Throughout the last year, with many of us feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the impact of the pandemic, we turned to memories of the past for comfort. This involved revisiting old favourite TV shows, films and music as this brought a sense of nostalgia during such an uncertain time.
According to a Nielsen study conducted with Billboard in the USA, which explored the impact of the pandemic on entertainment consumption, it showed that more the half of consumers sought comfort in familiar music and TV shows – with 54% recently rewatching episodes of an old favourite TV show. This trend was also observed in the UK where according to a survey by Uswitch, 45% of Brits rewatched the sitcom Friends.
Looking at what is driving this trend, an article by Stylist discussed how when rewatching old favourites, or listening to old music we are remembering the good memories that are associated with them, whilst also longing for those “better” times.
To accompany this, there as also been a rise of TV recap podcasts. Although not a new trend, it is something that has certainly picked up pace during the pandemic with revisiting of old favourite TV shows. These podcasts are hosted by former stars of the show, such as The Office, where they provide listeners first-hand experience of their production.
One example is the popular podcast called; Fake Doctors, Real Friends, which features Scrubs co-stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison, who relive the hit TV show, discussing an episode of the show each week. In an interview with The Ringer, Braff explained that the podcast happened to appear at a time when people were more likely to revisit Scrubs, as it offers their audience an excuse to focus on something other than the pandemic.
They are not the only ones who have taken advantage of this trend. ‘Talking Sopranos’, debuted last year hosted by former Sopranos stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa, and the upcoming launch of “Welcome To The OC, Bitches!” in April with Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarkes, comes nearly 18 years after the show’s premiere.
Going back to our favourite TV shows and / or accompanying them with a recap podcast, has offered comfort and escapism from the situation we have been navigating this past year. It will therefore be interesting to see whether this trend will continue and offer opportunities, especially as we start to ease out of lockdown.
Earlier this month, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced he was selling his inaugural tweet, in an auction scheduled to end on March 21st, the fifteenth anniversary of Twitter, with proceeds donated to charity. At the time of writing, the highest bid is $2.5m.
The contents of this tweet, you ask? “just setting up my twttr”.
That’s it. That’s the tweet.
The auction is the most outlandish use to date of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a craze which – from video basketball trading cards to William Shatner memorabilia – is revolutionising the collectibles market. NFTs are digital entries on the blockchain – the technology used by cryptocurrencies – and thus cannot be altered. Each token is unique, and the purchaser receives no physical copy. Once Dorsey’s tweet has been sold, it will still be accessible to anyone online who wishes to view it, free of charge.
Much like Bitcoin, the NFT market is booming, having grown by more than 705% in three years to $338m, according to Forbes, as tech entrepreneurs scramble to invest in rival auction services. That growth is snowballing in 2021, fuelled by ludicrous price-tags like the $69m just paid for a .jpg file at a Christies auction.
While these tokens may seem to appeal only to millionaires with cash to burn, NFTs could play a pivotal role in the future of digital media. The technology offers a secure route for creators to sell their work, with buyers safe in the knowledge that they are receiving an authentic item. If the owner sells on their token, the original artist receives a cut, as they do for each subsequent sale, creating a continuous source of income not afforded by physical art.
After a decade of creators protesting over lost revenue fuelled by the rise of streaming services – an issue only exacerbated by the pandemic, as shops shuttered and venues closed – NFTs may offer musicians an opportunity to claw back lost royalties. The acclaimed group Kings of Leon are among the first to experiment with the technology, releasing a version of their album this month exclusively as an NFT.
Print media, too, may look to adopt blockchain technology. Fuelled by a near-terminal decline in advertising revenue, many titles have sought to implement paywalls, with varying degrees of success. NFTs could offer an alternate source of revenue for publishers, where consumers participate in microtransactions for individual articles.
While NFTs represent only digital works for now, this could change. In 2019, Nike obtained a patent which allows it to create blockchain-compatible trainers – where the token would serve as a digital certificate of the shoes’ authenticity. Should Nike’s experiment prove fruitful, other brands will surely follow.
