Not Business As Usual

Senior Strategist Dana Cassell discusses brand marketing strategies for companies to successfully position themselves for the remainder of 2021 and beyond.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: 2020 has been a year of turmoil, uncovering never-before-seen challenges for marketers. In the last year, companies have had to modify their marketing strategies to keep up with shifting consumer habits. But what does this mean for the remainder of 2021 and beyond? Bigeye’s Senior Strategist Dana Cassell explains how brands should approach their brand marketing strategy with empathy and agility, capitalize on short-term opportunities, and prioritize digital conversion funnels.

Episode Transcript

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

Dana Cassell: The 2021 marketing strategy is about being inclusive in our language and in our images and our efforts in a way that’s authentic to our brand and the products and services we offer.

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. 2020 was a year of unprecedented turmoil. Now with the first quarter of 2021 behind us, it’s clear that marketing and advertising are still far from being back to normal. Behaviors established during the pandemic have changed many customers’ expectations and habits in relation to branded products and services. In 2020, millions of people in the US moved more of their shopping online and reconsidered the priorities and values that drive their brand preferences, purchase behavior, and loyalty. But as we’ve discussed throughout this season of the podcast, the extended impact of COVID-19, while certainly disruptive, has also presented opportunities for marketers to engage with customers in new channels and to develop fresh insights around consumers’ mindsets. To wrap up season six of IN CLEAR FOCUS, we’re going to be hearing from Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell. Providing direction to brands across a range of engagements. Dana works with client-side marketing leaders, facilitating Bigeye’s vision discovery sessions, and helping our clients establish differentiated brand strategies. Dana recently created a webinar in which she discusses marketing strategy for the remainder of 2021. In today’s podcast, you’re going to hear extracts from the webinar as we unpack these trends and what they could mean for marketers in the longer term. Over to Dana as she explains why 2021 is not business as usual.

Dana Cassell: I’ve identified four key tenets of marketing strategy for the remainder of 2021. Each of the components of the 2021 marketing strategy are at least loosely related to the global pandemic and the way it’s impacted business and people. Today, I’m going to spend some time talking about adding empathy to your value proposition and some examples of companies who are doing this right, why it’s important that everyone in your organization who touches the customer journey can clearly articulate your digital conversion funnel. We’ll break down the buzzword agility to a no-nonsense approach that focuses on capitalizing on small windows of opportunity. And then lastly, we’re going to talk a little bit about you and what personal skills 2021 is going to demand of the CMO. Over the last decade, it’s become increasingly more normal to hear emotionally connective language out of large organizations. Over the next few minutes, while we talk about empathy and the value proposition, I’d encourage you to parse through your own organization. What have you done with empathy and has that been mostly an internal communications effort or external comms? It’s pretty common for us to run across organizations who have embraced empathy with their employees. So who have understood that the value of culture and retention is important from an internal perspective. What we’re going to talk about today though, is how adding empathy to the value proposition impacts the bottom line of the organization from a marketing perspective. And there are certainly examples of this that have been in the marketplace for a while. In healthcare, we hear “patient first” regularly, and in banking, it’s about helping customers achieve personal goals, like buying their first home, or planning for college, or planning for retirement. So 2020 has really forced our hand as marketers to add empathy to the value proposition for our customers. As a strategist, I like to make decisions using data. So I’m curious what the data has said about the importance of empathy with consumers. And there was a recent Nielsen Visual DNA study that surveyed people across multiple nations affected by COVID-19 both before and during lockdown. Respondents were shown a selection of images depicting various degrees of agreeableness and the study found that compared to pre- lockdown, consumers’ perceptions are now leaning toward being more open, trusting, and approaching the world with open arms. So it’s not just our intuition and personal experiences that tell us that empathy is important. It’s data. Customers are now choosing brands and feeling more positively about brands that effectively communicate empathy to their customer base. Let’s talk about the value proposition in features and benefits language. If one of the features of your value proposition is authority, the benefit is that it instills a sense of confidence in the consumer. If a feature of your value proposition is empathy, the benefit is that it tends to move consumers toward action. So the question here is how can your value proposition have both a sense of authority and a tone of empathy? Those who have call centers in their organizations know that the idea of adding empathy is not new. Eighty-four percent of customers say their last customer service interaction via call center did not exceed their expectations. So call centers have been working on adding empathy into their conversations and scripts for quite some time now. Here’s a list of questions and conversation starters that are frequently used in call centers who believe that empathy is key to increasing customer satisfaction. Asking questions like “what’s the best-case scenario for you?” Or even “we appreciate your patience.” And “that would frustrate me too”, are all great examples of how call centers are incorporating empathy to increase satisfaction. So now the mandate is on us as marketers to begin including empathetic language and images and ideas into our marketing, advertising, and public relations efforts. Kind of taking a cue from where our call centers have been working over the last few years. While there are so many wonderful examples of companies being empathetic over the last 13 months or so there are three, in particular, I’d like to share with you today. The first example is Allbirds. On March 20th of 2020, Allbirds announced an effort to US healthcare workers, as a token of their appreciation for frontline workers, they offered a pair of wool runners for free while supplies lasted. They had an incredible response, distributing more than $500,000 of shoes in under a week. More than the effort of donating to the healthcare community, they heard from a ton of customers in support of their effort. Their customer base also asked them to make some changes. Their customers wanted a “buy one, give one” option on their website, as well as an option to donate a pair to a healthcare worker. Both of those options Allbirds quickly implemented on their site. Here’s what I like about this example of corporate empathy. They saw a need. They examined their ability to meet a need and then they executed. And if you go back and look at their Twitter feed from that crazy week, you’ll see that it wasn’t without roadblocks, they had a few technical glitches. The UK was wanting them to roll it out there. So certainly it wasn’t without its own struggles, but they executed it beautifully. They communicated in an authentic way. It was a great fit for their brand and it created meaningful connections within their target market. The next example is a brand campaign with IKEA and the campaign is called “home is a different world.” You can find the extended version of this out on their website, but the concept is that they are understanding the difficult things our world can be right now and that our homes can be a stark contrast to that world.

Female Voiceover: The world is full of rules and regulations. But my home is full of joy and fun. It’s lovely. So lovely. The world waits for no one. But my home always waits for me. The world can get gloomy, but my home is lit. The world gets heated, but my home is chill. The world is loud, but my home is quiet. Well, most of the time. The world is gray, but my home is colorful. The world fights and breaks up. At home, we like the make ups. The world tells us how to be. But my home likes me just as I am, because home is a different world.

Dana Cassell: It’s a beautiful approach to understanding how customers are feeling in the world right now and how their home can counterbalance that. And of course, IKEA  is all about helping people build their homes. On the landing page from that campaign, IKEA has the extended cut. And then of course, the collection of products featured in the ad. The reason I bring it up today, it’s not that IKEA gave away half a million dollars in product, but they understand the context where their ad is going to be landing and speak to their customers in a way that makes them feel understood. This is an excellent example of an empathy-driven ad campaign. The last example of corporate empathy I want to chat with you about involves the meditation app, Calm. Of course, the pandemic has led to a surge in downloads of mental wellness and meditation apps, but the numbers are quite staggering. Downloads of mindful and meditation apps doubled in April 2020 over January of 2020. And you know, January is usually a month where healthcare surges anyhow. And Calm itself saw a 31 percent rise in April compared to January. The apps used a variety of approaches to grow business mid pandemic, including offering free access to frontline medical professionals and first responders. Calm did launch a page of free resources and that landing page, which is still up, you can find it easily, is an excellent example of empathy and copywriting. They have some beautiful lines there. But they also began to focus on partnerships to expand free access to more users over a long period of time, while simultaneously growing their business. For example, in May of 2020, Kaiser Permanente announced it was going to make Calm’s apps premium subscription free for its members. It was the first healthcare system to do so. So, whether it’s an actual donation, an empathy-driven campaign, or strategic partnerships that extend your product’s reach while achieving the result of connecting empathetically with customers, I’m curious what you’ll do in 2021 to bind empathy into your value proposition.

[MUSIC]

Okay, moving on to tenet number two: Prioritizing your digital conversion funnel. By now you’re probably sick of hearing in 2020 that we experienced five years of growth in three months’ time for e-commerce. That means there’s so much momentum into online shopping and purchasing that we can no longer ignore optimizing our conversion funnels. I believe that anyone in your organization that touches a part of the customer journey from awareness through advocacy should be able to articulate where their business activities align on your conversion funnel and what the triggers are that they have to pull to increase conversions along the way. Historically talk of the conversion funnel has really stayed within the marketing department, maybe sometimes reaching into meetings in the C-suite, but very rarely has the entire organization fully understood the conversion funnel through the customer journey. But the mandate of 2020 and the growth in e-commerce is that the entire organization now becomes a part of this conversation. There are three trends in the marketplace that have convinced me that digital conversion funnel should be a focus of 2021. And those are “storelessness”,  “digital majority”, and “click and collect”. The data shows that in 2020, North America saw a 32 percent increase in retail e-commerce sales that that number in 2021 will still be nearly 15 percent. So it’s clear that the data suggests our conversion funnels need to be prioritized. And “click and collect” I think is fascinating as well. This is where customers order and pay for something online and then choose how to collect it, usually in-store or curbside. 2020 saw an astonishing 60 percent growth in “click and collect” retail sales and the industry is predicting even more growth over the next two years: 10 percent this year and 15 percent in 2022. It’s clear that customer habits with e-commerce 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 when we need to convert better step-to-step. I’m curious if you could articulate in 60 seconds or less the desired conversion funnel for your business. I think it’s possible that not all of us can, but even if those of us in the marketing department can, could everybody who touches the consumer journey? If not, this is the year to get this figured out. It’s a pretty simple concept – moving folks from awareness to purchase intent, purchase through advocacy. And anyone who touches the customer journey in your organization should be able to clearly articulate how that funnel works and how the work they do impacts moving potential customers from the top to the bottom. It’s a pretty common mistake to want to widen the top of the funnel when we need more customers at the bottom. And it’s always our recommendation that before widening the top of the funnel with a big brand campaign or a big online spend that first we test to make sure that we understand the different steps of the funnel and how they’re working, split test to optimize, and make sure we get those conversion rates as tight as possible from step to step. And once we’ve done that work, then we widen the top of the funnel. I am curiously watching how brands are optimizing their websites and optimizing their digital conversion funnels and look forward to seeing more of the organization understand their role in converting potential customers into sales in 2021.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to bigeye.agency/gender.  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. Concluding this season of IN CLEAR FOCUS, you’re listening to a special episode with Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, discussing why the remainder of 2021 is not business as usual. Before the break, Dana talked about adding empathy to a value proposition and provided examples of brands who are doing this right. Dana also explained why it’s important that everyone in an organization who touches the customer journey can clearly articulate the digital conversion funnel. Next, a look at organizational agility and what the key priorities for marketers should be for the remainder of 2021.

Dana Cassell: 2020 was full of buzzwords, not the least of which was agility. So I bring it up today, not to contribute to the count, but to tell you that I find practical agility to be an extremely important part of the 2021 marketing strategy. This year, I suggest we keep our eyes on long-term planning, but really our focus on short-term execution. As a strategist, I’d never imagined abandoning the long-term vision, but it does seem that companies who have been able to be nimble and successful during the pandemic are able to maintain also a short-term focus. So I’m going to call that agility and that the goal for what we do in 2021. I am curious, what is the actual return on agility? And I wonder at the end of 2021, what will your return on agility story be? Agility looks really different  industry to industry. So what it means to be agile and what a small demonstration of agility would be in your industry and with your company is really unique. But it’s clear that the impact of agility is widespread. When your organization is demonstrably agile, you get to show off and rise above your competitors. It’s always impressive when you see an organization, especially right now, mid pandemic, find a way to utilize a short window of opportunity, rather than letting that opportunity pass, waiting too long or getting stuck in red tape. It’s quite impressive. And often those efforts are in PR and have potential viral spread. It’s also impressive with customers. So your current audience will be impressed with your ability to be modern and forward-thinking, responsive to their needs. And indeed, your agility has an opportunity to meet a need. This goes back to those call center questions, like “what is your actual problem?” And “how can we help solve it?” Sometimes the answer is capitalizing on a very short window of opportunity in which your agile response can help to gain market share. So if agility is all about capitalizing on short windows of opportunity, the question is how do we do that? And how do we do that as big organizations who are not necessarily adept at agility? My suggestion is to identify the people within the organization who have an eye for finding windows of opportunity, the people who are natural problem solvers, and who like to optimize and empower them to identify those little windows and bring them to you. And once they’re identified, get a team together quickly to imagine a solution, something manageable that you could design and then test, optimize and deploy quickly. Again, incorporating agility into the 2021 marketing strategy is all about capitalizing on short windows of opportunity so that you can be impressive, gain market share, and potentially earn some PR and viral spread. So identify your little team of agile thinkers and give this a go in 2021.

