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

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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


Adrian Tennant: Andrea, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Andrea Laurent-Simpson: Thank you, Adrian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ksenia Newton: Thank you so much for having me.

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

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

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, guest hosts Camila Swanson and Jorge Sedano reflect on their experiences as multicultural consumers. Including candid interviews with friends and family members, the team examines influencer marketing and how Hispanic consumers are depicted in ads. We hear why ads in Spanish-language media can be more memorable, and the ways Hispanic consumers most commonly retain their families’ cultures and traditions. 

Episode Transcript

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

Haroldo Montero: Well, American parents don’t really care as much about their kids. They send their kids off to college at 18 and they just don’t talk to them for a while. I think they’re not as close as Hispanics typically are. Hispanics withhold their kids at their house until they’re like in their late twenties, If they really wanted to!

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your regular host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. September 15th marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. To celebrate, we’re re-airing an episode from last September. At that time, both of the guest hosts you’re about to hear – Camila and Jorge – were interns at Bigeye. Well, a year on, Camila Swanson is now a key member of Bigeye’s strategy team, as Research Specialist. 


Camila Swanson: I’m your guest host, Camila Swanson, an intern on Bigeye’s Insights team.

Jorge Sedano: And I’m Jorge Sedano, also an Insights intern. 

Camila Swanson: The Hispanic population is the second-largest minority consumer group in the US and one of the fastest-growing, accounting for 57% of the population growth over the past two decades.

Jorge Sedano: There are over 63.6 million of us. Last year, Hispanic consumers had a combined buying power of $1.9 trillion and we will contribute disproportionately to growth in consumer spending over the next five years, when Hispanics are set to become 21% of this country’s population.

Camila Swanson: I belong to the youngest generation, Gen Z, born between 1996 and 2015, and nearly a quarter of my cohort – 23% – identify as Hispanic.

Jorge Sedano: I’m a Millennial or Gen Y, born between 1980 and 1995. And over a fifth of my generation is Hispanic.

Camila Swanson: In this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, we’re going to take a look at some of the differences between Hispanic cultures, values, and levels of acculturation and what they mean for marketers.

Jorge Sedano: One thing that’s challenging about marketing to Hispanic consumers is that we come from a variety of backgrounds. Our parents or grandparents might have come to the U.S. from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and many other Spanish-speaking countries. 

Camila Swanson: The dialects, cultures, behaviors, beliefs, interests, vary – perhaps more than non-Hispanic people might think. The syndicated research firm, Claritas, has a framework called Hispanicity, which measures the degree to which people of Hispanic heritage in the U.S. retain elements of their culture while acquiring elements of the American culture. Claritas uses various characteristics to segment consumers into one of five categories. These lie on a continuum from complete adoption of mainstream society’s values and beliefs to the retention of values and beliefs from an immigrant’s original culture.

Jorge Sedano: Claritas’s HA1 is Americanizado and reflects 17% of Hispanic consumers. These folks were born in the U.S., speak English predominantly, are likely to be third generation, and follow a few, if any, Hispanic cultural factors.

Camila Swanson: Hispanicity category, HA2 is Nueva Latina and reflects 29% of Hispanic consumers. They were born in the U.S., prefer to speak English, and are likely to be second generation, following some Hispanic cultural practices. This classifies me, I think.

Jorge Sedano: Category HA3 is Ambicultural and reflects 26% of Hispanic consumers. They immigrated to the U.S. as children or young adults and are bilingual, following many Hispanic cultural factors. I believe this category best qualifies me.

Camila Swanson: Category HA4 is Hispano and reflects 15% of Hispanic consumers. They immigrated to the U.S. as adults, and although they have been here 10 or more years, prefer to speak Spanish. They predominantly follow Hispanic cultural practices.

Jorge Sedano: And finally HA5 is Latino Americana and reflects 13% of Hispanic consumers. They immigrated to the U.S. as adults, less than 10 years ago, and Spanish language predominant. They follow Hispanic cultural practices and identify more with their home country than the U.S.

Camila Swanson: In their 2021 Hispanic market report, Claritas highlights some of the differences that exist between Hispanic consumers based on their country of origin, annual household incomes, and language use.

Jorge Sedano: These differences are reflected across a wide variety of consumer behaviors. From the use of internet and streaming services to insurance, e-commerce, and traditional in-store shopping. For this podcast, we want to understand how these and other categories play out in real people’s lives. So we asked some folks we know about their lives and consumption behaviors, starting with each other.

Camila Swanson: How in touch are you with your Hispanic roots, would you say?

Jorge Sedano: I actually am very in touch with my Hispanic roots. I was born in Mexico and I immigrated here in the first grade, I believe. I was also raised in a border city, which meant I was able to be raised both in the U.S. and Mexico. So I was able to take in both of those cultures and still keep in touch with my family and all those things that influence all my behaviors on all my purchases or anything that I do to this day. So Camila, how do you think you are with your Hispanic roots?

Camila Swanson: I would say I’m pretty in touch with my Hispanic roots, as much as I could be being from a household where my dad is more American and my mom is Dominican. I’ve never visited the Dominican Republic just because we were supposed to, and then the pandemic hit, but we would go to Latin concerts and we would play that music in the house, in the car. And it really kept me in touch with, you know, the bachata culture and, you know, my mom cooks homemade food every single day that I’m home. And that really keeps me in touch with my Hispanic roots, because I feel like I can connect so much through music and food.

Jorge Sedano: So you would say it’s always like a part of your daily life and a part of your culture as a person?

Camila Swanson: Yes. Yes. A hundred percent.

Haroldo Montero: Hi, my name is Haroldo Montero. While I am a Millennial by birth, I consider myself a Gen Z sometimes. I was born in Venezuela. I moved to the US when I was around 12 years old.

Camila Swanson: Haroldo, how in touch do you feel with your family’s Venezuelan roots?

Haroldo Montero: I feel pretty close to them, right? Like I speak to my parents on a daily basis. That’s one of the cultural things I have with them. They call me, or I call them just to let them know pretty much really anything. And I still keep in touch with a lot of my cousins and aunts over there. So I feel very Venezuelan, I guess.

Nidia Swanson: My name is Nidia, I’m in Gen X and I live in Pembroke Pines in South Florida. I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the U.S. when I was 23 years old. And I’m Camila’s mom.

Jorge Sedano: How in touch do you feel you are with your Dominican roots?

Nidia Swanson: Oh, I’m really in touch with my roots because I have a lot of family in my country still in and we keep in touch really often.

Jorge Sedano: And what aspects of your Dominican culture, if any, do you hold onto in preference to mainstream American?

Nidia Swanson: The food and the music, especially the music. I cook the food from my country really often. So I can introduce Camila and my husband to my culture. I introduced Camila really, really to the music. So she can have a little bit of my side of my culture.

Jorge Sedano: So you want to be able to educate both, then be able to show them a part of who you are?

Nidia Swanson: Yeah. Yeah.

Haroldo Montero: Before I was moving to the states, right. You hear a lot of things, how Americans are. And one of the main things that caught my attention was like, “Oh, parents don’t really care as much about their kids.” Like it’s a little more distant, I guess you could say like. They send their kids off to college at 18 and they just don’t talk to them for a while. And that’s something that I was kind of shocked to listen to at first I was like, “Wow, they don’t care, I guess!” But I guess like that distancing between their parents and their kids, I think they’re not as close as Hispanics typically are like Hispanics withhold their kids at their house until they’re like in their late twenties, if they really wanted to. So even myself, when I moved out of the house at age 21, My mom was like, “Wow!” Like very surprised at that. So I would say like how close you are to family.

Jorge Sedano: What aspects do you think you keep from your culture?

Camila Swanson: I think the aspects of my culture that I keep would definitely still be the music. I feel like I can still connect with my family through the music that my extended family would listen to when they were growing up, I listened to growing up. For example, we all listened to Maná. Like when their songs come on, we all know all the lyrics. And although we’re a small little family, it does keep us all really close and it just makes the holidays that much better. And that I would just never give it up.

Jorge Sedano: I think there’s a lot of things, actually, you know, being in a border city, you have access to so many things from Mexico. So like to this day, I try to find the best tortillas that I can find. I try to, you know, cook beans the way my mom used to make it. Any recipe really I try to base it off how my mom does it and I call her up for the recipe and she’ll be able to tell me what I need to buy, you know, how to make it and things like that. And just give me the things that I need to get that are more in tune with like Mexican products, than American products. Do you consider Spanish or English to be your primary language?

Nidia Swanson: Both, because with them I have to communicate in English because my husband is really American and with my parents, when I’m in their house, I have to speak Spanish because they don’t speak English. So I consider both primary.

Haroldo Montero: I know very basic Spanish. So like I said, I moved here when I was 12. So my Spanish is pretty middle school level. I would say. I mean, I can speak it, understand and hold a pretty decent conversation with somebody, but you know, going to college here, having to study for the SATs and ACTs, you kind of have to like expand your vocabulary in English. But right now my primary language is English. Yeah.

Camila Swanson: I consider English to be my primary language, just because since my father speaks English and little to no Spanish, that was the number one language we could use for our whole family to communicate. But I still consider myself bilingual.

Jorge Sedano: I like to think Spanish is my primary language growing up in my household. It was always, you know, Spanish at home, English, outside, To this day with my siblings. It’s like we sneak in some English in there sometimes, but I always like based on Spanish and maybe like a little bit of Spanglish, but it’s definitely mostly Spanish. When I go see my family, obviously in Mexico, we have to speak Spanish. So it’s definitely a bigger part of my culture and my life to speak the Spanish language.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jorge Sedano: So Camila, thinking about your shopping habits, would you say that your everyday grocery, consumer packaged goods, and personal care items, you continue to purchase the brands that your parents bought, or have you developed your own personal preferences?

Camila Swanson: I think that growing up and then moving away from my house, I’ve kind of had to form my own personal preferences since I was primarily being my own grocery shopper. Anytime my mom would go grocery shopping and she would bring things back, she would just bring back the tried and true products. And then when I went to college, I would be able to find my way. So I would say it’s still half and half, because some of the things I buy, I still text my mom and I’m like, “Hey do you remember the name or do you have a picture of the thing that you bought me that I really liked?” Or if it’s something that I kind of don’t place that high of a value on I’ll just go ahead and purchase whatever preference I like.

Nidia Swanson: I have developed my own preferences, because for example, when I cook the Spanish food, I incorporate the American products to adapt a Spanish recipe. So I have to buy the American because we can’t find sometimes, some of the products that we have in our country. So we have to adapt everything, the recipe with American products.

Haroldo Montero: I still buy what my parents buy, especially if I’m making Venezuelan food, like there is this kind of like flour, that we have to make, when we make out arepas or any other type of things, like I know I have to pick that specific brand just because I don’t trust the other ones. Not because they’re bad or anything, but I just know what I’m going to get if I’m going to buy that one. And it applies to other things like vegetables and even stores themselves, not just like the brands. Like if I know that they trust the products from this particular store, I might go there.

Camila Swanson: Are there any brands from your childhood that you’ve remained loyal to?

Haroldo Montero: Yes. Arepas is the most popular Venezuelan dish, I would say, arena de pan – it just like this corn meal, essentially, I think is what it is. And it’s like, I buy that one brand it’s called arena de pan. I mean, and that’s, that’s the one I picked too and also Polar is a brand of beverages from Venezuela also. And Malta is a beverage that a lot of Hispanics drink. I only drink Malta from the Polar brand. Cause that’s what I grew up on. And that’s the flavor that I like.

Jorge Sedano: Moving over here to Orlando, it’s so difficult to find a good tortilla! So we found one at Walmart from Las Missiones, it’s a corn tortilla. That’s the closest we could get to a semblance of what we’re used to. So we definitely have stuck with that one and we have not moved away from it. So it’s little things like that, where if we find something that’s close to what we know, we’ll definitely stick to it. But yeah, there’s not that many things. It’s just, when it’s something that’s very, very cultural. And how about you? Is there anything that you remember that you kept from your parent’s childhood?

Camila Swanson: I don’t know the specific brand, but whenever I’m baking something, there’s a specific type of vanilla syrup that my mom always used when I was growing up. And it does not taste the same if it is not that syrup. So I will go out of my way to go to Sedanos to get it. Or my mom will go out of her way to Sedanos to get it. And I have like a bottle in my cupboard up here to always have.

Jorge Sedano: And when it comes to shopping for food and drink to be consumed at home do you tend to shop at stores that serve local Hispanic populations, such as Sedanos, Bravo, or Fresca y Mas. Or do you prefer to shop at Walmart, Target, or Publix? And whichever one it is, why is that?

Camila Swanson: I definitely try to lean on Walmart, Target, or Publix, just because I don’t want to have that many stops in my day as a college student. If it’s something super important to me, I will go out of my way to go to Sedano’s, Bravo, or Fresca y Mas. But when I’m back home, those stores are a lot more accessible to me and my family. And here it’s kind of like a 20-minute drive away from my college town. So if I can just get a good alternative at a big brand, I’ll do so. But for example, if it’s vanilla, I’ll go out of my way to find a Bravo that will have it.

Jorge Sedano: There’s actually this, a Hispanic store that I know of. It’s called Jalisco. That’s where I get like my meat for like doing carne asadas or I’m big believer that the peppers here in Orlando are not as spicy as the ones over there. So when I go there, I can trust that I’m gonna have a pepper that’s going to be spicy so I can make a good salsa. If it’s just chips or, you know, regular household items, I’ll definitely just go to like a Walmart, Target, Publix, whatever’s closest to me. But if it’s something niche that I need, that I’m not going to be satisfied with, I will definitely go to that Hispanic market.

Camila Swanson: Are there any food items or products from Mexico that you can’t live without? And what do you do if it isn’t available from where you normally shop?

Jorge Sedano: I can not have breakfast without tortillas. We’re so used to a certain brand. And I even bring some from, from Juarez when I come to visit. So it’s like, when I run out of those then I pick up like the one that I can substitute it with, but definitely in my fridge, it has to be like a packet of tortillas, ready to go for the morning. And how about you? Is there anything that you can’t live without that you can think of?

