we giving them? What are we telling them?” And then we can figure out what’s the best package to put that in, to bring that story to life. I think it really is a way to make sure that your story shines and that you’re not getting distracted by the various tools or technologies available to you, that you really focus on your message that way.

Adrian Tennant: I’ve certainly been in meetings where we hear, “We need a lead magnet. Let’s do a PDF.” That’s the wrong way round, right?

Melanie Deziel: Right. Cause people don’t download PDFs because they like PDFs. They download the lead magnet because of what’s inside of it. So it’s – yeah, we gotta refocus on the message oftentimes.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Melanie Deziel, the award-winning branded content creator, and author of the bestselling book, The Content Fuel Framework: How To Generate Unlimited Story Ideas. Within agencies, content marketers typically work in small teams. Do you have any tips for collaborating effectively as a group when generating ideas?

Melanie Deziel: Absolutely. So, we’re in a blessed position at Foundation that we focus only on content and so we have a robust content team, it’s really nice to have that support. But I know that most content teams, like you said, they may not even have a full-time dedicated staff or not more than one. And so that is often a challenge. You often do have to collaborate with folks outside of your team. I walked through in the book, there’s a way you could use this system to give everyone guidance and be on the same page as you work through your ideas. But there’s plenty of other ways too. The most important thing is to follow that focus before format approach when you’re in those brainstorms. Asking questions, like “What are the things we could share on this topic?” Or “What would be important for our audience to know?” And have the group focus on solving those things. Once you’re clear on what it is that you want to share, then have them put their mind to, “Okay, now what are the different ways we could bring this to life?” I have found that as you mentioned, oftentimes the conversation starts with a format and it’s, “We need a video idea” or “A lead magnet” or whatever else. And those situations are often much tougher to get collaboration and to get original ideas. So guiding everyone to put their attention and their mind toward the focuses is a really good place to start.

Adrian Tennant: Melanie, based on your work with publications and clients, which focuses or formats are often overlooked by marketers that could be differentiating their content?

Melanie Deziel: One of the focuses that I think we forget about so often is history. I think, especially as marketers, we’re focused so much on what we’re doing right now, what we’re launching next month, what we’re promoting next year – we’re very present- and future-focused. And I think there’s so much we can learn from looking back at the history of some of these topics, whether it’s the history of a product, of the company, of an industry, the background of a person who’s joined the organization. I think when you pause for a moment and look to say, “What can we learn about what brought us to this point?” there’s often some really great historical content that could be added into the mix.

Adrian Tennant: In The Content Fuel Framework, after introducing each focus and format, you present ways in which they can be applied in a business communications context. What led you to structure the content of the book this way?

Melanie Deziel: You know, one of the things is that I hear very often is some version of “This doesn’t apply to me” or like “My business is special and different” for some reason, right? We all… I mean, not that your business isn’t special, I’m sure it’s wonderful and special… but it’s not an outlier in that you can’t use content as a way to communicate with your audience. And so I felt it was really important to include a large volume of examples like that, even though they’re hypothetical. I’m not naming specific brands, but saying, “If you run a hair salon, here’s how you might use that.” Or “If you run an auto mechanic shop, like here’s how you might put that into practice.” Because I think it’s important to see it in a tangible way, to understand, “Okay, if they can do it, I can do it”, right? “If that works for this type of business, that works for me.” And I was very cognizant of trying to hit on as many possible industries and types of businesses as possible so that everyone can see themselves in the book somewhere.

Adrian Tennant: Melanie, a lot of coffee examples in the book.

Melanie Deziel: You know, I’ve just been a coffee person my whole life. When I was younger I had some lung issues and a doctor had recommended that coffee might help dilate the – I don’t know who knows what? – but coffee was the recommendation, even though I was four or five years old. And so I started drinking coffee at that age because it was medicine. And so we know now that’s not necessarily as helpful, but it’s become a ritual for me. So it’s something that I feel, I don’t want to say my identity is tied to it because that may be strange, but what I will say is it’s my comfort zone. And I find that I get my best work done when I’m in a coffee shop. I very much like that atmosphere, that I drink coffee every day. It’s just I like the ritual of it. And so, yeah, I tend to make a lot of analogies cause it’s something I’m familiar with. Even when I was in college, I actually wrote a column for our newspaper about coffee every week. I managed to find something new to say about coffee!

Adrian Tennant: For a new business or a brand committing to content marketing, it can be really hard to know where to start. How do you recommend establishing a strategy for content creation?

Melanie Deziel: When you’re new to content, it can feel very overwhelming. It can also feel oftentimes to your leadership, that this is a big bet or a big investment on something that we don’t know how to see the ROI on immediately, right? It’s not as clear as a direct-to- consumer campaign or something. My advice is always to start with whatever your version of a customer story is. So if that’s a testimonial or a success story or a case study, whatever makes sense for you, do that. Because starting there, everyone sees the value of those kinds of things. We see them more as a sales tool, right? So if you start with a sales tool, like a case study or customer story, and you present it in more of a narrative way, you’re able to turn that into not just a quote, a first name, and a photo maybe – but a full story about what they wanted and what was at stake for them and why they chose to work with you. And you know, what they’ve been able to do as a result of the success you’ve helped create. You’re taking that more narrative approach and that’s going to help you slowly win over and say, “Look how much more detail we can provide. Look how much more valuable this is when we approach it this way.” Once you get that buy-in, you can then start to explore other types of content: educational content, lead magnets, like we talked about before. But I think those customer stories are usually the best neutral ground to start on because everyone can see the benefit of them.

Adrian Tennant: Prior to your current position at Foundation, you founded a consulting firm, StoryFuel, which taught marketers, publishers, creators, and companies of all sizes, how to tell better brand stories. This also led you to speaking engagements at conferences and events around the world, gracing the stage of industry-leading events including Content Marketing World, Native Ad Days, Social Media Marketing World, and South by Southwest, among others. Melanie, do you find that marketers outside the US prioritize different focuses or formats than domestic teams?

Melanie Deziel: It’s interesting. I think one thing that I do find overseas is that there tends to be more of an emphasis on the people surrounding a product. And I don’t know whether – I can’t say for sure, I don’t have data to back that up – but one thing that I noticed anecdotally is there’s a lot more celebration of the craftsman, for example. There’s a lot of richer history, longer history, of some of these fields. And so we’re able to celebrate the watchmaker whose family has lived in the same town for 200 years. There’s a lot more of that sort of legacy, heritage, people-oriented content that I think is really compelling when you have a heritage brand in that way. We don’t have as much of that here: we’re a little younger in the US, as you know, from a historical standpoint. But that’s that kind of content I think is so rich, so engaging, it’s so brand-aligned, but also so valuable for the audience. They’re always curious you know, so I love that people-focused content that celebrates craft in that way.

Adrian Tennant: Melanie, which country that you visited for a speaking engagement, would you most like to revisit as a tourist and why?

Melanie Deziel: I think I’ve been very lucky that for some of these cities, I have been able to tack on a couple of extra days here and there, and even bring my husband along on a few occasions. So I’ve managed to do my best to turn those speaking engagements into a vacation while I’m there. What I will say is I would love to go back to Paris. Paris was one of the places where we did spend a few days there, but I was feeling under the weather and so I don’t feel like I got to do the full range of exploring that I’d like to do. So if you are in France, feel free to call me up. I’d love to come!

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common mistakes you see teams making when it comes to consistent content creation, and how could they be avoided?

Melanie Deziel: I think a lot of us feel pressure that we have to produce content at such a rapid pace that we allow quantity to overtake quality in terms of our preferences, our priorities and I think that’s a place where you can really use a reset to be reminded it’s less important that you produce something every day and more important that you produce something good consistently. So I always tell my clients, “I’d rather see you produce something once a week that is really good than something mediocre four or five days a week.” And that’s going to get you much better results. So, looking for that consistency doesn’t have to mean that it’s every single day or every single hour. One of the best newsletters that I love to read is Anne Handley’s and it comes out every fortnight. That’s how she brands it. You know, that’s fine, it doesn’t have to be every day. I think the consistency and people knowing that they can expect quality from you is much more important.

Adrian Tennant: And for listeners that are unaware, Anne Handley was the founder of MarketingProfs and wrote the book, Everybody Writes.

Melanie Deziel: Highly recommend – one of my favorites.

Adrian Tennant: Based on your experience developing and leading teams, in what ways can learning to think more like a journalist help people become better content marketers or develop more creative mindsets?

Melanie Deziel: One of the things that they teach you early on in journalism school is that it’s really not your job to tell your audience what to think or how to feel. It’s your job to collect information on their behalf and present it in a way that they can make an informed decision on their own. And so I think that type of mindset being of service to your audience, acting in service of them, allows you to provide something that is much more valuable. It gut checks us to say, “Is my brand the best authority on this topic? Or would it better serve my audience to include studies that were done by someone else?” So that kind of mindset of saying, “What does our audience need?” versus “What do I want to tell my audience?” That reset can be very helpful. And the other thing is that there’s no idea of content as scarce. There’s no scarcity mindset around content in the journalism world. For better or for worse, you don’t see a cable station say, “We’ve got nothing to talk about right now. So we’ll be back in 15 minutes or an hour.” Right? They just keep going, they find something to talk about.

Adrian Tennant: You studied journalism in school. Given how the industry has changed in the years since, would you still recommend journalism as a major?

Melanie Deziel: I would. Something that I’ve seen play out many times is that a lot of folks who are on the marketing side would like to make the transition into the content world. They want to be creating. And it is so much more difficult to teach someone instinct around what makes a good story, or resourcefulness on how you can find sources and information about things. Those skills require a lot more practice, a lot more cultivating than maybe understanding the formula for a CPM or understanding how we can position something. I think to have that instinct as a storyteller, you’re gonna have a much easier time fitting into that content world, and being able to study and pick up those marketing bits that you need to know along the way. The best recommendation would be to do both or minor in one, right? You need that basis. But I do think that the resourcefulness and the mindset that you learn being educated as a journalist is very valuable.

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye has an internship program and our current insights intern, Camilla, is actually a journalism major. She was very excited to learn that you were going to be our guest, partly because it’s her dream to intern at Rolling Stone magazine one day. So Melanie, since you also entered at Rolling Stone, what advice do you have for Camila and any other students listening about landing their dream internship wherever it may be?

Melanie Deziel: So, one of the things that I think is overlooked is that you can learn so many skills on your own. We’re being taught many things in school, but a big part of what I did was seeking other opportunities to learn, which is even easier now with Skillshare and Udemy, and YouTube, you can pick these things up anywhere. I think a big part of what helped me stand out in a number of my internship opportunities is having those outside skills. That it wasn’t just what was being taught in school, but I also had picked up other tools, other software, other certifications. So I think that’s one way you could really help yourself stand out. Because anyone who’s applying, they may have the same major that you have, they may have the same minor, they may have the same GPA. So it’s going to be those other things that help you stand out. And the other thing is when you’re given any sort of test assignment or assessment, which is often the case with internships, particularly if it’s writing-based, go above and beyond. That’s my best recommendation. Having been on the other side of it and when we’re bringing interns in, seeing someone who has that initiative to say, “Okay, they didn’t ask for supporting imagery, but I’m going to make something anyway.” Or “Here’s some examples of tweets that could go with this sample article that I wrote.” Just thinking a little bit bigger. I think that really signals to them that you are someone who can thrive in their organization and that you have skills beyond what you might see on a resume.

Adrian Tennant: Melanie, how do you foresee content marketing evolving over the next few years? And I’m particularly interested to know your thoughts on these AI-based copywriting tools that seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, so I have been paying attention to these such tools as well. I will say, I do feel like I don’t want to panic. I know that a lot of times new technology comes around and we think that everything is dying now, that it’s replacing everything. But to your point, it is evolving, right? I remember it was what, five, eight years ago that the Associated Press started having auto-generated, I believe it was sports reports because it was very databased and they could turn those out with a smart AI. And we all thought, “Oh, no! Sports journalism is dead. There’ll never be any more reporters.” And it’s just not the case. Robots are very good at some things and humans are very good at other things. So as long as you’re focusing on those things that are the human things – the interviews and the human element – that’s where we can keep our cool. I have played around with a couple of these AI copy tools. And I think it’s helpful if you need somewhere to start. But I haven’t used anything that those tools have output exactly as is. So it’s a little bit like getting a prompt in my mind. It’s very helpful for coming up with some little seeds, but it’s still going to be on you to plant those and grow them into something useful in most cases.

Adrian Tennant: Melanie, what’s the one question I didn’t ask you that you wished I had done? And what would be your answer?

Melanie Deziel: I don’t know. I always like when people ask about a hidden talent or a secret skill because I think that’s something that at least from the journalism side, that’s where you tend to pull out really interesting stories from people. When you ask them about a hidden talent or something people wouldn’t guess about you, people light up because it’s not something they get to talk about as often. I would probably talk about the fact that I know how to play the didgeridoo, which is a sort of a long, tube-like Aboriginal instrument. I won’t say that I know how to play it very well, but that’s probably my most random, hidden talent.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about you, your work with Foundation Marketing, StoryFuel, or The Content Fuel Framework, where can they find you?

Melanie Deziel: If you happen to be a B2B business and you want to learn more about what we’re doing at Foundation, our website is FoundationInc.co so you can learn more about us there. If you’d like to learn more about me, my website is StoryFuel.co. You can head over there and you’ll find all the information you need about the book, about where you can buy it. You’ll find my contact information, all kinds of things so that you can reach out and connect with me in whatever way makes the most sense.

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

Melanie Deziel: Thanks for letting me share my story.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to our guest in this week’s Encore episode, Melanie Deziel, author of the best-selling book, The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas. You’ll find transcripts with links to resources we discuss in every episode in the podcast section at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights”. If you haven’t already, 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. We’re taking a break, but we’ll return with our ninth season starting on Tuesday, January the 11th. So until then, wishing you the very Happiest of Holidays, goodbye.

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

Qualitative researcher Jon Cohen joins us to explain why we can’t trust what people say – and how their answers can lead us astray. Jon shares invaluable lessons learned from his career in consumer insights and discusses key ideas and frameworks in his book, Asking for Trouble. Jon demonstrates how researchers can ask better questions and listen harder to get closer to consumer truths – leveraging insights to develop more imaginative creative ideas and compelling communications.

Episode Transcript

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

Jon Cohen: When you ask people what they think of your ideas, they focus on your idea. It creates what I call an “illusion of interest.” It’s an inevitable consequence of asking people what they think.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Since the mid-1970s, qualitative research, or just “qual”, has been used to pre-test advertising concepts. An approach to research that uses a variety of methods to discover the “why” underlying meanings and patterns, qual data can be collected from people during one-on-one or paired interviews known as “depths”, or with several participants at a time, known as “focus groups.” The qual researcher, also known as a moderator, encourages participants to discuss their opinions about ideas, yielding insights that can inform and inspire creative teams, developing ad campaigns, brand strategy, or other marketing communications. Really skilled moderators go beyond surface-level responses, probing to reveal participants’ deepest, most instinctive, and emotional responses. One such researcher and thought leader on the value of qualitative insights in helping to develop ideas that challenge the status quo is our guest today, Jon Cohen. The founding partner of Kindling, an award-winning insight consultancy based in the UK, Jon leads a talented research team, delivering guidance to clients as diverse as Cancer Research UK, the Department of Education, the telecommunications company, Three, and many more. Jon is also the author of the book, Asking For Trouble: Understanding What People Think When You Can’t Trust What They Say. To discuss ideas from his book, and how consumer insights can be used to develop more creative concepts and compelling marketing communications, Jon is joining us today from his home office in London, England. Jon, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Jon Cohen: Thank you so much, Adrian. It’s really lovely to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Jon, you started your career in advertising. Can you tell us about your journey from adland to consumer research?

Jon Cohen: Of course. Well, I wish it was a kind of well-constructed journey, but it wasn’t. Like so many things, it kind of happened. And it’s really a personal story in that I started off at Leo Burnett as a graduate trainee, as a strategic planner, and then went to work for a very cool agency called Hal Henry. It was a very creative environment in which to be, and after three years, the truth is that my father wasn’t well, I took some time out to spend with him. And then after that, friends who were still planners in ad agencies started asking me to do [focus] groups. It was really as simple as that. Certainly, at the time, there were lots of researchers, but not necessarily lots of researchers who really understood communications, who are able to understand that a creative idea is the sum of its parts and pulling it apart and deconstructing it – and then putting it back together – doesn’t necessarily end up in the best place. So they started asking whether I could help them do research groups because I understood the communications and it grew from there. So then more people asked me and then I had to take on some people because more people asked me, and it grew into a business, which I was lucky enough to sell in 2007. So, yes, it was not quite a mistake, but it certainly wasn’t a grand plan.

Adrian Tennant: Your book is entitled Asking For Trouble: Understanding What People Think When You Can’t Trust What They Say. What prompted you to write the book?

Jon Cohen: So a couple of things. I think first and foremost is that I did have a particular perspective on the way in which people thought about research and the role it could play in the creative development of ideas. And I had been saying that all sort of talking about that perspective – or philosophy, to be grand – over a number of years. And I thought it was time to write it down and crystallize my own thoughts in a way that I hope will help other people. The other reason was once again, a really personal one – I’m lucky enough to grow a business. I’ve worked with lots of interesting people, but I was always very conscious, having come from an advertising background, that research tends to be, like it or not, you are by default critiquing other people’s work. Now my role in the process, I always strongly believed, and my company’s role was to help develop ideas. And it could be from the kind of the nascent idea itself, the strategy, and so on. So I always felt that we were contributing, but nonetheless, they weren’t our ideas. And I thought it was time to have my own ideas to kind of commit myself to the creative process. And I can’t draw, so a book it was!

Adrian Tennant: So, Jon, why are we asking for trouble when we interview people as part of our research?

Jon Cohen: So asking people what they think is the most natural thing in the world, whether you’re talking about your new haircut or your brilliant creative idea. It’s I think normal and I believe important to ask people what they think. Well, you can’t create something of value if you don’t ask the intended audience for their opinion. And yet we all know from our personal lives and our professional lives that the asking doesn’t always help. That actually, people’s opinions are just as likely to lead us astray, to set us on our path, to confuse us, to have conflicting responses, as it is to be helpful. There are a lot of reasons to that, which I try and outline in the book and provide solutions. But in essence, we’re asking for trouble because we believe when we ask people what they think that firstly, their answer is a true reflection of what they really think. Which is questionable, to say the least. And secondly, that somehow their answer will be a good reflection of how they would feel about our ideas in the real world. And it’s not. 

Adrian Tennant: Asking for Trouble is really three books in one. The first section is entitled The Wonder Wheel, in which you present a framework for interpreting responses from research participants. Jon, how did you develop the framework?

Jon Cohen: So I’m sure you have the same, Adrian. It’s that over the years – when you’ve been doing whatever you do for a while, whether it’s planning or creation, you do end up being asked the same questions or going through a familiar process. Just as you would with a creative brief. So if you were, as a planner or, creating ideas or developing a business, if you’ve done it multiple times, you end up doing the same things, not quite over and over again, but it has a basic structure to it. And I certainly found that over the years, when we’re asked to explore people’s ideas or help develop concepts or strategies, there are a certain set of questions that you will always ask. I suppose I kind of knew that, but I’d never formulated it into something constructive and coherent and organized. And actually, it was the hardest part of the whole process of writing the book. Because the type of research I do, which is not formulaic questionnaires, it’s qualitative research. So it’s a more intuitive process. It’s sort of by definition a bit… not nebulous, but not necessarily well structured. That’s the whole point. And trying to create some kind of framework for thinking that would hopefully be helpful for others was actually the toughest part. So it was kind of how did I do it? I’ve sat there and stared at all the work and all the stuff I’ve done over the years and thought, “God, how do I make sense of this?” 

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways do you employ the framework in your own work?

Jon Cohen: Yeah, so it’s helped me actually. I mean, that’s the funny thing is, I started, I’ve been doing it for a while, but I think I’ve become a better researcher, as a result of this. And I think certainly my teams have benefited from it as well. Because a basic principle of The Wonder Wheel is that whenever you ask people what they think, there are a certain set of questions that you will always want to ask. And all of those questions are effectively contained within the wheel. So for example – Appeal: how much do you like my idea? Purpose: what is the point of my idea? Relevance: how relevant is my idea to you? Impact: does my idea stand out? Is it distinctive? Personality: how do you feel about my idea? Credibility: do you believe my idea? Is it credible? And then ultimately, at the heart of the wheel is Desire: is my idea desirable? Do you want it? Would you buy it? And whatever you’re talking about, whatever you asking about, the nature of the exact questions may change, but the basic structure of the wheel remains the same. And having a framework allows you to go, “Hold on a minute, have I answered that? Am I really digging into that? Do I properly understand how people feel about that?” Now, that’s not entirely the purpose of the framework, but instead of just taking some, generic response, like, “It’s good quality,” or, you know, they like it, or they don’t like it. What having a framework allows you to do is make sure that you properly interrogate and understand all the aspects of your idea in order to help you develop it in a way that will ultimately be more compelling and desirable. So it has helped me because it’s given me that discipline if you like.

Adrian Tennant: So Jon, you actually placed desire at the center of The Wonder Wheel. Can you tell us why you did that?

Jon Cohen: Ultimately, the reason why we create ideas or develop ideas, we’ll ask them what they think of our ideas, is, is to make them more desirable. To create an object of desire. I mean, that is the central purpose. Now I’ve worked on lots of social issues as well and obviously, you wouldn’t necessarily think about desire if you’re trying to get people to stop smoking. How do you do that? But you may not exactly call it desire, but ultimately, we do things for a reason. You know, we create products, we create advertising, we develop concepts because we want people to buy it, because we want people to behave in a particular way, or respond in a certain way. And that is at the heart of everything we do. However, in order to achieve that, we have to create ideas that are appealing, relevant, purposeful, distinctive, believable. Impactful and clear. And if you understand all the elements of the wheel and how people feel about it – in other words, for example, how much or why they like your idea or don’t like it – that will then help you create something desirable. So the reason why desire sits at the heart of the wheel, it’s firstly because We want to create desirable ideas. And secondly, because desire – how desirable our idea is – is a function of all of the other elements of the wheel combined. 

