Dr. Yael Zemack-Rugar, Assistant Professor of Marketing at UCF, talks to Bigeye about consumer psychology, COVID-19, and creating long term customer loyalty.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: How COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior. Dr. Yael Zemack-Rugar, Assistant Professor of Marketing at UCF’s College of Business, talks about generating and testing new theories about consumer psychology. How do subconscious emotions play into our purchase behaviors and decision-making? Dr. Zemack-Rugar explains how helping consumers attain their goals can create a win-win situation, rewarding brands with improved long term customer loyalty and engagement.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen some categories of consumer packaged goods flying off the shelves. Today, we’re going to look at some ways in which advertising and marketing tactics influence consumer behavior. Consumer psychology is the study of people’s buying patterns and preferences in relation to products and services, including their reactions to advertising, packaging and marketing. The field evaluates consumer’s decision-making processes as well as determining who buys certain products and how products or services are consumed or experienced. Back in the early 1900s, Walter Dill Scott was Director of the psychological laboratory at Northwestern University. Scott was approached by an advertising executive looking to improve his marketing efforts, inspiring Scott to write a book entitled, “The Psychology of Advertising in Theory and Practice” published in 1903 – and so the new discipline of consumer psychology was born. The field developed throughout the first half of the 20th Century with significant contributions from behavioral sciences, including sociology, anthropology, and clinical psychology. The booming consumer-driven economy of the Fifties resulted in a greater emphasis on analyzing customers and the growth of the market research industry, which we discussed a couple of weeks ago in episode three of this season. Today, consumer research aims to help us understand not just what people buy, but why. Marketers and advertisers are especially interested in understanding what compels people to commit to purchases and why they become loyal to certain brands and not others. One principle that drives people’s actions is their underlying motivation. Motivations may be negative, that is, to avoid pain or unpleasantness, but motivations can also be positive – for example, to achieve some kind of reward such as sensory gratification. To talk about how marketers and advertisers can harness insights from consumer psychology, our guest today is Dr. Yael Zemack-Rugar, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Central Florida’s College of Business. She holds a PhD from Duke University, an MBA from the University of Rochester, and a BA from Tel Aviv University. Throughout her career, Yael has applied her passion for psychology and marketing to generating and testing new theories about consumer behavior with a focus on consumers’ goals, motivation, and emotion. Yael’s work has been published in the top journals in both marketing and psychology and has been featured in premier industry publications such as The Wall Street Journal. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dr. Zemack-Rugar.

Yael Zemack-Rugar: Thank you. So lovely to be here.

Adrian Tennant: What are the main consumer topics that your research focuses on?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: Much of my research looks at the intersection between consumer motivation and consumer emotion. I consider that to be a really, really broad statement because at least from the lens that I apply, almost every behavior that consumers engage in is driven by some kind of motivation. A lot of my work looks at big picture goals, like improving our health, increasing our savings, reducing our debt, increasing prosocial and equitable behavior in society. And I try to understand how consumers’ emotions play into their decisions and into their ability to persist at some of these kinds of bigger motivations and goals.

Adrian Tennant: Yael, what inspired you to pursue psychology in a business context?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: So like everyone else, I’ve had a zig-zag journey – not entirely a straight line – to where I ended up, but I’ve always had kind of a passion and an interest in psychology. And so I was very interested in understanding how humans think and how they behave. I discovered pretty early on that clinical psychology was maybe more than I could personally handle and I encountered cognitive and social psychology on the way. So I decided that maybe understanding the decision making of people who are otherwise generally healthy, as unreasonable as they may seem at times, would be a good path for me.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve published several studies which have been widely cited. Let’s talk about one of these, entitled, “If at First You Do Succeed, Do You Try, Try Again?” What was the research question the study sought to answer?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: It basically looks at these big goals that I was just talking about, such as saving or reducing debt or even succeeding academically or professionally. These are all goals that require what we refer to as sequences of behaviors. So, for example, to lose weight, you can’t just avoid cake one time or go to the gym one time. You have to repeatedly engage in these goal-directed behaviors. And what we know is that if you engage in one goal-directed behavior, that is likely to affect how you behave on the next behavior. So for example, some people when they wake up in the morning and exercise, so they’ve worked towards their weight loss goal, they now license themselves to have some cake in the evening. So they kind of behave inconsistent with their goal because they previously already pursued it and that licensed them to sort of misbehave in a way. But other people kind of are motivated by the fact that they worked out in the morning and they say to themselves, “Alright, I’m already committed to this goal, I can do it.” And it kind of encourages them to persist throughout the day and also eat well throughout the day. So I try to look at how those initial behaviors affect subsequent behaviors because we really need to understand the sequence over time in order to understand outcomes. And if we understand what drives people to persist as opposed to license, then we can create marketing programs and communications, loyalty programs, and things like that that would help consumers do better. And actually when they do better, marketers also do better because they get better loyalty, better engagement, more re-enlisting in membership programs, et cetera. And so we create these win-wins. 

Adrian Tennant: What were some of the main takeaways for marketing and advertising practitioners?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: So there’s a few different things that we can take away from the work. The first is to just understand that consumers don’t respond to success in the same way. So if you have, for example, some customers who are motivated by success, you should communicate their successes with them very frequently. But if you have some customers who are not motivated by success, then you should communicate their successes to the much less frequency. So for example, if you’re a bank and you have customers in a savings program and they’re doing well, you want to let your customers who are motivated by success receive frequent statements about how well they’re doing. But the customers who are de-motivated by success should receive less frequent statements. And one of the things that’s interesting about our research is that it shows that you can identify these people by how they’re performing overall. So for example, those who tend to be demotivated by success tend to perform less well. For example, they have lower GPAs, they have higher debt levels. So banks can easily identify which tend to be its less successful customers and then change its communication pattern with those customers. In addition, of course we offer the scale itself as something that a bank, for example – which has an intimate relationship with a customer – can administer. So it can actually directly collect this information and then use it to segment its customers again, for purposes of communication, the kinds of programs it offers, and also the kinds of rewards. So this is a third thing – is that these kinds of places where we pursue these goals, it’s banks, it’s gyms, it’s universities, it’s credit card companies. They can create reward systems to encourage the kinds of behaviors that we want to see from consumers.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s talk about another of your studies, “Just Do It! Why Committed Consumers React Negatively to Assertive Ads.” Could you talk a little about this one and what the learnings were?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: Yes. This is one I connect to personally because it talks about this phenomenon called reactance. Reactance is the foundational motivation in human behavior. It’s kind of an automatic and almost non-conscious motivation. It’s basically founded on the idea that we want to feel in control, right? Every one of us wants to feel like we are responsible for our own choices. Like we make our own decisions and people can’t tell us what to do. Well, marketers have this interesting inclination to tell consumers what to do all the time, right? We tell them to buy products from us. We tell them to “Like us on Facebook”, you know, “Follow us on Twitter.” These are all imperatives. These are all “Just Do It!” kinds of commands and consumers respond very poorly to that kind of language, generally speaking. So this particular paper tries to look further into when and why those negative reactions to these kinds of imperative commanding language occur.

Adrian Tennant: What are the main takeaways you feel marketing and advertising professionals should put into practice?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: They should stop using imperative language for starters, but this actually has sort of been recommended by a field for a while now. What’s really interesting about this paper is that it found that imperative language was most damaging with your most loyal customers. So it actually turns out that your uncommitted customers don’t care that much because when you tell them what to do, they don’t feel very pressured to do it. Think about an analogy to a human relationship. If you have some acquaintance or some sort of a not close friend who says to you, “Hey, come with me to this party tonight.” Right? You don’t feel super obligated or pressured to go. If you don’t go, you don’t feel very guilty. And so there’s not a lot of pressure on you to comply. But when a really close friend or your mate or your partner asks you to join them and say, “Hey, come with me to this party tonight.” You think, “Oh my God, if I don’t go, I’m going to feel really guilty.” And so this creates pressure for you to comply. Now what’s interesting is in human relationships, that pressure increases the likelihood that you will comply because you’re going to do that to preserve the relationship. But in brand relationships, that backfires because once the brand activates that guilt, consumers say, “Wait a second, you’re trying to manipulate me.” And that kind of activates what we call their persuasion knowledge, their awareness that the brand has an interest different than theirs and then that backfires. So ironically, it’s the most loyal customers that respond the worst to this kind of language. And I think it’s really important for marketers who manage these close, long term relationships with customers to be aware of how detrimental that language is. And in our work, we offer some alternatives and we show some ways to work around that as well.

Adrian Tennant: From your initial idea for research to the submission of a paper for peer review prior to publication, how long does a paper typically take to get published?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: Longer than anyone would ever desire. You know, academe is a labor of love and dedication. There’s a good reason why I study persistence. I would say that for the top tier journal publications that I’ve had, the shortest is maybe five years and this is probably closer to 10 years for those kinds of papers, they’re pretty extensive.

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

Erik McGrew: I’m Erik McGrew, Designer at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising and design professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused, creative-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Dr Yael Zemack-Rugar about consumer psychology. Let’s switch gears a little and talk about COVID-19. Recent research from Kantar, conducted in Canada, examined consumers’ reactions to finding many major CPG products being out of stock at the supermarket. In the study, over a third of shoppers reported being forced to try a different brand of toilet paper than usual, and over half said they will consider purchasing the new one even when the pandemic is over. Diapers are often considered to be a fiercely loyal category, but almost four in ten shoppers had to try another brand and over half claimed they’ll consider switching permanently to the new brand. Pasta saw a similar percentage of forced trialists, but three-quarters said they may consider the new brand they bought. So for brand marketers, this situation represents either an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviors or disrupt unfavorable ones. What are some of the psychological principles that we should be considering in the upcoming months?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: This is a really interesting phenomenon in terms of asking ourselves what’s going to stick and what’s not going to stick. So we have to look at the underlying motivation and let’s take a step back. A lot of this switching is happening due to market unavailability. So the first question we want to ask ourself is, “Why is this stuff unavailable?” And it turns out, and I’m sure you’ve read as well, there’s not actually a shortage. There’s enough eggs for everyone. There’s enough meat for everyone. And there’s enough pasta for everyone. But people are hoarding, people are stocking up. And we’ve actually run our own data that we’ve been collecting. We’ve recently applied for an NSF grant as well, where we’re looking at these consumption patterns and how they’re related to control. And what we’re seeing is that people are hoarding as part of the way to exert control. So when you have this uncertain situation, if you feel psychologically uncertain and you don’t feel like the actual health actions are satisfying your needs to feel in control, then you engage in these consumption actions, which further make you feel certainty. Right? So if I have a lot of toilet paper, I feel in some kind of way protected. I feel like I’ve done something. I feel like I’ve taken control of the situation. So it’s control that gets us to this place where we’re all switching brands and buying whatever we can find because there’s these fake shortages because of the hoarding and now it’s control that will determine how we come out of this situation. Because if I switched only because I had to, the first thing I’m going to do is switch back the moment that I can. Because that will be me asserting my freedom of choice. Now if I switched because I had to and I suddenly discover this is much better than what I had before, then there might be some factors that I can compromise on and that will override my need for control. So I will somehow psychologically rationalize that now this is my new choice. But it has to feel like a choice. I mean it has to be a choice for as long as we’re choosing these brands because we have no other options then marketers should be careful before they celebrate their rise in market share.

Adrian Tennant: At the time of this recording, we don’t have a firm timetable for returning to normal, but when we get the all clear and theme parks and hotels can welcome guests back, it seems likely that some social distancing measures will remain, at least for a while. Our guest on last week’s episode thought it likely that restaurant staff will have to take customers’ temperatures at the door, wait on tables in masks and gloves, and use disposable menus. Do you think customers will want to come back under those circumstances?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: So I think this is really interesting. I was reading the other day that JetBlue is the first airline to require passengers to wear masks. And this, after reading some article about a flight to New York where a woman was recounting how 60-70% of the passengers did not wear masks and how she was basically terrified. And I thought to myself, “Some people might think that JetBlue is creating some kind of disadvantage for itself because other airlines don’t require masks and they do require masks and they’re creating some kind of hurdle for consumption.” But I actually think they might be creating a competitive advantage for themselves because if I need to fly somewhere now I’m going to fly JetBlue because I know everyone will be wearing a mask. And so, for certain target segments such as myself, that tends to be more cautious maybe, right? This is a great targeting strategy and it creates a competitive advantage. So we should always remember that there’s different customers, first of all. So some customers may think that wearing a mask in a restaurant is a terrible idea and completely detracts from their enjoyment. But other customers may say, “I’m only going to go to restaurants that require this because this is the only place that I feel safe.” So, first we want to think about segmentation and how people respond to this because different customers will respond differently. And then we want to think about regulation. At the point where market equality is created, for example, there’s an executive order that all restaurant servers must wear masks then now there’s competitive equality. There’s no advantage or disadvantage. This is just the new status quo. Then we’re asking will consumers adjust to the new status quo? Have consumers adjusted to wearing seatbelts? Have they adjusted to using child seats? Have they adjusted to TSA checkpoints when flying? All things that didn’t exist at one point in time that were considered huge inconveniences. But that really didn’t change the industry whatsoever in terms of demand, because what’s easier – to deal with a server with a mask or to never go out to eat again? We have to ask ourselves, “which is more likely?” And it feels like it’s more likely that consumers will just accept this as a new status quo and try to go back to as close as prior consumption as possible. That would be my guess.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the behavioral ways that you think businesses can help reassure consumers in the inevitable uncertainty of the immediate period post-pandemic?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: So the more businesses can signal that they are truly and sincerely concerned, the more believable any action that you take will be. So being ahead of the curve to take action, for example, will be a sign of sincerely caring. Just like any other marketing communication, authenticity is critical. So if you’re only complying because someone made you, then I don’t believe that you truly care about my wellbeing. But if you’re proactively taking steps to protect my wellbeing and you are showing how those steps are implemented as I interact with your organization, then that’s likely to increase my comfort level.

Adrian Tennant: At least in the short term, we expect businesses to want to focus on activation campaigns rather than brand building. What are some of the potential pitfalls your research suggests marketers need to be cognizant of?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: So activation campaigns tend to focus on calls to action, right? “Click here,” “join now,” you know, “hurry up!” These are all imperatives and we discussed earlier how they are generally a bad way to communicate with consumers because they tell a consumer what to do. It’s unbelievable the myriad of ways we can tell the consumers what to do without noticing that that’s what we’ve just done. So I think that in these activation campaigns, it’s good to think about the way that you communicate. Rather than telling a customer, “click here to join,” maybe “invite” them to join, maybe invite them to “enjoy,” maybe ask them to “come reap” a certain benefit. Right? Highlight the value that they receive rather than the action that they should take to receive it and assume that they can connect the dots if that value is on that action button rather than the command on the action button.

Adrian Tennant: Yael, through all the research studies that you’ve conducted, what are some of the findings that surprised you the most or seemed counterintuitive?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: I think actually that the “Just Do It!” paper is one of the most interesting ones to me because while I had this intuition and the field actually had this intuition that this kind of commanding imperative language is a bad idea, finding that it’s the worst idea with your most loyal customers was kind of a slap in the face. And a big wakeup call, I think. So to me, that was one of the most counterintuitive findings. A lot of my work looks at prosocial behavior and donation behaviors. I think that’s a motivation that’s really important in consumer behavior and I’ve looked at how we can increase prosocial behavior and what are the circumstances in which, for example, corporate social responsibility efforts work for marketers. And there’s some surprising findings there as well. For example, I have a project that looks at how we can effectively combine victim images such as whether they’re happy or sad with the language of the ad. And a lot of people believe that it’s sad victim images that generate the most reaction because they generate a lot of sympathy, right? The ASPCA Sarah McLachlin campaign comes to mind, where you cry every time you watch it and supposedly you donate to help all the poor puppies. But it turns out that actually, a combination of a happy victim with a positive message is the one that increases donations the most. So I thought that was quite surprising when we kept seeing that pattern, I thought it was really interesting that how images combined with language, to increase donations is perhaps less intuitive than expected.

Adrian Tennant: How do you think we can better bridge the gap between academic research into consumer psychology and the practical application of the findings by industry, whether that’s in terms of product and service design, marketing or advertising.

Yael Zemack-Rugar: So I think as academics, we need to communicate more with practitioners. So I’m really glad Adrian, you and I are having this conversation. So I think this is one fantastic way to improve the communication and help industry understand what it is that we do, what it is that we understand. I’ve done this in this context, I’ve done it in popular press, I’ve done it in presentations to the business community and in working with other marketing and research organizations. But I think also as much as academics should be open to those business interactions, businesses also need to be open to interact with academia and understand that, especially in an applied field like business, we are not sitting in some ivory tower. We’re trying to deeply understand problems at a macro level, which then applies to a variety of situations, right? Like I can take my work about psychological control, which has nothing to do with COVID-19 but I came use it to understand how consumers are behaving now. I can use it to understand how we might communicate the restrictions we want to place on the population to protect their health. I can use it to understand how we might communicate to consumers how they should approach consumption in the marketplace, how they should treat new restrictions with their interactions with different marketers. So to understand that I, as an academic, can bring that value to the table. It’s not always entirely clear to the other side either. So I think we just need to improve our communication and talk more. It’s simple.

Adrian Tennant: Yael, thank you very much indeed for joining us on IN CLEAR FOCUS this week. If listeners want to learn more about your research, where can they find resources?

Yael Zemack-Rugar: I have a personal website. It’s just my name. No dots, no hyphens. and it’s all on there. There’s even like a short two minute video if you don’t want to invest too much effort.

Adrian Tennant: Fascinating conversation, Yael, thank you very much for joining us on IN CLEAR FOCUS this week. 

Yael Zemack-Rugar: Thank you. Was awesome. Thanks.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Dr. Yael Zemack-Rugar, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Central Florida’s College of Business. You can find our show notes with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.


Bigeye’s podcast features culinary Public Relations expert Holly Kapherr, talking about unexpected innovation in the restaurant industry in response to COVID-19.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: The impact of COVID-19 on restaurants. The restaurant industry has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus outbreak. This week, Holly Kapherr of The Culinati Podcast talks about some of the ways enterprising restaurateurs have found creative solutions to serve customers by experimenting with new formats. Holly also discusses what the post-COVID period will look like for the industry and innovative ways in which restaurants are supporting other local businesses.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. While the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of most of us at this point, it’s taken an especially heavy toll on restaurant owners and employees. There are over 1 million restaurant locations in the United States and the industry employs almost 16 million people. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the National Restaurant Association projected US sales of almost $900 billion in 2020. But with restaurants and bars across the country now closed or limited to take-out service, the industry lost an estimated $25 billion in sales in just the first three weeks of March with seven out of every 10 owners laying off restaurant employees and cutting work hours. Restaurants are part of the American way of life – and it’s not just about eating out. More than six in 10 adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives and nearly one half of all adults got their first job experience in a restaurant. It’s not surprising then that restaurants are the top employers of teenagers in the US: one in three employed teens work in the industry, Restaurants employ more female managers and more minority managers than any other industry and it’s primarily made up of small businesses. More than nine in 10 restaurants have fewer than 50 employees. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at how restaurants are adapting their business models to our current climate and how some are rethinking their operations. Our guest today has a unique perspective on restaurants’ contributions to the economy and their impact on local neighborhoods. Over the last 15 years, Orlando native Holly Kapherr has made the hospitality world her playground. After graduating from Brigham Young University, Holly attended culinary school and worked as a personal chef in Paris, France, upon graduation. Holly never intended to work in restaurants, having entered culinary school with the goal of working as a food writer and restaurant critic, but with student loans looming, she took a job as a line cook and fell in love with the energy of restaurant kitchens. In 2007, Holly returned to Orlando to attend UCF and graduated with her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing in 2009. During her postgraduate studies, Holly began working for Orlando Weekly as a food and restaurant writer and still contributes to the alternative weekly newspaper regularly. Holly’s career has spanned cookbook and magazine editing, recipe testing, and food styling, but most of all, a lot of writing. Her work has appeared in national publications like the New York Post, Marriott Traveler, Delta Sky, Travel Weekly, and TravelZoo. Currently, Holly works in culinary public relations representing some of Orlando’s finest chef-driven restaurants. A year ago – in April of 2019 – Holly launched The Culinati Podcast, dedicated to exploring the big ideas in the galaxy of gastronomy. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Holly.

Holly Kapherr: Thank you Adrian. I’m happy to be here.

Adrian Tennant: So what inspired you to launch The Culinati Podcast?

