Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

Mike Stevens: Thanks for having me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week. Mike Stevens, an expert in scaling direct-to-consumer brands and the author of The Direct To Consumer Playbook. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at 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.

Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Daykin: Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Daykin: Thanks for having me.

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

Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Nick, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audience Branding Insights Strategy & Positioning

How to define product marketing 

How do marketers define product marketing? That looks like an easy question about a standard job. Still, many people will offer different answers, and few can provide a succinct definition. For example, many descriptions center on activities before the product launch, but the job of product marketing lasts through the entire lifecycle. 

In as few words as possible, product marketing refers to all activities involved in bringing a product to market and supporting it throughout its lifecycle. These activities include every step from initial conception and design to customer service and in the end, phasing out the product to make room for the next new thing. 

Product marketers need to understand their company, the product, and their audience of consumers very well. The job involves product design, packaging, product launches, customer service, and support. These tasks may require cooperation between multiple departments in large enterprises. In smaller companies and startups, product marketing teams could wear many hats. 

Successfully marketing products starts with understanding customers

Like all good marketing, product marketing centers around customers. After all, developing the world’s best product won’t do much good unless consumers learn it exists, what it does, how it’s used, and why it can satisfy their needs. Thus, marketers should differentiate their product from potential competitors, define their audience, develop buyer personas, and find out where these consumers gather information to inform purchase decisions. 

Using audience knowledge to develop a brand identity for the product 

Understanding the audience’s values and perceptions can help marketers develop a successful strategy for engaging the market. For instance, Wordstream discussed Apple’s Mac. Vs. Windows PC TV ads from a few years ago. Apple needed to tell a story to convince consumers to spend more on an Apple computer than they would need to spend on many Windows computers. 

Many competing companies offer Windows PCs, but only Apple makes Mac computers. Thus, Apple needed to quickly differentiate its products from the entire ecosystem of Windows PCs. That way, the company could engage customers and develop brand loyalty. If Apple could successfully differentiate their products, they could encourage brand loyalty that most Windows PC manufacturers don’t enjoy. Windows users might choose Windows computers, but they may not differentiate much between such manufacturers as Lenovo, Dell, or HP. 

Apple made dozens of humorous ads featuring a cool Mac guy and a stodgy PC guy. The ads differentiated Apple’s products with such benefits as being easy to use, free from malware bloat, and connected with popular software like iTunes. Primarily, the company understood its buyers. It wanted its target market to view Apple as the choice of sophisticated computer users and Windows PCs as the option for the dreary and conventional. 

Marketing steps for successful product launches 

Consider these essential steps to ensure a successful product launch. A solid understanding of and focus on customers will lead to successful product launches during all phases. 

Research the product: Before anybody considers a launch, the developers, marketers, and hopefully, some outside beta testers will thoroughly test the product to ensure it’s bug-free, works as advertised, and solves the problem as promised. At this time, feedback from various user groups can still yield improvements. 

Craft the product’s story: Document who will want to purchase this product and why consumers will feel satisfied with their purchase. This overview should explain why people should buy this product instead of taking a competitor’s offer. 

Create a launch plan: Successful product launches involve several steps and cooperation from different groups. A detailed launch plan gives the managers a way to solicit feedback, keeps various stakeholders in the loop, and assigns responsibility for each process. 

Conduct launch meetings: Most businesses will invite representatives from various groups to a meeting on launch day. Proactive product marketing managers will probably schedule regular meetings for progress reports, brainstorming, and input throughout the preparation stage. 

Develop content around the products and purchasers: Before the launch, the brand will need sales pages, advertising content, product advertising, and other marketing collateral. A solid understanding of the product’s story and the audience will enable the development of compelling content. 

Align and engage sales, marketing, and support: Various teams have specific jobs, but they still need to work towards the same goals. Accept input from all stakeholders involved in marketing, support, and sales, and make sure they all have the information to handle a successful launch. 

