A Serious Consumer Insights Perspective on Silly Content

Marketing levity for consumer insights marketing: Humor can help mitigate bad press, explain serious issues, and of course, attract a willing audience.

During these days of rising health, political, and economic concerns, plenty of people can use a laugh. As many respectable and completely serious doctors and scientists have done before, Clarity Clinic even says that humor can provide good medicine for mental and physical health issues. Perhaps, that makes this the perfect time for a little media levity, even to address very serious topics.

With that in mind, gain some perspective from a consumer insights company to see how adding a bit of levity to marketing content can help attract an audience and even improve a brand’s reputation.

How a consumer insights company treats humor as serious business

A company like Netflix doesn’t just offer marketing content; for them, content provides the basis for their entire business model. Some people may find it surprising that a show like “The Floor is Lava” has even trended to the top for popularity in the U.S. market. On the other hand, even Mashable TV critics praised the show for offering some levity and fun during 2020, a year when many people have found little to celebrate.

Using humor to take the edge off of poor PR events

From the view of a consumer behavior analysis agency, some companies have done very well incorporating jokes, even in the face of poor PR. Take a look at an example of the great KFC chicken debacle. Apparently, KFC changed suppliers, and ensuing problems resulted in chicken shortages that even led to a number of store closings.

In those pre-pandemic times of just last year, it was always easy to buy such staples as toilet paper and chicken. Nobody ever thought twice about eating inside a KFC, rather than using the drive-through. Thus, consumers expressed outrage when they could not immediately dine on their favorite meal in 2018.

In response, KFC took out plenty ads to apologize to their loyal and hungry fans. Instead of printing KFC on the image of a bucket of chicken, they rearranged the numbers to spell FCK. According to The Drum, the naughty humor worked because the public appeared to forgive them. Their ads and images even went viral on social sites. A marketing and consumer behavior analysis agency named Mother came up with this effective strategy, which also generated quite a bit of positive attention for them.

Can humor always take the edge off of PR disasters or other serious matters?

Obviously, KFC’s mistake pales when compared to some other PR disasters. For instance, an audience personas agency probably would never have suggested that Equifax try to use humor to cope with their massive data breach. Consumer insight marketing professionals should think about the audience before they suggest the right tactic to take for different types of problems or errors.

On the other hand, marketers can find examples of businesses using humor to address very serious issues. As am example, Melbourne’s Metro released a “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign to help promote safety and reduce the number of accidents. The videos ended up with a greater number of views than the amount of people that even live in the whole country of Australia. According to their media staff, they wanted a way to educate their community about safety without turning them off.

As another example, Burger King used a humorous video to educate the public about their company stance on the serious issue of net neutrality. After they interviewed average people, they found that most internet users really did not understand the idea behind the controversy. Thus, they used a humorous video that showed the order taker giving higher priority to people who paid more for their Whopper than those who paid the regular place, which they equated to internet providers throttling bandwidth for some websites but not others.

The pros and cons of using humor to grow a marketing audience

Marketers may sometimes use humor to help address very serious issues, as discussed above. Used right, funny content can work just as well for everyday marketing too. With that in mind, consider some benefits of employing humor to help grow an audience for marketing campaigns:

  • Attention grabbing and relatable: Consumers get bombarded with lots of ads for companies that want to sell them something, and they may pay attention to and even care more about a company that makes them laugh too.
  • Memorable: Studies have linked humor with better recall, so any company that wants people to remember their name might earn the privilege with some levity.
  • Often share-worthy: Internet users like to share funny videos, quotes, and memes and may feel less inclined to simply share an ordinary advertisement.

On the other hand, businesses need to avoid certain pitfalls that almost all comedians have fallen into at some point. They should remain wary of giving offense, appearing amateurish, or simply not landing their joke. As in the case of Equifax, for example, plenty of comedians may have joked about them, but they wisely decided not to choose that exact time to laugh at themselves.

Why consult a consumer behavior analysis agency about humor in marketing?

Mark Twain called referred to humor as mankind’s greatest blessing. Particularly during stressful times, a bit of levity can lighten up many heavy loads. By expertly incorporating a funny scenario or even a self-effacing joke into marketing campaigns, businesses can gain more attention and in many cases, even do their target audience a favor.

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CPG Brands: Who Makes Household Decisions in Families?

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.

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Get to Know Your Customers with Consumer Insights Marketing

Consumer insights marketing can help you understand your audience’s motivation, perspective, and behavior so you can discover more opportunities.

As a business owner, you probably think you know your customers pretty well. You might be right, but these days, you need to go beyond some general demographics in order to obtain true consumer insights. Beyond the likely age, gender, or even actions of current or future customers, you will benefit by digging deeper into the motivation, perspective, and information that drives their behavior.  Find out how consumer insight marketing can yield surprising information and even better, great results.

