The world recently observed Earth Day so it felt natural to check in and take cultural stock of how the US environmental ‘movement’ is doing in 2016.
Much of today’s eco-messaging seems geared at myth busting and actively trying to reposition sustainability around ‘smart’ business, valuing workers and the experiential benefits of ‘going green’. The end goal appears to distance itself from the stereotypical ‘tree hugger’ persona and incentives limited to the moral ‘feel good’ factor.
Cultural trends tend to be behavioral markers of broader, deeper attitudinal movements and shifts so it makes sense that different trend categories can share the same perceptual foundations. Finding those connections between categories is the fun part. Below are some armchair observations on possible areas of cultural overlap:
- Minimalism Is In – Beyond design or aesthetics, this trend is also informing lifestyle choices and consumption habits (who doesn’t have a copy of Marie Kondo’s book?), and the back-to-basics/whole foods/locavorism movement. Consumers want to buy less, and buy better. The impact this has on sustainability means less waste and a greater emphasis on ‘mindful consumption’.
- Go Big or Go Home – Much like the diehard adherence to certain trends around exercise (e.g., Crossfit, High-Intensity Interval Training – HIIT) and diet (e.g., Paleo, veganism) there appears to be manifestations of extremism in “green” behaviors as well, with the philosophy of ‘go big, or go home’ infusing the conversation around how much of a ‘true’ environmentalist one is (e.g., zero waste proponents, air travel abstainers).
- Empowering the Consumer – Much of the messaging is about raising literacy levels so consumers can make informed choices and effect change with their purchase decisions. The idea is that informed demand can and will affect supply, making sustainable options the norm rather than the exception at the store or workplace.
- Worker’s Rights – Think of the Occupy movement and conversations around minimum wage, not to mention presidential nominee platforms. Emphasis has shifted to workers’ rights, the 99%, and resource intelligence that extends beyond natural to include human resources. Corporate responsibility, fair trade, and profit sharing are all practices some consumers now actively seek out in their brands.
It will be interesting to watch the continued ‘mainstreaming’ of the green movement — and its interplay with broader cultural forces – as well as how the national and international conversation (and legislation) changes as a result.
You don’t need to be a market researcher to notice a shift in how products are marketed to women. While seeing less pink and weird blue fluids are well received in my book, I have noticed something about the way some of these ads are framed, particularly in think pieces from marketing and advertising newsletters that I wasn’t sure if I agreed with: hailing these advertisements as empowering to women. I fully support efforts that educate consumers and provide them with the necessary information to make best decisions for themselves. But I had to wonder what exactly does it mean for these advertisements to empower women and do they really hit the mark? Read More
It’s nice to see more and more art and architecture being preserved by businesses as they renovate their spaces. Here in Durham, North Carolina the re-imagining of manufacturing sites, office buildings, store fronts, etc. have resulted in a collection of old-meets-new style spaces, including the American Tobacco campus, Golden Belt, The Durham Hotel, and the 21C Hotel downtown.
In St. Louis, a lobby ceiling sculpture by Isamu Noguchi was recently rediscovered in a U-Haul office when drop ceilings were removed. As a result, the regional office owner decided to restore the ceiling and display it for all to see.
It’s refreshing to see that progress doesn’t always mean throwing out the existing or traditional, especially in our public and business spaces which can often feel cold or impersonal as new spaces are designed and built. The New York Times highlighted this recently in an article regarding airport spaces that seem to forget the people actually using them.
Last week, W5 attended the 2nd annual Quirk’s Event in Brooklyn. The two-day conference offered inspiring sessions, fruitful networking and even a MR Jam Session. While we were unable to attend all the sessions, we wanted to share a few of our favorites. Here is our third highlight summary.
At Quirk’s 2016, Millennial insights provider Ypulse shared a few stats and insights gleaned from its ongoing surveys of Millennials and Teens.