Engage the community: Plan how to develop and react to the buzz around the new release. Take the opportunity to reach out to previous customers, likely influencers, and other stakeholders for feedback. Incorporate any new information into the launch. Track mentions in the news or on social media and prepare to respond when appropriate. 

What responsibilities do product marketers have?

Primarily, product marketers ensure consumers positively recognize the brand. They must combine deep knowledge of the products with a solid understanding of their market. Because product managers must often work with other marketers, sales, support, development, customer service, and customers, it helps if they can also act as ambassadors to represent the overall goals for the product’s marketing. 

Some specific tasks of product marketers include: 

  • Research the market: Deliverables can include buyer personas, feedback from testers or surveys, a marketing story, and suggestions for advertising platforms. 
  • Develop a marketing plan: This plan could include details about the types of assets and platforms the company will need for marketing, including market research, content, ads, and support. 
  • Work on pricing and packaging: Product marketers may help set pricing and sales models. Plus, they help work on packaging that will help the brand stand out online or on physical shelves. 
  • Work on marketing budgets: Product managers should develop budgets they will need to market the product. 
  • Work with the talent to develop marketing collateral: These professionals develop briefs that creatives use to create various marketing assets, like web pages, videos, articles, and social posts. 
  • Develop and manage a marketing calendar: The marketers need to develop a schedule, assign responsibilities, and chart progress. 
  • Interface with other departments: The product marketers should keep other groups informed, accept feedback, and ensure every team stays updated and on track. 

This job requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Beyond market research and developing typical marketing plans, they must work with various stakeholders. For instance: 

  • During product development: Focus groups can offer feedback on the product’s designs, so the marketer might interface with the product’s engineers and designers to consider improvements. 
  • Before launch: The product marketers should work with sales to ensure the salespeople understand the product’s story, view the product advertising, and align with overall business goals. 
  • After sales: Some marketing content might support customer service by offering a FAQ page or how-to articles and videos to ensure customers know how to use the product or can connect with customer service to handle any concerns after sales. 

Thus, experienced product marketing managers generally command relatively high salaries. When they do their jobs well, these professionals start by helping their company grow sales and revenue. They can also help reduce workloads and save money by assisting other departments in running efficiently and staying aligned with overall goals. 

The importance of product marketing 

Product marketers function as product ambassadors for various departments, executives, partners, affiliates, and most of all, the company’s customers. Some marketers describe product marketers as positioned at the intersection between development, marketing, sales, customer support, and the brand’s audience. 

This task requires at least a good understanding of the other team’s functions and a deep knowledge of the product and the audience. Thus, the job requires both hard marketing and soft skills to empathize with and serve various stakeholders. Most importantly, effective marketers will strive to present customers with a positive view of the company, brand, and product. 

Audience Branding Insights Strategy & Positioning

Sometimes, authors do a fabulous job of developing characters, and readers feel like they understand a fictional person’s attitudes, motivations, and actions. If they could encounter this person in real life, avid readers believe they know what the character would do or how they’d react in any situation. These lifelike characters engage readers with stories even after they’ve finished reading. Similarly, our marketing research company strives to develop buyer personas that accurately represent target markets to give us a clear picture of potential buyers. This practice keeps us engaged with the audience. In turn, it gives us the tools to ensure buyers stay engaged with a business. 

Why are buyer personas important for marketing?

Even though the buyers profiled don’t exactly exist, consumers with similar essential characteristics are out there shopping for products. Instead of developing these characters purely from our imaginations, we gather and analyze information about real people to uncover common traits. 

Thus, a description of a semi-fictional character in a buyer persona helps marketers understand real-life consumers’ motivations, preferences, and potential actions. This important brief will provide an essential tool for developing marketing materials, segmenting audiences, choosing advertising platforms, and setting goals for testing and tuning. 

Developing useful buyer personas for marketing 

Our customer-focused process involves science, craft, and considerable testing, similar to developing a compelling story. To better understand our process, step through the methods we use to help clients understand their markets. 