Holly Kapherr: Well, it was kind of a roundabout way. I’ve always had NPR dreams. I’ve always loved listening to public radio and particularly the interview shows like Fresh Air. And I often thought about what it would be like to have my own radio show. And as a journalist, I spent a lot of time interviewing people and truly that was the best part of being a journalist – was being able to get in touch with people, learn about them, and learn about the things that they are passionate about and the cool things that they’re doing. And it came to me that most of that stuff that we were talking about wasn’t going to make it into the articles that I was writing because that wasn’t the subject of the articles. I was like, “well, there has to be a place for those things because those are the real interesting stories.” I feel like there’s something really magical about a really good interview. So that was the main inspiration.

Adrian Tennant:

“Exploring the big ideas in the galaxy of gastronomy.” That’s a great log line, Holly!

Holly Kapherr: Thank you!

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been doing this for a year now. How do you determine which topics to cover in your podcast?

Holly Kapherr: You know, in my work I run across these chefs and restaurateurs who kind of champion a cause. And so I wrote down all those causes that I had heard about from my friends in the culinary industry. For example, food waste or community building or championing veganism or composting, anything like that. That’s in the food world. But that is an idea, more of the philosophy behind what people are doing. And the reality is that, you know, even before the Coronavirus crisis hit the restaurant industry, the restaurant industry is a hard one and it’s always been hard, and there has to be a reason why we get up every day and dedicate our lives to this crazy industry. And the reality is that a lot of the chefs and restaurateurs, they really believe in a lot more than just producing great food. There’s big ideas behind what they’re doing and there’s causes that they’re championing, whether it’s women in the workplace or providing a living wage for restaurant workers. There’s always a reason why we get up in the morning and do what we do. And that’s what I wanted to just discover behind what my friends in the culinary industry were doing.

Adrian Tennant: I was really interested to hear you talk about your experience as a writer influencing the way you approach the production of The Culinati Podcast. But I’m intrigued, did you have any prior experience with audio production?

Holly Kapherr: Very little. So when I was in high school, I was the singer in the jazz band and I did a performance at the Winter Park Art Festival. This is in 2002, right before I graduated. And the show was produced by WUCF on 89.9 “Jazz and More.” And the station manager who is still there, Kayonne Riley, she came up to me afterward and she was like, “you know, you have a great voice and I know you’re into, you know, music. So if you would like to intern this summer before you go off to college at WUCF we would love to have you.” And I don’t know if she really like thought that I would take her up on it, but that’s just kind of who I am. I’ve always been, you know, a go-getter. I’ve never been afraid to take up an opportunity and it sounded pretty cool. So I actually ended up working there for the three months before I went to college and I did get a little time on the air doing the weather and traffic reports on 89.9 and it was so cool. I never really thought it would become part of my career and certainly never really put food and audio together until it really made sense for me and it all kind of came together at the right time and right place. 

Adrian Tennant: Now, you mentioned that your podcast tends to focus on businesses within the Orlando area, yet your topics have national prominence. You publish one episode per month on average. How did you arrive at that frequency?

Holly Kapherr: So it is an average of one episode per month. So it takes me a while to research my guests, to send them a little questionnaire, get those answers back, formulate my questions, and be really thoughtful and just more curated with the questions that I ask because I want it to be a really slick show. I spent a lot of my career as a travel writer and have met really incredible chefs, and farmers, and artisans, and cheesemongers, and vintners, and oenologists, who I would love to have on the show. But for right now we’re staying local. And part of the reason for that is that my whole career I really, I have felt like a champion for this town. I grew up here. It is such a different place than it was in the 90s and early 2000s before I left for college and for my graduate school work and for culinary school. And when I came back here in 2007, things were just starting to change in the culinary world in Orlando. We were going from Applebee’s and Chili’s being the only place where you could eat to The Ravenous Pig, opened in 2008, I believe, and just completely changed what happened in the restaurant scene. And right after that, Kathleen Blake opened The Rusty Spoon and the restaurant world here just began to blossom. And I feel like Orlando is such a sleeper city. People know us because of Disney, but it’s difficult to get them to see what is exciting about Orlando outside of the I-Drive corridor and the theme parks. So it’s been part of my mission in my career to show people why there’s no reason to mention the theme parks in their lead paragraph of USA Today about Orlando. We have plenty here that is amazing and it keeps changing every single day. I mean, now we have people who are doing these incredible vegan donuts and people who are horticulturalists growing these incredible heirloom mushrooms. I mean, it’s really incredible, the leaps and bounds in the culinary world that Orlando has made. And so part of the reason why I’ve really focused my show here in Orlando is because Orlando is just really cool and I feel like everyone should know about it. And yeah, all of those topics that we talk about have national import. And so I think that that really shows that Orlando should be on the national stage when it comes to having these conversations about the big ideas in the culinary world.

Adrian Tennant: A Harvard Business Review article published earlier this month cited a national survey of small business owners. Among restaurant and bar owners, 70% said they expect to go out of business if social distancing orders last into July. Do you have any examples of particularly creative or inspiring things, local restaurants or businesses have been doing to stay afloat during this pandemic?

Holly Kapherr: Sure. So I think one of the greatest things that’s come out of this pandemic is the creativity that we’re seeing especially in the restaurant space. And part of it is due to desperation. Certainly restaurants operate on the lowest margins of any industry, usually between seven and 9% and so this is a lawless time for restaurants. And I tell my clients that, “if you ever wanted to try something, this is the time to try it.” So yeah, we’re seeing a lot of really cool creative ideas that may not seem cool or creative now, since we are about a month and a week into this pandemic. But before this was happening these things didn’t exist. For example, family meals. A lot of the restaurants that were, in the past, more of an adult-focused restaurant, a fine dining restaurant, or upscale dining restaurants, they’re really focusing on things that make it easy for people to feed their family. And that could be things that are more one-pot so you don’t have to clean a bunch of dishes like a lasagna or like a fried rice or something like that. And then adding sides and adding drinks, I think that’s really innovative in this space and I think people really are taking advantage of it. There are really big sellers among my clients especially, which are located anywhere from Winter Park, which is a much more adult-focused community, to Lake Nona, which is really a family-focused community. So I think that that’s been really creative. We’ve also seen really cool things like Black Rooster Taqueria is doing Margarita-grams. For $20, you can send your friend a Margarita-gram, which includes the margarita mix, the tequila, some salt and some cut-up limes with some instructions on proportions, which is really cool. Of course they check IDs upon delivery but I think that that’s adorable. We’re seeing a lot of really cool things with alcohol delivery truly and I think that’s also because we’ve never had that option before. And I don’t want make it sound like this is a great thing for the restaurant industry cause certainly isn’t, but I think there is a silver lining here and that silver lining is that restaurateurs and chefs are getting to be more creative than they ever have in the past. And from that, we’re going to see a lot of great developments going forward. We may see new restaurant concepts from somebody who you never would have thought to do. Like for example, if you have an Italian restaurant, but you’ve always wanted to try a ramen popup. You know, we have seen that. We’ve seen people pivoting to delivery that when they first concepted their restaurant, they were like, “our food isn’t going to really going to travel well and I don’t really believe in the third party delivery system.” But they’ve had to pivot really quickly and so they’ve made it work and the reality is that money is money and people need to eat. I think that we’ve seen a lot of really cool things come out of this. And while it is certainly is a tragic blow to the restaurant industry – and I don’t want to underplay that at all – that there will be a lot of cool creativity that comes out of this and I think a lot of learnings that will improve the restaurant industry in the long run.

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

Erik McGrew: I’m Erik McGrew, Designer at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising and design professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused, creative-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Holly Kapherr of The Culinati Podcast. What are some of the things that you’ve seen small businesses doing that have had the most impact either on the business themselves or the broader community at large?

Holly Kapherr: I think alcohol, like I mentioned before, is one of the biggest things that has made a difference. And I think that there’s a real sense of fervor behind supporting your local businesses. And so people are more willing to spend money where they wouldn’t have before. Like for example, on bottles of wine that are now 50% off, or on batch cocktails, or on single-serve cocktails. So I think that’s something that’s really working for restaurants if they can hit the right balance. I think also the family meals are doing very, very well especially if you hit the right price point and offer a family meal for either two people or four people or six people depending on how many people you have in your household and being sensitive to how many people that you know are living at home currently. I think also something that’s been really successful has been GoFundMes for restaurants and GoFundMe has been a really good partner to the restaurant industry so far. So GoFundMe has announced that they are not taking any commission off of any fundraising effort and you can withdraw from your GoFundMe at any time without penalty. And those two things were not in the rule book before all of this. So GoFundMe made those two big changes and the restaurant industry has embraced that. And at least for our clients, we have been working to set up fundraisers and these fundraisers can go to wherever the restaurant wants. So it would be to $10 would feed someone at the homeless shelter or $300 would feed the entire shelter for one meal. You know, $15 goes to Thrive, Winter Park, or to feed Winter Park Fire Department. And these GoFundMes, they not only do good for the organization that the restaurant is working with, but they also keep the restaurant employees working. Because the more money that’s coming into the restaurant, no matter if it’s from delivery or from pickup or from GoFundMe, this money is going to make food. And so in order to make food, we need people who are going to work in the kitchen. And, and in order to deliver those things, we need people who are delivery driving. So I think that GoFundMe is a multi-pronged success. I currently have a client that launched a GoFundMe in partnership with a homeless shelter. And within three days, they had raised over $6,000, which fed the homeless shelter the entire month of May for one meal, which is incredible. So we’re seeing a lot of success with that. There are other things that have been really successful for restaurants. For example, one of my clients recently launched a series of virtual wine dinners that was just a rip-roaring success. Last Friday was their first one. They partnered with a local wine market. The chef put together a three-course menu, partnered with another local business, the wine market. The person who owns the wine market, they paired the wines. And then you could come in for $125 per couple. So for two dinners, you got three courses, two full, 750 milliliter bottles of wine, two really great wines, one Bordeaux and one burgundy and then you went home, you had your instructions, put together your plates. They encouraged people to share on social media their plating and tag the restaurant and tag the wine market and tune into Instagram Live where the owner of the wine market and the chef of the restaurant would talk about the food and the wine pairings. And it was a great time. And honestly, Adrian, I don’t know if it’s because I’m just starved for human interaction or if it was just a really fun evening, but we had a great time and it was really successful monetarily and attendance-wise for the restaurant.

Adrian Tennant: At the time of this recording, we don’t have a firm timeline for lifting stay-in-place orders, but how do you see things playing out when restaurants do reopen?

Holly Kapherr: I think what we’re going to see is a phased approach. I would not be surprised if restaurants take temperatures at the door. I would not be surprised if restaurants outfit their servers and staff with masks and gloves. I would not be surprised if we see half of the tables that you would normally see in a dining room go away for social distancing. I think this is going to be the new normal. I think paper menus are going to be the new normal for a while. I think hand sanitizing stations are going to be the new normal for a while. So I think we’ll see that coming as a phased approach. You know, eventually more tables will be added. Eventually the masks and gloves will go away and be a thing of the past, something that happened in 2020. And I think that eventually, we will see our return to some kind of normalcy. I’m not really sure what that’s gonna look like, but I do think that at first there will be extra measures put into place that we are going to have to get used to for a while. I also think that we’re going to see that the restaurant industry is going to hold onto those delivery and virtual events for a while as well because one of two things could happen. These are the two scenarios that we’re looking at. One, there could be a pop at the beginning because people are really excited to get back out there, get back to a restaurant and then, realizing that they don’t have the disposable income that they used to, we may see a situation where the restaurants are really busy for maybe a week or two and then things kind of drift off again. The other possibility that we’re looking at is that people are just scared to go back to restaurants and scared to go back into public events for a little while. You know, this is truly collective trauma. It’s something that we’re going through that is causing big changes, really fast – and everyone processes that at a different level. And so I think that there may be a possibility that getting back to going to events or going to public spaces may take a little while. So it’s a very interesting time right now. The best thing that we can do is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Adrian Tennant: The statistics show that podcast listening in the US overall saw a bit of a dip in March due in part to fewer people commuting and the reduction in coverage of sports events since all the major leagues are on hiatus. But now we’re seeing listenership bounce back. In what ways do you think podcasts listening behaviors might change permanently as a consequence of the coronavirus? 

Holly Kapherr: I think that it’s an interesting assumption that podcast listenership would go back up after all this is over. People are going back to their cars, they’re listening at their desks, at work. As someone who doesn’t have kids and works from home, I have a lot of time to listen to things. And so when this all happened, I just assumed that people would want to listen to more podcasts. They have more time for content, they have more time for content consumption. But the reality is that the places where we consume this content, especially content where we can podcast or something where you can listen and you can also do something else at the same time. The places where we do that, like at work or at the gym or wherever that may be, those in the car especially, those places are no longer a part of our day. And so those places where we listen to the podcasts, those aren’t available to us. And so we’re not really participating in the podcast. But I think that in another way, podcasts also provide a level of comfort that watching the news or participating in content in other ways don’t necessarily provide. And the reason for that is that the audio format is so intimate. And so when you are engrossed in a show, when you are really interested in what the host has to say, when you’re really interested in the interview or in the conversation or in the story that’s being told, if you’re listening to a fiction podcast, I think that there is some escape there. And I think that at this point, you know, people are really looking for some kind of escape and a lot of healthy escapes because the places where our healthy escapes normally take place are not available like the spa or even the quiet moments in our cars or at the gym. So I think that podcasts are serving a really important moment in our cultural history here. And because of that, we need to be really cognizant about the topics that we choose and the method in which it’s delivered. I think that we have a really big opportunity here for podcasts to cement their place as a place where people went to learn, to be entertained, to grow and to find some kind of comfort in this crazy world. You know, and also I’ll also say like the podcasts that I listen to regularly, you know, they have continued, they have not stopped. They have continued and a lot of them, you know, they choose not to address the COVID crisis in their shows and that helps to maintain some sense of normalcy. And I feel like in this time that we live in we need to cling to some kind of normalcy and some kind of routines. So to hold onto, you know, listening to your Tuesday, Thursday Pod Save America, I think that that is really helpful and can help us maintain some kind of sanity in this crazy time we live in.

Adrian Tennant: Holly, in what ways, if any, have you changed your content or editorial calendar to reflect the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Holly Kapherr: So I haven’t changed my editorial calendar, but I have added information to my editorial calendar. So, for example, I had a nutritionist on my show as the most recent episode, and we hadn’t intended on talking about this, but we had talked about discussing the cultural ways that our society impacts the foods that we choose to eat and are our attitudes towards certain foods like carbs or sugar or fat or whatever. That was what we had intended to talk about. But then all of this happened and I said, “you know, I bet a lot of people are stress eating right now, so why don’t we talk about emotional eating and what we can do to combat that so that we don’t end up with what’s been coined ‘the quarantine 15’?” So we changed our focus a little bit and at the end of this show we did talk about emotional eating, which personally I have some experience with throughout my life, and my nutritionist guest – she also had some experience with that. And then we talked just in general about things that we can do now that we can head off that emotional or stress or boredom eating. So I don’t think that it’s affected my editorial calendar directly, but I do think that it has affected what I talk about with my guests in specifics. For another example, the most recent episode that I recently recorded, I talked to a restaurant consultant and former general manager of several big restaurants here in Orlando. And you know, we spent a lot of time talking about the crisis that’s going on right now and what she thinks is coming next and some really cool tips for restaurateurs that they may not have thought of before. So I was going to interview her, COVID or not, but the questions that I asked, they certainly changed because of this crisis.

Adrian Tennant: Holly, if you weren’t producing The Culinati Podcast, what type of show would you like to create?

Holly Kapherr: I love this question and it’s such a good one. I think that I’d like to do a wine show actually, and I know that I do talk about wine a bit on my show, but I think that there’s so much in wine that would be so interesting to people that have interest in wine, but maybe they don’t know how to get into it or don’t know how to talk about it. Because wine feels like such an outsider’s interest, an outsider’s hobby, you have to be a part of a certain social class to really enjoy wine. But I would love to have a podcast that talks about wine in a really approachable and maybe even a funny or a cool way and talk to Sommeliers who are in their 20s or in their early thirties, who can bring up an entirely new generation of wine drinkers. Wine is something that I’m definitely passionate about, but my knowledge of wine is cursory at best. So I’d love to talk to people who have dedicated their lives to this kind of arcane art form. And of course that would mean that I would get to drink a lot of wine, which I’m always in for.

Adrian Tennant: Nice. Holly, if listeners want to learn more about The Culinati Podcast, where can they find resources?

Holly Kapherr: Sure. You can always follow me on Instagram @Culinati Podcast and that’s spelled C. U. L. I. N. A. T. I. podcast like the Illuminati. But also you can find me on Facebook at And then we are on Google Podcasts, we’re on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, we are on TuneIn, also Spotify, which is a very up-and-coming place to listen to podcasts. I found a lot of great ones on Spotify. And then directly on our website at

Adrian Tennant: Holly, thank you very much for being our guest today.

Holly Kapherr: Thank you so much for having me. This is a great time and really encourage your guests to go out and support their local restaurants, their local restaurateurs, their local economies. The more that we can help on a local level, the better we’ll be when we get back to whatever our new normal is.

Adrian Tennant: Absolutely. I’m going to order myself a margarita-gram.

Holly Kapherr: I think that’s an excellent idea. Cinco de Mayo is a right around the corner!

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Holly Kapherr, culinary PR executive, writer, and the host of The Culinati Podcast. You can find our show notes with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.

Read more about restaurant marketing in our article: Restaurant Marketing and Customer Acquisition After Coronavirus


Bigeye’s podcast features Mike Klotz of Cint, talking about understanding consumer behaviors during COVID-19 using research, survey data, and analytics.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Monitoring consumer behaviors during COVID-19. To navigate the pandemic and avoid marketing missteps, understanding consumers’ evolving purchasing behaviors and sentiments towards brands and advertising is more important than ever. Our guest this week is Michael Klotz, Director of Client Development at Cint. An expert in consumer insight generation, Mike explains how we can understand new behaviors and markets better through research, data, and analytics.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. We recently posted an article on the Bigeye website about quantitative and qualitative research. Today, we’re going to be talking more about marketing research and the impact of COVID-19. The first known survey undertaken in the United States was the US census of 1790. While some organized research was performed between then and the early 1900s, the real growth of the research industry came after World War Two, when technological advances greatly increased manufacturing capacity. Consumers had more and better products to choose from, so manufacturers started to pay closer attention to their customers. And so an industry dedicated to consumer research came into its own. Today, the collection and analysis of public opinion for business, political and social issues is sponsored by government agencies, academic institutions, and business organizations. Research informs the development of products and services to satisfy unmet consumer needs as well as measuring consumer sentiments and responses to advertising. Surveys are the best known method of collecting people’s opinions, but there are many others. At this point, just about every business and individual has been affected in some way by the Coronavirus pandemic. From canceling social events to working from home to experiencing layoffs, the COVID-19 situation has the potential to permanently change society in the long term. For marketers seeking to navigate this new reality, monitoring consumers’ evolving purchasing behaviors and sentiments towards brands and advertising is more important than ever. Marketing and new product development decisions based firmly on data – rather than gut instinct – are the order of the day requiring strategic research that yields actionable consumer insights. To help us understand how COVID-19 is impacting marketing research globally, our guest this week is Michael Klotz, Director of Client Development at Cint. Mike has 20 years of experience in research and has covered a variety of industries including consumer electronics, video games, consumer packaged goods, and political polling. He’s well versed in both qualitative and quantitative methodologies and has helped hundreds of companies understand their consumers and their markets better through research and data collection. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Mike!

Mike Klotz: Thanks for having me on the show.

Adrian Tennant: First, could you tell us a little about Cint?

Mike Klotz: Cint is the technology backbone of the world’s most successful insights companies. Our platform automates fieldwork and operations so that companies gather insights faster, more cost-effectively, and at scale. We have 14 global offices in addition to all the folks we have, such as myself, that work remote. Through our platform, researchers have access to over a hundred million people in over 150 countries around the world. We work directly with many researchers, agencies, and brands.

Adrian Tennant: So Mike, what does your role with Cint entail?

Mike Klotz: My role at Cint is to help companies that are conducting online research to do so in the most efficient way possible. We’re a very solutions-focused company, so it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. I work closely with my clients in order to learn about their business and help craft a partnership that allows them to gather insights quickly and efficiently. 

Adrian Tennant: So I gave an overview of marketing research during the introduction, but Mike, can you explain quantitative research in more detail and how it differs from qualitative research?

Mike Klotz: Sure. I think the easiest way to understand it is to look at each of the methodologies in terms of the type of information being collected. In qualitative research, you’re dealing with words and meanings and descriptions. Quantitative research deals with quantities and numbers and building out statistics. So qualitative research is almost like a brainstorming session. You’re seeking out ideas and concepts. While quantitative research can help show how many people feel that same way. So for example, in a focus group you’ll have six to eight people sitting around a table talking about a brand. They’ll discuss what the brand means to them or provide feedback on a specific product and why they like it or dislike it. However, those six to eight people don’t really speak for the thousands or millions of the brands’ consumers. So sometimes you need to take the things that you’ve learned in qualitative sessions and quantify them through online surveys, for example, in order to learn if it’s representative of your customer base.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common types of quantitative consumer research or studies that your clients typically undertake?