Adrian Tennant: And I should note that purchasers of the book also gain access to a PDF version of The Wonder Wheel, which includes questions applicable to different kinds of projects. But you also write, and I quote: “The purpose of the wonder wheel goes way beyond defining the questions you should ask and the answers you should seek. That’s the easy bit. The hard part is working out what to do with other people’s opinions in a world where you can’t trust what people say.” Jon, in what kinds of ways are people’s responses illusory or distortions of reality – and why?

Jon Cohen: That is the nub of the book, Adrian. So when you ask people what they think, we do that in order to try and get a feel for how they might respond to our ideas in the real world or how we could develop ideas to make them more desirable or more compelling in the real world. And within that, there is this fundamental assumption that the world of asking is in some way related to the real world. In other words, when we ask people what they think of our ideas, it’s a true and accurate reflection of how they might feel about our ideas when they encountered them, when they were properly made, finished, and showing it in the real world. And the truth is they’re not, they’re completely different things. When you ask people what they think of your ideas, they focus. They focus on your idea. It creates what I call an “illusion of interest.” It’s an inevitable consequence of asking people what they think. Whether it’s a book or an idea or an advertising concept, whatever it may be, the act of asking causes people to focus on your idea in a way that is totally out of sync with how they would engage with it in the real world. Now that doesn’t mean the world of asking is worse than the real world, it doesn’t mean it’s better than the real world. It just means it’s different. When you ask people, what they think of your ideas it’s a fantasy land. It’s a land of make-believe. And our job is to try and build a bridge between that asked-for world and how people might respond in the real world. Every single one of the elements of the wheel, or each of the Wonders, as I call them, is altered by the asking in its own unique and distinctive way. So if you imagine, for example, the world of behavioral economics, and the heuristics and distortions of biases and so on. And increasingly, we’re conscious of the ways in which System One and System Two responses influence the way we behave and what we buy. Well, in the world of asking, there are also a whole set of distortions, illusions, and biases that influence the response we get when we ask before they think, and that’s really the purpose of the framework. It’s not simply to say, “Actually I need to ask these questions,” but more importantly, to allow us to think about each of the different ways in which response is altered by the asking, and then try and interpret, analyze the response accordingly in order to help us make good decisions. It sounds very complicated and it’s not actually, the idea is that thinking about those illusions or biases should become as natural as the asking itself. And instead of saying, actually, “How much do you like my idea?” And somebody says, “I really love it” – taking that at face value. You say, “well, why?” And you think about that response, and you understand that response, then the onus is on you to say, actually, “I’m going to think about that. And I’m not going to tell you that face value, because I understand that, you know, that response is flawed.” So it sounds complicated actually, I think it makes it easier. That’s the idea, anyway!

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

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also 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: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1,500 consumers. Our exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye.agency/retail. Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jon Cohen, founder of the UK-based insight consultancy, Kindling, and the author of the book, Asking for Trouble. The second section of Asking For Trouble is entitled Truth. You write that, and again, I quote: “The world of asking spins on two axes. Axis one is a supporter axis. That is how inclined participants are to be on your side. Axis two is a challenger axis, how keen they are to tell you that you’re wrong.” You then go on to identify four types of participants that sit within these axes. Can you tell us what they are?

Jon Cohen: Yes. We all know that you can’t necessarily believe what people say – and that’s the whole point about the second section of the book. But what you do know is that whenever you ask people what they think, there will always be four types of answers or four types of people. There will be the Supporter. In other words, somebody who loves your idea. There will be the Critic. Somebody who wants to pull apart your idea. The Developer, who is the person who says, “I like it, but perhaps you should do it that way.” They’ve always got a good suggestion. And the Disinterested is the person who would actually rather be watching something else on YouTube. And you can guarantee that whatever you’re asking about, whether it be your new shoes, or a government intervention to try and reduce knife crime, you would always find the Supporter, the Developer, the Critic, and Disinterested. Your job as the person asking or trying to understand what people think of your ideas is not to look for one particular person, not to hope that everyone likes your idea, not to seek out your supporters – but actually, your job is to find all four types of response. It’s a different way of thinking about asking. So rather than looking for, or hoping for, or trying to find what’s good about your idea, what you’re trying to do is simply understand all the ways people think about your idea. So that you have a better idea about how people heard about it, a better understanding of your idea, and therefore you are able to make better decisions as a result. If you think about it, what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to become customer-focused or customer-centered rather than customer-led. As I say, if you’re trying to be customer-led and then your customers lead you down a path which you don’t want to go, you can’t be upset, angry, or frustrated about it because you let somebody else drive your idea. The whole point about asking is that you remain in control of the idea, you’re responsible for its development. And what you’re doing is you’re using the people you’re talking to to better understand your idea and to better understand how people are made to engage with it. So rather than looking for supporters or rather than kind of going, “Oh my God, what’s wrong with my idea?” what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to find all four of those different types of people, which will happen naturally. Based on that holistic understanding of your idea, you can then make good decisions. It’s a different way of thinking. 

Adrian Tennant: In the second part of the book, you also introduce readers to the ACID Test. Could you explain that and why you think it’s critical to successful research?

Jon Cohen: So, yes. I’ve always felt that at the top of every research brief, there should be a little section that says, “Why are you really doing this? What’s your real reason for doing this? Tell me what your motivations for asking people what they think. Not because you want to develop the idea and find out how relevant or not is, or how motivating people find it, but why are you doing it?” And over the years, I think there were four reasons why people need to ask. First I called Affirmation, which is, people are looking for someone to say, “It’s great,” “or “Yes,” or, “Aren’t you clever” or “Fantastic.” They’re looking for ammunition, they’re looking for investments, they want people to say the right things. The second is Confidence, because people are not quite sure that their idea is as good as it should be. And they need other people to go, “Yeah it’s fine,” or, “Actually, you’re right. You should be a bit worried about it.” [The third type] They’re looking for Insight. In other words, “I’m really trying to understand how you feel about my idea. I’m really trying to get to grips with you and understand your needs.” And the fourth one is Decision. In other words, “I need you to decide for me, I don’t know which is best to be used to be ideas,” or “I don’t quite know what to do. And you’re the consumer. So you tell me.” And those are the four underlying motivations. If you go back to the four types of people I was just talking about and your motivations for asking whether you looking for affirmation, confidence, insight or decision makes a huge difference to who you listen to. To what you want to hear to, how you ask to do, where you ask to who you ask to what you do with the answers. Your motivations for asking will define every element of the experience of asking and what you choose to do with the results. And therefore, the whole point about taking the ACID Test is that if you’re honest with yourself about why you’re asking, you’ll be much more self-aware of the way you’re asking, the way you’ve set it up, who you’re asking, who you’re listened to, what you do as a result. Ultimately, asking people what they think tells you more about your own relationship with your idea than it does about the people you’re asking and how they feel about it. It always struck me, I work with a lot of ad agencies, and you can tell firstly, the confidence of the agency, how good they are, how successful they are. And also really importantly, how strong the client relationship is, but also how confident they are in their own ideas. And the more confident the agency is their own idea, the better the client relationship, and the more successful agency is, the more open they are to whatever people have to say when it comes to asking. Much less defensive. The whole attitude towards the research and their experience of asking changes dramatically. So if you take the ACID Testt and you’re truly honest with yourself in the beginning, how you feel about your own ideas, you’ll do a much better job both of asking and interpreting the response. So that’s the idea is before you start, take the ACID Test!

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. The third part of Asking for Trouble is entitled Good Asking Guide and it’s got a ton of practical tips. You also write about the Golden Triangle of Intelligent Response. Jon, please tell us more.

Jon Cohen: It sounds like there are hundreds of models in this book, I suppose there are, aren’t there? So the Golden Triangle of Intelligent Response is, as hopefully, you’ve got a sense by now from this is that I’m not really a believer in consensus necessarily. That’s not what the research is about. You’re not looking for everybody to say the same thing. What you’re doing is you’re looking to understand your ideas and therefore, whilst you respect and you value every single response you get, and certainly everyone you talk to because you never know when you’re going to get really rich responses. The truth is all responses are not equal. Some responses are more helpful than others. And when you’re asking people what they think, you cannot beat an intelligent response, that’s the way it is. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean intelligent people in an academic sense. You have to be very open-minded about where the response may be and what that intelligent response may be. But you can’t beat an intelligent response. And there were three types of intelligent response.

There’s Emotional intelligence, which we’re all kind of familiar with. It’s a very familiar phrase. Emotional intelligence has been around for a long time. But what we mean in this context is people who are able to respond emotionally. So when you ask people where they think the act of asking encourages people to be rational They say, “This is how I feel about your idea,” but that’s still telling you what they think of it. Whereas we know in the real world, we tend to do things without thinking. It tends to be our emotions that drive our behaviors and our response. But the kind of act of asking creates a rational response that says, “I think this way.” You don’t get the feeling. Well, emotionally intelligent respondents do just automatically tell you how they feel. They don’t overthink it. So there’s that which we’re familiar with.

The second is Behavioral intelligent response. Now talked a bit about behavioral already, but when you ask people what they think, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you actually do. And it’s important to put either response in the context of what people actually do. How they really behave. Otherwise, we’ve become very divorced from reality. And behaviorally intelligent respondents are people who naturally do that for you, who can start with what they do so that you don’t have to. In other words, they have good understanding of how they actually behave so “Well I really looked at there, but there’s no relation to what I actually do.”

And the third is what I call Conception intelligence. And it’s kind of, I described it’s a superpower, which is that some people are just intuitively able to make the leap from a concept to how something may look. You know, when we ask people what they think we are always, or almost always, kind of looking at half-formed ideas and some people will automatically get sort of hung up on small details that bear no relation to how the idea is actually going to be created. You know, whether that be the way the board is drawn or a particular word. Whereas conception intelligent respondents to just be able to see past don’t go there. “This is the idea you’re trying to communicate. This is how I feel about that.”

So you’ve got these three types of intelligence. You’ve got behavioral intelligence, conception intelligence, and emotional intelligence. And some people have all three. Some people have none. Some people start off not having any, but actually, say something conceptually incredibly intelligent halfway through the conversation. You can’t tell, but your job when you’re asking people is to look out and seek out those student intelligent responses. It’s not complicated. It just requires a bit of thinking. It comes back to this idea that you mentioned at the very beginning, Adrian, which is that asking is easy. The hard part is knowing what to do with the answer. But it’s also the fun part. and if you get it right, that’s the bit we’ll help you develop great ideas.

Adrian Tennant: Congratulations on writing such a great book -one that I think anybody that has to interview people in the course of their work would find valuable. So do you have any plans to create an online course or consider applications for your frameworks outside of market research?

Jon Cohen: Yes and no. So I’m enjoying riding this wave at the moment. It’s been a fun experience, publishing a book and then being involved in this kind of stuff. It’s a whole new experience for me and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve had a lot of lovely feedback, which has been great. Certainly, kind of the name Asking for Trouble, it lends itself to a sequel, doesn’t it? Double Trouble or whatever it may be. I have been asked by clients to develop a training course around that. I don’t have any great experiences with that, so we’ll see where that goes. And in terms of the applications beyond market research, there is a universal need to better understand what people think when you can’t trust what they say. And obviously, there is a whole sort of fake news narrative that’s underlying this, and I did consider going there, but I decided not to because I’m not an expert. And I didn’t just want to be another voice, but that does feel like it’s something we could all do a bit of help with – beyond simply developing ideas, knowing what on earth people are saying and whether we can trust it and what to do with that. So if anyone has got any good advice or knows other people who are kind of experts in that field as well, then maybe a group of us can gather together to find out how to apply that thought in a way that’s beyond market research.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, your company, Kindling, or your book Asking For Trouble, where can they find you?

Jon Cohen: So my company’s Kindling, as you mentioned, you can find me at kindlingstrategy.com or more about the company there. Asking for Trouble has its own website if you want to go and look at the reviews or download the resources – The Wonder Wheel, that’s there, or get in touch with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, where I’m @AskingJon.

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

Jon Cohen: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jon Cohen, founder of the UK-based insight consultancy, Kindling, and the author of the book, Asking for Trouble. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. 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 time, goodbye.

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

The third in a special series of podcasts reflecting consumer insights from Bigeye’s national study, Retail Disrupted. In this episode, we identify the factors that most influence consumers’ brand choices and look at COVID-19’s impact on people’s attitudes toward recycling, upcycling, and sustainability. To consider what the findings mean for retail and direct-to-consumer marketers, we’re joined by experts Ksenia Newton, Chantal Schmelz, Michael E. Smith, and Brandon Frank.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: ​​Welcome to the third in a special series of podcasts, accompanying Bigeye’s national study, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. Coming up:

Chantal Schmelz: People are much more aware of the power they have as a consumer and that they need to use that wisely.

Michael E. Smith: There will also need to be an increased emphasis on the reduction of waste from suppliers and on domestic recycling ventures.

Brandon Frank: Refillable packaging has been a really trendy category to look at. 

Ksenia Newton: The pandemic has prompted many consumers to reassess their lifestyle, and in particular, their shopping behavior as well. So I think there is a new trend. 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. In August of this year, Bigeye conducted a national survey of over 1,500 shoppers aged 18 to 55 that reveals how shoppers’ behaviors have changed during the pandemic, and what they want and expect from brands today. In today’s podcast, we’re going to explore some of the data points that reveal which factors influence their brand choices, we’ll discuss consumers’ attitudes toward recycling, upcycling, and sustainability, and consider what the findings mean for retail and direct-to-consumer marketers. Last year saw a surge of activism among Americans looking for ways to advocate for the issues that matter most of them. It’s estimated that around 26 million Americans participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in 2020, making Black Lives Matter the largest movement in the country’s history. Many retailers and brands showed support for the movement on social media, with Blackout Tuesday, a collective action to protest racism and police brutality. Today’s socially conscious consumers buy from companies that donate a portion of their proceeds towards a certain cause or whose business practices support a particular group or value. Generation Z, those born between 1996 and 2012, and Millennials or Gen Y, those born between 1980 and 1995, are increasingly demanding that companies take a stand on social issues – with over half of these younger shoppers more likely to purchase from a store if they know it supports a cause or community they care about. One way that socially conscious consumerism is changing the retail industry is through re-commerce: the selling of pre-owned or pre-used products online. Depop is the fastest-growing peer-to-peer social shopping app and around 32 million items are available. You can think of it as a hybrid of eBay and Pinterest. Users scroll through listings of used items, including clothing and accessories from luxury brands, such as Chanel and Hermes, and they can buy, sell, or donate products. The resale market is growing 11 times faster than traditional retail, especially among younger shoppers. These consumer behaviors are expressions of the so-called “circular economy”, that prioritizes the use of sustainable materials while keeping products in circulation for as long as possible. The concept is not new. In 1961, Kenneth Boulding first wrote about the economy of “the coming spaceship earth”, where he described how our planet’s limited resources must be conserved. With the effects of climate change being felt across the globe, consumers increasingly expect companies and brands to choose sustainable materials, reduce wasteful packaging, and minimize their carbon footprints. Data points from Bigeye’s national study reveal how widespread recycling and upcycling behaviors are, and highlight key differences that exist between generations of consumers. 

Adrian Tennant: A HuffPost article, published in 2016, found that every American on average throws away around 81 pounds of clothing each year, even though 95 percent of it could be reused or recycled. Today, that’s changing as we see more interest in the circular economy, as well as consumers disenchanted with the speed at which brands and governments are addressing climate change. London-based trend forecaster The Future Laboratory has dubbed an emerging group of consumers “Regenizens” – using technology, communities, and entrepreneurship to further entrench the post-ownership ideal. But how widespread are these behaviors? In Bigeye’s national study, across all respondents, approaching two-in-every-five report buying previously owned clothes or accessories from a thrift store, 38 percent, and donating items of clothing to a charity, also 38 percent, in the past six months. Around one-fifth have bought from a store specializing in pre-owned or vintage clothing and swapped clothes with a friend. Gen Z respondents are the most likely overall to engage in these activities with Gen Y being very similar in its behavior to Gen Z. Gen X, made up of respondents born between 1965 and 1979, is the most likely to have donated items of clothing to a charity, such as Goodwill, at 45 percent – compared to 27 percent of Gen Z. But at just 4 percent, Gen X is three times less likely to have used an app to swap clothes with other people than Gen Z, among whom 12 percent report doing so. Respondents identifying as female are more likely than other gender identities to engage in these activities, with the single exception of buying clothing items on eBay, where males are very slightly more likely to do so at 13 percent. Respondents identifying as Hispanic or more likely than non-Hispanics to engage in eco-conscious activities with the single exception of donating items to a charity, where non-Hispanics are 13 points more likely to do so at 41 percent. However, Hispanic respondents are 13 points more likely to have bought from a store specializing in pre-owned clothing at 31 percent, compared to 18 percent of non-Hispanics. Earlier this year, I asked Ksenia Newton, a content strategist at Brandwatch, whether Gen Z and Millennials’ adoption of pre-owned, vintage, and thrift store clothing reflects a shift in consumer behavior away from so-called “fast fashion.”

Ksenia Newton: While Gen Z and Millennials were mostly concerned last year about their health and jobs, both generations remain deeply concerned about the environment still. So that’s one thing. And also I think the pandemic has prompted many consumers to reassess their lifestyle, and in particular, their shopping behavior as well. So I think there is a new trend. People are reassessing how they shop. And I think fast fashion can co-exist with secondhand shopping, but I also do think that a lot of people are reassessing really looking at it and into maybe when it comes to fashion specifically, maybe looking into better fabric, a more ethically produced fabric, and something that they can wear over a longer period of time or reuse their existing items. I do think it’s a new trend.

Adrian Tennant: This was a topic I also explored with Chantal Schmelz, a strategist and marketer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Chantal is working with an innovative textile startup called Yarn-to-Yarn that addresses recycling in a unique way.

Chantal Schmelz: Probably a lot of people already know cradle-to-cradle as a concept of [the] circular economy and Yarn-to-Yarn is kind of the adaption to the textile industry where you use materials that can either be easily separated, once clothes are being returned after use. For example, you need to be very careful what patches you sew onto your clothes, what color imprints you use and what tags you use, what buttons, what zippers because they need to be, ripped off before the reuse can start. And also like with cradle-to-cradle, it’s essential that you don’t mix raw materials in a way that they cannot be separated anymore. So you don’t glue it, you nail it – because then it can be separated. And with Yarn-to-Yarn, you use fibers that can be separated chemically or with bio enzymes easily. So that in the end you have cotton and polyethylene fibers, as raw materials in the end. So you can have new yarn created out of the raw materials easily. So it’s the same process as cradle-to-cradle for the textile industry. And at the moment, it’s based on a bio-enzyme process that allows separating cotton and polyethylene fibers, so that they can be totally 100 percent reused at the end.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Chantal why she thought Gen Z and Millennials are expressing greater interest in re-commerce and recycling than older generations.

Chantal Schmelz: I think the awareness of climate change and sustainability issues have become widely known, especially amongst younger ones who have the perspective of living way longer than we will be on this beautiful planet So they see what’s going on – like old-fashioned industry and they see that they need to change their behaviors now. And I also think it’s especially in these ages – 18, 26, in between – they haven’t formed their consumer patterns so much, until then as probably you and I already did. So it’s going to be much harder to turn around our consumer patterns than with the younger generations. So I think they are the early adopters, in that case, reconsidering the power they have as a consumer, to make an impact on the industries. Because there are bigger brands who now recognize that if they want to keep a stable consumer base in the future, they will have to adapt to those trends now and come up with re-commerce possibilities, products, solutions, to go with this development.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Chantal if she was seeing a rejection of “fast fashion” in Europe.

Chantal Schmelz: I would say that we see public outrage whenever there’s like a new media article or report out. For example, a few months back there was this report on Amazon destroying all returns because it’s too much of an effort to reuse them. So if they’re returned, they’re just destroyed. So huge public outburst. However, living in a high-price country [Switzerland], the temptation is to still smuggle in some of the fast fashion into your shopping, because otherwise, you will only buy one shirt per year! I think there’s still a long way to go before there’s you could say it’s a rejection of fast fashion. I think people are much more aware. They’re more aware also of the power they have as a consumer and that they need to use that wisely. But rejection? I wouldn’t say yet.

Adrian Tennant: Finally, I asked Chantal in what other ways she sees socially conscious consumerism influencing brand marketing.

Chantal Schmelz: I think, at the moment, because there are these public outburst reactions blaming a lot of fashion brands, but also other brands like grocery stores have already picked up on that trend – implementing specific labels on the products, showing CO2 impact of production from this product to kind of give the impression that they also care. And to make it easier for you as a consumer to make a wise decision.

Adrian Tennant: It’s not just Gen Z and Millennials that are interested in re-commerce. In a recent interview, applied cognitive neuroscientist Michael Smith, who’s the author of the book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices, shared an anecdote about his son who belongs to the next generation, dubbed Alpha. 

Michael E. Smith: One time over the summer, I took my son – who had just graduated from middle school – into a thrift store, and he had never been acquainted with the context. And he was thrilled by it to learn that he could get a perfectly good piece of clothing for a huge discount, relative to, department store prices. And he just liked the thrill of being able to repurpose goods.

Adrian Tennant: Michael pointed out that there’s one type of re-commerce that most of us have direct experience with already.

Michael E. Smith: You know, we don’t really think of it very often as, a resale organization when we think of things like clothing and whatnot. But I was struck recently by something we have long taken for granted as a somewhat unsavory task. But somewhat of, an iconic form of re-commerce. And that is the buying and selling of used cars, a really big-ticket item that happens to virtually every car over the course of its lifetime. And, you know, traditionally it was hard to learn about a vehicle’s history, its reliability, its current mechanical status. It was hard to compare between alternatives because they weren’t really comparable. And one didn’t really trust the claims of the seller. And, you know, beyond that negotiating fair pricing, was frequently a nightmare, at least on the consumer side. but in the US one of the biggest re-commerce operations to emerge in recent years is the company CarMax, mainly an internet-based platform, with a gigantic inventory. And they worked to increase trust in transactions by being easy to shop from, by de-risking the purchase by making it easy to return a car. And by being trustworthy and transparent about the vehicle’s history, they document it online for you to check, and as well as its current mechanical status. And by eliminating the pain of price negotiations, they’ll tell you the price you can decide if you think it’s fair, based on all your research. And you can take as much time as you want to do that. As a result, they’ve been hugely successful in the marketplace since their inception. I think other e-commerce operations could learn a lot by studying them.