Step 1: Define the anticipated target market 

Inc. Magazine observed that all marketers should define target markets to build a solid foundation for marketing. Understanding the market matters if the business intends to produce buyer personas or not. Primarily, most companies don’t have the budget to target everybody, and that’s probably a wasteful exercise anyway. Targeting general subsections of the population, like seniors, stay-at-home parents, or busy professionals, might prove too broad. 

Instead of casting a wide net, we prefer to select two or three tightly defined audiences to start. For example: 

  • Our research for a natural skincare company might uncover that the products appeal to women with concerns about dry skin and women who want to support natural, sustainable products and packaging. 
  • After digging deeper, our research could reveal that members of this population between ages 35 to 50 who live in dry or cold climates appear receptive to the products and the online subscription sales model the business employs. 
  • Just as valuable, surveys and interviews found that almost half of the women concerned about dry skin follow beauty bloggers and content producers on Instagram or YouTube. Members of the other market tend to consume news about ways to run a more eco-friendly household.

Sometimes, an existing company’s customer base provides plenty of information. Other times, startups don’t have a large pool of current customers. We may need to conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups or rely on market research from other sources. Sometimes, the angles potential competitors use in their ads offer inspiration. In any case, we make data-based choices to fill in the details.

Step 2: Craft buyer personas to represent the audience 

How do marketers take the information they gather about their potential audience and turn it into one of these semi-fictional descriptions? According to HubSpot, marketers should begin by looking for common traits shared by many people in the audience. 

The basic helpful traits could include: 

  • Such demographic information as age ranges, ZIP codes, incomes, family status, education level, or professions 
  • Communication and entertainment preferences, like social networks, texting vs. email, favorite sports, or publications 
  • Challenges the individual might face that hinder meeting personal or career goals 

More in-depth information should prove helpful in developing a complete picture of the person. Examples of psychographics, more personal than simple demographics, include personality traits and motivations. For instance: 

  • Might the individual belong to organizations for networking, charitable causes, or fitness? 
  • Do they subscribe to blogs, publications, or Youtube channels that provide information about social matters, finance, health, the environment, or cooking? 
  • Would this person prefer to spend time off riding a bike, reading, or going to a club or concert? Do they view themselves as outgoing or reserved? How would the individual prefer to shop and gather information about shopping choices?

The better the persona describes things this semi-fictional person already does and cares about, the more it can help predict how they’ll react and what they’ll do in the future. The details can also provide important clues about media consumed and messages or even tones that would make the audience receptive. 

The information can help businesses avoid missteps that might offend audience segments. For instance, an Audi commercial from a few years ago attempted to use humor to attract attention. At the same time, the advertisement compared buying a car to choosing a wife by having the mother-in-law at a wedding “inspect” the bride. 

Unsurprisingly, this advertisement made many viewers uncomfortable. Indeed, the ad failed to attract female car buyers. Meanwhile, surveys in the US find that women play a role in 85 percent of auto buying decisions. 

Step 3: Find marketing platforms the audience already consumes

No matter how well a market research company narrows down audiences and crafts buyer personas, they won’t help their clients if the audience isn’t listening to the message they want to broadcast. That’s why we seek information about how audiences consume media and communicate. 

The better job we do of finding out where our audience “listens,” the greater chance we can ensure they will hear us. These days, businesses have plenty of platforms to choose from, including the internet, smartphones, radio, TV, print, and physical spaces. Each of these media types consists of countless outlets and platforms. Few businesses have the resources to test all of them, so we must use our research to choose the best candidates. 

Ideally, customers or prospects will fill out surveys, directly communicating their preferences. Without direct information, marketers can look for trends regarding the typical habits of the general population. For instance: 

  • Typical Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram users tend to be older than typical TikTok and Twitter viewers. 
  • Twitter attracts more men, but TikTok appeals to more women. In contrast, LinkedIn, the social site for business, draws a roughly equal percentage of men and women. 
  • Beyond the basic demographics of these social sites, savvy marketers will look for specific content, influencers, or tags that can attract the right sets of eyeballs. 