[MUSIC] 

The fourth tenet for the 2021 marketing strategy is about the heart of the 2021 CMO. It’s about you. People who are in leadership positions this year have certainly gotten more than they bargained for. Whether you’re on a board of directors, in a volunteer position, in a classroom, or leading a large organization, leaders are in a position they could never have anticipated. And in 2021, we’re still moving uphill. It’s hard to predict when people will feel like their lives are getting back to normal. We suspect the pandemic won’t end in one huge celebratory moment, but rather a long, subtle, slow shift. There is less predictable about our businesses today than there was 18 months ago. And at this point it’s not necessarily business, it’s personal. At Bigeye, we see honesty, inclusivity, and enduring flexibility as the heart of the 2021 CMO. And this is not just about the way we treat our employees, or what we say in our corporate pillars, and our value statements. It’s about what we actually do. Being honest in the way that we speak, not just telling customers what we want them to think, but telling them the truth and owning up to our mistakes. It’s about being inclusive in our language and in our images and our efforts in a way that’s authentic to our brand and the products and services we offer. And lastly, it’s about maintaining a sense of flexibility that passes understanding. In 2021, we know how much we don’t know. And that means as leaders, we’ll need to stay flexible and encourage and reward our teams for doing the same. At Bigeye, we have a heart for the CMO, and we wish you the best this year, leading your teams.

Adrian Tennant: I hope you enjoyed Dana’s thoughts on marketing strategy for the remainder of 2021. This is the last episode for this season of IN CLEAR FOCUS, but we’ll be back with a new season in a couple of weeks. Here’s some of what you can expect.

Christine Bailey: Deep customer insight needs to inform marketing, from creating the mission statement to creating content, creating segments, customer acquisition, retention, development, social – it really does encompass absolutely every area of marketing.

Sonia Thompson: I moderated the interviews for the black consumers because if it was a white person, doing the interviews, we wouldn’t have gotten  the same result. You might not be getting the full value of the research without thinking about how people might be opening up.

Tisse Mallon: the intrusive nature of questions by strangers. Are you a man or a woman? What are you? And then also, even if you respond by saying you’re non-binary People asking me if I have cancer, is that why my head is shaved?

John Gusiff: When you think about experience design, it’s much more than the function of design. It’s a way of thinking as an organization, it’s a process, it’s a series of questions, and it typically takes multi-disciplined capabilities to execute on it. It’s a co-creative process.

Adrian Tennant: That’s a preview of the next season of IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks again to my guest this week, Dana Cassell, Senior Strategist at Bigeye, and to all the guests that have made this season our most listened-to yet. 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.” To make sure that you’re notified when the new season starts, please follow 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 time, goodbye.

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Gender: Beyond The Binary Episode 1

Gender stereotyping starts early in life. Audience insights agency Bigeye interviews 4 experts on the impact of these stereotypes on consumers’ self-concept.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Gen Z and Y consumers in the US see gender as a continuum rather than the binary of male or female. To discuss issues raised in Bigeye’s national study, Gender: Beyond The Binary, we’re joined by Michael Solomon, consumer behavior psychologist; Dr. Christia Spears Brown, child development expert; Sonia Thompson, CEO of Thompson Media Group and expert in inclusive and multicultural marketing; and Ari Dennis, who identifies as nonbinary and is embracing gender-creative parenting.

In Clear Focus: Gender – Beyond The Binary Special 1

In Clear Focus: Gen Z and Y consumers in the US see gender as a continuum rather than the binary of male or female.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY. 

Ari Dennis: There’s going to be socially a lot more space for gender to be expressed as the individual identity that it is.

Michael Solomon: Younger people see it more as a continuum, not just two buckets, male and female,

Christia Spears Brown: I think this is one of the areas where we’ve seen the most rapid cultural shift of any of the social categories we have.

Sonia Thompson: The demographic makeup of the consumer is changing drastically, becoming more diverse and as a result, brands are going to have to adjust or risk losing the people who they want to serve.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to the first episode in a series of podcasts, reflecting the results from Bigeye’s 2021 study, GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY. My name is Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye, an audience-focused creative-driven, full-service advertising agency based in Orlando, Florida. To understand whether or not depictions of traditional gender roles in advertising influence brand perceptions and to quantify consumer’s opinions about gendered products, our study involved more than 2,000 adults representing a broad range of generations, socioeconomic backgrounds, geographic locations, and gender identities. In this podcast, we’re going to be talking to experts about how children develop an awareness of gender roles very early in life, why gender is central to consumers’ self-concept, and what the experiences of nonbinary parents can teach us about the evolution of gender identity and expression. To kick things off, consumer behavior psychologist Michael Solomon explained self-concept in a marketing context and why gender is so important.

Michael Solomon: Most of the things that we buy are somehow related to projects that we’re engaged in. And when I say a project, what I mean is, “What is my identity that I’m trying to improve?” You know, whether it’s being a better tennis player, a better insights manager, a better husband, what have you. And so the self is so central to all of this because in an almost unconscious way, we’re constantly trying to validate who we are, make sense of who we are, given the environment we’re in and how good a job we’re doing in that environment. And so the cues that we use to help us answer those questions often are related to the possessions or services that we buy because they help to define who we are. And so I can’t stress enough how fundamental that is to many marketing strategies.

Adrian Tennant: Given that an important part of consumers’ self-concept is the gendered self, I asked Michael when the obsession with gender starts.

Michael Solomon: As soon as you’re born, you’re typecast as a male or female, you might even get a blue diaper or a pink diaper. And it just gets worse from there, you know? So many of the products that we buy, if you think about it, are gendered and you know, you put a product in front of people in a focus group, or what have you, and you say, “What gender is this?” Some of them look at you like you’re nuts. But most of them answer the question pretty easily. So for example, household cleaning products that have letters and numbers in them, you know, like Formula 401, that kind of thing. You know, that’s based on work that shows that actually, we assume that to be more masculine and therefore more scientific and effective because it’s gendered as male, even though it’s a household cleaning product that’s probably predominantly used by women. They think of it more as male or like their Mr. Clean product, or something like that. And in every category, it’s really fascinating to see – without prompting  – consumers often assume that a product has a gender. We sometimes give them the clues -you know, if we sell a Princess telephone or an American Girl doll, we’re giving them a lot of clues. But even if we don’t, consumers are usually able to assign gender as part of that self conversation.

Adrian Tennant: As Michael explained, gender stereotyping starts early. Child development expert, psychology professor, and author, Dr. Christia Spears Brown has studied the way this plays out among children and how it can impact their adult lives.

Christia Spears Brown: So really, before babies are born, we start setting up a society in which we use gender to color-categorize, to label them, and here we mean gender as a binary. So we say, “Are you having a girl or a boy?” We see it in gendered clothing, even in infancy when the parents Scotch Tape the bow to a bald baby’s head just so you’ll make sure to know that it’s a girl. So we label it really early and we seem to do that more with children than we even do with adults. So they’re really brought up from the beginning to pay attention to gender, to assume that gender is a binary, and to assume that it must be the most important characteristic about us because we talk about it so often.

Adrian Tennant: One of the first product categories that children become aware of is toys and games. For Bigeye’s gender study, we asked all respondents a series of questions about the toys they played with as children. When it comes to toys for boys, over three-quarters of cisgender male respondents agreed that when growing up their parents or guardians encouraged them to play with toys that are traditionally associated with boys – related to construction and building such as K’nnects and Lego kits or fighting and aggression such as GI Joe action figures, tanks, and toy guns. Among cisgender females, three in every five agreed that they’d been encouraged to play with toys traditionally associated with girls related to nurturing roles or their appearances such as baby dolls, Barbie dolls and accessories, ballerina costumes, makeup, and jewelry. But when we asked if their parents had encouraged them to play with any toys that interested them, regardless of their traditional associations with girls or boys, approaching two-thirds of cisgender females reported That was the case for them in contrast with just under one-half of males. I asked Christia if our results reflect what she sees in her studies in relation to evolving attitudes toward gendered play.

Christia Spears Brown: Yeah, I think they exactly track with what we see in other research.  For cisgender straight men, we see this really across their lives. So when they’re boys, there are more gender restrictions on them. So they’re more likely to be teased for doing anything that’s outside of the gender stereotype. Their fathers are much more likely to punish and reward any type of what we call cross-gender play. So a boy playing with a doll, for example. So then when those boys grow up, when they become fathers, we see that cisgendered straight men are more likely to be the gender police with their children. So they are more likely to reward and punish gender-stereotypical play more so than mothers are. So, often when we think about gender stereotypes, we think about the ways that impact girls – and they do in very real ways – but for boys, the real harm of gender stereotypes is that it’s so restrictive. So girls are really allowed a little bit more flexibility than boys are, and you see the same restrictions when those boys become fathers.

Adrian Tennant: We also asked parents about what kinds of toys they encourage their own children to play with. Over three-quarters of all cisgender male parents encourage their sons to play with toys and games traditionally associated with boys – 77%, which is 17% higher than cisgender females. Significantly fewer LGBTQIA+ parents encourage their sons to play with toys associated with boys – just 50%. Over two-thirds of all cisgender males encourage their daughters to play with toys and games traditionally associated with girls at 71%. That’s 15% higher than cisgender females. Interestingly, even fewer LGBTQIA+ parents encourage their daughters to play with girl toys, at just 42%. The most likely to encourage play with whichever toys or games interest their kids are LGBTQIA+ parents at 77%. I asked Christia why this might be the case.

Christia Spears Brown: You see LGBTQIA+ parents holding fewer gender stereotypes typically, and they seem to be more flexible with their kids. So giving kids more options to explore what their interests are, you see fewer gender biases when it comes to raising, when it comes to sharing household chores, in a lot of ways in which parenting practices play out along gendered lines, LGBTQ parents are much more egalitarian and you can see that filtering down into their kids. 

Adrian Tennant: For a unique perspective on what it means to reject the binary of male versus female, we spoke with Ari Dennis.

Ari Dennis: I’m non-binary and I use they/them pronouns. I’m a consultant and educator, and I work in LGBTQ+ cultural competency. In 2018, I had my child Sparrow and started advocating and educating about gender-creative parenting.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Ari how old they were when they first suspected that how they experienced gender was different from other people around them.

Ari Dennis: Well, what’s very interesting is that I was raised in an environment where my parents actually really embraced gender creativity. It was very much, you know, in the Nineties in their own way of it. But for example, I had a brother, and all growing up, he was very into Barbies and dress up and a lot of that stuff. And not only was it like he was allowed to do that, but it was very clearly laid out that we were not going to bully or tease about that. And that we were going to support if like peers ever did that. Like, there was a lot of talking about it And that was instilled in all of us from the beginning. So it actually took me a while to figure it out. I had my first awakening when I was a freshman in high school. When I said to my friends that like I literally said, “I wish gender-neutral was a thing, because if it was, I would be that.” And it was during that time, I also said, “Well, I know that I’m not a boy and I know I’m not a girl, so I guess I can’t be trans.” And this is because it was just the early 2000s. And even though I was out, you know, in the LGBT community, what was kind of mainstream was not a genderqueer or nonbinary identity. And it wasn’t until 2013 when someone heard me talking just about how I thought about gender, and they were like, “Well, have you heard about nonbinary?” And from that moment it was just a click. And I was like, “Oh, that, that is what I’ve been looking for.”