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

Marissa Martin: I’m Marissa Martin on Bigeye’s operations team. Every week, Bigeye’s podcast IN CLEAR FOCUS explores how consumer behaviors are evolving as a result of COVID-19. From the influence of Generation Z, with its interest in social and environmental issues – to the fast-growing Hispanic market and the opportunity it presents  – Bigeye interprets signals from primary and secondary research, identifying the trends driving consumer spending today – and those that will have the greatest impact tomorrow. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s research-backed, data-driven 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: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1,500 consumers. Our exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye.agency/retail. Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. So which factors are most likely to impact personal brand choice? In Bigeye’s national study, for almost nine-in-every-ten respondents, the most important factor is the visual appeal of the product. Eighty-nine percent say this is extremely, very, or somewhat important to them. Almost four-in-every-five shoppers say that a brand’s policies and stances related to the environment and sustainability are important – 79 percent – with similar percentages citing whether a brand is based in or manufactures its products in the USA (78 percent), and whether a brand is local to their community or a small business, (77 percent). Respondents identifying as male are three points more likely than females to say that a brand’s policies and stances relating to the environment and sustainability are important to their choices, at 81 percent, while all of those identifying as nonbinary or other gender select whether the packaging is made from sustainable materials or can be recycled or upcycled. Let’s take a closer look at how brand choices are influenced by the generation to which respondents belong. Among Gen Z, 48 percent think that whether the packaging is made from sustainable materials or can be recycled or upcycled is extremely or very important. Forty-five percent think a brand’s policies and stances related to race, gender equality, or LGBTQIA+ issues are extremely or very important. Now among Gen Y, 44 percent think a brand’s policies and stances related to the environment and sustainability are extremely or very important. Forty-three percent think a brand’s policies and stances related to race, gender equality, or LGBTQIA+ issues are extremely or very important. And among Gen X respondents, 46 percent think that whether a brand is based in or manufactures its products in the USA is extremely or very important And 40 percent think a brand’s policies and stances related to the environment and sustainability are extremely or very important.

Adrian Tennant: When it comes to physical retail stores, refill, recycle and reuse top Gen Z’s wishlist. The so-called Regenizens’ eco-conscious behaviors are reflected in our study results with over one-quarter of Gen Z respondents wanting department stores to make it easier to refill reusable containers (26 percent), including those used for beauty and skincare products. This is Gen Z respondents’ most important consideration, five points higher than Gen Y and eight points more than Gen X. Respondents identifying as Hispanic are four points more likely to select this, at 24 percent, than non-Hispanics. Gen Z are also more likely than other generations to want the ability to drop off recyclable waste so it can be upcycled into new products, 25 percent. I recently spoke with Brandon Frank, the CEO of Pacific Packaging Components, and an expert on sustainability, clean beauty, and recycling. With over three-quarters of all respondents in our study saying that whether a product’s packaging is made from sustainable materials or can be recycled or upcycled is important to them, I asked Brandon how brands have been responding to these changing consumer attitudes.

Brandon Frank: The selection of glass and aluminum has continued to be popular and that when plastic needs to be used, the most sustainable option and that most people are going toward is to use the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled resin as possible. We know that there’s a lot of bio-based resins and other, biodegradable additives and things like that, but we follow the sustainable packaging guidelines. And we really say that you know, if you’re going to use plastic, use the highest percentage of PCR that you can. There’s a lot of supply chain issues with that right now because the largest companies in the world are buying up most of the highest quality PCR, which leaves a lot of large middle and small brands struggling to be able to meet MOQ and price points. but the industry is responding. 

Adrian Tennant: I asked Brandon if he sees any emerging trends in recyclable and sustainable packaging materials.

Brandon Frank: Refillable packaging has been a really trendy topic or category to look at. There haven’t been a lot of examples where consumer buy-in has been at the same level of the excitement around the packaging, which basically means its sell-through hasn’t been as strong as everyone thought. But I think consumer behavior around refillable containers in their homes, trying to reduce the amount of packaging, will continue to be one of the driving themes when it comes to packaging use and brands making decisions based on that as well. So that may materialize – instead of having a bunch of six-ounce, eight-ounce soap bottles that we’re just selling – is that maybe there’s an extra-durable plastic one, or a glass one, with a flexible pouch, with a refillable spout that can be refilled – that glass container – six or eight times. Or tablets to where you drop in a tablet, add water, and kind of mix it up. And now you’ve got a concentrate. So brands really are trying to find ways to just reduce the amount of packaging that they’re putting out there in the world – and consumers are responding to that.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Michael Smith which consumer behaviors, newly adopted during the ongoing COVID pandemic, he expects to see more of in the future.

Michael E. Smith: Well, this is somewhat speculative but I think confronting the fact that we’re living in a world with significant price inflation at the retail level is probably not going to change anytime soon. And part of that is just because prices have historically been artificially depressed because they don’t account for environmental impacts. And because we have been largely off-shoring the pollution and waste associated with the creation and disposal of those products – a strategy that has become obvious as less and less tenable. So we’re going to have to learn to incorporate the costs of consumer items – the true costs – including the environmental costs into the price for those items. And as a result, prices inevitably are going to go up. I think there will also need to be an increased emphasis on the reduction of waste from suppliers, and an increased emphasis on domestic recycling ventures. Again, largely because we no longer can effectively depend on other countries to import our trash. They don’t want it. It’s not that profitable for them, and we’re getting stuck with it. So, you know, the retail sector has to learn to work with domestic recycling companies, to better match their packages and ingredients and whatnot with the capabilities of the domestic recycling sector. Just as evidence of that emerging trend, the biggest company in the collection and of waste, Waste Management, Inc., since the beginning of the pandemic, their stock prices shot up about 60 or 70 percent and their revenue has exploded. Because they have competitive advantages at managing waste at scale: disposing of what needs to be disposed of, extracting what’s valuable from that waste stream, and even harvesting biofuels like the methane that landfills generate – and using that either for selling or for running their own fleet of vehicles. So it’s integrated organizations like that that are domestic who are going to have the upper hand, I think, going forward and addressing some of these issues. And you know they have the scale that they can put pressure on retailers, to have better-integrated operations.

Adrian Tennant: It’s clear from the data in our study and the insights shared by our guests, that brand marketers and retailers will need to adopt new practices to engage more socially abd eco-conscious consumers. Tactics such as communicating the sources of products’ ingredients and raw materials clearly to meet younger consumers’ desire for greater transparency around these factors; reviewing and where applicable, cleaning up manufacturing practices and policies; companies with opaque supply chains or suspected of “greenwashing” can expect to face greater scrutiny and the potential for significant consumer backlash. Offering refillable, recyclable, and upcycling options across a broader variety of product categories – beyond detergents and beauty items. And highlighting in-store waste collection initiatives and real-time upcycling as key components of differentiated, in-store brand experiences.

You’ve been listening to the third episode of Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. My thanks to all the contributors to this podcast: Ksenia Newton, Chantal Schmelz, Michael Smith, and Brandon Frank. To download the full report on which this podcast is based, go to bigeye.agency/retail, where you can also watch the on-demand webinar highlighting results from our national study. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. Thank you for listening. Until next time, goodbye.

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

Projective techniques are powerful consumer insights tools – but are often misunderstood. Our guests, Dr. John Whittle and Nigel Roth share ways in which projectives can uncover consumers’ deepest motivations, responses, and how they really feel about brands. We discuss real-world case studies and hear recommendations on how and when to use different projectives. A fascinating dive into techniques that encourage participants’ imagination, expression, and free association.

Episode Transcript

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

Dr. John Whittle: In a creepy, if somewhat ideal way as researchers, if you could just pluck an experience out of someone’s brain, that would be far easier.

Nigel Roth: What it comes down to is being able to make a decision that’s going to attract the kinds of consumers you want to your product, service, brand, or organization.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. When we conduct qualitative research or simply “qual”, we’re typically aiming to understand the “why” behind participants’ behaviors and opinions. One of the challenges facing qualitative and quantitative researchers is that people are often unaware of the reasons that lie behind the decisions and purchasing behaviors. So researchers use what are known as projective techniques to tap into participants’ deeper motivations and attitudes. During COVID-19, a lot of qualitative research that was previously conducted in-person, such as focus groups, moved online, either through synchronous Zoom calls or asynchronous online communities. I’m joined by two guests today who are experts in projective techniques and other consumer research methodologies. Both guests are from Further, a human insights agency headquartered in the UK. Dr. John Whittle is a social scientist who made the leap from academia to commercial research. As a market researcher, John has helped Google understand the emotional context and barriers to smart home technology, innovated bacon across three continents, and explored definitions of modern masculinity for Gillette. John teaches research best practices at universities across the UK, for the Market Research Society, and in Further’s own webinar series. He’s also directly involved with the management of Further’s online research platform, Together. John, who’s Director of Client and Research Experience at Further, is joining us today from his home office in Cheshire, England. Also joining us today is Nigel Roth, Further’s Head of Research. Nigel has been living and breathing marketing, insights, and advertising for over 25 years, living and working on three continents. During that time, he’s built strategy for clients across every sector and vertical uncovering insights and identifying the response triggers that encourage behavior change. Nigel’s career has included roles leading marketing and communication for the YMCA and Oxfam in India, the early-stage creative development division of Ipsos in North America, and providing quantitative and qualitative backed insight and strategy for brands, including Colgate-Palmolive, Ben and Jerry’s, and Tom’s of Maine. Nigel is joining us today from his home in Oxfordshire, England. John and Nigel, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Dr. John Whittle: Thank you for having us.

Nigel Roth: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: John, could you start by telling us a little bit more about Further?

Dr. John Whittle: Sure. We’ve been in the industry for over a decade. We’ve had one of the longest-standing technology platforms in the industry, which is focused on online qual. But in the last five, six years since I joined really, we’ve expanded our scope and our services. We’ve really recognized that it’s very important to still have good technology. And we work really hard and there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes trying to keep our technology up to date. We recognize that, you know, that’s only one part of what people need. And the research industry has changed a lot actually in the time that we’ve been around. We recognize that because there are so many methodologies and there are so many platforms out there, even if you feel like you’ve nailed online qual with one platform, if it goes to another one, that’s got different nuances and different things. Our best position, and a lot of the work we do at the minute, is supporting research teams and we support them to get them ready for day one. We brought on excellent project managers. We’ve been forging links in the industry for a long time. So. if you just want to use us for the platform, we’re there and we’re going to support you, but if you want us to help you recruit and design, and I know we’ve done that work with you, Adrian as well, you know, in terms of making sure that when it comes to day one, when you guys need to focus on running the insight work and looking good and managing the client relationship and delivering the insights, that’s what we’re there for. And you know, we still have our own end clients – Nigel heads up that division. He’s a fantastic qual director and he’s responsible for running the side of the business – that is that agency model where the end clients comes and says, “What are the answers?” and Nigel brilliantly delivers on those. 

Adrian Tennant: Nigel, you’re relatively new to Further, but you have extensive experience in research for advertising strategy and account planning. Could you tell us a little bit about your role as Head of Research?

Nigel Roth: Everything that John does is one side of it and the other side is there’s a kind of more working with end-users, end-clients. And so my role is really to make sure that whatever they come to us with, we can deliver a project which leads them to one point. And at that one point there are always confident decisions. So there are research agencies that will talk about insight, learning, recommendations, all those things are wonderful. And they’re all part of what we do. But in the end, what it comes down to is being able to make a decision that you feel confident with, a decision that’s well-informed, a decision that makes sense within the context of the business. And a decision that’s going to attract the kinds of consumers you want to your product, service, brand, or organization. So my role is to pick up those projects, design them, work with the client to understand what their strategy is and what their goals and objectives are. Put together a design that gets to that point, run that project with my internal team, including John and the operations team that we have at Further, and then deliver a report that answers everything they’ve ever wanted to know plus more!

Adrian Tennant: Now, Nigel, although I think you’re primarily qualitative in your approach, you do employ mixed methods as well – is that correct?

Nigel Roth: Yeah, that’s true. I began in qual, well –  advertising research a long time ago. So advertising research was the first thing I ever did. And that was quantitative. That was back in 1980-something-or-other for a company called Burke Marketing, which actually was out of Cincinnati originally, but then was in the UK in a place called Stonebridge Park. That’s a long, long time ago. That’s where I began. And as soon as I started working in advertising research and understanding that we got certain numbers and scores back, the first thing I said was, “Well, those are great, but I don’t understand why we’re getting them.” So what I did was, I bolted on qualitative groups to the back of advertising research. I managed to create hybrid research without knowing what I was doing, I was only 24 or something. And so from then onwards, I’ve always been much more interested in this kind of hybrid of quant and qual communities, whatever it might be, anything that you need to do to get to where you need to get. And so, although I am primarily qualitative in my outlook and in the way I work, I understand the quant site as well and the importance of having those numbers to being able to, you know, say, “We absolutely know what’s going on here,” but I also want to add that qualitative pick to say, “Why is it going on? And what else can we do to learn from it?”

Adrian Tennant: Globally, we’ve experienced waves of lockdowns and social distancing over the past 18 months, of course, which has meant that here at Bigeye, we’ve not been doing any in-person depth interviews or focus groups. We’ve been conducting one-on-one interviews via Zoom and Google Meet. But for groups, we’ve been using Further’s asynchronous platform called Together that you referred to earlier. John, for listeners who are unfamiliar with the idea of Market Research Online Communities, could you describe the platform for us?

Dr. John Whittle: Yeah, of course. They’re like bespoke social media platforms, right? They’re places where you can invite people on and you can really explore and understand through rich multimedia methods – life! Methodologically, what we do in consumer research is we often say, “Right, we want to understand how you make decisions or the emotional drivers behind your decisions. The way we’re going to understand that is we’re going to take you out of that context, we’re going to put you in a facility with someone you’ve never met before, or a group of people you’ve never met before. And then we’re going to ask you questions about everything that happens outside of that room.” Now, sometimes that is the method that you need. Sometimes you need to be able to watch, you know, temperature changes, how people flush, to see the whites of their eyes. You need to test that stuff very quickly as well. Other times, if you’re really trying to understand emotional decision-makers or you’re trying to understand things across the diverse geographic region – because again, remember most people that attend interviews and focus groups are often, it skews towards being socially mobile. They have the ability to go and visit. They have the confidence to visit. And also most importantly, they have the ability to express themselves, at least in some way, verbally. ‘Cause you’re not going to invite someone there who’s a mute, or maybe you will, if they’ve very good at sign language, but often they have a way to express themselves And you need them to be able to do that in a performative sense. Online communities offer an answer to those well – if they’ve got a really valid point of view, right? What if they are actually the biggest part of the consumer market, but they’re really bad at talking to people?. What if they can’t travel to that focus group facility? Online communities offer you a gateway where you can bring people on and you can get them to share. Now because they make use of technology, they allow you to gather video, photo, documents, images, text, voice, and they allow you to share that. We’ve traditionally called Together an online qualitative platform, but really it has both quant and qual – it is a research toolbox. It allows you to explore things in an unstructured way. I can send you out to the shops. You can tell me about it via a lengthy paragraph If you want. Or as you’re in the shops, you can record your adventure and you can narrate it to me. We can get you to do very literal things. But because we’re also engaging with you – often over a sustained period of time – because most online communities run for days not hours, because again, it’s often asynchronous. You don’t need people like we’re speaking right now. They can phase in and phase out. You engage with them in different moods at different times in different locations, you have different ranges of identity. They give you a huge range and scope in terms of what you want to do. 

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the ways that you’ve seen other agencies using together during COVID? 

Dr. John Whittle: I’m always surprised that for an industry that is focused on innovation and newness, as an industry itself is quite stuck in the past in many ways. And COVID was fascinating because it really forced some researchers to have to start to learn online methodologies. And whilst they are rooted in the same understanding of human beings, there are slight differences. Interviews and focus groups are often about charisma. They’re about being able to pay attention to things in the moment. They’re not necessarily about planning and strategy. Online qual, because you’re not there, often has more similarities sometimes with quant. You’re scripting or writing a guide, you’re translating a live topic guide into activities that someone can complete without you being there to navigate. You will moderate a subsequent time. So we saw a lot of people having to jump into that and really get to grips with that very quickly. How agencies used it – we saw an increase in product testing. A lot of the work we did in the last 18 months was shipping products out. Helping consumers explore them. You know, stuff that would have normally been done in testing facilities was done online. And funnily enough, a lot of the teams who were doing that, who used to have to travel to these testing facilities suddenly went, “Hang oon a second. You mean that we could have done this in people’s homes? And it would cost the same or slightly less than what we were doing?” “Yeah, exactly.” “You mean that I didn’t actually have to leave my house?” Well, for a lot of teams, I think the biggest takeaway for them was volume. If you’re running things online, because you’re not physically needed in a location, if you’ve got good planning and good support, you can actually run a lot of projects side by side because they’re on a screen and you can dip between them. So you know, we often have a lot of projects running as a team ‘cause we can sit there and we can manage this bit and we can do this bit. And we’re organized. I think that’s what a lot of teams realized – it was about how can you suddenly streamline? You’re opening up the whole world –  that’s the thing – you’re not constrained now to planes. So a pandemic that put you at home, all of a sudden actually opened up the world of research to many in a really fascinating way.

Adrian Tennant: Qualitative research is rooted in clinical psychology. Early versions of personality tests were the antecedents of a category of qualitative research techniques we now refer to as projective. These are designed to prompt responses from participants And often deliberately ambiguous to engage people’s imagination. John, what are some of the most commonly used projective techniques originally developed for in-person groups that you see working really well online, either synchronously or asynchronously?

Dr. John Whittle: Yeah. I’m a big fan of projective and think online, because it is interactive and because it can display stimulus. And not only just because it can display stimulus, but because it can gather the data and output from that interaction real easy, I think it’s a really great place to use them. I mean, ultimately we use projectives because sometimes a topic or an experience is not going to be easy to share. In a creepy, if somewhat ideal way as researchers, if you could just pluck an experience out of someone’s brain, that would be far easier. But you know, we – all of us, whether we know it or not – we typically tend to work as qualitative researchers in what was called the interpretivist school of thought. So we believe that social reality is constructed and that in order to change it and understand it, we have to understand experience. in order to understand experience because we can’t read minds, we have to get people to share it. People are sometimes good at that. People are sometimes bad and more often than not what we’re interested in isn’t even necessarily the first layer of a question. Often, I think what we all do again, sometimes unknowingly as qual researchers, is we’ll ask you one thing, but we’re actually really interested in the other thing that you’re going to be doing. In terms of online, this is often where those tools, as I say, where you get people to interact with something a projective is often anything where you’re not just asking a straight question. “I want to understand this, do this for me.” So I was just having a chat with a client today about understanding emotion and culture and human elements. And he sent me this deck and he said, “How would we even do this online?” And it’s basically just a list of words – it’s like a list of emojis or words and stuff. And it’s a case of understanding employee culture. How would you use it online? Well, if I just said to you, “Yeah, so Adrian talk to me about how you’re feeling today.” What your brain immediately does, it goes, “Right. Hold on a second. Alright. Let me think about today. I’ve thought about today. Okay. What are the words I’m going to use? Right. These are the words, right. Then I’m going to speak about it. Then I’m getting…” You’ve already justified, rationalized, and then expressed. Okay. And you filtered it immediately. And only if you’ve done that, you’ve thought about the context you’re in, who you’re talking to, the identity that you’re trying to play, all these layers are starting to cloud this answer. And then I’ve got to hope Adrian – as I know you are – but I’ve got to hope that you’re really good at talking about that. And maybe I can unpick it a little bit. Projectives move past that. Projectives say “Look, here’s something. You just engage with it.” And it is often deliberately ambiguous because that ambiguity and that level of interpretation is what we’re interested in. “Here’s a series of characters. Here’s a series of archetypes. What works for you? What do you like?” And often then it’s our job as researchers to look at that. So, for example I was speaking to someone about this earlier. If I turned to a mother and I said, “Talk to me about your experiences of motherhood.” That’s a huge question. You know, there’s so many elements to that. If I use something more like the blob tree, which is a very renowned series of projectives and I said, “Look, here’s an image of all these characters on a blob tree, pick three that represent your experience of motherhood.” And this is what we did for UNICEF. All of a sudden everyone’s funneling into the same point, but then their experience is diverged. So we have a baseline that we can understand. So as I say, it’s about middle ground. It’s about often providing great stimulus and just good questions around that.

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

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also 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: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1,500 consumers. Our exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye.agency/retail. Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Dr. John Whittle and Nigel Roth from Further, a human insights agency about the use of projective techniques. Nigel, thinking about qualitative research to yield insights that can help inform a brand strategy or inspire a creative brief, which projective techniques have you found especially useful?

Nigel Roth: Well, I mean, I think as John says, there’s an awful lot of different projective techniques and essentially, for a lot of it, it comes down to what I call stimulus-response. Right? So when you ask someone to come up with an ideal car, they typically come up with a BMW. Not because it’s the ideal car, but because as humans, we can’t often create things, but what we can do is respond. So a lot of times, with projective techniques that I use, it’s about response – as it always is, it’s the kind of response you get. So I think a couple of things I’ve found – and I’ll relate it to virtual qual as well – in the online world, which I think is really interesting. I remember 15 years ago, people saying, “If only we could get into people’s homes and do some ethnographic work and how much would that cost and is it difficult?” All of a sudden, that’s all we can do! So funnily enough, everyone is at home. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. I mean, I think they feel more comfortable at home in their own environment. And I think you can use all sorts of different techniques with them. We did some work recently with businesses around Europe, looking at a small business and what they’re really interested in. And we used virtual fridge magnets. One fridge was one brand, and the other fridge was another brand. And people could actually go on and pull those magnets over to different places. They also created words as well so they could kind of create words and phrases with those within different brands. And what a cool way to do it rather than, “Oh, tell me what you think about this”, right? Like they could actually drag them across and create those phrases and words, on different brand fridges, which I thought was really nice and good fun. And I think you can use that with strategy all the time. I mean, a lot of brand strategy’s about where does the brand go next? That’s why we’re called Further. What is happening next? What does it show up? We did some work recently with brands, we’d talk to marketing directors, a lot of them talked about how they show up, how does their brand show up? Because we do have a different world that we’ve come out of after two years of all sorts of craziness that’s gone on, which has churned everything up. And so what we’ve found is we’ve almost got this more mindful consumer, but we called it The Mindful Consumer – not necessarily mindful positively or negatively, they’re just thinking differently. And so if you take that mindful consumer, what are they now thinking? What do they now feel? What do they want, what do they require? And for a brand to show up and meet that you’ve got to kind of bridge that gap. So a lot of those techniques, it’s trying to understand that, to get to where brands should now be or what they should look like, which is quite interesting.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have a couple of examples you could share with us that demonstrate how qualitative research informed the direction of campaigns or initiatives that you worked on?

