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

Pet marketing services agency Bigeye’s podcast features Olivia Canlas, the co-founder and CEO of Meowbox, a pawpular direct-to-consumer cat treat and toy subscription. Olivia shares how she first had the idea for Meowbox and why social media has been purrfect for growing the brand. Olivia talks candidly about challenges during COVID, the importance of being part of an extended network of female entrepreneurs, and brainstorming pawsitively ameowzing creative box themes.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS provides another chance to hear a conversation with direct-to-consumer pioneer, Olivia Canlas, the co-founder and CEO of Meowbox. Olivia’s advice on building a community around her products and insights on the use of influencer marketing reflect topics we’ll be covering in Bigeye’s upcoming exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. And in a couple of weeks, we’ll be talking with Olivia again, along with other guests in the direct-to-consumer space to mark the 100th episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. But for now, enjoy this encore of a conversation with Olivia Canlas.

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. Over the past decade, a new type of business has disrupted retail. From Warby Parker, which sells eyeglasses and contact lenses to Everlane clothing, Casper mattresses, and The Honest Company for baby and beauty products, these companies all have one thing in common: they sell directly to consumers. Their ability to forge one-to-one relationships with their customers and capture valuable first-party data that is impossible via traditional retail is a unique advantage of the direct-to-consumer model. I am excited to welcome a pioneer in the direct-to-consumer space to this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. Launched in 2013 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Meowbox delivers boxes of toys and food treats to cat owners across Canada and the US as a monthly or bi-monthly subscription. With operations in Portland, Oregon too, the company has been featured in Buzzfeed, New York Magazine, Vogue, The Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, and InStyle magazine. And most recently, the New York Times Wirecutter picked Meowbox as the best cat subscription box. The Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Meowbox is Olivia Canlas, who is joining us today from her office in Vancouver. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Olivia!

Olivia Canlas: Thank you so much. I’m very excited for our conversation today.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you. So, first of all, Olivia, can you tell us a little more about what Meowbox is?

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

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Now clearly the business is successful now, but looking back, do you think being a woman meant that you faced additional challenges as an entrepreneur?

Olivia Canlas: You know, I like to think that everything that I do and that I did, to build the company it’s not tied to gender in any way, but, I didn’t look at my gender as something that was going to hold me back from succeeding, but in reality, there were a few moments where I was reminded that maybe I might be viewed a little bit differently in terms of, you know, male versus female, business leaders. And one example that I can think of was I was at a trade show once looking for some new product with my co-founder who’s male, and, a handful of times the brand representatives would initiate the conversation, speaking to him. instead of me, as if just automatically thinking that he was the one who was the decision-maker. I wasn’t, like offended or insulted, but it was definitely something that I noticed at the time and just sort of little things like that. I mean, very easy for me to step in and let them know I was the one who was doing the product selection. so it could have just been like a subconscious, behavior of people to expect maybe that it was the male who was in charge of making the decisions.

Adrian Tennant: Now I mentioned in the introduction that Meowbox serves cat owners in Canada and the United States. Do you have customers in any other countries?

Olivia Canlas: In the earlier stages of Meowbox, we did offer Meowbox to the UK, as we were kind of testing out the markets. so we were able to tell from our social media insights where our audience was located, so US and then Canada, and then the UK, and then I think Australia after that. So, we dipped a toe in, into the UK waters and we did run into some issues with just getting stuff over the border, in terms of the VAT that they have there – the VAT, it’s like an additional tax to claim your packages from overseas. So that experience wasn’t something that we wanted our customers to have to deal with. We just want to deliver the Meowbox – you get it, you open up, not have to deal with paying an additional fee on top of what you already paid. So instead of focusing our efforts on continuing to enter the UK market, we decided to reel it back and focus on our more local customers. I mean, there’s so many households with cats in Canada and the US that we have yet to reach. And we want the experience to be dialed in where there isn’t that additional fee or step to have to claim your, Meowbox.

Adrian Tennant: Meowboxes each contain themed, curated collection of cat toys and treats. How far in advance do you have to plan the theme and the contents of each box to allow for sourcing products and manufacturers?

Olivia Canlas: This is a great question. It’s evolved a lot since we started. We used to plan one month ahead of time. And now, I think currently we are planning our April box. So, quite a few months ahead of time, in order to make sure our products are designed properly, we go through all the samples, all the other sort of different, contributors to what goes into the box. We have to make sure that it’s all timed well, our products, if they come from overseas, they need time to ship to us, go through customs, and get delivered to our warehouse. So it’s changed a lot since the beginning, since we’ve increased our volume, we need more time to prepare for each month.

Adrian Tennant: How do you come up with the ideas for the theming of each box?

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

Adrian Tennant: What have been some of your customers’ favorite individual cat toys or treats so far?

Olivia Canlas: That’s another great question. We love to know, so that we can continue to deliver toys that have similar characteristics to that. And so specifically, very popular, one of them is a little wool snake toy, so it’s just kind of like a thin, lightweight, sort of wavy shaped wool toy. It’s narrow, and I think the reason why it’s so popular is, just the cats can grab it in their mouth really easily and it’s lightweight so they can carry it around and toss it in the air. I would say that’s kind of one of our most number one requested toys. But also, kind of more unique toy that we offer is made of a material called silvervine, which is sort of similar to catnip in terms of, it kind of brings out like excitement, out of your cat. But if your cat doesn’t react to catnip, they will most likely react to silvervine and even more intensely. So that type of toy has been extremely popular as well.

Adrian Tennant: I’m guessing research and development for Meowbox is more fun than other product categories. And on your website, you list your cats, Harvey, and Zach, as Co-Chief Feline Officers. Now, do you test new products you’re considering for Meowbox with your own fur babies?

Olivia Canlas: Yes, absolutely. Most of us that work for Meowbox have cats. So we take turns in bringing a toy samples home to test out on our cats. And they really are the ones who are the tie-breakers, if we’re not sure which toy will be more popular or more well-liked – take it home, see what the cats say. And we go with that.

Adrian Tennant: I love it – a focus group of felines (laughter) Now we’ve talked about the theming of each Meowbox. The visual design of each box is really unique and your social media posts also capture a really fun sensibility with lots of catty word-play. Do you have an in-house creative team?

Olivia Canlas: So we have a little bit of both, when it comes to, what we share on our social media and the voice that we use, across those platforms,that’s in house. And it’s kind of an extension of our personality. So if we’re being cheeky and playful, sharing things that we think are funny, that’s us,that’s the personality of our team and of our social media manager. That’s like a direct link of like what our sense of humor is and what we find interesting in the cat world. And, in terms of our toy design, we work with a partner who helps bring our theme ideas to life in illustrations, and we select sort of what is translating best for us, for the theme that we chose. And amongst our group of people who work at Meowbox, we also have a group of us who are very creative in terms of illustrating and coming up with visual ideas. So it’s kind of a mix of people contributing, but we’re all very like-minded in terms of like we’re, you know, lighthearted and we like to sort of lean on sort of like a cheekier side of things, which seems to be received very well by, by our audience.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: What have been some of your most successful customer acquisition programs for Meowbox, would you say?

Olivia Canlas: I would say number one consistently from the beginning is for us to be working with influencers and affiliates. So that would probably be our most successful, most consistent. If we had zero spend or very close to nothing to spend on marketing, I would never stop doing that.

Adrian Tennant: Hmmm.

Olivia Canlas: Yes. And then in terms of beyond that… I would say one of our best ways of bringing in customers and increasing our awareness is through email marketing. So bringing in people who are interested in what we have to say, and letting them know when we have something new, what our new themes are, or just like fun information that we want to share to our cat community.

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

Adrian Tennant: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before.

Michael R. Solomon: A lot of people who never would have thought to order groceries online have seen the light. And I guess they’re going to continue to do that.

Paige Garrett: When it comes to influencers’ recommendations and the way that you as a consumer feel connected to that influencer, it’s very similar to getting a recommendation from a family member or friend.

Adrian Tennant: The widespread adoption of online shopping during the pandemic has heightened consumer expectations and challenged retailers to re-imagine the customer experience to entice people back to physical stores.

Dana Cassell: It’s clear that customer habits have solidified. And to me, that means the digital conversion funnel needs to be working well from top to bottom and your organization needs to know what levers to pull to convert better step to step.

Doug Stephens: E-commerce is growing exponentially faster on a percentage basis than physical retail. And so it’s quite likely that as early as 2033, we may find that 50 or more percent of our consumption is being performed online and or by subscription.

Adrian Tennant: Retail Disrupted: What U.S. Shoppers Want From Brands Today, a new report from Bigeye. Coming soon.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Olivia Canlas, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the direct-to-consumer cat treats and toys subscription service, Meowbox. Olivia, you also have ongoing customer engagement programs like the Supermeowdel Cat Club. Can you tell us how those work?

Olivia Canlas: Can you tell that we’re really good with cat puns? So specifically, that group, we built that as a place for our cat community to share, to share photos, to ask questions, and we find that cat people, and I’m a cat person myself with Zach and Harvey, we love to talk about our cats. Just any sort of like invitation to share information or stories or photos about our cats. Like we love to do it. You mentioned my cat’s names and it just sort of like, sort of lights me up. I don’t know what it is. I guess we love our animals so much. And so that group is built for our cat community to post photos of their cats. Just know, no one’s judging, there’s not necessarily like a rhyme or reason. We do encourage engagement when we ask a question, like show us a photo of what your cat is doing right now and everyone wants to share, and we’re happy to see those photos. I think that’s kind of part of why we were able to grow so quickly at the beginning too – it’s just, people want to share photos of their cats.

Adrian Tennant: You created an annual event called MeowFest. What is it? And how did you arrive at the idea?

Olivia Canlas:  So MeowFest is our way of bringing our online community, offline and to gather in-person to network with each other, talk about their cats in person, put a name to a face for friends that you’ve perhaps made on Instagram, or someone who you’ve seen post photos of their cats on Facebook. So aside from bringing cat people together in person in one place, it’s also, one of our sort of larger sources of, donating and giving back to the cat community. So each event we choose a small handful of local cat shelters to donate proceeds to show that’s live and in-person we would have an assortment of vendors in a marketplace where people can shop for all their cat-themed goodies and cat toys. We also invite knowledgeable cat influencers in our space to come speak about cat care, rescue, those kinds of topics that are important to us. And we also have cat celebrities that we bring in for people to have like a little meet and greet photo session with as well.

Adrian Tennant: That sounds a lot of fun. Now, looking to the future, how do you see Meowbox evolving over the next two to three years?

Olivia Canlas: Our plan is to continue with the momentum of the growth that we’re experiencing, and throughout everything that we’re learning and discovering, we’re just hoping to continue to become, you know, more and more in tune with what our customers want, you know, to continue to be nimble as the market changes, but we’re experiencing, some really impressive growth right now. And the plan is to keep growing, keep going, find ways to make our customers happier, keep them with us longer, you know, provide to them what they’re looking for and just keep growing. Our goal is to reach as many cats in as many households as possible.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: I saw one of your social posts that mentioned ideas for a new creative project. So I want to ask you the same question you asked cat parents. Olivia, what is the craziest, wackiest most extraordinary, creative, quirky, and or wow-worthy thing that you have done out of love for your fur babies?

Olivia Canlas: Okay, so one of the craziest things that has happened, since I’ve had my cats in my life is, I was away on vacation, overseas, for a couple of weeks. And, the cat stayed home. I had someone come and visit them regularly, visit the house and the cats make sure they had everything they needed. And, one of the days that I was away, I got a pretty frantic emergency phone call saying that there was water flooding into all those surrounding, townhouse units that were connected to my townhouse. So, just to sort of clarify the picture. So we’re a ground level townhouse with a unit to our left, a unit to our right, and a unit behind us. And I couldn’t even understand what was going on and what that meant. And what ended up happening was that water was flooding my unit and flooding everyone else’s units around us. and we could not figure out, obviously, we didn’t leave our water on, you know, before the trip, it hadn’t been on, you know, for the first, like half of the trip. And the only thing that made sense was that one of the cats turned the water on in the kitchen sink, and turned the faucet so that the water was no longer pouring into the sink, but pouring onto the counter. And so I have no idea how long that water was on for, but it was pouring. Must’ve been hours, maybe an entire day just pouring out onto the counter, onto the floor and into all the surrounding units. And so we sent someone to turn it off and to make a long story short – my cats, I don’t know which one it was, created. I mean, probably hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of water damage to our unit and the units around us. And, so to this day, you know, I kind of walk around my building, like thinking, are you looking at me because, you know, I’m the mom of the cats that flooded your unit? And wondering if people sort of just remember me as that person. One of the comments that came up was like, “Oh, did they leave? Did she leave the tap on for the cats while she was away?” And just thinking like, “No, I didn’t, but how do I defend myself? But I still love them. You know, I still go on vacation. We’re just a little bit smarter with like where the tap is turned. Sometimes I’ll turn the water off completely, but basically, you know, my cats, they can do no wrong. They’ve done as bad as that – and I love them even more than I did the day they did that.