Mike Klotz: Right, so Cint currently has over 2,000 clients worldwide and we cover a wide variety of project types, so it’s kind of difficult to pinpoint it to the most common type. But what I can tell you is that we do see a lot of brands looking to understand their consumers’ decision-making process and path to purchase better. So they’ll do things like measure customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, for example. We also see some product concept tests and with marketing, we see a lot of messaging testing. Beyond that, this is an election year, so we saw a lot of political polling during the primaries in the US, and we expect to see a lot more as we get closer to November. And lately we’re seeing a lot of companies that are trying to understand consumer sentiment as it relates to COVID-19. We’ve seen a number of tracking studies and ad hoc projects on this topic in hopes of understanding where the consumer mindset currently stands.

Adrian Tennant: Now, you introduced Cint as a technology company. Where does it fit within the consumer research ecosystem?

Mike Klotz: So Cint’s role is to connect our surveys to their targeted respondents in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. We do that through our marketplace that connects researchers trying to understand more about the consumers with the respondents that we have access to. So we don’t really design studies or questionnaires and we don’t analyze or even see the data that’s being collected. We just ensure that our clients are collecting the data in the best way possible. So, what we’ve done with these respondents is we’ve had 150 profiling points for all the respondents that we have in our system. So, if you need to gather insights from dads of teenagers in New York, who go to the gym on a regular basis, or homeowners in California that make less than a hundred thousand, but own dogs, we can target those people directly. These profiling points, and the scale of the respondents we have, allows us to gather insights quickly and efficiently for our clients. In the past, fielding an online study could require a company to reach out to a number of panels, especially if the project is being conducted internationally. So project managers need to email back-and-forth with each of the panel sources about changes to the product specs, updates once it’s in the field, and any quotas that they need to fill. With Cint, all of that happens programmatically, without the need for all the back-and-forth, regardless of how many panels sources are feeding into the project or countries that the field work is being conducted in. So you’re cutting down potentially hundreds of emails during a project’s fielding to just a handful or none if you’re doing it through one of our DIY options.

Adrian Tennant: Can you explain the supply and demand sides of your business?

Mike Klotz: Yes, so the demand side of our business is really built up by our clients who are trying to understand consumer behavior better. We can measure that demand by simply looking at the number of consumers that companies want to collect behavior or opinions from. That’s dependent on the number of studies being fielded at any given time and the sample size desired in each study. The supply side is measured by the number of respondents available, which we can measure through the number of entries into our platform. In the simplest terms, our job is to ensure that we have enough supply to meet the demand through a completed interview.

Adrian Tennant: Where do the people that complete surveys typically come from?

Mike Klotz: So research panelists really come from all walks of life. In the US for example, we have access to over 20 million people who have either joined traditional panels, they’ve been recruited through social networks, or mobile games, through affiliate marketing, or website partners. There’s even an ad I see regularly on cable TV that asks people to help shape the future products they use. So all of these methods are designed to attract people who want their feedback and opinions to be heard.

Adrian Tennant: How are respondents rewarded for taking surveys?

Mike Klotz: So usually it’s monetary. Most panelists are incentivized either through direct payments or gift cards or some have point systems where you earn points for each study that you complete. And then you can buy things with those points or potentially enter those points into a sweepstakes for a larger prize.

Adrian Tennant: Now full disclosure here, Cint is one of Bigeye’s partners, so I know that you offer a variety of solutions. Can you explain a little more about Cint’s products and services and the types of clients or needs that each is designed to serve?

Mike Klotz: Right. So all of our solutions are designed to allow the client to collect data from respondents quickly, in a cost-effective manner, and as efficiently as possible. But that doesn’t always mean the same processes followed for each client. So the two main ways we work with clients are through what we call managed services and then through our DIY platform. So with managed services, a client of ours can take a survey that they’ve programmed in Qualtrics or SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo – you know, whatever the platform of choice is – and send it to us along with the details that they want on who they want to collect insights from. So we’ll handle the fielding of the study, making adjustments for quotas that they have or controlling the fielding period until we have all of the completed interviews that they require. On the DIY side, clients can set up and field their studies directly without our intervention. They’ll set up the targeting and field it directly through our system. Those are really the two main ways that we work with our clients. You know, smaller companies that may not have a big operation staff may choose to leverage our managed services while companies that are fielding a lot of projects and, you know, maybe they have specs that change frequently, they’ll leverage our DIY platforms so that they can really see what the impact of the changes are as they formulate their sample plan. Beyond that, if a client has a tool that they need to feed respondents into, we can build the APIs directly so that they can field projects to our supply through their own tools or solutions. 

Adrian Tennant: How are respondents typically invited to participate in a study?

Mike Klotz: So, as I mentioned, all of the respondents we have in our system are profiled. So we already know who they are in terms of their demographics and some of their behaviors, for example, where they shop or the activities they participate in. So when a survey is being fielded that wants opinions from, say people that shop on or at Walmart, we can identify some of those in advance. And when we’re fielding that survey, they’ll receive an email invitation or a survey opportunity will pop up on the website or in the mobile app that they were recruited from. So, for example, they’ll see an opportunity to receive an incentive for doing a 10-minute study about their shopping habits. They can click on the link and enter our system. We also have algorithms on the back end, so when they enter the system, the respondent can be steered to the best-fit study for them.

Adrian Tennant: Now Cint does not collect data directly, but in what kinds of ways have you seen – or are you continuing to see – COVID-19 impact your clients around the world?

Mike Klotz: So earlier we talked about the supply and demand of respondents in our system, and this is something that we’ve been monitoring closely since the outbreak began. As I said, Cint needs to ensure that we have enough supply to meet the demand that is coming from our clients. And so far, we haven’t seen a major impact to our supply. We still have respondents entering our system looking for opportunities to share their feedback. So, I don’t want to say that things are operating as normal on this end because nothing’s really normal at this time, but our ability to fulfill our clients’ needs haven’t changed. On the demand side, which is dependent on the amount of research being done and the number of respondents desired, that’s really evolving. If we had this conversation even a week ago, I’d probably have a much different answer and a week from now it might be much different. But as of early April, we hadn’t seen any major impact on demand. 

Adrian Tennant: During this current crisis, what are some of the ideas or assumptions even that consumer research can most helpfully study?

Mike Klotz: So in early March we started looking at what the potential impact of the pandemic could be on research and with three basic hypotheses. The first is that people’s purchasing or consumption behaviors could change. The second was that people’s demographics could change. And the third was that people’s participation levels in research could change. And there’s an underlying unknown that makes each of these really difficult. We don’t know how long this crisis will last and we don’t know what the magnitude of the effect will be.

Adrian Tennant: Okay, well let’s take each of those in turn. First, you mentioned changes to consumer purchasing and consumption. What are Cint’s recommendations here?

Mike Klotz: Our key premise on this is to continue to track behaviors over time and look for changes. First of all, track for incidence at a category level. This is something most brands are already doing, but if you haven’t been doing that you can look at data that’s available from liable providers who observe trends in the category. For example, I worked for NPD in the past, specifically focused on the video game industry. We published sales trends and player behavior information and we could measure how large events impacted that purchasing and playing behavior. Actually, probably a really interesting area to be looking at right now, because with more people spending more time at home, they’ll likely be playing more games. Secondarily, you can track brand usage and look for changes which could impact the research you’re doing. For example, if you normally track brand affinity for 10 brands in your industry, you may want to ask some unaided awareness questions to ensure you’re tracking the most important brands. With the world in flux, loyalties can shift really quick, especially in, you know, some of the responses that we’re seeing from companies. That’s going to have a big impact on some of these feelings that people have towards the brands that they’re affiliated with. And that leads to another point. If you’re conducting tracking studies, you may want to take some time to reevaluate your tracker design from both a survey perspective and a sample perspective.

Adrian Tennant: How does the fact that people’s demographics might change due to loss of income or work impact research?

Mike Klotz: Right, so there’s a large percentage of the population whose demographics will change due to this crisis. At this point, it’s unavoidable. The most obvious one, as you mentioned, is change of income and net worth. As we’re seeing the unemployment rates spike and in an unprecedented manner. Residences and household structures will likely be changing as well. The challenge here is that for a lot of research, the sample needs to be representative of the known population. As things are moving quickly now, people may not be conscious of how the demographics are changing or even if they are, they may not be able to provide an accurate assessment of the impact that they’ll feel.

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

Lauren Fore: I’m Lauren Fore, and I’m on the operations team at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as agency professionals and reflects the way that Bigeye puts audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with our clients’ audiences. 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 Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant:  Welcome back. We’re talking to Mike Klotz of Cint about the importance of consumer research during COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on research participation. It seems logical that people’s typical participation levels in research studies might change during the crisis. What does that mean for researchers and for the reliability of the data collected?

Mike Klotz: So the participation level of respondents is a question that’s popped up through many recent crises. So looking at like 9/11, and Katrina, and the recession of the late 2000s, there was a thought that people will turn away from things like survey participation and really focus on their lives and, you know, what’s important to them. And while it may be true that people are focusing more on their lives, we’ve seen that people continue to take surveys during these periods. We don’t have a real rational explanation for that, but we’ve seen it happen throughout history and similar to how we’ve seen crises impact demographics, it’s just looking at the data and seeing that this is what we’ve seen before. So a key piece of information to keep in mind during these times is to be sensitive to people’s situations and be careful on how you ask them questions. I’ve heard some people say, “you don’t want to ask a respondent a question that you wouldn’t ask mother or your friend’s mother.” So you really need to be respectful of people’s situations right now.

Adrian Tennant: So in what ways do you think typical research industry practices might have changed by the time we get through this current pandemic?

Mike Klotz: So I love this question and I really wish I had a solid answer for you. But the fact of the matter is that there are so many unknowns that we don’t know where this will land, we don’t even know when we’re going to be through the pandemic. So it’s really hard to speculate. You know, the biggest impact of research currently that as far as I can tell, is on companies that need to do their work in-person. So there’s a lot of companies out there whose strength is really in their ability to conduct in-person research, whether it’s focus groups, in-depth interviews, or mall intercepts, and they’ve had to adapt to what’s happening by leveraging new technologies in order to continue that work. So I don’t know if that’ll lead to a completely new way of operating once we get through this, but it could lead to some really innovative things and it’s going to be really interesting to keep an eye on. You know, on a personal level, as somebody who works remote, one positive I see is everyone’s adoption of new technology. For example, I love to do video calls with colleagues and clients, and in the past, people were very hesitant to turn on the video. Now it’s pretty standard practice to turn on video for all our calls. I think it helps connect people better, despite the distances between them. So I’m hoping that remains as we get back to quote unquote normal operating procedures. You know, for Cint, we’ve really embraced the work from home life, most of our offices around the world were closed down in early March and we’re all connecting on new and different levels through virtual lunch and virtual coffee breaks and company-wide happy hours. So we’ve also had some really productive global learning sessions. I think when you’re not in the office with people, when there’s an opportunity for a big group of people to come together and do one thing together, it really helps people feel connected again.

Adrian Tennant: Now you mentioned working remote. You’re based in Arkansas. At a local level, have you seen examples of communities coming closer together even while practicing social distancing?

Mike Klotz: So here in the Northwest corner of Arkansas where I live, we’re home to the headquarters of Walmart, Tyson Foods and J B Hunt. And I think there’s a bit of a sense of pride in this community with the work that these companies have been doing during this crisis. Walmart’s opened a parking lot for drive-through COVID testing. They’ve altered their operations to ensure the safety of their associates and their customers. The president had their CEO, Doug McMillon, at a press conference last month and has praised the work that they’re doing. Tyson Food has been working to keep food flowing to grocery stores. They’ve made donations to support hunger and community relief. And J B Hunt – that does shipping and logistics – they’ve kept the supply chain running. There’s still trucks on the road delivering goods to people that need it. So when I talk to local people or scan social media, there’s definitely a lot of proud employees from these companies in this area right now.

Adrian Tennant: If listeners want to learn more about Cint, or the data that we’ve been discussing, where can they find resources?

Mike Klotz: For more info on Cint, go to and for more information and data about how the current pandemic is impacting research, you can go to

Adrian Tennant: Mike, thank you very much for being our guest today. Really appreciate it.

Mike Klotz: Thanks for having me on. I had a great time.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Mike Klotz. You can find our show notes with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights” – just click on the button marked “Podcast.” Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And, if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.


Bigeye’s podcast features Stephen Pickens of AdvertiseCast, talking about growing US podcast listenership and how to successfully advertise in podcasts.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Advertising in podcasts. Stephen Pickens is Director of Sales for AdvertiseCast, a network that allows podcasters to monetize their content by partnering with major brands. With US podcast listenership seeing a compound annual growth rate of 20 percent, Stephen explains how podcast advertising works. We learn about new opportunities to target listeners dynamically and hear what COVID-19 and social distancing might mean for podcast listenership in the long-term.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello! I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. According to the latest annual Infinite Dial Report from Edison Research and Triton Digital, the number of US consumers ages 12 and up who listen to podcasts on a monthly basis continues to rise – up to 37% this year. While podcast listening has increased across all age groups, more young people – between the ages of 12 and 34 – listen than any other age group. The survey of more than 1,500 Americans ages 12 and above was conducted in January and February of this year – so before the COVID-19 crisis mandated stay-in-place and social distancing. The study found that 24 percent of total respondents reported listening to a podcast in the week prior to the survey, up two percentage points from the same time last year. But for comparison, in 2013, only 7% of Americans listened to podcasts weekly. The amount of time spent listening to podcasts has also increased. Among those who listened to a podcast in the previous week, respondents spent 6 hours and 39 minutes, on average, engaging with podcasts. And six in 10 respondents who listened to podcasts in the previous week listened to at least 2, while close to one-fifth reported listening to 6 to 10 podcasts during that time. A separate study from Westwood One and Audience Insight shows that the largest number  of podcast listeners in the US access them through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. Research from Nielsen found that heavy podcast listeners are more likely than others to listen away from home – either at work, in transit, or other places such as the gym. Amid the array of media options consumers have available to them, podcasts are portable and are a constant companion when viewing a screen isn’t an option. Smartphones are driving podcast engagement, as more than 36 million Americans now access podcast content this way. The heaviest podcast listeners are also most engaged when they’re away from home. However, smart speakers are playing a bigger role in growing podcast audiences. Across platforms, smart speakers are more likely to attract audiences of more than one, which, from an impression perspective, is a key insight for advertisers. To help us understand advertising in podcasts, our guest this week is Stephen Pickens, Director of Sales for AdvertiseCast. I met Stephen at an event called PodFest which was held in Orlando at the beginning of March just before the enforced closure of hotels and resorts here in Central Florida. Stephen has spent his career growing startup, direct-response advertising agencies focused largely on national TV media buying for brands such as PokerStars, Zulily, and NordVPN. Last year, Stephen decided to follow his passion into the podcast space, joining AdvertiseCast, a podcast ad network that allows thousands of podcasters to monetize their content by partnering with major brands such as HelloFresh, HomeAdvisor, Betterhelp, and more. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Stephen!

Stephen Pickens: Thanks for having me, Adrian. Happy to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us a little about AdvertiseCast?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, so the podcast space is pretty fragmented. There are thousands of shows out there, so from an advertiser perspective, if you wanted to add podcasts to your media mix, it can be a very daunting task. And on the other side of the coin from a podcast or perspective, if you want to monetize your content, you may not really know where to start in terms of sourcing that demand. So we stand in the middle of thousands of shows and hundreds of advertisers and we’ve got a really nice balance of supply and demand within our network to make sure that the podcast ad buying process is super smooth, efficient, and streamlined.

Adrian Tennant: So Stephen, what does your role with AdvertiseCast entail?

Stephen Pickens: I’m the Director of Sales and I work with a number of advertisers to determine what the best approach for them is in terms of podcast advertising. So they’ll come to us and I say, you know, “We really want to get into podcast advertising – how do we do that?” So we’ll determine how best to reach their target audience within whatever their budget constraints are. And within our platform that we’ve developed, we can put together uh proposals for them to consider and then go ahead and execute the campaign.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways is advertising within podcasts different from other types of media?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, so I like to think of it as word-of-mouth marketing, but at scale. So if you have a friend that recommends you try a particular product or service, it comes with a level of authenticity because you trust them. And it’s really similar to podcast advertising in that way because at least in terms of me, the shows that I listen to, I really trust the hosts. So when they take some time out of their show to explain a product to me and ultimately endorse it, it comes with a tremendous amount of weight. And oftentimes we’ll send our hosts samples of the product or a free trial of the service so that they can actually speak to their personal experience with it. So it’s a really high quality way to share your message with a very engaged audience.

Adrian Tennant: Can you explain the main ways that ads are actually inserted into podcasts?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, so podcast hosts will record typically around 60 seconds for the message and endorsement. And they’ll insert it into either the beginning as a pre-roll or the middle, as a mid-roll, and then they’ll distribute nationally to all the different podcast player platforms. So it’s largely been a national media play but more recently we’ve developed the ability to dynamically insert so that you can target geographically, demographically and on interest as well.

Adrian Tennant: So you’re saying that we are at a point when ads can be inserted dynamically into podcast streams to target listeners based on their data in real time. So I’m thinking of targeting based on their demographic and geographic data in addition to maybe their tastes in music or podcast genres?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And this is one of the more exciting areas of growth that we’ve seen in recent months. So podcasts have mostly been a national media play and so it’s left a lot of geographically targeted advertisers out of the space. But with dynamic insertion, we can target geographically, demographically, by interests and so, given that the CPMs are also a little bit lower with this dynamic approach, it opens up podcast advertising to a lot of smaller players, which is really exciting. We’ve seen a ton of interest for geo-targeting within podcasts.

Adrian Tennant: Okay, we’ll certainly get into how pricing works, but you just mentioned CPM, so for listeners that don’t know, can you just give a description of CPM?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah. So a CPM is cost per mille. I’m not sure why the industry decided to use that terminology because I believe it’s based on the Latin term for thousand. So to keep it simple, it’s cost-per-thousand listeners or cost-per-thousand viewers. It’s a standard metric to determine price between different shows and different campaigns. So with the programmatic or dynamic approach to podcasting, it’s a little bit cheaper. But with the host read approach, it’s a little bit more expensive just because it’s a higher quality kind of engagement and those CPMs can range anywhere from $25 to $35 for a host read campaign. And for a programmatic campaign with dynamic insertion, it’s typically around $15.

Adrian Tennant: Now, Stephen, you obviously listen to a lot of podcast ads. So for the creative directors and copywriters listening to this, what makes for a really great, engaging podcast advertisement?

Stephen Pickens: So just the authenticity needs to be there. Oftentimes when we set up a campaign, we won’t give a script to the podcast host, we’ll just give them bullet points – we call them talking points – and this allows them to craft their own message uh in a style that the audience is accustomed to. And, you know, oftentimes we’ll send the host, like I mentioned earlier, a sample of the product or the ability to try a service out for free so that they can actually tell a story about their experience with it, which is really way more effective than a rote speech.

Adrian Tennant: Now, for the media planners and buyers listening, how does advertising on podcasts compare with other forms of media? For example, you just mentioned, you know, selling on the basis of the number of ad impressions, but do you also support cost-per-action or cost-per-acquisition models?

Stephen Pickens: So at this time we don’t, there’s such a high demand for the listener’s attention. There’s really not a lot of demand for cost-per-acquisition pricing models, so we base it all on CPM and in the case of podcasts, an impression is synonymous with a download.

Adrian Tennant: Now AdvertiseCast represents around 1,800 podcasts which reach more than 70 million listeners each month. What are some of the differences you hear between podcasts produced by large entertainment or media companies and those from smaller, independent producers?

Stephen Pickens: That’s what’s so great about the podcast space. There’s such a wide breadth of content. You’ve got some really large podcasts out there that have really high production value hosted by celebrities and media personalities. And then you’ve got a very long tail of independent podcasters that you know, are producing out of their basement or out of their garage. And that is not to say that their content is not as good. Sometimes it’s much higher quality just because it’s so authentic. You have access to experts from many different fields, burgeoning comedians, it’s really just a tremendous space because there is such a crazy variety of content for you to access that we didn’t have access to previously.

Adrian Tennant: What are the most popular genres or podcast categories in AdvertiseCast’s network?