Why focus upon consumer insights marketing?

In an era when a consumer’s experience with a company outweighs the products they offer, attention to consumer insight marketing will help you connect with customers. For example, you may have some idea that your customers mostly base their purchase decisions upon such objective and obvious measures as product quality and price.

Deloitte, a prominent consumer insights company, ran a large survey in the US, UK, Brazil, and China for 2020. According to their consumer behavior analysis, a sizable percentage of respondents said they considered these measures when deciding which business to buy from:

  • How businesses treat employees: 28 percent
  • How businesses treat the environment: 22 percent
  • How businesses treat their communities: 19 percent

For your own business, your customer base may vary somewhat. On the other hand, knowing that about 20 percent of your customers want to patronize companies that care about their employees, the environment, and their community could certainly inform your marketing. For example, you might focus upon social posts and ads that introduce enthusiastic employees or highlight your contribution to worthy causes.

In fact, consumer insights marketing may have even more importance than it did only a year ago. Deloitte noted that they ran a similar survey in 2019. At that point, their consumer insights found that most customers still cared about price and quality the most. This year’s survey found that 55 percent of consumers think businesses have a responsibility to support issues that relate to their purpose.

Deloitte concluded that companies that fail to demonstrate they align with consumer motivations risk getting displaced by businesses that do a better job.  On the other hand, understanding and aligning with their customer’s point of view gives businesses an advantage of competition.

How consumer insights marketing will help your business compete

As a real-world example, Unilever has 28 brands they market as good choices for people interested in sustainable living. These include such well-known names as Lipton, Dove, and Vaseline. Considered sustainable-living products, they deliver the bulk of Unilever’s revenue and also have enjoyed more rapid growth than the company’s other brands.

Such items as tea, soap, and petroleum jelly appear pretty interchangeable, but Unilever did a good job of differentiating them as sustainable in order to grow its market share. Certainly, consumers still care about price and quality; however, in a crowded market, knowing what extra factors will prompt customers to favor one company over another can make all the difference.

How to gather consumer insights

By now, you might wonder how you can possibly start to understand your customer’s motivations and perceptions. If you lack the time or training, you can find market research services that offer affordable packages for all sizes and kinds of businesses. The smaller and newer your company, the more valuable you may find this sort of help.

On the other hand, you can begin by studying general consumer behavior analysis, such as that provided by the Deloitte survey mentioned above. Even better, you should start to monitor your own customers on social media or offer surveys. If you’re starting a new business, you may not have many customers yet. At the same time, you can try to peek at your potential competitors’ customers to understand why they buy from other businesses.

You might also try setting up a booth at a trade show or local event. Not only will this give you a chance to introduce more people to your brand, you will also have the opportunity to meet the kinds of people who have an interest in the products or services that you offer. Start conversations with people, so that you can learn what motivated them to make similar purchases in the past and could prompt them to buy from you in the future.

Why start investing in consumer insights today?

In any case, you should know that consumer insights marketing has become more than just the latest marketing term. No matter what you sell, you can’t assume that price and quality completely drive customer behavior. In fact, the more you know about your customer’s motivations to prefer one company over another, the less you may need to compete on price.

In fact, getting customers to identify with your company in positive ways is a type of marketing that money almost can’t buy. On the other hand, you can achieve that beneficial status if you invest in consumer behavior analysis and work to always view your business through your customers’ eyes. In any case, if you thought that all of your customers were simply getting online compare prices, you should be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can find other ways to earn their business. You just need to figure out how to do it, and that’s exactly why you need consumer insights.

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Know Your Audience with Persona Development

You may think that you already know your target marketing audience, but without persona development, you may be shooting in the dark.

It’s marketing 101: The first step to effective branding and advertising is knowing your audience. And there is no better way to fully understand your audience than a well-crafted buyer persona.

Forbes Magazine Councils Member and contributing writer Jon Simpson defines buyer personas as “semi-fictional characters that personify your ideal customer” and called them “imperative to having accurate audience insights.”

Many business leaders deem the development of buyer personas superfluous, overconfident in their natural ability to connect with existing and prospective customers. But without comprehensive and effective persona development, critical misjudgments can easily occur. And these misjudgments can make the ultimate difference between success and failure.

The benefits of persona development

It is essential for brand strategy experts and content marketers to draft and refine effective buyer personas. No matter how busy they happen to be and how anxious they are to get on to the content creation stages of marketing campaign development process, they absolutely must make time for this key preparatory measure.