The use of non-fungible tokens is not without controversy, however. Far from a sustainable breakthrough, the carbon footprint of producing an NFT is enormous – one piece of digital art created by the musician Grimes produced an estimated 70 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Furthermore, like any booming market, the risk of investing in NFTs is substantial: many in the financial world have long predicted that the blockchain bubble would burst in much the same vein as the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s. So far, their predictions have come up short.
Whether the recent NFT craze will have a lasting impact on the digital media industry remains to be seen. Yet, after a year in which almost every aspect of life was forced to adapt to a new digital normal, brands should turn a blind eye to this latest trend at their peril.
Despite holiday booking season thrown into chaos by changing and conflicting government advice, most Brits remain hopeful for a holiday this year. A certain level of realism remains; most currently hope to follow Matt Hancock for a “Great British summer”. This is evident in booking patterns: last week, Pitchup, an online glamping platform, was 92% up on sales year-on-year. Sales even accelerated after Grant Shapps warned against booking travel. Nonetheless a quarter dream of travelling to Europe and 15% still hope to fly to more distant destinations.
But what are we so keen to escape? What does our hopes for holidays say about us? And with travel still uncertain, how can brands help fulfil these urges?
1) An escape from the day-to-day
Parents of kids under five are the most hopeful to get away. They are not fussy – their wish to escape is prevalent across all destinations. Over half are looking forward to a UK break. It seems that after a year of childcare issues, working from home and parental leave indoors, they are desperate for any change of scenery. Brands can offer audiences a respite from the stasis with gardening, homewares, and decoration to create a sense of change and renewal. And with Mother’s Day on the horizon, they can consider how they to support mums in much need of a break.
2) An escape for new experiences?
With record youth unemployment, a disastrous exam season and isolated universities students, it is no surprise that Gen Z are dreaming of flying far, far away. Four in ten 18-24s hope to get out of Europe – ten times the 4% of their Gen X parents’ generation with the same aim. Brands such as John Lewis have tapped into the human need for new experiences, with their online experiences covering everything from dog grooming through to wine tasting. Meanwhile, Audible continue to use the slowdown of international travel to promote their subscription service under the line “fly Audible to travel the world”.
3) An escape to new cultures?
While Londoners are equally likely to anticipate a staycation, they are the region keenest to leave the country altogether. A third want to escape to Europe and a third wish to go farther still. Used to the world’s cuisine and culture on their doorstep, has lockdown life driven this urge to get abroad? A rise in themed “culture nights” see some groups pick “destinations” and select food, drinks and entertainment from this country, can brands tap into this trend? And as out of home leisure re-opens, there may be opportunities for pubs and restaurants to offer more immersive cultural experiences.
With normality of international travel still some time away, brands should think laterally about how they can help provide an escape from the ongoing cabin fever of lockdown life.
A new year is often a prime opportunity to pause, reflect and welcome in a fresh start. Whilst it might feel that 2021 has not yet brought us the changes we all hoped for, this is not stopping us from wanting to strive over the months ahead.
Almost 1 in 3 of us have made New Year’s Resolutions for 2021, with 1 in 10 claiming to be doing so for the very first time (LightboxPulse, 2021). However, these goals and resolutions are not ground-breaking nor transformative but instead typical of what we see every new year, or simply building on new positive habits gained during the lockdowns of 2020. Of those setting goals for 2021, keeping up or starting new exercise routines remains a top priority (53%, YouGov 2020), which will help the likes of Joe Wicks and Peloton continue their successes from last year. Furthermore, saving money is also top of our agenda (39%, YouGov 2020), despite 2021 already causing employment disruption for thousands of Brits. This resolution is also likely to be founded on momentum gained in 2020, with 2 in 3 Brits reported to have saved an average of £7k over the course of 2020 (or £15k if you live in London), thanks to reduced outgoings during lockdown (Moneysupermarket.com, 2020).