Stephen Pickens: So news is really popular, sports – prior to the coronavirus situation – are really popular. Obviously when sports get canceled, people talking about sports don’t have much to discuss. True crime is really popular. You may be familiar with the “Serial” podcast that kind of put true crime, that genre, on the map. So there’s a ton out there. There’s really a podcast for every conceivable topic.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the things that AdvertiseCast considers when it’s considering representing a specific podcast? I mean, how important are listener numbers, or downloads, or social media engagement?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah. So we just have a minimum of 2,500 downloads per episode. We are open to working with pretty much any genre, any kind of podcasts. We are true believers in the space so we want to bring content to everybody – we want a very wide net for the podcast space. So really the only thing that we look at is a minimum number of downloads such that it would be attractive to advertisers because we’re really serving both podcasters and making sure that they can monetize their content, but also advertisers and making sure that they have an attractive audience to reach.

Adrian Tennant: So, Stephen, what are your favorite shows? Give us two or three examples of what you like to listen to.

Stephen Pickens: So I love history and I love economics. Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” is a really amazing show. He hasn’t put out many episodes recently, but I encourage everybody that has an interest in history to check that out. The episodes are about four hours long, so you have to be one of the long podcast listeners to enjoy it. And I also enjoy “Macro Voices,” which has a lot of heterodox economic thinkers talking about things that are going on in the world of macroeconomics.

Adrian Tennant: Wow. That’s super-specific. 

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, I mean, I also am a huge fan of Joe Rogan’s podcast. That was the first podcast that kind of introduced me to the space and his show is super popular. He has a ton of irreverent characters on and discusses topics that you can’t really hear anywhere else. So he deserves a ton of credit for putting podcasts on the map.

Adrian Tennant: He regularly appears as the top show in terms of total listens, correct?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, I mean he’s a Media Titan now!

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

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: Welcome back. We’re talking to Stephen Pickens of AdvertiseCast about advertising within podcasts. Now, podcast listening outside the home is obviously on hold for many people now given the shelter in place orders that we’re experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic. What impact do you think being homebound will have on podcast listening time in the future?

Stephen Pickens: So I think people are, obviously, their schedules are changing given that they aren’t commuting. So we have seen a little bit of a dip in listens but you could attribute that largely to some of the drop-off in listening to sports podcasts, as opposed to behavioral changes in terms of commuting. But I think people will get back to consuming the content that they love. I know I was talking to my brother earlier this week and he said, “I just had to turn off the TV. I’m tired of looking at this coronavirus coverage,” and he went back to revisit some of the podcasts that he had neglected given that he hadn’t been commuting for a couple of weeks. So I think people will gravitate back to the content that they’ve come to enjoy.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways are you seeing COVID-19 impact your clients?

Stephen Pickens: So it really depends on the category. I’ve had a few clients postpone their campaigns whether it be because they were promoting a conference which got canceled or if they’re seeing some sort of slump in sales demand. But for the most part, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the demand that still is coming in. You know, when life throws you a curveball, people adjust. So whether it’s a direct-to-consumer brand that delivers products directly to people’s homes – they’re actually gonna see an increase in activity. We have, you know, some clients that promote home wifi networking – they’re definitely seeing an increase in demand. So I think it really depends on the category and luckily enough for the podcast space, there’s still a very strong audience there that you can reach and make sure that you’re still staying top of mind for those consumers.

Adrian Tennant: COVID-19 and stay in place orders are impacting people around the world. According to research from GlobalWebIndex, almost one fifth – 18% – of consumers in the US say they may now subscribe to Netflix for the first time. Disney+ follows in popularity with 14% of consumers saying they don’t currently subscribe, but they are now considering it. And then music and audio platforms follow closely behind with Spotify at 11% and Amazon Prime Music at 10%. It’s interesting to see Spotify there as they’ve really focused on podcasts this year. As you know Stephen, behind the scenes, Spotify has acquired some major podcast networks including Gimlet Media, Parcast, and the podcast creation app, Anchor. What’s your perspective on podcasts potentially being exclusively available within Spotify’s walled garden, rather than across multiple platforms as is currently the case for most podcasts out there?

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, so there’s a couple of points I’d like to raise here. First of all, you know, I’m not a big fan of walled gardens. I think podcasts have somewhat of a democratizing force behind them. Not only in terms of, you know, the content that you may not be able to consume on mainstream media platforms, but also just the barriers to entry are very low. So the wider we make that net, the better. It’s going to be good for everybody, the listener or the advertiser and the podcaster. And you also mentioned that consumers are moving more towards streaming services, which I find to be really interesting because I spent most of my career in the national TV space and we were always watching the subscriber numbers and the Nielsen ratings with bated breath as it would kind of slowly decline over time as people move more towards consuming media on demand through smart TVs and things like that. So what I find really interesting about the coronavirus situation is that it may force a paradigm shift that otherwise would have taken many, many years to occur. When people are staying at home and maybe they’re getting tired of watching news coverage of the virus and they certainly don’t have live sports to watch, both of those things – live news and live sports – are kind of the anchor that TV has relied upon. And now that those two things behavior and consumption might be shifting around them due to this virus. People may find that they don’t need to subscribe to their cable anymore and maybe they’ll just stop to go with Netflix, Disney+ and other subscriptions through their Apple TV or Rokus. So I think it’ll be really interesting to watch whether or not a subscriber numbers plateau, decline, increase as a result of this situation. Definitely something to watch closely.

Adrian Tennant: Do you see any positives emerging from our current situation, say on the podcast production side of things?

Stephen Pickens: Well, I mean, it’s difficult to try to find a silver lining in a global depression, pandemic situation, but being an optimistic person that I am, you’re always trying to look for the upside. And given that people are changing their behavior and adjusting to this massive disruption and people’s normal everyday habits, there’s always opportunity in that. And I think given that podcasting is so flexible, we can adjust. We can optimize. In fact, over the past few weeks, we’ve introduced several Coronavirus-themed shows on our platform and the listenership is growing dramatically. So I think it would be pretty difficult for other legacy media to adapt to an ever-changing world the way that podcasts can.

Adrian Tennant: I certainly think it spurs creativity and innovation that there’s no question.

Stephen Pickens: Absolutely.

Adrian Tennant: If listeners want to know more about AdvertiseCast, where can they find resources?

Stephen Pickens: So you can go to We have a ton of great resources there. You can reach out to me directly – Stephen is spelled with a “ph” and we’d be happy to speak more about how we might be able to help you.

Adrian Tennant: Stephen, thank you very much for being our guest today. Really appreciate it.

Stephen Pickens: Yeah, thank you, Adrian. Take care.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Stephen Pickens, Director of Sales with AdvertiseCast. You can find our show notes with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights” – just click on the button marked “Podcast.” Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And, if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.


Bigeye’s podcast with Dwight Bain of the Life Works Group, talking about mental resilience during the COVID-19 crisis and how changing our mindsets can help.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: How to combat ‘Pandemic Panic’ and boost personal immunity. Dwight Bain of Life Works Group explains why learning self-care is key to managing stress during the COVID-19 outbreak. Dwight offers practical tips for developing mental resilience – and explains why he believes many organizations will come out of the current situation even stronger. The show notes include links to online resources.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Today’s show marks the start of our third season of this podcast. When we launched in October of last year, we did so with the intention of reflecting Bigeye’s audience-first approach to marketing strategy. Our editorial plan incorporated stories that reflected emerging consumer behaviors, evolving attitudes towards brands, and regular updates on media consumption. Clearly, a lot has changed in a very short space of time. This past weekend, Pew Research Center reported that Americans are increasingly alarmed by the rapid spread of COVID-19. A majority of people now believe the outbreak poses a major threat to the health of the US population and the nation’s economy. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed by Pew said they or someone in their household has lost their job, suffered a pay cut, or a reduction in work hours because of the novel coronavirus. Here in Central Florida, we see the impact of the continued closure of the theme parks, resort hotels, restaurants, live entertainment, shopping malls, and all the other businesses that normally would be serving the millions of annual visitors to our area. Even for those who don’t have the virus, nor have been affected economically, stay-in-place orders and enforced social distancing have disrupted personal and professional lives – further blurring the lines between home and work. Domestic internet usage has increased thanks to a huge uptick in Zoom calls and video streaming, and traditional TV viewing is way up, especially among younger generations. While practicing social distancing, people are turning to social media as well as old-fashioned phone calls to stay connected with friends and family. To help us navigate these enforced changes in daily routine and learn how to remain resilient in what may be a sustained period of economic uncertainty, our guest this week is Dwight Bain, founder of The Life Works Group, based in Winter Park, Florida. Dwight has guided thousands of people through challenging times as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Leadership Coach, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and former Family Law Mediator in clinical practice since 1984. Dwight is a best-selling author on the subject of creating change through his books, blogs, “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” stories as well as being quoted in over 20 books. A trusted media source, Dwight has been quoted by and featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, Orlando Sentinel and radio and television stations across the major networks. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dwight!

Dwight Bain: Well, thank you Adrian. I’m very happy to be here and as you shared with those numbers, we can tell of course, your listeners can tell, these are very different times. If people are talking about the new normal and I’m calling it a new reality because we’re still in a rapid change cycle and for some people that’s recession. But for other people, I believe it’s not an economic recession as much as an emotional one. There is much to discuss.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us a little bit about the Life Works group?

Dwight Bain: This is a counseling agency. I founded almost 40 years ago. We’re a team of individuals, we’re faith-based, dealing with areas of mental health counseling, addressing issues of change, career repurposing, coaching people with communication skills and abilities, helping people develop creative ideas, and taking them to the marketplace. One of our counselors works extensively with the court system. People going through a change in their relationship sometimes after a divorce or custody issues. My focus in working with the community, working with the media is to bring a positive message about emotions and relationships because I believe there’s a lot of bad news, but if we can, we can change the perspective and change the focus. You can find the opportunity in the middle of the crisis.

Adrian Tennant: Now, before COVID-19, what did a typical “day in the life” look like for you?

Dwight Bain: That’s a great question. I work in the office four days a week and then I’m out either writing or speaking a day a week and it would mean a couple of days of clinical work in the area of mental health helping individuals past anxiety, loneliness. Sometimes, people feel overwhelmed because of traumatic episodes in their life. And the good news, things like PTSD, OCD, ADD, and other things that start with initials are completely curable and correctable. There are a number of new brain patterns that we can utilize so that it’s more about life skills and instead of more pills, speaking with corporations, with groups on the area of change, helping people change if it’s more of a mental focus that might be counseling Bates with clinical hospitals and psychiatric facilities, behavioral treatment centers. But if it’s in the area of change toward growth, those are coaching topics. And right now there’s some phenomenal opportunities for people that are paying attention and then have been able to turn off the fear. If we were a visual, I have a little model of a brain here, Adrian and I would show you the prefrontal cortex is the creative center of the brain. And when we’re in a panic, you know, fight or flight routine, that part shuts off because I don’t need to think creatively. When I’m running from the saber tooth tiger, I’m running for my life. I need to be able to utilize every bit of brain power for running and surviving. So we’ve got to calm people down so they don’t stay in that survival mode. Because if you’re in that fear-flight cycle, what happens is you’ll lose the ability to think creatively. You’ll, you’ll either break off connection with your core customers, vendors, and some people it’ll actually turn self-destructive. Their anxiety and panic will turn towards feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. And we’ve already seen that. And that’s why I think conversations like this are so important to let people know that we’re stronger together. We can get through this, but there are some steps that I want to see people taking for themselves, for their families, their staff, so that we get through it stronger together.

Adrian Tennant: Now with the 24/7 news cycle, COVID-19 coverage is immediately available to us all on our screens, our smart speakers. You know, the statistics we’re being presented with are often scary. How can we keep anxiety and negative emotions from spiraling out of control?

Dwight Bain: Adrian, we control our thoughts, get as much of the news media during a national catastrophe. You know, during the terrorist attacks of 9/11, during the economic recession, if people are old enough, they may remember the HIV AIDS crisis in the 1980s… Get as much news as you need about Y2K or some global event, Hurricane Dorian, and then turn the news off. Most of us, unless you work in the news media, most of us are not watching 24 hours a day of news. And so what that means is, unless you were watching that much news before, don’t watch it now. The more you focus, the more you’ll change your mood, right? Our mindset determines our mood. So there’s something I saw posted on social media today that I thought was really good. I don’t really know who the sources are, but it just simply said that during this episode with coronavirus lockdown, if you have not gained a new skill, if you have not learned something new, something powerful, your problem isn’t time – your problem is discipline. And I thought, “that’s a really good idea.” Because for many Americans, they’re shut down for a month. And if we could go on a time machine, Adrian, back 365 days to good old 2019, the number one thing that Americans have said they wanted in surveys the last several years, American said, I want more time. Okay, well now you’ve got more time. And what I’m starting to hear is that people spend a lot of time on Netflix and they spend a lot of time on video games and they spend a lot of time on Facebook catching up with people from high school. I’m not sure how many people have learned how to play the guitar. I’m not sure how many people have been very disciplined about moving forward and gaining a new skill. And for some people, maybe there’s a certification you can pick up. There are things you can do during this period of time to make you better, stronger, faster. That’s a mindset and when you change your mindset, you’ll change your mood. Here’s the other piece, you’ll also find motivation because if I’m learning a new skill, a side hustle, more knowledge, I’m reading the books that I want to read, I’m positioning my company for the future because this economic shutdown will end. This will not go on in perpetuity, but if you, if you finish this season, mentally strong instead of sheltering at home, you’re strengthening at home, you’re skill-building at home, you’ll be positioned to move forward very quickly. I think for many people when the economic shutdown stops, when individuals are able to kind of go back to work, the theme parks open back up. Adrian, I think they’re going to be some people that have gained five pounds and lost 30 days and that troubles me and that’s why I hope that that even now will spark them toward, “I need to use this time to build me, my staff, our company – so that we’re positioned for rapid growth and these rapidly changing times.”

Adrian Tennant: The World Health Organization has referred to coverage of COVID-19 as an Infodemic – highlighting concerns about the accuracy of information and reliability of sources sharing data about the novel Coronavirus across social media. I thought it was interesting, Facebook issued a statement in response saying that they want everyone to have access to credible information and to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus. Dwight, what sources do you think we should trust at this time?

Dwight Bain: I’m glad you asked me the question because I certainly agree with the idea of information overload. One of the areas that we’re gonna ask people to do is to pay attention to what information do you need right before we even look at a trusted source? And by the way, that would be like – the Centers for Disease Control – or, or Johns Hopkins University. And it’s interesting, some of the spammers, I wish the spammers would work on a vaccine because some of them are quite clever. I almost clicked on a John Hopkins look alike and somebody thankfully was by my screen and said, “that one’s spam!” And I, it was an exact clone look alike. So we’re going to find some trusted news sources, but first Adrian, we’re going to pay attention to what information do you need? You don’t have to continually know what is happening in a part of the world where you don’t do business, don’t have family, have no connections. That information might make you feel very afraid. But it’s not going to make you feel better because you’re going to feel helpless. If there’s one word in the midst of everything that’s occurring that will change your emotional state. It’s the word control. You have to give up control of the things you cannot control. Now that may seem simplistic, but you can’t control the global economy. You can’t control what somebody in the White House says. You can’t control what happens with a disease and a part of the country that you’ve never visited or have no family members, but you can control your mood, your mindset, your attitude. You can control the information that’s coming in. You can control if you didn’t watch television five hours a day before, don’t watch it five hours a day now. Just spend time with your morning rituals and routines. I call those a daily dozen. They’re quite important because a daily dozen is being able to, when you wake up in the morning, first alarm, you get out of bed and you follow some routines, you follow some patterns and those patterns will do something remarkable. It will make you mentally strong and mentally tough. And that means as you go through the day, you go through the day feeling stronger, you go through the day feeling empowered. Instead of feeling weak. I want people to go through their days feeling kind of turbocharged of, “I know we can get through this together. I know what we can do about it.” And that starts with what you’re feeding, not just your body – because we all know we should eat healthy. I want to see people doing that with their mind and their information source. And one of the greatest ways is to simply put a timer on it. If you’re spending five hours a day on Facebook, I would challenge that individual to say, “how is that benefiting you? How is it making you money? How has being on a social media platform for five hours on Pinterest, what does that have to do with your responsibilities?” Because if it’s not helping you Adrian, I believe it’s hurting you.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm – so interesting to hear you talk about the importance of routine. Roughly three out of every four people here in the US are – or soon will be – under instructions to stay indoors as states and localities are trying to curb the spread of the Coronavirus before hospitals are completely overwhelmed. As the pandemic stretches into several weeks, maybe even months, are there any specific coping mechanisms or techniques that you think listeners can use to develop the kind of mental resilience that it’s going to require?

Dwight Bain: Even if you’re completely sheltering in place and you have no opportunity to go outside, I mean I hope that folks could go outside just for sunshine, for the vitamin D content and the vitamin D boost, but you can build routines. Think about Nelson Mandela in a prison cell, being able to just look out of a tiny window, but for 22 years he mentally focused on what his greater purpose was and then when he was released from prison, was able to change apartheid in South Africa. When you look at individuals who have been jailed or blocked or locked into a tiny space, they can come out of it much stronger. It’s a mental game. It’s mental, it’s emotional, psychological, spiritual. To be able to have a quiet time of meditation, a time of prayer to simplify everything in our life. And for me, a lot of that happens through reading, journaling. I’ve been told recently that it is very hard right now to find jigsaw puzzles because mentally it not only passes time, but it mentally keeps you sharp. If you’re doing something passive like watching television or playing a video game that’s passive, it’s not going to make you mentally tough or mentally stronger. People are going to have potentially a month in their homes and some will get weaker and stressed and worried and afraid, and they will create their own problems. Now this gets serious because the more you stay stressed, worried and afraid, the more you weaken your immune system. And the one great thing that you can have short of not being coughed on or sneezed on by someone infected, the greatest thing you can have is a strong immunity. And part of that immunity is mental and psychological. Of course, eat colorful foods and all the things that Dr. Oz talks about, but mentally and psychologically, you can make yourself stronger or weaker based on what you seed your mind. I believe something that Dr. Daniel Amen teaches, if you change your brain, you’ll change your life and people will have an opportunity to do that. And I believe in this type of an environment, we’re going to see some people, they’ll take the challenge, they’re going to read more, they’re going to clean out those closets. They’re going to stay mentally active at home and, and they’re going to help themselves now and likely prevent the onset of early adult dementia and 30 years. Because if you keep your mind strong and focused in this situation, you can stay mentally strong in any situation.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Dwight Bain of the Life Works Group about the impact of COVID-19 and coping through the crisis. Well, let’s talk about some of our youngest members of society. With almost all US states closing schools until at least the end of this month, new data from a company called SuperAwesome, which is a kids technology company, shows that many children ages six to 12, spending at least 50% more time in front of screens every day during this pandemic. What can parents do to ensure that their kids’ screen time is beneficial?

Dwight Bain: I like that question because it’s funny, parents who were just screaming six months ago, “get the kids off of screens!” are now in a situation where the schools have said kids have to go back to screens. And so what we can do is to set timers. If a child was at school, there would be science from this timeframe until this timeframe and then we would go on to the next task. It’s going to be important, I believe, for individuals, for parents to be able to not only set timers on some things, but to be able to get up and do stretch exercises. There are ways for us to stay active. Whether you’re six years old or you’re 60 years old, there are things you can do to stay mentally tough, mentally strong, mentally focused. And with parents, the greatest thing that you can do with your children is keep everyone on a schedule. Keep everyone on a routine set, bedtime set. Wake up time for everybody. We have breakfast time, laundry time, folding laundry time. The more we can keep those routines in place, the more we’re gonna prevent, not just cabin fever, but the more that the whole family is working together. And I believe, Adrian, we’re going to see some families come out of this significantly stronger and significantly happier because they learned what families learned during the great depression: they learned how to do life together. They learned how to get through a difficult time together and they learned how to partner together. So it wasn’t just the parents having to be Supermom, Superdad – it was the entire family becoming more resilient in the face of difficulty. And that’s why sometimes after a crisis, we’ll say, “you’ve seen the best in people, you’ve seen the worst in people,” and the worst tends to make the news. But I think we’re going to hear some remarkable stories of stronger families of stronger and new companies doing inventions, things that came out of the 2008 Great Recession changed our new inventions. While people will be doing that as well. If they can get to that creative side of their brain and we get there by calming, deep breathing meditation. The Navy seals teach something called box breathing. It’s very important. You can actually change your pulse. You can change your blood pressure by breathing differently, breathing stronger and breathing in a certain way and your body will actually calm down. You can watch blood pressure go down, resting heart rate go down. It’s very interesting. But the part that I know for, for you and I, and for your listeners, even though we may not ever have a chance to go see the Navy seals, we can learn one of the principles of the Navy seals. And in so doing we can control our next breath with mental focus. And I think as we do that, not only will COVID-19 just be a memory and I don’t know, five years and people say, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” We will get through this. But some people will get through it stronger, focused, resilient and better. And other people, it will just be something that they live through. And, and, and there was no benefit to them other than they survived it. And while survival’s not bad, I think that we can, we can take a crisis and turn it into an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for a family coming together for stronger relationships, for organization, for gaining new skills. There are opportunities, but we do have to be disciplined to put them into place. And some of that starts with a daily routine and a daily schedule.