Adrian Tennant: I asked Ari to think back to when they were a child and whether they identified with the toys that are traditionally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Ari Dennis: As a young child, I was both very gender-typical and atypical in that I kind of wanted to have it all. I loved all of the typical girl stuff – horses, dolls, dress up – but at the same time, I was very physical, climbing trees and I wanted to play, you know, the kind of war games with the boys. And video games were a huge part of my life all the way up into my teen years. So even though I was an artistic kid and so my interests sometimes trended more feminine because the arts are coded that way socially. There was a lot of stuff that was very STEM-based, you know, computers, space, that sort of thing, that also really interested me. And so all growing up, I just kind of wanted everything!

Adrian Tennant: A documentary released last year, entitled Raising Baby Gray follows two parents raising their baby in a gender-neutral manner with the intention of allowing that child to choose their gender whenever the child feels inclined to do so. Gray’s father is a trans man and the suffering he experienced being treated as a girl while growing up led to his decision to parent this way. I asked Ari, who is bringing up their child Sparrow with a gender-creative approach to parenting, what their motivation was. 

Ari Dennis: Well, first I want to say that I love that documentary and I know that family. They’re part of our greater community and they’re super sweet and I love doing gender-creative parenting. And I found out how to do this because of the online community. Even before I and my family decided that we wanted to have a child, I already had an older child. So it was part of a lot of LGBT parenting groups. And it was reading in the comments, other people who had children that they had decided to not assign a gender and were using they/them. And I was like, “Gosh, you know, that is exactly what I was looking for,” but I just – I didn’t know it when I had my first kid, you know, cause I’d done everything, all the toys they wanted, all the clothes options and the pronoun thing was the one thing I kind of maybe didn’t do. So, when we were discussing having a child, it was already part of the established conversation that we were assuming we were going to do it. And it was more about what the implementation was going to look like rather than a question of if.

Adrian Tennant: So Ari made the decision to raise their child in a gender-creative manner before their child was born.

Ari Dennis: It was really nice to have time throughout the whole pregnancy to know that we were going to do it because it gave us all a lot of time to mentally and emotionally unpack a lot of our assumptions and kind of prepare for what that process was going to look like.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Ari to summarize how they define agenda creative approach to parenting as opposed to agenda neutral one.

Ari Dennis: Gender-neutral parenting is kind of a term that people are most familiar with. That means that they’re not restricting what they are allowing their kid to do as far as, you know, activities and clothes and toys. Sometimes that means that they don’t really emphasize boy things and girl things per se, but kind of focus more on things that are for both. And other times, that can mean focusing on having a lot of both boy and girl things. So it can kind of be either way. Gender-creative parenting is all of that as well as also not assigning a gender to the child and using gender-neutral pronouns as a way to further enhance the ability for the child to have as much experience without gender bias as possible during the most critically formative years of their life. So, what it is is that a child is not able to really process or conceive of gender concepts in the first two years. Gender acquisition is more of a process that starts from 18 months, until nine years old. And yet we’re programming all of these rituals and assumptions and these scripts onto children very early and gender-creative parenting is basically saying that we’re trying to remove all of that and let the child have time to just explore and eventually, hopefully, self identify.

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

[AD BREAK] 

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re discussing the results of Bigeye’s national study GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY. Before the break, Ari Dennis was explaining how they prepared for the birth of their child, Sparrow, and is now raising them with gender-creative parenting. I asked Ari at what age they expect Sparrow to define their gender for themselves.

Ari Dennis: The key thing with gender-creative parenting is really to not expect anything and to realize that the ball is just totally in the child’s court. There are many children within our community that started with using they/them pronouns and have since aged out, I suppose. I think the best way to describe it would be that they were able to articulate what pronouns they wanted and were able to find the language that best describes their identity.  That’s happened everywhere, from age four to they’re still 11 and 12 and don’t care and haven’t decided, you know. So it’s a whole range, but definitely by about four to eight, even though they were raised using they/them pronouns, those children are able to have the skills and understanding necessary to articulate what it is they want. And sometimes it’s to remain with they/them. And other times it is a binary identity, you know, using he or she.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Ari what the most common misconceptions about gender-creative parenting are.

Ari Dennis: People are confused and believe we are trying to force our children to have a particular identity. Usually, they’re implying or outwardly saying that we want our children to be transgender. First off, that’s not a bad thing to have your child be transgender. And secondly, it’s the exact opposite of what we’re doing, which is making an environment completely devoid of pressure. It’s very frustrating to be so misunderstood because I think with those people, we agree on the fundamental, which is that children at a young age don’t fully understand gender. And it’s just what we want to do with that information is so drastically different. I, in my community, want to give an environment of space and freedom. And other people that are critical of our way of doing it, they believe that in the time that children cannot conceptualize gender for themselves, that is when the rigidity is most important. 

Adrian Tennant: In Bigeye’s study, respondents viewed a video about Mattel’s gender-free doll line, Creatable World. Each set includes a figure that looks like a prepubescent child and includes clothes traditionally associated with girls as well as boys’ clothing styles.

Creatable World Ad: Introducing Creatable World – create characters that are awesomely you. Add long or short hair, pants, hats, shirts, and skirts. It’s up to you. Mix and match for hundreds of looks. It’s so much fun. What will you create? Creatable World dolls, each sold separately.

Adrian Tennant: After watching the video, 60 percent of the parents in our study with kids aged under 18 said they would consider giving one to their child if it had been available to them. I asked Dr. Christia Spears Brown if she thought the toy industry is making progress on gender-free play options.

Christia Spears Brown: I think definitely they are. I think there are more options available within the past two or three years than there were before. But I also think at the same time and perhaps related to it, you’re also seeing the toy industry leaning into even more gendered, stereotypical toys kind of simultaneously. So you also see much more highly aggressive toys marketed to boys, highly sexualized toys marketed to girls. So I think what we’re seeing in toys is very similar to our divided culture politically, even as right now, you see this real division of a lot more gender-free options, more options that really celebrate gender diversity. And then you see some that are much more leaning into what I would argue are some of the worst gender stereotypes that we have about aggression and sexualization. So parents really are making choices as to which types of materials they want to provide to their kids.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Ari if they would have enjoyed a Creatable World figure if it had been available when they were a child.

Ari Dennis: I would have immensely loved a Creatable World doll when I was growing up. And I know that my brother who loved dolls along with me would have as well. We would have really enjoyed the ability to represent the dress-up that looked like what we did at home, you know? Cause it wasn’t uncommon for my brother to throw on a wig. And this doll, you know, has the long hair and the short hair and has the shorts and the skirt. I was the same way, I always dress up kind of pulling from both sides of the wardrobe, and to have a doll that would do the same would be really fun, I think. And I know that Hazel, my oldest child, they received a Creatable World doll when it came out, and immediately it was a big hit with all of our other dolls and really enhanced the stories and the style of play that Hazel was able to do.

Adrian Tennant: Mattel’s rival Hasbro caused some controversy a few weeks ago when its rollout of a renamed Mr. Potato Head product that no longer includes the “Mr.” The news of the gender-neutral toy initially won praise from organizations like GLAAD – the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation – but derision from some conservative politicians who viewed it as an example of “cancel culture.” After the initial announcement, Hasbro appeared to backtrack, noting that Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head would remain, but be joined by a create your potato head family, gender-neutral kit. Sonia Thompson is CEO of Thompson Media Group, an expert in inclusive and multicultural marketing, who is also the mother of a young child. I asked Sonia for her take on the Hasbro story

Sonia Thompson: Whenever Hasbro announced a change in the brand name to simply Potato Head, I think people felt like they were eliminating the traditional Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head. Those products are still available. A lot of people felt like Hasbro choosing to be inclusive of families that don’t look like the traditional family that they were canceling the traditional family. Hasbro, in fact, wasn’t doing that. They’re just giving people options to define what family looks like for them. In this one box set. Right? So again, Mr. Potato Head is still available, Mrs. Potato head is still available, but the idea is to let people choose what their own family structure ideal looks like. And data actually shows that less than half of kids in the US live in a traditional family home, where there is a mom and a dad who are in a relationship. Instead of making people potentially feel like they don’t belong or like something might be wrong with them if their family looks different from what is depicted in the box, they’re just giving people the power to be able to create what their own family looks like. But I think sometimes people get a little nostalgic to the way things are. A lot of times people don’t like change and yes, Hasbro could have done a better job of explaining it, but I think that’s where the backlash came from.

Adrian Tennant: I also asked Ari Dennis, if Hasbro’s apparent backtracking could ultimately harm its relationship with today’s parents.

Ari Dennis: I think that it’s always kind of a problem when a company attempts to extend a brand to become more inclusive and then they respond by backtracking and kind of pulling back those statements in response to the vocal minority. I don’t think it ever really reflects well on the company and I think it can make the original statements seem either confusing or even insincere. With the Hasbro situation as with a lot of times with public outcry, a lot of it was people misunderstanding the original announcement and the original plans for the brand. And I think that a lot of the assumptions and emotional reactions that people had to it were based on just knee-jerk reaction that people have to the idea of gender being removed from society.

Adrian Tennant: Another iconic American toy line is Barbie, manufactured by Mattel, which in 2019 was refreshed to include dolls with darker skin tones, textured hair, and a curvier body size, in addition to two dolls with disabilities  – a wheelchair user and Barbie with a removable, prosthetic leg. In 2021, we can’t talk about gender and marginalized groups without considering intersectionality. Brands have traditionally stayed out of politics for fear of alienating sections of their customer base. But rather than shying away from the social justice issues, Mattel has leaned in. Sonia Thompson explains how the Barbie brand is addressing systemic racism.

Sonia Thompson: Barbie has been doing a lot of videos. If you go to their social media, their YouTube, they have a lot of videos, showcasing Barbie and her friends in different situations. And one of those videos they showcase Barbie and a Black doll talking about and explaining in a very Barbie-like, on-brand way,  systemic racism. And how the way Barbie’s friend – who was Black – was treated, was different from the way that Barbie was treated. And they brought it up in just a very conversational way. And they had a very real discussion about a heavy topic that was digestible for young kids to be able to understand and learn that unfortunately, in our society, everyone isn’t treated equally and it is impacted sometimes by their skin color. This is something that came out maybe a few months later after the murder of George Floyd last summer. And Barbie is just recognizing that consumers don’t always compartmentalize what’s happening in the world from their experiences with your brand or whenever they’re using your brand. And they also recognize that they have a platform. And so going back to their mission, they recognize that there’s an opportunity to use their platform, to make a positive impact by raising awareness about an issue that impacts the different types of people who use their products.

Adrian Tennant: Our study showed that a significant percentage of millennial parents are supportive of gender-free early education, less stereotypical depictions of gender roles in children’s books, and are more likely than previous generations to encourage their kids to play with toys regardless of their traditional gender associations. Christia Spears Brown, in addition to being an expert on child development, is the mother of two daughters. I asked Christia what she did to avoid gender stereotypes as she raised her own children. 

Christia Spears Brown: They’re still works in progress. So they’re 16 and 10 right now. But what I can say is that I definitely did practice what I preached about gender stereotypes. I pointed out gender stereotypes when I saw them so that the kids would become better at detecting them themselves. I also talked a lot about how they could talk to their friends about having diverse preferences. So when one kid was getting made fun of for only liking superheroes, we role-played ways to talk to the kids that were saying negative comments to her, so that she would feel more confident in going against those stereotypes. You know, didn’t allow things like gender segregation of birthday parties. We said you either invite everyone or no one, right? We don’t do gendered-only parties of any kind. And really just talked about gender as this diverse kind of social construct and not a necessary function of what your private parts are. That it’s much more about how we express ourselves to the world.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Christia about the gender-creative approach to parenting that Ari Dennis is taking with their child.

