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Lightbox Loves: A fresh start?

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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.

Lightbox Loves: The Spirit of the Season

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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.

Lightbox Loves: The Original Misunderstood Generation

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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!

Lightbox Loves: The Best of 2020 (Yes, There Were Good Parts)

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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.

Lightbox Loves: Green Friday

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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.

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: 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.

Lightbox Loves: Buy Now, Pay Later

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Frictionless credit is great for retailers and for the majority of consumers who are able to split the cost. PayPal’s announcement of their new ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) proposition ahead of the Black Friday and Christmas shopping season highlights the popularity of rising interest in free credit companies in the market.

An increasing number of brands have linked with these BNPL payment firms, from retail to electronics to homeware, all offering this service to give their customers flexibility, whilst providing benefits for themselves. According to one BNPL brand Klarna, “retailers typically see a 68% increase in average order value with Klarna Installments.” The brand incurs little risk by getting paid upfront and in full, while the customer gets the option to pay later or over time; “enhancing the full customer shopping journey” according to Klarna.

The concept is particularly popular with millennials, with companies branding themselves a “simpler and smarter” alternative for a credit card. However, given the latest version of our QT found that 29% of Brits are less comfortable on their income than this time last year, with 35% of those aged 25-34 feeling less comfortable (vs. 29% of Brits), there needs to be acknowledgement for the risk of this format for some consumers.

Concerns have been raised to whether BNPL is resulting in an increased number of young customers being in debt. One price comparison website found that the average debt owed to BNPL firms has hit £176, with 1 in 5 shoppers claiming to use this service. Step Change, the UK’s leading debt charity, claims: “Along with convenience there’s a more worrying aspect [of BNPL]: by encouraging you to defer the reality of paying precisely at the moment you are focused on the goods you wish to buy, there’s a risk that when the time to pay does come, it might not be affordable.”

There’s little doubt that these fintech firms have taken the market by storm and are continuing to do so, altering purchasing norms. They facilitate a frictionless shopping experience, that in a hugely competitive landscape can make the difference between a brand securing a customer’s business or losing them to the competition.

Nonetheless, perhaps more emphasis needs to be placed on the latter action of ‘buy now, pay later,’ so that consumers are actively being encouraged by brands and BNPL sites to think ahead when making these purchases and being made more aware of the risks; particularly important now in the uncertain economic landscape we’re facing with Covid-19.

Lightbox Loves: Ten Years of Instagram

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Last week marked social media giant Instagram’s tenth birthday. Ten years have passed since the site’s launch on October 6th 2010, when 25,000 signed up within the first 24 hours. A lot has changed since then. In 2012 the app was bought by Facebook for $1 billion, advertising opportunities followed shortly after in 2013; in 2016 Instagram Stories were launched, co-opted from their Snapchat counterpart; and short-form video reels were introduced earlier this year.

In 2020, with the nation under various states of COVID restrictions and the world experiencing a dystopian-esque reality, digital communications took centre stage. Undoubtedly, lockdown saw an increased reliance on social media. the7stars post-Lockdown August QT found that 65% of 18-24-year olds agreed online platforms and communities allow them to feel connected to more people.

Instagram – the home of holiday photos and picture-perfect brunches – transformed. With the nation confined indoors, social media held a new power for connection, entertainment, information and socialising. It was home to fundraising initiatives for the NHS, crazes to keep the nation occupied and a multitude of live-streams by performers. In June, 28 million people posted black squares on their feed for #BlackoutTuesday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Nonetheless, only time will tell how enduring these Instagram transformations prove to be.

It’s difficult to predict where Instagram will be in the next decade. 2020 has seen trends that may shape the future of the app, such as the introduction of reels, the use of the donation sicker, and the trial of hidden likes. The in-app shopping experience is also likely to be developed further; with over half of Brits now shopping online, driven mainly by 18-34s, which has remained strong since the relaxing of lockdown. It seems that this is a shift here to stay.

Instagram has successfully demonstrated its ability to evolve and adapt to the benefit of both its users and brand advertisers. A far cry from its humble origins as a mobile check-in app, we look forward to seeing what the next 10 years hold for this platform. Happy Birthday Insta!

The QT, the7stars, August 2020
https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/celebrating-10-years-of-instagram-infographic/586415/
https://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2020/10/06/instagram-10-what-does-its-future-look
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/sep/20/instagram-at-10-how-sharing-photos-has-entertained-us-upset-us-and-changed-our-sense-of-self