Nigel Roth: I have quite a few of those having been around for quite a few years. Let me give you a couple of good ones that I enjoyed. Oh, a long time ago we did some work for Diageo. It’s interesting, you know, people talk now about different segments in different communities. We did it 20 years ago. It was just called something different, but what we ended up having was a real youth section segment, which was really important. And was it really going to drive this particular brand forward? So what we did with that is we hired actors to come in. They were exactly the right age. They were male, female, whatever as needed, they came in dressed like they were going out for a night out or Saturday night, pockets full of whatever they would have. They sat down with attitude on the chair and they met the marketing team and the brand team, and they just sat there and looked at them. And I kind of started off by saying, “Do you want to tell these guys to think about yourself?” “No.” “Well, you gotta tell them something.” “None of them said anything. “It’s all me. It’s personal.” And it went like that. And then eventually these brand guys and girls we’re kind of saying, “No, come on, what’s in your pocket? What’s this? What’s going on?” And this was qualitative – alive. You know, these are their customers. There were consumers sitting there, which I thought was fascinating, and fantastic, and a lovely experience. I guess maybe another one would be we did some great work with Excedrin, the GSK brand in the US, and the work behind that was really interesting because it was all about migraines and the really strong migraine one. And what we were trying to get to was understanding migraine. Particularly for carers as well, because one of the things that was identified was that if you’re suffering from a really bad migraine, you say to your partner, “Bring me some medication, bring me something, give me something,” and they’re then responsible for bringing it. So if they’re responsible for bringing it, they’re probably responsible for buying the right stuff in the first place. So how do we get carers to understand what it’s like? And is there a way to create that empathy? And we did a lot of work on that. Bringing people with migraines and other people who didn’t suffer from migraines in rooms together, and having them sit there for 20 minutes and describe this to them. And we saw these people get it and become empathetic and understand what was happening. And so start to think about how they would change their behavior if their partner was suffering. And it got to a point where at some point, respondents or a carer, on the other side of the table – these are kind of paired depths – said something like, “I wish I could just experience that just to understand it.” And so what we helped GSK develop were these virtual reality glasses, where you could actually experience having a migraine. So they developed this technology, we gave it to carers and supporters and partners to look out and to understand. They wore it for half an hour and they understood exactly what migraine felt like. And of course, they realized that the only brand to buy was Excedrin Migraine, which was the best brand to use for that. But you do feel when you do a project like that that yes, of course it’s commercial, but you know, you’re also helping people and you’re also helping people be understood. And if you can combine those things, then you’ve got a perfect project.

Adrian Tennant: Great examples. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of change during COVID-19, and I’m curious how you see research and insights developing during the remainder of this decade. John, what roles do you see marketing research and insights playing more or less of in the future?

Dr. John Whittle: It’s something I have to think about – especially being responsible for the direction that a technological platform might go in. The words “AI” always immediately flow into these conversations and I think we still have this dichotomous relationship of thinking AI is either gonna rise up and kill us, or why isn’t it already doing all the things that we hate doing immediately, right? I remember attending conferences all over the world and thinking, “Oh, AI will soon replace the core research.” I’m thinking, “Will they ever be able to pull together random series of events that our qualitative brain is able to pull together into a case of insight and look at what really matters?” I think there is an element in the technological sense. If we look at that first, particularly in research technology, as I said in the last 18 months to two years, we’ve seen a greater embracing of online. I think there is still a way to go, particularly with online research, there is a way to go to make that more approachable and amenable to people. When that happens, there’ll be a bit of a shift as there’s still quite a lot of barriers to learning and education. I still believe that researchers are perhaps the most underserved users of technology. Our research processes have not changed. The tools that we used to execute those I don’t think have kept up. I reckon most of us are still using a notepad and a pen or a word document somewhere or somewhere to write your notes. Right? Pretty much. Yeah. That’s not changed. There’s something around that. There’s an unmet need I think there. So I think maybe that’s where that will go. Will AI feature in that maybe, maybe not. Will it do my washing up for me? Let’s hope so. in terms of the rest of the industry, I think the research agency model was an interesting one. And I say that knowing that some of the work that we do anyway, I think there is pressure on a lot of brands to bring things in-house. And I think one of the things I’ve always struggled with is in our research industry there was not a lot of formal training. I think there’s a lot of expectation and I think what can sometimes happen is that the quality of insight that is produced sometimes isn’t always on the power of where it should be. And I think there’s a challenge when you see when people bring that in-house because there are brands making decisions off the back of research that may not necessarily be as quality-driven as it could be. I wonder if we’ll continue to see that. I think what we’re going to see is a lot more of a hybrid model of working. A lot more agencies, but particularly brands leaning on teams that can pitch in and support them, as they’re expected to do more, but with less resources and time. but yeah, I’m fascinated, I think less in terms of the technology than in terms of the people. I think that the last piece of the pie then is understanding experience. You know, for my generation, the generations below will probably keep up with technology right up until the point they try to implant it into you. That’s where the next game-changer will be. That’s where my generation will tap out and go, “Nope, no thank you. Don’t want to do that. I don’t want to turn into a cyborg.” That’s where I think there’s going to be a division. And I think that’s probably where you see the next big thing. Where actually, you’re getting biometric readouts of someone as they look at an ad. Internally, how much did the heart rate go up? What was their cortisol level? How much did that spike? What did that actually do in terms of their muscles twitching? That’s going to be where we’re going to start artificially engineering response times and response mechanics way, way down the line. But that’s where I eventually see it going. And I hopefully won’t be alive to see that we’ll be involved with it at that point!

Adrian Tennant: Nigel, how do you think the industry might change in the next decade?

Nigel Roth: I did a project recently which was all about talking to marketers about their business and how they buy marketing consultancy. And I think in a way, what came out of that was a new strategy for that agency to build a consultancy. And I think that strategy is more of what I’m seeing in the business I’m doing. It’s less about “Should it be blue or green?” or “Should it be this size or that size?” It’s a little bit more about “What does our business look like in the future?” And we’ve been doing a lot of business-to-business research as well recently, which has been really interesting, I think with all the areas of sustainability and regenerative brands and mindful consumers and diversity, inclusion – all these things that are bubbling around for businesses and companies – I think what I’m seeing is a lot more of the “What do we look like? What do we do? How do we become modern? How do we become contemporary?” And so a lot of the work I think is possibly not so much product-oriented, but more business-oriented at the moment. Certainly in the next couple of years it’s “What does a business look like?” Because the other thing we’ve seen is that people buy products from companies that are hitting some of those targets and ticking some of those boxes. And even with my own kids, you know, I’ve seen them… they came home the other day with these wooden toothbrushes. And I said, “What are those about?” and they said, “Oh, the company that produces them, it’s a sustainable production.” And I said, “Do they work?” And they’re like, “I don’t know. Guess so.” And how would you know whether it worked or not with teenagers? But I think the point was that, you know, they bought them because of the company that produced them. So a lot of the work I’m seeing more of is looking at getting that company or that organization in order in terms of some of these key things to be able to then say, “Hey, buy our product because we’re doing what we can and we’re doing the right thing.” That might be a little bit of a shift that we’re seeing certainly, maybe the industry will too.

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

Dr. John Whittle: They need to head to www.go-further.co. They’ll be able to find out about us and the way we work. And if they want to, check out any of the free resources we give – we’re real big givers at Further! We really like to make sure we’re trying to give people as much as possible. They can head over to our resources page. There’s a ton of stuff written by Nigel, by myself, there are free guides on there. There’s just loads of stuff that we’re trying to pour out, to really help because we do understand that people are time-poor, there’s more pressure than ever to deliver. You know, obviously, we’re trying to show our own expertise and we’d love to partner and collaborate with people where possible, and they can always reach out and get in touch with me at john@go-further.co, as well.

Adrian Tennant: And if this episode has piqued your interest in projective techniques and their use in online qualitative research – John, I know you’re going to be leading a webinar focused on these topics.

Dr. John Whittle: Yeah. I’ll be looking at, you know, why do we use them? What are they used for? And I’ll be sharing some examples.

Adrian Tennant: The webinar is tomorrow, that’s Wednesday, December the first, and we’ll include a link with details in the transcript that accompanies this episode. John and Nigel, thank you both for being our guests this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Dr. John Whittle: Thank you.

Nigel Roth: Our pleasure. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guests this week, Dr. John Whittle and Nigel Roth from the human insights agency, Further. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com/insights. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please consider following us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for supporting IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

The second in a special series of podcasts reflecting consumer insights from Bigeye’s national study, Retail Disrupted, looks at the role that smart speakers and displays play in consumers’ shopping behaviors. We also learn which consumers are most likely to use augmented reality apps to support their purchasing decisions. Discussing the findings are antitrust expert Tim Hwang, retail futurist Doug Stephens, and Justin Hadaegh from the mobile shopper survey platform, MFour.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: ​​Welcome to the second in a special series of podcasts, accompanying Bigeye’s national study, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. Coming up:

Doug Stephens: Amazon knows full well how we behave online, but if Amazon can open a department store it gives them an opportunity to create yet another data point to begin to connect consumer behavior between the online world and the physical world.

Tim Hwang: Amazon we can talk about. This new generation of companies raise these very fascinating questions about what is the consumer harm? And can you actually show that there’s a monopolistic cost on the consumer?

Justin Hadaegh: Not only do we have visibility into psychographic and demographic information if they use the PetSmart app or the Petco app on their phone for delivery or pick up, we know that they’re pet owners we can target off of those people directly, as well as brick and mortar behavior.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. In August of this year, Bigeye conducted a national survey of over 1,500 shoppers aged 18 to 55, that reveals how shoppers’ behaviors have changed during the pandemic and what they want and expect from brands today. In today’s podcast, we’re going to explore some of the data points relating to consumers’ use of personal and in-store technology, and their implications for retail and direct-to-consumer marketers. Amazon.com, with its vast selection and drive to deliver convenience and low prices, became the nation’s default retailer and an essential service for many consumers at the height of the coronavirus crisis. Amazon announced record sales during the second quarter of 2020. The e-commerce giant’s ecosystem today includes an advertising business, exclusive collaborations and partnerships with celebrities to create original products, plus physical stores to sell them, including Whole Foods, Amazon Books, and Amazon 4-Star, as well as a subscription-based music service, original TV series and movies, logistics and cloud services. According to an April estimate from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, Amazon has 105 million members in its Prime loyalty program. That’s 82 percent of all us households. Amazon’s Echo range of smart voice-enabled devices both support and promote synergies within the ecosystem. Based on the results from Bigeye’s study, approaching two-thirds of consumers aged 18 to 55 own at least one smart speaker or smart display, 64 percent. Smart speakers and displays are most popular with Gen Z, those born between 1996 and 2012, among whom 79 percent report owning at least one. Among Gen Y, those millennials born between 1980 and 1995, ownership is at 68 percent, while just over one-half of Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1979, report owning a smart device, 51 percent. Among those who own smart devices, Amazon is the leading brand with 56 percent of the market. Google and Apple both trail behind at 29 percent and 21 percent respectively. And at 67 percent, respondents identifying as male are six points more likely than females to own a smart speaker or display. Respondents identifying as Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx, or of Spanish origin are 19 percentage points more likely to own an Apple product at 29 percent than non-Hispanics, and 15 points more likely to own a Facebook Portal at 24 percent. In addition to being the generation most likely to own smart speakers and displays, approaching one-half of Gen Z owners have two or three such devices, while almost one-fifth own four to five devices, compared to 12 percent of Gen Y and 11 percent of Gen X. Those with annual household incomes of under $50,000 are most likely to have one device, 44 percent, or two to three devices, 43 percent. In contrast, almost one-quarter of those with annual household incomes of $150,000 have four or five devices, and 12 percent of this group own six or more. The most popular location for people to play smart speakers and displays are in a living room, 53 percent, followed by a bedroom, 46 percent, and one-third report having a device in their kitchen. Gen Z is the most likely to place a smart device in a bedroom, an office or study, or in a bathroom. Gen Y is the most likely to place a smart device in a dining room. And Gen X is the most likely to place their smart devices in a living room, kitchen, rec room, or den. Hispanic owners of smart devices are twice as likely to have a device in their dining room – 29 percent – compared with 14 percent of non-Hispanic owners. Three-quarters of all respondents who own smart speakers and displays use them for shopping. The most popular users are to find information about products, 28 percent, get shipping and delivery notifications, 27 percent, and to check the status of an existing order, 26 percent. Gen Z respondents are slightly more likely than others to use that device to manage a personal shopping list or wishlist, 24 percent, while Gen Y are slightly more likely to manage a family or household shopping list, 26 percent. Gen X are significantly more likely to use their devices to find information about products, 34 percent, get shipping and delivery notifications, 32 percent, and to check the status of an existing order. Thirty percent of respondents identifying as Hispanic are eight percentage points more likely than non-Hispanics to place and confirm orders with their devices, and six points more likely to copy the details of a previous order.

Consumers spent $861 billion online with US merchants in 2020. That’s a year-over-year increase of 44 percent, the highest annual e-commerce growth in at least two decades. Amazon benefited from the switch from in-store to online buying during the pandemic. In our study, compared to before COVID-19, nearly one-half of all respondents say that today, they’re doing more of their shopping on Amazon, 47 percent. Most likely to have increased their use of Amazon for shopping are Gen X at 49 percent and Gen Y at 48 percent. Respondents identifying as female or as nonbinary are more likely than males to report doing so. And Amazon just keeps on growing. Shortly before we started collecting data for Bigeye’s study, the Wall Street Journal published a story about Amazon’s plans to introduce brick and mortar department stores. I asked retail futurist Doug Stephens, the CEO of Retail Prophet, for his response to the rumors.

Doug Stephens: Amazon knows full well how we behave online, but it gives them an opportunity to create yet another data point in the marketplace to begin to connect consumer behavior between the online world and the physical world. And then there’s the more sinister side. As we know, from past announcements, it gives Amazon the ability to absolutely tank the market caps of companies like Kohls who could potentially even become acquisition targets. We know that anytime Amazon merely clears its throat and sort of fixes its gaze on a category, they have a tendency to really rock the market caps of incumbents in those categories. We’ve seen them do it in the pharmacy sector. We’ve seen them do it across various categories. So that could be potentially the play here as well. But I think the big message to the marketplace, Adrian, and my opinion is that this is a warning shot across the bow of all physical retailers. And most specifically I’m thinking of categories that have sort of dodged the bullet up until now, categories like home improvement. If Amazon can open a quote-unquote department store and sell in the physical world, well, that brings them one step closer to selling lumber and concrete and building supplies and maybe doing a much better job of it than the incumbents in that category. So I think everyone has to take this very seriously. And above all, Amazon has the luxury to spend a tremendous amount of money doing this and sticking with it and experimenting. So, it could have many, many strategic dimensions, but something that everyone in the retail industry should be taking note of, for sure.

Adrian Tennant: Amazon now captures two of every 5 dollars spent on e-commerce in the US, which has placed it in the Federal Trade Commission’s crosshairs. Several high profile stories have been published, including one from Reuters News Agency about the use of its merchant data to create Amazon-branded products and manipulating search engine results to favor Amazon’s own products. Concerns have also been raised about the company’s employees’ safety and working conditions at the growing number of Amazon fulfillment warehouses, including a lack of access to bathrooms. In this context, we wanted to know to what extent consumers believe that Amazon’s dominance in retail is a good or a bad thing for American shoppers. Thirty-one percent of all respondents say they fully support Amazon and have no misgivings about its dominance. Gen Y respondents are five percent more likely than Gen Z to do so. Thirty percent of respondents say they mostly support Amazon, but have some misgivings. Respondents identifying as Hispanic are four points more likely than non-Hispanics to select this response. Thirteen percent say they’re less likely to support Amazon now than in the past, but don’t think it warrants government intervention, while just 11 percent say they think Amazon’s dominance is a problem that needs to be addressed by the Federal Trade Commission. Tim Hwang is a writer and research fellow at The Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Tim joined me earlier this year on IN CLEAR FOCUS to discuss antitrust claims in relation to Amazon and other big tech companies being considered by the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan.

Tim Hwang: What’s really interesting is that the long-standing trend in American antitrust law over the last few decades is to really think about antitrust as it pertains to monopolies that influence price among consumers. So the notion is okay, well, if you’re a monopolist, you control the whole market. Then one of the things that we don’t like is that you use your market power to impose a cost on people. People have to spend more than they would otherwise spend had it been a more competitive market, right? And that’s actually where traditionally the case for antitrust has come from. Now this new generation of companies raise these very fascinating questions about okay. What is the consumer harm? And can you actually show that there’s a monopoly here that is imposing a monopolistic cost on the consumer, right? And this has been the crux of the battle. Can you show that the company that you’re trying to bring antitrust claims against really controls the market and engages in anti-competitive conduct in the way that you claim? It is actually really interesting how it’s evolving in DC right now, because needless to say we don’t live in a particularly bipartisan time, probably understatement of the century. But it is interesting to me that whether you are a hardcore progressive or a diehard Trumpist it actually has turned out that both sides agree that something needs to be done about big tech. and so I do think that the next two or three years really are the Superbowl, if you will, of tech policy, that if something big is going to happen, it’s going to happen in the next few years when there’s policy concern about these companies and what they’ve become. Now there’s actually an interesting question about Lina Khan and her view around some of these things and Amazon actually filed a petition trying to get Lina Khan disqualified from participation in antitrust prosecutions, arguing that basically she’s pre-judged the situation given her previous publications. And so I think the fight is really becoming a knife fight, and I think it actually is getting quite dirty in some ways, but I do believe that the tech companies are on defense now. And I think really now the question is, can we really articulate what we think is the right way forwards?

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

Marissa Martin: I’m Marissa Martin on Bigeye’s operations team. Every week, Bigeye’s podcast IN CLEAR FOCUS explores how consumer behaviors are evolving as a result of COVID-19. From the influence of Generation Z, with its interest in social and environmental issues – to the fast-growing Hispanic market and the opportunity it presents  – Bigeye interprets signals from primary and secondary research, identifying the trends driving consumer spending today – and those that will have the greatest impact tomorrow. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s research-backed, data-driven 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: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1,500 consumers. Our exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye.agency/retail. Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. According to the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of Americans now own a smartphone. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen retailers offering apps that take advantage of phones’ improved technical capabilities. Augmented reality, or AR, integrates digital information with the physical environment: live, and in real-time. During COVID-19, AR apps were especially appealing since they allowed consumers to try on clothing or makeup to see how they looked without having to go to a physical store. Similarly, furniture and homeware companies, including IKEA and Wayfair, offer apps that enable consumers to see how items of furniture will look in their own homes, thoughtfully providing options to superimpose the dimensions of their products. Etsy recently debuted an augmented reality experience that let shoppers tour a digital home decorated with curated items from its marketplace. The Artsy app enables buyers to visualize works of art, accurately sized on the walls of their own homes or offices. And AI apps can also be used to preview the results of various aesthetic interventions, such as dental treatments or cosmetic surgeries. Progressive advances in phone technology and making new types of shopping experiences possible. Shoppers can aim their phone cameras at an item they spot in real life or in an online catalog, then try that item on virtually. AR superimposes images of clothing or products over the live camera data and users can further personalize their avatar by selecting body types, colors, and styles. Warby Parker’s try on app for glasses and sunglasses was among the first to go mainstream, but other brands offering AR apps, including H&M, Nike, and Forever 21. Apple’s latest flagship iPhones have LIDAR technology, which allows the phone to scan the environment and create more faithful, responsive, augmented reality experiences for users. But how open are consumers to using these kinds of shopping technologies and how many shoppers are using them already? Well, our data shows that almost one-quarter of Gen Z shoppers have already used smartphone apps to try on clothes, glasses, or sunglasses, to see how they look. Among Gen Y, more than one fifth have. Gen X are the least likely to have done so at 15 percent. When it comes to homewares, 22 percent of Gen Z shoppers have used apps to see how furniture looks in their home compared to 19 percent of Gen Y and 14 percent of Gen X. I asked Doug Stephens if traditional retail stores should be introducing more augmented reality or virtual reality technologies to bridge the gap between physical and digital retailing – that some have dubbed “phygital”.

Doug Stephens: I think it depends. And this is often the question, so, I mean, you know, should stores be using virtual reality? Should they be using blockchain? Should they be experimenting with crypto? I mean, all of these questions around technology are good ones. But it ultimately comes down to being a brand decision, I think. So the question is not “which technology should we, or shouldn’t we use?” The question is, ” do we fully understand and have we completely mapped our entire consumer journey across all interactions, across all phases of that relationship with the consumer? Have we completely mapped that out in a meticulous way?” And if we have, that’s good news, because then you’re able to stand back as a brand and look at that consumer journey. And you’re able to identify these sort of choke points in that journey. You know, where clearly there’s a moment that the consumer could use help in obtaining information, of understanding the choices that they have, in trying something on perhaps. And that’s the point at which we can say, “okay, we’ve identified the consumer’s problem on that journey,” or “we’ve identified a place of friction. What is the best solution for alleviating that friction?” And it may not be one answer. It may not simply be, “Oh, well, we need to put augmented reality into the equation here.” It may be that there are several different choices that we present the consumer with. The most important thing – and frankly, 10 years from now, it may not be augmented reality, it may be something else. But the important thing is the mapping of the journey, is understanding every single moment and micro moment in that journey. And then, and only then, making cogent decisions about the technologies we can use to make that journey more pleasant and memorable.