Adrian Tennant: Well, some cats clearly prefer fresh water from the faucet. So what are you going to do?

Olivia Canlas: I know exactly. What can I do? I can’t even be mad. They have taught me forgiveness.

Adrian Tennant: So, Olivia, what inspires you on a daily basis? Are there any journals, podcasts, or social media accounts that you follow – cat-related or not?

Olivia Canlas: My source of inspiration comes from my fellow female entrepreneurs. I have a small group of female entrepreneurs who I look up to whose businesses I follow, whose social media I follow, we’re in communication for sort of best practices or problem-solving, advice, and that kind of thing. And, it’s really blossomed and, become sort of a resource for me that I’ve come to rely on and go to, as of late. And I guess I didn’t really realize how important it was, maybe in early years to have that kind of a network of colleagues. But sort of as time goes by, I don’t know, maybe you lose a bit of your ego and, are just more open to sharing, you know, your challenges with other people, especially people who have, maybe dealt with that before, people in a similar businesses as you, and that’s kind of where my inspiration comes from. I see ladies who are running businesses that do certain things better than me, or certain things that I’ve never done before. And I’ll ask like, you know, “How can I do that? How did you reach that?” And then, and vice versa, it’s the same where there’ll be something that I’m doing really well with Meowbox. And they ask me, you know, “How did you do that? What tools did you use to reach that?” And it’s kind of just this feedback loop of all of us sharing and each of us supporting each other and just doing better and better.

Adrian Tennant: Which upcoming Meowbox projects – that you’re allowed to talk about – are you most excited about?

Olivia Canlas: Okay, let me think, what can I, what can I reveal? We have a project that’s coming up that is related to,the call out that we did for the stories you know, the wild and crazy wacky stories you asked me about that, but I can’t say what it is yet, and it will make more sense when it comes out.

Adrian Tennant: That is a great promo. So if listeners would like to learn more about Meowbox and follow you on social media, where can they find you?

Olivia Canlas: So on social media, we are @Meowbox, so that’s the same across all social media platforms. And our website is meowbox.com.

Adrian Tennant: And of course we’ll include a link to that on our website too. Olivia, thank you very much indeed for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Olivia Canlas: Thank you so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Olivia Canlas, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mowbox. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page, at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on your preferred podcast app. You can also use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Alexa Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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

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

Episode Transcript

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

Jorge Sedano: And I’m Jorge Sedano, also an Insights intern. Coming up on this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

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

Camila Swanson: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. Fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye.

Jorge Sedano: A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, Bigeye is based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camila Swanson: Yes. Yes. A hundred percent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nidia Swanson: Yeah. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Willis: Hi, I’m Rachel Willis, account specialist at Bigeye. Property development and management present their own unique sets of challenges. Growing a powerful lasting brand takes industry expertise with strategy and insights. Bigeye’s portfolio of property clients reflects our award-winning, extensive experience in all aspects of creative marketing for multi-family and mixed-use developments, as well as student housing, senior living, and real estate. To see case studies and learn more about Bigeye’s award award-winning creative and media solutions, perfectly tailored to property development and management, please visit the bigeyeproperties.com. Bigeye: reaching the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Adrian Tennant: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before.

Michael R. Solomon: A lot of people who never would have thought to order groceries online have seen the light. And I guess they’re going to continue to do that.

Paige Garrett: When it comes to influencers’ recommendations and the way that you as a consumer feel connected to that influencer, it’s very similar to getting a recommendation from a family member or friend.

Adrian Tennant: The widespread adoption of online shopping during the pandemic has heightened consumer expectations and challenged retailers to re-imagine the customer experience to entice people back to physical stores.

Dana Cassell: It’s clear that customer habits have solidified. And to me, that means the digital conversion funnel needs to be working well from top to bottom and your organization needs to know what levers to pull to convert better step to step.

Doug Stephens: E-commerce is growing exponentially faster on a percentage basis than physical retail. And so it’s quite likely that as early as 2033, we may find that 50 or more percent of our consumption is being performed online and or by subscription.

Adrian Tennant: Retail Disrupted: What U.S. Shoppers Want From Brands Today, a new report from Bigeye. Coming soon.

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

Jorge Sedano: And me, Jorge Sedano.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demographic segmentation is the foundation of traditional marketing – but does it still work? A consumer behavior psychologist and professor of marketing, Michael Solomon discusses his book, “The New Chameleons” highlighting fundamental shifts in terms of how we think about customers. Michael explains generational differences, targeting “markets of one”, and predicts which consumer behaviors accelerated by the COVID-19 lockdowns and economic changes will persist post-pandemic.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS is a conversation we first published in March of this year. Our guest is Michael Solomon, who discusses his book, The New Chameleons – especially relevant because Bigeye we’ll be publishing the results of our new national study later this month, examining how shopping behaviors have changed and what customers most want from brands today. Enjoy this encore episode with Michael Solomon.

Michael Solomon: There are a lot of very, very fundamental assumptions we make about the way we categorize people that no longer work in terms of how we think about customers and more importantly, how they think about us as marketers.

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. Several episodes in this season of the podcast have focused on industries we have seen significant growth during the pandemic due in part to changing patterns of consumer behavior. However, not all changes in behaviors are due to COVID-19, but rather a reflection of trends that have been accelerating for some time. Understanding consumer behavior is a through-line for IN CLEAR FOCUS, and today we’re going to discuss why and classifying groups of consumers using traditional segmentation and targeting methods is increasingly challenging. But the flip side is that insight derived from an outlier in research data could unlock the next big opportunity. Our guest this week is the author of the recently published book, The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization. Michael Solomon is a consumer behavior psychologist, a marketing professor, and an international speaker. Currently professor of marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Michael also advises global clients on marketing strategy and consumer centricity, working with brands, including Intel, BMW, eBay, McKinsey and Company, Ford, and Levi’s. Michael regularly contributes articles to Forbes magazine and has spoken to Fortune 500 companies, top advertising agencies and marketing associations, and government organizations worldwide. And if you’ve taken a marketing course anytime since the early 1990s, it’s quite likely that you’re already familiar with Michael’s work since he’s the author of the leading textbook on consumer behavior, now in its 13th edition. Today, Michael is joining us from his home office in Philadelphia. Michael, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Michael Solomon: Adrian, thanks so much for having me today.

Adrian Tennant: Michael, you’re a prolific author and writer contributing articles to journals and magazines. Your latest book is entitled The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization published by Kogan Page. What prompted you to write this book?

Michael Solomon: I often get asked to give speeches about trends in consumer behavior, as you mentioned earlier in your kind introduction. And as I put these together, what I started to see is that there are some huge disruptions going on in the consumer behavior marketplace. And I don’t think that that would be news to any of your listeners, but I began to realize that not only are there disruptions going on, but we’re even looking at fundamental changes in terms of how we think about customers and more importantly, how they think about us as marketers. And so as I started to dive into this, I realized that in fact, there are a lot of very, very fundamental assumptions we make about the way we categorize people that no longer work. And these assumptions really inform almost all marketing strategy, because this is what, and mea culpa, I teach this to my students, you know, some of the basic concepts that we teach, worked very well back in the middle of the last century, but they haven’t really been substantially updated today. And so I felt like it was time to maybe try to do that. And I figured I would write a book to talk about it. And so I did.

Adrian Tennant: So, Michael, why are today’s consumers like chameleons?

Michael Solomon: Well, as, you know, a chameleon is a reptile that changes color to adapt to its environment. And so it’s very malleable. It adapts to what’s going on around it. It also apparently adapts to its own moods. So it’s kind of like those old mood rings we used to have – remember those? That changes color according to your mood. And so I thought that was a very good metaphor because today we really are like an animal that changes its colors very, very frequently. By color, I refer to our identities, our social identities, how we think about ourselves, the aspects of ourselves that we want people to know about. And so sociologists have long talked about this notion of having multiple selves. You know, when you’re in a business environment, that’s one part. When you’re playing the role of devoted parent or child, that’s another. And on and on. And much of consumer behavior is oriented around that. In other words, in every one of these identities, we have certain goals that we want to reach. One of the main functions of a good advertisement is to show people how your product or service will get them closer to that goal. So the chameleon metaphor reminds us that, unlike the old days, you know, back in the forties, fifties, sixties, where we talked about these very large, relatively unchanging blocks of people who could be counted upon to behave in pretty similar ways. Today, you can just throw that out the window because consumers are much more proactive. They’re looking for new identities, they’re looking to experiment and as they do that, So to speak, they change their colors because they alter the constellation of products and services that they choose to express that identity.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you identify and discuss seven fundamental oppositions or dichotomies that are either headed toward obsolescence or already obsolete. The first of these focuses on a long-established foundation of market research, as well as media planning and audience segmentation, namely consumer demographics. Michael, why are they obsolete? And in what way should we rethink how we define consumer groups?

Michael Solomon: Yeah. So market segmentation, especially demographic segmentation as you know, is the bedrock of modern marketing strategy. And, it was actually invented back in the early part of last century by the good folks at general motors. And they were actually responding to, I think, in some way to Henry Ford’s assertion, that his customers could have a car in any color they wanted, as long as it was black. And I love to tell that story because that was the impetus for them to start to think about divisions, you know, Chevrolet versus Cadillac and so on, and largely based on income segmentation, but it reflected a – really, for the time – pioneering realization that not everybody in the market is the same. We’re not all identical. So let’s identify these large, homogeneous groups where we can message a group, say men in their fifties or women in their twenties who live in urban areas, what have you. And that approach worked very well for a long time when we lived in a broadcast kind of environment. You know, at one point we had in the US three and then later four television stations that basically reached everybody. And anyone listening to this knows that that is totally outmoded. Today, we have thousands of stations and thousands of interest groups. We have basically a fragmentation in our culture, as people are picking and choosing much more proactively, you know, “I like this.” “I’m going to sample that”, and so on. And what that means is that sure, it’s great to start with demographics. For a long time, we’ve advocated, layering over that psychographic kinds of data, psychological differences and so on. But I think even that doesn’t capture the nuances that we often pick up today. And so I think in many cases, it makes more sense to talk about so-called, “markets of one”, where, especially in the online world, we are able to customize and personalize the messages and the products to some degree that every individual gets. That’s a very, very powerful tool. And not only that, you can get trapped by thinking that just because you’ve assigned someone to a demographic category, you understand them. And so for example, one of the dichotomies is the old one of male versus female. And so, if you do that and you say, “well, I’m going to pick the male or I’m going to pick the female market.” Well, by definition, you are already leaving half of the population off the table because you’re not going to consider them. And so there are many, many examples of that when we relax those old dichotomies, that’s where we see the real market opportunities are hidden.

Adrian Tennant: We typically employed generational groupings in research, focusing on differences between the youngest cohort, Gen Z, and older groups: Gen Y, Gen X, and of course, Boomers. Michael, is this generational approach to marketing still useful?

Michael Solomon: Clearly, as a rule, young people are different from old people. But you can get hemmed in by this. I know that there are a lot of successful age-related marketing strategies out there, but you have to tread a little carefully because our cultural definitions of what it means to be a certain age are changing very rapidly. And so when we talk about older consumers, for example – and this is perhaps a separate topic, how, the advertising industry has largely overlooked people who are over 30 or 40, even though ironically, they have far more spending power than anybody else, or I should say we have – but there’s an example where we talk about cultural definitions of aging and what it means to be old. And today we all know that you know, if you’re in your forties, 50s, 60s, 70s, that means something very different than it did in our parents’ generation. And so we hear that “80 is the new 60”, “60 is the new 40”, et cetera. I don’t think that’s just a convenient way for older people to rationalize having another birthday. I think that there is a sea change in terms of what people will allow themselves to do. And so, again, these generational splits are useful to a point. They can become dysfunctional. So for example, back in my day, we had an expression, “Never trust anyone over 30.” And that was true until we all turned 30, you know, then it became a different story! But that implied that there was a big divide, for example, between let’s say children and their parents. And so the parents were almost kind of the enemy if you will. Today, that is definitely not the case and when you talk to a lot of younger consumers and I get this from my students all the time, they consider their parents often to be their best friends. They go shopping with their parents, more importantly for marketers. So there’s an example where that kind of, you know, “let’s put them in a category and assume that they have no contact with another age category or they don’t have any aspirations that they share with that category” that can be very dysfunctional.