Persona development gives direction and focus to all of your marketing efforts by providing a single audience template that everyone in your organization can use when developing overall marketing strategy and spearheading specific advertising efforts. As the independent content marketing resource Content Marketing Institute puts it, “Documenting your personas, even if done quickly, is key to keeping everybody focused on the same audience.”

Persona development is particularly useful for companies with multiple stakeholders and/or team members who hold decidedly different opinions when it comes to marketing and branding strategies. By determining buyer personas that epitomize target audiences as a whole, companies can not only structure a unified marketing vision, but make all narratives involving company brand and products/services far more compelling, memorable, and ultimately effective.

From your official website and social media pages to your traditional and digital advertising efforts, all elements of your marketing outreach can (and probably will be) refined and optimized to meet the specific wants and needs of your audience as you identify them. However, by creating clearly defined buyer personas ahead of time, you can avoid the tremendous amount of time and monetary expense that go hand in hand with major redesign and redevelopment.

How to develop an effective buyer persona

Although even a rudimentary buyer persona is better than no buyer persona at all, it goes without saying that putting more forethought and care into the persona development process will inevitably yield better results. For this reason, organizations that are serious about marketing and branding success typically employ the help of a specialized persona development agency when engaging in this process.

The Content Marketing Institute breaks the development of an effective buyer persona into five practical steps. Keep in mind that each of these steps is an involved process in and of itself, requiring significant data gathering and analysis using modalities that range from general market research to customer/prospective customer interviews and surveys.

Step 1: Visualize the ideal customer.

Through extensive research, analysis, and projection, develop a single fictional customer who represents your target audience as a whole. For optimum results, go far beyond basic demographics such as gender and income level to examine the details of this customer’s professional and personal life.

Step 2: Consider that customer’s applicable wants and needs.

What are the common objectives and responsibilities of your ideal customer? What obstacles might stand in his or her way?

Step 3: Characterize that customer’s role in relation to the purchase of products and/or services.

What form does your ideal customer’s buying process take? What questions is that customer likely to ask before making a purchase?

Step 4: Consider that customer’s communication preferences.

What media channels does your ideal customer use on a regular basis? Where does he or she go to get information?

Step 5: Marry your buyer persona insights to your strategic company goals.

A great way to do this is to craft one or more engagement scenarios that take buyer personas through various prospective consumer interactions with your company.

For more information

If you want to learn more about the benefits of persona development and/or get professional assistance with the persona development process, contact a skilled and knowledgeable representative of Bigeye today. If you are looking for a persona development agency with vision, we’d love to show you what we have to offer.

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Connecting the Dots: The Trends That Will Shape 2020

Making predictions is a risky business. In 1994, the Rand Corporation — a famous quasi-governmental think tank long-celebrated for their strategic prognostication — confidently predicted the following:

“During the 21st century, those houses that don’t have a robot in the broom closet could have a live-in ape to do the cleaning and gardening chores. Also, the use of well-trained apes as family chauffeurs might decrease the number of automobile accidents.”

While selectively breeding an army of highly intelligent ape butlers and chauffeurs might seem ridiculous to those of us living in 2019, it probably seemed semi-plausible then — and that’s the risk that comes with forecasting. However, when you’re right, the payoff can be immense. If you can predict what’s next, you can position yourself (or your organization) to profit from this shift before it occurs.

That brings us to the subject of this piece: “Connecting the Dots: Consumer Trends That Will Shape 2020.”

What We’ve Learned By Connecting the Dots

Recently released to the public, “Connecting the Dots” is a research and forecasting document compiled by GlobalWebIndex. The report, which is produced annually, offers a valuable window into technology, society and marketing.

For pure prognostication, GlobalWebIndex has a reasonably strong record. In last year’s report, it was predicted that e-sports would finally enter the mainstream. 2019 subsequently saw 50% year-over-year growth in e-sports, the Fortnite World Cup and top e-sports stars appearing on famous late night talk shows. Last year’s report also perceptively noted the continuing trend of social media becoming less social and more utilitarian, as platforms such as Instagram and Facebook become closer to one-stop-shops for consumer needs.

So what does the latest version of the report predict for the upcoming year? Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most relevant predictions offered in the report.

The Emergence of Online, On-Demand Healthcare

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if booking a physician’s appointment was as simple as booking a ride with Uber? That’s the future we’re hurtling toward, as AI and telehealth begin to augment — and in some cases replace — conventional primary care.

Today’s AI-powered health offerings are a far cry from the limited telehealth patient sessions of a few years ago. Healthcare operators are also taking things a step further by combining telehealth services with mobile clinics and pop ups. By marrying the two approaches, providers can offer the same suite of services found in any brick and mortar doctor’s office, yet in a far more accessible way.