Adrian Tennant: In Bigeye’s study, shoppers identifying as Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx or of Spanish origin are more likely than others to have already used a smartphone app to augment their shopping experience. Close to one quarter have already used an app to see what teeth whitening or alignment would look like compared with 10 percent of non-Hispanics, and one fifth have used an app to take a test drive in a vehicle compared with just 9 percent of non-Hispanics. Yes, automobile manufacturers are also getting into AR and virtual reality. In the US, it’s been estimated that car buyers typically spend 15 hours in the buying process, and 70 percent still don’t know which car they want until they visit dealerships and sit in different makes and models. With AI and virtual reality applications, consumers can take virtual test drives through different terrains and test conditions, giving them a feel of how the car will perform in real life. Brian Cooley is editor at large for CNET’s Road Show. Here’s an excerpt from a story Brian reported in June about how AR is bringing the car showroom to consumers and why he believes it could offer a better car buying experience.

Brian Cooley: You want to go see the car? You want to sit in it. And of course you want to take a test drive. However, we’ve had a big shift toward online purchasing of vehicles. And I think it’s now time to virtualize the showroom the same way! Flat pictures, rotating images and web videos. They’re good, but they’re flat. AR can bring the car to you where you are, let you put any paint job on it. Put on different options, change those wheels. See what it looks like in your driveway. That’s something unique that I think maps beautifully to the increased appetite for buying cars, largely online.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned Apple’s iPhone support for LIDAR earlier. Brian highlights innovations from Google.

Brian Cooley: Notice if you’re on an Android device these days, and you search for a particular model of car, one of several hundred will show up in 3D. That’s essentially an AR activation that allows you to see the car in an AR presentation. And that’s powered by Google out of their own database. Several manufacturers have got this going as well. Jaguar was one of the first to let you do that. They all realize that the car needs to sit where you want to see it. Not someplace you have to go to get to it.

Adrian Tennant: You’ll find a link to the full video in the transcript for this episode. Let’s change focus from smartphone apps to in-store technology. A first of its kind media and merchandising platform called Cooler Screens adds a new twist to the in-store shopping experience. The company’s technology replaces regular glass cooler doors, the time you have to open to access refrigerated items, with new digital smart screens. The company claims to have built the world’s first and largest in-store digital merchandising and media platform for brick and mortar retail. Customers in a store equipped with cooler screens, see animated displays showing which products are in the cooler. These screens also support brand advertising, meaning that consumer packaged goods brands can engage directly with consumers in store. Retailers can now enter the digital media business, offering those CPG brands access to millions of consumers with contextually relevant messages and promotions at the point of purchase. Retailers already using cooler screens includes certain Walgreens locations, which is where I first encountered the technology in use. Cooler screens say they aim to engage three types of shopper. The first they describe as informed seekers, those familiar with the location and layout of the store, they’re quick to scan and then grab items, rarely deviating from their habitual routines. The second type are list driven gatherers. These consumers think through a list of items and are more open to considering items that are missing from their list. The third type are casual browsers. They do not know the location, are passively scanning items in store, and are the most receptive to novel items. Based on retail partners, pilot store sales, data, unit sales and stores equipped with cooler screens grow their sales by 50 to 100 percent more than comparable areas stores. In addition, products advertised on Cooler Screens see sales two to 10 times higher compared to non advertised products. Coolest Screens boasts that brands that advertise on the platform can measure the performance and consumer response to their media buys in real time. With instantaneous feedback, brands can rapidly test and refine their offerings. In my local Walgreens, where a bank of eight or so Cooler Screens are located, a QR code is displayed, which customers can snap on their phones to complete a short survey. So the company is also monitoring consumers’ reactions to the platform. By digitizing their in-store operations retailers, gain insight from real time, consumer analytics and efficiencies through automated merchandising, inventory tracking and pricing. By digitizing their in-store operations, retailers gain insight from real-time consumer analytics and efficiencies through automated merchandising, inventory tracking, and pricing. With digitized planograms, merchandising can also be improved as products are never hidden, disorganized, or unknowingly out of stock. The Cooler Screens technology certainly looks like it has the ability to enhance the brick and mortar shopping experience. Another way the brands can understand the consumers in-store shopping experiences is by working with research providers that collect in the moment, behavioral data. This is typically done via smartphone apps with opted-in shoppers. One company that offers this kind of shopper data is MFour. I recently spoke with MFour sales representative, Justin Hadaegh.

Justin Hadaegh: The way that we obtain our consumer data is through our first party app. It’s called Surveys on the Go. you can download Surveys on the Go and the iOS store or the Google Play store for Android and our consumers take surveys with us for a cash incentive. We have about 2.5 million across the US, almost three that have the app downloaded, but we like to base our feasibility on active panelists and that’s about 300,000 daily taking surveys with us for a cash incentive. Since we are all mobile, we have visibility into a lot of different behaviors that other data companies don’t have access to. We operate in the space between behaviors and opinions, a large majority of our panel opts-in to have their location tracked, so we have the ability to target off of brick and mortar visitation. So if someone visits a Target, we can ping them a survey as they enter, as they exit, or if they’ve been there in the last 30, 60, 90 days. Knowing that it’s validated behavior and we could ask them questions around their shopping experience.

Adrian Tennant: So that’s how MFour can target particular store buyers. I asked Justin how MFour targets specific category buyers.

Justin Hadaegh: Not only do we have visibility into psychographic and demographic information of our panelists, because when they download their app, they fill out a demographic survey, so we can target off of ethnicity, income, age, et cetera. If they use the PetSmart app or the Petco app on their phonefor delivery or pick up, or we know that they’re pet owners, we can target off of those people directly, as well as brick and mortar behavior. So if you’d like to survey people in-store of certain locations and ask them about what products they’re looking to buy – are they interested in buying another product than they currently do? You know, or can you take photos of the shelf, and see how product placement looks? We will then screen for have you purchased this product? Do you typically purchase this product? Are you interested in purchasing something else? We would screen for more of the granular components of what you’re looking for.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been listening to the second episode of Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. My thanks to all the contributors to this podcast: Doug Stephens, Tim Hwang, and Justin Hadaegh. To download the full report on which this podcast is based, go to bigeye.agency/retail, where you can also watch the on-demand webinar highlighting results from our national study. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. Thank you for listening. Until next time, goodbye.

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

While many people 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. In this week’s podcast, applied consumer neuroscience expert Michael Smith joins us to discuss his new 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 pro-environmental behaviors.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. The international research firm Kantar recently published the 2021 edition of its annual report entitled, Who cares? Who does? The study examined environmentally responsible shopping behaviors, reflecting data collected from 88,000 respondents across 26 countries. The report finds that almost one-half of households, 49 percent, say the COVID-19 pandemic has made sustainability even more important to them. 22 percent of those surveyed indicate they’re highly concerned about the environment and taking steps to reduce their waste, a cohort Kantar dubs “eco actives”. Forty percent of households are “eco considerers”, that is, shoppers worried about the environment and plastic waste, but not yet engaged in actions to reduce their waste. And 38 percent of surveyed households are “eco dismissers” – shoppers who have little or no interest in the environment and are not taking any steps to reduce waste. Germany emerges as the country with the largest “eco active” segment at 46 percent. Among the most economically advanced countries, the United States has the lowest incidence of eco-actives. Recent years have seen an expansion of the global middle class, driven by improving financial conditions for people in developing countries, many of whom wish to emulate the typical middle-class American consumer lifestyle and all that entails. But our fragile planet cannot sustain such ambitions. Our guest today is the author of a new book exploring the ways in which our consumer economy has impacted 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 and development, and commercialization. Michael has held senior leadership positions in the research and technology space, including senior partner in Nielsen’s NeuroFocus consulting practice in Berkeley, president of Cortech labs in La Jolla, Vice President of Nielsen’s consumer neuroscience practice, and is the founder and principal scientist of Adaptation Research, as well as an advisory board member for CloudArmy Neuro, Inc. Currently focused on challenges at the intersection of psychology, behavior change, and environmentally sustainable products and services, Michael is joining us today 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 recognized 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 percent 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 garages 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 II 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 US 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. Nations that are least responsible for the growth and consumption.

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 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 in 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 is sometimes referred to as a linear “take, use, dispose” view of consumption to one 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 economist Kenneth Boulding characterize this the emerging difference in worldview, as essentially on the old perspective, he used 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 their 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 overweigh 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 the frequently cited quote, usually attributed to the Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahneman: “Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats. We can do it, but absolutely hate it!” So part of the gap may be attributable 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 as 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 behavior such as say, purchasing organic foods or 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 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, 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, in 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 sustainability marketing 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 pro-social 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 a negative emotional response. And still others could help identify whether a communication promotes a positive emotional response, and whether it’s memorable. In 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. 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 30-second ad or a 60-second 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 name by which some of these tools go is neuromarketing. I’m wondering how you feel about that term.

Michael E. Smith: Well, I have mixed feelings about it. Neuromarketing is really, in my mind, the difference between consumer neuroscience and the use of the term neuromarketing is I think of the term consumer neuroscience applying more specifically to evaluating brain responses in response to marketing materials. Whereas neuromarketing, in 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 neuromarketing 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.

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 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: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1,500 consumers. Our exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye.agency/retail. Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Michael Smith, an applied cognitive neuroscientist and the principal scientist of Adaptation Research, based in La Jolla. Kantar’s recent report underscored the greater level of concern consumers now have about brands’ sustainability and environmental practices. Due to the pandemic, many US consumers had no choice but to order products online and have goods delivered to their 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 purchased frequently or routinely and purchased 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 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 as 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 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 environmental benefits, because at the end of the day, if we’re not getting our needs satisfied by a particular product or service, we will explore other ones. So, shoppers need to be convinced that whatever their primary need is be it taste or health or identifying something aesthetically pleasing they’re not going to go after the secondary needs. Also 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: 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 the 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 pro-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 sustainably 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 will 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 hook 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 percent 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 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 idea is 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 to email me at michael@adaptationresearch.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn. And if you’re interested in the book, there will be reviews coming out. They can listen to this podcast to learn more about it – clearly – but 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: And we’ll certainly include a link to that in our transcript. 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: Coming up next time on, IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Doug Stephens: Should stores be using virtual reality? Should they be using blockchain? Should they be experimenting with crypto? All of these questions around technology are good ones. But it ultimately comes down to being a brand decision.

Adrian Tennant: A look at shopping and technology in the second episode of a series of podcasts, examining issues highlighted in Bigeye’s national study, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today – that’s next week. Thanks to my guest this week, Michael Smith, applied cognitive neuroscientist and the principal scientist of Adaptation Research. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com. 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
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Celebrating Bigeye’s 100th episode, we take a closer look at direct-to-consumer brands. Host Adrian Tennant catches up with previous guests to find out how COVID-19 supply chain disruptions and changing consumer behaviors have impacted their DTC businesses since they first appeared on the podcast. Listen in for lively conversations with Liz Mazzei of Provenance Meals, Delaney Doria of Luma & Leaf, Olivia Canlas of Meowbox, and Brandon Frank of Pacific Packaging Components.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this, the 100th episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Liz Mazzei: Where are our clients, especially now that we’re in a new market in LA? Are they online? Are they on Instagram and Facebook? I think they might be other places. 

Olivia Canlas: We have been diligently posting a lot of creative, like trending TikToks and it’s very silly, lighthearted, very random, we’re going to keep exploring it. It’s a place where a lot of people go for information.

Delaney Doria: Less waste is what I think everyone will be looking towards, being sustainable in packaging. So shipping materials, as well as the cartons for the actual product, all of that.

Brandon Frank: I think our development of sustainable packaging, the temptation was for us to also put it on hold, and instead of doing that, we said, “You know, we’re going to do it all at the same time.”

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to the one-hundredth episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, a weekly podcast produced by Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us today. Bigeye recently published an exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, which reflects responses from over 1,500 US consumers aged 18 to 55. One of the themes that emerges from the study is the growth of direct-to-consumer brands in parallel with the increased use of social media. The network effect amplifies social media’s popularity and effectiveness as a source for brand and product discovery. Warby Parker, Casper, Glossier, and Peloton all started life as online-only brands selling their products directly to consumers rather than via retailers. But what characterizes DTC shoppers? What we see in the study results are some significant generational differences. Members of Generation Z, those aged 18 to 24, are the most likely to have purchased from a direct-to-consumer brand in the past six months. Almost two-thirds of this group report doing so – at 63 percent – compared to just under one-half of Gen Y, those aged 25 to 39. And just over one-third of Gen X, those aged 40 to 55. Forty-nine percent of respondents identifying as male report purchasing from a DTC brand compared to 45 percent of those identifying as female. and approaching three-quarters of Hispanic consumers report purchasing from a DTC brand compared to two-fifths of non-Hispanics. Clothing, shoes, and accessories is the most popular category across all generations of respondents. Of those who purchased from a DTC brand in the past six months, 53 percent of Gen Z and X report doing so in this category. Approaching one-fifth of respondents report buying food or drink directly from brands. These include meal kits. Back in May of this year, we spoke with Liz Mazzei, Director of Marketing for DTC brand Provenance Meals. Liz explained the company’s founding story.

Liz Mazzei: The business started back in 2012 with our founder, Caroll Lee. She had a health coaching practice and she was recommending recipes and meal plans to her clients to help them reduce their weight, increase their energy, and overall really transform their health through the power of nutrition. And as long as she was actively coaching them and supplying them with guidance on what food to eat, they were very successful at reaching their goals. But when she stopped coaching them and they stopped eating the nutrient-dense food, they would quickly go back to those unhealthy routines because it was just too difficult to eat well on a consistent basis. And that’s how Provenance was born. The number one request she received was, “I know what I’m supposed to eat, but I just can’t find the time to go shopping and cook all week long.” We have to make time for exercise. We have to make time for meditation. But food is especially challenging because it’s three times a day, every day of the week. And if you’re feeding a family or you have a partner and spouse, it just makes it that much more complicated. So we realized that by providing these convenient meals prepared in really great ways with amazing ingredients, Caroll could help her clients get on that path towards health and longevity. You know, we really believe the fastest way from point A to B in your wellness journey is the food you eat. And it really is the best kind of health and preventative care. We make it easy to eat healthy in general.

Adrian Tennant: The market for direct-to-consumer meal kits in the US is highly competitive, yet the brand has carved out a very distinctive niche. So how many meals do you deliver each week?

Liz Mazzei: You know, we started in 2012, and we’re now delivering thousands of meals each week and we’re really expanding rapidly. Last year, during the pandemic, we started shipping our wellness products as well as a limited edition three-day meal program nationwide. And I’m very excited to share that we’re getting ready to launch our full meal delivery service in LA.

Adrian Tennant: Provenance Meals delivers organic prepared meal plans and detox programs that are gluten-free, dairy-free, with no refined sugar. What’s the strategy behind this approach?

Liz Mazzei: Well, Adrian, there is a health crisis happening, and I really believe that food is a major component that is contributing to the rise in obesity, the rise in heart disease, et cetera. Practically all food that you see that is convenient and on shelves is processed. It has large amounts of corn and rice byproducts, has GMO ingredients, industrial vegetable oils, it’s junk. And I really think that the Industrial Revolution harmed us in that way as a society. You know, these large food companies really started innovating to make food that is addictive with so much salt and sugar. It’s harmed our health collectively. Thankfully, consumers are becoming more aware of this. I think that they are choosing what their fork and their dollars to buy organic and to demand better products and companies, you know, offering alternatives to processed foods. So our strategy is to provide a convenient food solution that will help our clients improve their health.

Adrian Tennant: Now you mentioned that provenance is going to be launching in Los Angeles. Why Los Angeles?

Liz Mazzei: Well, our business is really positioned at the intersection of the prepared meals industry, so ready-to-eat food, no cooking required, and the health and wellness industry. And we believe the LA market is really right for our business. It was ranked one of the 10 strongest wellness markets in America – I think it was by Mind Body Business and competition in that area is really smaller mom and pop operations. But we really feel there has yet to be a brand that has emerged to capture the attention of those health-conscious, busy Angelenos that are looking for organic, local, sustainable meal delivery and cleanse programs delivered to their door. Our strategy for the LA launch is already in development.  It will include a robust paid social and PR campaign. We’re also doing a combination of influencer and partnership activations, and similar to New York City, we plan to leverage those relationships we built, with the community of functional medicine, practitioners, doctors, nutritionists, health coaches, as well as those like-minded brands in clean beauty, fitness, and even sustainable fashion to help us spread the word. We love collaborating with other brands. And we really are focused on launching in LA and then we will continue to add in new markets and since we’ll have two hubs on both coasts, it will be a great base from which to ship nationwide products.

Adrian Tennant: I recently caught up with Liz to find out how things have been progressing since May and for an update on how Provenance’s launch in Los Angeles has been going.

Liz Mazzei: It’s been going really well. We are officially live in LA and delivering meals from our daily essentials program. So every week we have a different menu of options for both plant lovers and omnivores alike. And we’ve been live for about six weeks now, delivering and their response has been really great. You know, not only from clients who try out our six-day detox program that we launched back in May, but also new clients. We’ve seen a pretty good reorder rate, the clients ordering again every week, as well as clients becoming members. So setting a recurring delivery every week. So I’m proud of it. I’m really excited.

Adrian Tennant: Well, since we last spoke in May, what other changes have you noticed, if any, in the business?

Liz Mazzei: We’ve definitely noticed, I think, especially as people get back from the summertime, back into the routine of kids going to school. They want regular support, especially from the nutrition side to get delivery every week. I think that’s kind of been the biggest change we’ve seen since May is just the attitude that people have had in how they approach their lives. 

Adrian Tennant: We’re hearing from some direct consumer brands that Apple’s iOS 14 update has affected them adversely. Has that been true for Provenance? And if so, have you had to re-allocate any of your ad spend?

Liz Mazzei: I have noticed the impact. Obviously, results across the board have just been dramatically impacted. We’re currently working with our agency to understand what the real attribution loss is for our specific account. But it is very disheartening, that is where we spent a lot of our budget in the past because of the bang for the buck that it offered. So we are beginning to explore new channels. Actually, it’s kind of funny. I feel like we’re going back in time and exploring some at-home options, some direct mail options, just thinking about how we allocate that budget. And then it’s also kind of reminded me that, you know, where are our clients, especially now that we’re in a new market in LA? Are they online? Are they on Instagram and Facebook? I think they might be other places, especially since we have a little bit of an older audience. I’m excited about testing these new channels.

Adrian Tennant: What compels shoppers to buy from direct-to-consumer brands rather than traditional retail channels? In our study, among those who indicated they’d purchased from a DTC brand within the last six months, over one-third are motivated by the availability of fast or free shipping. Among Gen X consumers, this number is 43 percent. Twenty-nine percent of respondents believe that DTC brands represent cheaper costs than traditional retail, but again, this is most prevalent amongst Gen X at 35 percent. 29 percent of Gen Z and Gen Y respondents are motivated by reading positive reviews. 30 percent of Gen Y and Gen X are motivated to buy DTC due to the uniqueness of the product, or because it’s not available elsewhere compared with 23 percent of Gen Z. And almost one-fifth of Gen Z respondents by DTC because the brand aligns with their personal values or beliefs, compared with 16 percent of Gen Y, and 11 percent of Gen X. Gen Z is also the cohort most likely to buy because a DTC brand donates to people in need with every purchase at 17 percent. 40 percent of all respondents identifying as female report buying beauty and personal care products directly from brands. In June of this year, we spoke with Delaney Doria, Brand and Product Development Manager for a new skincare brand, Luma and Leaf. Delaney told us about the brand’s mission and the products in its line-up.

Delaney Doria: So Luma & Leaf leverages the best in clean, plant-powered active ingredients to provide gentle, effective, and uncomplicated solutions that restore skin to its most healthy and luminous state. Our debut line includes a brightening cleanser, a serum, a moisturizer, as well as a clearing serum, and a soothing moisturizer.

Adrian Tennant: Delaney you joined Luma & Leaf back in January 2020. What were the primary challenges facing you 18 months ago?

Delaney Doria: Luma & Leaf was really just an idea when I started, there was definitely an initial concept, but nothing was set in stone. I personally had never worked somewhere that didn’t have set standards or messaging. So in this case, the brand had to be established first. So it was truly working from the ground up, which was a really exciting and new challenge for me.

Adrian Tennant: How did you arrive at the name, Luma & Leaf?

Delaney Doria: We looked at the end results we wanted to achieve with the product, which was illuminated, healthy skin. Then we looked at how we’d maybe get to that end goal, which we knew was thoughtfully formulated botanical blends. So we combined that idea of bright illuminated skin with our plant-powered formulas, hence Luma & Leaf.

Adrian Tennant: Is plant-power a current skincare trend?

Delaney Doria: Definitely. Everyone is really just looking for a less harmful way to treat their skin. Vegan is definitely a big thing in the clean beauty market. So people are looking towards plants. It’s a natural alternative to a lot of these more harsh ingredients.

Adrian Tennant: Luma & Leaf’s brand mission is, and I quote, to “Illuminate the skin-obsessed and skin-confused with clean products that make a difference on people and the world.” Now it’s a very inclusive message. How did you approach the development of the brand positioning?

Delaney Doria: We knew we wanted the messaging to be approachable and inclusive. Because skincare is really confusing. The industry is flooded with so many brands and it’s really hard to know as a consumer, where to turn to, especially if you’re new to the world of clean beauty. So we harness this confusion and our confusion, to be honest, into “simple skincare” for all messaging.

Adrian Tennant: Last year, you and I collaborated on several consumer research studies, the results from which informed many of the decisions that you ultimately made about Luma & Leaf’s ingredients, product names, packaging, design, and pricing. Were there any findings arising from those studies that made you reconsider a previous decision, or maybe explore a different avenue?

Delaney Doria: We always found interesting results specifically when asking about product componentry. One example that we ran into was we found the majority of respondents preferred a glass bottle for their cleanser, which honestly we were hoping would be the outcome. But we just weren’t sure how it would survey as cleansers are sometimes used in the shower. And, we just weren’t sure how people would prefer that bottle to look.

Adrian Tennant: Insights from the primary research enabled us to develop buyer profiles – or Personas – for the kinds of customers that Luma & Leaf is designed to serve. In what kinds of ways have you used those Personas during the brand development process?

Delaney Doria: So definitely use them every day and I still do use them, just knowing their preferences on ingredient stories, even collection colors, really went into each and every decision when developing the brand. We could really tailor the messaging to the audience and the platform, knowing this, which makes for a much more personalized user experience.