Christia Spears Brown: The kids who identify as something other than cisgender and allowed to express their gender seem to be doing really well and I see a couple of benefits. So one is it normalizes whatever gender the child is choosing. So it helps the child feel that they can pick whichever gender they want. And so we know that normalizing a range of expressions is always good. So there’s never going to be a concern about whether that gender identity is supported or not. We know it also reduces the use of gender as a way to categorize. And we know that that causes stereotypes. So it’s already going to be limiting the gender stereotypes kids are paying attention to.  Previously the concerns were really about peer teasing and rejection. Cause we know that kids in kindergarten are really big stereotype endorsers for the most part. But I think as this becomes more common, frankly, and as representation of people across the gender spectrum becomes more common, our attitudes are really shifting and I think kids’ attitudes are shifting.

Adrian Tennant: In his book, The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization, Michael Solomon writes about significant changes in opinions about gender – especially among younger consumers – going so far as to describe Gen Z as “post-gender.” I asked him to explain why.

Michael Solomon: Younger people today are not seeing the boundaries that you and I might see, having grown up in an earlier time. You know, when you look at younger people, a majority of them agree that gender is not as important in defining a person as it used to be. So it’s not to say that gender has gone away, but when I say that it’s post-gender, what I mean is it’s post-binary.  It bodes well for issues of gender justice, racial justice, and so on.  There seems to be a sea change for many of them in terms of, how relevant this is  – whereas, for us, it’s the first thing we might jump to.

Adrian Tennant: In our report, just over one-half of all respondents agreed that in a decade, we’ll associate gender with stereotypical personality traits, products, and occupations, much less than we do today. I asked Ari Dennis what kind of world they imagined their child will inhabit as they enter adulthood.

Ari Dennis: I look at where things were when I was in my teens at the beginning of the Millennium and where we are now, just 20 years later. And it really does feel sometimes in a little bit like a sci-fi story, in a positive way. Misogyny is getting questioned. Rape culture is getting deconstructed. There’s so much work that’s happening, but I think that’s going to keep gaining momentum and exponentially growing over the next few decades to the point where just seeing how many families every year are doing gender-creative parenting and how much more it is from the year before. By the time Sparrow’s in middle school, it won’t be weird that they were raised this way. You know, it’ll be quirky. They’ll definitely be on the fringe, but it’s not going to be unheard of. It’s just going to be, “Oh, you had one of those families.” And I think in general, there’s going to be socially a lot more space for gender to be expressed as the individual identity that it is.

Michael Solomon: Younger people see it more as a continuum, not just two buckets, male and female, and they really get a kick out of experimenting and moving across that continuum back and forth.

Christia Spears Brown: Kids growing up now are really in a different climate than kids were 10 years ago. I think this is one of the areas where we’ve seen the most rapid cultural shift of any of the social categories we have.

Sonia Thompson: If you even just look at the data. The demographic makeup of the consumer is changing drastically. And it’s becoming more diverse and as a result, brands are going to have to adjust or risk losing the people who they want to serve.

Ari Dennis: And you know, maybe in two or three decades, gender identity will be treated like music preference – that we all have one, and it’s very important to us. And no one can tell us what it is for us. And we can’t even maybe describe why the music we like is what we like, but no one should like, not be allowed to vote because they don’t like polka.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been listening to GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY. If you’d like to read the full report on which this podcast is based, please go to Bigeye.agency/gender. In addition to requesting the report, you can watch an on-demand webinar that highlights some of the key findings. To learn more about the guests featured in this episode – Michael Solomon, Dr. Christia Spears Brown, Ari Dennis, and Sonia Thompson – here’s where you can find them.

Michael Solomon: Go to my website, which is MichaelSolomon.com. Or drop me an email. That’s very easy, Michael, at Michael solomon.com

Christia Spears Brown: Twitter’s where I’m most active. So @ChristiaBrown is probably the easiest place to find me. And then just my regular website of ChristiaBrown.com.

Ari Dennis: So I educate on social media on Facebook, Ari Not Sorry. And @AriNotSorryEd on Instagram and Twitter as well. And you can always find me at aridennis.com.

Sonia Thompson: You can find everything at the hub: at SoniaEThompson.com and you will find everything from there.

Adrian Tennant: You’ll also find links in the transcript for this podcast. Just go to Bigeyeagency.com/insights and select the button marked “podcast.” Coming up next time on GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY:

Ari Dennis: Binary, gendered language is everywhere in how we speak and we don’t really realize it.

Christia Spears Brown: We say, “Oh, what a pretty girl”, “What a strong boy you are.”

Sonia Thompson: Google Translate will automatically make certain professions male versus female, and the assumptions that are built into the algorithms.

Tisse Mallon: Somebody asking me, for example, “Yeah, but what’s your real name?” As if a name that I have claimed for myself is not real.

Adrian Tennant: A look at gendered language, names, and pronouns – that’s next time on GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY. Thanks for listening. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

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The New Chameleons: Consumers Who Defy Categorization

Psychologist and marketing professor Michael Solomon discusses consumer behavior analysis and how best to connect with today’s chameleon-like customers.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: 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.

In Clear Focus: Chameleon Consumers

In Clear Focus: 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.

Episode Transcript

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

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.

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

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to bigeye.agency/gender.  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

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: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Ari Dennis: Someone heard me talking about how I thought about gender. And they were like, “have you heard about nonbinary?” And from that moment it was just a click. And I was like, “Oh, that, that is what I’ve been looking for.”

Adrian Tennant: That’s Ari Dennis, one of the guests featured in a special episode, reflecting the results from Bigeye’s national study, Gender: Beyond The Binary. That’s next week. Thanks to my guests this week, Michael Solomon, Professor of Marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. 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.

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Kathie Baptista, Bigeye Designer

Creative advertising agency Bigeye interviews visual designer Kathie Baptista, who discusses her inspiration and how her Hispanic heritage influences her work.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: This week, we’re talking to tattooed, lipstick-wearing, letter-loving Latina designer, Kathie Baptista. An integral part of Bigeye’s creative team, Kathie explains her creative process and shares her favorite projects. She discusses her personal career journey and why it’s important to keep exploring creative avenues throughout life. Kathie also shares her sources of inspiration and offers practical advice to students considering careers in graphic design and advertising.

Episode Transcript

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

Kathie Baptista: Because I am Latina, my family consists of a lot of Latina women, and I think that they all inspire me, in different ways – Latina women who are trying to find their own path and be entrepreneurs. It’s very inspiring to be a part of a community that’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

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. It’s my pleasure today to introduce you to a visual designer who describes herself as a tattooed, lipstick-wearing, letter-loving Latina: Kathie Baptista is a designer here at Bigeye and an integral part of the agency’s creative team. Kathie, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Kathie Baptista: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So Kathie, when did you first realize you might be interested in pursuing a career in art and design?

Kathie Baptista: I was always a creative kid growing up. And I think my mom noticed that very early on. She always put me in a lot of creative classes, like art class and chorus, and I did a couple of drama lessons and stuff. But I’d say probably around middle school, MySpace was kind of a thing and I really enjoyed taking photos and editing photos and curating my page to make it look very much like me. And I think that when the time came to go to college, I spoke with the college counselor and I was telling them my interest and I really wanted to become a photographer. And the college counselor asked me if I prefer taking photos or editing photos. And I remember I said, I preferred editing photos. And she was like, “Well, maybe you should consider graphic design instead.” And I haven’t turned back since.

Adrian Tennant: Can you tell us a little about your early family life growing up in South Florida?

Kathie Baptista: My family immigrated from Nicaragua in 1985. And they, I think, were able to acclimate a little bit better to the United States because the community that we lived in in Miami was very Hispanic, a lot of Spanish speakers. So I think that the transition was a little easier for them. Growing up in Miami, it was really unique. You know, Miami is really beautiful. There’s a lot of different people, a lot of different cultures. There are definitely some problem areas with the traffic and just being really overpopulated, but it’s home and it’s unlike anything else.  

Adrian Tennant: Growing up, were there any aspects of Nicaraguan culture present in your home life?

Kathie Baptista: Well, definitely the food I’d say. I think my parents still eat gallo pinto, which is rice and beans almost every day still to this day. But they definitely transitioned to American culture really well. By the time I came along, my parents had already been in the United States for about six years. So they really were adapting and they had teenage daughters who were going to an American school. So it was either adapt or bust. But they definitely tried to maintain the Spanish language in our home. So I think that was really important because, you know, as I’ve grown up, being bilingual has been helpful in so many ways.

Adrian Tennant: Would you say that has influenced your work?

Kathie Baptista: I feel like I am very much inspired by very colorful design. And I feel like that probably comes a lot from my culture and just seeing, you know, colorful design, just within Hispanic communities and you know, in American art. So I do think that that plays a little bit of an influence.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, before pursuing design as a career, did you know anyone that worked in the creative industries?

Kathie Baptista: The only person I really knew was my sister, when I was growing up, she was going to Parsons in New York and she was studying to become an interior designer. So that was the first time I ever heard of design as a career. And she would tell me about the things she’s doing in school. And it sounded really cool. So I knew I wanted to be involved in something like that.

Adrian Tennant: What kind of age differences between you?

Kathie Baptista: She is 11 years older than me. And she’s actually the one closest to my age. My other sister is 15 years older than me. So there’s a bit of an age gap there.

Adrian Tennant: Now you left South Florida for undergrad studies at the University of Central Florida. What was that experience like?

Kathie Baptista: Well, to be honest, I feel like it was a little bit of a culture shock. The town that I grew up in back in South Florida is about 96 percent Hispanic. And there were a lot of Spanish speakers. So I remember I would get kind of surprised faces when I went through sorority recruitment, for example, and they were surprised to see that I was bilingual and that I spoke Spanish fluently. It was so strange to me. I was like, “Doesn’t everybody know Spanish?” So that was a bit of a transition, but I will say I had the best time at UCF. I loved it. I loved being in Orlando. I met a lot of my friends that I still know to this day that I’m really close to. I got really involved with the design community. Overall, it was a really good experience and I love it.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, what was your first paid job after graduating?

Kathie Baptista: Um, My first paid job after graduating, I worked at a local stationery store in Charlotte, North Carolina. I really loved paper and print and lettering, and I felt like that was a good place to start.  I learned a lot about printing processes and all that stuff, paper types, but unfortunately, it didn’t really last long.

Adrian Tennant: Tell us about some of the places you’ve lived and worked in before joining Bigeye.

Kathie Baptista: Wow. Um, well, after I graduated, I moved – like I said – to Charlotte, North Carolina. And, I worked in the stationery store. I really enjoyed paper and print and traditional design. So I kind of tried to stay in that industry. I worked at Shutterfly for a while and was reviewing invitations and holiday cards. And that was really interesting. I learned a lot about invitation etiquette. I also worked at a screen printing shop. And that was really cool because I got to learn about how to set up files for print and color separation and things like that. And the shop that I worked for was very involved in the creative and music scene. So it was really fun to be a part of that. I wanted to become a lettering artist and I got to work with some really amazing clients. One of my first jobs and my favorite, I would say was probably my first freelance job. I had just moved to Charlotte and I got a freelance gig working for Charlotte Magazine. And I got to do all the lettering for their article. That was, “Fifty Things Every Charlottean Should Do.” So it was perfect because I had just moved to the city and I didn’t know anything about Charlotte and I got to learn so much and both with the freelance job and about the city that I had just moved into.

Adrian Tennant: That sounds like a dream assignment. Now, I’m just curious, thinking back to that project, did you do the lettering by hand, or did you use a computer? What did that look like?

Kathie Baptista: It was a mix. It’s funny. There are so many things now. I like Procreate. That just makes the lettering process easier, but I would do it all by hand. I still have them to this day because it was my first freelance project. I wanted to keep all the memories of it, but I would draw it all by hand in my sketchbook. And then I would go over it with a marker and tracing paper. And then I would scan that and then, you know, just make any adjustments on the computer.