Adrian Tennant: Dwight, your one of the leading national trainers in the field of community crisis management. I know you’ve helped rebuild stability after national disasters like the Columbine and Sandy hook school shootings, hurricane Katrina, and across the pulse nightclub, terrorist attack here in Orlando. And you also worked with a team helping first responders in New York city after the terrorist attacks of nine 11 in 2001 in what kinds of ways are the impacts of covert 19 similar or dissimilar from those situations?

Dwight Bain: Mmm, that’s a great, great question because the, the difference in this situation is we are still spiraling down with the terrorist attacks of nine 11. It was limited to Washington, DC, one area of Pennsylvania and New York city. When we look at Hurricane Dorian, Hurricane Irma, it’s geographically limited. Some of the wildfires we saw in California several years ago that just decimated thousands of homes. It’s geographically limited. And so in this situation, Adrian, we’re also seeing some geographic limitations. Some cities like New York City, New Orleans, Miami, Seattle, I mean, just at a catastrophic level of need for quarantine because the disease is just highly contagious and running rampant. Then you have other parts of the country, North Dakota is not as affected. And so the differences here is those were events over a period of days or even with 9/11, it was a day. And this one has gone on for weeks and is projected to go on for months. And so what we have are some of the similar dynamics of the cycle of pre crisis crisis and the crisis recovery, except right now the crisis is extenuating. We’re on day 20 and some cities day 30 in some cities, some parts of the Pacific Northwest, here in Florida where I live and where we’re recording, you know, we’re on a community lockdown, a statewide lockdown that’s projected for another 30 days. And so what happens is that the crisis exposes things that were there before, but that were either overlooked or people didn’t want to deal with. For instance, an example would be a relationship problem. If people are in a strong relationship, obviously they’ll come through this much better. But people are in a distant relationship, a struggling marriage, maybe there was a lot of tension in their home. This is going to expose those problems. And sadly for some, I’m afraid that it will escalate. And here’s the number one rule in a crisis: Don’t make it worse. There’s enough problems. Don’t make it worse. And I think for many people, a hope is that they’re going to hear this and Adrian, they’re going to say, “you know, those guys made sense. I think that I should take some, some steps, build some routines, build some schedules. I think that it’s important for us as a family.” You know what? We need to spend time working on the things that matter to sit down and talk with your family. And there are a number of resources that our team has put together. They’re community crisis recovery – they’re absolutely free. People can go to our website, I’ll give you the PDFs. Please share them with all of your listeners because I know that going through this together, if we talk to each other, we can get through it. If you talk through it, you can get through it. Nobody wants to be in the middle of this. But the good news is that together learning from each other, sharing ideas, being creative, opening up conversations just like this one, we will come out of it. And for many people, many organizations, many families, they will actually come out of this situation stronger. And it’s because of the choices that they made in the middle of the crisis – choices that they’re making right now toward mental wellness and resilience and strength instead of living in fear.

Adrian Tennant: Dwight, thank you very much for being our guest today and for sharing your advice on staying connected, calm and honestly managing the anxieties of our current moment. Really appreciate it.

Dwight Bain: I’m glad to be part of the conversation to bring healing and strength as we all recover better together. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Dwight Bain. You can find our show notes with links to the resources that Dwight mentioned on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.



Kara Baker, Director of Digital Partnership at the Golf Channel, discusses TV coverage of sports disrupted by the coronavirus.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: COVID-19 and sport. Every major US sporting event has been suspended or canceled because of the coronavirus. Our guest this week is Kara Baker, Director of Digital Partnership and Operations at the Golf Channel. Hear how her team is responding to shifting priorities and changes to signature events as a consequence of COVID-19. Kara shares practical tips for keeping remote teams connected and productive while maintaining a work-life balance.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: A unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello! I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Today, we’re going to be talking about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sport, and what it means for marketing and advertising. Fifty-nine percent of Americans follow a sport or consider themselves sports fans. Yet, every major sporting event in the United States has been suspended or canceled because of the coronavirus. The N.B.A., the N.H.L., M.L.S. and Major League Baseball have all suspended play. The N.C.A.A. canceled all of its championships, including the men’s basketball tournament, which supplies most of its annual budget. Even the Boston marathon, usually a staple of the spring sports calendar, has been postponed until September. And the cancellations are not limited to the US. This summer’s Olympics in Tokyo are being postponed until 2021, UEFA too has postponed the Euro 2020 football competition until next year, and numerous marathons, including those in London, Paris, and Barcelona have all been postponed, as has the French Open tennis tournament. All of these cancellations have an enormous economic impact. Sports sponsorship is worth around $55 billion a year. There are the revenues that come in from people watching the games live, but also from television rights. For example, the revenue for the National Basketball Association is around $1 billion; Premier League Football brings in around $2.7 billion. Fans spend money traveling to games, on hotel stays, and buy merchandise. So it’s a big industry. I’m joined today by a marketing professional who is dealing with these changes to key sporting events as a consequence of the coronavirus on a daily basis. Kara Baker is the Director of Digital Partnership and Operations at the Golf Channel, a television network owned by the NBC Sports Group division of NBCUniversal. The channel focuses on coverage of golf, including live coverage of tournaments, as well as factual and instructional programming. Kara’s career has been centered around operations and partnerships. While she started in the non-profit sector running operations and project management, she ventured over to the sports media industry a few years ago and hasn’t looked back. Being a competitive golfer since she was a teenager, finding a career at the Golf Channel has been extremely rewarding and fun. She now oversees digital partnerships for both the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup digital products. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Kara.

Kara Baker: Hi, thanks. I’m super happy to be here today and kind of share a little bit in this ever-changing world right now that we’re living in sports and COVID-19.

Adrian Tennant: So Kara, what does your role entail?

Kara Baker: Okay, sure. Yeah. So I help oversee the digital products for the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship events. And so just to paint a little bit more of a picture, PGA Championship is one of the four majors in the golf industry. There’s also four events that are under the PGA Championship: there’s the senior PGA, the KPMG Women’s PGA, as well as the Players’ Professionals Championship, which kind of leads into this team of twenty that gets to play in the PGA Championship. But most people that are probably listening today will know the PGA Championship and that it’s one of the four majors. And then additionally, the Ryder Cup, which is a competition between Europe and the US that happens every other year, that is also a really big golf tournament, probably one of the best that there is in the sense of just camaraderie and country and team spirit. And so with both of those PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, I’m helping with the digital products as well as the partnerships that these media kind of deals and rights hold for us at the Golf Channel. We’re building out the website and the apps that go along with these products and then the partnerships perspective are the governing bodies that are putting on these events. So that’s the PGA of America and the European Tour.

Adrian Tennant: So before COVID-19, what did a typical “day in the life” look like for you?

Kara Baker: So we have a small team that’s a hundred percent dedicated to these digital products and day-in, day-out project management, product management, the design, and a whole slew of different things. And then we have a partner that we’ve sourced from a development perspective that we’re constantly working with as well as what we call our shared resources within the Golf Channel and NBC Sports. And so when you look at those three buckets – our own team, our dev vendor, as well as our shared resources – we are in constant communication with all of those teams and ensuring that we have put together all the different moving parts. This is a new partnership for us that started that we signed the contracts for in 2019, so 2020 PGA Championship and Ryder Cup will be the first year that we actually are the ones producing these digital products. And so this is a big year for us. It’s an implementation year. And so we’re working with a lot of different people on ensuring that we get everything right and we get it all built from the ground up, the best way possible for year one. 

Adrian Tennant: Now, in what kinds of ways is COVID-19 impacting your work at the Golf Channel?

Kara Baker: Yeah, so like many companies around the world right now, we are working from home but I think it’s been really a pretty amazing testament to see how quickly we can go virtual. Our team specifically started doing an 11:30 standup call where we all are on video calls. And you know, before, I think there was a lot of reluctance to turn on that video screen, where now it’s, “no, let’s get personal, let’s, let’s make this humanize as much as much as we possibly can.” And so we turn on that video screen and we all share laughs about what our background noise is. My boss’s kids are coming in and out – and it’s great, I think it’s really cool. And so I think that the biggest way it’s been impacting us is by making us go remote. But I think it’s been really amazing to see how it’s almost become more humanized and it’s the new norm. There’s some kind of funky background noises and kids are coming in and out in meetings and dogs are barking and that’s okay. And so I really think, again I go back to it’s humanizing where we all are and that we’re all on this journey together and we all have lives at homes that we’re now bringing a little bit more into work than we probably ever thought we would.

Adrian Tennant: The Masters is the first major golf championship of the year in the US and has been played every year since 1934 – except from 1943 to 1945 when it was canceled because of World War II. Yet it has also been postponed this year because of COVID-19. How has that impacted your plans?

Kara Baker: So the Masters is the first of the four majors and it’s about five weeks prior to the PGA Championship. So when the news hit that the Masters was postponing, it was a foresight or was it a foresight – you know, in April, everyone knows right now with COVID-19 it was within the 30 days was then so many different warnings that the government was putting out with large groups of people. And so the question was, was the postponement of the Master’s going to be a domino effect for all the other majors? And we were the second one up with the PGA Championship. And so that was the biggest thing is that wasn’t foresight or was it that it just fell within a window of time that kind of made it obvious and that everything would stay as it stands right now with the PGA Championship. And so it was about three to five days later, I think, because I think the Master’s was announced on Friday that it was postponed and then by Tuesday, so four days, five days later, a PGA Championship was announced that it was going to be postponed. So I think that, I don’t know if they were absolutely correlated. I think it was just really the way the world stands right now. The Masters was just the first given that it was literally the first of the four majors to get started.

Adrian Tennant: In the wake of these cancellations, are you having to reevaluate your on-air and online promotional campaigns?

Kara Baker: Yeah, so you know, we have a programming department within the Golf Channel and they have been working around the clock and still ensuring that we’re giving good content. And, and one of the ways of doing that is that when these tour events get canceled, which would have been your typical Thursday through Sunday or Thursday and Friday, kind of watch cycles, what we’re doing now is we’re taking old content. So in 2018 at the Valspar, which was a PGA tour event that would have been played last weekend, we showed the 2018 one instead, which was a really good one to show. Tiger Woods performed quite well in it, Jordan Speith performed quite well in it. So from a ratings perspective, if we were going to give someone good television, we felt like the 2018 version of it was the best one to show.

Adrian Tennant: As the situation is changing so rapidly, to what extent are you constantly having to review the appropriateness of creative messaging, digital media placements or elements built into your websites and apps?

Kara Baker: In my role, you know, we’re representing and so in relating to PGA Championship, it’s important that we have just updated information as soon as it’s given to us. And we’re essentially a new source. We’re putting up the press releases and at the end of the day we’re all going to the different news channels and outlets for our first take. But then we’re going to the source and in this case is the source. And so people are asking like, “what’s going to happen now?” And so it’s really important that we are aligning with PGA of America and whatever decisions they’re telling us and we’re getting that content updated as soon as possible so that we are giving that end user, that consumer, that this is potentially affecting, the answers to their questions.

Adrian Tennant: In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen some unexpected moves by big brands in response to the pandemic. Tito’s Vodka has announced that it will begin the production of hand sanitizer, as has Anheuser-Busch. Chipotle Mexican Grill is trying to put an uplifting spin on the situation by offering “Chipotle Together,” which are virtual hangouts on Zoom. But we’ve also read about ads that got pulled. Hershey Company said it had pulled two ads that featured human interaction replacing them with spots featuring only chocolate bars, text and a voiceover, I guess in response to social distancing. And Molson Coors halted a planned campaign called, “The Official Beer of Working Remotely,” because it didn’t want to appear insensitive, as many companies like your own have now adopted work from home policies to deal with the coronavirus. How well do you think brands are doing to ensure their creative elements are appropriate and not tone deaf?

Kara Baker: I think a lot of brands have responded really well to this, whether that’s pulling down advertisements that maybe the world would never know that were actually going to go up or by creating new advertisements. And so, like you mentioned earlier when you were introducing me, I’ve come from a nonprofit background and so I know for me, my heartstrings are always a little bit pulled when you directly are impacting people and what their livelihood is. And there’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the economy, for some losing their jobs. And so I think that the companies that are really shifting their stance in the advertising world and not just advertising, but actually advertising that this is something new they’re going to be offering as a byproduct of some of the economic downturns, I think that’s really amazing. And so Ford has done this as an example. You know, they created a new advertisement, I think it was in only three days, where they were specifically announcing that they are going to have some payment relief during the coronavirus crisis. And for all those people that have financing specifically with Ford. And so I think that that is really, really important in these times. 

Adrian Tennant: Have you seen or heard any examples that you think got it completely wrong?

Kara Baker: There’s a company, Mint Mobile that – I’m not sure a lot of people have even heard of them – it’s actually a wireless company that Ryan Reynolds owns part of. But they did an ad specifically with putting their fingers in their mouth and at a party and this whole double-dipping aspect. And it got a lot of poor, negative attention on social media because in today’s world, like you said, are we going tone deaf to certain things? You have to make sure that you’re being sensitive and it doesn’t matter how much money you put back in an advertising campaign, but you gotta make sure you hit the mark and you’re not ignoring or making fun of something that is causing just a huge impact on the economy, on our lives. You just have to be careful of that. So I think that they did not do the best job with that ad.

Adrian Tennant:

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

Erik McGrew: I’m Erik McGrew, Designer at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising and design professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations.This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused, creative-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Kara Baker of the Golf Channel about the impact of COVID-19 on sports coverage. Now, I mentioned in the introduction that sport brings in big revenues here in the US, but money isn’t the principal reason that people take such an interest in sport. Many fans have a real emotional attachment to their team or their favorite players. Do you think, Kara, at a time when many of us are staying at home – with obviously no access to movie theaters or concerts – we especially crave connections through sport that can give our collective morale a boost?

Kara Baker: Yeah, I think it’s been unique to be part of the sports industry and to see how the stories are still unfolding and it’s still like I’m part of sports. So part of it is there’s a postponement and that’s a story right now and it’s just keeping me updated. It’s like, “Oh man, okay, the Olympics just got postponed.” Like that’s giving me something to read. The other stories, “Tom Brady’s now a Bucs – a Buccaneer,” and as a Florida resident, that’s a big story. And so it’s so interesting that even in the midst of all this, there’s a story that me as a sports fan, I constantly want to read and even, I’ve seen so many things about just higher activity from athletes on their social media platforms showing what they’re doing to help or what they’re doing to stay entertained. But I think that what I love even more than all this, and obviously I’m part of a media company, a sports media company, but I love that when we don’t have our favorite sport to potentially watch on television, maybe the current year, I should say 2020 – we can go back and watch 2019 and 2018 – what we do have though is the ability to get outside and to actually play. And so think this is a really great way that in the midst of that, we don’t have our team to cheer on, we can still be practicing ourselves and getting out in this really gorgeous weather right now, at least in Orlando, and get a chance to kind of put ourselves in that athlete’s shoes and get to be with family and really kind of embody that athletic team, sporting comradery that exists even when we’re just playing with our family.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways do you see COVID-19 impacting the coverage of sports and channels focused on sports, longer-term?

Kara Baker: I think it’s going to be creativity, um, in technology and innovation. I think I’ve already been amazed at the amount of things that are being produced in the most unique ways and in ways that we’ve never done before, whether it’s at the Golf Channel, NBC or any media company. And so I think NASCAR did a virtual race last weekend and it had great ratings. And so it’s things like that, we’re getting really experimental and what can we do? I mean, Ironman is actually doing virtual races starting very soon. And so there’s no doubt that we’re willing to film things with our iPhones now, we’re willing to get on Zoom and put a production piece together, and we’re willing to virtually have a race. And these are all things that were maybe not off the table, but were highly unlikely, kind of back- back-, back-burner ideas that now become a reality. And so I think that that will help in the future when we are past the COVID-19. I think we’ll go back and we’ll say, “remember when? And look how creative we were. And look how resourcefully we worked with what we had, and look how we put perfection aside, and we went back to humanizing something, and realized it was better to just see Jimmy Fallon on a screen and laugh a little bit. It didn’t matter that his wife was holding the iPhone and laughing in the background.”

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. “Deadline” reported last week that TV ratings have shot up as people rediscover live, linear viewing. The prevailing conventional wisdom has been that streaming services like Netflix would be the major beneficiaries of the current mandate for staying home, but viewers, many of them younger, are also checking out traditional TV. Viewership of NBC’s The Voice went up 38% and Ellen’s Game of Games, also an NBC show, jumped an eye-popping 44%. Do you think these viewing behaviors could become new habits – our new normal, if you will – post-pandemic?

Kara Baker: I think that’s, that would be the hope. I mean it’s hard to see and know how much of these percentages in these trends, how stable they are and what we’re going to see post-pandemic. But I think from a cable perspective, these are great numbers and it’s good television. Ellen’s Game of Games is hilarious and The Voice is talent. And so I think that these are all positive things that NBC and other media companies will just continue to leverage as we move past this. 

Adrian Tennant: So Kara, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you personally?

Kara Baker: The biggest thing is getting back to your roots, slowing down a little bit and really holding true and holding close to things that matter most to you. Um, I think that that’s something that my husband and I really, really looked at in this past week and a half. My family’s safe, which is amazing. And um, continuing to pray for everyone’s safety. But I think that you never know what things can happen and you never want to take things too seriously. So I think from a personal perspective, it’s reignited the things that I think matter most. Helping to kind of refocus, you know, the ability to slow down, the ability to spend time with loved ones and ultimately just even care for them even if it’s virtually a little bit more often than maybe I was before.

Adrian Tennant: What, if anything, is proving challenging?

Kara Baker: I would say, working too much. It’s so easy to just get out of bed and just grab your laptop. You forget the morning routine of shower, makeup, commute to work, all that goes out the door and there’s one part of it that’s kind of nice that it goes out the door. But then there’s the other part where we don’t want to be on our laptops for 12 hours and I don’t want that for my employees. I think there are seasons where we work hard, but I very much am an advocate of work-life balance. And as are my leaders, frankly, as well. And so I think that the important part is making sure that we still stick to routine and we still stick to relatively standard work hours because like I said, it’s easy – the laptop’s still there. It’s in your living room now and there’s not that official closing of the laptop and then jumping in your car to drive home. So it’s important that I even help my team say that like, “be done, like, you’re good. You know, it’s all good. It’ll be here tomorrow,” and really stop it. Stop at work at whatever time that may be. But I think it’s important and I know that’s something that I tried to do even last night. It got to a point where I just kept working cause it’s very easy to, and then all of a sudden I was like, “I can be done,” and I just shut my laptop and it was done.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have any personal tips you’d like to share with our listeners for staying productive when working from home?

Kara Baker: Yeah, I think one of the most important things is facetime – communication with people, making sure that you turn on the video when you are doing a conference call so that you get the interaction – it forces you to not multitask and actually be present in that moment. And don’t be afraid to have fun with that. My team just scheduled a Friday Happy Hour – Virtual Happy Hour – and we’re really excited about it. We’re actually going to dual it as a product roadmap session as well. And it’s like, “this is fun. Let’s do it.” So I think there’s so many different things where don’t be afraid to push virtual things the same way that you would in a normal, everyday setting: the happy hour, a yoga session, a stand-up meeting, and push those through some sort of video conferencing and calling to connect with people and to keep yourself sane. And so I think that would be this. The second thing is we all have different ways of finding joy and finding balance and kind of being rejuvenated. And I think it’s important that each person soul searches a little bit and makes sure that they’re getting… that gets very easy to have your workstation at work and just go in. Like once we start working, it can be hard sometimes to stop, but what happens is with that it can be three or four days and that same thing and all of a sudden you realize, “wait, I haven’t gone outside enough. I haven’t called my best friend and I could use a non-work-related conversation right now.” So I think it’s important just to hustle, but then also stop and make sure that you’re keeping yourself sane, whatever that looks like. I think that’s different for everyone. For some people it’s a run, it’s yoga, it’s a walk, it’s a TV show, whatever that looks like, just make sure you’re inserting that in.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. I think those are great tips, thank you. If listeners want to learn more about the Golf Channel, where can they find resources?

Kara Baker: is a great place to go. You can sign up, you can see all the different brands that we have in our ecosystem, and you can sign up to be part of our newsletters, and you can sign up for Golf Pass. If you’re a golf fan, it’ll give you access to so many different um, golf instructional tips, really cool like Golf Channel television shows as well as discounts on golf. 

Adrian Tennant: Kara, thank you very much for being our guest today. Really appreciate it.