Step 4: Set goals, test, and optimize 

Despite their best efforts, few marketers have ever developed a perfectly optimized marketing plan on their first try. Businesses should look at testing and tuning as a way to improve as they learn more about their market. Sometimes, companies get lucky, and a well-considered but untested marketing campaign might succeed, but nobody will ever know if the lack of testing led to missed opportunities to improve. Sometimes, slight improvements in engagement and conversion rates can differentiate between profits and losses or growth and stagnation. 

Productive testing should begin with a theory to prove or disprove, measurable goals to measure success, and a test plan. Tests with narrow scopes may take more patients but can often yield valuable information for a low cost. 

The essential components of a test plan can include: 

  • Audience: Use one of the audiences used to develop buyer personas. 
  • Theory: A stated hypothesis about a change to marketing that could improve some aspects of marketing, like post engagement, website visitors, brand recognition, conversion rates, or sales. 
  • Goals: Include measurable goals for improvement based upon the theory. 
  • Metrics: KPIs, like post reactions, website visitors, filled shopping carts, conversion rates, and revenue, can measure results at various points of the sales funnel. 
  • Test type: A/B testing against the current advertising or another test ad that supports a competing theory. 

These tests will do more than prove or disprove theories if done correctly. Marketers can find weak spots in their overall plan. For instance, the current advertisement might do an excellent job of engaging the audience and attracting visitors to a website. Still, a problem with an online shopping cart or the sales page could hinder sales. Thus, these tests can help identify additional weak spots that need further testing. 

Consider market research and testing an ongoing process 

As a marketing research company, we don’t consider research, developing buyer personas, ad platform selection, or testing a one-and-done deal. Besides believing that we can constantly improve, we know that our client’s businesses can change quickly. Economic or political changes, new technology, and competitors can transform or even disrupt markets at any time. Thus, we may cycle through the four steps described above multiple times. 

We don’t just strive to help our clients keep up but to thrive by constantly seeking to add new audiences and expand their markets. Our efforts center on getting to know the audience very well, as if they’re our family, acquaintances, and friends. Since these people support our clients, we value them like friends, even if they’re semi-fictional representations developed into buyer personas. 

Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audience Branding Insights Strategy & Positioning

Many of today’s hottest brands began by marketing directly to customers instead of seeking retail intermediaries. Fast-growing brands like Misfits Market, Smile Direct Club, and Allbirds have benefited from DTC marketing advantages, including lower overhead, strong customer relationships, and a growing base of consumers who enjoy the convenience of online shopping. 

The increasing importance of developing a winning DTC strategy 

Even the increasing popularity of DTC businesses with consumers does not mean that it’s time to neglect the basics. Some market factors that sparked the DTC boom also threaten to impede it. Thus, DTC marketers have observed that they’re now operating in a less forgiving marketplace than they enjoyed last year. 

For instance:

  • According to a CNBC report, even the most prominent examples of DTC successes during the past few years need to cope with ongoing issues with supply chains and perhaps even worse, consumers worried about their economic futures and less willing to buy impulsively. 
  • Also, social distancing during the pandemic encouraged online shopping, and DTC companies benefited from this boom. Still, increased competition from internet retailers crowded the market and made advertising more expensive. At the same time, technological changes, such as Apple’s new privacy features, have worked to diminish the supply of available ads.

Five essential components of a DTC marketing strategy 

Rather than resting on their laurels and accepting slower growth, today’s market leaders have responded to market changes. For many realistic and budget-constrained marketers, adapting in the next few years won’t mean making dramatic changes. Instead, it’s time to revisit an effective DTC strategy’s basic and most essential parts. 

Targeted branding

Direct marketing gives businesses a chance to understand their customers. Even before a DTC business attracts its first sale, it should develop comprehensive buyer profiles and understand its intended audience’s potential pain points and values to develop an appealing brand. 