However, what has jumped up the ranks this year is setting goals around being with loved ones. Out of those who have made resolutions, 1 in 4 have cited spending time with family as a goal for 2021, up 11% pts from 2020 (YouGov, 2020). Whether setting goals or not, 1 in 5 Brits have simply said that any immediate focus will be on being kind to themselves and those around them, further highlighting that this will not be the year of radical transformation (LightboxPulse, 2020).
After a difficult year, where families were forced apart for months on end, it is not a surprise to see some new goals that are more emotionally driven. Brands who continue to communicate these emotions with empathy, instead of the ‘new year, new you’ messaging we’re used to seeing, is likely to engage during this period of extended uncertainty and challenge.
Considering the year we’ve been through, it wouldn’t be hard to believe if goodwill were in short supply this Christmas season. In fact, 56% of Brits surveyed in our November QT said that they are less happy this year than they were last year (the QT, the7stars). The good news is, not even 2020 could dampen our charitable feelings during the most wonderful time of the year.
More than half of Brits are currently planning to maintain or increase their donations to charity (the QT, the7stars). The tireless efforts of charities to address the nation’s most pressing challenges, from health to hunger to homelessness, has helped to shore up confidence in a year when faith in institutions has crumbled. Charities are the third most trusted institution in the nation, after the NHS and the police, while the government and the financial system lag far behind (the QT, the7stars). People are putting their confidence, and their pounds, where they know they can make a positive difference.
This year may even have changed our outlook on presents – for the better. According to YouGov, 60% of Brits would be happy to receive a charitable donation in their name instead of a present this year (YouGov, 2020). Those who are shopping for gifts are also spending more conscientiously. Because of the pandemic, 52% of people have changed the way they shop online, including buying more second-hand items (Canvas8, 2020). A further 65% of Brits plan to carry on with the local shopping habit they have established, regardless of having restrictions or not (Canvas8, 2020).
A further testament to the strength of people’s charitable feelings is the positive response to brand campaigns that have tapped into this sentiment. From Papa John’s to M&S, brands are stepping up their support for charities this Christmas. John Lewis’s ‘Give a Little Love’ advert focused on kindness rather than gift-giving, and has seen a bigger increase in their consideration score than ‘Excited Edgar’ did last year (YouGov, 2020). Walkers’ ‘Sausage CaRoll’ TV and social campaign, starring YouTuber LadBaby and raising money for The Trussell Trust, has driven a word-of-mouth increase of 8.6 points among their key 18-34-year-old audience (YouGov, 2020). Although brands and companies on the whole have taken a hit in confidence levels alongside other institutions this year, they will do well if they remember that kindness isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life.
The excitement over the end of Lockdown 2.0 was overshadowed by another much-anticipated event last week: the release of Spotify’s Wrapped 2020. Racking up more than 43,000 mentions on social in just two days, it’s safe to say that it has become a mainstay of the end-of-year events calendar (Brandwatch, 2020). However, Spotify Wrapped is just part of a long tradition of making ‘Best of the Year’ lists. From The Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2020 to The Guardian’s Best Books of 2020, just about every form of entertainment is covered. We decided to take a look at why these lists might be especially important to us this year.
Looking back, happy and comforting memories has been a key theme throughout 2020. During the first lockdown, the7stars and YouGov found that a quarter of Brits were feeling most nostalgic for moments within the preceding 12 months, compared to any other time of their lives (the7stars.) When asked what helped them feel fondly about the past, 41% of people said listening to old music and 37% said watching old TV shows. We have all experienced the transportive powers of music, films or books associated with a particular place or time in our memories.
You could also say that we have all become greater arts and culture aficionados this year, as it provided much of our company and entertainment during lockdowns. Over Lockdown 2.0, entertainment usage was up across the board: 42% of people used TV and film streaming services more often, 25% streamed more music, 23% listened to more radio and 21% listened to more audiobooks and podcasts (the QT, the7stars.) This year, we might see the critics’ Best Of lists as affirmations of our good tastes (rather than reproaches for all the books we didn’t find time to read).
