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the7stars

Lightbox Loves: Somatovisceral Nonverbal Communication

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In 2017, Oxford University released a report on jobs most and least likely to be automated. It was bad news if you worked in data entry, watch repair or insurance underwriting but good news if you were a dentist, detective or choreographer. Of this latter group, most jobs were essential services, but in the ‘new normal’, choreographers are particularly vulnerable with performance spaces closed to the public. However, this has not reduced the societal need for dance, with Dance Challenge search interest up in the UK almost five-fold since mid-March. So, what is this need for dance, and how can this help us talk to consumers, especially under lockdown?

Dr Carla Walter, a marketing and entrepreneurship professor who just so happens to hold a PhD in Dance Studies, examined dance as advertising language; her principles can help understand this phenomenon. Dance, as a loose descriptor for ritualised movement (from the wedding, to the club, to the meme), creates a socially collective experience; the sense of integration of self into something larger. Here the TikTok challenge is a perfect example, in itself it is a collection of individuals expressing the same movement as a way of socially engaging under lockdown. But why dance here, rather than say song or speech? Walter suggests that the combination of affective, the somatovisceral communication – that dance makes you want to dance – and cognitive, the nonverbal communication – that dance means something – makes the process uniquely powerful.

Privileging the emotional over the linguistic, dance opens itself to interpretation in different contexts, extending its potential reach. Ghanaian dancing pallbearers have moved far from their own context to become a widely used meme in the past month. Indeed there seems to be a viral dance video for every moment; in lockdown, alongside Captain Tom and doughnut-ing Thames ferries, we find the dancing nurses. The ‘imagined freedom and fun’ that Walter suggests is embedded in dance as communication, is expressed through the bodies of the healthcare workers, the very bodies that they risk in service of the public. Their dancing expresses a powerful emotional message of hope that crosses ideological division embedded in speech.

If this hope, freedom and fun is valuable for the public right now, it is equally valuable for brands at a time when creative responses to the crisis have had a little homogeneity. Standing out could involve turning brand posture to dance, in a tradition including everything from the dancing iPod listeners to the ASDA ‘back pocket pat’. And maybe it could help to employ some of those choreographers.

Google Trends 6th May 2020

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/491082

https://adage.com/creativity/work/microsoft-sam-every-covid-19-commercial-exactly-same/2251551

Lightbox Loves: Entertainment, Engagement and Empathy

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Life on furlough is an interesting one. I had big plans at the start of the month, as I’m sure a lot of us did. I was going to become a bi-lingual, athletic, sewing-pro; a much-improved version of myself, so much so I even signed up to do a Harvard Business School course on wellbeing. However, whilst this abundance of free time can offer us a plethora of options to seemingly become more productive than ever, we should not feel like a failure if we haven’t ‘bettered ourselves’ (whatever that means) by the end of it, whenever that might be…

It is very easy for social media to led us to believe that everyone is being super industrious with their free time. Every day presents a new opportunity to bake banana bread, nail the latest TikTok dance or do a home workout (…did not know it was possible to pull a muscle in my hand till I tried this!). It is as if we’re clock-watching, ensuring that we’re accounting for every minute of our day. However, who’s the judge of what we deem to be worthwhile or not? We are, and that’s where we need to be more kind to ourselves about what is realistically achievable during this time. I will be the first to admit that I’ve given all the above a go (switch the banana bread out for Guinness cake, a much better option and far more decadent). However, filling time with self-improvement goals can be exhausting, especially when what you feel most productive doing – for many of us, work – is no longer an option.

As a result, there are lots of opportunities for brands to find ways in which they can support our happiness (and sanity) during these strange times, through offering engagement, entertainment and empathy. To achieve the former, Ancestry offered free access to UK and Ireland records over Easter weekend, to provide focus and escapism to those with a lot more time on their hands than anticipated. To entertain us, Andrew Lloyd Webber is releasing shows every Friday for a limited time on YouTube. To show empathy with parents who are now at home with their children 24-7, Disney unexpectedly made Frozen II available to watch from home.