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

Marissa Martin: I’m Marissa Martin on Bigeye’s operations team. Every week, Bigeye’s podcast IN CLEAR FOCUS explores how consumer behaviors are evolving as a result of COVID-19 – from the influence of Generation Z, with its interest in social and environmental issues, to the fast-growing Hispanic market and the opportunity it presents. Bigeye interprets signals from primary and secondary research, identifying the trends driving consumer spending today and those that will have the greatest impact tomorrow. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s research-backed, data-driven insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Adrian Tennant: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. 

Michael Solomon: A lot of people who never would have thought to order groceries online have seen the light and I guess they’re going to continue to do that. 

Paige Garrett: When it comes to influencers’ recommendations and the way that you as a consumer feel connected to that influencer, it’s very similar to getting a recommendation from a family member or a friend.

Adrian Tennant: The widespread adoption of online shopping during the pandemic has heightened consumer expectations and challenged retailers to reimagine the customer experience, to entice people back to physical stores. 

Dana Cassell: It’s clear that customer habits have solidified. And to me, that means the digital conversion funnel needs to be working well from top to bottom and your organization needs to know what levers to pull to convert better step to step. 

Doug Stephens: E-commerce is growing exponentially faster on a percentage basis than physical retail. And so it’s quite likely that as early as 2033, we may find that 50 or more percent of our consumption is being performed online and or by subscription. 

Adrian Tennant: RETAIL DISRUPTED: What US Shoppers Want From Brands Today – a new report from Bigeye, coming soon.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Michael Solomon, consumer behavior expert and author of the book, The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization. A theme you explore in the book is the move away from a linear path to purchase. Michael, is the traditional marketing funnel dead? And if so, what’s replaced it?

Michael Solomon: It’s a very, very complicated ecosystem out there. For 50, 60, 70 years, we’ve thought about the decision-making process – and I mean this more generally, not just marketing – but how, in terms of how psychologists understand decision-making. We’ve looked at it in a linear fashion where there’s a fairly well-defined set of steps that decision-makers go through, starting with awareness of the problem, and then searching for a solution, searching in the environment, narrowing down the options, making a choice, and then evaluating the quality or the outcome of that choice. Furthermore, we usually think in terms of a solo decision-maker, who’s going through these steps largely alone. Well, neither of those things are happening today. In the first place, we’re not just getting information on demand when we need it. We’re being hit by a fire hose of information, that’s constantly coming at us. So today’s consumer is really “on” 24/7, whether or not they’re in active decision-making mode, they’re getting updates from their networks that are telling them, “Oh, you ought to check this out.” “I just bought this blush. It’s really terrific”, to “Take a look at this pair of basketball shoes”, what have you. And so it’s much more of a circular process where people are constantly scanning and getting updates from their network. I think of it as more of a hive mind. And, if any of your listeners are Star Trek fans, you may remember the borg: they were constantly assimilating other decision-makers and other types of people. And so that linear process really is not nearly as ubiquitous as it was. And furthermore, we’re clearly not solo decision-makers because so much of our efforts to evaluate products today are happening before the fact. So to me, one of the big ironies of the internet age is, you know, it’s supposed to make our lives so much simpler by sorting through all this information, giving us this information to begin with, but the reality is that we often are working harder to make even very simple decisions. And why is that? You know, Google refers to this as the ZMOT: the Zero Moment Of Truth. When are people finally committing to the purchase and what you find is that they tend to be committing much later in the process because they’re doing a lot of homework beforehand, you know. One of the trivia questions I love to give my students – I’ll share it with your audience – is we know that Google is the biggest search engine in the world. What’s the second biggest? And they’ll usually say something like Bing. Well, the answer is YouTube. And the reason for that I think is that in many cases, people are calling up videos of peers when they want to know, “I’m thinking about buying product X, what is your experience with it?” So we’re calling up YouTube videos, we’re reading reviews, we are querying our network on Facebook and other platforms until we finally get to the point where we’re taking a lot of their direction as we make a decision. And so ironically, by the time a customer enters a store and I mean, either offline or online, they often actually know what they’re going to buy already. They’re just there to see if they can get it at a good price. So for retailers, again, offline or online, who think that they’re going to make a sale because the customer walks in and they can do a sales pitch and steer them one way or the other, they may find that that’s actually a harder slog because the customer already has gone through so much of that process before. So it’s not like the old days where we have our five reliable steps of decision-making.

Adrian Tennant: Customers are often our best resources when it comes to new product development and of course research. But you feel that marketers need to look beyond the traditional twin pillars of quantitative and qualitative research if we want to gain fresh consumer insights, is that correct?

Michael Solomon: Well, it is, I think. One thing we need to do is, and when we’re seeing this to a large extent, a resurgence of qualitative research, which as you probably know, had its heyday back in the 1950s, but is coming back with a vengeance today. And that’s because quantitative research definitely has hugely important value to us when we’re looking at insights, but it paints a very broad, but superficial picture. And so it tells us the what, but it doesn’t tell us the why. When we talk about our customers, this is one of those dichotomies that I discuss at length in the book: producers versus consumers. For many companies, it’s almost like they’re in a castle and there’s a moat and they want to keep the consumers out of the castle until they’re ready to let down the drawbridge, meaning that the product is now perfect, so to speak. But we know that actually, this can be a huge mistake. Software developers were the first to tell us this because they’re always asking the users of the code to help them debug it. And so companies like Microsoft have known this little secret for years, they save millions of dollars a year in their insights budget because they recruit programmers for free, who are more than happy to tell them where they screwed up. And by continually revising and making those corrections, they come up with a better product, they save money, and they involve those customers as co-creators in the process. So it’s not enough just to ask customers whether or not they like what you’re selling. It can be very valuable to bring them in prior to that and say, “This is what we’re thinking about doing, what would you do here?” Rather than presenting them with a fait accompli and just asking them on a seven-point survey, whether they’re likely to buy it or not. So we really need to be, methodology agnostic. One thing I’ve seen over the years and perhaps you’ve seen this as well as that when people are well-trained in a methodology, they want to use it for everything. So they become what I call a hammer in search of a nail. And the reality is that depending on the particular context, on the needs that you have for your insights program, there may be other tools out there perhaps in addition to, or even instead of what you’re normally using. And so it’s often good to at least, for example, triangulate – all things equal, if you can get three readings, then if you get two data points that are wildly discrepant, you don’t know which is probably more accurate, but at least if you get three and two of them are together, it’s more likely that you’ve identified the correct direction.

Adrian Tennant: You also identify a move toward renting or leasing in preference to owning. Metro dwellers will be familiar with models like Zipcar, but what other categories do you see reflecting this change in consumer behavior?

Michael Solomon: You know, it’s been fascinating as the so-called “sharing economy” has exploded, you know, dampened a little bit with COVID, but I suspect it will come roaring back. It’s amazing to see what people aren’t exchanging with one another. And it’s hard to find things. I’ve seen that first of all, younger people in particular are not as interested in rites of passage, like owning a car. And so you see that the rate of 16- or 18-year-olds getting driver’s licenses in the US is going way, way down. Homeownership, obviously there are financial reasons for this, but a lot of people are preferring to rent rather than own. But even when we get into everyday products, when we talk about companies like Rent the Runway, for example, or a Bag Borrow, or Steal,  they have introduced a new model where many younger people are not even owning stuff in their closet. They’re just leasing it.  But it goes beyond that, you know? So for example, there are many sites where let’s say that you need a drill, when you think about a lot of the products that we buy, it’s very economically inefficient. So let’s say you buy a power drill. I don’t know why I’m using that example because my wife doesn’t allow me near power tools! But let’s say you’re buying a drill and let’s just say it costs a hundred dollars. The average homeowner is going to actually use that drill for what? One hour over the life of that drill? And you’re paying a hundred dollars for it. And that’s true for many of the things that we own. We only use them sporadically. And so you see all these peer-to-peer websites popping up where in fact, you can lease a power drill for $8. You use it for an hour. You give it back. You’ve just saved $92. And so there’s really almost no limit to what you can rent out. And of course, people are renting out their homes, obviously with Airbnb, et cetera.  But even the everyday stuff. My daughter is in her early thirties, she tells me that she probably owns about a third of the clothing she wears to work – the rest of it is rented.

Adrian Tennant: Michael, which consumer behaviors that were accelerated during the pandemic, do you expect will be part of our new normal when COVID-19, hopefully, is less of a concern.

Michael Solomon: Well, the first and most obvious one is continued gravitation to online buying. That’s a no-brainer, I think. What happens in situations like this is that people who are normally frozen and we know that consumers tend to be really set in their ways – it can make you crazy if you’re a new brand, trying to break in just to get people to alter their routines. When something really major happens like this pandemic, that creates opportunities for lesser-known solutions to get a shot. And so for example, a lot of people who never would have thought to order groceries online have seen the light. My guess is they’re going to continue to do that. So that’s an easy one. Another one I think is automation. If I go into a bricks-and-mortar store and either I’m checking out with contactless checkout or in some cases being waited on by a robot which is starting to happen. Everything from Home Depot is experimenting with them on the sales floor. A big bank in Japan was one of the pioneers. They have a robot who waits on customers. His name is Pepper, for some reason. And people were kind of squeamish about that but now I guess they figured out that computers don’t get the same kind of virus that we do and so it’s a lot safer. And so I think retail automation is another example of something that will continue when we get into the new normal.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. You obviously remain very connected with current and emerging marketing practices. During your research for The New Chameleons, were there any data points you came across that really surprised you or led to an insight that helped a client solve a strategic challenge?

Michael Solomon: That’s a great question. I think one of the biggest, aha moments for me was a few years ago. My business partner and I were working for a very large multinational industrial company. We got to know the head of R and D and he had a budget of about $100 million a year to spend on research – how about that? And what we learned was: how much was he spending on consumer research? And the answer was zero. Out of that $100 million, you know, it was all about building the better mousetrap, so to speak. And he was open enough to put us onto a task force. There were about 30 engineers and chemists on the task force. And the two of us who were both psychologists and what we saw is that – and I think their approach is very, very similar to a lot of other companies – they had what they called a “molecule forward” approach, which meant that they would task their R and D people to come up with a brand new, literally a brand new molecule. And then they would try to push it through the channel and figure out what might be the applications and who might buy this thing. And what we persuaded them to do was to take a step back and actually implement what we call a “market back” approach, which is really Marketing 101.  What I tell my students all the time is that we start at the end and work backwards. We don’t just invent something and then see who wants it, we start by identifying an unmet need. And then we see if our capabilities align with that. I just took that for granted, you know, studying consumers for years and years. And what I discovered was that the engineers and scientists who made these products, for example, had never sat in on a focus group. And when they actually watched end consumers talk about these particular products that they made, it absolutely blew them away. That was the best thing they’d ever seen. They thought it was terrific because no one had ever put them in a position of thinking about the situation from the point of view of the end-user rather than, you know, some industrial capability in the channel. So, that led them to some strategic changes that resulted in creating some new applications for their chemicals that had never occurred to them before, because the engineers hadn’t thought of them but end consumers did. It really opened me up to understanding this gap between producers and consumers that we often have. And yet again, those consumers are the lifeblood of what we all do. If we don’t have them, if we don’t meet their needs, I don’t care what a great molecule you make, you’re out of business. And I wish more companies would adopt that philosophy.

Adrian Tennant: Michael, if IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about you, your books, articles, and speaking opportunities, where can they find you?

Michael Solomon: Well, they’re welcome to go to my website, which is MichaelSolomon.com. Or drop me an email, that’s very easy, Michael@MichaelSolomon.com. And of course, they can find my book, The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization, or other books at Amazon, or wherever you buy books. So I appreciate it, Adrian.

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

Michael Solomon: My pleasure, it’s been fun.

Adrian Tennant: You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Content Marketing Direct-To-Consumer Podcast

Doug Stephens is an internationally recognized retail futurist. His new book, Resurrecting Retail, explores the challenges today’s big-box retailers face from online giants like Amazon and niche, direct-to-consumer brands. We discuss how retailers are responding with innovative, immersive shopping experiences that bring customers back to physical stores. Doug identifies the emerging technologies that will shape the future of shopping for the remainder of this decade and beyond.