The public interest is certainly there. According to “Connecting the Dots”:

“Our global research reveals 36% of consumers are using the internet to research health issues and healthcare products, jumping up to 42% for users aged 55-64, where a focus on health becomes even more crucial.”

The study also found that:

  • 75% of consumers use the Internet to research which medications to purchase
  • Half of consumers say that video physician consults will help them manage their health more effectively
  • 70% are willing to make their health data accessible via smartphone

In a world that’s conditioned to expect on-demand services — and where access to healthcare remains an intractable problem — this is one projection that seems almost certain to be realized.

Privacy and Cashless Societies

In some ways, privacy has become almost a quaint notion in the digital era. We trail streams of data as we navigate our phones and the web — much the same way that city buses trail exhaust fumes. Every follow, like or page visit is duly recorded and used to optimize our marketing and ad profiles.

This hyper-transparency has been largely shielded from two key areas, however: Medical records and financial data. Both areas are regulated to varying degrees. Yet our daily financial transactions could soon be subject to the same level of transparency as our daily web browsing.

That’s because digital currencies are on the rise. Bitcoin, Facebook’s Project Libra and efforts by China to develop a national digital currency all differ in some key regards. Yet they all share one characteristic: Anyone using these coins/tokens will have their transactions recorded on a public and immutable ledger. That’s the nature of blockchain technology.

While there are so-called privacy coins that obscure transaction history, these offerings are not likely to see the wide consumer adoption associated with a Facebook cryptocurrency or a state-sponsored digital asset.

For those invested in privacy, things aren’t completely dire. The European Union has introduced the world’s strongest digital privacy protections — laws that give consumers much more control over how their data is harvested and used. Yet in a world that is quickly going cashless, maintaining financial privacy may soon become a much more difficult challenge.

A Mediated Existence

Just how mediated through technology have our daily lives become? Consider this: The average person, globally, spends almost seven hours per day online. As companies and industries pursue greater degrees of digitalization, it is only a matter of time before seven hours seem like an exercise in restraint.

Given how much of our lives are now lived online, is it truly possible to detach? Have we lost the ability to prioritize the human touch without sacrificing convenience?

According to “Connecting the Dots,” many people now fear the answer is a resounding “no.” The number of people who report that technology complicates their lives, or who report being constantly connected online, continues to rise each year.

These concerns are shared by the people who seemingly know best: Silicon Valley CEOs and developers. Over the last year, we’ve seen repeated articles in the press about “dopamine fasts” and “technology detoxes.” Many tech leaders have mentioned that they strictly regulate screen time for their own children.

The scale and rapidity of the “tech takeover” of modern society is astonishing, if you take a moment to place it in context. A generation ago, personal computers cost thousands of dollars, had limited utility and were not owned by most households. Tech, in general, was not a lifestyle, except for hard core enthusiasts. 

While increasing computing power and the birth of the Internet ignited the consumer tech takeover, it wasn’t until little more than a decade ago — with the development of social media and the smartphone — that we truly began to live mediated existences. In fact, we’ve hurdled headlong into a radical societal shift, in a very brief period of time, without any real idea about the consequences.

Politicians have become aware of this anti-tech sentiment. Several US senators have urged social media platforms to take steps to make their products less compulsively engaging, claiming that the current paradigm is bad for the mental health of heavy users.

“Connecting the Dots” makes the case that while the tech takeover may be in full flight, human concern about (and opposition to) our new reality will only get stronger.

About Bigeye

Bigeye is a leading creative agency based in Orlando, Florida. We help clients create marketing campaigns that are driven by exceptional creative work, domain expertise and sophisticated technological tools. For more inspired reading, visit our Insights page.

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Insights-Led Marketing Strategy

Bigeye’s senior strategist Dana Cassell joins host Adrian Tennant on IN CLEAR FOCUS to discuss the role that strategy plays within a marketing and communications agency.

In Clear Focus this week: Bigeye’s senior strategist Dana Cassell joins host Adrian Tennant to discuss the role that strategy plays within a marketing and communications agency. Dana offers case studies highlighting how consumer insights and audience research can be applied to differentiate brands from their competition, plus practical tips and career advice for anyone seeking to enter the advertising industry.

In Clear Focus: Insights-Led Marketing Strategy

In Clear Focus this week: Bigeye’s senior strategist Dana Cassell joins host Adrian Tennant to discuss the role that strategy plays within a marketing and communications agency. Dana shares case studies highlighting how consumer insights and audience research can be applied to differentiate brands from their competition, plus practical tips and career advice for anyone seeking to enter the advertising industry.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced by Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. For those of you who don’t know us, Bigeye is an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Providing audience research, branding, creative, media, and analytics services. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. For this episode, it’s my pleasure to be joined by Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s senior strategist. Dana has been with Bigeye almost a decade and focuses on consumer behavior, interpreting the results of findings from primary and secondary research. Dana synthesizes data into actionable insights that help Bigeye’s clients build strategically differentiated brands. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dana.