Kara Baker: Absolutely. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. Thanks so much Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Kara Baker, Director of digital partnership and operations at the Golf Channel. You can find our show notes with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at, under “Insights,” just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening toIN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.


CBD product sales grew by 706% in 2019. Hear from CBD product and marketing experts to understand why this is a booming market on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: A sneak preview of Bigeye’s upcoming 2020 National Study of CBD Use. In the US, around 15% of adults regularly use products containing CBD. Year-on-year sales of CBD products grew by 706% in 2019. To examine this booming market, we hear from three experts with unique perspectives on the CBD industry. Learn how the retailing and use of CBD-based products is evolving and why the category represents such a significant opportunity.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. In the current situation, we especially appreciate you choosing to spend your time with us. Cannabidiol is an ingredient in a growing range of consumer categories. In addition to products intended to relieve conditions such as anxiety and arthritis pain, you’ll also find CBD in beauty products, food and beverages, sports supplements, and even apparel. And its uses are nor limited to humans – there are CBD products especially for pets, as highlighted in Bigeye’s 2019 US Pet Industry Study. Consumers’ receptivity to CBD use has been growing rapidly since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp production. Here in the US, around 15% of adults age 21 and older use products containing CBD. Earlier this year, Bigeye undertook a national research study to really understand CBD use and to help identify opportunities to tap into this dynamic market. We’ll be publishing the results of our study soon, but to contextualize the findings, today, we’re going to hear three perspectives on the market for CBD products and how purchasing and consumption is evolving. As we were analyzing the 2020 Bigeye CBD study results together, I asked Dana Cassell, our senior strategist, about some of the findings from the report. So first, Dana, can you give us a sense of what the market for CBD products here in the US looks like?

Dana Cassell: Sure. The popularity of CBD-infused oils, tinctures, creams, food items, and drinks, along with a host of other products, has exploded since December, 2018 when, as you mentioned in the intro, the federal government legalized regulated production of hemp with the Farm Bill. An estimated $5 billion was spent in the US on CBD products in 2019 – an eye-popping 706% increase over the previous year. That figure is set to grow to $24 billion by 2023 the increase in sales of CBD products is explained in part by broader distribution and availability in mainstream retailers such as Walgreens, Kroger, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. But the rise in popularity of CBD products has also brought greater scrutiny from the US Food and Drug Administration, which in November of last year issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling products containing CBD. The FDA has since announced that it recognizes the potential opportunities that CBD-based products may offer and acknowledges the significant level of interest among consumers. So it’s a fast-growing market full of opportunity, but there’s also uncertainty around its regulation.

Adrian Tennant: Last year we discussed CBD regulation with one of Bigeye’s go-to experts. Joe Englander. Joe is a shareholder in the intellectual property practice group at Fowler White Burnett and leads the firm’s cannabis law team. Joe works with industry clients in the fields of hemp, medical marijuana, and affiliated businesses. When he joined us via phone from his office in Miami, I asked Joe what the legal status of CBD is here in Florida.

Joe Englander: There are two sets of regulations. There’s the federal set and then there’s the state set. The federal set has the Farm Bill of 2018, which has made hemp and CBD products legal. And there’s an interim regulation with the USDA, which is now in effect, which is helping States come up with plans and frameworks for regulations. In Florida, there is the Florida Hemp Act, which also makes hemp and CBD products legal and also provides for pilot programs for the universities to test different varieties of hemp. And there are new regulations which are being promulgated by the Florida Department of Agriculture, which have not yet been finalized, but are expected to be finalized soon.

Adrian Tennant: So Joe, how fast is the market for CBD and CBD-infused products growing?

Joe Englander: Very rapidly! Right now the only hemp that’s growing in Florida is with the university pilot program. But the interest and the businesses which are showing up to Florida showcases and seminars, it grows more each year.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us a little bit more about that pilot program?

Joe Englander: Well under the Florida state law, the university of Florida and other agricultural colleges are allowed to begin growing hemp to see what types of seeds are viable here in Florida. The thing about hemp is it can only have a certain low percentage of THC, so they’re confirming that the seeds which they are testing are in fact hemp seeds and not marijuana seeds.

Adrian Tennant: Right now, what should manufacturers include on CBD product labels to be in compliance with legal rules?

Joe Englander: That’s an interesting point there. You’ll find that in the regulations with both full regulations and the interim regulations that you have to say that there is CBD on them and the amount of CBD, but you can’t make any medical claims with regard to the CBD at this point. But you have to show what the percentage is and what I guess what you would say the dosage is, like what is recommended. For example, whether you’re supposed to take one edible or two out of a package of 50 edibles.

Adrian Tennant: It is a little confusing, the interplay between state regulations and the federal level. Do you see a path forward for greater clarity here?

Joe Englander: I don’t think that there’s going to be clarity until there’s legalization of marijuana in some way and then it would probably be similar to the types of regulations that go on with cigarettes or perhaps liquor. As far as Florida goes, I think there should be no general limitation as far as the CBD trademarks and protections of naming and branding, as long as the restrictions regarding age are are taken care of.

Adrian Tennant: While regulations on hemp-derived ingestible CBD products vary from state to state, the Food and Drug Administration has approved all topical CBD products at the federal level. This includes analgesics, joint relief, lotions, and creams. One person with direct experience of manufacturing topical products containing CBD is Michael Law of Eagle Labs, based in St Petersburg, Florida. Michael was also a guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS last year, and with his background in the production and marketing of consumer packaged goods, it was interesting to hear Michael’s take on the booming CBD market. First I asked Michael how Eagle Labs got involved in CBD product manufacturing.

Michael Law: So Eagle labs had been making skincare and nutritional products for private label clients, large national retail clients for about 10 years. The company was owned by a chemist with 40 years of experience formulating and Eagle Labs was purchased by an entrepreneurial pair of brothers that wanted to get into the CBD category, but in a way that would ensure that their finished goods would be nothing but the highest quality. So they purchased a very good quality manufacturer with chemists, as I said, with a lot of experience. And then they set about ensuring that their manufacturing processes were going to be ahead of any potential regulations. Our batch records, for example, are over 20 pages long for both the cosmetic products that we manufacture. Anything that might be a nutritional supplement with CBD, there’s extreme rigor. We qualify any new raw material vendor with three separate batch tests. We get certificates of analysis to ensure that the potency of the raw material for CBD is accurate and that the safety is also assured: that there’s no heavy metals, there’s no bacteria, there’s no pesticides and so on. So very rigorous on testing anything that comes into our facility. Any new raw materials that come in are quarantined until they’re tested. And then they’re moved into the area where they can be used for manufacturing. As we’re manufacturing – actually filling the tincture bottles for example – we’re testing from the top of the mixer, the middle, and the bottom to ensure that we’ve got a consistent level of CBD across the entire batch. And then when we get to the finished goods stage, we send out our samples from our finished goods to third-party labs for final testing. And we get what’s called a certificate of analysis or a C of A that shows the potency or if it’s a 500 milligram bottle, we want to make sure that it’s got 500 milligrams in it and that it doesn’t have any pesticides or any heavy metals or bacteria in it. So, I would say, a very, very strong focus on quality as you mentioned. And in fact, we believe that it’s in our best interest and our customer’s best interest to actually be ahead of what we think the FDA will decide in terms of manufacturing regulations. So we’re moving towards OTC qualification, which would essentially mean we could make a drug in our facility and we would have the processes for making drugs. I think when the FDA does regulate, there will be a lot of smaller manufacturers that either haven’t or aren’t willing to make those kinds of investments in quality that will disappear.

Adrian Tennant: We’ll be right back after this message.

Lauren Fore: I’m Lauren Fore, and I’m on the operations team at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as agency professionals and reflects the way that Bigeye puts audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our clients’ prospects, and customers. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with our client’s audiences. 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 Bigeye. Reaching the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking today about Cannabidiol ahead of the publication of a national study of CBD use conducted by Bigeye. CBD quality and certification are clearly important considerations for consumers, but how is spending distributed across the different categories of CBD products? Back to Dana Cassell for some answers from Bigeye’s study.

Dana Cassell: Yeah, so I mentioned earlier that the market for CBD was estimated to be worth $5 billion in 2019. With CBD gaining in popularity – in line with the trend towards health and wellness – and with product availability and variety increasing, the market is on track to grow to around $24 billion over the next three years. We asked users how much on average they spend on CBD products per month, in total. In the full report, we break the results out by condition, but the key data points are that over two thirds – 67% – of CBD users spend up to $99 per month on products containing CBD. Over one quarter – 26% – spend between a hundred dollars and $199 monthly. For the most frequent indications consistently around one-third of CBD users spend between $50 and $99 per month.

Adrian Tennant: Staying with purchase data, we asked respondents where they had purchased products containing CBD within the past six months, both in-store and online. CBD products purchased from physical stores are primarily bought from cannabis or medical marijuana dispensaries or from health, vitamin, or supplement stores. One-fifth of users report purchasing from drugstores, and another one-fifth from vape or smoke shops. Respondents identifying as male are almost twice as likely to purchase from a drugstore and more than twice as likely to purchase from a grocery store.

Dana Cassell: We’ve talked previously about CBD products making their way into supermarkets and grocery stores, so it’s interesting that this appeals to shoppers who identify as male.

Adrian Tennant: Over half of our study respondents never purchase CBD online and of those that do, was the most cited retailer. Right now, it seems CBD products are purchased primarily from physical stores. Michael Law of Eagle Labs offered some advice for store merchandisers.

Michael Law: If you’re a retailer and you want to be in the CBD business, I would say be in the CBD business. Have a significant amount of assortment. My advice is that you should have all CBD products in one central location. If you move them into their various subcategories, I think it’s going to be art for the consumer to know that you’re in the category. My recommendation would be to have all of the CBD products in one location. You can have secondary locations, for example, in the pain relief aisle for the appropriate products. But I would still have a home location that has got everything together. That way, you’re concentrating on the opportunity for education. I think that you should have in-store signage and pamphlets and other forms of consumer education that are going to address the most frequently asked questions that consumers might have either on a new brand or on the category itself. I think having it all in one location allows the opportunity to have an in store educator nearby. There are some great best practices from smaller natural food stores and health food stores where there’s an in-aisle educator that comes right to you immediately when you enter the aisle. They come right to you and ask if they can answer any questions for you in the category. That also, retailers are going to be very concerned about shrink. And shrink is a term for lost product that leaves the store without being paid for. Retailers, if they have an in-aisle educator, they’re going to have eyes on the product and they can ensure that they keep shrink to a minimum. Some of the larger retailers that are now entering the category have got a very limited assortment and they’re putting everything in a lockup case similar to what you may see in some retailers for expensive razor blades where you actually have to get somebody from the store to come and unlock the case for you to access the products. I think that retailers like that will sell some product, but they’re not optimizing the opportunity. I think the profit potential in this category is massive and I think it would be worthwhile investing in in-store educators, certainly in high-volume stores, so that you can have a broad assortment and have somebody that can drive consumer education – and that’ll help drive conversion. Because once you get that consumer, once they make their first purchase at a given retail location, that retailer becomes the destination where they go for that product.

Adrian Tennant: Great points there from Michael Law. In Bigeye’s upcoming CBD study, we report in detail on the attitudes that characterize different groups of CBD users and identify which factors are most influential in the decision to purchase and use each category of product. We also examine how respondents rank the relative importance of ingredients, product design, and on-pack information – and what prompts CBD users to try new products. Back to Dana and some findings that surprised us.

Dana Cassell: We asked survey respondents how likely they are to continue using products containing CBD long-term. So drum roll please…

Adrian Tennant: Okay. It’s very clear that existing CBD users are true believers in its efficacy. 88% are somewhat or extremely likely to continue using CBD longterm.

Dana Cassell: This is huge. Only 15% of the US adult population is currently using CBD. But of those, 88% plan to continue doing so long-term; the other 85% of the US market represents an untapped opportunity.

Adrian Tennant: Our research data highlights a correlation between the length of time consumers use CBD products and the number of indications they use CBD for. The number of indications rises the longer a consumer uses CBD. This points to CBD’s unique proposition as a multifunctional ingredient. In practical terms, a claim that CBD helps treat specific skin conditions can be augmented with a claim that it also calms the user and lessens the anxiety that a person may have as a consequence of their condition.

Dana Cassell: The study results show that some consumers are either supplementing or replacing the use of over-the-counter pain medications in favor of more natural solutions like CBD. Consumers using CBD to treat medical conditions were among the most likely to spend between $200 and $249 per month on CBD products. Pharmaceutical drug spending is a major concern, so it’s perhaps not surprising that consumers, faced with higher copays or exclusions from their medical insurance plans, are looking to CBD based products as alternatives to Big Pharma’s offerings.

Adrian Tennant: Watch out for an announcement about Bigeye’s National Study of CBD Use coming soon. Next week, IN CLEAR FOCUS will have a special episode exploring changes in consumer behavior and attitudes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A reminder too that you can find links to resources we discuss every week on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.


Audio branding can build long-term brands. Author Laurence Minsky joins us on IN CLEAR FOCUS to discuss the theory of audio branding and best practices.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Transcending language and cultural barriers with audio branding. We’re joined by Laurence Minsky, an expert and co-author of the book, “Audio Branding: Using Sound to Build Your Brand.” Larry discusses the theory and practice of creating entire sonic languages and how they can be leveraged for long-term brand-building. The show notes link to the case studies discussed in the episode.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. While all marketers are likely familiar with visual branding, a growing number of marketers are using palettes of unique sounds and music to support long-term brand-building. Product designers too are leveraging the possibilities of audio to give consumer technology devices friendlier personalities. Researchers have found that music is a language that people all around the world can understand. Certain types of instrumentation and rhythms convey consistent meanings often subconsciously working at a symbolic rather than an explicit level. Audio branding is employed by many companies that compete internationally such as tech firms, Apple and Intel, beauty and skincare giant, L’Oreal, German car manufacturers, Audi and BMW, and their French competitors, Renault and Peugeot. But audio branding is less prevalent among domestic brands, which of course offers a novel way to differentiate from competitors. Our guest today is Laurence Minsky, an expert and co-author of the book, “Audio Branding: Using Sound to Build Your Brand,” which describes in detail the theory and practice of creating entire audio languages for brands. Laurence Minsky is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Innovation at Columbia College, Chicago and the author of many books on advertising and marketing. He’s also an award-winning marketing strategist, creative director and copywriter focused on creating innovative and effective branding and cross-discipline marketing solutions for many leading brands. Professor Minsky, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Larry Minsky: Thank you for having me. And by all means call me Larry while we talk.

Adrian Tennant: Will do, Larry, thank you. What’s your definition of audio branding?

Larry Minsky: Audio branding is the use of sound that’s ownable by the company, by the brand to reinforce brand attributes. 

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the main reasons marketers need to consider audio branding today?

Larry Minsky: I’ll give you one reason why every marketer needs to consider audio branding today. And that is because of the growth of voice assistants. Right now it’s still in its infancy, but do you really want to leave your brand when there’s no picture, no visual, no colors, no fonts, no anything of the traditional branding sense representing your brand? And you’re leaving your brand up to Alexa or Siri? In Europe where audio branding is much more advanced. You know, the countries are smaller, there’s more languages and it gets really expensive to have a brand in every country and you want something consistent and you want to be able to convey it consistently. In America as we continue to diversify, our populations, that will become an issue as well. But Audio branding is a much quicker way of communicating your brand; sound communicates much faster and sound also helps direct visuals. 

Adrian Tennant: So you mentioned that the practice of audio branding seems a lot more prevalent in European countries than here in the US. Is there any other reason for that, do you think, beyond the language issue? 

Larry Minsky: You know, US marketing maybe is a little bit more hard-sell traditionally, “Buy now!” “Do this!” – all that kind of stuff. European marketing tends to be a little bit more indirect, a little bit more elegant. So, there’s probably an aesthetic area that helps bring it about quicker in Europe. But you know, practically, you do want your brand across cultures, cross borders and sound is much quicker and easier to do that than language.

Adrian Tennant: Now, when hearing you and I talking about audio branding, I’m guessing some listeners may think about jingles, that is advertising slogans that are put to music. But I know you don’t think jingles really qualify as audio branding. Why is that?

Larry Minsky: A jingle was written to carry the words. It goes back to what we just said that in America it was a lot harder sell. So, you know, “call 1-800-whatever,” and they sing it out is a jingle. And so the music was secondary. The sounds were secondary. A lot of those sounds don’t seem to be ownable. Some of them are like Nationwide. That is starting to become an audio brand simply by how they use it. And they’re starting to play around with how they use, “Nationwide is on your side.” But essentially that did start as a jingle. So a jingle can evolve into an audio brand but it is not the same thing. The NBC chimes started as a way to align things and it was a more technical issue but over the years it became part of the audio brand. So, there’s different ways in but the best way is the way you do any kind of branding and that’s to be strategic about it and think about what your brand attributes are and what do you want to convey and then develop the sounds that actually convey it.

Adrian Tennant: Mmm. Now, some brands of course do have sounds associated with them which advertising often supports. So, I’m thinking about, say, the roar of a Harley-Davidson’s engine, there’s the pop of a Snapple lid, and of course, when you start up your Mac computer, there’s a sound that accompanies that. Do you think these qualify as examples of audio branding?

Larry Minsky: Yes. Anytime you use sound to help convey an attribute, it’s an audio brand the snap of a bottle for Snapple pop. You know, you hear it, you’d get reinforced when you’re opening the bottle. So there’s positive reinforcement there, but you could use that in your advertising. You could use that on TV, on radio, on your website, eventually on your voice assistant applications. So anytime you’re using sound to help build your brand, it’s part of audio branding and really should be thought through strategically.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Now, one US brand that has consistently employed music as part of its brand is United airlines, which has used George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” since 1987, I believe, at an annual licensing cost of $300,000. Larry, I know you’re based in Chicago, which is United’s home base. What do you like or dislike about United’s approach?

Larry Minsky: What I like is Gershwin’s song is very adaptable to multiple situations and you still get it. It still reinforces and there’s a lot of positive emotion attached to that and movement and energy and things that convey United Airlines. What I don’t like is really, it’s not ownable by United. Anyone can license that song. It’s now gone into the public domain I believe. And so anyone can use it. It’s better to start with “what do you want to convey?” “who are you?” and then create something that you could own, basically permanently.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you mentioned Intel as an exemplar of successful audio branding. Those four notes have been around for 25 years and while Intel has modified the instrumentation over the years, those four notes have remained the same. Do you think all brands should aim for this level of discipline when it comes to their audio identities?

Larry Minsky: All branding should be disciplined and if you’re doing it right, strategic and thought through. A brand is not solid where you don’t tweak it over time, you know, the, the best way to maintain a brand is to evolve it slowly, imperceptibly, so it stays up to date and it works in multiple areas, but still conveys values and, and the enduring attributes that you want to convey. Good brands, brands manage or companies that manage their brands spend a lot of time thinking about it and doing it visually. You should do that the same way with sounds. And do think of it as a long-term investment. You don’t see Intel chips when you’re buying, but it is a proof point for all the computers you buy with an Intel chip inside it. And that branding has helped Intel make a name and make it a proof point. What other chips are out there? What comes to mind really quickly and you could see why Intel is so effective because I don’t think a lot of people are going to come up with other chip makers that, you know, give them as much reassurance as an Intel when they hear that little sound.

Adrian Tennant: So Larry, I’m sure you encountered many examples of audio branding as you were conducting your research for the book. Do you have any favorite examples? 

Larry Minsky: One of the examples, for Royal Air Maroc from Morocco really captured the essence of the country. And there’s a lot of different musical styles in Morocco. So they had to bring them all together. And I thought that was a very, very interesting kind of audio brand from the French Open and, and how they use it, I find very interesting as well. It’s not just they have their audio brand that they use when they award the trophies at the end. And then they have whole environments for where you park when you go in retail settings. They even have an audio brand playlist for the athletes when they pick them up to drive them to the venue. So I found that kind of interesting. La Roche-Posay, it’s just an elegant kind of sound and, and really gets the feeling down. So, there are so many different examples out there of audio branding. MasterCard just came up with an audio brand not too long ago. And I do know on at least one scale, the value of their brand increased proportionally because of it. And that was the only thing they changed in their branding was their audio brand and refine their logo a little bit. And it’s just helping the brand differentiate itself today too. MasterCard did it after the book came out, but you could easily Google it or search for it and you could see the success that it has helped them.

Adrian Tennant:  Larry, I believe your introduction to audio branding came from your co-author Colleen Fahey.