Camila Swanson: Something that I can think of is a soda brand called Country Club from the Dominican Republic, specifically the merengue flavor. It’s very hard to find. So I tend to buy it in bulk. So I’ll buy like two or three liters at a time. So that way I always have it in my fridge whenever I want it. And if my mom sees it, she’ll buy it for me and bring it up for me. And if it normally isn’t available where I shop, I’ll just probably wait it out and put like an in-stock alert on my phone to be able to have it just because it’s a nice thing to have with my meals when I cook at home.

Haroldo Montero: I went to high school in Ohio for three years of my life, I lived up there. I was the only Hispanic kid in the school, well the only one that spoke fluent Spanish, I would say. And a lot of times when I was there, I know my mom struggled to find some products and we had to get them shipped from the internet, essentially, because we did try other brands while we were up there. But none of us were happy with the outcome, I guess.

Jorge Sedano: We’ll be right back after these short messages.

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

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

Camila Swanson: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with me, Camila Swanson.

Jorge Sedano: And me, Jorge Sedano.

Camila Swanson: A recent report from Pew Research Center finds that a majority of Hispanic consumers in the United States say global climate change and other environmental issues impact their local communities.

Jorge Sedano: 8 in every 10, that’s 81%, say addressing global climate changes is either a top concern or one of several important concerns to them personally, with 39% saying it is a top personal concern.

Camila Swanson: By comparison, a lower share of non-Hispanics, 67%, say addressing global climate change is at least one of several important concerns due in large part to a lower share who say it is a top concern, 29%.

Jorge Sedano: How likely are you to purchase a product from a company or brand that you believe is environmentally friendly, even if it costs more than alternative options?

Nidia Swanson: For me, it’s really important the climate change because if we don’t take care of the environment, we aren’t going to have a place to live. Yes, I will buy it because if it’s going to take care of the environmental issues, yeah. I don’t care how much I pay for it. 

Haroldo Montero: So environmental concern is actually a big concern of mine. Since I was a little kid, my dad was always big into nature and told me how much we need to care about our planet and our plants and everything else. I grew up in a very nature-y area, surrounded by the mountains. So like my dad always like, made sure I understood the importance of maintaining our natural habitat intact and protect it. So it’s a very big thing for me. So luckily I’m in a position right now where I can afford to spend some more extra money and like brands that support protecting the environment and using like sustainable materials. So yeah, it is a big concern for me. And if I can do my part of it, I will.

Camila Swanson: I would purchase a product from a company that is environmentally friendly, even if it costs more just because I feel like I can do my part in lessening my carbon footprint and putting in my work to help the environment. The only time I would say that I wouldn’t buy something, if it was environmentally friendly would be if it was like a huge price gouge type of situation, because I am a college student and I’m on a budget. So it kind of goes into this either/or, but if it’s around the same price or not too much more expensive then I will go ahead and get the environmentally friendly product.

Jorge Sedano: So I think I’m pretty likely to get the more environmentally friendly item. I’m not the type of person who would really check too much into that. But if I know for a fact that a product is going to be better for the environment, and I think I will pay a little more money to get that product.

Camila Swanson: Who do you think has the most responsibility for adopting more sustainable behaviors? Manufacturers and major corporations or regular people like us who buy the stuff that they produce?

Nidia Swanson: For me, both, because if they produce the product, we’re going to buy it. But I say before, I will buy a more expensive if the corporation made the product good for environment that I will pay more money.

Haroldo Montero: So we can do our part. But I definitely believe manufacturers are the primary responsible for all the pollution that we have on the earth, like water bottle companies, you know, we have like incredible amounts of plastic in the oceans and water bottles are used one time and then they’re thrown out and most of them don’t even get recycled. So I think manufacturers are most responsible for the environment and the damage that they do.

Jorge Sedano: I think we both have an equal amount, even though corporations create more damage and have more of an impact on the environment. I think individuals make just as big as an impact if we all come together and do the same things. So I think I would say both.

Jorge Sedano: A recent report from Edison research found that 36% of Hispanic adults now listen to podcasts at least monthly, which has a 44% increase from 2020, making Hispanic listeners the fastest adopters of podcasts overall. Camila, do you listen to podcasts?

Camila Swanson: I do regularly listen to podcasts. I listen to whatever Spotify will put in my daily drive for when I’m heading over to here from school, just because it changes my routine for my commutes rather than listening to my music, I can listen to a podcast.

Jorge Sedano: I think I do at least a couple of times a week. Usually, it’s some driving to work or whenever I have some free time where I need something that I don’t necessarily want it to be music, but I want to just hear people talk about a certain topic.

Haroldo Montero: Yeah, I listen to podcasts frequently. I would say every day for the most part, especially doing work. Now that we’re all working from home, it’s a nice way to have something in the background and listen to.

Jorge Sedano: And do you prefer to listen to podcasts in English or in Spanish? 

Haroldo Montero: I really don’t have a preference. I think I listened to either for what I want, like what I’m looking for. So for example, I listen to a few comedy podcasts and for example, one of them it’s in Spanish and I still laugh at it like a lot because I feel like the humor is a type of humor that I don’t get from a comedian here in the states. So like I listen to that one because it kind of like reminds me of Venezuela a little bit, but it’s also fun to listen to. But if, for example, if I’m looking at a particular topic I’m interested in like the U.S. stock market, I probably will listen to something in English.

Jorge Sedano: I think it’s a mix of both. I have certain things that I like to listen in English. Like for example, maybe news or current events that are happening in the U.S. and for Spanish, it’s more like comedy and more entertaining things, because I think it pertains more to my culture and what I like. And what’s your favorite type of podcast?

Camila Swanson: I think my favorite type of podcast is true-crime just because the people who record true crime podcasts tend to find really old case files that are maybe things I haven’t heard of or seen before. And I’ve always loved watching crime TV shows. So it intersects in that way.

Jorge Sedano: Definitely comedy and sports are my favorite types of podcasts.

Haroldo Montero: My favorite type of podcast is one that tells a story. So kind of keep me engaged and listened to like, whether it’s a personal story or somebody talking about something that they read and the reactions to it and comedy packets as well. Cause I mean, I like to laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

Camila Swanson: Thanks to all our friends who contributed to this week’s podcast.

Jorge Sedano: Thank you so much, Camila, for being such a great co-host!

Camila Swanson: And thank you, Jorge, for being such a great co-host. You’ll find a transcript on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at

Jorge Sedano: If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you get your daily fix of podcasts.

Camila Swanson: Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. We’ve been your hosts, Camila Swanson …

Jorge Sedano: … and Jorge Sedano. Until next week, adiós!

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

Nancy Harhut is the Chief Creative Officer of an agency leveraging behavioral science to drive more leads and conversions. In this episode, we discuss Nancy’s new book, Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, and learn how advertising professionals and brand marketers can benefit from applying key principles to campaigns. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on the book by purchasing directly at and using the promo code BIGEYE20 at checkout. 

Episode Transcript

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

Nancy Harhut: The human brain finds it easier to process things that rhyme. And if it’s easier for the brand to process something, it feels right. I’ve done some work for Nationwide, and their slogan is “Nationwide is on your side.” You remember it, you know, it rhymes, but it’s also more believable because it rhymes. 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Since the publication of the book Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini in 1998, our knowledge about the relationships between neuroscience, psychology, and real-world consumer behavior has grown considerably. We now know, for example, that many of our personal decisions are made at a subconscious level. Consumers can change habitual behaviors through non-conscious persuasion or the introduction of “nudges.” Evidence-based behavioral research results can have significant implications for advertisers and marketers, and today’s guest is on a mission to share principles and techniques drawn from behavioral science. Nancy Harhut is the co-founder and chief creative officer at HBT Marketing, a consultancy specializing in applying human behavior techniques to marketing problems. Nancy previously held senior creative management positions with agencies within the IPG and Publicis networks. In her career, Nancy has worked with clients including Dell, Bank of America, AT&T, H&R Block, AARP, Four Seasons, and many others. A regular international conference keynote speaker, Nancy has been recognized as an Online Marketing Institute Top 40 Digital Strategist and Ad Club Top 100 Creative Influencer. Nancy is also the author of a new book, entitled, Using Behavioral Science In Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses. To talk about her book, and how brand marketers and agency creative teams can leverage principles from behavioral science, Nancy is joining us today from her home near Boston, Massachusetts. Nancy, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Nancy Harhut: Thank you very much, Adrian. Very happy to be here. 

Adrian Tennant: Nancy, what is behavioral science?

Nancy Harhut: That’s a very simple question, and I’ll give you a simple answer, actually. It’s the study of how people behave. And more specifically, though, from a marketing perspective, it’s the study of how people make decisions. And, that’s important to us as marketers, because obviously, we want people to make decisions and what behavioral scientists have found is people very often don’t make these well-thought-out, well-considered decisions. Sometimes they do, but very often they don’t. Very often what they do is they rely on automatic, instinctive, reflexive behaviors. They cruise along through life on autopilot. When they encounter a certain situation, they just default to these hardwired behaviors, giving them little to no thought. And that’s why I’m so fascinated about behavioral science. Because again, as a marketer, we want people to make decisions, and it turns out that people are making them based on hardwired decision defaults. So it presents a real opportunity for us as marketers. 

Adrian Tennant: Before establishing your business, you held senior management positions with agencies within the IPG and Publicis networks. When did you first become aware of behavioral science and realize that it might be useful in your work? 

Nancy Harhut: So, you know, it’s funny. A while ago, a colleague, I think, and I’m not even sure which one, but a colleague recommended Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Science of Persuasion. And I read that, and I still have the copy. He’s got a brand new edition out now, which I also have, but I have the original, and you can see my margin notes and my underlines and my highlights and notes about very specific projects that I was working on and clients that I was working with. And I just read that, and it just opened up, you know, my eyes to this whole idea of behavioral science and how we might apply it. And that kind of set me down the rabbit hole, after I read that, I started to read anything I could get my hands on. I read Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational and Nudge by Sunstein and Thaler. And I just really became a behavioral science junkie. But, I think that’s what started it way back then because I was like, “This would be very useful to us in marketing!” 

Adrian Tennant: How did you introduce behavioral science-based campaign concepts to the ad agencies you worked at? Were your colleagues at that time skeptical?

Nancy Harhut: Yes, they were until they started to see how things worked. So, when I was working at some of the larger agencies where I was in the direct marketing or relationship marketing division of a much larger agency, the larger agency would often have their procedure or their banner that they would go to market under. And so we would just fall into that. But every once in a while, if we were pitching something on our own, then we would really rely more heavily on this. And so I think, the people that I worked with most closely who were more direct marketing oriented, who were more results-oriented, they saw firsthand how things worked. And so they were a little bit easier to convert, to get on the bandwagon. You know, they saw it, and they liked it. Some of my colleagues who were outside of my division, who didn’t see it as much. They were a little bit more skeptical, but they eventually would come along. But, I found that, when I started to work at a much smaller agency, that’s when people all got on board because we were smaller. There was just a finite group of us. And we said, “Alright, this is where we’re going to stake our turf. This is what we’re going to say we do.” And, people absolutely got on board. And, there were no skeptics after a while. So we had a client who came to us, and they sold a very exciting product to a very exciting target market. They sold disability insurance to dentists. So not at all that exciting, but it was a good product, and it’s certainly one that people needed. They had sold disability insurance to these dentists, and now they’re trying to sell them more. And it’s a smart thing to do because your practice changes, your family changes – over time, you have more to protect. And what they found was it’s really hard to sell this kind of a product to anybody. And once someone makes the decision, they check the box, they never want to go back to it. So they had a direct mail package, actually that was doing pretty well, but it wasn’t lighting the world on fire. And we decided to apply some behavioral science. So we did a little fine-tuning. And one of the big things we did is we added something called the pull of the magnetic middle, where we put in a little chart, and we said, “At one end, there’s $0 of insurance, the least you can have. At the other end is $3 million,” the most that this particular company sold. And then we said, “Here’s where you are.” And in every case, people were left of center. So we made sure that everyone that we targeted had less than $1.5 million. So when they looked at the chart, they would find themselves left of center. And the way the magnetic middle works is behavioral scientists have found that for the most part, people don’t like to be way out on the bleeding edge, nor do they like to be lagging behind. They feel good in the middle. It feels comfortable there, it feels safe there. It feels like it’s a good choice. And so when they looked at the message, and they right away saw the chart, and they saw themselves left of center, we didn’t expect they’d right away go, “Oh my gosh, I need $3 million in coverage,” but we did think they would move closer to the center. We got a 459 percent lift in response. And when we did that, I think there wasn’t a doubter left in the agency. Like that’s when things really crystallized, they were like, “Wow! Okay. I’ve seen it. It works. It’s not just someone who’s writing about it. It’s not just Nancy, who’s read the person who’s written about it. Like we’re seeing it work for our clients.” And that can be quite a proof point. 

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Your new book is entitled Using Behavioral Science In Marketing. Now, this is your first book, so what prompted you to write it? 

Nancy Harhut: That’s a really nice question, thank you for asking. And it’s kind of a funny story. Every once in a while, I’d be speaking at a conference and someone would come up to me and say, “I really want to buy your book.” I’d be, “I don’t have a book.” And the first time it happened, I thought, “Oh, that’s so flattering.” The second time it happened, I thought, “Oh, what a funny coincidence.” And then it began to happen more and more and I thought, “I don’t know, maybe I should write one.” And then I was scheduled to speak at South by Southwest, the conference down in Austin, Texas. And the conference got canceled because of COVID but Kogan Page, which is a UK-based publisher, that I think your listeners are probably very familiar with, reached out to me and said, “We saw what you’re planning to speak about. We find it very interesting. Would you like to submit a proposal?” And I was like, “I think I would.” So I submitted it, they accepted it, and, boom! I had the opportunity to write a book, and I thought, “I’m going to do this because A: I really believe in the efficacy of adding behavioral science to marketing, and B: this will allow me to get the word to more people because I can only work with so many clients. I can only speak at so many conferences, but this is going to be a chance for anyone who’s a marketer or who does marketing among all the other things that they have to do. This is a chance for them to easily access the tactics that work.” You know, here’s a little bit about the science, very short on the science, and here’s a lot more about how you can use these practical tips, actionable tips, try this tactic, try that tactic, say it this way. If you have the opportunity to mention this, definitely mention it. I included case studies and examples and little stories to really bring it to life so people could see how this actually works. That’s the story of how I wrote the book. And, so I’m just really grateful for Kogan Page giving me the opportunity, and I’m also very grateful that I’ve finished writing it!