Adrian Tennant: On your personal website, you express that love for lettering as you did a lot of typography early in your career. Now you’re focused more on design and branding. How have lettering and typography influenced your overall approach to graphic design?

Kathie Baptista: I think being a lettering artist, I grew this huge appreciation for typography and lettering. It’s funny because there are so many unique nuances in type, to the point where, you know, type almost has its own personality, they all become like little people almost. So just having that appreciation for letters and typography, I was always constantly taking photos of typography that I saw outside or keeping references on Instagram or on my phone. And I think that because I have this large arsenal of references, it makes it a lot easier in the design process and in the branding process, to find typography that’s appropriate for the client. Typography can make such a huge difference in the mood and in the tone for a brand. So I definitely feel like I have a big arsenal of resources that I’ve been able to go to.

Adrian Tennant: If you see something interesting, you snap her right there and then.

Kathie Baptista: Definitely. Just usually while I’m out on the street, it’s so funny, I’ll just be going to a restaurant and I’ll see typography in a menu that I really like or ghost type, which is sometimes when type has been painted on a building but has been weathered away through the years. I always try to photograph that because it’s just so interesting and unique, usually hand-lettered type specifically is unique to the person who made it.  So I always try to keep records of that.

Adrian Tennant: I think it’s so interesting you talk about the personality of type and you almost see them as characters.

Kathie Baptista: Yeah. They can be quirky or they can be serious. It really changes the tone of a project. So I really try to spend a lot of time making sure that I’m finding the right type for the right client or for the right project.

Adrian Tennant: Do you feel that South American countries have a different approach to typography than American design, for example?

Kathie Baptista: I feel like back in the day in America, let’s say there was a lot of hand-painted type. And I still feel like that’s very common in our culture today, and especially in Latin American culture, just probably because of lack of resources and, you know, sign painting it’s just what they’ve always done. I know that there is a popular form of lettering in Argentina called fileteado – it’s really beautiful and I used to always reference that kind of typography and that kind of art whenever I was doing lettering a lot.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any designers or artists who you particularly admire – and do you feel that they’ve influenced your work or your creative process?

Kathie Baptista: Oh my gosh, there’s so many. I mean, I can go on and on. There’s Clark Gore and Meg Lewis, Dana Tanamochi, Lauren Odom and Jessica Heesh, and the Hood sisters over at Chutzpah. But I think definitely the one that’s had the biggest influence on me has probably been Anna Bond from Rifle Paper Company. She started her company here in Orlando, and I remember when I was in college, I would go and listen to her talks and her journey. It was just so inspiring, just how she’s able to mesh this love for paper and print and design. I found it really inspiring and I’ve always admired her work.

Adrian Tennant: Today you’re working as a member of the creative team here at Bigeye. Kathie, as a designer, what questions do you feel it’s most important to have answered before you begin an assignment?

Kathie Baptista: I usually like to ask why we’re doing this. You know, what is the goal behind the piece? What are we trying to achieve? What is the purpose? Where will this live? I try to understand a lot about the target audience. That’s why a lot of the things that you do, Adrian, it’s always so interesting to me. And I feel like it helps the design process a lot because it helps me figure out who the target audience is and you know, who we’re talking to and what are their goals? And what are they looking for? And I think that that plays a crucial role in the design process.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, you’ve been at Bigeye for six months already. Prior to joining us, what were some of the projects that you were proudest of and why?

Kathie Baptista: I’m very proud of a lot of the freelance projects that I’ve worked with because it was a big learning process. But definitely, I’d say one of the biggest pieces that I loved the most was I got to do some hand lettering for a mural at a Google Fiber building in Charlotte. And that was really fun because I was working with Google and that in itself was just shocking. But it was a lot of fun. They gave me a lot of creative freedom and it’s nice to know that it still lives there. So if I ever wanted to go visit, I can always still see it. And I almost feel like I left a little piece of me there in the city.

Adrian Tennant: And what was that experience of working with Google like – what kinds of parameters did they set for you?

Kathie Baptista: They didn’t set much. They mostly wanted me to stay within a specific color palette.  And they showed me the space, which was still under construction. They definitely wanted it to bring attention and they wanted to include something that was very Charlotte in there. And I know one of the things that Charlotte is very proud of is their skyline. They love their buildings. There’s a lot of history in them. So I definitely tried to incorporate that in the piece. But it was a lot of fun and it was a lot of work and I’m really proud of that project.

Adrian Tennant: So Kathie you’ve recently been working on the launch of bSerene, a new line of cat calming products for Bigeye’s client, H&C Animal Health. Could you tell us a little bit more about that project?

Kathie Baptista: It’s been quite the journey. It’s been very interesting to develop different elements of that campaign into a lot of major parts like the website and advertising. So that’s been really fun. And it’s also been really interesting to see that there is more than enough cat content on the internet to refer to! So that’s been a fun journey. I love animals, honestly, I’m vegetarian because I love animals and I have both a cat and a dog. I did love cats very early on when I was a kid. Um, I used to have a couple of cats that grew up in the neighborhood and I was very much a cat kid. I feel like the personalities of cat and dog owners are so different. So having that hybrid is really interesting.

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

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

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to bigeye.agency/gender.  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking to Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista. Kathie, I know you mentor students and belong to AIGA. How long have you been involved in the organization?

Kathie Baptista: I first joined AIGA when I was in college, I was a part of the mentorship program as a student and I feel like that was a really big game-changer for me. I knew that I really wanted to get involved and I just loved the type of events that they were hosting. So I’d say that in every city that I’ve lived in, I’ve always tried to get involved with the AIGA in any way that I can. When you move to a new city, you may or may not know some of the creatives that are there. So being involved with AIGA, you learn a little bit more about them and the creative culture that takes place in the city. As far as getting to know more people and making connections,  also just learning more about your creative community I think it’s been very crucial to that.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’ve been in Orlando for a while. How connected do you feel to the AIGA community here?

Kathie Baptista: Like to believe I do feel very connected to the AIGA community here because it was the first AIGA community I was a part of as a student. My professor, when I was in school, he’s still involved with AIGA now. So to be a part of that and to now come back and be a part of that again, and be able to mentor students like I was mentored when I was a student is a nice way to see things go full circle.

Adrian Tennant: What advice do you typically give to students who are about to graduate and are looking for their first full-time position?

Kathie Baptista: I would say, start early. Get involved with your community before you graduate and involved in organizations and clubs. Start looking for jobs before you graduate. Don’t wait until you’re done to try to find employment. I think the competition can be really tough out there. And I think if you wait, you know, it can be really difficult. I would also say to make sure that you show yourself and your work. It’s really interesting to go through a student’s work and be able to see their aesthetic and see their personality come out through their work. It shows me that they’re not just creating for the client. They’re putting a little bit of themselves in there and that’s really interesting to me. I think quality is better than quantity. I’d rather see, you know, three logos that are fully developed with their branding in their portfolio than to see ten that tell me nothing. And I would say don’t put a lot of pressure into trying to figure yourself out when you graduate school. Sometimes you think you have it all figured out. I know I did when I graduated, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew the type of industry I wanted to be in, and I think it’s important to just work hard and be open to whatever life throws at you. And just always continue to learn and try to be open to change.

Adrian Tennant: Does anybody look at physical portfolios anymore? Are we really talking about online, exclusively at this point?

Kathie Baptista: I think it’s mostly digital, but because it’s so digital now, I feel like it just makes it that more impressive if you have something physical. Definitely, I think your work should live online. You should definitely have a bit of a presence on the internet and social media platforms, but it’s always interesting if you go into an interview and you’re able to leave something physical behind something that they can remember you by. So I definitely think having a physical piece of something, even if it’s not your full portfolio, but just a little something about yourself and your work is very important.

Adrian Tennant: When I look at potential employees’ work, I’m really interested in the story behind the work. Do you share my interest in understanding how they reached the design solution that they did?

Kathie Baptista: Very much. I do like to see sketches and the thought process. That’s actually one of the reasons why I feel like I transitioned more from lettering into design and branding because I really missed the conceptual part of it. Sometimes when you’re doing lettering, you’re kind of told, this is what we need. This is what we want. With design, there’s so much thought and research that goes behind it. So seeing portfolios that go into that a little bit deeper is very interesting.

Adrian Tennant: If you hadn’t gravitated toward graphic design, what other areas might you have pursued? And of course, Kathie, it’s never too late!

Kathie Baptista: I know growing up, I really wanted to be a singer. I loved Selena and I just wanted to be just like her, Selena Quintanilla. I just wanted to be a singer and I think as I got older, I wasn’t going to be a singer, but I did want to be involved with the wedding industry. And I know I always considered possibly either being an event planner or a cake decorator or a florist, specifically for the wedding industry. What interested me about it was being able to work with couples in particular. Call me a sap, but I do love a love story. I love hearing romantic stories and I always was drawn to that. And I think that’s why I wanted to be a part of the wedding industry so that I can hear more love stories all the time.

Adrian Tennant: Now, if you had gone down the singing route, what kind of music would you be producing by now?

Kathie Baptista: Wow. I don’t know. I definitely have a Christmas album. I love Christmas music and I would for sure have a Christmas album. What kind of music? I don’t know. I really enjoy listening to rock. Do I feel like I could sing rock? I’m not sure, but, yeah, I’m not sure.

Adrian Tennant: The musical stylings of Kathie Baptista – coming to a Spotify playlist near you sometime in the future, but definitely around Christmas!

Kathie Baptista: Definitely Christmas!

Adrian Tennant: Well, listeners can’t tell unless they see a photo of you, but your right arm has quite a collection of tattoos. So Kathie, when did you get your first tattoo? And are the stories behind each one?

Kathie Baptista: My first tattoo I got when I was 20 years old. I got three little birds on my wrist to represent my sisters – that way I always have them with me. We’re really close. So I wanted to be able to have my first tattoo represent us and our relationship together. But I think after the first one, it kind of became more of a collector’s thing. I would find a lot of tattoo artists on Instagram. I knew I wanted to have pieces done by them on my arm. So I would reach out to them. And then it also became something that I would do whenever I would travel. And it kind of felt like a momento. So I have a ramen bowl on my arm and I got that while I was in Japan. And it’s one of my favorite tattoos because I get to tell people about the time that I was in Japan. And it’s a really good memory that I cherish a lot.

Adrian Tennant: So what’s the difference between folks who just go for the monochrome and people like yourself who prefer color? What’s that about do you think?

Kathie Baptista: I think it’s personal preference. I mean, most of my tattoos are in the American traditional style, so I’ve always been very drawn to that style because it’s so colorful. It’s very eye-catching and I love color. I love incorporating color in my work. So it felt like a natural place as far as a tattoo design, black and white is also very beautiful. but my skin is a little darker, so I definitely wanted to have more colorful pieces on my arm.

Adrian Tennant: Your website is very you, Kathie. On it, you describe yourself as Latina. Well, March is Women’s History Month, so are there any Latinas you particularly admire?

Kathie Baptista:  There are many. America Ferrera, Rita Moreno, Frida Kahlo, and JLo! I mean, she looks amazing and she’s killing it to this day. But also I think just Latina women in my life. Because I am Latina, my family consists of a lot of Latina women, and I think that they all inspire me, in different ways. You know, we’re all kind of fighting the same battles, from toxic masculinity within our culture, or, you know, trying to fight for our rights for equal pay. I do think that is a big part of Hispanic culture. There’s a lot of machismo, the man is the one who brings the income. He’s the one who kind of sets the rules and women just have to take care of the kids and stay home and cook and clean. And I think that when you don’t fall into that mold,  it’s easy to be criticized honestly, within our culture. So I think Latina women who are trying to find their own path and work and be entrepreneurs and do their own thing. It’s definitely being seen a little bit better now, but it’s not traditional. It’s not what’s the norm in our culture. We’re kind of all dealing with the same issues. So it’s very inspiring to be a part of a community. That’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

Adrian Tennant: Do you know many other Latina designers?