If you are even remotely involved in the marketing world, you may feel you’ve heard the word “Millennial” so many times it has started to lose its meaning. Suffice it to say, Millennials make up a large portion of the population and hold significant spending power. The definition of Millennial seems to differ by source, but Ypulse defines this audience as those born between 1982 and 2004, putting them in the 12-34 age bracket in 2016.
The presentation described Millennials as individualistic, with a somewhat entitled mindset, largely influenced by Boomer parents, and a lifestyle of constant connectedness. Among the many social implications of a tech-dependent life, a key insight from Ypulse was that Millennials “crave moments of surprise and delight.”
Constant connectedness means instant gratification, predictability, immediate answers to questions, and a world at their fingertips. This leaves little surprise in life. Millennials are often unimpressed by marketing, in large part due to predictability. They not only recognize, but understand how and why an ad is following them throughout their digital day. According to Ypulse, 74% of Millennials say brands rarely do something that surprises them. Ypulse also hears from Millennials that they want brands to act “human.”
Below are a few examples that were shared, showcasing brand and company efforts to capitalize on this idea of “moments of surprise and delight,” thwarting predictability:
- SHIP YOUR ENEMIES GLITTER – check out this business of Glitter Bomb pranking here.
- SEAMLESS ROULETTE – this service has since been closed (at the request of Seamless), but it was essentially an online food order and delivery service with a twist: you don’t know what meal you are getting until it arrives…surprise!
- OREOS MINI DELIVERY – This campaign is also no longer live but the brand created a microsite for fans to order a tiny package of Oreo Minis for delivery to a friend/loved one, along with a personalized note. The catch to create demand was that only 500 boxes per day were available for order and the campaign was only live for a period of 11 days. The Ypulse presenter talked about her multiple attempts to order, which were always met with the ‘sold out’ message.
- DORITOS ROULETTE – Doritos Roulette chips have one extremely spicy chip per bag. You of course don’t know which it is until you get to it. The Ypulse presenter described groups of millennials sitting around a circle taking one chip at a time until one lucky person got the spice bomb.
All entertaining examples, but there may be ways to “surprise and delight” that aren’t quite as overt. Surprise and delight can also come from being relatable in subtle, unexpected ways. The quote about Millennials wanting brands to act “human” definitely resonates.
I remember when virtual reality tried to go mainstream in the mid-80s, big, heavy headsets and poor computer graphics let you walk around a world that looked like a big pixel. It was interesting but even the teenage me was unimpressed. Jump forward to now and virtual reality has become cheap and nimble.
Enter Google Cardboard. For about $15 you can have a virtual reality headset sent to you. Slide your smartphone in, put your headphones on and you’re off.
Sure there are more expensive headsets from Samsung or Facebook, but why bother? The experience on Google Cardboard is excellent enough to make you lose your balance or walk into chairs.
The New York Times sent its subscribers a free headset a while back and has been putting excellent content on its VR app: NYT VR. For now it’s just a cool toy, but I can see how the marriage of cheap headsets, smartphones, and apps, will lead to new ways to communicate, learn, get the news, etc.
Today there are more than 115,000 English-language podcasts available on the internet. Not only are podcasts a great source for learning and entertainment, companies and brands see the untapped value of expanding into podcasting. Building recognition for certain SEO keywords, appealing to people who like to listen instead of read and offering a weekly reason for listeners to come back and engage with the brands are just a few.
With the holidays upon us and road trips, airport lounging and long flights on the horizon, we wanted to share a list of our favorite podcasts here at W5, along with a few others.
The Unconventionals is PJA’s award-winning podcast tells the stories of brands and business leaders doing business the other way
Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.
99% Invisible with Roman Mars is a Tiny Radio Show about design, architecture and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world. Check out Mars’ recent Ted Talk, too: Why City Flags May Be the Worst Designed Thing You’ve Ever Noticed.