Adrian Tennant: It can be a challenge to know how to incorporate behavioral science into the practice of advertising, so you’ve structured your book in a way that introduces readers to key principles. Let’s start with one of these: loss aversion. Nancy, what is this? And how might we apply it? 

Nancy Harhut: So, Adrian, that’s a good place to start because loss aversion may seem a little counterintuitive to marketers. Because in marketing, we focus on benefits, and we know that benefits work. So we really double down on them, the benefits, the gains, the advantages, all the wonderful things that will happen if you just do what I’m asking you to do, if you just buy my product, sign up for my service, just reply to my email or click my ad. And there’s nothing wrong with benefits. We know they work, but behavioral science has found that people are actually twice as motivated to avoid the pain of loss as they are to achieve the pleasure of gain. So here we are focusing on the gains, and it turns out that people are even more motivated to avoid losses. So what it means is we want to introduce a little well-placed loss aversion. I am not suggesting that marketers should walk away from benefits. Again, we know benefits work. But a little bit of well-placed loss aversion can go a long way. So maybe instead of saying, “Take advantage of this,” we say, “Don’t miss out on this.” Or maybe we talk about the pain that you can avoid if you buy my product or the pain you may find yourself in if you don’t buy my product. But a little bit of loss aversion balanced in with the normal benefits that we talk about can actually be a very, very powerful thing. One of the most interesting examples I came across was an email that I received from a company that wanted me to buy a bottle of wine. And they said to me, “You have a $15 credit in your account that expires tomorrow.” And that’s very different than saying, “Buy a bottle tomorrow and we’ll give you $15,” or “Buy a bottle tomorrow, and we’ll take $15 off.” The possession was mine, right? The 15 bucks was in my account, and if I didn’t use it, I was going to lose it. And that made it so much more valuable. So I think that marketers can use loss aversion in a strategic way to get people to pay more attention and to get them to act more quickly. 

Adrian Tennant: I love that example. Well, some listeners may be familiar with the concept of the paradox of choice, that actually there is such a thing as too many choices, which is a bad thing leading to analysis paralysis. Now, in the book, you write about a related principle called autonomy bias. What’s that? 

Nancy Harhut: So autonomy bias is really interesting. Behavioral scientists have found that we have this deep-seated desire to exercise some kind of control over ourselves and our environment, some kind of control, some kind of agency, if you will. And we don’t like to be forced to do things – we don’t like to be told what to do. We like some kind of autonomy, and providing people a choice gives them that autonomy. So while you’re absolutely right –  too many choices that can go south pretty quickly –  but some choices can actually be very good. Tulane University ran a study, and they found that you can nearly quadruple the likelihood of someone making a buying decision in the moment if you give them a few choices. And if you think about it, it makes sense. If you put one thing down in front of someone, their question is, “Do I, or do I not want this?” It’s out of context, they have nothing to compare it to. So very often, it’s human nature. We think, “I’ll think about it. I’ll do my own research. I’ll check with a friend or my spouse, or, I’ll give it some thought I’ll sleep on it.” And you know what happens. A lot of times, we don’t get back to it. We don’t do the research. We don’t talk to our spouse. We don’t talk to our friends. And we just forget about it. But what the research found was if you put two or three or maybe even four options in front of someone, then the question is no longer, “Do I, or do I not want this?” but, “Which of these would I like?” It just leapfrogs over the idea of “Do I want it?” and it’s more about “Which of the ones am I going to get?” And the Tulane University research found that you can nearly quadruple the likelihood someone will make that decision in the moment. There was also a researcher named Chris Carpenter, and he did a deep dive into something called the B.Y.A.F. Technique. B.Y.A.F. stands for, “But You Are Free.” And the way this works is if you ask someone to do something, but then you remind them, “But you’re free to choose, but it’s up to you, but the choice is yours,” you know, language to that effect. It can actually double the likelihood that people will say yes, because you’re reminding them they’re the ones in control. They’re the ones in charge. It’s their decision. So autonomy bias is really a deep-seated desire in our customers, and our prospects, and marketers would do well to think about that and to think about ways that we can make people feel that they’re in charge, make them feel that they have some kind of choices – because people respond to that.

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

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing and the author of this month’s featured Bigeye book club selection, Using Behavioral Science In Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses. Another principle you write about is reciprocity, one of those hardwired human behaviors. The idea is that when we receive something, we feel compelled to give something back. So Nancy, how can we use this in advertising?

Nancy Harhut: So, yeah, it’s the classic give to get and it’s interesting. You’re absolutely right, Adrian, when you give someone something, they feel compelled to return the favor, to answer in kind. And this holds true even if the person didn’t necessarily ask for the gift or the servicer or whatever in the first place. It’s one thing if somebody asked for it. But, even if you didn’t ask for it, if you’ve been given something, you kind of feel like, you know, I should return the favor.” Charities use this a lot. You open up the solicitation, and you find personalized address labels. You didn’t ask for them, but you’re holding them in one hand, and in the other hand, you’re holding a letter saying, “Could you please make a donation?” And you feel funny, and so you make a donation, you think, “Oh, well, alright, I’ll do that.” One of my clients actually benefited from the reciprocity principle. They came to us with an assignment. They were a financial marketing firm, and some of the financial advisors who used to sell their funds had stopped selling their funds. And they said, “We want to reactivate these financial advisors, so, we’d like to send them something.” And somebody might think, “Gee, that’s crazy. They’re not selling your funds. Don’t you want to send the gift to the people who are selling your funds?” You know, reinforce the positive behavior. “Why would you be spending money on people who used to sell your funds, but who stopped?” And these people stopped 12 months or more ago. So a year or more ago. So it’s been a while, but they want to do this. So we said, “Alright.” So we ended up creating this campaign where we sent them an email. And the email said, “Hey, Adrian, watch your USPS mail. We picked out a gift, especially for you and it’s coming soon.” And then, a day or two later, in the mail, this box shows up and inside the box is a framed New Yorker cartoon. And the New Yorker cartoon had something to do with selling retirement funds or it was a salesman selling retirement funds, and it was cute, and it was funny. And in the caption, not only was the caption humorous, the individual financial advisor’s name was in the caption. So your caption would’ve had your name. Mine would’ve had my name. So it’s a New Yorker-style cartoon. It’s framed. It’s going to be sitting there on your wall. So top of mind for the company, and there was a short note from the wholesaler of that particular company, saying, “Hey, we miss you. We’d love to update you on what’s going on. We’d love to find out what’s going on with you, let’s have a conversation.” The client reported that they got a $68 million incremental revenue lift because of that campaign. So, you know, you think like, “Why would you spend money on people who aren’t doing what you want them to do?” Because maybe they’ll A: be thinking of you, and B: feel like, “Ah, I should start doing business with them again. I should return the favor. Every time I look at that framed cartoon, it’s reminding me, I owe those guys something.” So the reciprocity principle can be very, very powerful. People are, you know, they’re nice, as a species, we’re civil people. We’re nice people. We like to return favors. We like to do for others what they do for us.

Adrian Tennant: I love that example. For any copywriters listening. I think they’ll be particularly interested in the rhyme as reason effect. Nancy, could you unpack this one for us? 

Nancy Harhut: Yeah, this is a fun one! We think about rhymes and so what springs to mind? Oh, rhymes are fun, they’re memorable, certainly. But they actually have another effect on people. Behavioral scientists have found that people will judge rhyming phrases to be more accurate and more truthful than a similar phrase that basically conveys the same information. So they did a study, “Woes unite foes.” vs “Woes unite enemies.” Both of those sentences convey the same information. They pretty much mean the same thing. One of them rhymes, the other one doesn’t. People judge the rhyming phrase to be the more truthful, more accurate expression. And the reason for this is the human brain finds it easier to process things that rhyme. And if it’s easier for the brand to process something, it feels right. And if something feels right, it’s really not a big leap to assume that it is right. So when you think about slogans and taglines and strap lines, not only are they easier to remember, but they actually kind of resonate more, they sound truer. I’ve done some work for Nationwide, and their slogan is “Nationwide is on your side.” You remember it, you know it rhymes, but it’s also more believable because it rhymes. And we’re marketers, we’re not going to be writing everything the way a poet would. We’re not going to have everything rhyme. We’re not going to be writing in Iambic Pentameter, but a little well-placed rhyme in a high-read piece of real estate, like a subject line, a content title, a headline, even a call to action, “Don’t delay, sign up today,” it can help. It’s one of those little things that just nudges people in the right direction, just makes things a little bit easier for marketers to accomplish their goals. 

Adrian Tennant: In Using Behavioral Science In Marketing, you introduce the concepts of temporal landmarks and temporal discounting. Could you explain what these are? And again, how we might apply them?

Nancy Harhut: Yes. So I paired those two up because they’re almost two sides of the same coin. So they’re both talking about timing. So the first one is temporal landmarks. And what behavioral scientists have found is there are points of time that are almost like points of demarcation, where the old you is gone, and the new you is now present. It’s like you close the chapter on who you used to be, and you turn over a new page. You’re the new you. Some people refer to it as the fresh start effect. So think about New Year’s Day, right? That’s when everyone makes their New Year’s resolutions. “It’s a new year. The person I was last year, well, you know, I failed here and there, but this year, no, this year I’m going to succeed!” So at these temporal landmarks, we actually feel more positive that we’re going to be able to accomplish our goals. And as a result, we’re more willing to tackle them. So obviously, New Year’s Day with the resolutions is a big one. There are lots of other ones. Your birthday is a temporal landmark for you. An anniversary could be a temporal landmark. The start of the week can be a temporal landmark. People say, “Ah, I’m going to quit smoking on Monday.” You don’t say, “Oh, I’m going to quit smoking on Thursday or Tuesday.” No! “Oh, on Monday, you know, when Monday comes, I’ll start.” So we have this idea that there are certain days where it’s just, “The person I was? That person’s gone. The new person is here, and this person is here to conquer.” So you can do a lot with that. I did some work with Berklee Online, which I think it’s the world’s largest online music school. And one of the things that we talked about was incorporating temporal landmarks into the work they did. So it could be as easy as sending out an email on a Monday, but it could also be focusing on the start of a new semester, the start of a new class, or the start of a new year. So they really started to weave that into their marketing materials. I worked with some insurance companies, and so there, we looked at the birth of a new child. That’s a temporal landmark. An anniversary, a birthday, retiring from work, and purchasing a new home. Those are all very personal individual temporal landmarks, but again, they represent those kinds of points of demarcation where I’m a new person. And, as a result, people are much more likely from a marketing perspective to engage. So that’s temporal landmarks. The other side of it, the other side of the coin, is something called temporal discounting. And that is the human tendency to discount rewards that come in the future, things that are in the future just seem awfully far away, and we don’t have a good handle on them. So human beings are actually very present-focus biased. We want instant gratification. So if you’re offered, I don’t know, what? $10 today and $15 tomorrow, a lot of people would grab the 10 bucks today, and then tomorrow comes, and they’re like, “Doggone it! Why didn’t I hold out for the $15?” Right? We make the decision in the moment, we want that instant gratification. And then often time passes, and we regret it. And so temporal discounting is the preference for sooner, albeit smaller rewards versus later, albeit larger ones. And so what this means to certain marketers is we need to overcome this feeling of temporal discounting. If you sell a product that has an immediate benefit, great. But what if you sell insurance? What if you sell retirement funds? What if you sell education? Something where the benefit is going to come at a distance? It’s going to be down the road or maybe not even at all, how do you get people to make that purchase? Because behavioral scientists have found that when we think about our future selves, they’re like strangers to us. My future self is like the person who just drove by me, on the street, I just don’t know them. We don’t really know ourselves. And so what we need to do is we need to overcome that. And there’s a few ways that we can do that. But basically, what we need to do is create that bridge between who a person is today, with all their preferences, likes, goals, feelings, and who they are tomorrow. We have to get them to remember that the person they are today is going to be the same person down the road. And there’s a bank, actually, that did a great job with this. They were selling CDs. So it’s a great example of something that’s got a distant payoff, and they said, “We asked the future you if you wanted more money. And you said yes.” And when you think about that, you’re like, “Well, of course the future may would say that because if someone asked me today, if I wanted more money, I would say yes. So the same needs and wants that I have today – of course I’ll have them in the future. And then as a result, it would make sense for me to maybe take out this CD.” Merrill Edge did something really interesting. This is a little bit more sophisticated, but they invested in age progression software. They were trying to sell retirement funds. They had this age progression software where you could upload a picture of yourself, then age progress at 10, 20, 30, 40 years, 50 years down the road. See what you would look like. I tried it, Adrian. It wasn’t a pleasant experience! But I was one of over a million people who tried it, and Merrill reports that about 60 percent of those people said, “You know what? I want more information on your retirement services. I think I need to look into this.” So that was a very powerful way of overcoming temporal discounting. So it’s interesting, on the one hand, temporal landmarks, who I was yesterday is not who I am today. It’s a fresh start. And temporal discounting is almost the opposite. It’s who I am today is who I’m going to be in the future with the same likes and needs and goals and wants. So I need to build a bridge between the two. So two interesting, almost slightly opposing, principles, but they come in handy depending on the marketer and what the marketer is offering.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common mistakes you see being made in advertising, which could be avoided if behavioral science principles were applied?