Kathie Baptista: One of our interns, Maria, she just started working with the Luma & leaf brand. So that’s been really exciting to have her on board and to have another Latina on the team. And then while I worked in Miami, I did work with another Latina woman. She was my art director at my previous position. And she was really great. She was extremely talented. So it is inspiring to work with other Latina women.

Adrian Tennant: So outside of work, what inspires you, and how do you relax?

Kathie Baptista: Well, if I’m not working or working on my own things, I do like to tend to my home and my plants, especially because I just moved and as I mentioned my sister’s an interior designer, so I get all the perks. I love to just be able to curate pieces for my home and take care of my house plans, spend time at home and watching movies and exploring the city too. I try to, whenever I move to a new city, approach it from a new perspective, I’ve never been here before. Even when I moved back to Miami, even though I lived there, I tried to approach it like I’ve never lived there before and trying new restaurants and just explore different areas that I’ve never explored before. So I do spend my free time doing a lot of exploring.

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

Kathie Baptista: Well, you can see my work on my website, KathieBaptista.com or you can follow me on Instagram @KathieBaptista.

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

Kathie Baptista: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

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

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: That’s an interview with Michael Solomon, author of the recently published book, The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization. That’s next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista. You’ll find a transcript of our conversation and all previous episodes on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page, at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant until next week. Goodbye.

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Advertising and Telemedicine

Mend offers a new advertising solution targeting captive audiences via telehealth. Media buying agency Bigeye discusses it with Jessica Neyer, VP, Strategy.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Telemedicine has seen greater adoption since the onset of COVID-19. This week’s guest is Jessica Neyer, VP of Strategy at Mend, a patient engagement platform. Jessica shares Mend’s newest offering, the enhanced waiting room, in which content is available for patients to view as they wait for their provider. Jessica explains how brands can utilize the Netflix-like library of content and advertising on this platform to directly target captive audiences.

Episode Transcript

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

Jessica Neyer: I don’t know of any other telemedicine company that is doing what we’re doing, but essentially we just launched what’s called the enhanced virtual waiting room that’s both content and advertising in the virtual waiting room.

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. In the last couple of episodes, we’ve looked at the ways in which COVID-19 has accelerated changes in the way film and TV content is produced, and the uptake in shelter animal adoption as people sought companionship from pets during the stay in place orders. This week, we’re focusing on another industry that has seen significant growth during the pandemic. Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is the use of electronic information and communication technologies to provide care when a patient and a doctor are not in the same place at the same time. Provided the patients have a smartphone or other device with internet access, it’s possible for them to receive medical care and services through telemedicine. Since social distancing has been required for almost a year now, telemedicine has enabled people to talk to their doctor from the safety and comfort of their own homes without having to visit the doctor’s office. Because telemedicine limits physical contact, it reduces potential exposure to COVID-19, but using telemedicine can also shorten the wait times to see a doctor and expand access to specialists. Our guest this week has deep experience in the medical industry and is an expert on telemedicine. Jessica Neyer is the Vice President of Strategy at Mend, a leader in telemedicine and patient engagement, headquartered in Orlando. Prior to her current role, Jessica worked as the Head of Strategy for PatientPop, a Los Angeles-based medical practice software firm, as well as in senior leadership roles with Pager, Heal, and FitOrbit –  in addition to positions with Ortho Molecular Products and AstraZeneca. Jessica graduated from the University of California Davis with a bachelor of science degree. Today, Jessica is joining us from her home office in Los Angeles. Jessica, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Jessica Neyer: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, first of all, could you tell us what Mend is and who it serves?

Jessica Neyer: Absolutely. So Mend is a patient engagement platform. So what that means is that we have all the different features that a practice could need within their workflow to engage with a patient. So we have telemedicine, we have digital payments, we have digital forms, we have SMS messaging with a patient, patient scheduling. It’s all there. But our bread and butter is really our telehealth solution. It’s what all of our customers have. And we are primarily a service for practices and providers. So they implement Mend on their end to serve their patients.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, what does your role with the company entail?

Jessica Neyer: it’s pretty varied. So, you know, with a title like VP of strategy, that could mean a lot of different things at a lot of different places. But what I do is everything from, you know, working with our team on pricing structure, and packaging, and all of that, but you can think of me almost as the GM of a brand new experience that we’ve launched to our providers and actually the advertising world called the enhanced virtual waiting room.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned in the introduction that telemedicine has seen broader adoption during COVID-19. What kind of growth has Mend seen over the past year?

Jessica Neyer: What we saw as a company was that we were gradually improving over time. There was more and more adoption with telehealth in general, right? Every company was sort of seeing the same thing. But in healthcare, it takes a while to adopt any practice. It’s a really slow-moving machine. But with COVID we saw our sales skyrocket overnight. So practices went from having telemedicine as a nice to have to all of a sudden needing to have telemedicine, in order to keep the lights on. So we saw our sales increase tremendously at that time. And the great thing is our software, our solution never went down in that process. We increased sales. We increased production. I myself was brought into the team as well as a couple of other VPs to truly handle the growth and scale the company and we’re seeing tremendous growth even now, 12 months later after the pandemic hit.

Adrian Tennant: Well, it’s certainly the case that COVID 19 seems to have accelerated that adoption, for sure.

Jessica Neyer: You know, telehealth was interesting. I’ve been involved in this conversation for a while cause everyone was trying to understand, is this just a fad? Is this something doctors needed to adopt because of COVID and they’re going to go right back to their old ways afterward? And what we’re seeing is that we’re kind of in a situation where patients have now experienced telehealth whereas before they hadn’t, in most cases, and now they’re realizing how incredibly easy telehealth makes certain, you know, appointments with your physician and they want it now they’re demanding it. So physicians have to keep it in place in order to continue growing their companies. And there’s a lot of benefits on the provider side as well, that helps with their workflows and efficiencies. So it’s just continuing to grow and turn into this whole other industry that really wasn’t there a couple of years ago.

Adrian Tennant: While conducting background research for this interview, I was surprised by the variety of care that it’s now possible to receive through telemedicine -from general health care, like annual wellness visits to prescriptions for medicine, dermatology, nutrition counseling, and even urgent care conditions such as sinusitis, back pain, urinary tract infections, and common rashes. Jessica, are there any services that don’t translate well to telemedicine?

Jessica Neyer: The only things that really don’t translate well to telemedicine are types of visits that require physical touch. So a surgeon, for example, cannot perform surgery via telemedicine. Or a chiropractor can’t do an adjustment through telemedicine. But everything else works in one capacity or another in telehealth. So, you know, we’re finding all of these new use cases and ways that providers can adopt telehealth for their own individual needs.

Adrian Tennant: Obviously a doctor will ultimately decide whether telemedicine is right for a patient’s health needs. Jessica, have you used telemedicine as a patient? And if so, what was the experience like?

Jessica Neyer: Oh all the time. So I am a mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old, which means I’m probably in the doctor’s office every three weeks! Whether it’s a rash or a this or that, and who knows what’s going on with my daughter? But, I’ve used urgent care quite a bit for her. And primarily I’ve used urgent care through telehealth as a part of it. And my experience has been twofold. So I’ll start with the positive and then I’ll go into the negative. But the positive has been, it’s just been so easy as a consumer to get care when I needed it. So, the last time I used telehealth, for example, I said my daughter had a rash. It was Saturday at seven o’clock, you know, it’s not when her pediatrician was open. So it was so easy for me to just make an appointment for a telehealth service that was available in my area because there are certain legal restrictions of where you can visit a provider on what state they’re in. And I was able to schedule right then and there, I didn’t have to wait, you know, three weeks, a month to get a visit, which could happen in some scenarios. so that was great. And the provider was great. You know, there were no issues getting connected with them. So that was wonderful.  The con, across most, telehealth platforms that patients end up using numbers are a little bit all over the place but, the average wait time for telehealth is between 21 and 30 minutes for a patient. So I, myself went to the visit, went to the waiting room and I was staring at a blank screen for 21 to 30 minutes. In this case, it was about 15 till I could see my provider. All things considered not that much time, but patients staring at a blank screen for that long.  I didn’t know if I was in the right place. It was pretty boring. I was trying to entertain my daughter at the same time while making sure I was still connected to my virtual visit and that was a challenge. So I think that is definitely a negative that needs to improve in this space. But we’re working on that.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, Mend has made a major announcement about a new offering. Could you tell us about that?

Jessica Neyer: Yeah, I’m very, very excited about this. And quite frankly, it was one of the huge, huge reasons why I decided to come to Mend because I don’t know of any other company that is addressing this problem or doing what we’re doing, but essentially we just launched what’s called the enhanced virtual waiting room. So, what it is is a Netflix-like library of Mend media. So that’s both content and advertising in the virtual waiting room. So for those 21 to 30 minutes, I told you about before where a patient’s waiting, that’s a captive audience, right? So not only do they have content and they can click around just like they do on YouTube or anything else. But before their video plays, there’s a 30-second advertisement. Uh, and that can be a number of different advertisers, whether it’s pharma or a meditation app or a pharmacy delivery, or, you name it, there’s typically a place there. And so we have been piloting this for a while and it’s been going really, really well. And we just launched to all of our customers, like you said this week, and we are officially launching to the advertising community about it as well.

Adrian Tennant: well, thank you very much for making us part of this announcement. In a fragmented media landscape, of course, it’s harder than ever to capture consumers’ attention. So knowing that the audience is captive is a clear point of differentiation. What was the insight that led you to develop this new platform?

Jessica Neyer: Yeah. So it was really interesting. It was kind of a happy accident, honestly. What happened was we were getting all of this feedback from our customers, our providers, saying that we have a big problem. When patients get to our waiting rooms, they’re staring at a blank screen. They don’t know if they’re in the right place. So they end up, you know, exiting out of it and then they can’t navigate back. And then the doctor doesn’t end up seeing them. And then the doctor doesn’t get paid and that’s wasted time. Or the doctor ends up being, you know, tech support and that’s not what they’re supposed to do. They went to medical school for a reason, right? And we want to make sure they can deliver care and not spend 40 minutes saying, okay, you know, Susie, make sure you’re pressing this and have you checked your microphone and everything else? So we sought out to, you know, figure out, okay, what can we do that’s more engaging for a patient? That entertains them and keeps them in the right place before their visit actually happens? and while we did that, the light bulb went off, for our CEO. This is brilliant, but he said, okay, I think there’s a big opportunity here. This is a captive audience. Why don’t we utilize this space for advertising? And it allows us to subsidize some of the other incredible features that we have. Like, we have live chat support for both the provider and the patient, which is critical and no other telemedicine platforms are doing that. So the advertising revenue allows us to subsidize those costs. So we ended up testing it like I said, the first couple months of this summer, not even to the level we’re doing it now with that Netflix-like library, I explained, um, we just threw up a basic advertisement to see, okay, do advertisers like this? Do our providers like it? Did their patients like it? And legally, can we do this in a sound way, where there are no issues for the provider or for the advertiser at all? And the answer was “yes” to all of those. So that’s what led us really down this path. And we spent the last couple of months tinkering and figuring out from a product perspective, what does this look like? What is the experience? What is the flow? And it’s just been an incredible result.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you mentioned that you’ve piloted this offering prior to launching it. What kinds of reactions did you see from patients?

Jessica Neyer: Patients loved it. So finally, it’s engaging content for them. And if you think about it, it’s the exact same scenario. Better! It’s the exact same scenario though, as when they’re going to a physical waiting room for a doctor. There’s typically a TV screen in the corner and you know, advertisements will play. The difference is although they’re used to that scenario, so it’s nothing crazy or alarming for them. The difference is in a physical waiting room, patients can be on their phones, they can be opening magazines, they can do a number of other things. So the advertiser kind of has the same issues they have with like TV or something else. It’s not truly a captive audience. Versus this: you are truly captive. When you go to a telehealth visit, you’re now looking away. It is critical, right? Cause your care is going to start at any minute. You kind of are at the provider’s mercy. So why not take advantage of that time? And patients love that it’s finally something entertaining to look at versus a blank screen.