Last week IIR hosted The Market Research Event (TMRE) 2015 in Orlando – one of the market research industry’s leading events that brings together the best and brightest from across the globe. This year was no exception to past TMRE’s featuring awe-inspiring keynote speakers like best-selling author Seth Godin and Jonah Berger. Additionally, the conference offered over 100+ speaker sessions cover MR topics from Behavioral Economics to Brand Innovation to Consumer Experience and featured leading brands like Kellogg, Procter & Gamble, Lululemon and Anheuser-Busch to name a few.
Heading into the third and final day of the event, notebooks were full and everyone’s gas tank was nearing empty. It has been two solid days of learning and collaborating with peers in the industry, followed by cocktail parties and dinners with friends. But still, we all showed up at 9:00 am with anticipation of the third and final keynote speaker, Dan Ariely.
For those of you unfamiliar, Dan Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and best-selling author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. Ariely is known for his research and (often amusing and unorthodox) experiments that question the forces that influence human behavior and the irrational ways in which we often behave. Ariely is no stranger to the stage. He has been featured in numerous TED talks since 2009. At TMRE the point of the presentation was simply: we are predictably irrational. Read More
There is a new grocery store coming to a hipster area near you. Whole Foods Market announced plans to open 365 by Whole Foods Market, a new small store concept that is millennial-geared and a lower-cost version of its current grocery store chain in the U.S.
Whole Foods announced the five cities slated for the initial roll out in late 2016: Bellevue, Portland, Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Houston. What do they all have in common? Hipster populations. The first of the new chain of stores is in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, named America’s No. 1 hippest hipster neighborhood by Forbes. Additionally, these are all markets where Whole Foods currently has a presence.
A recent study by Sullivan Higdon & Sink, Our Plight to Eat Right, found that less than half (44%) of Americans say they are firmly committed to a healthy diet while 62% say it’s expensive to eat healthy, citing cost as a barrier. Will 365 by Whole Foods remove this barrier with lower price points and convenience to key neighborhoods? Perhaps. Christy Niebaum, senior FoodThink researcher at SHS, makes the point – “Americans are busy and they look for the easiest shortcut to reach their wellness goals while avoiding extreme changes. Our research continues to show us that certain food choices have an emotional impact on consumers, who will get overwhelmed if marketers don’t offer relevant and simple healthy eating advice.”
To be successful 365 stores may be required to go beyond the appeal of hipster Millennials and target a broader audience of cost-conscious consumers. Whatever the strategy, competitors and marketers alike will be watching very closely as stores roll out in 2016.
Even though fall has just officially began, many familiar autumn products have been on the shelves for what seems like quite some time. From flannel and sweaters to pumpkin everything, many consumers suspect fall trends make their way earlier and earlier each year. However, this is more than speculation as some fall products have indeed joined in on extra early releases. For example, this year Southern Tier Brewing Company released the popular imperial pumpkin ale, Pumking, as early as July.
Pumpkin beers, like their warm and caffeinated cousin the Pumpkin Spice Latte, tend to be a love it or hate it product. However, in spite of pumpkin beer’s polarity, there’s no denying the significance of its market presence. In 2013, according to Craft Brewing Business, pumpkin beer sales turned a 125,000 lag in case sales into a 300,000 case surplus. Each year, more and more craft breweries offer up a pumpkin beer for their fall line ups to meet the consumer demand. BeerAdvocate currently has over 900 different pumpkin beers listed on their website, many with delightfully punny names.
Additionally, interest and demand in pumpkin beers also has an earlier start in the year and only shows signs of increasing. According to Brewers Association research, Google searches for “pumpkin beer” in 2014 edged out searches for all other seasonal beers and even outsold the reigning craft champion style, the IPA, in the fall.
As pumpkin beer interest and sales continue to expand past a narrow and arbitrary association with October and Halloween, it will be interesting to see how it influences consumers’ perceptions of craft and seasonal beers. Will beer drinkers accept pumpkin beer in July or year round with open pint glasses or meet it with a raised brow?
For more information on consumers’ seasonal thirst for other pumpkin products, check out the latest report from Neilson here. For a more in-depth look at craft beer in North Carolina, read last year’s W5 blog post here.