Episode Transcript

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

Doug Stephens: The actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable, and frankly, measurable form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses. The problem is most of them don’t treat it that way. They don’t treat the experience as a media experience.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, a full-service, audience-focused creative agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. For over a year now, consumers have been adopting new shopping behaviors as a result of COVID-19. As we’ve discussed previously, grocery has seen the biggest shift from in-store shopping to online ordering with delivery or curbside pickup. But what of other product categories? The direct-to-consumer model had been making significant gains for close to a decade prior to the pandemic, driven in part by consumers discovering brands via social media, rather than traditional advertising. Retailers such as Target took note and have successfully integrated DTC brands into its mix. But other retailers are changing the entire notion of what a store is. A recent report from Nielsen IQ notes that quote “to today’s consumers ‘going shopping’ may be less about the actual act of purchasing and more about the holistic omni-powered browsing experience. As the landscape continues to evolve, the physical or online store of the future may not be a store as we know it today, but rather evolve to become more of an experience.” Our guest today predicted this evolution of retailing almost a decade ago in his book, The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism. The author, Doug Stevens, is one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. His thinking has influenced many of the world’s best-known retailers, agencies, and brands, including Walmart, Google, Home Depot, Disney, BMW, and Coca-Cola. Prior to founding his firm, Retail Prophet, Doug spent over 20 years in the retail industry, holding senior international roles. He’s also the author of three groundbreaking books on retail innovation and a nationally syndicated retail columnist for CBC radio, as well as a featured contributor to the business of fashion. Doug’s perspectives on the business of retailing at the intersection of consumer behavior have been featured in many of the world’s leading publications and media outlets, and he speaks regularly to major brands and organizations. To talk about his work and some of the ideas in his most recent book, Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World, Doug is joining us today from his home office in Toronto, Canada. Doug, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Doug Stephens: Thank you so much, Adrian. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So, Doug, what is Retail Prophet and what services do you provide?

Doug Stephens: So Retail Prophet is a consultancy that focuses exclusively on the future of retail and consumer behavior. And we advise brands like, BMW, Walmart, L’Oreal, LVMH, and Google, and all focused on this issue of the 5 to 10-year horizon of retail. You know, what’s changing? How are consumer behaviors manifesting in different ways? How do retailers need to plan strategies for that new environment? And certainly for an ever-changing competitive landscape, not the least of which have been many of the changes that we’ve seen in the last year or so.

Adrian Tennant: Doug, did you find retail or did retail find you? I’m curious, did you have any family members that worked in retail when you were growing up?

Doug Stephens: I did actually. My elder sister spent many years working in department stores, and she worked with Macy’s, but that in no way, shape or form influenced my decision to get into what many call, the accidental profession, retail. But it did turn out that it was one of my first, I’ll call it, real jobs uh, after getting married. I got into retail very much on the ground floor of the industry as a young person, kind of working my way up through the ranks of retail companies in both Canada and the US. Starting on the sales floor and finishing as the general manager of a relatively large US company. So that was the beginning. And then, in 2009, I founded Retail Prophet, having had the experience of working in the retail industry and experiencing firsthand how shortsighted an industry it tended to be. As you can appreciate around 2008, 2009, the whole world was sort of imploding. The economic landscape was changing, technology was rapidly changing, certainly a changing of the guard demographically in terms of consumer groups. And so it seemed to me at that point that the world needed a narrative that was looking out on this horizon with a little bit more prescience perhaps than the usual reactive nature of retail.

Adrian Tennant: Your second book, published in 2017, is entitled Reengineering Retail: The Future of Retailing in a Post-Digital World. Doug, what did you mean by post-digital?

Doug Stephens: Yeah, the term was chosen very deliberately, because it was my feeling, Adrian, that by 2017, the presence of digital or the presence of technology in a consumer experience was really no longer a novelty or a surprise. It was my belief – and I maintain that belief – that we live in a world where consumers I think are more surprised these days by the absence of technology than by its presence. You know, we’re sort of mystified when we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t benefit from the introduction or from the use of technology. Just to give you an example, I was in a big box store just this last week and I asked a pretty simple question regarding a product that I believe that they might’ve had and it was sort of reduced to guesswork on the part of the sales associate. I asked if they had a certain product and they said, “I think we do. And I think it’s over here.” And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, are you telling me that there isn’t a piece of handheld technology or some other piece of technology that can’t tell you exactly where that product is in your store?” So again, I think as consumers, these days, we are more surprised when there’s an absence of technology to assist us then than when there is. So I believed for that reason, we were really living, not in a digital world, but in a post-digital world.

Adrian Tennant: One of the themes you introduced in Reengineering Retail and expand upon in your new book, Resurrecting Retail, is the idea of the store as media. Now, as you know, one of the fastest-growing areas of ad placement is in-store media, with retailers including Walmart, Target, and Kroger creating in-house solutions to offer ad space to CPG brands that they sell. But that’s not what you mean, correct?

Doug Stephens: That’s correct. Yeah. That’s not what I’m referring to. What I mean is that the actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable, and frankly measurable form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses. The problem is most of them don’t treat it that way. They don’t treat the experience as a media experience. Historically, as retailers, we’ve gone out to the open market. We’ve bought media, we’ve bought advertising in an effort to acquire customers, to gather brand recognition or brand awareness. And then if we’re successful in doing that, we move those consumers to a point of distribution or points of distribution to transact sales. The problem is stores are now the media itself and media in many ways is becoming the store. As a consumer now, I don’t look at advertising as a mere call-out to go to a store. The advertising is the store. I can buy directly from TikTok, from Facebook, from Instagram, from any piece of media that falls within my grasp. So many retailers would say, “Well, if media is becoming the store, does it not negate the necessity for stores?” And my argument is no, not at all, because it’s actually a trading of roles. Physical stores are becoming a very powerful media channel. And I’ll just explain very briefly what I mean by that. We have to sort of start from a place where we accept that the going in, the premise of effective media is that there is an audience for it. Obviously, we want to try and create media experiences, wherever there’s an audience that can enjoy that. If we go back a thousand years ago, that point of gathering an audience was the marketplace. That was really the primary channel through which consumers got information, where they communed, where they connected with friends and family, and ultimately where they conducted commerce. Over time, that was displaced somewhat by other forms of media, whether it was print media, radio, television. And today, of course, digital is the campfire that we all gather around. But the problem is digital is actually becoming prohibitive as a means of acquiring customers. From a cost standpoint, there are brands today already that are saying, “Look, we just cannot afford to acquire incremental customers using digital media. The cost is too high. And in many cases, it exceeds the lifetime value of that consumer.” But when I refer to stores being media, I’m certainly not talking about the networks that, as you mentioned, many retailers are putting in their stores to just inundate us visually and audibly with more and more advertising. I’m suggesting that the experience that I have in a Kroger is actually the most important form of media that Kroger can execute. So it’s a different philosophy entirely.

Adrian Tennant: In Resurrecting Retail, you define retail archetypes. Doug, how did you arrive at this concept?

Doug Stephens: The idea of brand archetypes is not new. Brand archetypes have been around in conversation in marketing circles for years now. But this notion of retail archetypes came out of a conversation I was having with a fellow named Ben Kaufman who’s the founder of a store called Camp in New York City, they now have multiple locations. But Ben was talking about this toy store that he started – Camp – and suggested that the issue confronting every retailer is that they need to be the answer to a consumer question, but the question can’t simply be, “Where can I buy a toy?” or “Where can I buy a new pair of shoes?” or “a new dining room set?” because the answer to that increasingly is “anywhere.” Go online and in five minutes you can have a thousand different choices of places to buy toys. His point was that brands need to become the answer to deeper questions. So in his case, he said, we are not the answer to the question, “Where can you buy a toy?” We are the answer to the question, “Where can I go with my child to spend quality time, to have really meaningful time, time well spent?” So this conversation sort of got me thinking. If that’s a question that consumers are asking, “Where can I go to spend valuable time?” then what other questions are they asking? What other questions can brands be the answer to? And so I began to really explode that thinking out and looking at it across different boundaries. So can brands be leaders in the cultural space? Can they be a lightning rod for social issues, for environmental issues? Yeah, absolutely. A brand like Patagonia doesn’t answer the question, “Where can I buy outdoor apparel?” Because again, the answer to that is anywhere. Patagonia answers a different question. That is: “Who aligns with my values? As a human being, what brand out there is resemblant of my values as a person?” And so I just started really looking at this at a more granular level, you know, and really trying to explore many of these evergreen questions that consumers are asking that brands can step up and be the answer to. Because I think that all brands today find themselves in this same place, Adrian. It’s that no matter what you sell, the internet has commodified it. The consumer has an endless well of choice in every product category. So every brand needs to be the answer to a deeper question or a more important question than “Where can I get this product?” And if you can be, if you can manifest that, not just by declaring it, but by animating it through every fiber of your brand and every consumer interaction, then you take on a completely new position in the marketplace. And the term I use in the book or the phrase I use in the book is that purpose is the new positioning. Forget about your SWOT analysis, your Boston matrices, your omnichannel sales plan. The first question that every brand today needs to answer is: “What is our purpose to consumers? What fundamental need do we satisfy by virtue of our presence?” And if you can figure that out and bring it to life, then you can sort of move on to strategy part two. But this is a fundamental question that we have to answer.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: I’m Adrian Tennant, the host of IN CLEAR FOCUS, the weekly podcast from Bigeye, featuring marketing professionals sharing their advertising strategies and tactics that are working today. Whether you’re an in-house brand marketer or an agency-side partner; a DTC startup or an established enterprise, I invite you to join me for lively conversations with guests that you won’t hear anywhere else. Fresh perspectives on the business of advertising served weekly IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with retail futurist Doug Stephens, CEO of Retail Prophet and author of Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World. Of course, you’ve interviewed many retail professionals as part of the research process for your books and included interviews in your own podcasts. Are there one or two who stand out to you as being particularly innovative or visionary in their approach to creating the retail experiences of tomorrow?

Doug Stephens: Yeah. You know, I think there are certainly a lot of phenomenal people doing a lot of amazing things. But I really enjoy talking to people who I regard as being pioneers. You know, people that really went out on a limb intellectually, to try to kind of poke a hole in the universe as it were, as it applies to retail. So I mean, people like Rachel Shechtman, for example, who founded Story in New York City way back in 2011, hard to believe it was a decade ago. But a store that really was the ultimate media experience. It was really a store that was designed to be like an editorial experience, a community experience. A store that really did not rely on the sale of product, but really, made most of its revenue through brand endorsements and activating brand experiences. So, you know, people like Rachel that really, as I say, were tremendously innovative and taking risks at the time. I would also include in that, someone like Vibhu Norby, from a company called b8ta, that again said, “You know, maybe there’s a different way of monetizing products at retail, and maybe it’s not through the sale of the product, but rather by capturing the data of interactions between consumers and those products. And maybe there’s a means of monetizing that data through subscription with brands who are interested in getting that sort of market information and consumer information.” So it’s really folks like that that I regard as the true explorers, you know, in this industry and the people that forged a new path that I think, frankly, it’s taken a decade for many people in the industry to appreciate.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we heard recently that WeWork is rumored to be collaborating with Saks Fifth Avenue to create spaces that combine areas for working and retail. What are your thoughts?

Doug Stephens: So when the story broke, as, as you can imagine, the peanut gallery that exists in the retail industry had a lot to say about it. There were kind of boos and mostly boos and jeers coming out of the audience on this when people couldn’t fathom, like, “What’s the connection here? Why would Saks Fifth Avenue be looking to create co-working space and who on earth would want to pack their lunch every morning and head off to a department store to work?” And on the face of it, I’m the first to admit it doesn’t seem like a natural parent but I think that what you have to appreciate in order to understand this move is that HBC – Hudson’s Bay Company, the corporate entity – is not really a retailer. And I mean, let’s face it, they haven’t been a retailer for about a decade. They are a real estate holding company. That’s really, to my mind anyway, that’s what they do. And the last decade of moves, frankly, have been focused on real estate, not on retail. I would argue that HBC hasn’t really had a retail strategy, you know, for many years. So if we look at this as a strategic move by a company that believes fundamentally that most of the space that it holds as assets are really just that they are real estate assets. Then looking at trying to optimize those real estate assets makes perfect sense. You know, asking yourself “What else could be in this space? How else could this space be utilized or have value?” And so on that level, I appreciate their curiosity. I appreciate their willingness to experiment with things that do make people stand up and say, “What the hell is that all about?” You know, we need more of that, you know? And frankly, if everyone agrees with something that you’ve done and believes that’s the right thing to do, then it probably wasn’t that innovative in the first place. So whether or not they’ll succeed is beside the point. I think the two key points are first and foremost, HBC is not a retail company. They’re a real estate company. And secondly, they too are just prodding and poking at the universe, trying to understand where there might be value, where there could be a wellspring of value. So I don’t fault them for that.

Adrian Tennant: Well, staying with rumors, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon has plans to open several large physical retail locations in the US that will operate like smaller department stores. This could extend the company’s reach in its sales of clothing, household items, electronics, and other categories. So Doug, what’s your take on this latest development from Amazon?