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

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to bigeye.agency/gender.  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jessica Neyer, VP of Strategy with telemedicine company Mend which has just launched its enhanced virtual waiting room – a Netflix-like library of content and advertising delivered to a captive audience. What kinds of targeting are possible within the platform?

Jessica Neyer: Great question. Legally, as I mentioned before, there are all of these complications with healthcare that we needed to avoid when it came to targeting. So we made sure that we were protecting first and foremost, our customers, which are providers, since we are a HIPAA compliant platform, we had to jump through certain hoops. although it’d be nice to target based off of individual patients and their visit reasons and everything else, that’s considered PHI. That’s against the rules and we can’t target for those reasons. Instead what we do is we target based off of publicly available knowledge. So we can target based off of the provider, their license number, their specialty, and their geography. Which opens up a number of different opportunities. You can use it, let’s say, in pharma. You can say, okay, I want to target cardiologists and all their patients, because they are typically going and they’re going to see patients with these sorts of, you know, AFIB issues. So that is perfect for this certain drug of mine or whatever it is, or, you know, I’ll give you a different example. We have a campaign running right now. We just launched it in the state of Florida, that’s a PSA. And that’s not specialty-specific at all, but it’s focused on a certain geography. So it’s open to all the providers in that geography, but it’s limited to Florida. So there are so many different opportunities and you can really make it as nuanced as you want while also feeling confident that, both the advertiser and the provider are being protected at the end of the day.

Adrian Tennant:  Jessica, what kind of reach does the platform have?

Jessica Neyer: Currently we have over 14,000 providers and growing. We have a number of strategy initiatives, actually another area where I’m focusing my attention to increase our base of physicians, even more beyond our sales outreach, which is fantastic but to help more so on the advertising side. If we know with an advertiser that their focus is a certain specialty, right? And we want to get numbers up in that area. There’s a number of different things that we’re working on to help get those numbers up really quickly, that we’re really excited about.

Adrian Tennant: As an audience-focused agency, Bigeye maximizes the effectiveness of ad campaigns based on a combination of targeted media and dynamic creative with messages designed to resonate with consumers, attitudes, and behaviors. So what creative formats does the platform support?

Jessica Neyer: Currently we support video advertisements as well as banner ads. So that is within the virtual waiting room for telehealth itself. Now, as I mentioned, at the beginning of this, we have a lot of other features that our platform like digital intake forms, appointment reminders via SMS and email. So we’re beginning to explore what other opportunities there are for advertising. But the main thing right now that’s available right away are those video ads and those banner ads.

Adrian Tennant: how does an investment in Mend’s advertising platform compare with other forms of online advertising? Do you sell based on cost per thousand, cost per click, cost per lead, or cost per action?

Jessica Neyer: That’s a great question. Uh, we’re a little different, we charge based off of cost per impression. That’s a unique visitor and they’re then viewing the advertisement. So it’s different than typical forms of advertising where you’re just trying to reach the masses because maybe only a certain percentage of those will convert to actual sales for the advertiser at the end of the day. So it’s kind of just this mass announcement out there and you, you take what you can get. We’re a little different again with how captive our audience actually is. You are targeting a very, very specific demographic or location or whatever it is, and you know you have their attention. So, we do charge per impression.

Adrian Tennant: Is there a skip button available to the user?

Jessica Neyer: There is, but they can only skip after five seconds of viewing it. just like YouTube. We modeled this a lot off of YouTube where the patient has to watch something for a certain amount of time before they can skip it. And something I should mention too, with this notion of YouTube I keep bringing up, we have on each advertisement, it says ad with a countdown clock. So it operates in the same sort of capacity as everything else. And patients know what they’re watching when they’re watching it, and what their opportunities to skip or not are.

Adrian Tennant: So it’s transparent to the user.

Jessica Neyer: Correct.

Adrian Tennant: Are there particular types of products or services that you feel would be a really great fit for the platform?

Jessica Neyer: The opportunities are endless and my mind goes in a thousand different directions. Um, think Peloton, right? The Peloton bike would be phenomenal for all populations. But I think some easy wins are obviously in pharma being able to get in front of the right patients at the right times, right before they end up seeing the doctor. Any sort of wellness solution. There are so many categories associated with that too. You know, for pediatrics, for, uh, a patient that’s going to see a pediatrician, maybe a diaper video, right? Or a certain ointment or a certain cream. It goes in so many different directions, that, you know, really allows the advertisers to be creative and to, you know, think about what could potentially translate and how could I make this work?

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, what do you think telemedicine will look like when COVID-19 is less of a concern? Do you think patients will ever want to return to their doctor’s offices after they’ve been using telemedicine?

Jessica Neyer: It’s a great question. I had to go to a follow-up appointment that I have to do regularly with my doctor. I’m in LA. So there is a ton of traffic, and it takes me an hour to get there. Then like 20 minutes to park and I pay for parking. And then I wait in the waiting room for an hour, and then I see the doctor and it’s only five minutes, but then I have to go through the whole thing again. This time, I was able to just log on, see my provider. It took maybe 15 minutes. I didn’t have to leave work. I didn’t have to leave a whole day to do this. I’m not going back. I want this forever when it comes to follow-up appointments. So we’re about to see a transition for patients where they’re going to want this for a majority of their visits, but not at all. I think we’re going to see a lot more things open up. There will still be some face-to-face, but therapy is a huge example where that’s primarily going to be telehealth moving forward. Because there is no need to be physically with your therapist. Telehealth really solves it all. For most use cases, I should say, I am not a therapist. I don’t know every use case. But it solves most.

Adrian Tennant: How do you see telemedicine and related technologies developing over the next three to five years?

Jessica Neyer: Great question. I am constantly surprised by the innovation that there is. I’ve seen some incredible things just in the last five years alone. So I can’t imagine what the next five years we’ll see for healthcare in general, not only tele-health, but for tele-health I really see us moving into an era where tele-health solutions will be working alongside remote care monitoring services, if not including them. So the doctor will have the full ability to see a patient. So beyond certain use cases that exist today for a provider, a provider will also be able to do something that does require,  maybe a slight check of, you know, heart rate or an ear check or eye checks or anything else they’ll have that functionality in those services built into their solution. And we’re already seeing it with certain wearables. Like, for example,  I’m wearing an Apple watch. And on that, I can tell my heart rate, I can tell my oxygen levels, a couple of other things, and that can be directly translated through the telehealth visit to the provider so they can continue on with their visit and get certain things under control or be aware of certain levels.

Adrian Tennant: So Jessica away from work, what inspires you? Are you a reader, a podcast listener, a music fan?

Jessica Neyer: Oh, gosh, all of the above. So number one, my daughter inspires me. She is so funny and so creative and constantly keeps me on my toes, which is great. But, work and family aside, I love working out. I’m a bit of an exercise junkie. It’s my therapy. And I’m like a walking billboard for this company, but if anyone’s ever heard of Barry’s Bootcamp, I love it. I do it religiously every day. So that’s what keeps me going. And, you know, as my own little hour away from the insanity of everything else to just unwind.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about Mend and how to place advertisements on your platform, where can they find information?

Jessica Neyer: So a couple of different places. Number one, you can go to our website, Mend.com. Or you can email adinquiries@mend.com or even myself,  jneyer@mend.com and we’re happy to help you.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica. Thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jessica Neyer: Thank you so much.

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

Kathie Baptista: I think that they all inspire me, in different ways. Latina women who are trying to find their own path and be entrepreneurs and do their own thing. It’s very inspiring to be a part of a community that’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista, next week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Jessica Neyer, vice president of strategy at Mend. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeye agency.com under insights. Just click on the button marked podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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Pet Product Marketing

With record numbers of people adopting shelter animals during COVID-19, Bigeye discusses innovative pet product marketing with Sarah Salva of H&C Animal Health.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Record numbers of people adopted shelter animals as pets during COVID-19, driving demand for pet products. Guest Sarah Salva is the Director of Marketing Brand Development for Bigeye’s client, H&C Animal Health. Sarah shares H&C’s pet product marketing and development process, discusses why cat and dog parents need to be treated differently, and how important marketing research is in designing product packaging and producing advertising campaigns that resonate with pet parents.  

In Clear Focus: Pet Product Marketing

In Clear Focus: Record numbers of people adopted shelter animals as pets during COVID-19, driving demand for pet products. Guest Sarah Salva is the Director of Marketing Brand Development for Bigeye’s client, H&C Animal Health.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode ofIN CLEAR FOCUS:

Sarah Salva: So dog and cat owners – they’re very different people. So something that you say that works really well with dog owners can completely backfire on you with cat owners. It’s sort of the same sensitivity that you might expect to see when you’re marketing products that are made for human babies.

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. It’s 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. The American Pet Products Association, or APPA for short, reports that Americans spent nearly $1 billion on pets and pet care in 2020. The vast majority of the spending was on dogs and cats, but last year also saw increases across the board as families acquired more fish, reptiles, birds, and small mammals as companions during COVID-19 lockdowns. Today, a majority of pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family – so much so that you’ll often hear the phrase, “pet parent”, rather than owner. The global industry which supplies pet food, products, and services is responsible for this modern view of pet parenting. Humans have lived with animals since the last Ice Age. For most of our history, dogs were used for hunting while cats controlled vermin. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution, which brought advances in health and economic prosperity, that we started to view these animals as pets, even though dogs and cats still lived outside for the most part. But in the 1880s, flea and tick shampoo was introduced for the first time, which meant dogs could come in doors and become part of that households – marking the birth of the pets supply industry. And with the invention of kitty litter in 1947, felines followed their canine companions indoors, and into our homes and families. Our guest this week is especially well-versed in today’s global pet industry. Sarah Salva is the Director of Marketing and Brand Development at H&C Animal Health, headquartered in Parker, Colorado. Prior to her current role, Sarah worked on product innovation at the Whiteway Foods Company, which includes the Horizon brand of organic products, and as Brand Marketing Manager for Open Road Snacks. Sarah graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Tech University with a specialization in animal science and agribusiness. Sarah, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Sarah Salva: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Do you consider yourself a pet owner or a pet parent?

Sarah Salva: I am a pet parent, for sure. So especially during COVID, I spend all my days working from home with my Aussie, Vera. And I often wonder when she’s going to start talking back to me!

Adrian Tennant: You studied animal science and agribusiness. So have you always had an interest in animals?

Sarah Salva: Absolutely. I originally wanted to be a vet. But I also loved my business and marketing classes. So, you know, throughout the years I did a little bit of both, but then I found the best of both worlds here at H&C.

Adrian Tennant: So, can you tell us a bit about H&C Animal Health’s founding story and what the company does?

Sarah Salva: Sure. The company was founded by Chuck Latham, who has had a passion for animals since childhood. He grew up among a family of veterinarians and, like me, found himself choosing a path between animal medicine and business. So with H&C he successfully bridged the gap. H&C focuses on bringing innovative vet products to retail, to make caring for your pets easier. We have a very animal-first approach, which means everything we develop works and is safe.

Adrian Tennant: Now tell us a little bit about the distribution side of the business versus the products that you’re developing yourselves.

Sarah Salva: We used to mainly focus on working with vet manufacturers to bring over their products, from the vet side into retail. So we took a lot of products that used to be only available in your vet’s office and brought them to stores like PetSmart and Petco. And then we started kind of the other side of the business, which is really product development. So we work with vet formulators and just a lot of vet professionals out there, to help us bring very efficacious and very innovative products over to retail.

Adrian Tennant: Now would we know some of the brands that you’ve distributed?

Sarah Salva: Yeah, you would! So a very popular line that we still distribute is the Virbac Dental portfolio. Those are C.E.T.® (Clean Every Time), VEGGIEDENT® FR3SH®, and they have some enzymatic rawhides. Just a very easy, effective way to keep your dog’s teeth clean.

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, what does your role as Director of Marketing Brand Development at H&C entail?