Billie projects itself as a source of affordable, convenient products for women, a solid social voice, and an element of fun and relatability. For example, Billie markets women’s razors. Right from the start, this brand associated itself with the goal of eliminating the “pink tax” that occurs when women pay more for seemingly similar items than men do. 

Unique messaging and packaging

Successful DTC businesses avoid having their products considered commodities through unique, appealing messaging and packaging. Some brands can even use DTC packaging to express their voice, notably since the package generally offers customers their first physical contact with the company. 

DTC package design doesn’t have to be extra flashy to help brands stand out on virtual shelves. For instance, the Big Eye blog highlighted Misfit Market’s mission to reduce food waste by selling produce that’s not shaped uniformly enough for grocery stores. The company furthers this socially responsible business goal by using recyclable cartons for shipping. 

Other DTC brands use packaging to make their brands memorable and not just another product on a virtual shelf. Examples include using reusable packaging to ensure the customer sees their brand long after the product’s used up and making packaging more useful, like businesses that print instructions on the inside of the box. 

Customer experience

DTC businesses thrive by adopting a customer-first business model. The attention to their customer’s needs gives these companies an advantage over non-direct competitors that consumers perceive as commodities. 

As an example, Casper practically reinvented the customer experience for mattress buyers. Before this company debuted, almost everybody went to a furniture or mattress store to let a salesperson guide them to products that fit budgets and requirements. 

Casper grew from nothing to $750 million in just four years by delivering quality mattresses in a box, offering easy returns, and helping their customers understand the importance of replacing outdated mattresses and getting a good night’s sleep. 

Conversion optimization

Seasoned marketers understand that optimizing conversions can make the difference between profits and losses. The best advice for improving conversions involves setting goals, determining metrics to measure progress, and then tracking and testing. However, this advice doesn’t offer any suggestions for how to improve. The importance of tracking and improving conversion rates always rises with the cost of advertising and market competition. 

Take some inspiration from a DTC business called Crossrope that offers premium jump ropes, accessories, and a fitness app. 

  • First, the company moved from other hosting to Shopify to use the vast ecosystem of apps they could use to streamline and enhance the shopping experience. 
  • The product pages incorporate high-quality videos of people using the products. 
  • An app combines ratings, pictures, and reviews to make it easy for prospective customers to learn how current customers like the products. 
  • User-generated content, like personal stories and before and after photos, engages website visitors. 

Crossrope began to develop a global reach. The company turned to an app that could display local payment options and prices. This change alone produced a 20-percent improvement in conversions. Crossrope also relies on an app to track conversions and automatically adjust checkout-page messaging, resulting in a one-percent conversion improvement. The app also offers personalized suggestions for additional items based on the initial selection. 

Full funnel marketing 

Many marketers think of a customer’s journey as linear, like a trek across a map. Today’s shoppers gather information about purchases from multiple channels simultaneously. Full funnel marketing acknowledges these shopping habits and simultaneously provides information about a brand on multiple channels. 

For instance, the Amazon Marketing blog reported that almost 70-percent of in-store customers would check products on their smartphones as they browse the shelves. About the same proportion of people will pull out a second screen to research something they’ve viewed on TV. 

To conform to today’s consumer shopping habits, a consumer package goods agency might analyze various platforms for the way consumers might use them to interact. For instance, TV commercials might focus on developing brand awareness, a social page could help develop a community, and a product page can deliver in-depth information while focusing on closing the sale. The shopping cart page should offer a good user experience and might provide a chance to suggest other purchases to complement the selected product.

How the best DTC brands succeed 

Marketing directly to customers offers plenty of advantages. At the same time, even prominent DTC unicorns have struggled to maintain growth during the past few months. Startups will face steeper challenges as they lack a large, loyal customer base to provide some support. Marketers need to ensure their DTC strategy excels at branding, user experience, and conversion optimization to make sure they can survive and thrive.

Branding Consumer Insights Creative & Production Podcast

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

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrian Tennant: What is The Center for Advanced Hindsight?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melina Palmer: Thanks for having me.

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