Monthly Archives

November 2020

Lightbox Loves: The Case for Brand Marketing in 2021

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Despite a record breaking 15.5% growth in GDP across Q3 2019, the UK economy was 8.2% per cent smaller than it was before the pandemic at the end of September. That’s also before the second national lockdown came into effect, which will likely stall growth according to the chancellor Rishi Sunak. With it being harder than ever for brands and marketers to plan for the long term, many are turning to the allure of optimised, cost-effective performance marketing channels for their 2021 planning, but the case for brand optimising is as strong as it ever was for brands looking to grow their long-term profitability.

Released last week, WARC’s Marketer Toolkit 2021 (compiled from a global survey of marketing executives) had some notable insights with 70% of respondents reporting budget cuts to brand advertising as well as significant cuts to sponsorships/partnerships. On the flip side, 70% of respondents reported plans to increase investment in online video, as well as 64% on mobile. Arguably, these figures might also reflect the acceleration of e-commerce growth and not just the cost-effective promise of traditional activation channels such as digital, but the figures ultimately indicate a tilt towards activation marketing at the expense of brand marketing.

Activation channels such as online video will appeal to marketing executives in a year where profitability is likely to be key concern, but balancing the ratio of brand and activation marketing towards the latter often leads to a decline in Share of Voice, which is highly correlated with Share of Market. Peter Field reviewed marketing strategies from the 2008 recession, and found that businesses with Excess Share of Voice – the difference between a brand’s share of voice and a brand’s share of market – reported 5 times as many large business effects (such as profit, share and penetration) and 4.5 times the annual market share growth. Field goes on to argue that unless absolutely necessary, brands looking to increase their long-term profitability beyond a recession shouldn’t cut their brand marketing spend.

Of course, we should caveat that Field’s recommendations are contingent on the future behaving like the past – and though we are in a recession, we are in the first pandemic-based downturn of the modern age. The significance of this distinction was played out over the summer with the lifting of restrictions, which saw unprecedented growth in GDP with an enormous release of pent up demand – which is likely to happen again for the Christmas season come December 2nd. Naturally, this would make the case for brands to focus on direct-to-customer marketing strategies in the immediate term. Beyond Christmas however, tricky times lie ahead in 2021 and beyond with the triple threat of slower growth, the arrival of Brexit as well as possible tax increases to pay for the cost of Covid-19. This is where the lessons from the past are likely to become more relevant, and with advertisers planning to reduce brand marketing spend despite a strong “at-home” culture persisting into the new year, this could create a buyer’s market for ambitious brands looking to grow their market share beyond 2020 and Covid-19 through channels like TV and Radio.

Lightbox Loves: Memory Lane

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2020: the year of looking back. Our nostalgia research in April showed that 1 in 3 were feeling nostalgic about the past 12 months and many were participating in nostalgic hobbies. With lockdown 2.0 now upon us, there has been a shift, with half now looking back at 5+ years ago and to their childhood, rather than this past year (up 34% April-November). And let’s face it. By now, most of us have spent this past 12 months indoors, so this shift is perhaps to be expected. A condition once described as a ‘neurological disease of essentially demonic cause’ by a Swiss doctor in 1688 – nostalgia – it is very much a mainstay in 2020.

Here at the7stars, we’ve been following the impact of nostalgia for the past year. So what does it do for us? Nostalgia acts as a buffer against existential threats, particularly relevant in the era of Covid-19. Especially in times of isolation or heightened anxiety. “It changes the narrative you’re constantly telling yourself — reminding yourself you do have people who love and care for you even if you haven’t had a hug in a while,” claims Dr. Lasana Harris assistant psychology professor from UCL. Memories of childhood often evoke this intimacy and comfort which we all long for.

It is also likely to occur in those who are classed as ‘bored,’ with their mind seeking purpose through times of inactivity. Across music and fashion alone, these trends have been more than evident. Spotify users have been feeling the blues, with data showing that lockdown measures altering the trend of nostalgia consumption, with it peaking roughly 60 days after policies were announced, driven by the drastic change caused by lockdown rather than the virus itself. And with so many of us WFH, the velour tracksuit brand that was once confined to the 90s and Paris Hilton – Juicy Couture – is once again trending.

Arguably, nostalgia will be even more potent this lockdown due to the time of year and the dark, wet winter we’re facing. 8 in 10 of us get nostalgic at certain times of the year, and a peak time for reminiscing is Christmas. With the pandemic restricting events and gatherings, it’s likely that an increased number of us will be thinking back to past celebrations to feel festive this year; whether that’s through a dress formally reserved for Christmas parties, old photos or through a mulled wine, many of us will have to find different ways to remember festive traditions this Christmas.