Larry Minsky: In a way it did, but my exposure to it actually started earlier than that. I was a chief creative innovator or chief creative officer of a small agency and we had a publicly traded company as a client that had a pickle brand that was falling fast in the marketplace and the company was afraid that that would hurt their stock price. So they brought us in to stop the decline. And in our research we found that our pickle brand tends to get eaten up. A lot of people buy pickles, they eat a few, they put in the refrigerator, they might grab a few more, but eventually the pickle jar makes it to the back of the refrigerator. Pickles get soggy, they throw them out and then eventually maybe a back to school or some other kind of occasion, they’ll buy another jar and the cycle starts over. So we decided to promote the aspect that people love our pickles so much, they’ll eat the whole jar as our benefits. So we positioned it as the emptiest jar in the house. And how do you dramatize empty jars on radio was we decided to use a fork in a glass jar to hear the “ting” of it going in because it’s empty. And our campaign not only stopped a slide of the brand, it turned it around and made it the number one in the markets where it was sold most of its markets and in one market and in fact achieved a 40% share. So I started to get curious about the sound and how it plays in terms of building a brand and I thought that was an audio brand. Then I was working on another book and a collection of essays and Colleen and I, we come from the marketing services promotion firm and she had written an essay a long time ago about considering that as a career. And my publisher suggested that we use it in the book. And so I met with Coleen to modernize that article and she started talking about what she was doing with audio branding. And I learned that it was so much more than just a little logo at the end. It is a whole sound system. And one of the ways, in terms of how to use it, even for a package goods even for or, or any brand, even for a business-to-business brand, about half of Coleen’s agency’s clients – Sixième Son – are business to business firms. And you think of all the different touch points and it’s not just, you know, a consumer radio spot, which is where jingles end up. But think of the sales meeting. You bring all of your people together and, you know, you introduce the CEO with one type of music, you introduce the head of marketing with another type of music and you come across as disjointed to your employees and your employees need to understand the brand just as much as your consumers. And so you could bring a language to this that has full flexibility and, and, but still brings back the core notes so it conveys what they’re about. So you could use it even in an internal setting, such as a sales meeting. You could use it as a ringtone. You could use it on the website and voice assistance eventually, all sorts of things. So it’s really a comprehensive solution. And that’s what I learned when I sat down with Coleen and I said, “we gotta write about this.” And Colleen was doing a lot of writing. She’s a writer unto herself and that’s her background as well. And we collaborated on an article for Harvard Business Review where we looked at one of Sixième Son’s clients and that was the French railroad SNCF, which is one of the most recognizable sounds in Europe is their audio brand. They use it in stations, they use it on the trains when the doors are opening and closing. They use it in their advertising, you name it, it’s used and it’s highly, highly recognizable. And David Gilmore liked it so much he licensed the use of it for one of his songs and so every time that song gets played at reinforces SNCF. So there were so many different uses of it. So we wrote an article for Harvard Business Review on it where we actually went through the evolution of it and you can hear the different sounds in that article if you go on the online version of that article, if you go to it. And from there, we continued writing and you know that there needed to be a book on the subject because people understand it.

Adrian Tennant: One of the things I like most about the book, and I read a lot of marketing books, is the inclusion of pieces authored by branding practitioners such as Michaël Boumendil, who’s the founder of Sixième Son, the first sound design firm dedicated solely to audio branding. Plus you have articles from ad agency, veterans, Ben deSanti and Ken Hicks. But you also include contributions from academic experts, including professor Charles Spence, a cognitive neuroscientist based at Oxford University who explores people’s associations of musical notes with particular aromas. And his article describes really fascinating experiments that pair music with food often with some surprising results. Can you speak to that?

Larry Minsky: Yeah, I’ll give you a very basic thing, but cause audio branding is much more than just being in very tactical sales generating kind of thing. But there was research done in a grocery store chain where they had French wine displayed next to German wine. And on one day they would run German music and people would buy more the German wine. And other days they ran French music and the French wine’s brand would sell more. And people were asked, “well, why are you buying it?” And so, “well this one, this wine is going to pair better with my meal,” and all that kind of stuff. But what they were really doing was being influenced by the sounds, but they weren’t cognitively processing the information and saying, “well, I’m buying this wine because I heard this French song or this German song,” or whatever. It just helps set the mood for that kind of product. And so that was enough. That example might sound a little manipulative. That’s not really what audio branding is about. We’re not here to say, “okay, today you’re going to buy more French wine or more German wine.” But it’s really about reinforcing the brand attributes because if the brand attributes are what make people want to buy the product, they will buy the product or they like it better or I’ll talk about it or they’ll feel better about it. Whatever you need to have done and reinforce the qualities of the brand – it’s why you trust it. And  audio branding can help contribute to the trust factor.

Adrian Tennant: Many of our listeners are familiar with the creative process of designing a visual brand identity – for example, using visual mood boards and then refining designs based on some combination of client feedback and consumer research. Can you briefly explain what the creative process for audio branding looks like?

Larry Minsky: It’s very, very similar. It is. I’m first sitting down and figuring out what, what do you want to convey? What is the brand DNA that you want to send out to the world? And then from there you go into sound moodboards. It could be existing stuff, but you put it together and you hear, well, here’s one direction, here’s another direction, here’s another direction. What’s conveying, what’s working? And then you start composing those kinds of things and for mood boards and it becomes unique. And then you start researching it and you’re saying which one is working and what, what does it say to people when they listen to it? And, and then they refine it. It’s exactly like doing a visual brand. Doing a sound brand, you walk through the same steps except you hear it instead of see it. Really it should be just like figuring out what the visual brand is and what the visual brand promises and how you bring it to life in different aspects should be thought of upfront. In many ways, and this is another benefit is the licensing fees overall are lower. When you have an audio brand, you have all the development. And sometimes it depends on what you do in terms of how you get it, whether it’s licensed from name, audio, branding firm or whether you, you own it all clear out, but you need to make different iterations. But overall it becomes cheaper and easier to manage. So you’re saving money on one end because if you’re doing a lot of TV or doing a lot of radio and you need a lot of sounds, you know, you gotta pay for it.

Adrian Tennant: So do you have a couple of audio branding do’s and don’ts that you’d like to share?

Larry Minsky: I would guess the number one DO is create one and start bringing your sounds together and making them consistent and aligned and working for your brand instead of helping communicate that your brand is disjointed. Do follow a disciplined process. Go do it. Like you would do a visual brand, think it through, do the research, do, do the hard work upfront. Those would be the, in a, in a very short way, the very main dos. DON’T think of it as a jingle thing. Don’t think of it as one-offs. Think of it as a system and do think of it long term. Don’t think of it as a short term solution. It’s an investment in your brand, just like your colors, your fonts, your logo.

Adrian Tennant: Larry, you balance real world advertising practice with a parallel career in academia. In what kinds of ways does one inform the other?

Larry Minsky: Great question. My research, my writing, helps me inform what I do. I hope it helps inform other people, what they do. My teaching keeps me on and my consulting, my working in the field helps bring back, well what are the issues out there today and what can we look at? So what I do research-wise and writing-wise, they all work together.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. We will of course include links to the examples that we’ve discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS webpage. But if listeners would like to know more about your work, Larry, and either this book or the many other books that you’ve written, where can they find you?

Larry Minsky: You could just go to Amazon and put in my name, Laurence Minsky and go to my author page and there is the complete list of books. My two current books are on Kogan Page and then I have another one on with that just came out on Global Brand Management. So how do you manage a brand that crosses borders? What are the issues, and or crosses cultures? I have another book, The Activation Imperative on how do you align all of the different disciplines to drive people down the path to purchase? 

Adrian Tennant: Larry, thank you very much for being with us today on IN CLEAR FOCUS. It’s a really fascinating topic. Thank you very much for sharing your insights about audio branding with us.

Larry Minsky: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed the discussion. Hopefully, you found it just as interesting and enjoyable as I did.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you. My thanks to our guest this week, Laurence Minsky, co-author of Audio Branding: Using Sound to Build Your Brand. You can find links to resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player, and if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.



George Zwierko of Rumbo Marketing discusses the characteristics of Hispanic consumers and what influences their estimated $1.7 trillion in purchasing power.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Hispanics make up around 18 percent of the total US population, yet there’s a disparity between the proportion of ad spend allocated to Hispanic media and the number of Hispanics living in the US. Multicultural marketing expert George Zwierko of Rumbo Marketing joins us to explain the characteristics of Hispanic consumers, where they spend their time, and how they engage with advertising. We discuss popular misconceptions, dispel some urban legends, and identify what influences Hispanics’ estimated $1.7 trillion in purchasing power.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Within the next couple of weeks, homes across the United States will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 census on April 1st – and on November 3rd, Americans will vote to decide who will become the next president of the United States. Census data suggests that people aged 18 to 45 years old will represent just under 40% of the eligible voters this year and it’s expected that more than 30% of them will be non-white. This reflects an increase in the numbers of voters identifying as African American, Hispanic, and Asian since the 2016 Presidential election. A report from Horowitz Research published late last year showed that diversity in advertising can have a positive impact on the purchase decisions of multicultural consumers. Ads that show mixed-race couples and families had a 31% net impact on brand perception. 38% of respondents said that advertisements that portray diverse multicultural people in them are reflecting the true essence of the United States. Although Asians are the fastest growing demographic group, Hispanics make up around 18% of the total US population and currently command an estimated $1.7 trillion in purchasing power. The amount that brands have invested in Hispanic media has been rising over the past few years, but there’s still a disparity between the proportion of ad spend allocated to Hispanic media and the number of Hispanics living in the US. Adobe’s research found that 40% of Hispanic respondents have walked away from a brand for representing them in its advertising. The Hispanic market is clearly an important one for brands to engage with. To help us understand the characteristics of Hispanic consumers, where they spend their time, what platforms they prefer, and how they consume branded content, I’m joined today by a pioneer and expert in multicultural advertising. George Zwierko is the Principal of Rumbo Marketing with offices in Tampa, Florida, and Nashville, Tennessee. Since graduating with a degree in art direction from the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York, George has had an illustrious career in advertising, holding senior creative positions in agencies. In 2005, George founded Grupo D, the Hispanic marketing division of the Dutcher group, the success of which led George to launch Rumbo in 2008 as an independent multicultural firm. With over 20 years as a creative professional in general market and multicultural marketing, George has garnered multiple local and national Addy awards in a variety of disciplines as well as several Telly awards. In 2018, George was recognized with the American Advertising Federation’s Silver Medal for advertising excellence and service on behalf of the advertising industry. George is also a partner with Three Chairs Productions, a video production and marketing company based in Tampa. Welcome to In Clear Focus, George.

George Zwierko: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Adrian Tennant:  I mentioned during the introduction that the expansion of the Hispanic population accounts for almost half of America’s population growth since 2000. What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions brands have about Hispanic audiences?

George Zwierko: I think that there is a barrier that’s put up by certain advertisers because there’s just a lack of understanding of what the capability of these audiences have regarding spending or regarding usage. There needs to be a level of education when it comes to how we can best communicate and connect with diverse audiences. I think the misconception is that you might have a product, brand or service, and you feel that if I’m spending money and I’m targeting my general market audience that somehow, some way I’m going to touch my ethnic audiences, or that my ethnic audiences represents such a small population of the folks that would utilize our service or product, that to give it any weight regarding, let’s say a media spend or any creative execution is just not worth the effort.

Adrian Tennant: Twenty-six percent of all children in the US up to the age of nine are Hispanic and more than half of the Hispanic population is under the age of 29. How do you think the growing strength of this population will impact, , popular culture and by extension, the kinds of creative developed for advertisements?

George Zwierko: I think there’s an opportunity to look at our Hispanic audience and see that, um, a good majority of our audience is bicultural, bilingual, because they do skew young. I think there is a greater opportunity for us to create campaigns that are more relevant and are more relatable. The problem that we run into is that in the past a lot of brands and many advertisers would strictly translate their ads, and I think that was because of lack of understanding of the Hispanic audience as a whole. The problem in translation is that if we create advertisements that are meant to be funny, witty, clever, highly conceptual, and then you translate that, those things don’t always translate correctly. And then what we’re left with is just a very bland advertisement. But what we like to do is really hone in on what we can create, what type of creative can we do and original content could be made that still keeps the essence of the original messaging. 

Adrian Tennant: So brands should think less about translation and think more about transcreation?

George Zwierko: That’s correct. And transcreation is just what that is. It’s taking your message or your content, your visuals, everything that you put into your campaign. And then developing an execution that’s going to be relevant to this new audience.

Adrian Tennant: Now, the amount of total ad spend brands have invested in Hispanic media has been rising in the past few years. But eMarketer has reported on the disparity between the proportion of ad spend allocated to Hispanic media and the number of Hispanics that are actually living in the US. Why doesn’t the Hispanic audience receive its fair share of ad dollars, do you think?

George Zwierko: It’s sad to say, but think there’s a lack of understanding of the value these audiences bring to the table. I think many people in a variety of different positions just take a stance when it comes to communicating to other audiences, I don’t think they personally recognize the value. So therefore it won’t exist in any strategy moving forward. So I would say it’s narrow thinking or just missed opportunity. I do agree that the spend is going up incrementally. I don’t think it’s anywhere near where it needs to be. And I think there’s a great opportunity for us to just reevaluate what our spend does look like. And to us it’s a very simple formula: we’re doing a local campaign and we’re going to communicate it to our local audience. And we look at the local population as being a certain percentage of  non-Hispanic, a certain percentage Hispanic, and so on and so on down the line. And we look at those audiences. And we start to look at our customer profile within that population and we identify that, you know, within the non-Hispanic market, we’re going to be speaking to this demographic. But then a very similar demographic exists within our Hispanic population and in our African American population. So taking those new percentages, let’s reevaluate what our spend will be and then also look at what is going to be the best avenues and the best channels for consumption based on those consumer behaviors, based on what we know non-Hispanics do and, and Hispanics will do and African Americans will do and then target appropriately and spend appropriately. So that might mean that I’m not going to take 100% of my budget and throw it toward one audience and then hope that if I pepper in some folks that look Hispanic in my TV ad or I pepper in some people that look African American and my billboards, that I’m going to be effectively touching those audiences. We’re going to miss something, whether that’s going to be in the message or in the execution of the creative. Somehow, some way, we’re going to miss the mark. And what by missing the mark, we’re just doing an injustice to the brand. We’re not communicating that brand as effectively to other audiences as we did to our general audience

Adrian Tennant: Google has undertaken multicultural research and reported that more than half of Hispanic audiences are more likely to use English when conducting searches or consuming content online, even if they generally speak Spanish at home. So when you’re developing advertising designed to reach Hispanic audiences, how do you determine which language to reach them in?

George Zwierko: That’s a very interesting question and what we do is we understand that our Hispanic audience, because they skew young, more than likely a good percentage of that population is bilingual, bicultural. So that gives us a great opportunity to effectively reach this one audience on two sides of the fence, we could run English language ads, we can run Spanish language ads, because we know the consumption of this audience will be going back and forth. The ability to naturally go from English to Spanish is very fluid with a lot of Hispanic households. And we recognize that. Now that’s not to say that we don’t have an opportunity to just run Spanish ads. We might do that, but we’ve run campaigns that have been strictly English, strictly targeting a younger bilingual, bicultural household or audience. And we’ll run that ad in English, but we pepper in some cultural nuances, things that we know are relatable – that could be a phrase, it could be if we’re running a TV commercial, it’s a gesture. It’s just these little things that we know are culturally relevant and are relatable to the people that we’re speaking to. It just makes it more real to our audience. Even if it’s in English. It’s just a better reflection of how they live their lives. I think it really humanizes the message. 

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. I really like that idea. So the inclusion of some elements of Hispanic culture in advertising, even if an ad is in English makes audiences feel a little bit like the brand is understanding them with a kind of a cultural nod or wink?

George Zwierko: Correct.

Adrian Tennant: Right. While Hispanics own smartphones in similar proportions to the rest of the US population, our research suggests that they spend, on average, two hours more per week on their mobile devices, the non-Hispanic audiences. Why is this, George?

George Zwierko: It’s interesting. When it comes to smartphone usage, I think what we’re finding is that there’s, there’s two things. We have Hispanic households that could be multigenerational, you know, more folks in the household compared to non-Hispanics. So you look at just the devices someone would have on their home. So you have a desktop or you might not have a desktop. And so I think the access to the internet today with things like 4G, 5G, the affordability of wifi enables us to use our smartphones more as a way to consume and to gather information, and to live our lives online, than just being chained to a desk. So I think it’s the affordability of providing internet access to multiple people within a household, which I think lends it to the stat that more Hispanics are on their smartphones than non-Hispanics, for example.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. That makes a lot of sense. A study from Viant in 2017 showed that Hispanic millennials – also known as Gen Y – is the cohort most likely to interact with brands on social media. And the study found that almost 50 percent of Hispanic millennials said they had talked about a brand online with others or use the brands hashtag compared to just 17% of non-Hispanics. So to cultivate brand loyalty, it seems like social media might be an even more important channel for Hispanics than say, for the general market. Do you agree?

George Zwierko: I agree, I think the opportunity to use social media to, to cultivate brand loyalty is across the board, I think you’re starting to see that uptick across multiple generations, everywhere from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. I think across the board, social media is just becoming more relevant in our lives and advertisers are beginning to realize that putting more money toward a social media platform just makes better sense for building brand loyalty or creating awareness. I think it’s identifying the social media channels also that are used with one generation over the other or one particular ethnic group over the other. I think you’ll find some stats that support that one platform gets more usage, when you start to look at certain demographics. I think there’s always going to be an opportunity for us to use social media to attract our younger Hispanic audience to create that loyalty. And I only think that that’s going to continue to grow. We’ve run many campaigns where we stay away from any advertising in the traditional sense and put more money into a digital space. Sometimes that’s 100% of our spend when it comes to targeting Hispanics. Just because we see the uptick in an online usage between Google searches and programmatic and retargeting. I mean, the numbers are just skewing so high. And, and that could go back to the last question we talked about when it comes to smartphone usage I think that where we’re identifying who has the most devices and the best way to talk that audience. 

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Yeah, that makes sense. So let’s switch gears a little bit. Can you explain how Rumbo typically works with partner agencies like ourselves to develop a multicultural campaign?

George Zwierko: Absolutely. You know, for us, partnering with ad agencies has been part of our model since our inception. It always made the most sense. It goes back to why, when we had our traditional agency, we created a Hispanic division, which was Grupo D, which you introduced earlier. It just makes sense for us to provide a multicultural service to agencies that don’t offer that. Now we can come and partner with agencies on multiple different levels and provide a variety of different services. For some agencies we come in on the creative side – but sometimes we come in as just purely as consultants and help guide their creative team or their strategy team or the accounts department just to kind of help them better understand or identify opportunities with their existing client base. And so we help clients identify the best clients on their list that would benefit from doing a multicultural campaign or developing a multicultural strategy. 

Adrian Tennant: So George, what does your process look like?

George Zwierko: Sure. So, for example, we do a lot of work with financial institutions. Over the years we’ve partnered with quite a few credit unions and banks. And with that relationship, the process always begins with us looking at their existing customer base or their member base. Usually we’ll launch with a campaign that communicates to their existing customers, showing that the credit union or the bank provides the types of services that our Hispanic customers are looking for when it comes to finances. I think the approach to how you sell bank products, financial products is a little different. There are certain nuances to the Hispanic audience that are very different from your English-speaking non-Hispanic customers. So what we do is we help the bank or credit union identify those things and actually see them. What we’ve known and what we’ve seen in the past is that you’ll have a Hispanic family come in and they want to speak to a teller who speaks Spanish. They would prefer to speak in their own language. And so the bank or credit union from an operational side may only have one teller available that speaks Spanish. And so that teller might be occupied and maybe the availability of that individual that they’re trying to reach, that person may not be available for about another 30, 40 minutes. But surprisingly, you’d find the Hispanic family will wait. They’ll wait 40 minutes, they’ll carve a lot of time out of their day because they really prefer to speak to this one individual and build a relationship with this one individual. And then every time this, this individual, this Hispanic individual or the family comes in, they’re always looking to talk to that one person. So from an operational side, you know, we’re advising credit unions and banks to staff up on Spanish speakers. So maybe then that graduates to a recruitment campaign, how do we staff appropriately to handle our Hispanic, Spanish-speaking customers? Then we also look at products. What products are you offering? What products resonate better with our Hispanic audience based on their financial needs? We notice that the financial needs might be different – certain products will resonate well with certain Hispanic households and others may not even be top of mind. But then how do we cross-sell those other products? And it’s always going to be a little different than you do your non-Hispanic audience. Even how you talk to these customers, your approach, we found that when it comes to talking about your finances, for many Hispanic families, it’s a very private, intimate thing. It’s something that’s not lightly shared. There’s a sense of privacy that needs to be taken into account so we have to be sensitive to those things.

Adrian Tennant: How have you seen really cringe-worthy, creative designed for a Hispanic audience that completely fell flat? 