Collective list writing is also an act of community-building. Spotify exemplifies this well. On the one hand, the Wrapped list is a collection of our personal data and a reflection of our unique music and podcast listening habits. It makes us feel special (that moment of pride when you’re in the top 0.01% of fans of your favourite band), but it also makes us feel part of something bigger when we share it on Twitter or see Spotify’s data about our community posted on OOH.
Our obsession with the recent past says a lot about how we felt this year, but the way we look back also raises some questions about how we will move forward. As Spotify shows, brands who can get meaningfully involved in these conversations will win the hearts of consumers.
Over the last few years, generational divides have felt fiercer; events like Brexit and lockdown have heightened disharmony between old and young seemingly more than ever. Now, words like snowflake, gammon, and boomer, have taken on new, negative, and deliberately insulting meanings. With a history dispelling generational tropes, we set out to understand the truth about baby boomers. Currently in their mid-50s to mid-70s, it’s an extensive group that can be overlooked; the victims of blanket generalisation and sometimes poorly represented in media. It would be remiss for advertisers to continue misunderstanding this 20million-strong audience with a spending power that is up to 17 times greater than millennials’ (FT).
In our recent whitepaper, The Original Misunderstood Generation, we explored stereotypes surrounding baby boomers, including their ability to use technology, the idea that retirement terminates future-planning, and a lack of empathy for younger generations. We were able to understand the origins behind some stereotypes, dispel others entirely and identified one unfortunate universal truth; the experience of ageism.
Defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the “stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age”, ageism is described as the “most normalised of any prejudice”, and, alarmingly, such attitudes have been identified in children as young as three [Frontiers]. The perceived stigma baby boomers feel attached to them simply for their age is rife. It’s so entrenched that 1 in 10 believe ageism is the most important issue facing society. There is a consensus that society has a lack of interest in hearing, seeing, and involving them. This is felt in a lack of representation in advertising and how they are portrayed on TV, through to government support and initiatives targeted at them. Fundamentally, they feel forgotten and undervalued when they feel they have a lot to offer society.
Of all the themes explored in our research, this felt most applicable to the advertising industry. It was, after all, the reason we set out to start the project! So what should we do about it? From our research, we identified three main considerations for advertisers; to be an advocate, to not treat baby boomers as one and the same, and to be more respectful & genuine in comms. For an in depth look at the above topics the full whitepaper is available on the7stars website now and is well worth a read!
It’s safe to say that it’s been a year of challenge and change for retail. Thanks to a global pandemic, many shops have been forced to close their doors for almost four months across the year, losing out on key retail events such as the May bank holidays and Black Friday.
Whilst consumers have changed their shopping habits to support retailers during lockdown – over half of Brits claim they’ll be shopping online more than ever this Christmas – one can’t blame retailers for their eagerness to make up for lost time.
Brands have tried to soften the blow from the Corona-induced retail slump in many ways. Primark announced that eleven of their stores will be open for 24 hours a day post Lockdown 2.0 and Black Friday started three weeks ago for many retailers; a cause for celebration for John Lewis, whose online sales are reported to be up 35% year on year.
However, despite many brands grabbing sales extravaganzas by the horns, other retailers are rejecting this phenomenon, and instead, using this period to challenge consumerism. Shunning away from big price cuts, Sofology instead celebrated Green Friday by reminding their audiences about their sustainability credentials – such as their eco-friendly sofas and PlanTree programme. Similarly, clothing brand Hush has always sat out of Black Friday. This year they’ve made the most of this period of goodwill by donating 20% of their profits to homelessness charity, Crisis – an issue that has only been amplified by the pandemic.
Whilst totally understanding the need for brands to use Black Friday as a recovery mechanism from lockdown, it appears that those who chose not to take part have gained in other ways. Whilst also doing good for wider society, #GreenFriday generated a +11%pt uplift in net sentiment year on year, suggesting that brands who focus on the bigger picture, are also likely to resonate – even if there is no direct benefit to the customer.
Whilst the pandemic has had some devastating implications – one thing that it has highlighted, is the importance of supporting others and wider communities. Brands that can authentically make a positive difference in this area are likely to resonate – with or without price cuts.
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.