Nancy Harhut: Ah, good question. Three of them spring to mind. One of them is in marketing, we overemphasize the company’s point of view at the expense of the customer’s point of view. So we’re all about I, we, our customer, our company, our product, our service, and we don’t use the word you enough. But the truth of the matter is people’s eyes glaze right over. They skim right over the I’s, the We’s, the Our’s, but they zero in on you. You is one of the most powerful words in the English language, and behavioral scientists talk about something called the principle of liking. And what they found is we’re more interested in and more influenced by people that remind us of ourselves, things that remind us of ourselves. And when we see the word you, that reminds us of ourselves. So we pay attention. We zero in on something. I think sometimes, companies’ marketers are, they love their product or service. Their heart is in the right place. And they just want to tell you everything: “We did this and we did this and we did this.” And you know that we is not a good thing. They really need to be more you focused. I think another thing is, the use of acronyms and jargon and tech speak. Behavioral scientists talk about cognitive fluency, which is people’s preference for things that are easy to understand and easy to think about. And even in a B2B environment, even with an educated audience, there are studies that show that people still prefer things that are easier to think about, easier to understand. You don’t really score points by using the 75-cent word when the 25-cent word will do. And they’ve studied this even among very highly educated people, and they still prefer the 25-cent word version because it’s easier. Anything we can do to make things easier for people – we should be doing. And, sometimes we fall into the trap of, “We’ve got to sound super intelligent,” and it’s not always a good thing for us. And then I think maybe the last thing is we fail to think about why people won’t want to do what we’re asking them to do. A lot of times we’re like, “Oh, you’ll love this because …” but as marketers, we should be thinking about why wouldn’t someone want to do what we’re asking them to do. And I think that if we start to do that, it will make us a lot better in terms of hitting our KPIs and being more effective.

Adrian Tennant: Nancy, today you are the chief creative officer of HBT Marketing. How does your agency typically work with clients? And I’m curious, do you ever partner with other agencies? 

Nancy Harhut: Basically, a client will come to us with a particular need, whether it’s a strategy need or a strategy and creative need. And they’ll say, “This is what we want to do. This is our goal.” “We want to introduce this product.” “We want to sell more of this product,” or “We want to enroll more people.” And we will work with them to create a strategy. And then, we will do the creative execution. It could be email, social, direct mail, landing page. Less about branding, way more about one-to-one marketing, response marketing, where we’re trying to actually get people to respond. And, so yes, as a result of that, very often we will partner with other agencies. It could be a branding agency, could be a media agency, could be a company that crunches data. But what we really focus on is strategy and execution. And what we like to do is we like to take the marketing best practices for the particular channel and add to that the behavioral science, which gives our clients an advantage. It’s like a one-two-punch in order for them to achieve their goals, to get the engagement, and to get the response that they’re looking for.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’ve just had the book published. Do you foresee a broader adoption of behavioral science principles in marketing communications over the next few years?

Nancy Harhut: Yeah, I do. I think so. In fact, even over the last couple of years, I’ve seen more and more of it. What we’re starting to see now is behavioral science getting into the C-suite. So you’re finding like a Chief Behavioral Science Officer at this company or that company. I was fortunate enough to have Jeff Chrysler endorse my book. He’s the Head of Behavioral Science at JP Morgan Chase, for example. So you’re seeing this more and more. And I personally think that what we’re going to see increased incidences of is data science blending with behavioral science. So the data scientists – they’re going to tell us which segment to focus on, where we can find that segment, the best places and times to reach them. And then the behavioral science is going to tell us the best ways to serve up the message, the ways to frame it, to phrase it, to design it so that it’s most likely to appeal to the human brain, that people are going to notice it from among all the other competing messages. And that they’re going to understand it, that they’re going to remember it, and that they’re going to want to act on it. So I think it’s going to be that increased close working relationship between data science and behavioral science. 

Adrian Tennant: Nancy, where do you find inspiration away from work?

Nancy Harhut: So, you know, I am a behavioral science junkie, but sometimes I do step away from things. I love the beach, and there are actually interesting behavioral science studies that show that, if you’re exposed to nature, if you’re outside or even looking at the outdoors, it actually increases your creativity. So that’s probably a good thing. So a lot of times, I love to be at the beach, whether it’s swimming or just sitting there, reading a good book. So I like that, and I also happen to really like Broadway. I’m a Broadway show tune junkie. And I just think some of the lyrics are so creative, and I can be very happy. I go to New York for a weekend and cram in a Friday night show with Saturday afternoon matinee, a Saturday night show, and a Sunday matinee, before heading back to Boston! 

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you or HBT Marketing, where can they find you?

Nancy Harhut: So I’m in a few places you can find me on social media. I’m on Twitter, @NHarhut, H A R H UT with an N in front of it. I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Facebook. My agency is HBT Marketing. HBT stands for Human Behavior Triggers and we abbreviate marketing – so it’s And on our website, we have papers and interviews and podcasts. So there’s a lot of information there. And I would love to talk to anybody. Anyone can connect with me, they can email me even! And then of course, if people are interested in my book, they can find it at Kogan Page, which is something I would recommend checking out if people are interested. It’s called Using Behavioral Science In Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to obtain a copy of Nancy’s book, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 20 percent when you order directly from the publisher at Just enter the promo code BIGEYE20, that’s B I G E Y E two-zero at the checkout. And that discount applies to printed and electronic versions of the book. Nancy, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Nancy Harhut: Adrian, thank you so much. It was absolutely delightful. I really enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing and the author of Using Behavioral Science In Marketing. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

As consumers shift toward using more mobile and connected technology, and changes in Apple’s iOS, brands are on notice to find new ways to track and measure engagement. With cookies no longer reliable identifiers, how can we target users and measure the success of campaigns? Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics, Tim McCormack, and Analytics Manager, Maegan Trinidad, discuss why they believe advertisers need to get creative if we want to continue targeting audiences effectively.

Episode Transcript

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

Tim McCormack: We’ll have to plan for reaching users in a different way, but it’s also gonna change, I think, heavily how advertisers and agencies look at putting together media plans. 

Maegan Trinidad: We have to really pivot and find alternatives that don’t depend on cookies, like contextual targeting and lookalike modeling, for example.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. If you enjoy baking, you know, there’s nothing quite like homemade cookies. But whether home-baked or store-bought, cookies crumble, and especially on a summer’s day in Florida, when cookies crumble, they can get a bit messy. Well, in the world of marketing, there are times when things can feel a little bit messy too. For the past couple of years, we’ve had our work cut out for us, as – in addition to keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of digital advertising – we’ve been collectively bracing ourselves for a future without digital cookies. As consumers shift to using mobile devices and other connected technologies, brands are on notice that we’ll have to find new ways to track and measure customer engagement. So in a world where cookies are no longer reliable identifiers, what will become of digital marketing? How will we target users and measure the success of our campaigns? To answer these questions, I’m joined by two members of Bigeye’s Media and Analytics team. Tim McCormack is Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics, and Maegan Trinidad is Bigeye’s Analytics Manager. Both believe that we’ll need to get creative if we want to continue reaching our target audiences. 


Adrian Tennant: Maegan, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Maegan Trinidad: Thank you. Happy to be here. 

Adrian Tennant: What led you to pursue a career in research and analytics?

Maegan Trinidad: I went to the University of Central Florida where I was a marketing major in the Business College, and I found myself involved in a behavioral lab ther, which really meant that I helped administer surveys and helped a professor conduct their own research. And I really enjoyed that experience and I just ran with it.

Adrian Tennant: Today, your Bigeye analytics manager. So could you explain what your role at Bigeye entails? 

Maegan Trinidad: I have grown from being a digital media specialist, which was a role where you can grow into different tracks and see which things you were more interested in, and for me that was more of the analytics side rather than media planning or buying, which goes back to the interest in research and really understanding how things work. So I became a digital media specialist and then from there, when I found out that I really excelled in the analytics portion, I grew that role. And now I manage all of the paid social and web analytics reporting, in addition to being a heavy role in audience creation with the strategy team. 

Adrian Tennant: Now, as I mentioned in the introduction – cookies, they’re crumbling. But for anyone new to digital marketing, or would appreciate a refresher, could you explain what cookies are?

Maegan Trinidad: Yeah. Cookies are digital files that websites send to your devices. They are used to follow you around the internet, really. It’s how we are able to track your behaviors as you surf the internet. So they really remember little pieces of what you’re doing throughout your search history, and we’re able to take that information, understand what you’re doing and then implement it through third-party audiences in our campaign targeting. 

Adrian Tennant: So why do we care about them going away? 

Maegan Trinidad: We care about them going away because really we have seen third-party audiences’ performances decline as the audience size continues to shrink. So if you’re dependent on third-party cookies and third-party audiences, you’re gonna get less and less information and you’re really not going to reach as many people. So we have to really pivot and find alternatives that don’t depend on cookies, like contextual targeting and lookalike modeling, for example. . 

Adrian Tennant: For anyone not familiar, what are the differences between first-party, second-party, and third-party data? 

Maegan Trinidad: So for first-party data, that is any data that is owned directly by a company. So if you’re thinking about a company that has a newsletter list, you own that data or if you’re a eCommerce company, you own all of your purchase data and you also own any of the interactions that consumers have on your website or your social media profiles. As far as second party data that refers to when an organization would collect the data and then sell it unanonymized, and they will sell it out. They see that it’s a valuable resource that advertisers can use and they can gain revenue that way by sharing their owned data. For third party data, it’s not necessarily from the publisher themselves. It gets aggregated and anonymized by another party and then sold to different advertisers and platforms that way. 

Adrian Tennant: Okay. So with cookies going away, what are some alternative approaches we can take to audience targeting?

Maegan Trinidad: Yeah. There are a couple that the media and analytics team has already identified. One of the big ones is contextual targeting. If cookie-driven advertising is based on users’ historical, like their browsing history and their actions on websites, contextual targeting is based more on the current content that they’re viewing. And the way that works is you can generate a list of keywords or webpages that we think might be relevant based on keyword research, or just seeing what is related to a certain topic for a campaign.

Adrian Tennant: That’s great. So how do we get that information? 

Maegan Trinidad: Yeah, a big way that we can get that information is through consumer research. We already know that consumer research helps us determine consumers’ self-reported motivators, experiences, their interests. It’s really helpful in informing our campaigns targeting strategies because of that. When we supplement our knowledge from secondary data with qualitative and quantitative data from studies, we then have a more holistic and up-to-date understanding of where our audience is, what media they’re consuming and what they’re influenced by. We are able to bake questions into our surveys and questionnaires to specifically help us develop contextual targeting lists, such as “which of the following phrases do you most associate with this topic?” or “what store or website do you purchase this particular type of product most often?” or even “what type of resources do you typically use to learn about this topic?” 

Adrian Tennant: You’ve also talked to me offline about automatic content recognition, or ACR. Could you explain a little bit about how that works in practice? 

Maegan Trinidad: Yeah. So ACR is a technology that is utilized in OTT and smart TV platforms. It basically samples a portion of the video or audio that is playing on the device and it takes that back into a larger database that sorts the audio file into categories based on what the content being consumed is. So once these buckets are made, they get put into targeting segments that we can put into paid social and more lower funnel direct response channels to help extend the reach of the campaigns. In addition to that, ACR offers the opportunity to purchase inventory directly related to specific events. So if a campaign would do really well during a type of sporting event, ACR offers that opportunity to access the sporting event inventory. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, of course, social media is a major part of most marketers’ plans these days. Maegan, could you talk a bit about how we can use social graph data? 

Maegan Trinidad: Yeah, social graph data is sort of like contextual targeting, but really creates audience based on comments and reviews that are left by consumers. So it takes into account relevant phrases, keywords, and hashtags to build lists for things like in-market targeting, looking for phrases, like, “Can you suggest a type of moisturizer?” or “What’s the best, this type of product?”. It can also be used to identify purchasers by looking for phrases, like “I always buy from this brand,” or “This was a great product for the price,” because that really signifies that they’ve already purchased. They’ve had an experience with this brand or this product, and that can be taken, a list can be built out, and an audience can be created with that in mind to create a similar audience list.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. I know you work on campaigns that use other kinds of targeting beyond those we’ve discussed so far. Could you share a couple of examples with us? 

Maegan Trinidad: Big ones that we’ve been discussing more recently with these changes are time and geo behavioral data. So that would allow us to target users who’ve visited a specific location or region and it also allows us to segment users depending on events that they have attended. So if you attended an event in Orlando in the last month, we can really pinpoint that down based on the date and the location that the event was in. And within this tactic is geofencing, which would allow us to reach users based on whether they enter or leave this particular location. With that comes polygon-ing where we are able to draw a radius or a shape around a specific location so we can really get specific in where we’re reaching those people.

Adrian Tennant: So Maegan, could you walk us through a so-called full-funnel campaign and explain how you might select different types of targeting at each stage of that funnel?

Maegan Trinidad: Yeah. So a full-funnel campaign takes into consideration an entire view of the customer journey. So we can use different channels and optimization events to appropriately drive users from the awareness stage all the way down to becoming repeat purchasers and even brand advocates. Full flannel campaigns really are a good resource for building first-party data audiences and then we can engage with specific users at different points of the consumer journey that way. Starting at the awareness stage at the very top of the funnel, first-party data can be used to suppress existing customers and the impression data that we create as a result can be used to lift brand awareness and recognition with frequency targeting. And the ad engagements and leads that happen as a result can be used as well as we move further down. The second stage of the funnel is intent where we take the first-party impression and engagement data that we generated from the first part of the funnel to reach users who have already seen and are familiar with the brand by now. This is really helpful in generating first-party traffic audiences. At this stage, we take the messaging and make it more personalized to really help them move further down the funnel and drive them to specific content on the website. And then we take segmented retargeting audiences to drive purchases. Again, we can personalize messaging. Be more persuasive and direct as they’re moving further down the funnel as they’ve already visited the website and have even more familiarity. When we generate more sales data, that brings us down to the bottom portion of the funnel, which is repeat purchasers and brand advocates. Taking into account the purchase data and really trying to give them reminders and different messaging that would encourage them to purchase again, or to really encourage them to purchase more if not something that has to be repurchased frequently. 