Adrian Tennant: I checked in with Delaney a couple of weeks ago to learn what had changed since we recorded that interview in June.

Delaney Doria: There’s been actually a lot of changes. I’m still, of course staying true to the brand, but we’ve updated our packaging. Which we’ll launch for next year. And we have made the decision to remove CBD from our formulas for next year as well.

Adrian Tennant: Why did you remove CBD?

Delaney Doria: So we really just wanted to be more accessible for our consumers.we were constantly facing regulatory constraints, lack of education with CBD, and our hero ingredients and proprietary blends are just as efficacious without the inclusion of CBD. So we just really wanted to make it more accessible for the consumer so they could still shop clean skincare, without kind of that hesitation or restriction.

Adrian Tennant: Right? So that necessitated some changes to the packaging, I would guess.

Delaney Doria: Yes. So changes to the packaging and we also just wanted to feature more of our beautiful hero patterns. So the new packaging will show more of that. so it’ll look really beautiful, you know, on a counter, on a shelf and of course, on the website.

Adrian Tennant: Any new merch?

Delaney Doria: We’re always doing new merch! Holiday season’s approaching. So definitely some holiday-inspired pieces that will be available on our site.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any challenges that you’ve had to overcome since we last spoke?

Delaney Doria: Definitely just navigating shipping, you know, overseas. Just trying to get everything on time and planning for the holiday season, what’s to come next year. Trying to go with the flow in some ways, but also plan ahead has been a challenge, but something that we’ve definitely been able to get over.

Adrian Tennant: Have you made any changes to the website?.

Delaney Doria: Yeah. We’re actually making a bunch of changes right now for holiday gearing up for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. One of the features is being able to add a free merchandise item at checkout, which is really exciting because we have all of these beautiful merchandise pieces. So that is live and ready for the holiday season and we’re also making other changes, like a gift shop page, which will house our Black Friday, Cyber Monday sale of buy one, get one 50 percent off. So perfect time to stock up on gifts, anything for yourself as well.

Adrian Tennant: Last time, we talked about the popularity of plant-powered ingredients. Delaney, since that conversation, I have been seeing references to biophilic design and the use of nature-inspired imagery everywhere. As we close out the year, are you seeing any emerging trends in ingredients or packaging that you think we should be paying attention to in 2022?

Delaney Doria: Well, definitely still keeping up with plant-powered. People are moving towards that every day, but also just being sustainable in packaging. So shipping materials, as well as the cartons for the actual product, all of that. It could be through the material encouraging, reuse, or recycle. So just making strides towards less waste is what I think everyone will be looking towards.

Adrian Tennant: And you have recently announced a new partnership with Project Glimmer. Can you explain what it is and Luma & Leaf’s involvement?

Delaney Doria: Sure so Project Glimmer is a national nonprofit serving teenage girls and women through thousands of organizations like foster care, crisis care, and youth services. So as a brand partner, we’ve created a limited edition set of scrunchies that feature patterns inspired by project glimmer’s bold red shade and our plant-powered formulas. And we’ll be selling them on our website through the holiday season with 20 percent of proceeds going back to the girls at Project Glimmer.

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

Tim McCormack: I’m Tim McCormack, VP of Media and Analytics at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as media professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. Knowing who we’re targeting – their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations – is the foundational step in our media planning process. For every engagement, we undertake research that yields actionable insights. These inform our media and analytics strategies – and ensure that we’re working in unison to deliver measurable results for our clients. If you’d like to know more about putting Bigeye’s audience-focused media and analytics 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: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1,500 consumers. Our exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye.agency/retail. Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to the one-hundredth episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. And this week we’re taking a look at direct-to-consumer brands. One of the ways that DTC brands generate recurring revenue is through product subscriptions, but just how popular is this model with consumers? The data in Bigeye’s report, Retail Disrupted, shows that Gen Y is the most likely to report having just one current product subscription, 19 percent, and the most likely to have canceled a subscription in the past 28 percent. Approaching one-third of all Gen Z respondents have more than one current product subscription, while Gen X is the most likely never to have had a product subscription with over one-half selecting this response, 55 percent. One-third of all respondents identifying as Hispanic report having more than one current product subscription, compared with 16 percent of non-Hispanics. Among all consumers who subscribed to a direct-to-consumer brand, one-quarter do so for pet care. In November of 2020, the co-founder and CEO of Meowbox, Olivia Canlas, talked to us about her brand’s pet subscription service.

Olivia Canlas: So I’d like to think of Meowbox as monthly deliveries of cat happiness. So it is a box full of themed cat toys and treats that we choose exclusively for our subscribers. And we deliver that monthly or bi-monthly, in the subscription model.

Adrian Tennant: Now, back in 2013, when you launched Meowbox, direct-to-consumer wasn’t nearly as well established as a business model, as it is today. What inspired you to start a subscription box for cat owners?

Olivia Canlas: I was a subscription box customer, maybe two or three years before I thought of the idea of Meowbox. I was a subscriber to cosmetics, so I knew that that was something that appealed to me, to my friends, people in a similar demographic as I was. And so I was aware of the concept of subscription boxes, but specifically like the moment where I thought, “You know what? There needs to be a Meowbox in this world” was when I started getting targeted on my Facebook for a dog subscription box. And I thought, you know what, instead of just ignoring it, thinking, well, that doesn’t apply to me. I don’t have a dog. I wondered – because I’m more of a cat person – I wonder if there was a box for cats and upon my initial research, there wasn’t a box that was dedicated just to cat parents.

Adrian Tennant: Meowboxes each contain a themed, curated collection of cat toys and treats. How do you come up with the ideas for the theming of each box?

Olivia Canlas: It used to be a lot easier, at the beginning when it was just the start and we had, we’re fresh with ideas. Like, you know, it was actually difficult to choose from all of our ideas and narrow it down to just 12 in a year. And now that we’ve been doing themes for a number of years, we also take into consideration what’s been popular. It kind of narrows down our choices. Cause I feel like we did our favorites right away and then, had to figure out, “Okay, how do we make the next year even better when we already did our favorite ones this previous year?” So what we like to do is actually send that request out to our audience on social media, our current subscribers and ask them for what they love to see in the box. So sometimes it’s like your classic themes, of course, like winter holidays and Halloween, Valentine’s Day. Those are the staples that we will likely repeat each year. But then in between all those major holidays and events, I mean it depends. Like some years it’s going to lean towards, I mean, like for example, this year with COVID everyone at home, some of the themes suggestions are like sort of tied to that. So things in the home. You know, for example, a lot of us have been staying in and taking up hobbies like gardening, baking. And so sort of things like that that are trending also help us choose what kinds of themes to do. And then like I had mentioned there’s our classic themes, separate from the holidays, but we’ve done sort of a camping theme one year and we did repeat, a similar theme to camping another year because the first time we did it, it was so popular.

Adrian Tennant: Now many established, direct-to-consumer brands initially acquire customers through social media. How does Meowbox typically attract new customers?

Olivia Canlas: The most effective way that we have found is yes, it’s associated with social media. I mean, especially even during this time, the past, I’d say five to six months, people are spending a lot more time at home, which means that they have more time to be closer to their cats. Perhaps take more photos of their cats, perhaps want to provide some, something more for their cats like Meowbox. So there’s been a lot of social sharing so that organically. Well, it helps us showcase our product to more people. Our community does that for us and with us, and also lean very heavily working with influencers on social media as well, and sending lots of boxes out and them sharing the word as well of what Meowbox is.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any emerging tools, technologies, or social apps that you foresee influencing the way that you connect with your customers or ways that you conduct your business in the future?

Olivia Canlas: Yes, we are spending more time on building our TikTok account and good news that it’s TikTok is going to stick around for a little bit longer, but I’ve always been a huge fan of jumping onto any of the social platforms that are trending and that seem interesting. And TikTok has been a lot of fun for us and something that we’re currently working on building right now.

Adrian Tennant: I recently caught up with Olivia and asked her what changes have occurred at Meowbox since we recorded that interview a year ago.

Olivia Canlas: I mean, honestly, we’ve grown a lot since last year. It’s been very busy for us. So last year, we did MeowFest digitally, and we decided that for 2022, we wanted to do it in person again. So we’re already choosing a venue, and vendors and talent and all of that. Yeah, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot to do in the past year, but also, we’re now dealing with some challenges with the supply chain. So a lot of challenges with shipping, bringing our international goods, across the water. Now that sort of has reached us for this year and so there’ll be some work next year to see how we work around that challenge.

Adrian Tennant: How did your experiments with TikTok go?

Olivia Canlas: Oh, so I love that question. So TikTok, we have been diligently posting once or twice a day doing a lot of creative, like trending TikToks. It’s not me doing it. We probably don’t want me doing it. A couple of team members who got really into it and we’ve actually hit a couple of viral TikToks. I mean, it’s really exciting to see, it’s a whole different audience when we compare definitely to Facebook, very different, different from our Instagram audience. So it’s really exciting to see people who we may not be reaching on other platforms, responding to the TikToks. It’s very like silly, lighthearted, very random, we’re going to keep exploring it. I recognize that it’s a place where a lot of people go for information, to see what’s new and trending. And I definitely don’t want to miss out on that. And it’s also a lot of fun and I like seeing my team also enjoying making these silly TikToks. So we should go take a look and see the stuff we’re doing.

Adrian Tennant: Have you introduced any new products that exceeded your expectations?

Olivia Canlas: So for new products that have gone really well, we have really tried to put focus into each individual toy having its own story. So it’s easy to see when we group four or five items together, sort of the theme that we’re projecting. But one of them um, directions we’re trying to go in is to have each toy, have its own sort of like, identity. One of our favorite toys that we created. It was the one for our work from home box and it was basically like a wool toy of a cat with no pants on, like if you’re on Zoom. You know, like business on the top and like, and party on the bottom. So we tried to make a toy like that. I’m not sure if we were the only ones who thought that was funny, but in that same box, we did also create like a mini laptop basically for your cat to sit in front of, while you’re working. So you have a coworker, while you’re working from home and that particular little laptop toy did extremely well.

Adrian Tennant: I love that.

Olivia Canlas: We love it too. We weren’t expecting some of the unboxing reactions from that toy. They were very positive and of course, just happy to see people enjoying those designs and that people get our sense of humor.

Adrian Tennant: Now you left us with a cliffhanger at the end of the podcast we recorded last year. Olivia, are you able to tell us what you did with all those crazy cat-related stories you invited your customers to submit.

Olivia Canlas: Oh, that was a while ago. Okay. So we did a call-out for some crazy cat tales from our audience. We emailed out and asked on social media and we actually created quite the large collection of very like interesting, cat stories. And the plan was to have them put out on a podcast, but unfortunately, that project is on hold. We just had other sort of I guess more operational things to accomplish. But we still have those stories and they’re still excellent. So that is like a TBD, to be determined, future project.

Adrian Tennant: In December of 2020, we talked about the growing interest in the use of sustainable materials in packaging design with Brandon Frank, the CEO of Pacific Packaging Components based in Los Angeles. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.

Brandon Frank: My grandfather and grandmother started the company, like you said, about 50 years ago and my parents joined the company about 40 years ago. And so I was basically raised in the world of packaging. I like to joke that I knew about net finishes before I knew my ABCs, but that’s not probably totally accurate. And it was set up as a packaging distribution company. And that’s what we still are today. And so for, the listeners that don’t know what that is, basically we represent the customer and we figure out what they need from a packaging perspective. And then we go to our preferred vendors around the world and find the perfect manufacturer for their specific situation. And then we broker the deal. We buy the packaging from the manufacturer and sell to the end customer and manage the entire supply chain.

Adrian Tennant: Pacific Packaging Components developed custom packaging for the skincare line Drunk Elephant. How did that partnership originate? And what did the design process look like?

Brandon Frank: Tiffany Masterson is the founder and owner of Drunk Elephant – and they actually recently sold to Shiseido – but when we started with that company, they were still relatively small and still getting started. Their story with Drunk Elephant is very consistent with a lot of our kind of interactions and processes that we have with a lot of our other brands to where it starts off with a vision from the founder or from the owners or from the people in charge of kind of developing the packaging. And we were right there to basically guide and support and to go bring those things to reality. The other part too, is that we knew that there was going to be scaling with Drunk Elephant. She had a great idea, a great concept. And so we were expecting really great things. And so we weren’t just trying to supply the first round of packaging, but we were looking down the supply chain as well, to be able to make sure that as the brand grew, that there weren’t going to be supply chain issues from a packaging standpoint. But the creative process is really different, you know, for everybody. Sometimes it’s really straightforward and it’s really easy to be able to deliver on what the vision is. Other times it’s a little bit more fluid and a little more dynamic. And I think our agility is a real benefit in that regard because if things start to pivot away from kind of the initial concept or we’re going in a different direction, we have no problem changing manufacturers and going to someone else that can accomplish what we need to in order to make the customer happy.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the differences, if any, between packaging components used for beauty and skincare products versus food packaging? Are there any regulations that you have to take into account when dealing with food or drink?

Brandon Frank: Yes, absolutely. Really any time, you know, it’s going to be a CPG product there are going to be regulations that are going to be relevant, but if it’s going to be food beverage, anything that’s going to be ingested, there are strict laws through the FDA and other governing bodies. With beauty and personal care, there’s kind of less barrier because most of the products obviously are not being ingested. They’re kind of more topicals. But it’s still a really good idea to be able to use products and develop products that can be certified to some degree.

Adrian Tennant: We know that the youngest consumers – Generation Z – are very concerned about environmental issues. How is Pacific Packaging Components approaching the use of sustainable and recyclable materials?

Brandon Frank: Sustainability is incredibly important to us. And it’s been something that has kind of been, I would say, a focal point of how we’re viewing our own company and then the kind of industry as a whole. Obviously, we have been producing millions and millions of units of plastic and glass and other types of packaging for the past 50 years. And, as a family company, I’m looking at the legacy – what are we going to be a part of for the next 50 years? And so we want to be a part of the solution, and we are, you know, actively trying to improve, not only the sustainability of packaging, but really looking at the entire value chain. You know, I think traditionally we’ve really approached packaging from two central points: is it going to be functional? And is it going to look great and is it going to be on budget? And what’s really required right now is we need to take our blinders off – consumers, brands, packaging companies, packaging manufacturers, everyone involved – and say, “What materials are the best to use right now, according to the capabilities of our recycling stream?” So it’s really looking at the end and saying, “Okay, how can we design and choose packaging right now that it is going to be recycled?” Because it’s not enough to make something that’s quote, unquote “recyclable” if it’s not going to be recycled. We see this a lot with tubes and monolayer tubes. People call them recyclable all the time, but they’re never going to actually be recycled, especially here in the US. And so we’re taking a really active stand. We’re inspiring companies to be able to really consider and make sustainability a part of their brand and their ethos. You know, 81 percent of consumers in the US think that brands should be making decisions that are benefiting the environment rather than hurting. You know, we’ve seen the popularity of sustainability really come and go every decade for the last 50 years – It kind of comes, it’s really popular,and then it fades away. But something’s different this time. We feel like the levee’s kind of been broken on the topic of sustainability – whether it’s because of social media, or Netflix documentaries that have kind of shown the amount of plastic waste that’s in the ocean, but sustainability is going to be here to stay.

Adrian Tennant: I spoke to Brandon again recently and asked him about the availability of materials and logistics over the past 12 months.

Brandon Frank: So the supply chain issues have certainly continued to be one of the most significant issues, for most U.S. brands and companies. The challenges at the port have been the most popular in the media. But the way that we’ve seen it in the way that I like to describe it is that the supply chain issues are an interconnected, incredibly complex spider web that has tremendous ripples across multiple industries and product lines. And so this solution is not an easy one and there isn’t a legislative fix. There’s not a decision that can be made. There’s not more people that can be thrown at one part of the problem in order to fix this. And so while it’s continued to be an issue since we last spoke, I think what has changed is the realization that this is not going away anytime soon. And we need to kind of settle in, realize that 2022 is going to continue to bring these issues. Maybe in 2023, things will start to alleviate a little bit for some companies, and to plan accordingly. And so a lot of our customers, and our supply chain has really looked 12 months out and placed orders for their packaging, to make sure that their business isn’t held up by long lead times. You know, a difficult time in getting plastic resins or whatever it is.

Adrian Tennant: Brandon, are there any significant challenges that you’ve had to overcome since we last spoke?

Brandon Frank: I mean, apart from the supply chain issues, COVID disrupted a lot of movement or progress that had been made on the sustainable packaging front. It was almost like the whole industry said, “We know it’s important. We know we eventually want to get to it, but timeout, we’ve got some other things we want to work on.” And I think our development of sustainable packaging, the temptation was for us to also put it on hold, to stop pursuing different PCR resin supply chains, or different refillable options. And instead of doing that, we said, you know, we’re going to do it all at the same time. We know that sustainable packaging is going to be important going forward. And so we’re not going to slow down the development of solutions. So we just continued there, but I have noticed that the conversation around sustainable packaging and the decision to actually purchase more sustainable packaging has certainly changed.

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye recently published a report, looking at consumer behavior and what shoppers want from brands today. Four in every five shoppers say that a brand’s policies and stances related to the environment and sustainability are extremely or somewhat important. And over three quarters say that whether a product packaging is made from sustainable materials or can be recycled or upcycled is also important to them. Brandon, I know these data points won’t surprise you. Have there been any initiatives or projects you’ve worked on in the past year that illustrate how brands have responded positively to changing consumer attitudes?

Brandon Frank: I don’t know if I’ll be able to share any specifics. We pride ourselves on being the best kept secret in the packaging industry. We sign a lot of NDAs and non-competes. And so just as a general, kind of comment, especially around the selection of glass and aluminum has continued to be popular and that when plastic needs to be used, the most sustainable option and that most people are going toward is to use the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled resin as possible. We know that there’s a lot of bio-based resins and other, biodegradable additives and things like that but we follow the guidance of the sustainable packaging guidelines. And we really say that, you know, if you’re going to use plastic, use the highest percentage of PCR that you can. There’s a lot of supply chain issues with that right now, because the largest companies in the world are buying up most of the highest quality PCR, which leaves a lot of large middle and small brands struggling to be able to meet MOQs and price points. but the industry is responding. We’re seeing investment in recycled facilities. And so I think, again, 2022 will continue to show a lot of issues and, hopefully, 2023 things will really start to come together for that. 

Adrian Tennant: Liz, what are you most excited about in 2022?

Liz Mazzei: Oh, I can’t wait for this new year. I’m really excited to test these additional channels. I think that’s one of my main goals. I’m also really excited about focusing on the customer and client experience. So thinking about how their experience online translates to offline and really understanding how it’s a complete ecosystem, make sure that we are supporting them in all those different activities. I really want it to be more holistic and look at the bigger picture there. I think I’m also excited about some brand evolution, to our creative strategy that we’re working on. The company’s been around for about 10 years and we have a really sophisticated and contemporary look and feel for the brand. And I want to continue to push that envelope and to continue to refine that. So we’re looking at some branding changes as well. That is going to be very exciting.

Adrian Tennant: Liz thank you for being a guest again today and helping us to make it to 100 episodes.

Liz Mazzei: Thank you for having me. It’s very exciting. I look forward to talking again in the future.

Adrian Tennant: Delaney, what are you most excited about for 2022?

Delaney Doria: So we are at the final stages with our rejuvenating collection. We are just at the stage right now where we’re ordering materials, packaging, all of that and getting it ready. So we’re very close. Of course with everyone there’s been supply chain issues and delays, so we’re just trying to navigate that but we’re all ready for a launch early next year.

Adrian Tennant: Delaney. Thank you very much for catching up with us today.

Delaney Doria: Thank you. And congrats on episode 100 of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you very much.

Adrian Tennant: Olivia, as you look ahead to 2022, what are you most excited about?

Olivia Canlas: So for 2022, I am very excited for our growth plans. One of the most fun things for me is building our team and bringing more people in, learning more and seeing more of the talents that people have. Everyone that we bring in has a set of talents that I don’t have so it fascinates me. We bring in someone who has the patience to do the customer service, the creativity to do design, and has the wisdom to do paid ad strategy. It’s fascinating to me to watch a group of people get together collectively to reach our goals and with growth, like I said, being our biggest goal for next year. It’s fun for me to bring people together like that. And it’s just so fascinating to watch people thrive and flourish and watch their talents come out. I’m optimistic and also putting into play all the things that we learned from last year. We feel much more prepared. But I mean, who knows what 2022 has to bring, but we feel prepared for whatever it may be as prepared as we can be. I personally love the unknown. It’s exciting. So, yeah, a little bit of the unknown and a little bit of being prepared for that too is exciting for me.

Adrian Tennant: Olivia, thank you for helping us make it to 100 episodes.

Olivia Canlas: A hundred episodes. Congratulations. That’s a lot of talking.

Adrian Tennant: And thank you for catching up with us on IN CLEAR FOCUS today.

Olivia Canlas: My pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Brandon, what are you most excited about for 2022?

Brandon Frank: There’s a lot that I’m hopeful for, for this next year. Certainly getting through COVID, together. Feeling more united in the way that we’re combating, that is certainly something that I’m hoping for. And then from a business standpoint, I am happy that, after 50 years of being in this industry, we’re on track to be able to double our size and revenue in a pretty short period of time. So 2022 from a business standpoint for us personally, I’m really excited to reach the milestones that we’ve never been able to reach before. Just as a company.

Adrian Tennant: Congratulations. That’s excellent. Brandon, thank you for catching up with us today and helping us make it to a hundred episodes of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Brandon Frank: Adrian, thank you so much. And it really is an honor to be on your show and you do such a great job as a host. So I wish you all the best.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you, Brandon, very much!

Adrian Tennant: As we come to the end of this 100th episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’d like to thank all the guests on today’s show: Liz Mazzei of Provenance Meals; Delaney Doria of Luma & Leaf; Olivia Canlas of Meowbox; and Brandon Frank of Pacific Packaging Components. And a big thank you too, to all our previous guests, who’ve been so generous with their time and willing to share their insights with us. I also want to thank the team at Bigeye that helps make this podcast possible every week: from brainstorming content ideas, identifying and scheduling guests, editing the audio and ad breaks, and creating episode artwork and show transcripts. But most of all, a very sincere “thank you” to you. Whether you’ve been with us since the first episode in 2019, or joining us for the first time today, I really appreciate you choosing to spend time with us. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS from Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

IN CLEAR FOCUS: The first in a series of podcast episodes accompanying Bigeye’s 2021 study, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. Based on a national survey of over 1,500 US shoppers, it’s clear that consumers are demanding more from retailers than ever before. In this pod, we explore key data points from the report with retail futurist Doug Stephens and influencer marketing expert Paige Garrett and discuss what the findings mean for retail and direct-to-consumer marketers.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Welcome to the first in a special series of podcasts accompanying Bigeye’s national study, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Doug Stephens: Shopping, as it applies to food, is an incredibly entrenched behavior. The average in the United States is 2.2 visits per week to the grocery store.