So with the festive season fast approaching, there’s an opportunity for brands to help bring traditions and re-invent traditions outside the home and with others, and bring them into the home and adhere to social distancing. By giving consumers a taste of what life used to be like, brands can leverage emotions to trigger dormant purchase intent for items or lifestyle changes they hadn’t been remembered up until now.

Lightbox Loves: Cancel Culture

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Birthed as a way of dealing ‘with the problem of power: who has it and who does not,’ cancel culture is a
way of withdrawing support for public figures or companies after they have done something offensive; by
armouring social media users as some sort of online vigilante squad that comes to the helm of justice
when delegated people and organisations fail to do so. Since its birth, there have been many names that
it has called, and none more prominent than Donald Trump – a man that many wanted cancelled even
before ‘cancel culture’ was a thing.

To understand why this is, we must first explore the issues of cancel culture. A concept devised by
human and applicated by humans, will inevitably bare the complexity of human beings. Yes, cancel
culture is new but the metaethics of it has been a long, long existing conundrum. The issue here is in the
contradiction of cancelling; in that if you cancel something the whole objective is to draw less attention to
it and ultimately guide people from perceiving that thing any further, but in actuality it does the opposite.

Take Trump again as an example. He amassed a greater following during the 2020 election than
previously. After four years of controversy, democrats and cancel culture campaigners alike would have
thought that with his colours shown, Trump would be heroically defeated. Instead, Trump found more
white working-class voters than the 2016 election and also managed to increase his votes in Florida and
Texas. Arguably the rhetoric for why he should be cancelled drove more ardent supporters.

This is not the only issue with cancel culture. It has manifested itself into an online judicial system,
bringing fourth anyone to the stand that says anything that causes any single remote of offence, which in
turn has detrimentally diluted its cause and created a massive riot within the camp. Thus, better
guidelines need to be established in order to properly distinguish those who need to be held to account
online, aka ‘cancelled’ (even if for a short while). Otherwise, you stand to make a martyr out of someone.
It is essential for partakers in cancel culture to understand the difference between when someone offends
you, compared to when someone is harming you.

So what can brands take out of this? That consumers are always watching, especially in an era of social
media. Ensuring every decision corresponds with clear values is one way to help navigate cancel culture.
That and transparency, which half of consumers find important when choosing what brand to use. Own
up to mistakes, just like we as humans should also do, and be willing to evolve with your customers.

Lightbox Loves: Frightful Delight

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Step aside light-hearted entertainment; indulge in a fear-inducing horror instead. I’m a bit late onto the hype around Sky’s historical drama Chernobyl, based on the nuclear power plant explosion of 1986. A horror, but not in the way we traditionally identify this genre. Nonetheless, it tapped into many emotions that echo that of the current climate; shock, anxiety, fear, all in the wake of the unthinkable coming true. Moving away from true dramas to horror, it turns out that fright is a good way to combat episodes of high stress and release a much needed hit of dopamine for many of us whilst we’re are stuck indoors.

Horror movies have long offered a way for viewers to see their concerns validated, with the genre well equipped to address real issues audiences might have. According to a professor at Baylor University, “The horror genre has always been a highly socially attuned genre because it draws on what we’re afraid of, and what we’re afraid of changes from era to era.” Therefore, horror is often more in tune with our day-to-day lives than we initially give it credit for, and an important output of concerns felt in society.

As fears in real life feel a lot more manageable in fictional settings, horror films enable audiences to come to terms with their emotions in a safe space. According to the director of the Anxiety Disorders Centre at the Institute of Living, “as we gain a sense of mastery over fear, real-world concerns such as the COVID pandemic become less scary to us as well.” Therefore, it can be argued that horrors are actually good for our health, making us less distressed in real life in the face of pandemic. With the7stars QT showing that Brits’ happiness was decreasing again in October, it is now more pertinent than ever to ensure people feel in control of their reactions to the circumstances that we face.

Furthermore, the immersive nature of horror means that this genre equates to a strong physical reaction, whether it be shock or excitement. Whilst we all know that laughing is a powerful endorphin boost, so – according to the University of Oxford – is horror. Raised adrenaline levels helps people feel reinvigorated, with both laughter and suspense putting the body under the same forms of stress that release endorphins.

Therefore, in the same way that humour is also beneficial to cater to consumer needs at times of uncertainty, it is important not to discount their need for dopamine through more extreme forms of entertainment. Where relevant, brands have the opportunity to provide escapism through some of the stimulations seen in horror, to excite consumers looking for a distraction as we brace ourselves for a lockdown 2.0.