Adrian Tennant: Maegan, you’ve defined first-party data for us as any information that a company collects directly from its customers and owns. So I’m curious, in what kinds of ways has first-party data been most successful for our clients at Bigeye? 

Maegan Trinidad: So for first-party data, of course, we can use that information to retarget users who we already know, our existing customers, or people who have already visited the relevant websites. But, something we’ve seen increasingly perform well is lookalike modeling, because of the quality and accuracy of first-party data, since it’s coming directly from the source, it makes it really the ideal foundation for look-alike models. We’ve utilized cookieless audiences based on our first-party data such as website visitations or specific interactions through our preferred vendors. 

Adrian Tennant: So Maegan, in the case that a client doesn’t have first-party data themselves, how can we get around that? 

Maegan Trinidad: So, thanks to our close partnership with survey and first-party data vendors, we’re allowed to leverage market research data for audience creation and campaign activation that’s not exclusive to what we own. For example, Amazon DSP, Amazon famously owns quite a number of things, um, and that gives us access to purchase history, web, and mobile app behavior, things like content viewership on Amazon’s OTT and CTV platforms, going as far as Twitch and even IMDB. We also have partnerships with other vendors. A major one that we do partner with frequently offers first-party data tracking to track the products added to virtual shopping carts and from there we can see the category and product preferences of consumers and their shopping habits and even their planning tendencies for shopping.

Adrian Tennant: Well, in addition to analyzing the performance of clients’ campaigns, you also work very closely with me and the other members of our strategy team, often designing and programming quantitative research studies. In what kinds of ways can primary research work in concert with secondary data and help marketers achieve the targeting objectives in a cookieless environment?

Maegan Trinidad: I mentioned a little bit about this earlier, where we’re able to supplement primary and secondary data to really make a more holistic picture. So if we create questions within our surveys and questionnaires to drive us in a certain direction and really see what might inform our campaign as far as what types of media outlets do you consume from, or where do you purchase from? That really lends itself well to our end goal in making a really strategy-infused project from creative all the way to campaign. 

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

Maegan Trinidad: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: We’ll be joined by Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics, Tim McCormack, after this short break.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, and we are discussing how to navigate the cookieless future of digital marketing. Our next guest is Tim McCormack, Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics. Tim, welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Tim McCormack: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Before the break, we heard from Maegan about what cookieless targeting would look like in the future. Tim, what other changes are likely on the horizon with the deprecation of third-party cookies? 

Tim McCormack: Yeah, this is a great question because although it’s gonna have a major impact on audience targeting, there’s a lot of areas that this is going to really, spin out to. So one of the first ones, unsurprisingly, is going to be media planning. So of course we’ll have to plan for reaching users in a different way. But it’s also gonna change, I think, how advertisers and agencies look at putting together media plans. That’s because there’s going to be an even further increased preference for the walled gardens, like Facebook, Pinterest, in some ways Google as well, where users are logged in and they’re able to really get in-depth information on their users. There’s going to be a major impact on tracking, and then I think it’s really going to push more and more advertisers to focus on opt-in advertising, which is very different from what we’ve traditionally done.

Adrian Tennant: With so much at stake for advertisers and publishers, how should brands and agencies look at encouraging consumers to opt-in to advertising, especially when over a third of users are reportedly already using ad-blocking to remove ads across the internet?

Tim McCormack: Yeah, I think that this is one of the things that, that maybe firstly, I’m most excited about. When I look at the huge percentage of users who are using ad-blocking, that says to me that right now we’re doing something wrong as advertisers. We have a system where we can be giving users pretty much the content that they should be interested in, the messages that should resonate with them and so many of them are still choosing to opt-out of it. I think by forcing users and advertisers to think about opt-in advertising, what we’re doing is we’re moving digital advertising away from the extremely short-term, performance-driven landscape that it’s heavily been in to do a lot of the brand building, that we’ve heard a lot of consternation about advertisers moving away from. I think this is really a chance to reset and think about what can we do to provide value to our consumers so that they want to hear from us. And that allows us to then get to the personalization and segmentation, to give them the messages that they’re most interested in. It’s really interesting, because this is something that we’re seeing now on the consumer side. But obviously, this is really something that the B2B side has done successfully for quite a long time, given that it has those longer sales lead cycles. So I really think consumer companies are going to have to start thinking about where they provide that value, and how they can convince their customers and potential consumers to be loyal and opt-in. 

Adrian Tennant: Tim, how does the cookieless future impact how we’re going to measure advertising effectiveness?

Tim McCormack: So apart from audience targeting, I think this is the area where we are gonna see the biggest impact from the move to cookieless. Because currently, we’ve been traditionally looking at digital advertising as an arena where we can clearly see the impact, utilizing cookies of someone who is exposed to our advertising and the actions they took. We’ve had reasonably good ability to de-duplicate conversions, and see down to the individual creative level, you know, what has driven action across multiple steps of the consumer journey. Unfortunately, that’s all really been built on the back of third-party cookies, so we’re going to have to take a step back and really rethink how we’re looking at advertising effectiveness without being able to look at each individual piece of creative and say it drove these actions. The good news is, although we’ve had a fairly good, as I mentioned earlier, ability to do this, it’s never been fully perfect, in most cases. So when we’ve looked at attribution, there’s always been some level of modeling built in. There’s always been some level of noise in the signal. And we’ve grown to really think of it as though it’s entirely deterministic and completely accurate when, to some degree, it never has been entirely. What we’ll have to do now, as we take a step back, is start thinking through how is advertising impacting the overall performance of the brand? Are we seeing increases in sales? Are we seeing increases in brand awareness? And we are going to start having to do things like incrementality testing and medium mix modeling to understand what the drivers are for those increases. 

Adrian Tennant: While preparing for a cookieless future is certainly important, why should busy advertisers care about preparing right now when the date that cookies will be fully deprecated continues to be pushed further into the future?

Tim McCormack: So I think it’s important for advertisers to start looking at this now because, as Maegan noted, we’re already seeing some of this impact in our audiences. So if you’re focused on, specifically cookies, you’re gonna see smaller audiences that are performing worse at a higher cost. Likewise, if you’re relying entirely on cookies for your advertising measurement, you’re gonna start seeing more and more noise in that signal. We’ve already seen Google and Facebook move towards really looking at modeled conversions as opposed to deterministic. So they’re already doing a little bit of machine learning there, more than they had in the past. And most importantly, you wanna start doing this now because it’s gonna take some time to test and learn and optimize and get your new systems up and running as efficiently as the ones that you’ve been running for almost the past decade. And on the advertising measurement side, you’re gonna want to have a good baseline to go back to, when you start looking at this potentially a year in the future.

Adrian Tennant: Why did Google choose to push back the date for deprecating the cookie in Chrome?

Tim McCormack: Without being inside of Google, what we’ve kind of come to understand is that it was most likely driven by competition within the market. It does seem like Google thought they could really set the agenda for what would come after cookies, and they have to some degree, with what they call FLoC’s, which is an identifier of groups of users based on interests and behaviors rather than an individual user. However, there have been a lot of other companies who have rushed into this space coming up with other solutions to provide identity resolution, and some of those have proven to be a little bit more popular with advertisers than what we’re seeing with FLoC’s. We’re also seeing that some of their competitors in the programmatic space, so, other DSPs are putting increased pressure on them in DV 360 by allowing for the targeting of unaddressable audiences. So with those two factors, I think Google didn’t feel comfortable, kind of continuing to push this, knowing that it could impact their bottom line as an advertising system.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, how do consumer data protection laws such as the CCPA and GDPR impact cookieless targeting? 

Tim McCormack: So I do think that obviously, these laws are kind of government’s way of working with the market to drive a cookieless future. Ultimately, they do get at really what is the same point, which is driving advertising to either be mass market, where we’re not advertising to an individual user. Or, you know, advertising that is opt-in based where we’re advertising to users who have chosen to interact and hear from your brand. 

Adrian Tennant: Great insights! Tim, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Tim McCormack: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guests this week, Tim McCormack, Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics, and Maegan Trinidad, Bigeye’s Analytics Manager. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts and contributing a rating or a review. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Branding Insights Strategy & Positioning

Why should marketers make time to perform a social media audit? In general, any marketing activity that replaces guesswork with relevant data should provide opportunities to improve ROI. To answer this question, it also helps to understand the increasing importance of social media marketing for growing businesses.

According to data collected by Sprout Social in a Harris poll:

  • Social platforms introduced over half of consumers to new brands in the past year.
  • Even more, almost half of consumers increased their usage of social sites solely to learn more about new products.
  • Almost eight out of 10 consumers said that positive social interactions with a company would motivate them to make a purchase.

Social sites allow companies to connect with customers and expand audiences by crafting posts, influencer marketing, or responding to citations and mentions. At the same time, lots of businesses improvise their social strategies without taking time to develop a plan, state goals, or uncover information that will help them improve. 

Even though many brands find social media marketing productive, they also recognize that they have plenty of rivals competing for attention. Businesses can benefit from the competitive advantage that data-based marketing plans can offer. 

A social media audit provides essential insights into critical metrics. It demonstrates which activities offer the best returns and which ones need improvement. In turn, marketers can use this information to improve their results by fixing problems and focusing on activities most likely to yield positive results. 

A quick five-step social media audit template

A term like audit might intimidate some marketers. Don’t worry. This kind of audit won’t require a team of financial professionals. The process should not take long and will rely on easily accessible data and a simple, five-step template. The audit also relies on information that marketers should find easily accessible. 

Best of all, the audit won’t impose any penalties. Instead, it offers insights into areas for improvement. For instance, marketers may find they lack key metrics. Anything missing provides an essential insight into a place for improvement. Solid marketing plans start with measurable goals and the metrics required to measure them. 

Step 1: Make an informative list of all social media platforms

As with any exercise, it helps to begin with a simple warmup. Start by listing all the social media sites the business uses. If a list of social sites already exists, ensure a team member takes responsibility for keeping it updated.

Social media management tools help improve efficiency and team collaboration. Some popular examples include Hootsuite and Sprout Social. These tools may also offer social listening features that help marketers keep track of brand mentions from other sources. For an audit, using one of these tools should make it easy to pull a list of social sites. 

Social media software and apps can save time, help marketers stick to posting schedules, and provide important analytics. If the company uses specific social sites but hasn’t set them up in their social media manager, include a suggestion to update them in the audit report. If the business hasn’t started using a social media tool, this might offer an excellent opportunity to consider it. 

Step 2: Check for consistent branding and messaging

Does the company’s presence across various social networks share a consistent brand voice, according to brand guidelines? Has the company even established brand guidelines that offer team members essential information like the mission, goals, target audience, brand voice, and images?

According to the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, consistent branding benefits companies by developing positive brand recognition, trust, and customer connections. Many marketers only associate branding with logos and other images. While visuals matter, so will communicating values and missions to customers.

Businesses must develop brand guidelines to ensure marketers understand these critical factors and communicate them to the right audiences. Thus, reporting on deviations from these guidelines or even a total lack of them offers an essential opportunity for improvement.

Step 3: Identify the best-performing content

Marketers with plenty of social media history and some successes can gain quick insights by examining posts that performed well previously. Consider various metrics, including likes and shares, views, click-throughs, and conversions. Also, look at these metrics in light of the content’s goals.

With the right social media analytics, this step might look pretty easy. However, interpreting performance can take some judgment. For instance, engagement might help measure brand recognition campaigns, but marketers should measure revenue-generating posts by click-throughs and conversions.

Also, keep the specific platform, goals, and target audience in mind. For example:

  • Light-hearted videos might provide a good way to improve engagement, but product posts, infographics, or longer text posts might do a better job of closing sales.
  • Longer posts often succeed better on video-centric platforms, like YouTube, but Facebook users tend to have less patience and might prefer shorter ones.

Use analytics platforms to ensure the content attracts the intended audience. For instance, a light-hearted, punchy video might have generated plenty of engagement. However, it might not have achieved its goal if it had primarily attracted teenage viewers, but the intended audience consisted of millennial moms. In contrast, if an unexpected audience converted with click-throughs and sales, marketers might reevaluate their targets.

In any case, scouring high-performing content should offer plenty of insights to inform future investments. Similarly, low-performing content can tell marketers what their audiences don’t care for. At the same time, make sure to evaluate performance with other factors in mind, like the social media platform, audience demographics, etc.

Step 4: Spot high-performing platforms

As various audiences prefer different types of content, all social media users don’t share the same platform preferences. Past metrics will show which platforms have performed well in the past. That information offers a quick way to determine which social sites to focus on in the future. 

At the same time, marketers may hope to expand into new platforms or experiment with different content on platforms they haven’t enjoyed a lot of luck with in the past. Combining an understanding of the audience with information about performance on other platforms can offer valuable clues for choosing new social sites.

For example: 

  • Sprout Social offered recent demographic information about popular social media sites. Despite Facebook’s reputation as a network where mom and grandma socialize, average users range between 25 and 34. Men slightly outnumber women. Users spend an average of about half an hour on the site daily.
  • Companies looking to engage with older women should consider Pinterest, with an average user base of women between 50 and 64. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Instagram has similar average demographics as Facebook. If marketing performs well on Facebook, Instagram might provide a logical place to expand.
  • In contrast, TikTok attracts teens and has an audience that skews towards females. Snapchat engages a similar demographic. Twitter attracts a young adult audience with more men than women.

The top platforms attract hundreds of millions to billions of users. Thus, social sites that might not look ideally suited to a specific brand’s target could still have plenty of users that qualify as part of a target audience. Thus, a product aimed at college students might sometimes perform well on Pinterest or Instagram. Use typical audiences on various sites as a guide, but don’t let it prevent experimenting with other venues. 

During the audit, focus on figuring out which sites have performed well in the past. Understand that the reasons the posts succeeded might not carry over to another platform. In-depth knowledge of audiences can offer clues, but only real-world tests can provide verifiable results.