Paige Garrett: Influencers are like the new version of reality TV, we see their struggles, we see their successes, and then we see what they use throughout their day to make them better.

Camila Swanson: I see photos with a broader range of body shapes and sizes more often. Plus size influencers have really created this push for brands and holding them responsible for showing more body shapes.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. Fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, a full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Last month, eMarketer published data that illustrated just how much the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online grocery shopping in 2020, the number of digital grocery buyers in the U.S. increased by more than 39 million. By the end of this year, that number will surpass 142 million amounting to more than half the U.S. population – 52 percent – for the very first time. Corporations like Kroger, Walmart, Target, and Amazon with their finely tuned e-commerce platforms and logistics operations did well during the pandemic, but for less well-prepared retailers who were struggling even before COVID, things went from bad to worse. Fitch Ratings has reported that more than 100 regional shopping malls will be shuttered in the next five years with department stores like Macy’s and Sears closing down many of their locations. At Bigeye, we wanted to understand how shoppers’ behaviors have changed and to learn what they want and expect from brands today. So in August of this year, we conducted a national survey of over 1500 shoppers aged 18 to 55. In today’s podcast, we’re going to explore some of the data points from the study and what they mean for retail and direct-to-consumer marketers. In spite of changed consumer behaviors as a result of COVID, across all respondents and all categories, most people express a preference for shopping in-store, 44 percent. Over one third are equally happy to shop in-store or online And just one fifth say they prefer to shop online. Among respondents who shop for these categories, the most popular preferences are to shop in-store for food and drink at 61 percent followed by furniture and homewares at 51 percent, and clothing, shoes and accessories at 45 percent. Gen Y respondents, those born between 1980 and 1995, are the most likely to prefer shopping online and in-store equally for electronics and accessories, pet care and supplies, and baby and kids products. The categories respondents are most likely to prefer shopping for online are hobbies and sports and electronics and accessories. So, what is it that appeals most to consumers about shopping in-store? Well, almost 9 in every 10 shoppers say that their ability to see, touch, feel, smell, hear, or try on the product in a physical store, add value to their experience, to a great, or to some extent, 89 percent. 4 in every 5 shoppers indicate a preference for shopping in-store to access better prices or perceived value of products. Suggesting perhaps the consumers are growing weary of shipping costs associated with some goods purchased online. I asked retail futurist Doug Stephens, the CEO of Retail Prophet, why he thinks respondents indicate a preference for shopping in-store for food and drink in particular.

Doug Stephens: The truth of the matter is shopping, especially as it applies to food, is an incredibly entrenched behavior. You know, I think the average is in the United States, for example, about 2.2 visits per week to the grocery store to shop. And so, this is something that we probably shop more frequently for than anything else in our life. So it’s not surprising that this sort of heavily entrenched habit would take some time to modify. but the flip side is we have to appreciate that change doesn’t need to be absolute in order to be significant. We have a tendency to always focus on the bigger number, right? So we’ll say, you know, “Only 15 percent of the retail economy in the United States is e-commerce. Everything else, you know, 88 percent is purchased in-store.” And that may give a lot of retailers a sense of consolation but the fact of the matter is it wasn’t that long ago that that number was one percent and today it’s 15 percent. And we know that e-commerce is growing exponentially faster on a percentage basis than physical retail is and so it’s quite likely that at least our projection is by as early as 2033, we may find that 52 or more percent of our consumption on a daily or weekly basis is being performed online and, or by subscription. Why do I say this? Well, it’s not just pulling a number out of thin air. We know that in 2002, 2003, the Chinese economy had virtually no e-commerce as a component in the retail sector and through the pandemic, they crossed the 50 percent mark. You know, so we’re talking about a couple of decades, for an entire nation to buy most of its consumption online. So, on the one hand, I’m not surprised. Of course, consumers will say that they enjoy going to the grocery store. And frankly, grocers haven’t provided them with any sort of incentive, not to, by virtue of a great online experience. But I think what we have to focus on is the potential for that number to increase significantly. And it will.

Adrian Tennant: Almost three-quarters of Gen Z, those born between 1996 and 2012, say that the ability to shop with friends as a social activity adds value to their experience at 74 percent compared with 62 percent of Gen Y and one half of Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1979. Gen Z respondents are the most likely to say that discovering products they’ve not found or seen online adds value to a great or some extent when deciding to purchase in-store. When it comes to shopping in brick and mortar stores, 83 percent of all respondents say they pay some attention to visual signage and photographs. Across all generations around one-third of respondents assessed that they often pay attention. Gen Z respondents are the most likely to always pay close attention at 30 percent compared with just over one-fifth of Gen Y, 22 percent, and 16 percent of Gen X. Of those who always pay close attention, respondents identifying as Hispanic are 13 points more likely at 32 percent than non-Hispanics to do so. With just one point separating them, respondents who work in the retail industry are not more likely than people in other industries or professions to pay attention to store signage and photography. Thinking about the content of photography featured in-store merchandising and displays, just over one-half of all respondents say they’re seeing a broader range of body shapes and sizes compared to typical models, 51 percent and one-half are seeing more racial and ethnic diversity in photos of people. In all cases, Hispanic respondents reported seeing these visual elements more often. 61 percent also say they’re seeing more racial and ethnic diversity in photos of people compared with 48 percent of non-Hispanics. Similarly. Well, over one-half of black or African-American respondents say they’re seeing more racial and ethnic diversity in photographs compared to less than one-half of white respondents, 48 percent. Bigeye interns, Jorge Sedano and Camila Swanson and Camila’s mom, Nidia, all of whom identify as Hispanic, share their in-store experiences.

Camila Swanson: I often pay attention to these just because since COVID-19, there is still some stores that aren’t opening their fitting rooms, so it would be nice to see someone modeling clothes that’s close to my size or has the same body type as me, because then I would get an idea of maybe what size I should get in a certain pair of pants and kind of see if they’re stretchy, if they fit slim. So I would definitely say that I often pay attention just because it can make the shopping experience a little bit easier on my end.

Nidia Swanson: I often pay attention to how the clothes look on the model, you know? And I made the decision if I go in to buy it or not.

Jorge Sedano: Compared to before the Black Lives Matter movement, are you seeing greater racial and ethnic diversity in photographs of people in visual ads displayed in-store?

Nidia Swanson: About the same, but it’s important that young people see someone that looks like them in their advertisements. So they get used to it, so they don’t feel like less than other people.

Camila Swanson: I have noticed that in Sephora, they have created advertisements that show more racial and ethnic diversity. For example, they did a photoshoot with a influencer that went popular on TikTok, that is Native American. And they had like a giant billboard of her in the store and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big brand like Sephora endorse products using Native Americans as one of their target audiences.

Jorge Sedano: I have a lot of experience in retail. I’ve actually been working retail since I was 16 and I want to say that I have noticed a type of change in the race and the ethnicity in the people on the advertisements. I’ve worked at Abercrombie, Disneyworld and New Balance and I can tell you like, and that’s an opinion that I have been able to see these changes in advertisements. And what about photos showing a broader range of body shapes and sizes compared to typical models?

Nidia Swanson: Yes. I see them for example, in plus size. You can see it more. Like when I was growing up, you don’t see it that much. Now you see it more like in really, really retail  store you see in the, either on the internet or in the magazine, you see the plus-size model more often now.

Camila Swanson: I would say I would see photos with a broader range of body shapes and sizes more often. I think that more plus-size influencers on the internet have really created this push for brands and holding them responsible for showing more body shapes, just because not everyone is the same size. And it’s nice to walk past a store and see someone who looks similar to you and know that like that’s a brand that you can confide in to get certain products.

Jorge Sedano: I think it’s a big thing on social media as well that has influenced these movements in-store. And it’s definitely something that helps the consumer, because I think we’ve all been in a situation where we get maybe like a certain article of clothing that we see on the model. And then we don’t typically like the way it looks on us. So I think being able to see more body type closer to yours helps, to know what that article is going to look like on you.

Camila Swanson: So Jorge, that’s interesting, you are saying that what we’re seeing on social media is influencing what we’re seeing in stores.

Jorge Sedano: Because as a society, we are being more comfortable being in your own body, regardless of what you may think of what people looks like or what other people may think. And I think it’s very important for you to just be comfortable with yourself. And I think companies are learning that as well. They’re learning that we need to love ourselves first. If we’re able to see more of ourselves in these ads, we’re more likely to also buy the product.

Adrian Tennant: Influencer marketing is an important part of the social media ecosystem, representing an estimated $10 billion in sponsorship deals in 2020, more than one-half of all the consumers who responded to our survey follow social media influencers Those most likely to do so belong to Gen Z, among whom over three quarters follow at least one influencer. Gen Y respondents are less likely to do so at 58 percent and among Gen X, just under one-third, do at 30 percent. Respondents identifying as Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx or of Spanish origin are significantly more likely to follow influencers with three quarters doing so, 75 percent , compared with 47 percent among non-Hispanic respondents – a 28-point difference. I asked social media expert page Garrett, who’s assistant vice president of marketing with RVD communications in New York, what lies behind Hispanic followers’ greater engagement with influencers.

Paige Garrett: Hispanic social media users are looking to just connect. I think that, you know, like anyone, obviously, they are empowered consumers and also influential creators in their own right. But I do think that when it comes to this crazy time that we’re all coming out of, social media is a way to connect. It’s a way to stay up to date with our friends, our family, what’s going on in each other’s lives. It’s a way to stay in tune with what’s happening in a specific industry that you follow, news, celebrity, entertainment, and it’s just a way to stay hyper-connected and I do think that when it comes to influencers’ recommendations and the way that you as a consumer feel connected to that influencer, it’s very similar to getting a recommendation from a family member or a friend. But you might not be in as close touch with your family members or friends as you are now with these influencers who you follow every single day and every minute of the day. And there was actually a quote that came to mind from Marie Cabo, who is a fortune 500 multicultural strategist and consultant. She essentially said that the Hispanic community in particular, they have that sense of established trust when it comes to these micro-influencers that they follow in the same way that they would their families. So it’s very similar to, again, just that person that you trust who is telling you you need to buy something, that coupled with, whether it’s a discount early access or a VIP experience that you might not get otherwise. It’s that established trust and credibility coupled with the fact that you feel as if you really know this person. And also you might, you know, I think influencers are really engaging with their communities in a way that they are actually in touch with them and actually friends. And if you ask an influencer a question, they’re more likely now to respond than I think they would have a few years ago. So, all of that just works towards greater engagement with influencers in particular and it makes sense again, from more of just like a human connection, perspective for the Hispanic community as well.

Adrian Tennant: So, what do people expect from following influencers? Well, among those who do follow influencers almost one-half expect them to see how a product works or looks. 47 percent expect influencers to provide helpful tips on using products and 43 percent expect to discover new brands and products that they might not otherwise find. These were the top responses across all age groups. I asked Paige if these findings align with most clients’ influencer marketing goals.

Paige Garrett: Yes. Absolutely. I think that when it comes to establishing campaigns where there really isn’t an option in-store for people to touch, feel, experience, that brand or product in-person, leveraging influencers to do that is an incredible resource. And, I think that as consumers, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for honest recommendations and beyond the recommendation, how does that influencer fit that brand or product into their actual everyday life? Influencers are like the new version of reality TV where we all have this inside glimpse into somebody’s life and we see their struggles, we see their successes, and then we see what they, use throughout their day to make them better, to make them feel better, whatever it is that specific brand or client is trying to achieve. 

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

Marissa Martin: I’m Marissa Martin on Bigeye’s operations team. Every week, Bigeye’s podcast IN CLEAR FOCUS explores how consumer behaviors are evolving as a result of COVID-19. From the influence of Generation Z, with its interest in social and environmental issues – to the fast-growing Hispanic market and the opportunity it presents  – Bigeye interprets signals from primary and secondary research, identifying the trends driving consumer spending today – and those that will have the greatest impact tomorrow. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s research-backed, data-driven 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: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1500 consumers. Our exclusive report, retail disrupted: what shoppers want from brands today reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye dot agency slash retail. Retail Disrupted: what shoppers want from brands today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to Retail Disrupted: what shoppers want from brands today. It’s clear that influencers do impact consumers’ purchasing decisions. In the past six months, 90 percent of respondents who follow social media influencers have bought a product after seeing it used, reviewed, or recommended. And over one-half of these followers report buying two to five times, 54 percent. Gen Y respondents are the most likely to have bought two to five times at 57 percent. 91 percent of Gen Z that following influencers have bought something based on a recommendation in the past six months with approaching one-fifth of them buying 6 to 10 times. Gen X respondents are less engaged overall, but just under one-half of them report buying two to five times. Respondents who identify as Hispanic are more likely to have bought 6 to 10 times in the last six months at 21 percent compared to non-Hispanics at 13 percent. They’re also twice as likely to have bought more than 10 times than non-Hispanic respondents. Let’s hear more on this from Camila Swanson and her friend Haroldo Montero. 

Camila Swanson: Do you follow any social media influencers?

Haroldo Montero: Yeah, I would consider myself that I follow a few social media influencers. One of them that I really enjoy is MKBHD. He’s a tech YouTuber who reviews pretty much all kinds of technologies from the future of cars to like mobile devices, TVs, everything. So that’s like my favorite one.

Camila Swanson: Have you purchased something based on an influencer in the past six months?

Haroldo Montero: I have, it’s a pair of glasses actually. It’s from this YouTuber/influencer, I guess started his own clothing brand called Teaching Men’s Fashion. And yeah, he made his own like glasses company and clothing company. And I bought stuff from him, glasses, hoodie, and a shirt.

Camila Swanson: I actually follow Emma Chamberlain and I have actually purchased products from the company that she’s the creative director for. It’s called Bad Habit Beauty. But that’s the only time that a social media influencer has influenced me into purchasing a certain product.

Adrian Tennant: A characteristic of influencer marketing is its network effect. Over three-quarters of our survey respondents who’d purchased something based on an influencer, say they are extremely or somewhat likely to share information about their purchase with people in their social network, 77 percent. Gen Y respondents are the most likely to share information about their purchases with over four in five doing so Gen X is the next most likely with three-quarters of respondents in this group doing so followed by Gen Z at 71 percent. Four in every five respondents identifying as male report doing so compared with 74 percent of females and two-thirds of those identifying as nonbinary or other gender. COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives for over 18 months so we were curious to learn how people feel about influencers today compared to before the pandemic. Almost two in every five shoppers strongly or somewhat agree that compared to before COVID-19 they are discovering more new brands that they like from influencers’ posts, 65 percent, with respondents identifying as male being the most likely to report doing so at 71 percent. Approaching one-half of all respondents report that more of their buying decisions are based on influencer recommendations with those identifying as male, again, being most likely at 49 percent. And while family and friends have traditionally been important sources of information, 38 percent of all respondents say that when it comes to product recommendations, they trust influencers more than their friends. This is the case for 42 percent of Gen Z respondents and 47 percent of those identifying as male. I asked Paige Garrett why she thinks this is the case.

Paige Garrett: I don’t think that men had the same shopping habits as women, in the sense that, you know, we’re constantly talking with our friends about the items that we’re purchasing and sharing those recommendations, but even more so with influencers, because there is that established relationship, there’s a sense of trust. There’s a feeling like I know this person, that coupled with their recommendations, especially if they are an expert in whatever it is they’re sharing, is really helpful when it comes to finally deciding or taking that intent to purchase. So I think that that is kind of the secret sauce, and a lot of influencers will do some of that testing for their followers. So a lot of times we’ll see content that’s like, “I tried five different SPFs and this is the one that you need because you’ll get the most bang for your buck. And I tried the expensive ones and the less expensive ones.” It’s like, they’re doing a lot of that legwork. And that’s a lot of the content that we’re seeing coming out now where the way that influencers are recommending products is through that lens of,  “I’ve tried them all. This is the one you need.” And I think, while, women’s shopping habits might be, we just share more publicly about them, I think for men, in particular, to be able to have that buy-in and that honest feedback from an established person who they follow and trust, I think it makes a ton of sense as to why they’re even more so trusting an influencer’s recommendation to that, you know, over their friends.

Adrian Tennant: But our study results indicate that people’s trust in influencers has actually decreased compared to before the pandemic. Over one-half of all respondents think that influencers are flaunting their privileged lifestyles while normal people have to deal with COVID and well over one-half of Gen Z respondents say that most influencers are inauthentic and motivated only by sponsorship money. Around two in every five respondents think that influences seem out of touch with the sentiment most pronounced among those identifying as male at 44 percent. 40 percent of all respondents report that compared to before COVID their trust in influences has decreased. That percentage is a little higher among Gen Y respondents 42 percent and well over one-half of those identifying as nonbinary or other gender feel this way. I asked Paige if she believes influences are aware of this kind of feedback and changing the content they produce in response.

Paige Garrett: I think that there are a lot of influencers who haven’t woken up to this just yet. But I do think the vast majority, at least the influencers we are working with have. I think that respect for themselves as humans, but also as creators and the respect that they have for their communities and what their communities might be going through, is definitely prevalent. And I think it’ll only continue to become more prevalent as we go through these next few months and years. I think that’s the direction that influencer marketing is going in. And I do think as well, that with COVID and it not being the time or the place for people to be sharing about, going to restaurants or traveling, or the expensive items they just purchased. It’s really thinking about how is your brand adding value into this person’s day as a consumer first? So thinking through that lens and working with the influencers that you’re, Collaborating with, to come up with a piece of content that feels really realistic for where they are in their life. And also, it feels really realistic for where their communities are as well because our influencers are in constant touch with their communities. And that’s where we kind of defer to our creators in the sense of: here’s our brand, here’s why we think, you know, as an individual, you will really value from what it is that we’re offering. but how do you see this brand fitting into your daily content? What are some conversations you’ve been having with your followers recently, especially during this challenging time, are there any trends coming up? A lot of our influencers have quoted mental health and, needing to establish more self-care rituals or set boundaries for themselves. And I think that really leaning into that, and inserting your brand into those conversations in ways that feel genuine is kind of where that secret sauce is. But I do think also just seeing, you know, influencers leverage their platforms to encourage folks to get the vaccine, or, opening up these bigger conversations, using their platforms to do that. It doesn’t need to be always about specific the product. It can be a mission behind a brand that happens to align with an influencer and that in and of itself will drive brand awareness and ultimately conversion. But I think sort of moving away from just pushing product and collaborating with influencers on what the bigger conversation or bigger picture is, and I think hopefully it’s the direction that influencer marketing is going in general.

Adrian Tennant: When we asked people to describe what they think retailers need to do to add value or improve their customer experience when shopping in any physical store, over one-half of the responses mentioned issues relating to customer service, 52 percent good and bad. Seventeen percent of the responses suggest improvements to retailers’ product selections. While 13 percent of the respondents mentioned pricing and promotions, the same percentage relates to stores’ environment, perhaps reflecting a greater awareness of cleanliness and safety measures as a result of COVID-19. 5 percent of the responses mentioned product sampling in-store. So it’s clear that while shoppers are now returning to stores, they’re doing so with raised expectations, since they can easily discover brands, research products, read reviews from real people and shop all online. Doug Stevens offers his perspective on the significance of these changes.

Doug Stephens: No matter what you sell the internet has commodified it. The consumer has an endless well of choice, in every product category. So every brand needs to be the answer to a deeper question than where can I get this product. The first question that every brand today needs to answer is what is our purpose to consumers? What fundamental need do we satisfy by virtue of our presence? And if you can figure that out and bring it to life, then you can sort of move on to strategy part two. but this is a fundamental question that we have to answer.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been listening to the first episode of Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. My thanks to all the contributors to this podcast: Doug Stevens, Paige Garrett, Camila and Nidia Swanson, Jorge Sedano, and Haroldo Montero. To download the full report on which this podcast is based, go to bigeye.agency/retail, where you can also watch the on-demand, webinar highlighting results through our national study. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. Thank you for listening. Until next time, goodbye!

Categories
Audience Direct-To-Consumer DTC Marketing Insights Market Intelligence Qualitative Research Quantitative Research

As a leading consumer insights agency, we conducted research about what consumers look for when shopping in our latest study: Retail Disrupted: What US Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We’ve uncovered timely retail trends that can help you provide unforgettable shopping experiences for customers that will entice them back into physical stores.

As we noted before in previous articles, the coronavirus pandemic spiked growth in an already-existing trend towards the rise of digital sales. Consumers discovered the convenience and savings they could enjoy by ordering online and getting deliveries at their front doors. 

For example, digitally native DTC brands often replace traditional retailers by attracting and engaging customers with emerging technologies. Even as life slowly returns to a more normal state, digital sales keep increasing. Consider five retail trends that retailers can use to benefit their businesses. 

1. Social shopping 

Retailers encourage customers and influencers to share their experiences with products on social networking sites. These sellers engage new customers by creating a shared experience online. According to Bigeye’s research report Retail Disrupted, almost nine out of ten consumers admit to making purchases because of an introduction to the product by an influencer on social media. Even more, social commerce has emerged as a primary source of leads for DTC brands. 

Popular social networks for social shopping include Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok. At the same time, almost all sites with a social aspect, like YouTube and Reddit, support this kind of social sharing for products. 

2. Augmented Reality shopping apps 

AR shopping apps from Home Depot, Target, and IKEA can show consumers how a sofa will look in their living room. The Sephora and Amazon apps let customers see how various lipstick shades and eyeshadow colors will complement their skin tones. Customers can use these apps to make better at-home or in-store shopping choices. Most consumers believe that within 10 years, shopping will involve more interfacing with technology than human salespeople. 

3. DTC subscriptions 

Digital marketing opened up a direct pathway to consumers. By bypassing retailers and other intermediaries, DTC businesses can improve profits while keeping prices competitive. Retail Disrupted revealed that 72% of hispanic shoppers have purchased from a DTC brand in the past six months.