Doug Stephens: Yeah, it’s a really interesting development. It’s one of those that when you read it, you say, “I’m not surprised.” It’s not surprising, but it’s certainly interesting and compelling. And in a weird sort of way, you know, one of the old credos in any investment community is that you try to determine where everyone is running to. And if you’re smart, then you run in the opposite direction and right now, the retail industry as a whole is running away from physical retail and running toward digital. So what does Amazon do? Amazon takes exactly the opposite approach and they run toward the physical world. Now, this isn’t Amazon’s first foray into physical retail. Of course, they bought Whole Foods several years ago. They have opened Amazon Go stores, Amazon Four-Star stores and if we’re being completely honest, their track record in physical retail isn’t that extraordinary, really. Having said that, this makes a lot of sense. There are things that are simply difficult to buy on Amazon and difficult to buy on any retailer’s website, frankly, things that require more consideration, things that require touch and feel, complex products that really require more information or confidence before a consumer’s willing to make a purchase. And of course, apparel falls into that category as well. So that makes sense. This also provides a local logistics point, a point to distribute products from, a point to collect returns from, which would only add efficiency to Amazon’s bottom line. It also gives them an opportunity to collect more data about how consumers shop in physical environments. Amazon knows full well how we behave online, but it gives them an opportunity to create yet another data point in the marketplace to begin to connect consumer behavior between the online world and the physical world. And then there’s the more sinister side. It also gives them the ability, as we know from past announcements, it gives Amazon the ability to absolutely tank the market caps of companies like Kohls, who could potentially even become acquisition targets. We know that anytime Amazon merely clears its throat and sort of fixes its gaze on a category, they have a tendency to really rock the market caps of incumbents in those categories. We’ve seen them do it in the pharmacy sector. We’ve seen them do it across various categories. So that could be potentially the play here as well. But I think the big message to the marketplace, Adrian, and my opinion is that this is a warning shot across the bow of all physical retailers. And most specifically, I’m thinking of categories that have sort of dodged the bullet up until now, categories like home improvement. If Amazon can open a quote-unquote “department store” and sell in the physical world, well, that brings them one step closer to selling lumber and concrete and building supplies and maybe doing a much better job of it than the incumbents in that category. So, I think everyone has to take this very seriously. And above all, Amazon has the luxury to spend a tremendous amount of money doing this and sticking with it and experimenting. So, yeah, not a surprise. It could have many, many strategic dimensions, but something that everyone in the retail industry should be taking note of, for sure.

Adrian Tennant: Doug, you’re the author of three books, a consultant, a podcast host, a writer, a keynote speaker. That’s a lot to juggle. What’s your process for generating consistently high-quality thought leadership content across multiple platforms?

Doug Stephens: Oh, thank you for that. I guess the first thing is, you know, cast a wide net. Retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum. No industry exists in a vacuum and retail, perhaps more than others, is affected by a number of different things. So I look to pop culture, music, politics, and art. All of these things are places of great value and categories that influence consumer behavior. So I think we can learn a lot from looking outside the retail category as well. I think the other thing is to look for a counter-narrative. Industries like companies tend to succumb to groupthink, so always look for what others might be missing. For example, in Resurrecting Retail, as the pandemic sort of took its toll on the industry, a lot of people were pointing to the idea that the pandemic was really just an acceleration of trends that were already in play. And it would be easy to jump on that narrative train and just run with it. But my feeling was that there were probably deeper undercurrent things that would have only happened as a consequence of the pandemic that might actually have a more devastating impact on the industry. So I went digging for those, you know, digging for the counter-narrative. And then finally, don’t simply document facts, because the internet does a wonderful job of that for us. Tell stories, put your facts and information into the form of a story that people can actually embrace, they can assimilate, and they can build into their practice, going forward. Stories are probably the most powerful way to help people learn. So those are some of the things anyway that I follow. And it seems to work.

Adrian Tennant: So Doug, when it comes to securing new clients for Retail Prophet, which of the content channels work best for you? Is it keynote speaking events, the books, or the podcasts?

Doug Stephens: That’s a great question. And frankly, it’s one that I’ve never really even thought about that way – I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t personally pay much attention to which channels are more effective or less effective or where we have an audience. You know, we have people here that do that. I tend not to be one of them. But the way I look at it is this: I think that ultimately your brand is a zeitgeist of all that you bring to all channels. It’s every piece of content that you put out. It’s every narrative that you create. And ultimately, I think that it has to be provocative. It has to be challenging. It has to give people the sense that they’ve grown by virtue of listening to you. They may not agree with everything you’re saying, but it’s expanded their thinking and presented them maybe with an alternate view. And I think if you can consistently deliver quality, regardless of channel, ultimately you will create a market, you will create a tribe, so to speak, that follows you, and powers your business. So that has always been my focus is really, regardless of channel, just always try to create something that people remember and that people appreciate.

Adrian Tennant: That’s great advice. If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners, would like to learn more about you, Retail Prophet, your podcast, or your books, where can they find you?

Doug Stephens: The mothership is RetailProphet.com. And if you go there, you’ll find links to everything else: books, podcasts, articles, you name it. RetailProphet.com, and that’s Prophet with a “P-H.”

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

Doug Stephens: It was my pleasure indeed, Adrian. Thank you very much.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Doug Stevens, CEO of Retail Prophet and author of Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just select “Podcast.” Now, if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Content Marketing Persona Building Podcast

This week’s guest is a content strategist who believes traditional Buyer Personas often fail to deliver the results marketers expect. Adrienne Barnes shares her process for creating the “Best Buyer Personas” and explains how her research pointed to improvements that eliminate many subconscious biases that traditional Persona development practices introduce. Adrienne also discusses some of the practical ways in which Personas can help align the work of sales and marketing teams.

Episode Transcript

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

Adrienne Barnes: Who are the buyers, what is the job they’re trying to accomplish? And what is the information that we need to know internally, that’s going to help us reach these people? So a buyer persona to me is all of the information relevant to reaching your best buyer.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, a full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. As we’ve discussed previously on this podcast, in today’s economy, many people’s purchasing behaviors have been permanently changed as new habits formed during the pandemic. That’s true for both consumers and businesses so now is an ideal time for companies and brands to review their existing buyer Personas or to think about creating entirely new ones. Our guest today believes that buyer Personas not only help organizations understand customers and prospects better, but also make it easier to tailor content, messaging, product development, and services to meet the specific needs, behaviors and concerns of different target audiences. Adrienne Barnes is a content strategist, helping SaaS and tech companies learn more about who their audiences are. Her insights become buyer Personas that inform user experience design and unique content pieces. Adrienne’s approach to customer-centric marketing is all about creating content that nurtures and serves a client’s customers best. To talk with us about crafting the best buyer Personas, Adrienne is joining us today from her home office in Dallas, Texas. Adrienne, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Adrienne Barnes: Thank you, Adrian. Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, you started your career in content marketing. How did you first encounter Buyer Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: I was a freelance writer writing for B2B SaaS companies and having a degree in English, in my former career I was an English teacher. The first thing you know to do or ask when you start a piece is who’s the audience? Who am I writing to? what is my tone? What kind of message am I trying to get across? And some of my clients couldn’t tell me in detail or with any kind of detail that mattered to help me formulate the piece. It was “This is the job title. Here’s some demographic information.” Or they’d hand me the slide deck with 38 slides full of information, but none that actually would really help create some content marketing. None of it was actionable. It was very challenging to say, “Okay, now I know this, here’s what we can do with it”. so there were quite a few that didn’t understand that. And then, on the other hand, I had a few who had some really great Personas, so who they really knew, and they had a different way of segmenting and they were very actionable. So seeing the stark differences between the kind of content we could create when you clearly knew your audience and their pain points and the kind of content you could create when you had very vague ideas, really led me to believe that this is something that there’s a need and there’s a better way of going about it. So that’s how I got into creating Buyer Personas

Adrian Tennant: And what’s your definition of a Buyer Persona?

Adrienne Barnes: See, and this is where I get some maybe some misunderstanding. I don’t want to say flack, but some people who are old school, standard marketers, maybe they’re teaching marketing to people. They don’t necessarily love my approach to Buyer Personas. So my approach is where really, it’s not just this demographic, topical information of here’s their job title, here’s their name. It really does go into who are the buyers, what is the job they’re trying to accomplish? And what is the information that we need to know internally, that’s going to help us reach these people? So the definition of a Buyer Persona to me is all of the information relevant to reaching your best buyer. So sometimes that’s not necessarily all of your buyers. It’s not a large segment of people we really want to identify who the best buyers are and then make sure that we’re creating the step that’s going to reach those people. 

Adrian Tennant:  Before we look at how we construct Buyer Personas, I’m curious, Adrienne, what are the origins of Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: So I actually reached out to the person who says that they coined the term, Tony Zambito. He’s mostly on LinkedIn. He said he was the one in the beginning, in the eighties I believe, who was working with software companies and was like, “We need to figure out a better way to understand who our buyers are, understand who our audience is.” So still coming up with the challenge of trying to reach buyers and users, because when you’re in B2B SaaS or software, often the person who uses your product may not be the person who purchases their product. So there’s a little complexity there. and also understanding that we need to be able to know these people outside of just marketing, but even like product development, what kind of products do we need to build in the future? What kind of features do we need to build? So he really started this process, to understand and answer those questions for software companies. And his approach was also interviewing customers. And then now we’ve got so many more advancements with social listening and digital intelligence analysis and digital, tools that, it’s beyond even just a customer interview. It’s grown and evolved from there.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, you work primarily with clients in the business-to-business space. What does your typical process for creating Personas look like?

Adrienne Barnes: When I’m working with clients, I always want to start with what questions and goals are already internally inside the company. So I sit down with key stakeholders and really want to get an idea, like “What questions do you have about your customers or your users? What assumptions are you making?” Oftentimes CEOs, CMOs, CTOs, they know – “We think this, we’re making these assumptions.” So I want to make sure that I know clearly what are the assumptions that are being made? What challenges do we currently have? Where are there hitches or slowdowns in the sales process, or how do people buy even? Is it through a sales process or is it a demo? Really wanting to identify the internal questions. And then that is what I then go out and create the interviews. That’s how I then say, “Okay. So we don’t know the answers to these questions. This is what we still need to learn about our buyers. This is the stuff that will help us be successful.” So they’ll have goals. What do we need to know in order to reach those goals? And then I do interviews with buyers and users – about twenty – to make sure that I have a really good understanding of, their job to be done. Those pain points, their challenges, the words that they use to describe the product. I call those relational keywords rather than SEO keywords. These are the words that your customers or buyers are using to really portray the relationship they have with your product. So what are those words? The language that they’re using. And then I also do what I call a four-pronged approach to research. So we’ve got our customer interviews. We have surveys that we then go off and survey a broader audience. I do social listening where I plug in the key terms that I learned from the interviews and from this survey. And now I’m looking up and hearing what the people are saying, not just in our tiny community, in our tiny group of our buyers, but over the internet, like on Twitter, what are people saying when they talk about these terms? And then I use digital intelligence tools like SparkToro, and Audiense to help me really identify clearly who are some smaller segments within our larger buyer segment. Where are they online? What kind of podcasts do they listen to? What kind of publications do they read? And only that four-pronged approach to research becomes how I create the Personas. And once we get all of that data – and it’s usually a six-week process – once I get all of that information, I’m able to plug it into a full slide deck that really says, this is who your buyers are. These are their relationships. These are their responsibilities, here’s their hierarchy at work or the roles that they play into. This is how they are measured or how they deem being successful at work. Sometimes that’s really important and then really one of the ways that I filter through the entire buyer persona is the job to be done. What are they trying to accomplish? And then once they’ve achieved that, what are the benefits that they, get to see or receive after having met that job to be done.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve mentioned jobs to be done. Would you just like to give us a little bit of background on that?

Adrienne Barnes: Yeah. So I was doing the research for how to create a really solid Buyer Persona, which led me into research, like reading about how to do interviews, how to research, that filtered into the design world and implementation. And, as soon as I got into design and qualitative research analysis, Jobs to be Done popped up. And it was like, “Oh, this is what I think makes a stronger segmentation.” It’s a stronger Buyer Persona outside of a job title or age or something like that. This really does get to the core of what – especially with B2B, SaaS – what is someone trying to do? What do they need your product to do for them? What’s the thing they’re hiring your product to do? So sometimes you’ll hear people say, you know, they are jobs to be done-focused and it sounds contradictory to what maybe someone else’s saying that they do when they do jobs to be done. That’s because there are five pretty solidly different approaches to jobs to be done. I like to use the Clayton Christianson model where I’m really just trying to narrow down what is the thing they’re trying to accomplish and then identify the benefits they receive once they’ve achieved that thing. And when you identify benefits, that get used in your content strategies, your marketing strategies, knowing exactly the things that you are helping people do and then why they enjoy it. What kind of like the benefits they’re receiving from it, it’s really easy to correlate a lot of marketing and product development from that information as well.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, you recently conducted a webinar in partnership with Audiense, an online consumer insight and segmentation tool. You started your webinar by saying that most business-to-business Personas suck. Why do you think most buyer Personas suck?