Dana Cassell:       Thank you. Glad to be here.

Adrian Tennant:     What does your role as senior strategist at Bigeye look like? Describe a day in the life, if you will.

Dana Cassell:       I love that question, “What does a day in the life look like?” I spend a lot of time on-site with clients in a discovery meeting. So, generally at the beginning of an engagement with a client, we have an on-site day where we have the leadership team in the room and our team in the room. And the first half of that discovery is a strategic discovery and we’re working on things like a SWOT analysis, key messages, understanding of the target current state of affairs. So I’m generally leading that conversation. I like to think of myself as a client advocate, so I’m basically trying to get myself up to speed and understand where they are in the business, what they’re trying to do. So I do a lot of that and I like a lot of that. I’m also on calls with clients a lot catching up on those types of items. And then the kind of other half of what I do is staring at the computer screen, blinking cursor by myself because I do a lot of documentation. So if we have a strategic engagement, I’m going to be documenting that entire discovery process and setting forth the strategic plan to move forward. So I’m either kind of with everybody or by myself. I like both of those pieces.

Adrian Tennant:     So what are some of the most common challenges you see clients facing today?

Dana Cassell:       I think differentiation is a challenge. In the, in the global economy, you know, there’s just not really a new idea anymore. So a lot of our clients have a solid product, they have a great internal organization and they’ve just either lost market share or other newer competitors have come on the scene and they’re having trouble differentiating. We also see a lot of lack of understanding of the audience. So maybe an organization, a client might have known their audience 10 years ago. They did a lot of research, they had a better understanding and they’ve just grown and changed since then. So they just haven’t, not a modern understanding of their audience. So I think that’s a challenge a lot of people see. Another one I see is our clients having trouble getting to a place where they can be more strategic rather than reactive. And that’s generally in my assessment, kind of – it’s like a legacy problem. So the organization just runs a certain way and the marketing team can’t catch up and get far enough ahead that they have time to breathe and be strategic. So it’s like the weight of the organization is forcing them to be reactive. It’s not that they’re not strategic thinkers, they are, they just don’t have permission internally to push pause on being reactive and move into a more strategic place. And I think often we help in those engagements because we can come into the room with the C-suite and make the case for why reactivity is not the best marketing strategy.

Adrian Tennant:     So that being said, if you’re a new challenger brand, I’m looking to gain market share in a category with an established brand leader, how can strategy help?

Dana Cassell:       I think the audience understanding and insight is, is a key piece of that game. There are industries where the leading brand is taking their position for granted and they don’t really have deepened relationships with their consumers. And that’s always an area of opportunity. I think we’ll probably also talk, I’m hoping we’ll talk about direct-to-consumer today. That’s another great example of ways that challenger brands are gaining market share sort of by a really deep specific understanding of their audience and an extremely clear focus. So I think new challengers that really get the audience have a singular focus and do that thing well, have a great opportunity to gain some market share.

Adrian Tennant:     Great answer. Strategy can seem a bit abstract. What do tangible deliverables from strategy planning typically look like?

Dana Cassell:       That’s a great question. So target market analysis is often one that we’ll deliver and this is related to audience and audience insights. So we’ll work with a client to understand primary, secondary, tertiary audiences. We’ll develop brand personas, key messages for those targets, where we find them in media, what their consumer behaviors like. So we kind of blowout a big profile of those target markets. So that kind of analysis is a real actionable deliverable. Often key messages is a piece of that. So I really like the kind of four-by-four model where we have four things that we like to say about the brand over and over maybe four words long that everybody in the organization can get behind. These are like little memorable key nuggets about a brand that we can work into. Public relations interviews we can use in social content we might use in our email signature. I love helping a brand kind of come up with these key messages that are like part of their identity, something everybody can understand and start to be a driver for a brand. So I often like to work in key messages. We’ll also make key messages as part of that target market strategy. So what are the key messages that resonate most with each message, each segment of that target market? Sometimes a platform analysis is a good one too. So we’ll have clients that are involved in a variety of social media and this is something I love to do as a strategist. So we’ll get a client that is doing a lot of social media and none of it beautifully. And I get the opportunity to kind of go in and consume all of that data, all that content they’ve been putting out over the years and understand what’s been working and resonating. I love looking at the data behind social platforms and coming back and being able to say, “the good news is you’ve been doing too much and we have an opportunity to narrow your focus and then really do what you’re doing well.” So platform analysis as a tangible deliverable. And then content planning is another one that happens often we’ll see organizations that are they know strategically what they need to be doing, but then the tactics of how to execute that strategy. So often one of my strategic deliverables will be a plan for creating and deploying content. So strategic recommendations on what types of categories are going to work best on their different platforms. So what should their blog focus over the next year be? What should their outbound marketing focuses be? So that content planning roadmap, that happens a lot too.