Step 5: Take Action

By now, a social media action report should offer plenty of valuable insights. The completed audit report should contain:

  • A list of all current social media platforms
  • Notes about posts that don’t conform to messaging and branding guidelines
  • Information about high-performing content and platforms 

Marketers should not need to struggle to find plenty of actionable items, including issues to fix, analytics data to acquire, brand guidelines to create or update, and potential types of content and platforms to focus on. Keep the audit document to refer back to, and very importantly, set a date for the next social media audit. The report can also provide a tool for budgeting and meetings with management.

Why conduct a social media audit as soon as possible?

Businesses increasingly depend on social media to connect with customers. Optimizing any marketing efforts requires a plan, goals, and a way to measure progress. The information produced by the report will enable marketers to develop an effective, data-driven marketing plan that should improve returns. Just as important, the audit report will give marketers a way to communicate with other team members and management.

Completing the five steps in this social media audit template should not take long. If the preparer faces obstacles because of a lack of information, the audit has already done its job by uncovering a significant weakness. At least the marketers now know they’re missing data, and this understanding will offer ways to improve to ensure the following audit report doesn’t take much time. Of course, taking actions specified in the audit report may provide plenty of work until it’s time for the next one.

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: 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: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Last week, we discussed some ideas in the book, Social Media Marketing for Business with its author, Andrew Jenkins. If you missed that episode, here’s a clip:

Andrew Jenkins: One of our technology partners has shared a report that has shown over the last five years that organic engagement rates on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have declined. And that organizations have been able to offset that by posting more frequently. So that means more content. That doesn’t necessarily mean every single piece of content has to be net new. You can have some content in rotation, in differing formats that’s conveying the same idea. Again, you have to think about as part of your planning, how many different forms can this content take from this, whatever baseline asset might be.

Adrian Tennant: Andrew considers this re-purposing and re-formatting of content working smarter rather than harder, something we probably all aspire to. The conversation with Andrew reminded me of an episode we first published in June last year. In that show, we focused on how to create content for social feeds that people actually want and respond to. Our guest was Melanie Deziel, a keynote speaker, author, and award-winning branded content creator. When we recorded this episode, Melanie was the newly-appointed Director of Content at Foundation Marketing. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas. Before writing her book, Melanie was the first editor of branded content at the New York Times, a founding member of HuffPost’s brand and storytelling team, and she led branded content strategy across more than 35 media properties, including Time, Fortune, People, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly. To discuss her career and share her thoughts on the art and science of creating engaging branded content, Melanie joined us from her home office in Raleigh, North Carolina. 


Adrian Tennant: 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. 

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 Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for August is Social Media Marketing for Business: Scaling an integrated social media strategy across your organization by Andrew Jenkins. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20% on a print or electronic version of the book with the exclusive promo code, BIGEYE 20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Social Media Marketing for Business, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to an encore episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS with guest, Melanie Deziel, the author of The Content Fuel Framework.


Adrian Tennant: 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 or The Content Fuel Framework, where can they find you?

Melanie Deziel: If you’d like to learn more about me, my website is 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 again to my guest on this week’s encore episode – Melanie Deziel, author of the bestselling book, The Content Fuel Framework: How to generate unlimited story ideas. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye. 

Audience Branding Insights Strategy & Positioning

Research suggests that consumers make most purchase decisions for consumer packaged goods while they’re out shopping. Imagine customers viewing similar products from various brands on store shelves or in an eCommerce shop. Brand packaging that attracts attention and engages interest can significantly influence shopping choices. 

Customers can’t open boxes, bottles, and jars in the store before purchasing and certainly can’t open online purchases. At the same time, most shoppers arrive with set preferences and tastes, and they need to rely on labels, descriptions, and branding to figure out if one item or another will satisfy them after they get home. After all, most people don’t spend that much time researching products like yogurt, lotion, or snack bars before they shop. 

A product’s packaging needs to catch a customer’s eye and make a good impression. Brands need to rely on their packaging to tell their stories. The text, logos, and other graphics must do an excellent job of differentiating themselves from alternative options. Find out how brand packaging can influence purchase decisions and explore some real-world package redesigns that had a significant impact on sales. 

How much does brand packaging influence buying choices?

For instance, a scholarly article in the National Journal of Medicine discussed packaging design for cosmetics products. The authors found that consumers made 73 percent of their buying choices at the point of sale. The researchers concluded that the shoppers’ perception of the product and the entire brand’s value begins with attractive packaging. 

An excellent package design can benefit consumers and companies by easing the shopping decision by helping the well-packaged product stand out in a crowd of choices. Elements of using packaging to develop and reintroduce a positive brand identity can include colors, shapes, quality, materials, and convenience. 

Companies invest a lot in developing products that suit customer preferences. For example, cosmetics consumers enjoy attractive packaging that reflects their lifestyles and tastes. Successful brands take time to learn about their target audience and design packaging to please customers. 

Packaging serves as a “salesperson on a shelf” 

For instance, these shoppers will want to ensure the packaging makes dispensing easy, protects the product, and offers a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative. In a typical consumer’s mind, packaging can add to or detract from the quality and value of the product. 

These factors often combine as a first source of the customer’s perception of the brand’s identity. The researchers referred to packaging as a salesperson on a shelf. If brands want to profit from a 24-7 remote and unsupervised salesperson, the packaging must support and communicate their brand message. 

Examples of packaging changes to support a positive brand identity 

Since packaging’s first job involves engaging the shopper’s attention, it helps to parse out visual elements of recent package design changes. Many companies have boosted sales after learning more about their target audience. This understanding offered them insights to introduce packaging improvements. To understand how these improvements helped attract customers, consider some examples. 


Chobani yogurt package redesign

Chobani redesigned its packaging a few years ago. Find the old version on the left and the new one on the right. When the company changed its packaging, it had already produced yogurt for over a decade. Chobani had also beaten the competition to become the best-selling brand in the country. The redesign surprised some observers who associate packaging changes with businesses that struggle and not those that already lead their fields. 

The company’s chief creative officer, Leland Maschmeyer, responded that they didn’t want to wait for a problem that would force them to rush into making impulsive choices. He also said that the company’s leadership position gave them more confidence to make calculated moves to help position the brand for future growth. 

Chobani had learned more about the changing tastes of yogurt buyers and wanted to ensure that their packaging reflected it. He added that rebranding during a downturn might communicate weakness rather than innovation. 

At first glance, the new design appears more straightforward than the old one. Mr. Maschmeyer said this design choice reflected the brand’s transparency and natural, whole-food, simple ingredients. 

The Packaging Lab also reported on psychological studies that help explain how other elements of the changes supported the idea of a natural, simple product: 

  • In places where people read their language from left to right, shoppers prefer reading the details on the left side of an image. The new package moved most of the text to the left side instead of centering it on top of the strawberry. 
  • The company also changed to a bolder and simpler font, replacing the fancier script. A plainer font can also help communicate a more natural and simple image. 
  • Chobani left the basic color scheme the same as customers probably already unconsciously associated these shades with the brand. At the same time, the new design appears less complex and cluttered. 
  • Instead of just one extremely bright, oversized strawberry, multiple realistic berries adorn the label, signaling natural abundance. 


In contrast to Chobani, RxBar floundered in relative obscurity before redesigning its packaging about five years ago. Peter Rahal and Jarred Smith founded the company. These two partners designed the original packaging on the left in PowerPoint by themselves just before they launched RxBar in 2013. 

At first glance, the design appears adequate. However, it didn’t do much to differentiate RxBars from its competitors. For instance: 

  • Consumers can find plenty of protein bars at grocery and convenience stores, most of which look similar. Rahal and Smith probably gained their initial inspiration from products they had seen on store shelves. 
  • Most snack bars, even supposedly healthy ones, look like candy bars in the package. Some snack bars also resemble candy more than healthy snacks after reading the ingredients. Thus, consumers might not know the difference between healthy snacks and candy bars full of processed ingredients, fat, and sugar. 

After a few years, the founders realized that most sales the brand had achieved previously came from word-of-mouth emphasis on RxBar’s natural, whole ingredients. They listed the ingredients on the back of the bar, but most people didn’t bother to turn the package over to read them. The company’s founders grew convinced that promoting these real-food, recognizable ingredients would give them a competitive advantage over highly processed competitors. 

After achieving stability a couple of years after launching, the pair consulted with a packaging design company to help them rebrand. Thus, RxBar’s new packaging lists the simple, healthy ingredients in bold letters on the front. The redesign also changed the large photo representing the bar’s flavor to a smaller and more modern graphic image. In addition, the company shrunk the logo, figuring the basic but distinctive style of their packaging would offer plenty of branding. 

Despite some concerns from consultants about making the package look generic, the founder’s ideas worked. RxBar’s packaging won design awards, and the company soon had contracts with major retailers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. RxBar may have violated plenty of traditional packaging design rules. However, they conveyed their most important message to distributors, retailers, and consumers. 

Luma & Leaf

Luma & Leaf serves the growing market of younger adults who prefer organic skincare products. Bigeye took on the project to revamp the company’s branding while maintaining the company’s playful voice. 

Bigeye took the time to understand Luma & Leaf’s business goals and target market. For example: 

  • The designers understood the client’s core belief that everybody deserves products that help them look and feel their best without adding unnecessary stress. 
  • They also knew the audience preferred natural, sustainable products that offered convenience and a pleasant appearance. 

Skincare product companies must stand out in a highly competitive market. Thus, Bigeye wanted to ensure that the packaging communicated Luma & Leaf’s competitive differentiator in a prominent yet attractive way. Various patterns represent collections within the company’s brand architecture, including Clearing, Soothing, and Illuminating. Each distinctive pattern showcases the natural, plant-based ingredients used to make the product. 

Organic ingredients and sustainable packaging support healthy skin and a healthy environment. The company’s customers care about using natural products on their own bodies. These consumers also express concerns about the environment. In addition to making skincare products with sustainable ingredients, Luma & Leaf also offers upcyclable packaging that customers can use for plant misters, bud vases, and more. 

The messaging paid off. When Luma & Leaf launched the newly designed products on the company’s eCommerce site, they generated thousands of dollars worth of sales within days. Learn more about Bigeye’s packaging design work with Luma & Leaf on the case study page

Is it time for a better packaging design?

Instead of struggling for a few years like RxBar, startups can encourage faster growth by studying their market and designing packaging that offers more value to themselves and their customers. Similarly, established businesses might consider a revamp to meet new trends or reenergize sluggish sales. 

At Bigeye, we’re always eager to listen to your company story and help you communicate it to more customers. Contact us today to get started. 

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

Andrew Jenkins is the author of Social Media Marketing for Business: Scaling an integrated social media strategy across your organization, this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection. Reflecting case studies from his time client-side and agency-side, Andrew shares practical tips, social tools, and content strategies applicable to organizations of any size. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount at by using the promo code BIGEYE20 at checkout.

Episode Transcript

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

Andrew Jenkins: What channels are they on? Are there some channels we should divest? Are there some channels or platforms that we should consider adding to the mix as the market landscape changes? All of this can be incorporated to inform a recalibration of the strategy.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Over half of the world’s population uses social media: currently, around 58% or 4.6 billion people. Their average daily usage is two hours and 27 minutes. And every year, around the world, billions of dollars are being spent on social media advertising. By the end of this year, US advertisers are expected to spend over 56 billion dollars. Of the top four social media platforms worldwide, three are owned by Meta. Facebook remains the most used platform in total, but marketers must consider usage trends among different demographic cohorts. The rapid growth that social entertainment platform TikTok underwent, an impressive 142% increase year over year, saw it ranked the fifth most used platform by January. A new book, entitled Social Media Marketing for Business: Scaling an integrated social media strategy across your organization provides a step-by-step roadmap to setting up effective workflows, team configurations, governance models, and social media policies, as well as creating and measuring content and social media campaigns. The book’s author is Andrew Jenkins, Principal of Volterra, a professional services firm, specializing in social media and social selling strategies. And today, Andrew is joining us from his office in Toronto, Canada, to discuss some of the ideas in his book. Andrew, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Andrew Jenkins: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Andrew, could you tell us a bit about your career and what led you to specialize in social media??

Andrew Jenkins: Well, I’ve had a bit of an eclectic career. I have a degree in economics, a degree in film production, and an MBA. I graduated with an economics degree, worked in retail. Wasn’t enjoying myself, always had an interest in film, went back to film school, finished film school, worked in the industry for a bit. But one of my friends from film school was dabbling in the internet as it was emerging and was building websites. And I went, “that looks kind of interesting to me.” And so I actually started my own eCommerce company selling menswear on the internet in 1995, and that led to working in technology for the last soon-to-be 30 years. And as my work in tech and software and the internet and so on evolved, I was commissioned 14 years ago – when I started my now company Volterra, doing strategy, and strategic planning – was asked to do strategic research on social media and social networks. And what was emerging at the time in 2008. And that has just continued to evolve into the focus on outsourced social media management and social media strategy that we’re doing now. So it wasn’t a path I planned, but it’s nonetheless a path that I followed.

Adrian Tennant: What prompted you to write Social Media Marketing for Business?

Andrew Jenkins: I teach social media strategy for enterprises at the University of Toronto, and we have been using a textbook for the last decade by Chris Barger called The Social Media Strategist. And where that book differed from so many other social media books that were out there, it was that it was prescriptive. It was a bit of a roadmap, a bit of a resource or workbook on if you find yourself in a social media role, what to do within mid to larger enterprises when it came to working with HR and legal and compliance, when it came to social media policy, internal resources, and things like that. So I wanted to revisit that part of it, especially because it was so often overlooked, and frankly, in that decade, there had been no other books that had been introduced to fill that void. Many of my students are working professionals in marketing communications, but many of the challenges they face are not the marketing part. It’s dealing with HR and compliance, building a social media policy, dealing with internal culture that is not necessarily supportive of adopting social media, employee advocacy, and all the nuances that go with that and things like that. So I wanted to revisit what Barger had focused on 10 years previous, and bring it into current day – because one, when Barger wrote his book, there was no Snapchat. I’m trying to think if even Instagram was around then. But certainly no TikTok or Be Real and some of the new entrants as well. And all the implications that those new platforms, new technologies, and associated behavior mean to social media organizations and social media teams.