Subscriptions offer customers convenience and savings, and they help drive retention for brands. Also, brands don’t have to sacrifice other distribution modes to benefit from DTC sales. Some brands originated as digital natives and expanded to retailers. In contrast, legacy companies began focusing on direct selling after only working through distributors and retailers for years. 

4. Socially conscious consumerism 

Almost forty percent of shoppers engage in conscious consumerism. Socially conscious consumerism refers to purchase decisions with positive impacts upon the environment, society, or economy. Some common examples of conscious consumerism might include buying clothes and accessories at thrift stores, donating items to charities, and purchasing products from stores specializing in pre-owned and vintage clothing. 

In these cases, people choose sustainable purchases that may also offer a chance to save money. In other cases, shoppers might choose new products with more eco-friendly packaging and eco-safe ingredients. 

5. Physical retail stores of the future 

Digital technology will not just impact online shopping but also in-store experiences. Improvements in retail tech can help attract shoppers back to stores and make physical shops more efficient to run. For example: 

  • Over 30 percent of shoppers feel that entertainment or other in-store experiences would entice them to visit a local store. 
  • Almost as many people sit at the other end of the scale and prefer stores like Amazon Go or Apple store that let them choose items, pay with an app, and leave without needing to visit a checkout line at all. 

Many discount, drug, and grocery stores already rely on self-checkout lines that can speed up checkout time and reduce the number of cashiers needed. Some shoppers prefer these, but others find them awkward to use when they have bulky, awkward, or unusual purchases. Perhaps this represents a transitional phase with better solutions for automated checkout on the horizon. 

How a retail marketing agency benefits retail clients and consumers 

Now more than ever, retailers need to adopt a customer-focused marketing plan. Retailers can’t only focus on delivering the best products, but they also must provide these products in a way that customers prefer. The solutions involve adding effective enticements to get shoppers to visit their offline or online stores. 

Technology may help make purchases socially conscious, cheaper, convenient, or even more fun. At the same time, innovation can help businesses operate more efficiently. A consumer insights agency will spot the retail trends that help their customers achieve these goals for their unique businesses.

Download Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want from Brands Today for more insights.

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

Encore: As millions of views of “unboxing” videos on social media demonstrate, packaging is an important part of the customer experience. Industry expert Brandon Frank explains how evolving consumer attitudes are leading brands to embrace sustainable packaging solutions. Brandon shares the inside story of innovative packaging his company, Pacific Packaging Components, developed for premium beauty brand Drunk Elephant, and his role as a member of Credo’s Clean Beauty Council.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS provides another chance to hear a conversation with sustainable packaging expert, Brandon Frank. Brandon is the CEO of Pacific Packaging Components in Los Angeles and explains how leading brands are embracing sustainable packaging solutions in response to evolving consumer attitudes. This is also one of the topics covered in Bigeye’s upcoming exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. And in a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking with Brandon again – along with other guests in the direct-to-consumer space – to mark the 100th episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. But for now, enjoy this encore of a conversation with Brandon Frank.

You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Consumers’ perceptions of products are affected by intrinsic and extrinsic cues. Intrinsic cues are a product’s specific attributes, such as their sensory properties: what a product looks, feels, smells, tastes, and sounds like. Extrinsic cues are purchase consideration factors, which in a retail setting, typically include point-of-sale displays, product placement, and the packaging that surrounds or contains the product. Of all the extrinsic cues, packaging is one of the most important since it’s often a brand’s first physical touchpoint with the consumer. Packaging needs to be impactful on store shelves, and, depending on the product, may also incorporate claims, descriptions, and ingredient lists. Designers also have to consider the weight of packaging, their physical dimensions, the visual form, opening and closing mechanisms, as well as color and texture. Packaging is then a really important consideration in the marketing mix. Being impactful on a store shelf while also looking good on a kitchen table or a bathroom vanity presents unique challenges and opportunities. Combining marketing elements into the design of a product’s packaging has been dubbed “packvertising.” For designers, this offers ways to bring a brand’s proposition to life on the shelf or online. And, as millions of views of “unboxing” videos on social media demonstrate, packaging can actually be an important part of the customer experience. To talk about how companies can use packaging to amplify a brand’s qualities, I’m joined today by a packaging industry expert. Based in Los Angeles, Brandon Frank is the President of Pacific Packaging Components, which this year celebrates 50 years in business. Brandon is also President of the Southern California chapter of the Institute of Packaging Professionals. Brandon, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Brandon Frank: Thank you very much.

Adrian Tennant: So, could you tell us about Pacific Packaging Components’ history and what the company offers today?

Brandon Frank: My grandfather and grandmother started the company, like you said, about 50 years ago and my parents joined the company about 40 years ago. And so I was basically raised in the world of packaging. I like to joke that I knew about net finishes before I knew my ABCs, but that’s not probably totally accurate. And it was set up as a packaging distribution company. And that’s what we still are today. And so for, the listeners that don’t know what that is, basically we represent the customer and we figure out what they need from a packaging perspective. And then we go to our preferred vendors around the world and find the perfect manufacturer for their specific situation. And then we broker the deal. We buy the packaging from the manufacturer and sell to the end customer and manage the entire supply chain.

Adrian Tennant: What kinds of businesses do you serve? Is there a specific vertical that represents a significant portion of your business?

Brandon Frank: So I like to say that in 50 years, we’ve learned how to get in trouble in a lot of different ways. But we’re in three primary industries: beauty/personal care, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical and nutraceutical. I would say that our main specialty though is in primary rigid packaging. So think of like, glass bottles and jars, plastic containers, dispensers, closures, tubes, things like that.

Adrian Tennant: Now you mentioned one vertical for your company is beauty and skincare. I understand that you advise several companies in this space, and that you’re a member of the Credo Clean Beauty Council. What does your role with Credo entail?

Brandon Frank: So, the title they gave me was Sustainable Packaging Expert and I’m always quick to qualify that there are brilliant people in the sustainable space, and I don’t consider myself at their level but I am certainly passionate about the topic. And so Credo is a really innovative retailer – they’re actually the largest clean beauty retailer in the United States. And their whole focus is to do things the right way. And so they started with ingredients, basically creating approved and unapproved ingredients for all their products. And so, if brands weren’t able to fulfill those obligations, they couldn’t sell their product through their channel. The next step was to create a sustainable packaging guideline that would inspire brands to choose more sustainable packaging. And that if they didn’t comply with the standards they were setting, then again, they wouldn’t sell those items through their platform. And so they brought me on to basically help craft and create those guidelines and then to serve as a resource to all of the brands currently in Credo and that are trying to get into Credo, to be able to help them make that transition to more sustainable packaging.

Adrian Tennant: Now Credo is an example of a retailer that’s really engaged in the “clean beauty” movement. How do you define “clean beauty?”

Brandon Frank: It’s a great question and I think there’s a lot of different ways to answer it, but generally I see clean beauty or even the topic of sustainability as looking at the entire value chain. And choosing ingredients or materials that are going to be more sustainable, more renewable, easier on the planet, far more natural or more organic sources. You know, there’s always going to be an impact to any type of consumer product, but I think it’s trying to minimize the impact as much as possible.

Adrian Tennant: There’s a lot of competing sources of information about what makes a beauty product clean. What are some of the things that consumers really need to watch out for?

Brandon Frank: I think that the actual ingredients in the product tend to be the primary focus. And so Credo, for example, has their quote-unquote “dirty” list. And that dirty list has a list of ingredients that are the really big no-nos  for their brand.

Adrian Tennant: Now Pacific Packaging Components developed custom packaging for the skincare line Drunk Elephant. How did that partnership originate? And what did the design process look like? 

Brandon Frank: Tiffany Masterson is the founder and owner of Drunk Elephant – and they actually recently sold to Shiseido – but when we started with that company, they were still relatively small and still getting started. Their story with Drunk Elephant is very consistent with a lot of our kind of interactions and processes that we have with a lot of our other brands to where it starts off with a vision from the founder or from the owners or from the people in charge of kind of developing the packaging. And we were right there to basically guide and support and to go bring those things to reality. The other part too, is that we knew that there was going to be scaling with Drunk Elephant. She had a great idea, a great concept. And so we were expecting really great things. And so we weren’t just trying to supply the first round of packaging, but we were looking down the supply chain as well, to be able to make sure that as the brand grew, that there weren’t going to be supply chain issues from a packaging standpoint. But the creative process is really different, you know, for everybody. Sometimes it’s really straightforward and it’s really easy to be able to deliver on what the vision is. Other times it’s a little bit more fluid and a little more dynamic. And I think our agility is a real benefit in that regard because if things start to pivot away from kind of the initial concept or we’re going in a different direction, we have no problem changing manufacturers and going to someone else that can accomplish what we need to in order to make the customer happy.

Adrian Tennant: A lot of direct-to-consumer brands engage with social media influencers to reach potential customers. At Pacific Packaging Components, you develop “influencer kits” for brands. Can you tell us more about those?

Brandon Frank: So influencer kits are basically a way a brand can create a special gift that features their brand,  that gives that kind of special feeling of opening something really unique and innovative. It’s kind of like their own brand, their own vision, their own products, all encapsulated within this box. And sometimes it has a really big focus on the story of the brand or what they’re trying to accomplish; other times it’s filled with lots of different products. And we can make some really creative ones. We’ve had some, with even little mini flat screen televisions that when it opens the video starts and it has an explanation of what’s in the pack. And then from there, the influencers are encouraged to be able to try the products, document what they think about things, review it online, and hopefully tell their followers to go and check it out.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the differences, if any, between packaging components used for beauty and skincare products versus food  packaging? Are there any regulations that you have to take into account when dealing with food or drink?

Brandon Frank: Yes, absolutely. Really any time, you know, it’s going to be a CPG product there are going to be regulations that are going to be relevant, but if it’s going to be food beverage, anything that’s going to be ingested, there are strict laws through the FDA and other governing bodies. With beauty and personal care, there’s kind of less barrier because most of the products obviously are not being ingested. They’re kind of more topicals. But it’s still a really good idea to be able to use products and develop products that can be certified to some degree.

Adrian Tennant: What tend to be the best materials to use for safe food packaging?

Brandon Frank: Boy, that’s a big question, ’cause you could approach it from a lot of different standpoints. So most of the time with food and beverage, the packaging has to be functional. And so it has to protect the product, it has to extend the shelf life or do other types of just really functional, practical things. Usually the cost of food and beverage packaging tends to be one of the most important drivers, because of the margins and the cost of those goods are usually relatively low. For beauty and personal care packaging, the cost of the packaging is significantly higher and usually the price points for those items are also higher. But beauty customers tend to want to feel the quality of the packaging. It’s kind of a representation of the product itself. For food and beverage, it’s a little bit less so, at least that’s been my experience.

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

Karen Hidalgo: I’m Karen Hidalgo, Associate Account Manager at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising account professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with your audience. 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. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant:  Welcome back. As I mentioned in the introduction, brands that invest in packaging design do so to make them distinctive and instantly recognizable to potential customers. CPG giant Proctor and Gamble refers to this as the “First Moment of Truth” – that is when a consumer chooses to purchase one brand over competitors. Of course, during the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen more e-commerce activity and a greater focus on hygiene. In other words, consumers are discovering another moment of truth: after they’ve used the product, they must dispose of the packaging. International research from Ipsos undertook a study published on Earth Day this year, which found that globally, “dealing with the amount of waste we generate” is a top environmental concern for around one-third of people, just behind “global warming and climate change” and on a par with “air pollution.” Research from Ipsos also shows that “avoiding products that have a lot of packaging” is one of the key actions that a majority of consumers – 57 percent – say they’re likely to do to limit their own contribution to climate change. To quote from the Ipsos study, “if the finished packaging has a large number of components and materials, if it has a high use of plastic and, or is not obviously able to be recycled, this might well have an impact on whether that product will be purchased again.” To talk about this, let’s return to our guest this week, Brandon Frank, President of Pacific Packaging Components. Brandon, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Harrold of Mohawk Fine Papers in New York in an earlier episode of our current season. Chris told us about Mohawk’s Renewal line of papers that use non-traditional fibers, such as hemp, straw, and cotton scraps, which are a by-product of denim and t-shirt manufacturing. Chris explained that younger designers were really drawn to these papers for use in packaging projects, in part because they demonstrate respect for the environment and an embrace of sustainability principles. We know that the youngest consumers – Generation Z – are very concerned about environmental issues. How is Pacific Packaging Components approaching the use of sustainable and recyclable materials?

Brandon Frank: Sustainability is incredibly important to us. And it’s been something that has kind of been, I would say, a focal point of how we’re viewing our own company and then the kind of industry as a whole. Obviously, we have been producing millions and millions of units of plastic and glass and other types of packaging for the past 50 years. And, as a family company, I’m looking at the legacy – what are we going to be a part of for the next 50 years? And so we want to be a part of the solution, and we are, you know, actively trying to improve, not only the sustainability of packaging, but really looking at the entire value chain. You know, I think traditionally we’ve really approached packaging from two central points: is it going to be functional? And is it going to look great and is it going to be on budget? And what’s really required right now is we need to take our blinders off – consumers, brands, packaging companies, packaging manufacturers, everyone involved – and say, “What materials are the best to use right now, according to the capabilities of our recycling stream?” So it’s really looking at the end and saying, “Okay, how can we design and choose packaging right now that it is going to be recycled?” Because it’s not enough to make something that’s quote, unquote “recyclable” if it’s not going to be recycled. We see this a lot with tubes and monolayer tubes people call them recyclable all the time, but they’re never going to actually be recycled, especially here in the US. And so we’re taking a really active stand. We’re inspiring companies to be able to really consider and make sustainability a part of their brand and their ethos. You know, 81 percent of consumers in the US think that brands should be making decisions that are benefiting the environment rather than hurting. You know, we’ve seen the popularity of sustainability really come and go every decade for the last 50 years – It kind of comes, it’s really popular,and then it fades away. But something’s different this time. We feel like the levee’s kind of been broken on the topic of sustainability – whether it’s because of social media, or Netflix documentaries that have kind of shown the amount of plastic waste that’s in the ocean, but sustainability is going to be here to stay. And that’s why I think we’re seeing a lot of large multinational companies and brands like Credo that are making really big statements that 50 percent or one hundred percent of our packaging is going to come from recycled sources. Now, by 2025 is kind of a popular year right now. And we’re seeing massive investments on the recycling stream because there’s going to be this really big opportunity for all of these brands that are demanding post-consumer recycled residence – sorry, that’s what PCR stands for – basically, it’s ground-up plastic that turns back into resin that can be reused to be able to make more plastic items. And that’s going to be kind of the standard going forward is that if you’re going to be using plastic, then there needs to be a percentage of PCR in that plastic and the whole recycling stream is going to really improve to make sure that the plastics is able to be processed, cleaned, and turned into a really reusable plastic resin.

Adrian Tennant: Well, as you point out, sustainability comes in many guises.

Brandon Frank: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, there’s some really practical parts about not reusing or touching lots of packaging, too. I think the days of going into a retail store  and touching a lotion pump that everyone else has touched and sampling things are going to be behind us. And there’s going to be a new normal going forward about those things. And there is an adverse relationship between those two, because really the most kind of sterile way to do it is to have a single use sachet that is opened, used, and then discarded. But even there, there’s going to be more opportunities for innovation. I’m seeing more compostable and biodegradable films, so if they do end up in the landfill that they’re breaking down a lot quicker.  You mentioned fiber-based earlier: I think fiber and different materials in fiber – so paper, hemp, mushrooms, sugar cane, corn stock, – I mean there’s going to be a lot of different, more renewable, natural sources that are going to be used to be able to make packaging that can be effective, that can be affordable, and it will hopefully look good too.

Adrian Tennant: How do you work with design agencies that want to build sustainability into their packaging designs?

Brandon Frank: So most design companies, I’ll be real honest, don’t have a lot of packaging manufacturing experience. It’s really rare to find a really good designer that knows kind of the manufacturing limitations when it comes to sustainable packaging. And so we’ve tried to work as closely as we can with those designers, whether they’re inside of the organization or they’re of a private firm, because really it’s a partnership – ‘cause the customer is going to end up telling the designer, “We want to do this.” And then they’re going to try to draw it up and create it. And before they go through all the trouble of creating this, they need to run it by us and say, “Hey, is this even possible?” You know, “Can we put this number of colors on a glass bottle?” Or, you know, “Can we really do a 360-degree artwork on this type of tube?” Or something like that. So, I’d say it’s a really great partnership and a lot of collaboration and communication.

Adrian Tennant: For designers that are new to packaging design, what are some best practices that you can share when it comes to packaging for say, beauty and skincare products?

Brandon Frank: When it comes to sustainability, one trend that we’re really seeing is don’t make things too complicated. Try to simplify the designs, simplify the amount of materials that are being used, if it can be eliminated or can be reduced, make those decisions. You know, hot stamping was a really popular way to kind of make your item pop. It’s like having a – basically like a metallic look or metallic decoration on the outside of a bottle. Well, for plastics or even glass, having metal on the outside of the packaging is not a great sustainable form of decorating. And so we’re seeing less and less hot stamping. Now people are saying, “You know what, let’s just stick to one pass. Let’s do you know, maybe just multiple colors. Let’s try to achieve that as close as we can with a silkscreen deco.” And so that’s kind of just one example. I think how sustainability is coming into the design process and designers are kind of modifying what they’re doing to kind of accommodate those goals.

Adrian Tennant: Now you mentioned that you foresee new consumer behaviors emerging from COVID-19. What are some of those behaviors that you’re most excited about for the future of packaging?

Brandon Frank: Well, I think, you know, I mean, certainly online shopping and e-commerce is only going to continue to grow. And so I think brands are going to continue to look at the packaging that’s being sent to the brand. I have three young kids and my wife ordered a brand, I think it’s called Hello Bello or something like that. But the box came and there were a bunch of diapers in it and lotions and, All sorts of different baby items, but the box on the outside could actually be converted into a Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin and the kids could interact with it by kind of punching out these different designs on all four sides of the box. And then it would all come together and it would be this really cool thing. It even had a handle on it. I think that the kids could put stuff in and the moms or dads could easily move it around the house. And so typically that box would just be a box. It would show up and it would be discarded. But now it’s coming into our home and we’re actually using it. And it’s having a second life as a toy before it’s being – hopefully – recycled. And so I think there’s going to be more opportunities for creativity in that regard. There’s some really popular blogs out there about how to convert plastic bottles that you’ve consumed into other really helpful household items or in your garden. How to reuse glass packaging by having refillable pouches sent to the house and then you refill this beautiful glass soap dispenser that has a really durable pump on it. So you’re not going out and consistently ordering or buying or having shipped, just more plastic bottles. And so  think that’s going to be one of the significant trends going forward is that there’s going to be a lot of innovation with refillables and reusable packaging, and then also creating fun and innovative packaging that maybe has a second life within the home before just thrown away.

Adrian Tennant: Brandon, it’s interesting, you’re the third generation of a family business. If you hadn’t been working in the family of business, what else might you have done?

Brandon Frank: So, my grandparents and my parents actually had a rule that before I could have a leadership role in this company, I had to go out and the way they said it was, I had to “go make mistakes on someone else’s dime.” And so I went to college and got my degree and right out of college, I pursued a career in real estate. It was a startup company. We did 1031 exchanges into tenant and common properties. And predominantly we’re doing online advertising to be able to find our customers. A fascinating startup experience. And then from there  – I’m a big soccer fan and really enjoyed playing and coaching. And so after I had this stint in startup, I kind of missed just coaching. And so then I went back and I became a soccer coach again, and started running a summer camp in Maine – an all-boys, residential summer camp. I did that for four years. During that time, it was a lot of leadership, a lot of on-the-job training in terms of bringing a group of people together, crafting a clear vision for us, and then making sure that I was taking care of everyone and making sure everyone was having a great summer. And then from there, I’ve always fallen in love with brick and mortar businesses. I don’t know if it’s just because I like going in the opposite direction of the direction society’s going in, but I kind of started from scratch and went to work for a friend that owned a bunch of retail stores across the country and learned the business from him, and then opened up my own store, that I built up for three years and then I sold it to also a good friend of mine. And it was at that time after all those experiences that I felt ready to be able to come back home and end up where I kind of knew I was going to end up anyways, back here at the family business.

Adrian Tennant: What are your daily sources of inspiration? Are you a reader? A podcast listener? Music listener? What’s your thing?

Brandon Frank: So being a kind of lifelong jock and athlete, my best meditation is my daily workouts. I turn 40 next year and I have this goal of doing an Ironman, which is a really long triathlon, and it hurts a lot to do it. But it’s kind of been this goal that I’ve wanted to do. So I try to wake up early every morning, four thirty, five o’clock, and go for a good long run, ride, or a swim. I also try to do as much as I can with my kids. And I’ve gotten them into bike riding at an early age, so when I’m running, they’re usually riding their bikes next to me. I try to make that time as special as I can. I do like to read, but I really like the convenience of audio, of podcast news and other sources. I don’t have as much time as I like, so I tend to just do 15, 20 minutes of three or four different news sources in the morning to just kind of get caught up on what’s happening. And then, I love books on tape as well. So usually when I’m riding a bike or I’m running and I’m listening to some sort of audible, book recording

Adrian Tennant: Brandon, if listeners want to learn more about Pacific Packaging Components, where can they find you?

Brandon Frank: Yeah, so I encourage you to go to our website, PPCPackaging.com and it’s really easy to connect with me on LinkedIn as well. You can search for just Brandon Frank. I’m pretty active there. Or you can shoot me an email at brandon@ppcpackaging.com.

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

Brandon Frank: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: According to data from McKinsey and Company, across 21 international markets they surveyed, an average of 29 percent of consumers said that compared to before the Coronavirus outbreak, they’re making more buying decisions based on healthy and hygienic packaging. And as we heard earlier, while consumers’ desire for sustainable packaging designs presents significant challenges for manufacturers and retailers, it also presents opportunities. Brands today have much greater permission, it seems, to more radically reinvent their packaging solutions potentially resulting in greater engagement with consumers. Thanks to my guest this week, Brandon Frank,  President of Pacific Packaging Components in Los Angeles. You’ll find links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And remember, if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast 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.