Adrienne Barnes: So that’s become my like red flag, my warning flag is just “Buyer Personas suck!” And that’s because most of them do. We did a survey with Audiense where we polled marketers and we said, “Hey, do you guys create Buyer Personas?” And I think the results were like 85 percent said yes, absolutely, we create buyer Personas, they are important.” I was like, “Great!” The next question was “Now, how often do you refer back to your Buyer Persona or how often do you use it?” And most, 77 percent, said “Never. Like we don’t even look at it once a year. We don’t look at it for new marketing campaigns. We don’t look at it when we’re creating new products!” It just wasn’t something that people were using, but yet it’s something people were doing. So that led me to believe, “Okay, this is really become check the box marketing practice.” I had my assumptions because I’ve been on teams as a consultant where the message comes down from the CEO or the CMO that says, “Hey, you know, on our yearly to-do list, that buyer persona needs to get done. Can you go execute on that?” And somebody sits in a conference room or now at their desk and cranks one out in a day. Maybe it’s based off of some formal information, but often it’s just kind of assumptions and an internal fictional story. It’s an echo chamber of internal fiction that you have created. And that actually isn’t helpful. Nobody’s going to use that. It doesn’t help anyone create anything. So rather than tiptoe around the issue and try to convince people that Buyer Personas actually were good at all of that, I’m really saying, “You know what? They do suck. But they don’t have to. So let’s talk about how to do them better.” So that way we can actually get out of the mindset of that “Mary Marketer” is a Buyer Persona and know what a Buyer Persona is a data-backed, helpful, useful document and process that’s never done, that’s continuously being added onto. So that’s really why I was like, “You know what? Yeah, I’m just going to embrace it. People think buyer Personas suck. They do, but they don’t have to. So let’s teach them how to do it better.”

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

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

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Adrienne Barnes, a content strategist, and creator of the Best Buyer Personas. Contrary to most traditional practitioners, you don’t believe that in order to be effective, Personas need a name, a face, or even a biography. So why not?

Adrienne Barnes: Yeah. So I was actually working on a team last year and we were putting together Buyer Personas and the marketing director. I said, “Hey, aren’t you gonna put this Mary Marketer, give them a name and a cute gender and go find a funny picture?” And he said, “No, I find that actually induces some bias.” And I found that really interesting. So I went on a little research hunt and wanted to validate that. Is that true? If you include a name, a face, a gender, and maybe even your cute alliterative name, does that create bias in marketing and product development? And come to find out, I talked to a lot of diversity and inclusion experts because I am not a diversity inclusion expert. I don’t even want to be put in that realm because these people are very passionate and knowledgeable. So I called them up – a whole bunch of different ones – and I said, “Hey, is it possible that if we name our Persona Mary Marketer and give her a picture of a 32-year-old shining, cute, little like white girl, is that potential for bias? And the answer was a hundred percent unanimously. Absolutely. So in our minds and there are five different types and I’ll see if I can remember them all. There’s beauty bias: so if we are showing these pictures we find an Unsplash photo, chances are we find that person attractive. We chose them to represent this Persona. We’re attracted to that picture in some way, for some reason, we find that attractive. Now, if we find customers maybe in customer support or out in the wild or whatever your situation may be, that don’t meet the picture, the image you have in your mind of who your attractive Persona is, you are actually going to show bias towards that person. And it’s unconscious, that’s another type of bias. You don’t even realize you’re doing it when you’re doing it. The unconscious bias was one that they mentioned quite frequently because it’s not something that you can train yourself out of. We all have our own histories. We all have our own personal stories and our own experiences and that shapes and forms our viewpoint on life, our perspectives. And they said, you know, “Another thing that you’re not going to be able to eliminate all bias in anything you do. And sometimes bias is actually healthy. But the thing that you should do is work towards eliminating it, where it could be harmful to groups of people.” So when I say, you know, there’s no reason to have a name, a gender, or, a picture with your Buyer Persona, it’s because what you’re trying to do is you’re taking a large group of people who are very diverse and who look very different, who have very different genders, and you’re saying it’s really this one person. They all can be represented by this one person. They actually can’t. They do have things in common and that’s what we should really be trying to find. What are the actual things they have in common? What are the actual issues and pain points and solutions they’re looking for in common? But not because they look like someone or they’re all a certain age. I use an example of if your buyer persona is a CEO and if you Google “CEO persona” and look at the images, most of them are older, white men, like just hands down they are. And that may be statistically accurate, right? Like I don’t know the statistics, but it could be 78 percent of older white men are CEOs, but still as a marketer, our job is to make businesses money. We are to market to our segments of people, where’s to find our audiences. And if we are establishing a situation where we’re saying, “This is the ideal, they look like this”, then we’re automatically eliminating large portions of our audiences. We’re automatically assuming every piece of content we create, every message we send out, every product we develop, is already eliminating somebody, another segment of our audience. Whether it’s even 12 percent of our audience or even bigger, just setting off from the get-go you’ve created a foundation of bias where you’re eliminating audiences. I’ve had people tell me, “I don’t believe in that woke stuff. I think you should have gender and all that stuff.” And I’m like, “Look, I’m not making a political statement. This is not me standing in front of people trying to say like, ‘oh, this is, you know it’s 2021.’ And this is just the way things should be because of some wokeness or political statement, it’s about reaching people in the best way possible. It’s about making sure that we’re not leaving out pockets of money, pockets of potential buyers, just because we’ve deemed that this Persona to be a person so that we can remember them.” I think that’s a false notion that we’re not going to be able to create content or develop products in a way that’s beneficial if they don’t look like a person to us. And I think that’s a lot of the arguments that I hear is that, “Well, if we don’t give them these names and these pictures, we won’t remember them. We won’t think of them. And we won’t do a good job of creating, content and information or products for them.” And I think that’s not true. I think we will absolutely do a better job if we segment them in a different way, in a stronger way. We’ll actually reach them with more empathy and in a much better way than just, “Oh yeah, that’s Mary Marketer.”

Adrian Tennant: So what’s a better way of segmenting customers?

Adrienne Barnes: So that really can depend on the company themselves. We’ve segmented customers according to jobs to be done. That’s one of the very basic ways that I can do it is where I can say, “Okay, really? What are the people trying to accomplish? Let’s group those people together. If there are users and then their buyers and that’s different. Let’s group them in that way.” Other companies I’ve worked with, they said, “No, it really does do us better if we segment according to user maturity, the maturity of the user within the company is so different and creates a need so many different, their own type of marketing streams, essentially. So we need to separate them up according to their maturity.” Other ones have said, “You know what? It really is according to the size of the company they’re in. And that really equates what kind of products of ours they buy and what kind of content they need to read.” It really is all about how do you segment your people in a way that you’re going to actually be able to create things: content, products’ features, support, that is going to be most helpful to them in a way that where they can understand, “Oh, you know what, they’re really meeting my needs. They’re really here. And they really do understand.” And that really does vary from company to company. So I always say, “Inside your own company, see what kind of groupings do you notice naturally form between your buyers, your users, community members.” And that’s always a really great way to say, you know what? That’s probably the best way to segment. I think people get stuck on having to segment by job title, because LinkedIn ads or Facebook ads, but that’s only beneficial for those ad segments. It’s not actually beneficial when you’re trying to get outside of a PPC campaign and really wanting to create an empathetic company that can market and support customers in a different way.

Adrian Tennant: As we discussed earlier, your webinar was part of a series hosted by Audiense. Adrienne, can you explain how you use Audiense’s tool to build better Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: So I love Audiense. Their team has been great. I started with them at the beginning of this year as their content strategist, and I was just on their team, helping them create content strategy. And then really every time I do a Buyer Persona, I use their tool. So they have quite a few different ways you can come in and use it, either keywords, bio keywords, you can actually add in social listening audiences and then really add that into Audiense, the tool, and figure out what our specific audience is talking about. What kind of things they’re looking for. But what I love it for most is its segments and its IBM Watson information. So I will go out and find out like, what are the words are people are using either through those conversations and surveys and social listening. Then I plug that into Audiense and Audiense tells me, “Okay, here are smaller segments of your audience that you didn’t realize existed.” And usually, it’s pretty surprising or it’s “Oh yeah, I forgot – now we can clearly see that within our one larger audience, there are like four smaller segments.” So now we can figure out where do we reach them on podcasts? What kind of PR campaigns need to be done? What kind of media needs to be done? Where do they go to learn something new? Where do they read their news from all that kind of information is. As well as the demographic information, which when I say you don’t want to segment your audience based on the demographic information, that’s absolutely true, but I don’t think that it’s just not important. Like you can include it in your Personas. It’s still important to know if 85 percent of your audience is male, then let’s know that, but we don’t have to make the Buyer Personas identity male if that makes sense. So we really want to make sure that Audiense’s tool tells me all of that stuff, the smaller segments, it gives the IBM Watson data, which is like, what are their personality traits? Are they more risk-averse? Are they conservative? Are they liberal? Do they have a positive affinity or is it more a negative tone online? It’s very interesting to get in and go through that kind of data and then make some connections and be able to, then market to your audience in a way that’s more meaningful and empathetic

Adrian Tennant: What are the main differences that exist between your approach to developing Personas for business-to-consumer versus business-to-business brands?

Adrienne Barnes: So it’s almost the same. The framework itself is very solid. The thing that changes is probably the internal goals are usually very different. Sometimes scalability,  growth, is usually always a goal. And then the questions that I ask during the interviews and the way that I reach out during the surveys is what’s really different. But the framework itself, all four approaches to data research or to market research are the same. We make sure we want to listen to the audience, figure out who they are, what are the words they’re using, the challenges, their pain points. That all has remained the same even if it’s B2C or B2B. I will find B2C people sometimes are easier to get on the phone, which I think people might think as a surprise. They really are, especially if they love the product, they have a tendency to wanna get on and share. B2B – they’re at work. They tend to be busy. It’s easier to cancel an interview with somebody than it is to cancel a meeting at work. So that’s been one of the stark differences in B2B to B2C, but the process itself is exactly the same for me. 

Adrian Tennant: Now you believe that Personas make for more empathetic marketing and customer support. How does adopting your approach help sales teams?

Adrienne Barnes:  So I believe that well-researched Personas do create better empathy and because we have a tendency to know more about the customers and the user themselves, we’re not trying to stereotype a large group of people into one. And so for sales, it’s almost the exact same way you’re able to then say, “You know what? I heard you say these things, I know that this is some stuff you’re probably struggling with. Customers like you have come and said this to me, are you finding those problems? Are you struggling with those challenges?” And every good salesperson knows it’s all about uncovering the other person’s challenges, uncovering their story so that you can then swoop in and meet that need. So once you know those very clearly, that job that they’re trying to accomplish, that main challenge they need, and the benefits that most of your Personas receive from them. As a salesperson, you figure out through your conversations, you uncover that, and then you automatically have your list of benefits. “Okay, you said this, wouldn’t it be great if you had this benefit. If it was actually like this…” You’re able to put them in that future mindset of “Look at how great things could be, much easier.” And I find when you’re able to actually meet people’s real problems and not just make a lot of assumptions about what they’re likely dealing with, it’s just a much more empathetic way to reach your audience, to reach your people. And especially for sales, when they’re doing those one-on-one sales.

Adrian Tennant: You talked about this a little bit at the beginning of our conversation, but I’d like to dive a little bit deeper. Adrienne, in what kinds of ways can Better Buyer Personas help content marketers?

Adrienne Barnes: So because a lot of this derived from my need to create better content marketing, every conversation becomes an idea for content. Usually, after one conversation, I’ve got three or four blog posts. Every time a client says, “I didn’t know how to do this” that becomes “How To/How We” content, right? We need to teach our users if they’re struggling and understanding how to use the tool in this way, then that becomes content we need to teach them. That’s some educational content. If they, during the conversation, say, “This was just amazing, we loved this thing”, that’s a case study. That’s your insights, that’s being able to explore and highlight those on your home pages or in your product pages. Any kind of wins that you uncover and they have really every conversation and every question for me does become a link to a piece of content, especially when I’m doing this type of research for the content strategies, much of my research process is very similar. So when I’m doing a Buyer Persona, the questions are a little different than they are for content strategies, but it’s very similar. And then every time I ask a question, when I’m researching for content strategies, I want to know, “What kind of things are you dealing with? What kind of struggles do you have?” and that goes directly correlated to your content strategies. It’s crazy, once you start to think about it that way, how clearly the connections can be made.