Adrian Tennant:     I’m really interested to know how you get up to speed on a new client industry. Have you got a particular process that you’d like to share with us?

Dana Cassell:       Sure. I’m just an avid consumer of that brand. I just try to think of myself as obsessed, kind of brand obsessed, and I’ll just literally sit at my computer and absorb everything I can find about them online. And then I do that for any brand that thinks they’re a competitor or any brand that they think is a competitor. And then also aspirational brands. So this is a question I love to ask clients. What are brands that you think are similar to yours that are killing it? And it might not be in their same market and might not be in their same service, but a brand that it’s like, I really like the way they do business, so then I’ll go absorb everything I can about those brands. And if they don’t have an idea of who those are, I probably have an idea of who this might be for them. So I like doing that. And then I’m also a data nerd at heart, which I would encourage anybody who wants to be a strategist to become a data nerd at heart. I love to go look at whatever data they want to give us. So one of my favorite places to start is with good old Google Analytics to understand what’s happening on their digital platforms. Sales data. I don’t know, I just, I like to… Annual reports, gosh, I love annual reports. Am I the only one maybe?

Adrian Tennant:     I think you might be, Dana.

Dana Cassell:       I love a good annual report. So I just consume all of the data, you know, and then I do a lot of listening so I love to read and then I love to hear from them. That’s kinda how I get up to speed. I also like to read things like job descriptions to learn how the brand thinks about the people they want working with them. So that’s a little hacks to learn how the brand thinks about themselves.

Adrian Tennant:     Some really good strategic tips there, I liked them. Thank you. Dana, what brands do you most admire – and why?

Dana Cassell:       This is a great question. I love this. I feel like I can answer in lots of different ways. So I like to think of Southwest Airlines and Publix as the same brand in my head and they’re kind of big ones and obvious ones that a lot of people love. So it’s maybe a bit of a cliche answer, but the things that I love about them are, I believe them and I believe in authenticity and transparency. I just don’t think there’s a way in 2019, 2020 to live in a non-transparent way for long. So these are brands that I think have been being super transparent for a long time. They have people who are happy to work there, which I think is a real key to long-term success is internal culture. So I think they’re doing that really well. And I also think they are trying to be exactly who they are. So they’re in a growth mindset as a brand. Neither of them are giving up market share anywhere, but they’re also not trying to be something that they’re not. So I love that about them. They’re authentic, they have happy customers, they know who they are and they’re living into that identity. So I really liked that about those brands.

Adrian Tennant:     I should just explain for any listeners that are not based in the Southeast of the United States, Publix Supermarkets, the leading supermarket for sure in our region, privately held, and a Fortune 100 company.

Dana Cassell:       Right. And originally a Floridian brand, now found widely across the Southeast and likely in a Northern market near you soon because like I said, they have a growth mindset.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s meant to be a secret, I think. Not really, worst-kept secret now.

Dana Cassell:       I love the Grocery Wars. Honestly, what’s happening in the grocery stores is great. We were talking about this for banking yesterday, following the way that grocery stores are moving Northern brands to the South, Southern brands to the North, and then expansion into the Midwest is a great case study for any industry that is looking to gain market share in a volatile environment. Because grocery is about loyalty. It’s grossly about consumer behavior. And it’s just a really fascinating idea to watch how grocery stores move into markets where they’re, they’re not, they’re markets of origin. I love groceries.

Adrian Tennant:     Excellent. So what do you think about the success of direct-to-consumer brands, such as Dollar Shave Club, StitchFix, Casper, Warby Parker, Barkbox… there are many, many, many to choose from. What do you think about them?