Adrian Tennant: Andrew, what can readers expect to learn from Social Media Marketing for Business?

Andrew Jenkins: They’re going to learn more about social media marketing. There’s case examples, both organic and paid, both from our own work at Volterra as well as examples from other sources. And, as well, an approach to deciding what tools you should have in terms of your kit bag. An approach to working with HR and compliance and building a social media policy. And how to roll out a social media strategy or social media operations and scale it. And whether you’re gonna do so internally or externally, or with a hybrid where you have some internal resources, and you have external resources as well.

Adrian Tennant: Your book’s subtitle is Scaling an integrated social media strategy across your organization. So in your experience, what are the most common challenges faced by a manager when they’re placed in charge of an organization’s social media?

Andrew Jenkins: There’s always this talk about social media strategy and content, and there should be emphasis on that, but it should not be the sole focus of it. Two of the most overlooked, infrequently mentioned topics that have an impact on rolling out a social media strategy or scaling social media operations are culture and change. And as the organization grows and matures, you’re going to have different stakeholders who have different opinions about social media. You’re gonna have some digital natives who have only ever known a world with the internet, that are all over it, and it’s quite natural for them to use some of these digital platforms. And then you’re gonna have some people that, even if they might be digital natives, have no interest. The way I describe it is that you can lay your entire group of employees across the spectrum or a bell curve. You’ve got the digital natives on the far right that are highly adaptable or already exhibiting the target behavior that you want, highly supportive of what you’re trying to do from a social media perspective. You can have the larger group in the middle that are indifferent, but will follow the momentum of the organization. If others are saying, “We should do this, okay, we’ll go along with it.” And then you’re gonna have the far left that are resistant and saying, “We’re not gonna Tweet and you can’t make us! And you can’t spend too much time and energy on the people that are totally opposed. Focus on the people in the middle, because that will be the majority that gets the momentum going and then helps to maintain it. Look for the bright shiny examples where there’s people within the organization already exhibiting the target behavior. Oftentimes we’re going in as an external organization, and we’re saying, “You should do this.” Well, we have to back it up with proof, and it’s even better if we can back it up by saying to people, “Here are your colleagues doing what we suggested, and here’s the outcome of their efforts, and it’s proof that it’s working or it’s proof that it does work, and it can do so consistently,” et cetera. And that social proof, especially internal social proof, is a catalyst for change.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you recommend that the first step for anyone newly responsible for managing their organization’s social media is undertaking an audit. Andrew, could you give us an overview of what that process typically looks like?

Andrew Jenkins: Sure. Working your way up, first you start with what channels are they on, and are they active? Are they dormant? For example, I’m the former head of social media strategy for the Royal Bank of Canada. And they had created a Twitter account, for the torch relay when RBC, as it’s known, was the sponsor of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the torch relay across Canada, to light the Olympic flame. They had set up a Twitter account specific to the torch relay. Once the Olympics were over, the account was allowed to go dormant. And so, in our audit, we were made aware of this account. We rebranded it as RBC Olympic. It was no longer tied to those one specific Olympic games. And now it was associated with their sponsorship of the Olympics, no matter whether they were hosting or part of the host country or not. And it was the audit that brought this to our attention. And then we were able to take action to reactivate, rejuvenate, and repurpose the account. And that’s just an example of taking a look, what channels are they on? Are there any channels that, from a rationalization, are there some channels we should divest? Are there some channels or platforms that we should consider adding to the mix as the market landscape changes? And then, in addition to that, one of the biggest things is what content do you have that may not have been used, or that can be used again? What content has been performing well in what formats, what channels, podcasts, video, blogs, infographics? What’s worked and what hasn’t? So that all of this can be incorporated, to inform a recalibration of the strategy. The goal is not to overburden yourself with work. The goal is to just get a sense of the lay of the land: what’s working, what’s not. And what are your immediate action items?

Adrian Tennant: Chapter nine of your book is entitled, Beware Bright Shiny Syndrome. You provide a list of social networks that were once considered hot, but have since disappeared. So, Andrew, how do you recommend that clients or their agencies determine which emerging social platforms warrant our attention?

Andrew Jenkins: We were commissioned to do a research project on social networks – all the predominant ones of the day –  in 2008. And it’ll surprise many that Facebook was not number one then. In fact, it was MySpace. And MySpace isn’t around anymore. Well, it came, it went, came back again, and is now essentially defunct. There was Orkut, there was Bebo, you know, Friendster, the list goes on. And what we often tell organizations is if a platform’s emerging, we highly recommend that you set up an account, you can leave it dormant, but the goal or the reason you wanna squat on an account is that so others don’t go in and take it and you end up having to be held ransom for it. So as an example, the social media platform, Truth Social, whatever you may feel about its focus – Walmart did not go in and set up an account, and someone went into Truth Social, set up a Walmart account, and can use it as a bit of a parody account. And there’s nothing that Walmart can do. And so these new emerging platforms like Be Real and Supernova, et cetera. You look at Be Real. It’s really intended to be, you know, capturing a moment in the day amongst your circle of friends. It’s not just setting up an account there. You have to evaluate. Is there a place for our organization, our brand? is it suitable? Is it brand aligned? And maybe it isn’t. There’s also: would your brand be welcome? And I don’t know about Be Real yet for B2B brands or even some B2C. I don’t care what happened to your brand at four o’clock today. But I do care about what happened at four o’clock today amongst my friends. And it’s again, it’s the rationalization process, but from a brand reputation, brand protection, if you think the platform might become relevant to you, set up an account it’s usually free, squat on it, and then wait til you need to act.

Adrian Tennant: In Social Media Marketing for Business, you observe that one of the most daunting things about social media is that it’s always on, creating a sometimes insatiable demand for content. Can you talk us through some ways that folks newly responsible for social media can avoid becoming overwhelmed?

Andrew Jenkins: Well, it goes back to what we were talking about a moment ago, about auditing. What existing content do you have that can be used, can be reused, repurposed, to work smarter rather than harder? So for instance, at the bank, you have a report come out from an economist. Now, some people will want to download that PDF report or read it online, whatever, and it could be a rather lengthy and rather dense report. There will be people that want to read it, let them have at it. Can you interview said economist for a minute or two, to have them explain the highlights or the key takeaways or whatever’s noteworthy about that report? And that can become a short video, maybe even cut it up into subsequent clips for each of the highlights. Can you transcribe the interview to turn that into a blog? Can you rip the audio and turn it into a short podcast? So, what I’m saying here is that the underlying asset, which was the report, has sparked a multitude of different pieces of content in different formats. But I haven’t had to create anything new, I’m not writing 10 different articles. One of our technology partners has shared a report that has shown over the last five years that organic engagement rates on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have declined. And that organizations have been able to offset that by posting more frequently. So that means more content. That doesn’t necessarily mean every single piece of content has to be net new. You can have some content in rotation. In differing formats, it’s conveying the same idea. Again, you have to think about as part of your planning, how many different forms can this content take from this, whatever baseline asset might be, whether it’s a report, if it’s an hour-long interview? So when we do a podcast, we record it on video as well as audio. So I have two forms of content that can be cut up. You get the full episode if you want, and then you also get these little nice, uh, bites, that can be shared. And then I can pull quotes that are graphically designed, etcetera.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for August is Social Media Marketing for Business: Scaling an integrated social media strategy across your organization by Andrew Jenkins. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20% on a print or electronic version of the book with the exclusive promo code, BIGEYE 20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Social Media Marketing for Business, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Andrew Jenkins, an expert in social media and social selling strategies and the author of Social Media Marketing for Business, published by Kogan Page. In the book, you devote a chapter to the topic of hashtags. Could you share your thoughts on how brands can use them most effectively?

Andrew Jenkins: I tend to categorize them into long tail, popular (for discoverability), and then branded. So maybe you’re not looking for a large audience, but you’re trying to reach a niche audience. Then look at some longer tail or more niche hashtags that subsets or smaller communities are using, or are being used, in relation to more niche topics. You might have some more, I’ll call them more generic or more popular hashtags that are broad reaching, but they run the risk of you getting in front of potentially the wrong audience. But nonetheless, you need to use some of them for discoverability. And then when I’m referring to branded hashtags, like Nike’s “Just Do It” or IBM, I think really quite a while ago started seeding “The Future of Work.” And things like that. So if you want to have a branded hashtag related to a catchphrase, or a brand statement associated with a category of your content, or maybe it’s a content campaign or a contest, those take a while to seed, and have some momentum around, but you have to do so consistently. And also then you have to rationalize some platforms. You know, big on let’s have 50 hashtags. Let’s have more hashtags than we have copy, like some platforms! So you have to start thinking about it strategically. So you really are thinking about each piece of content that’s going out. What is the hashtag mix and the hashtag strategy related to it? Is this related to our own content? I’ll call it a content campaign that might be lasting 90 days. We’re doing a blog series about topic X. Maybe you want to see it as a branded hashtag so that anything related to that hashtag relates to that category of content or that arc of content, or story thread. And so people can filter by that as an example. So, you know, it really has to be incorporated into your content planning and deciding what hashtags we’re gonna use for discoverability, what hashtags we want, if we’re going after any, community niches or subject niches. And then there’s what branded hashtags will we use, and in what instance?

Adrian Tennant: And Andrew, I’m curious, how many hashtags is too many?

Andrew Jenkins: It depends on the platform. Now, on a personal profile on LinkedIn, if you turn your personal profile into creator mode, it allows you to stipulate certain hashtags that you want associated with you and your content. For Instagram, we’ve worked with clients that had batches of hashtags depending on what they were posting. We leverage some of the ongoing research of our tech partners, and some of the third-party scheduling tools that are tracking hashtag performance more regularly than we are. And they’re constantly updating, should it be two to four on LinkedIn? Do hashtags even work on Facebook? And they do to a degree, but not the same as they do on Instagram or Twitter. Twitter doesn’t tend to need as many hashtags as Instagram does. And this is the challenge of having to stay abreast of what’s happening on each platform. And then you get into TikTok as an example, and you’re using trending hashtags that are completely unrelated to your own content, but you’re using them to get onto a For You page completely for discoverability or visibility.

Adrian Tennant: Chapter 14 of the book is entitled Humanity. In it you state that quote, “you can’t be social without being human. Sadly, many brands have lost touch with that fact over the years” end quote. How so?

Andrew Jenkins: If you’re doing any social media listening, you can see sentiment over time. And whenever I’ve talked about social media listening, and people talk about sentiment, especially if they’re seeing negative sentiment, I have to say, you have to peel back the onion. There’s typically an underlying systemic issue that’s causing negative sentiment. So if I’m a cable company and my customer service tollfree line has ridiculously long wait times, or people are getting frustrated, waiting on the tollfree line, they might go social to complain. I can’t fix the wait times in social, but if I fix that underlying issue, then it’s going to – over time – be reflected in the sentiment that we’re seeing in social. So getting back to the broader topic of showing humanity, there’s numerous examples of where organizations even offline can show humanity to stakeholders, to consumers, or just society and have that humanity spill over or people, talking about it on social. We’re seeing social media accounts, like I think it’s the Northeast Ohio Waste Management organization being a bit tongue in cheek. They’re in waste management, but they’re doing a phenomenal job on Twitter. making a name for themselves, about the work that they do, which is not would not top everyone’s list of a place that they might wanna work. But they’re funny that again, they’re humanizing themselves as an organization. There’s a Twitter account for Lake Superior and they’re bringing notoriety to the lake and infusing it with some humor and so on. And if you look at Wendy’s Twitter account, they’re trolling other restaurants. People are going out of their way to go to Wendy’s Twitter account to be trolled just for the attention and for the fun. And just again, just showing some humor, showing some, just, you know, you don’t have to be a stiff brand. And it’s not for every brand. We do a lot of work in financial services and I will say this: financial services organizations and insurance companies have a much more serious mandate. They are stewards of our money. They are in the business of protection for their stakeholders. But that doesn’t mean they have to be this buttoned up and so serious that they can’t say good morning on a Monday morning, over their social accounts.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you reference many tools that can help create, schedule, post, and analyze social media. In the text, I counted 39 tools for social media management solutions, 24 for content discovery and curation, 55 for visual design, 20 for AI-assisted copywriting, 35 for video creation, 22 for social listening, and 27 social media analytics tools. Now you are managing social media on behalf of clients, so how did you approach the selection of tools in your tech stack?

Andrew Jenkins: Mm-hmm. Well, I’m sure that list has already changed since the original list was compiled. I guess it’s an ever-evolving space. You know, I have to put a caveat in place right at the outset: I run a social media agency. Many of the tools that we use are to serve an agency, serving multiple clients simultaneously. They’re not necessarily tools that a single organization or an individual would use for themselves, to manage their own personal social or the social of their organization. My approach, when I’ve looked at putting together our tech stack, has been more purpose-driven. There have been times when we’ve been approached by a more they’ll describe as an all-encompassing sort of Swiss army knife of social media tools. It does some listening, and it does analytics, and it does this and it does. And I’m not saying that those are wrong. I have just found that whenever I’ve taken that approach, I hit a wall, something there’s a shortcoming. “Oh, it doesn’t do that. Oh, okay.” Or “it doesn’t do that as well as the distinctly standalone tool that I have for that specific task.” And as well, one of the reasons for the extensive list I have by category from free to modestly priced to ridiculously expensive, depending on the size of your organization and the budget you have available to. So one of the most expensive enterprise social media management solutions is Sprinklr. You know, it’s kind of like, do you want the Rolls Royce? And, you can have it, but you will have to pay accordingly. I used to work in software. And I worked for a Microsoft solution provider and I would get all the latest betas, from Microsoft and so I was always running the latest versions of whatever. And so, right or wrong, I’ve always been like finding new emerging solutions to evaluate and test them out even at the beta stage. And I’ve managed to establish some really rich collaborative relationships with those technology providers. And one I’ve helped them on their technology and they’ve helped me by making their technology available to me. So there’s been a bit of a quid pro quo, as they say. And so I’ve managed to get some pretty powerful tools for modest to no cost. But it’s again, I’m helping them by giving them evaluations, giving them feedback, really pushing their solutions to the limit and to show them what’s working and what’s not. And so there’s an exchange of value and that’s helped us get access to some pretty amazing technology. So just to sum it all up, there’s nothing wrong with finding a Swiss army knife. Evaluate your needs. Is it good enough? You can go down a rabbit hole picking technology. You also have to recognize what it is you’re trying to find, in terms of insight from data and analytics, if that’s one of the categories, like what do you need to scale? Like how much content are you dealing with managing it? And also how easy or complicated are these tools to use? Because you may not be the only one using them. So you may get like, ” oh, this is an amazing tool”, but then members of your team are like, “I hate it. I don’t wanna use it” or they love something else that they used when they were an independent freelancer, but that you hired them as staff and you, “Oh, I didn’t know.” They bring in a tool into the mix that you were completely unaware of. But also just to say, think about budget, think about the cost of ownership from a training and ease of use, does it meet your needs? Is it good enough? but don’t stop paying attention cuz you know, this space keeps evolving, so there may be a better uh, bread box next year.