Adrian Tennant: And how frequently do you think marketers and sales teams should review their Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: I think anytime you’re about to launch a new product or create a new campaign or at the very least once a year just to look at it and be like, “Okay, is this still true? You know, if you created a Persona in 2019, it didn’t fit in 2020. And now even in 2021, there’s been so many changes and just the market and just the way people are purchasing and buying and feeling, in the words they’re using, and the language, and their pain points, those are changing and those are adapting very quickly. So I would make sure that it’s at least something that you are having those conversations and if you have them frequently, or if you do what I call continuous development. If you’re actually able to have those kinds of conversations, you’ll see the shifts in the market before you see them economically, you’ll be able to tell, “Oh, we’ve heard quite a few people say this. I think something like this is happening.” Or “I think our audience is starting to ship in this way” before three months down the line, when you’re looking at your sales data or you’re looking at your blog post data and things are telling you then, you get to predict it before it happens.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and Better Buyer Personas, where can they find you?

Adrienne Barnes: I’m at BestBuyerPersona.com and I am @AdrienneNakohl on Twitter. So I hang out on Twitter quite a bit. And then if you’re interested, I do Buyer Persona workshops where maybe if you have a team but y’all just need a little bit of help, a little bit of guidance, I do that. I do full Buyer Persona projects where you say, “We don’t want to do any of it, we just want you to give us all the details.” I do that as well, and I do quick consultations where you’re like, “We really just have four questions.” I do one-hour consultations as well. So there are lots of different ways for us to engage and I’m always happy to chat and answer any questions I can. This is definitely a passion project of mine. It’s what I love to do. It means a lot to me so I’m happy to help.

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

Adrienne Barnes: Thank you, Adrian. It was so nice to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Doug Stephens: Mall owners have to realize that you’re not in the commercial real estate business anymore. You’re in the hospitality and entertainment business. And your job in that center is to create a flywheel of amazing new brands, experiences, services so it’s a totally different kind of activity.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with retail futurist Doug Stephens, next week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, content strategist, Adrienne Barnes.You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under insights, just select podcast. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, Amazon music, or audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant until next week. Goodbye.

Categories
Audience Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Market Intelligence Multi-Family Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Real Estate Uncategorized

Learn everything you wanted to know about what makes Austin, Texas weird from the people that call it home. Download our Austin, TX research report to review all of the details.

Introduction

The capital city of Texas, Austin is the 11th-most populous city in the United States and the seat of Travis County.  Located nearly in the center of the state, Austin is about three hours south of Dallas; three hours west of Houston; and about 90 minutes north of San Antonio.

Experiencing a population growth of 34.1% between 2007 and 2017, the Austin region is one of the fastest-growing in the country  Austin has been the fastest-growing major metro in the country for nine straight years, from 2010 to 2019. The metro population jumped to an estimated 2.2 million people as of July 1, 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau. That is an increase of 2.8% from the prior year, bigger than any other metro with at least 1 million residents. That’s 169 people added every day, on average.

With a vibrant, well-educated, and youthful population of 2.2 million in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the median age in Austin is 34.7 years. Of Austin’s population aged over 25, 44.8% have a Bachelor’s Degree. Leading the US in tech salary growth, it’s the number four city tech workers would consider moving to.

Austin’s laid-back, take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude matches well with its fun and “weird” culture, celebrated on bumper stickers and T-shirts with the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.”

blank

“Everyone is welcome and has a place somewhere here. And it just makes it such a unique place because you just never know who you’re gonna meet or what experience you’re going to have just ‘cause there’s so many different things.”

Jamie E, 38

Austin Neighborhoods

  • Downtown Austin is popular with younger residents with middle to upper household incomes. These Austinites love the convenience of being just blocks from shopping on Congress Avenue, live music venues on 6th Street, and even some great parks, hiking, and biking along the Colorado River. 
  • Across the Colorado River from Downtown Austin sits South Austin, where young, artsy types congregate. Barton Heights offers great family areas, while Travis Heights and Bouldin Creek attract mainly hip, liberal Austinites.
  • North and Northwest Austin include Round Rock, Cedar Park, and Leander, which attract a lot of families. The Leander is an award-winning school district, and Apple and Dell have large operations in the area. North Austin also has some great luxury apartments. These fast-growing Austin neighborhoods are popular with families.
  • West Austin has some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, such as Westlake Hills and Steiner Ranch. The commute into town is a bit longer than in other areas of Austin, but residents are closer to Lake Travis and the great outdoors. Neighborhoods Oak Hill and Circle C Ranch are further south.
  • Although East Austin used to be considered the poorest part of the city, the area is now mostly a hipster neighborhood with many sleek, modern developments. 
  • Southeast Austin is home to a lot of University of Texas students, likely because of the large numbers of apartments and other rental properties in the area.

“I am in a tiny house in East Austin. With three dogs – I have two Huskies and a mix. You’d be surprised the people who to live in the tiny houses where I’m at.”

Shelly S, 42
blank

Doing Business in Austin

The Austin region offers businesses deep talent, education, quality healthcare, telecommunications, and a modern, international airport.  The major employers include: Amazon, AMD, Apple, Charles Schwab, Dell, General Motors, IBM, Intel, National Instruments, Samsung, Tesla, VISA, and Whole Foods.

Key Industries include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Clean Technology
  • Creative & Digital Media Technology
  • Data Management
  • Financial Services and Insurance
  • Life Sciences
  • Space Technology

The growth isn’t slowing down any time soon. The new Tesla Gigafactory, set to be located in eastern Travis County, will be one of the world’s largest and most advanced automotive plants and will bring an estimated $1 billion in capital investment to the region.

In addition to being home to tech giants, Austin has a thriving startup scene. Austin area startups attracted $2.2 billion across 263 venture deals in 2019. Startups account for a larger share of businesses in Austin than in nearly all major US metros and Austin ranks 6th for new businesses per 1,000 population.

“A couple of my friends work at Google and Facebook and they’re always saying so many people are moving in. I would say those apartment complexes are definitely to cater to people like that. Cause it’s like the new hub.”

Madison P, 28

The Cost of Living in Austin

Texas consistently ranks as one of the nation’s most favorable business climates based on its low tax burden and competitive regulatory environment. Texas features no personal or corporate income tax, and overall the state has one of the lowest state and local tax burdens in the US.

According to Austin’s Chamber of Commerce, the cost of living is 2% lower than the national average.

Austin Apartment Costs

Renters will generally find more expensive prices in Austin than most similar cities. The median two-bedroom rent of $1,450 is above the national average of $1,193. The city’s median one-bedroom rent is $1,175. While rents in Austin fell moderately over the past year (-0.6%), many cities nationwide saw slight increases (+0.2%). 

According to RENTCafé, these 5 Austin neighborhoods offer a good selection of rental apartments, unique dining, shopping, atmosphere, walkability, and a sense of community:

  • Downtown Austin (average rent $2,200/mo)
  • Central Austin ($2,100/mo)
  • Clarksville, between downtown and the MoPac Expressway ($2,100/mo)
  • Zilker, South Austin ($1,400/mo)
  • Travis Heights, South Austin ($1,400/mo)

What Austin Renters Want

No two renters are the same but many Austin renters are consistently seeking features and amenities. Here are the top things tenants report looking for in a property: 

  • Convenient Location – People want to live, work, and play in a geographically convenient circle. If your multifamily property is located near the University of Texas, show how it’s a convenient walk to campus to appeal to professors, graduate students, and staff. Similarly, if you have property near the new Apple campus, play up this proximity and go after Apple employees.
  • Pet-Friendly – The American Veterinary Association estimates that 50 percent of renters have pets and that 3 out of 10 renters without pets would have pets if their landlords allowed it. Allowing pets in your multifamily property opens up your prospective pool of renters and provides you with a competitive edge.
  • Key Appliances – Renters are on the lookout for properties that have garbage disposals, washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and microwaves. In higher-end rentals targeted at tech industry workers, potential residents may expect smart thermostats and TVs.
  • Connectivity – Wireless connectivity is extremely important to renters. Ninety-one percent of renters say reliable cell reception is important, and 44 percent say they won’t rent without reliable cell service.
  • Outdoor Living – One of the bigger benefits of living in Austin is the ability to enjoy warm water all year round. Tenants respond positively to multifamily properties that offer outdoor living space such as balconies, patios, or decks.
blank

Arts, Recreation, and Entertainment

The city’s official slogan promotes Austin as “The Live Music Capital of the World”, a reference to the city’s many musicians and live music venues. It’s also home to events like Austin City Limits and SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive.

Instead of the flat terrain common to most of the state, visitors are greeted with stunning vistas, rolling hills, and wildflowers. Austin’s natural setting, in one of America’s most unique landscapes, offers plenty of opportunities to get outdoors for fitness, recreation, and relaxation.

Austin has a reputation as one of the nation’s fittest cities, since there’s plenty to do outside to stay fit and enjoy an active lifestyle in the area’s mostly temperate climate. 

Ask any Austinite about their favorite sport and you’ll hear about everything from football to roller derby to cycling to kayaking. Austin is also home to many sports teams including:

  • Austin Spurs: NBA D-League Basketball Team
  • Round Rock Express: AAA Baseball Team
  • Texas Stars: AHL Ice Hockey Team
  • Texas Longhorns: Big 12 Conference College Sports
  • Austin FC (2021): Major League Soccer
  • Austin Bold: United Soccer League
  • Circuit of the Americas: Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, INDYCAR Challenge, MotoGP
  • Austin Herd: Major League Rugby

“The music scene is one of the things that was appealing to my husband and me when we moved here. Austin is the live music capital of the world. Every single weekend there is live music from local folks and from up and coming artists from around the country. And it is every type of genre that you can think of – from rap to alternative to bluegrass country. It is really culturally diverse.”

Theresa M, 39
blank

Read the full research report: Austin, TX research. We interviewed Austin, Texas residents to find out why they live there what makes their city special. Stay tuned for more city research.

Categories
Audience Audience Analysis

Gen Z wants gender inclusion, and brands that conduct customer persona research may uncover a larger market with these younger buyers.

In a week when a lot of the news covered a tragic fire caused by a so-called gender reveal party, it’s sort of ironic to realize that today’s babies may not grow up to view gender the same way their parents do at all.

Of course, babies get an assigned sex at birth. At the same time, Gen Z has already disrupted ideas about gender that their Baby Boomer, Millennial, and Gen X parents and grandparents just took for granted. The sex assigned at birth may or may not describe how individuals will grow up to view themselves.

And the way that people view themselves obviously influences the sorts of products they buy and even which businesses they choose to purchase those products from. Find out what marketers need to understand about changing perceptions of gender. This will help inform customer persona research, product development, and all aspects of marketing.

How Gen Z Attitudes About Gender Have Changed

According to Pew Research, Gen-Z generally refers to people born after 1996. That means that some are young adults but many are still children. Right now, most surveys of this generation include people who are at least 13 years old. It’s possible that younger children will eventually form their own generation. Even so, Gen-Z will likely influence the attitudes of those that come after them.

Most importantly, Pew also found that members of Gen Z tend to have very different attitudes about gender norms than their parents and grandparents. For some examples, Gen Z members tend to have:

  • A comfort with gender-neutral pronouns: They’re most likely to know people who prefer gender-neutral pronouns for themselves. These younger people feel comfortable referring to an individual as “they” to avoid using “he” or “she.”
  • A preference for more than two gender options: They tend to believe that gender options on forms or surveys should include selections besides the traditional male or female. Leaving these out may skew results of marketing surveys and other data gathering. In the worst case, leaving out other gender options can even offend some respondents.
  • A desire for inclusion and diversity: Gen Z generally feels that society should act more accepting to people who don’t define themselves in traditional roles. Since consumers tend to patronize companies they identify with, accepting changing gender definitions and promoting inclusion can help attract this market.

In Bigeye’s national research study, Gender: Beyond The Binary, we found that 50% of Gen Z respondents believe that gender is a spectrum, not a binary. Marketers must understand the shifting views toward traditional gender roles to cater to younger audiences’ changing needs.

An Audience Analysis Agency Perspective on the Positive Side of Disrupting Gender Norms

According to The Robin Report, a magazine for retail, fashion, and beauty executives, failing to account for changing gender norms can mean losing out on billions of dollars that Gen-Z and younger Millennials spend on retail goods. Some changes may prove quite simple.

These are some suggestions to help target audience demographics of Gen-Z better:

  • Consider gender-neutral packaging: Sure, young women have been purchasing “boyfriend” jeans for decades, but young men may also prefer to purchase a certain brand’s clothes and beauty products if they didn’t appear targeted solely to women. Consider using diverse models and maintaining authenticity by resisting the urge to dramatically Photoshop images.
  • Consider genderless products: Well-established luxury brands have introduced genderless fashion and even coed fashion shows. As an example, Abercrombie introduced a children’s line of genderless clothes, which appealed to progressive parents. Also, Victoria’s Secret made news by hiring a transgender model.
  • Don’t overlook the other genders: For instance, many cosmetics companies targeted their marketing to women. At the same time, one survey found that over half of men admitted to using at least one cosmetic product during 2018. These products included concealers and foundations. By embracing gender diversity, beauty companies can tap a huge market.