Dana Cassell:       I love it. This why, I love it. So it’s not, it’s not dissimilar from the Southwest and Publix idea. These brands are singularly focused on doing one thing really well. Warby Parker is going to deliver glasses that you’ll love, that you have control over the experience. I love that Casper mattresses, it’s a focused effort. They know who they are, they know what they’re going to do well and they’re not going to do anything beyond that until they can do it well. So that’s not to say that DTC can’t expand and grow their service line. They can, but they’re doing it in a way that feels authentic to the brand. And also all of these brands that you’re mentioning are obsessed with consumer experience and I think that’s been the key to their success. So the whole idea that there’s this user-generated content library of people unboxing mattresses, this is like watching paint dry! I mean unboxing a mattress theoretically couldn’t be a more boring thing! This has taken over the Internet. I think it’s amazing, but they’ve created a user experience that is engaging people in a category I don’t think anybody would have predicted. So I love that they also have streamlined billing. I think this is really important, now in our mobile environment, in our Apple pay environment, that the billing process is smooth and simple and transparent and these brands are doing that really well. They’re also giving people choice and control. So any sort of subscription direct-to-consumer brand that cannot be customized or that you feel like you’re going to lose control of your credit card or you’re going to be billed in a month. “I didn’t know I was going to be built. Oh, you know, I’m frustrated.” It doesn’t last. You know, that will work for a few months until somebody realizes that charges recurring and then they’re not only quitting, they’re also not a brand advocate. So what I love about these brands that you mentioned, Dollar Shave Club, you’re getting an email every month that says, “Hey, your box is about to ship. Do you wanna make any changes? Do you need this box?” And if you don’t skip a month or skip three months, they’re giving control to the consumer. And I think that’s just building trust and loyalty.

Adrian Tennant:     So these are all great lessons that we can learn from DTC brands.

Dana Cassell:       Yeah. And simplify, you know, they’re all, that’s what I was starting with the idea of being focused, knowing who you are, knowing what you’re doing. If the business is complicated and you’re on the inside, imagine how that feels from the outside.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s a great point. Well, let’s change gears. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get to where you are today?

Dana Cassell:       Hmm. Okay. So, um, I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and I don’t know when this started, but I think I always wanted to be an advertising because I really can’t remember a time that I didn’t. I have this four-H project from third grade, I’m left-handed. And it was called living in a right-handed world and it was an advocacy base about the challenges of being left-handed. Scissors can openers, it’s a right handed world. So I had this presentation that I loved and it was just this like little piece, understanding the way that it feels to be in the world and being a consumer of right-handed things as a left-handed person. And I look back and think that might’ve been my first piece of consumer research. So I think I was kind of always into it. And then I was looking for universities that had advertising as a field of study and I was not impressed with an advertising school that would send their materials in a white envelope that laid on my dining room table with all the other college envelopes. And then SMU – that’s Southern Methodist in Dallas – sent me their piece and it was what I wanted it to be. It was shiny and brilliant and well done. And it looked totally different when we threw it on the table. And my parents had drawn this radius on the map of two-hour flights and Dallas was right on the edge of the two-hour flight line. So I thought we should do it. So I went to school in Dallas at the Timberland Institute and had a wonderful time there. They have a relationship with The Richards Group, which was amazing as a student. And then graduate school in Austin studying consumer behavior where I had the opportunity to work on a team that was rebranding the university. They ask a few grad students in the ad program to help rebrand the university. And we came up with that tagline, “What starts here changes the world,” which was first recorded by Walter Cronkite, which was just an amazing experience and still can be found on football sometimes today. My dad calls when he hears it. So that was neat and I was able to document that process as my thesis. So that was a really fun experience and just kind of confirmed my love of advertising and branding. And then I always worked then, so that was 2004 when I graduated. It was kind of the boom of monetizing the dotcom. So I worked for a local newspaper as they were trying to figure out how to make money on their dotcom and got some really cool opportunities to collaborate with sales and technology and really start to understand the data that drives websites and how you can translate that data into sales and also leverage audience understanding and the use of a website to target advertising. So that was a very cool time to be in that world and it wasn’t as big then as it is now. So I was in analytics and I got a crash course in analytics, loved that and then moved into strategy after that. I think strategy and digital analytics are very closely linked. It’s a just a great place to start when you don’t know where else to start. So that’s been kind of my journey. I’ve been in analytics and consumer behavior and strategy since then.

Adrian Tennant:     So as you know, we have a very active intern program at Bigeye. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in brand planning or strategy?

Dana Cassell:       I think to have a growth mindset is really important because it’s always changing. The entire field is always changing. And to be somebody who is interested in learning every day and as much as there are common elements among our clients for strategic difficulty, everything is unique. Every client need and strategy is new. So to be able to grow and change except what you don’t know and go figure out what you need to know, I think that’s really important. So growth mindset, obsession with data. I’ve said it a few times. It’s my experience that some people, and there are even some holdovers in academics, that advertising is a creative endeavor and that means it’s an artistic endeavor and that that’s sort of like not congruent with data analysis, math. And I think that’s totally inaccurate. And I think data is creative and I think it’s really, really important to understand. And I think our creative team here would tell you that a data-driven creative approach is central to our philosophy. So obsession with data, growth mindset. Also, I think a solid business background. A lot of what I end up doing could be business consulting work. And I love that. You know, I love the Bigeye wants to get their hands in that. It’s not like, Oh, that’s not proper advertising. We’re not interested. Marketing and operations are closely linked, although I will say every day of my life, great marketing can’t fix operational challenges. We have to get the operations intact. By being able to understand that as a strategist is really important. So I think a little bit of business background is helpful and to enjoy problem solving. I’m a gameplayer. I love solving problems, doing puzzles, riddles. If somebody tell me a “knock, knock” joke and doesn’t give me time to try to figure it out, it makes me crazy. It’s like holding in a sneeze. So, you know, I think being a problem solver as another piece of that.