Adrian Tennant: Andrew, if you only had one strategy for social media marketing, what would it be?

Andrew Jenkins: Listen. So many organizations jump into social and they haven’t done any social media listening, or even if they’re, you know, haven’t even established themselves in social media, I like to say that there are conversations happening in the digital landscape about an organization, about a brand, that they’re not even privy to, that they’re not participating in, or that have implications about their business. They don’t even have to get on Facebook or Twitter or anything like that and establish a presence. But there’s a lot to learn from simply listening on social media to find out, how are we being perceived as a brand? How do our customers see us? Are they happy with the service or product that we provide? What are they saying about our competitors? What are they saying, just in general, about their needs? Um, you know, we’ve done work with insurance companies and I’ve had to say to them, like, “I know you, you know, live and breathe your brand, but people don’t talk about insurance with a great deal of excitement. It’s necessary.” But they do talk about life events that have an implication or have a link to insurance. So listening for a job change, buying a house, getting married, getting divorced, having children, and children graduating from college. All these life events have a potential implication to something like insurance. And so it’s listening for those kinds of conversations. A friend of mine who does a lot of social media listening was working with a cough drop company. And the cough drop company was of the belief that people bought their candies when they had a sore throat. And through my friends’ social media listening efforts, they said, “No, they buy them when they have a tickle. Not when it’s a full-blown pain, they buy it when they suspect that they have or a cough coming on.” And so it blew the brand away like, “Oh,” it was at a completely different stage of the consumer journey and it would not have been discovered were it not for social media listening. And I just share that as it’s one of my favorite examples.

Adrian Tennant: Social Media Marketing for Business has been out for a few months now. What kinds of responses have you had to the book so far?

Andrew Jenkins: I’ve been really pleased with social media practitioners finding it. I feel a little immodest saying this, but some are calling it a bible for them, and passing it on to other colleagues of theirs. Some are writing to me and they’re referencing a quote from the book, how much that meant to them, or how “oh, I couldn’t agree more with that.” And it’s been a rewarding experience to hear my words reflected back to me and people saying emphatically how much they agree with what I shared as well as people finding it a valuable resource. So much so, that they’re passing it on to colleagues. So it’s been really, fantastic.

Adrian Tennant: Andrew, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and Volterra’s services, where can they find you?

Andrew Jenkins: Our website is Volterra – V O L T E R R A And we’re on all the socials, but and they can always reach out to me on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @AJenkins.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like a copy of Andrew’s book, Social Media Marketing for Business, you can save 20% on either the print or ebook when you purchase directly from the publishers online at Just add the promo code, BIGEYE20 at the checkout. Andrew, thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Andrew Jenkins: Thanks so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Andrew Jenkins, the author of Social Media Marketing for Business. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Just select Podcast from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

The Inflation Reduction Act promises billions of dollars for green energy investments, but how can marketers and advertising professionals encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable behaviors? In this encore episode, applied consumer neuroscience expert Michael Smith joins us to discuss his book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices: Leverage neuroscience to reshape marketplace behavior. Michael offers insights and practical tips for communicating the benefits of greener choices.

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

Extreme weather events have affected many parts of the United States, and most Americans who have experienced one in the past year see at least some link to climate change. That’s according to a May survey of over 10 thousand US adults conducted by Pew Research Center. Among those who have experienced extreme weather, more than eight-in-ten say climate change is a contributing factor. 

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act allots billions of dollars toward green energy initiatives. That includes a 30% tax credit for building or repairing renewable energy plants, tax credits on green energy generation, and production-related credits for manufacturers of solar and wind power equipment. This week’s podcast is an Encore episode, featuring the author of a book entitled, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices: Leverage neuroscience to reshape marketplace behavior. Its author, Michael E. Smith is an applied cognitive neuroscientist and management professional experienced in consumer research, neurotechnology research, development, and commercialization. Michael was Vice-President of Nielsen’s consumer neuroscience practice, and is the founder and currently Principal Scientist of Adaptation Research. To discuss some of the challenges faced by marketers and practical ways we can encourage consumers to adopt more environmentally sustainable products and services, Michael joined us for this interview from his home in La Jolla, California. 


Adrian Tennant: Michael, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael E. Smith: Very much so.

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

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

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

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

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

Michael E. Smith: Happy to, and, I will say that of all the types of tools you described, it is the case that much of the applied research I’ve been involved with, and commercial endeavors I have relied heavily on those tools. my experience in the domain actually precedes my being a direct, employee of Nielsen because I previously worked for many years, and a startup that Nielsen, subsequently acquired much of that work focused on traditional, market research associated with evaluating, commercial communications about brands and their benefits and, their, attempts at persuasion in the marketplace. But such tools can serve the same purpose for the sustainability market as they do for traditional marketing. In fact, the portion of the research agenda I was directly responsible for at Nielsen examined how the brain measurement tools frequently employed in the field for optimizing commercial marketing in general could also be used to optimize communications, promoting different types of prosocial behavior. Some of the tools are really good for identifying what grabs your attention and what fails to. Others are good for estimating whether communication imposes too high of the mental workload to be effectively processed and which in turn can lead to negative emotional response. And still others could help identify whether a communication promotes a positive emotional response, and whether it’s memorable. And the commercial world, these tools can be used to pre-test communications in order to evaluate what is working well and what requires some creative optimization before it’s unleashed into the media sphere of one form or another. I’m sure you’re well acquainted with that process. Yeah, for example, for an application in this domain, I’m reminded of one project that we did on behalf of a non-governmental organization that was developing public service advertisements to promote recycling behavior. We were able to identify parts of, you know, a 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 title by which some of these tools go, of course, is neuro marketing. I’m wondering how you feel about that term.

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

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

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 Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for August is Social Media Marketing for Business: Scaling an integrated social media strategy across your organization by Andrew Jenkins. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20% on a print or electronic version of the book with the exclusive promo code, BIGEYE 20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Social Media Marketing for Business, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to an Encore episode, featuring Michael Smith, author of the book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices: Leverage Neuroscience To Reshape Marketplace Behavior. 

Adrian Tennant: Michael, you cite a McKinsey and Company study that found that consumers feel that it’s largely the responsibility of companies and governments to reduce barriers to green consumption. What do brand marketers need to do to adjust to consumers’ growing intentions to shop more green?

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

Adrian Tennant: Hmm, that’s a great point. What are the kinds of adjustments that those of us working in the advertising industry will need to make to support green consumption and adoption of a post consumerism mindset?

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

Adrian Tennant: You have a wonderful illustration of how some of these ideas play out in practice. In the book, one of your personal anecdotes relates to a decision you made as a consumer to have solar panels installed on the roof of your home. Could you tell us what happened after you had your array installed?

Michael E. Smith: Ah, yeah, that is interesting. That is there appears to be geospatial clustering of home solar panel installations that indicates that they’re not randomly distributed. and just as the example that I shared, when I moved into my current neighborhood, no one had solar panels. and this wasn’t that long ago, it was eight or 10 years ago, but after a few months and moving into the neighborhood and I met some of my neighbors. And then I noticed that one of the houses across the street from me was having some solar panels installed, which same call and, you know, I respected my neighbor and thought he had thought this through his bright guy, but I didn’t know very much about the risks and benefits myself. Then a year later I was having some work done on my roof. So I investigated in more detail, whether it would be a worthwhile investment to get my own solar array and did some more investigation. And despite some initial anxiety about it, it has proven to be a very good investment. I’ve already earned, you know, my costs back and, you know, it’s not giving me free electricity, so all great. and we live in one of the cities in the country with the highest electricity, electricity rates, so all the better. but the interesting thing is, apart from my own purchase, uh, within two years, two of my other knee, nearest neighbors had also got their own solar arrays. So now we have this special cluster of solar rays amongst my nearest neighbors and no one else in the broader neighborhood has yet adopted the technology. So it certainly seemed to grow. You know, it’s like put a mold in a Petri dish and a lot more mold grows around it. It seems like people are that way too. And you know, to some degree that may reflect the old adage of the need to keep up with the Joneses. that is you don’t, you want to impress your neighbors, that you’re just as good as they are in terms of your purchase behavior. That’s certainly one type of phenomenon, but apart from incorporating some degree of virtue signaling, it may just serve to communicate that it is increasingly normal to make this type of decision to go solar and doesn’t seem excessively complex and risky if all your neighbors are doing it too. and now it’s interesting we’re going through this same cycle with electric cars. you know, so maybe five years ago we got our first electric vehicle and then probably a year later, my next door neighbor got an electric vehicle, which, you know, we’re, fueling with sunshine so, you know, what could be better than that? And an increasingly greater number of people in this neighborhood are doing the same thing. and a lot of people have noted that this is frequently the product adoption cycle. So, the literature on the adoption of innovations usually shows that there’s a Vanguard of early adopters who provide a model for other people, to base their behavior on. And that adoption then tends to spread from those early adopters to the rest of the population.

Adrian Tennant: So interesting. You think that’s where we are with electric vehicles? Hertz has apparently ordered 100,000 Teslas. So we’ll be seeing even more Teslas on the road as rental vehicles 

Yeah. And you know, the great thing about the Hertz move. I’m sure Elon Musk thinks a great thing about it is it’s made him billions of more dollars overnight, at least on paper. But by having these available as rental vehicles, if you feel like you’re uncomfortable with the situation, you can just go rent one, instead of putting down the money to buy one. And many of the things that people are concerned about, like the difficulty of recharging or that the vehicles may not have enough range for, your concern and they have some things for your needs. And they have anxiety about that. This ability to try before buying, really allows you to get past those initial anxieties and find that it’s not all that difficult or that much of a barrier to most day-to-day driving.

Adrian Tennant: So referencing your neuroscience research, you indicate that there may be some challenging emotional barriers that we’ll need to overcome in the transition to a more circular consumer economy. Could you just explain what you mean by that?

Uh, yeah, and I think what you’re referring to is a discussion I provided around some of the barriers to adoption of used, repurposed products, and recycled, upcycled consumables of one type or another. One important primary emotion that can come into play and those sorts of situations is the danger of inadvertently eliciting a disgust reaction. And disgust was identified by Darwin to be one of the primary emotions we experience. And it generally is thought to have evolved, to protect us from contagions, and pathogens that might be in the environment. And where this might be an issue – there’s a growing trend to do things like upcycling food waste into new consumable products of one form or another. And you know, at least in one instance, feeding food waste to insects as feedstock that you can then convert those insects into protein powder. And then you can incorporate that protein powder into any number of products. That’s really low environmental impact, high-quality protein. Some people just aren’t down with that. And so you need to communicate what you’re doing very delicately or you can essentially distance what you’re doing from the product’s awareness altogether. so there’s a trend to essentially feed food scraps, to maggots, feed the maggots to like salmon in a fish farm, or chicken in a poultry operation. And then create forms of protein that are much more acceptable to humans, and they’re much more useful. And you lose some of the sustainability advantage there, but you’re able to use sustainably developed resources in those operations, whereas they might be using other things entirely that are more impactful on the environment. I think I discuss a similar problem with respect to recycling and purifying wastewater, to make it more suitable for human consumption. We have pilot projects here where I live, which is heavily impacted by drought, and we have to import all of our drinking water from elsewhere. And so there’s a big need to figure out ways to recycle the water that we’ve already used. And there similarly, marketers are trying to kind of distance the end consumer, both psychologically and spatially, from that purification process. So it was less disgusting. And lastly, the thing I’ll say about this, is there’s growing evidence in the psychological literature that the brain incorporates something like a behavioral immune system. Just like our biological immune system fights off germs, our behavioral immune system on an almost automatic basis causes us to be concerned about situations that might expose us to pathogens in the first place and really drives people to avoid situations where that exposure could occur. And this is also important in the reusable space, because you don’t know who’s previously been using those products. You know, also even if you go into a retail environment and it’s disorderly, the clothes are strewn all over, or the shelf of CPG products are half empty and in disarray. People don’t know who’s been there, who’s been touching that stuff, whether they were someone that they would mind touching the stuff or that they would feel, you know, offended. People are funny that way. So retailers, the smart ones anyway, spend an inordinate amount of time keeping their stores neat, just to avoid eliciting that type of implicit disgust response. You know, similarly, even product adjacencies can cause this response. So if a product that would be rated relatively high in some circumstances is displayed adjacent to a product that is noxious in some fashion, say a candy bar versus a can of insect spray, a toxin, people would be highly likely to rate that candy bar as less desirable if it had been, you know, displayed adjacent to another type of product that also is more desirable. So, you know, smart retailers know these things already because it’s been understood for quite a while in the consumer research space. You know, it’s important to continue to focus on that going forward. Particularly as we emerge from this pandemic where people are in a heightened state of awareness of the potential for inadvertent pathogen exposure.

Adrian Tennant: Michael, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, your work in consumer neuroscience and psychology, or your book, Inspiring Green Consumer Choices, where can they find you?

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

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

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

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