How an Audience Targeting Agency Can Welcome Gen Z Consumers

If today’s brands want to grow by engaging an audience of younger people, they should stop limiting their potential by restricting themselves to traditional notions of gender. An audience insights agency may help businesses uncover some surprising news about a product’s potential market. And really, if a company just has to bend some gender rules to attract an audience, then that surprising news is really good news.

Interested in learning more about the attitudes and perceptions about gender? Download Bigeye’s national research report Gender: Beyond The Binary.

genz-gender
Categories
Audience Audience Analysis

What kind of people like true crime podcasts, documentaries, and articles? Learn how a brand personas agency views true crime fans.

Everybody’s heard the old adage that says crime doesn’t pay, especially in the long run. Plenty of stories about the eventual fates of criminals prove the saying true in some sense. They often end up dead, in prison, or at least, disgraced. Still, that saying sure does not apply to a genre of crime stories called true crime. In fact, true crime podcasts, books, and documentaries have been attracting legions of fans and lots of revenue.

Meanwhile, all kinds of businesses have jumped on the bandwagon. They want to know if they can use this fascination with factual accounts of newsworthy crimes to bolster their own audience, so they may seek the perspective of an audience analysis agency to find out more.

An audience analysis agency perspective of true crime fans

As an example of true crime popularity, according to Forbes, the “My Favorite Murder” podcast raked in over $15 million last year. That’s more than finance guru Dave Ramsey’s earnings of $10 million. Out of all podcasts, “My Favorite Murder” only ranked behind comedian Joe Rogan’s $30 million income.

Besides the “My Favorite Murder” podcast and related content, true crime fans can find plenty of other podcasts, books, and even Netflix specials on the topic of real-life criminals and their victims. The public has had an appetite for true crime stories for years. Everybody knows about Jack the Ripper.

Still, these tales of crime, suffering, and punishment have gained unprecedented traction in the last few decades. Obviously, this genre can attract a large audience. Still, before deciding if true crime stories provide a good opportunity to for business sponsorship, a brand personas agency would want to know more about the audience.

Why do so many people like true crime stories?

A social psychologist named Amanda Vicary also grew fascinated with true crime. In turn, she also gained an interest in the psychological appeal of these sometimes grizzly and disturbing stories. For one thing, she had presumed that this sort of thing would mostly appeal to men. After doing a little research, she found out that women made up the overwhelming majority of the audience. Even though she liked this genre, the large female majority of the audience surprised her.

Dr. Vicary wanted to resolve this apparent paradox with a study that she eventually even published in a scientific journal. She discovered that, like herself, women’s interest generally centered upon the mental processes involved in these criminal acts. Perhaps surprisingly, women usually also preferred stories with female victims.

It’s surprising because Vicary said research has found that women tend to fear becoming victims of crime more than men do. As she dug into the mystery, she found that reacting to that fear may have attracted the audience. She finally concluded that that these stories drew in women because they hoped to learn enough about these acts of violence or exploitation enough to figure out which steps they could take to either prevent or survive them.

Dr. Vicary admitted that many women might experience this feeling subconsciously. Consciously or not, people may view true crime stories as a way to prepare and even to gain comfort, and this knowledge should factor into your audience analysis.

How can understanding true crime fans help with audience marketing?

Actually, it’s possible for marketers to learn a lot about true crime audiences during the audience analysis portion of their marketing research. Just from Dr. Vicary’s research, a brand personas agency would learn the likely gender of the majority. They would also understand that most of their audience doesn’t indulge in these alarming stories for a vicarious thrill. They don’t view the criminals as heroes either.

Instead, they want to better understand crimes as a way to gain the information that they could use to protect themselves of feel comforted they would never get into the same position as the victim. The audience feels threatened on some level, and they view true crime as a sort of self-defense school.

That’s not enough information for a completed set of buyer personas. Still, it’s a good start. To learn more, marketers would need to probe further into the audience for any particular kind of content they might either plan to produce or sponsor. Considering Dr. Vicary, a noted researcher and professor, enjoys these kinds of stories, it’s not wise to make assumptions about educational levels, income, or age.

Why consider true crime content for audience marketing?

Knowing even this much, this kind of audience might spark the interest of any businesses promoting home security, self-defense products, or almost anything related to preparing better defenses against the type of villains featured in true crime stories. These people already demonstrated a willingness to invest in informative content, so they’re probably also likely to invest in other solutions.

Also, a majority of the audience appears eager to take control of their lives by educating themselves. Beyond security, they may also have an interest in businesses that help them learn new things, enjoy different experiences, or even gain more power. Businesses that promote courses or products related to health, business, self-improvement, careers, and even beauty may find an attentive market.

All in all, true crime fans may provide a surprisingly receptive and open-minded market for all sorts of companies that can offer them value.

Categories
Audience Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation

The DINK demographic usually has more time and money to spend on themselves, so it’s worthwhile to explore the dual-income, no-kids market. 

Everybody has heard of the Gen Z, Gen X, Millennial, Baby Boomer, and Greatest Generation. However, the DINK demographic, short for Dual Income and No Kids, has now entered marketing lingo. Since any audience development agency may presume that many couples without kids have more time and disposable income than those with larger families, they’ve become a prime target for consumer marketing. 

How an audience development agency develops brand personas for the DINK demographic 

DINK refers to two-income couples who have chosen not to have children. It doesn’t necessarily mean these couples belong a specific age or income group; however, marketers may tend to mostly picture them as Millennials with decent salaries.

As for why they’re often associated with Millennials, just last year, even before the COVID crisis, Business Insider mentioned that the U.S. birthrate had declined to its lowest in three decades. A survey attributed the decline mostly to Millennials’ uncertainty about the future.

Since the Millennial generation has grown to become the majority of the workforce, they get a lot of attention from marketers anyway. Still, sometimes DINK can refer to members of other generations, even Baby Boomers who are empty nesters.

Digging deeper into the DINK generation

If some DINK couples decide they’re not ready for parenting, they appear fairly eager for other kinds of experiences. While nobody should try to put all dual-income-no-children couples in one basket, marketers can enjoy great success with this group as a target market with the right approach and product.

From the perspective of an audience insights agency, marketers should consider these general observations to succeed with the market:

1. Research target audience demographics

Some DINK couples may choose to skip parenthood because they feel uncertain or are simply unwilling to give up their freedom. However, in other cases, the idea of parenthood might not appeal to them or even be possible. Many even choose to delay parenthood but consider it a possibility in the future. That’s why an audience targeting agency should conduct research on specific target market demographics and behavior to better understand their likely audience in order to develop useful buyer personas.

2. Consider marketing innovative products, services, or businesses 

Even though a DINK couple might not feel ready to make a lifelong commitment of parenthood, they generally tend to be early adapters and interested in innovation. They may also have more time and money to learn about and experience new things.

Even if one product doesn’t appear terribly innovative, it’s good to focus upon any fresh or transformative aspects of the business. As an example, several vitamin companies have developed successful apps that help customers figure out which of their brand of supplements will benefit their customer’s health the most.

3. Promote company values

In contrast to the image of a DINK couple as very focused upon themselves, many use some of their extra time to volunteer and stay current with social issues. As a generation, most Millennials appear to care about patronizing businesses that share their values. An audience development agency should consider this trait as they develop a picture of their market and the marketing message they intend to send to them.

4. How certain markets may appeal to potential traits of a DINK audience

This list explains some of the types of markets that might appeal to a DINK audience:

  • Luxury goods: This market tends to like to share their experiences and not mind paying for value. Nice cars, high-quality, gourmet food, and similar luxury goods can reflect well on them in their own eyes and that of their social circle.
  • Things to do with spare time: Without the demands of getting kids to bed or scheduling babysitters, leisure activities may attract  couples without kids. They might take the chance to buy a boat or learn to cook their own gourmet meals.
  • Travel: Couples without children might have an easier time scheduling vacations because they won’t need to book things around school and kid’s activities. They’re also likely to travel further and not need to skimp on a budget vacation because it’s just the two of them.
  • Experiences: Again, innovative experiences will tend to attract DINK couples, and that might include anything from new entertainment and museum special events to a home automation system or solar panels. If the business must market something more ordinary, like soup mix, perhaps they could incorporate a message about eco-friendly packaging or service projects the business supports to demonstrate their corporate values.

Why market to the DINK demographic?

Forgoing parenthood and having both partners in a marriage work does not necessarily mean a couple enjoys a high income. Still, people without children may also be able to save money over their parenting peers. They may buy or rent smaller houses and apartments and don’t need to share disposable income with kids. Also, dual-income, no-children families may have more free time to enjoy some of the finer things and more energy to invest in learning about them.  Having time and money can make them an excellent target market for the right businesses.

Categories
Audience Audience Analysis Consumer Insights

When it comes to CPG brands, determining the likely marketing audience should be listed at the top of any marketing plan. Find out who decides what to buy.

As one of the first steps to develop a marketing plan, a CPG marketing agency will conduct audience research. Obviously, they need to learn as much as they can about the behavior and demographics of consumers who they might attract to their products.

If these products appeal to couples of families, the business should determine which member of the household typically makes buying decisions about CPG products. That way, they will know how to effectively target the other steps in their marketing campaign.

What CPG marketing agency research reveals about household decision makers for CPG brands

Of course, consumer packaged goods come from multiple industries. They can range from pet food to coffee to stockings. Few household members make 100 percent of the decisions about which products or brands to buy. Still, it’s no surprise to see a study on Chain Store Age that found women, typically mothers, make most of the buying choices in average, two-parent families.

Some interesting results from this study found:

  • In a typical, traditional family, Mom usually chooses what to buy. Though fathers have recently grown more involved in household purchase decisions, mothers still make most of these choices in 80 percent of families.
  • Still, men have grown more involved in the CPG-shopping process lately. Lately, moms make about two-thirds of the household decisions, compared to about 80 percent in the past.

Of course, men tend to make certain kinds of decisions for some CPG products more than women do. For instance, in most traditional families, expect more men than women to buy goods for lawn maintenance and home repair. They’re also slightly more likely to choose items related to autos and tech than they are for more general products.

Women made almost always made choices about children’s clothes or toys. In some areas, men and women tend to share buying decisions equally. These include products related to entertainment, furnishings, and appliances.

Who buys the groceries?

While consumer packaged goods can cover a lot of different areas, people often associate them with items found at the grocery store. Some obvious examples include peanut butter, soap, and coffee. At least in traditional families, Pew Research found that women do at least 80 percent of both the cooking and the shopping.

That’s true if a couple has children or not. Couples have started sharing more household chores than they did in the past. At the same time, women usually buy and prepare food most of the time. Pew Research also mentioned that women tend to spend less time doing paid jobs than men do, so that may account for some of the imbalance when it comes to grocery trips and food preparation.

Who should a consumer package goods agency target?

Of course, it’s impossible to offer a one-size-fit-all answer for all kinds of CPG products. Also, even in cases where one gender or another tended to make some kinds of choices more often, they did not always make them and also probably made some purchases because of influence of the other partner.

After all, if a husband expresses a preference for a certain brand of salad dressing or pickles, his wife will probably remember that on her next trip to the supermarket. Similarly, if children ask for a certain kind of socks or a new video game, that request may eventually lead to an adult purchase decision.

Even 10 years ago, AdAge promoted the idea that CPG companies should target men more. Even if surveys show that women tend to make two-thirds of household decisions, that still leaves one-third of purchase choices to men. AdAge also pointed out that even though women still do most of the shopping, men do more of it than they used to do. Even a smaller share of a market could add up to a growth opportunity for some CPG companies.

Why do marketers need to know who tends to choose their types of product?

Marketers need to define their audience before they can make good choices about a number of other factors in their marketing plan. These can range from the platforms used for marketing to the color of the product packaging.

Consider these examples:

  • Crazy Egg revealed that women like blue, purple, and green the most, but they tend not to prefer gray, orange, and brown as much. In contrast, men also like blue and green, but they also tend to gravitate to black. Men also tend to dislike orange and brown, but they shy away from purple.
  • Men and women both use social sites, still they may tend to favor different kinds of platforms. For instance, expect to find more women on sites like Pinterest and Facebook and more men on more discussion-oriented sites like Reddit.

No consumer package goods agency can generalize about exactly which gender or member of the family makes all the household decisions about CPG brands. This can also vary quite a bit for different types of products, and not all families have the traditional mom, dad, and kids. Still, determining their most likely customers will make plenty of other marketing decisions easier for CPG brands.