Sarah Salva: So I’m focused on working on the vet-developed side. So those are the brands that we create and we own, and, you know, work with really great agencies, such as Bigeye to bring to market. We really care about first the product has to work. But then it also has to be, you know, a consumer-friendly kind of brand. So a lot of times in the vet industry, you don’t really see that because you have the backing of the vet telling the pet parent that, you know, this is going to be good for their parent, but so we focus on putting the same type of product into, you know, friendlier packaging.

Adrian Tennant: So what led you from agribusiness to marketing as a career?

Sarah Salva: Oh, that’s kind of a long story, but I think it’s mostly luck. I left the animal world for a bit, was marketing coffee creamer, and then popcorn. But then when I met Chuck, I knew I had really found the sweet spot for me. So it just really brought everything together. I hadn’t been in the animal business in you know, eight or so years and with Chuck, it was kind of an opportunity to really get back in touch with those vet professionals that I used to, you know, follow and admire, while bringing my own marketing spin onto the products. So it was just very much, the perfect, perfect job.

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, prior to H&C Animal Health, you held product innovation and brand marketing positions. What, if any, lessons from those experiences, have you applied to your current role?

Sarah Salva: So the roles at the larger companies really helped me form disciplines and processes that you really need to launch new brands. So at H&C, being smaller, we’re a lot more agile and able to pivot to meet, changing consumer demands, while also really bringing in that process-driven development process.

Adrian Tennant: Spending on pets has grown by about 4 to 5 percent a year since the Great Recession of 2008. What’s been driving this kind of growth?

Sarah Salva: Well, as you mentioned earlier, sort of that humanization of pets has really happened over the past 80 years. But recently we’ve been spending a lot more time with our pets. So, you know, COVID aside, over the past 20 years, I know that my kind of first family was my dog, you know before I had a husband, before I had kids. And I think a lot of people are trending in that direction. So pet brands have really had to keep up with that and offer more products to keep consumers engaged and keep their pets happy and healthy.

Adrian Tennant: You’re planning to introduce a new line of calming products for cats this year. Could you take us through the process of new product development?

Sarah Salva: Sure. So we like to really start by identifying a problem that pet parents are having and then creating the solution. So, you know, when we looked at the products being offered to cats, we saw a big gap in cat calming where companies were offering full solutions. So from, you know, calming pheromones to calming chews to a travel spray, pet parents really need to have it all. Every cat is different, every dog is different. So yeah, when we introduce a new line of products for cats or dogs, we start with consumer research to really identify the problem that’s out there. And then we take it in and we figure out, you know, how are we going to talk to these consumers to really get them to resonate with the product and really trust us? Cause that’s something that matters a lot to us – that we’re not only offering these really great solutions for pet parents that we also are kind of in the industry as this expert and known as the company that really cares about your pet. So after we know what products we want to launch, we work with vet formulators and developers to find the technology and the ingredients out there. We do testing to make sure that they work to make sure that in this case, the cat really likes the product. So with cats, you have to focus a lot on palatability and acceptability. Cats are very finicky, very picky. So we spend a lot of time, you know, in taste tests and just make sure they are cat-approved. And then we go through packaging and the website, and really, you know, focus on the communication. Cause that’s really important.

Adrian Tennant: So Sarah, for the cat calming line, can you tell us about the brand name?

Sarah Salva: Sure. So the line is called bSerene. It is a line of cat calming products. So we have a long-lasting pheromone, a pheromone plus catnip spray, and then in the summer we’ll be coming out with a line of cat chews.

Adrian Tennant: And any plans for a similar line for canine companions?

Sarah Salva: Yes. So that is also in the works and can’t spill the beans too much on it yet, but look for something early 2022.

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: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to bigeye.agency/gender.  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Sarah Silva, Director of Marketing and Brand Development at H&C Animal Health. I know you take consumer research very seriously. Have you learned anything about pet owners over the past five years or so that really surprised you or led to an insight that helps solve a marketing challenge?

Sarah Salva: In my past careers, we’ve really focused on purchase intent as a benchmark when we test new products. But lately, we’ve really started to focus on, especially for this cat calming line, how consumers are reacting to the way that we’re speaking to them through the packaging and other marketing vehicles. So dog and cat owners – they’re very different people. So something that you say that works really well with dog owners can completely backfire on you with cat owners. So it’s sort of the same sensitivity that you might expect to see when you’re marketing products that are made for human babies. Moms are very protective, you know, very sensitive in a really good way. So you have to be really careful that you’re really getting on the same level and you’re not really turning somebody off because it doesn’t matter what the purchase intent is if nobody’s even going to pick up the product in the first place.

Adrian Tennant: Now when it’s a new product entry, as it will be with the cat calming line, do you typically like to start with quantitative research, to get a sense of the size of the market and then follow up with qualitative?

Sarah Salva: So it really depends on where we are in the process. So I really like you know, qualitative when I’m talking about what are the problems out there and just kind of getting that brainstorming of, what do the cat owners really need in their lives? Or where are the pain points, you know, and their relationship with their cat. I think when it comes to purchase intent and pricing sweet spot, you know, and then testing the concepts, quantitative is a really good way to do it. During COVID we have done a hundred percent quantitative just because, you know, we’ve tested out qualitative through Zoom for a CAS and you just don’t get the same connectivity that you would sitting in the same room with people. So there are limitations right now.

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned that cat owners and dog owners can be very different. How has that played out in your career working with both products for cats and dogs?

Sarah Salva: You know, it’s funny because it’s hard to make that mental switch. If you’ve been spending a year developing dog products that you’ve seen a lot of success, you automatically want to apply those learnings to the cat products, but you really have to kind of just wash the slate clean and almost start over a little bit. I always knew cat owners and dog owners, you know, it’s always kind of a running joke that dog people and cat people, but they really are different, different lifestyles, different hobbies, and that’s just something you really have to pay attention to.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned research from the American Pet Products Association at the beginning of this episode. Every year, the APPA holds the Global Pet Expo – the world’s largest annual trade show devoted to pet products. This year, it’s moving to a fully digital experience due to COVID-19. How are you planning to adapt your company’s event to a virtual forum?

Sarah Salva: So with the absence of having in-person connections this year, we are certainly having to adapt our approach, but we’re still focused on having valuable one-on-one time with retailers and development partners. But the good news is, even though the virtual booth is only open for a week, we’re not limited to celebrating at Global Pet and making those connections in just that one week. So typically, you know, you’ve got three nights that you’ve got to plan your kind of engagements, and now we’re getting to kind of celebrate the whole month of March to launch our new product. H&C has always been known to make a really big splash at Global from our booth to the Happy Hours to who we’re bringing in to see the products. But you know, this year will be no different. And we have some really big plans in the works that we hope to be able to announce soon.

Adrian Tennant: Andrea Laurent Simpson, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas is the author of a book entitled, Just Like Family: How Companion Animals Joined The Household. Her view is that in the US, pets are increasingly serving as surrogate children for Millennials who can’t afford to start families or for single people who forego having children. Sarah, do you agree with her assessment?

Sarah Salva: I definitely agree that that’s part of the equation. I know that my husband and I had two dogs long before we even thought about having kids. So it taught us a lot about, you know, kind of our lifestyle and types of things that we like to do together with our dogs, but also the limitations of, you know, not just being two adults, kind of free to do whatever we want. We still had shared responsibilities. I think the other part that I really love about the Millennials really bringing pets in is that they really aren’t breed-focused. So I’ve really loved seeing the surge in the shelter adoptions, among younger people.

Adrian Tennant: In 22 US cities, the term “pet owner” has been replaced with “guardian” in municipal codes, suggesting that pets are increasingly viewed like people. So do you think we’re on the verge of seeing civil rights for cats and dogs?

Sarah Salva: You know, maybe. I’m not so sure that dogs and cats should get a vote for President, but if it further protects them from abuse or harm, then I’m all for it. I have definitely wished that I could count my dog as a dependent on my taxes though!

Adrian Tennant: A $1.6 billion segment of the US insurance market, pet insurance is growing at about 17% a year. Now, despite its rapid growth, only about 2.5 million US pets are insured – of which about 80% are dogs, but that’s still less than 3% of all pets in total, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Now given that 30% of pets in Sweden and 23% in the UK are insured, Sarah, why do you think Americans have been slow to adopt insurance for pets?

Sarah Salva: You know, I don’t think that it’s very well marketed actually. You know, I’ve been a dog owner since the day I graduated from college and I didn’t really know that it existed until starting my job at H&C which is an amazing company that offers a discount for pet insurance. So I really think that, much like cat calming products, other countries have really done a really good job at marketing this and making it kind of a norm. So, you know, when you think about adopting a dog or a cat, for us, our first step is go to the vet, find a vet, but I think that the first step, at shelters and stuff around the world is hooking the pet parent up with an insurance company.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. Well, originally from the UK, I can tell you the vets and the insurance companies kind of work with one another. So yeah, much more acceptable over that. Sarah. How optimistic are you about the pet industry’s prospects for growth over the next few years?

Sarah Salva: You know, I think that it’s only going to continue to grow. We don’t see any sign that it’s going to decline or level off. I’m continually surprised looking at other companies and the great innovations they have coming out. Whenever you think, what else can we possibly offer to our dog or cat? Every year we see a ton of new stuff, so people are just gonna continue to, buy, buy, buy, because they love their pets.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. What have you bought for your pets in the last month?

Sarah Salva: We have been very focused on dental in the last few months. Kind of got a little slap on the wrist from our vet last month that I wasn’t brushing vigorous teeth enough. So we have invested in new toothbrushes and toothpaste to make sure that it’s something that she actually enjoys. This is a shameless plug, but we have found that she likes the poultry flavor toothpaste from Virbac in case anybody is looking for recommendations. So it’s really been a focus on how we make dental health more like a treat for her and not something that she’s going to dread.

Adrian Tennant: Have you ever signed up to a pet subscription box service?

Sarah Salva: I have, so we have tested out Barkbox. H&C actually used to have one called Wag Healthy Club. You could find it on Amazon. We don’t offer that option any more, but it was a really good way to get kind of samples out to people’s hands of different vet-quality products. But I love subscription boxes. I think it’s a really fun surprise every month.

Adrian Tennant: For anyone listening, that’s either a student of marketing or has recently graduated, what advice would you give them for finding their first position in a marketing role?

Sarah Salva: I think find a product or service that you’re truly passionate about. It’s a lot easier to market to consumers when you have something in common with them. So, you know, whether this is turning a hobby into a career or a chance with a really small startup,  that’s doing something really cool, if you really enjoy the product, it’s just so much easier to get behind it.

Adrian Tennant: Away from work, what inspires you? Are you a reader, a podcast listener, a music fan?

Sarah Salva: We as a family – we really love being outside. So we play a lot of golf. We hike, we spend time in our garden. You know, no matter the season though, I love to incorporate wine into all of my hobbies. So I guess you could say that that’s another thing that inspires me.

Adrian Tennant: Now I understand that after five years with H&C Animal Health, you’re moving to a new role with a brand that I think we all know pretty well.

Sarah Salva: Yeah, it was a really tough decision to make. I have had such good experiences over the past few years with Chuck and the rest of the team here, but I have a fantastic opportunity outside of pets with Scotts Miracle-Gro. So I’m very excited to continue growing and learning and to also be, you know, marketing for products, in my other passion, which is gardening.

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about the brands you’ve been working on at H&C Animal Health, where can they find information?

Sarah Salva: Check us out on Instagram @HCAnimalHealth, @DailyDosePet, or coming soon, @ScientiaPet. 

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

Sarah Salva: Thank you for having me.

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

Jessica Neyer: Telehealth is interesting. Everyone was trying to understand “is this just  a fad?” And now they’re realizing how incredibly easy telehealth makes certain appointments with your physician and they want it now, they’re demanding it.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Jessica Neyer, VP of Strategy with Mend, a telemedicine company making a big announcement on next week’s IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Sarah Salva, Director of Marketing and Brand Development at H&C Animal Health. You’ll find 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.” If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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