Adrian Tennant:     So again, thinking about our interns at Bigeye, what kinds of resources would you point them towards to help them?

Dana Cassell:       People. I was thinking about this. I had an amazing copywriter professor in undergrad who wrote the GI Joe “Real American Hero” jingle and also, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” So he was a really neat professor who inspired me and gave me a different way to think about advertising. And I can think about my first boss that gave me permission to understand the Internet and the way that it worked and how that impacted advertising. That was a lot, that was a lot. There was a time where being on social media at work was not a thing, you know, and so to have offices that understood that while it didn’t seem like the right thing to do at might be. And then I can also think about people in the industry who inspired me to think differently about strategy. So I really think the best resources that I’ve had have been people and that is also like a life strategy of my own to find someone who’s a step ahead of me that I really admire. Look, aspirational brand – I do it in my personal life and understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and just seek their wisdom. So yeah – people.

Adrian Tennant:     Excellent. You’re so on-brand – your own brand!

Dana Cassell:       Thank you!

Adrian Tennant:     So what is one common myth about working in advertising that really needs to be debunked?

Dana Cassell:       Yeah, so I think this one is that it’s super cut-throat, and every man for themselves, and unbelievably competitive, and it can’t be trusted. I think there’s this idea that it’s kind of all one big kind of battlefield in a way. I have not experienced that in 18 years of working in the industry. Obviously, there are some places that feel that way, but for me the best work I’ve ever done has been highly collaborative, very team-oriented. I have a personal philosophy that it’s very hard for me to work with people if I don’t have a connection. You know, I like to have a personal connection with the people I’m making these big decisions for brands with. So I have never been in an environment in advertising and done great work and that be the case. So I find advertising very collaborative, friendly, helpful – you know, the best work happens when there’s somebody from research, planning, creative, digital, everybody at the table working together.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s great. So what have you read or listened to recently that really inspired you?

Dana Cassell:       I’m an avid podcast consumer, so I listen all the time and I have this wide variety of podcasts I listen to. But I think something recently that inspired me was Tal Ben-Shahar on “Armchair Expert,” which is Dax Shepherd’s podcast. So Dax is married to Kristen Bell and he, I mean in his own right, was Crosby on “Parenthood.” He’s done lots of wonderful things, but he has this really interesting background in anthropology and psychology. And so he has this podcast about a year-and-a-half old and Tal Ben-Shahar was on recently. So he is a PhD-educated, Harvard-educated lecturer and just intellectual thought-leader. And he famously held the record for having the two largest classes in the history of Harvard at one point. And they’re all on positive psychology and happiness and leadership. And I love this because it’s data-driven approach because it’s a PhD style of learning and it’s about the impact of positivity on life and on the bottom line. So I really love this about him and I just found his time with Dax really inspiring because he just talks a lot about organizational leadership. And it’s like a data-driven approach to happiness, which I think there’s so much in the zeitgeist about positive affirmation. I love all of that, but I also love that there’s like data behind this idea of the power of happiness for economic success, like corporate kind of branding success. I don’t know. I really liked him.

Adrian Tennant:     Excellent. Well, I’ll make sure that we include a link to that podcast in the show notes. (NOTE: the podcast Dana referred to can be accessed directly at: https://armchairexpertpod.com/pods/tal-ben-shahar)

Dana Cassell:       Okay. I can’t be held responsible for everything Dax says, okay?

Adrian Tennant:     Understood.

Dana Cassell:       Okay.

Adrian Tennant:     So finally, Dana, what does having a CLEAR FOCUS mean to you?

Dana Cassell:       Having a CLEAR FOCUS to me means knowing who you are because I don’t think it’s a given that we all know where we’re going next. I think it’s really important that if we know who we are, we can figure out where we’re headed.

Adrian Tennant:     Deep…

Dana Cassell:       Maybe?


Adrian Tennant:     Dana, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you to our guest, Dana Cassell, senior strategist at Bigeye. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced by Bigeye. If you have questions about the content of today’s show, please contact us at info@bigeyeagency.com. You’ll also find a transcript of today’s show on our website at bigeyeagency.com. I’m Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening. Until next time, goodbye.

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