George Zwierko: You know, that’s, that’s an interesting question because I think what we’re starting to see is that mistakes isn’t happening as often. And the reason it’s not happening as often as, because advertisers are getting wise to not relying on things like Google Translate or trying to ask their next door neighbor if they can help copywrite an ad. I think advertisers and agencies are starting to realize that they either need to hire professionals or bring in a professional to develop a messaging and strategies and copy and so forth. So a lot of the mistakes that were made are the ones that we’ve always heard in our marketing classes are really almost urban legends. Like the big one that was always talked about was Chevy’s Nova campaign where you take Nova and if you translate Nova in Spanish, it sounds like “No-va” – “doesn’t go,” but that campaign launched, they were selling Chevy Novas and in central America and Mexico and around the world without any problem. And actually there were upticks in car sales all over the country, all over South America, and central America. So there’s really no weight to this urban legend that that was an actual problem that consumers in those countries were looking at the brand name or the name of the product, Nova calling it “No-va” and then ridiculing the brand. And Chevy took a nosedive and sales that never actually happened, but yet it’s one of the sample examples that is used in multicultural classes and in classroom instruction to this day. I think what we can do to avoid, we can look at this, this story, even though it’s an urban legend and, and realize that what it really takes is us truly understanding our audience and not thinking that all Hispanics that make the Hispanic population are all pigeonholed into the same silo. I can’t assume that if I’m using cultural references that are very Mexican, that that’s going to appeal to every Hispanic in the population. Everyone comes from someplace else and there’s a variety of different traditions and cultures that accompany these populations. I think it’s just truly understanding, “who am I speaking to?” and, “how do I make it relevant to the people I’m talking to?” For example, if we’re running campaigns in Orlando there’s a large population of Puerto Ricans that live in Orlando, Kissimmee and that in Central Florida. So I’m going to rely on the cultural references that resonate with that audience. You know, what can we include in our messaging that is going to resonate with that particular group? But let’s say I’m in Houston in Texas where there’s a large percentage of Mexicans that make up the population, well then how am I going to address that audience? But if I live in a melting pot, like let’s say Tampa or New York, you know, there we’re going to take a different approach because we want to make sure that we can communicate across the board to our entire Hispanic population because they come from a variety of different countries. So I think we learn from these stories we hear about campaigns and brands that got it wrong. There was the “Got milk?” campaign that used the headline, “¿Tiene leche?” which can be understood as, “Are you lactating?”

Adrian Tennant: (Laughter)

George Zwierko: But that has never been proven to be true, you know, and a lot of promotional campaigns run locally. So sometimes it’s hard to prove if something was said wrong or if something was said right, but these are the stories that exist out there. And I think it’s just like any story, there’s a moral to be learned. 

Adrian Tennant: Now, George, I understand that your family has both Latin and European heritage. In what kinds of ways – if at all – did that influence you growing up? 

George Zwierko: That’s an excellent question because I grew up in a household where I was totally confused, I think! My mother was born in Puerto Rico and I grew up in the Bronx in New York, and we lived in a neighborhood that was – the majority of the folks in that neighborhood were a Spanish, Puerto Rican, Dominican. It was about 99% of our neighborhood. And my mother, which I always say was the head of household, regardless of what my father might think, we grew up in an environment where we lived on Spanish food. We listened to Spanish music. Spanish was spoken in the house. All our friends spoke Spanish. We just grew up in an environment where the influence was very Latin. And then my father, unfortunately, was the odd man out. He didn’t speak any Spanish – loved my mother to death. But I had very limited access to my dad’s side of the family. Occasionally we would do the family reunion thing or go visit my grandmother. And my dad being European, was born in Poland. There was a big Polish influence when we would go to those types of events. But it was interesting for me as a child just to see both sides and appreciate what both sides had to offer. The language, the food, the traditions, the values, the superstitions were always really interesting too. There was always a little bit of similarity between the two. But then, you know, you’d find these major differences. And so I think growing up, it just made me aware of that, you know, we all come from different backgrounds and we all bring amazing things to the table.

Adrian Tennant: George, we have a very active and engaged internship program here at Bigeye. For students or young professionals just starting out in their careers, what advice would you give to help them apply a multicultural perspective in their work?

George Zwierko: I come from a general market background. Most of my career was in the general market side of things – full service, fully integrated agencies. And I chose to get into multicultural marketing. It’s not easy. I think multicultural – it’s almost like there’s a science to it. I always like to say that we’re kind of like anthropologists, we really enjoy being multicultural because we love learning about the essence of people. How do people think? And why do they think a certain way? And how do they behave a certain way? And what causes them to behave a certain way? Is there some type of traditional influence or some cultural influences that are steering them in a direction to make a decision to purchase or use something? And how does that make them tick? And that fascination is what drives us to be on the multicultural side of things. But it’s a lot of work, but I think if you’re interested in learning about people or you have an interest in understanding people and the psychology that goes into consumer behavior, I really do think multicultural is the place to be.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. That’s great advice, thank you. If listeners are interested in learning more about developing multicultural marketing strategies or your work at Rumbo, where can they find resources?

George Zwierko: Well, you could always start at our website, which is I think if you go online and just Google “multicultural marketing,” you get to see some amazing national international work. And then I know a lot of the universities are offering or beginning to offer classes on diversity inclusion, multicultural marketing. I think that’s becoming more relevant and at the university level just because we’re watching the landscape of this country completely change and just globally how we’re starting to become more interconnected. And the planet is much smaller than it used to be. 

Adrian Tennant: George, thank you very much for being with us today on IN CLEAR FOCUS and thank you for sharing your insights into this really dynamic market.

George Zwierko: Absolutely. It’s been my pleasure. This has been fantastic. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, George Zwierko, Principal of Rumbo Marketing. You can find links to resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player, and if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, joins us to examine the current state of grocery shopping and the ways they are innovating to engage with shoppers.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: the $800 billion grocery wars. Amazon announced this week that it is opening its first full-size, cashierless grocery store. Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, joins us to examine the current state of grocery shopping and key challenges facing the industry. We look at the ways traditional grocery chains are employing technology to engage with shoppers, experimenting with new store formats, and testing delivery options.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Today, we’re going to be talking about something we probably all have to do: grocery shopping. A five point 7 trillion dollar business globally, based on 2018 data from, the top grocery chain in the US is Walmart – and it’s way ahead – with $514.4 billion in sales. And the number two position is Kroger with $121.2 billion. In addition to its own name, Kroger operates under 16 store names including Harris Teeter, QFC, and Ralph’s. Coming in third is Albertsons with $62.2 billion. Florida-based Publix comes in fifth with $36.1 billion. The German-owned chain, Aldi, which also owns Trader Joe’s, comes in ninth with $16 billion, which is just ahead of Amazon, owner of Whole Foods; that’s in 10th spot with $15.8 billion in sales. A 2019 report from the Food Marketing Institute reported that 92% of shoppers have a favorite store where they do the bulk of their grocery shopping. This is a place they know by name and where they spend the majority of their grocery budget, most commonly a supermarket. Today, the vast majority of grocery shopping still takes place in traditional brick and mortar stores, but this pattern is beginning to change as more retailers offer grocery delivery options either via their own services or in partnership with companies like Instacart. The online grocery market generated sales of $28.7 billion in 2019 with sales forecast to reach $59.5 billion by 2023. The biggest players in this space are currently Walmart and Amazon. Of course, marketing plays a significant role in how supermarkets offline and online position themselves relative to competitors. The industry is also known for having razor-thin margins, so there is significant incentive to optimize every aspect of the marketing mix to maintain the most profitable formula. To talk about the current state of grocery shopping and some of the challenges facing the industry in 2020, I’m joined here in the studio today by Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dana.

Dana Cassell: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So why are you interested in following grocery store marketing trends?

Dana Cassell: It’s really the combination of my personal and professional interests that make the Grocery Wars so interesting to me. There’s a lot in there about consumer behavior and experience. You mentioned the razor-thin margins in this vertical, so really experience and um, consumer behavior have to be optimized. So I just love that. Um, it’s a super competitive field and it combines food and local culture. So there’s always something regional about groceries and the way that regional grocers expand into new areas I find really fascinating. And then there’s also a fairly broad target as you mentioned in the intro. Everybody needs to grocery shop at some point. So I really am interested in the idea that it’s not a brand that can usually differentiate itself on its target. And then also just how much of our life grocery shopping takes up. An average household makes 1.6 trips to the grocery store every week, spending $113.50 every week. And then this part, this is what I get so excited about. The average household makes trips to 4.4 stores each month. So while someone might have their grocery of preference, they also probably have a place that they swing into that is more convenient, maybe a place where they buy produce or meat. And I just think that’s fascinating that really a mix of brands make up one category for a house. I just love it. This is an industry I really like to watch right.

Adrian Tennant: The buzz in Florida lately has been about the closing of many Lucky’s Market stores and also the news that Earth Fare, which is a health and wellness-focused supermarket chain, will be closing all of its stores. What’s the deal with these beloved brands going out of business?

Dana Cassell: So kind of two different stories actually for Lucky’s and Earth Fare, but we can talk through both of them. You might know that Lucky’s started in Boulder, Colorado in 2002 and their mission was to be organic for the masses. So they were trying to broaden access to organic food. And in 2012, they opened their second location in Colorado. And then there was a turning point for Lucky’s, which is that in 2016 it was invested in by Kroger. You mentioned earlier that Kroger has many stores under which it operates. Well, it invested heavily in Lucky’s in 2016. And at that point they had 17 stores in 13 States and Kroger started pushing Lucky’s to younger, more price-conscious shoppers. And then they made a strategic move into Florida. So in 2017, there were 11 Lucky’s in Florida. You can see how quickly the growth happened for this store. At the same time, though, we saw the growth of chains like Sprouts, Fresh Thyme and Earth Fare. And during that expansion, we also saw major brands like Walmart and Aldi start to double down on organic and natural foods. And even Kroger did. So the way they did it was with a private line in store, which is the way we see many major brands address natural and organic. So while Lucky’s was growing, the general market for organic was growing as well. And that message of organic food for the masses was not a point of difference any more because if Walmart has doubled down on organic, that’s a difficult place for Lucky’s to differentiate. So really, Lucky’s grew too quickly and then Kroger just decided to pull their funding. We know that Kroger is focusing on tech. It’s my assumption that the focus on tech leaves Kroger no option but to refine their strategy. So they’re really transitioning, transitioning to an omnichannel retailer, focused on store delivery, pickup and ship. And I think as this more strategic focus is happening, Lucky’s just is not a profitable element for the company. So I’m interested to see what happens with Lucky’s over time. I think the Kroger pulling out – obviously, it makes a major impact in this area of the country. And then Earth Fare is just a kind of a totally different story in and of itself. Earth Fare started in 1975 in Asheville, North Carolina. And their niche was organic natural foods and over time, as we just mentioned, that niche really disappeared. So grocers either have to compete on price or they have to compete on customer experience. Earth Fare was clearly too small to be able to gain the price advantage that larger retailers have. And while they invested heavily in local communities and had a really local feel for every store, the customer experience wasn’t enough to help the brand thrive. So their niche disappeared. Kind of two different stories for those two.

Adrian Tennant: Now, you mentioned Kroger pushing investment in technology. Is that a trend you expect to see across the industry?

Dana Cassell: Of course. You mentioned earlier about online grocery and the percent of sales that it’s taking. Absolutely. If a grocer wants to succeed, their online strategy has to be in place. I certainly expect to see that expand across the interest industry. I’m interested to see what Kroger does because of course their investment in technology impacts many of the stores that we all shop in, whether they’re named Kroger or not. But for sure we’ll see a technology push.

Adrian Tennant: And what other grocery trends are you looking towards in 2020?

Dana Cassell: Hmm, that’s a fun question. I see the trends break down into two different areas. They’re either experience or behavioral trends, or trends based on personal values. So the values trends that we’re looking toward in 2020 are things like plant-based foods and the availability of those in your average grocery store. The trend towards zero-waste cooking, and we’ll see that pop up in prepared foods as well. And then also this is one that we can be interested in as marketers: the story behind foods is a trend that we’re seeing – people really being interested in where their food comes from and how it’s grown and how it’s produced. My favorite current example of this is Vital Farms eggs. I also love that they’re a heavy podcast advertiser. So I love hearing about them just through my own media habits. But the way that they’re telling their story is they have the name of the farm where your eggs came from on the side of the carton. And you can go on their website, type the name of that farm, and they take you on a video tour of the farm. So you might have this image of dairy – of a beautiful farm, and a red barn, and sun shining on green grass. And that’s not true, as we know, in a lot of food production. And Vital Farms is not just dispelling that myth, but just saying, “Come take a look. Here’s the name of your farm, take a tour and see what it’s about.” So that storytelling behind foods I think will only be getting bigger. And then on the experience or behavioral side of trends, a few things that I’m interested in. Obviously, as technology grows and online ordering grows, grocers are able to have more access to habit tracking. So this is when you see, like in your grocery app, if you’re going to order for the week, you might see between when you finish your order and submit for payment, you might see a screen that says, “Did you forget your orange juice?” Because they notice that I’ve bought orange juice every week for the last three months and I didn’t this week. So that habit tracking is a way to optimize people’s experience. It’s also a way to optimize sales. We’ll also see a trend toward convenience foods. I think the first wave of this was really at home delivery and meal kits. And then groceries have gotten on board with this. So you can walk now into a Harris Teeter for example, and you’ll see meal kits prepared, ready to go home. So all of those herbs, chopped veggies, diced meat, prepared and you just need to go home, combine and cook. So we’ll see an increase in convenience store foods like that, but also things in more prepared foods like sandwiches over in the deli. You know, chicken ready to eat, to-go foods, those meal kits. We’ll see that growing this year. And then the delivery method is obviously an experience and trend that we’re looking toward and really living in right now. The different ways to get your groceries. If you’re going to come in store, we’re going to be focused on a speedy checkout process. You can order online, have it delivered home, or you can come drive up. We’re going to see groceries optimizing each one of those delivery methods.

Adrian Tennant: A couple of other tech innovations that I’ve been tracking: if you have a mobile phone app for the supermarket, it’s typically going to understand the layout of the store that you shop in most frequently and it can potentially guide you through the store to ensure that you get all of the items on your list in the most, time and footwear-efficient manner. But I’ve also seen things where, for example, freezer cabinets have got small cameras installed that look at the facial expressions of consumers as they approach the cabinet and might actually suggest products based on the emotion that’s being elicited by the facial characteristics of that moment. That’s a little Minority Report – but I know that Kroger is one of the supermarket chains that’s, I think, working with Microsoft on the idea that the shelf talker or the labeling along shelves can be personalized to the individual consumer. And even with the prospect of having personalized, dynamic pricing back to that loyalty scheme idea – so a lot happening in supermarkets, it seems, technology-wise.

Dana Cassell: It is interesting. On those digital tags. I also like the idea of the tags being able to talk to the phone. So as you pass by something being, you know, being reminded or if you have your list on your phone, the geo-locating in the store, I think it’s all really interesting. And as a consumer, I feel a couple of ways about it. You know, you just mentioned the Minority Report aspect, but also I’ve been in a store – I haven’t done this in grocery yet because I’m such an online order of grocery – but I was in Target recently and couldn’t figure out where something was in the store and went into the app and was able to find the aisle in the app. And I think that is super useful. So when you mentioned a phone being able to guide you through the store, especially if you’re new to an area or a new store is opened, you know, that you haven’t shopped in before. I think it’s gonna all optimize the consumer experience and at the same time deliver data to the brands that they can use to increase sales and you know, just make really the experience of shopping better.

Adrian Tennant: Now what are the lessons about consumer behavior marketers can learn from these Grocery Wars?

Dana Cassell: That’s really the question that gets into why I follow groceries in general because I just think that the trends that we see there can apply to a wide variety of brands. So the first is the digitally-demanding environment. Obviously we’re talking about this huge tech investment that grocers are leaning into right now and will continue to lean into. And the lesson that’s taught us is that stores have to have a promotional plan, a media plan, and an e-commerce plan in place, digitally. These are just the three baseline mandatories that we’re learning from grocery. A digitally-demanding environment means that you have to be up to speed. We also have in grocery the sea of sameness. You know, if you take a step back, they’re all selling food. They’re all in my neighborhood. So they have to figure out in this sea of sameness how to stay stand out. And I mentioned earlier two tactics that we see groceries use for that either price, competition or experience. And I’m really most interested as a marketer and the stores that choose the consumer experience as their point of difference. And we can learn a lot from that. I think, in general, there are four questions as a marketer that I would take away from the Grocery Wars and what we’re seeing here in early 2020 that I would encourage brands to ask themselves. And if we don’t have solid answers, you know it’s time to bring somebody else in the room that can help with these answers. So the first is, “what is our point of difference and how will we compete?” And then, “What technology do we need to invest in to meet our customer’s expectations?” I am so pleased that Kroger sees the need to do that rather than limp along with whatever technology they have. And we all know we’ve worked with brands day-in, day-out, that at this point have legacy technology infrastructure that has sort of been Frankensteined together to make things work. And sometimes there’s a moment where you have to pause and re-invest. So, “What technology do we need to invest in?” The next question is, “What’s the customer experience of doing business with our brand and is it exceptional at every touch point?” This is a hard one to answer if you are emotionally connected to your own brand. So I would encourage you to find somebody newer or less emotionally connected if it’s not exceptional at every touch point, what changes do you need to make? And then the last is, “Is our business model modern and evolved?” Meaning – is it values driven? We talked about people wanting to hear the story of their food. That question applies to all brands and that is not coming from one particular niche of consumers. As in the evolved business model, “Are we environmentally aware and do we have a customer-first mentality?” We’ve seen healthcare talk about a customer service mentality for over a decade. They’ll use the phrase, “Patient-first.” And I think we’re seeing grocer start to say, “Shopper-first mentality.” So these are kind of the lessons I think we can walk away with.

Adrian Tennant: Do you think we’re going to be looking at smaller footprints going forwards or do you think size still really kind of matters?

Dana Cassell: That’s really interesting. So we see Walmart’s Neighborhood Market being an answer to that. It’s a much smaller grocer that is only focusing on groceries. So all the things that you see at the Super Center are not there. And even Aldi, Lidl, Trader Joe’s, none of those are mega-footprint stores. I think you’re right. As online increases, I think the store experience is going to need to be optimized. And that does not necessarily mean a massive store that takes me an hour to get through. We saw that in the delivery trends for 2020, if we’re not doing drive up or delivery, speedy checkout is a big deal. And getting through the store quickly is too, so I expect that we’re not going to see an increase in mega-footprint grocery.

Adrian Tennant:

The average supermarket carries something like 36,000 to 40,000 SKUs compared to an Aldi or Trader Joe’s, which typically carries 3,000 to 4,000 max.

Dana Cassell: Right.

Adrian Tennant: Very different in terms of potentially being overwhelmed by the SKUs in a typical supermarket. But I believe most people probably only stick to 150 SKUs, habitually. So it seems like there’s a lot of choice out there. Do you think we need all of that choice, particularly with direct-to-consumer becoming a more viable option?

Dana Cassell: I think that’s interesting because I do think sometimes people find new brands to experiment with through their favorite grocery store. So I think it’s important that we continue to offer a variety. It’s a great place for trial. It’s obviously a wonderful channel for promotion as a marketer and the habit tracking. So the grocery delivers us a great experience as a marketer to say, people who like this, this, and this are typically buy this, this, and this tend to like our new product. So I really think that the in-grocery experience will continue to grow for trial brands, but certainly direct-to-consumer. I mean the world is our oyster with how we get our things. I also want to mention that the customer satisfaction score for Trader Joe’s in the latest survey, the 2018 one, it’s the number one highest grocery for customer satisfaction. So if a smaller grocer that has their own items, their own brands, it has is leading in customer satisfaction, I think that’s directional for where some of these larger grocers may be heading. Now obviously, two is Wegmans, three is Publix, and those are not smaller smaller footprints like Trader Joe’s. But that customer experience at Trader Joe’s just really turns the needle for them.

Adrian Tennant: Well it’s retail as theater, obviously and because they are their own branded products, there’s not really the ability to compare. And as you can probably tell, I’m a bit of a Trader Joe’s fan.

Dana Cassell: Right.

Adrian Tennant: And I’m not alone.

Dana Cassell: No!

Adrian Tennant: One of the top rated podcasts on Apple Podcasts is called, “Inside Trader Joe’s,” – it actually topped the charts a couple of times. So people are pretty passionate about their supermarkets.

Dana Cassell: No doubt.

Adrian Tennant: Great points. Dana, thank you so much for joining us today to discuss the Grocery Wars. It’s a fascinating topic for marketers.

Dana Cassell: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Dana Cassell, Senior Strategist at Bigeye. You can find links to resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” Consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And please rate and review the show. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.