Brands that communicate with authenticity, clarity and relevancy will have the biggest positive impact. With over two-thirds of respondents agreeing that the way a company responded to the crisis would have an impact on the likelihood of them buying its products in the future, emotionally supporting consumers in this way is vital to long-term usage. As retail consultant, Mary Portas, articulates, “the brands that survive will be the ones we want to buy into, not simply buy from.”

The more ways in which brands engage, entertain and empathise with us during this period, the quicker we will remember them when life returns to some sort of normality. I, for one, know that a retro Flump ice lolly is a sure way to win my affection during this time.

Edelman, Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic, March 30th 2020
Refinery29, No, You Don’t Need To Use Isolation To Write A Novel, 6th April 2020
Portas Agency Newsletter, April 2020
Marketing Tech, How marketing can be a force for good – with Covid-19 helping showcase brand empathy, 14th April

Lightbox Loves: new habits

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Consumers are spending an unprecedented amount of time in their homes, meaning we are all looking for new and exciting ways to keep busy, active and entertained during isolation. Although lockdown period is still in its infancy, brands are already starting to see changes in our behaviour, particularly when it comes to what we’re buying online. For example, Dixon Carphone, the UK’s biggest electrical and mobile phone retailer, has said that online sales for electricals in the UK and Ireland had surged 72% in the past three weeks alone.

This uplift in demand for electrical goods, which could be down to increased home-working, but also an enhanced desire to have the most up-to-date home entertainment products, also extends to gaming. Nintendo’s sales for their latest game: ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ has surpassed all initial sales records previous game releases, and more traditional entertainment brands such as Hasbro have experienced increased searches for their board games and jigsaws on Amazon. Whilst demand for entertainment is surging, so is our desire to keep fit, as we turn to online platforms to buy the equipment we need to stay active. Stationary bike company Pelaton is seeing a rise in stock value, and Amazon seeing yoga mats and resistance band sales increase over the past few weeks. This is correlated with the increase in demand for at-home fitness programmes such as FIIT, Barry’s and The Body Coach, who have all reported an increase in engagement on their owned social content during recent weeks.

As consumers are continuing to adapt to new ways of life, brands must also be flexible to meet the unexpected changes in our behaviour and needs. For example, many restaurants have adapted to delivery, with fast food chain Leon even turning some of their shops into mini supermarkets. Disney surprised their customers earlier on this month by releasing some key blockbusters to our screens early, such as Frozen II. When done authentically, brands have a real opportunity to show they understand their consumers and can adapt to the fast pace of change accordingly, which will pay off in both the short term and long term

Sources

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/26/dixons-carphone-sees-70-jump-in-online-sales-as-britons-move-to-home-working

https://www.businessinsider.com/peloton-stock-rises-coronavirus-encourages-home-workouts-2020-2?r=US&IR=T

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/23/what-people-are-buying-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak-and-why.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/gyms-closing-coronavirus-home-workout-apps-2020-3?r=US&IR=T

https://metro.co.uk/2020/03/20/leon-turns-restaurants-mini-supermarkets-solution-coronavirus-stockpiling-12428068/

https://www.cnet.com/news/coronavirus-lockdowns-have-lots-of-people-playing-video-games/

https://www.businessinsider.com/ford-credit-payment-assistance-coronavirus-covid-19-2020-3?r=US&IR=T

Lightbox Loves: Being Social, Distantly

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So far, the events of 2020 have been weird; with the changes to life in the UK in the past 7 days making things even weirder. As the whole nation becomes “socially distant” in an effort flatten the curve, we are seeing growth in digital channels that allow us to be social without physical contact.

On Monday 16th March, Boris Johnson directed the nation to be as socially distant as possible. Human’s are, by their nature, social creatures, so this directive has driven some quick innovation and growth in areas which provide social interaction and entertainment though channels.

Online gaming is one area which has seen a large growth. On Tuesday Xbox Live reported seeing a spike in users and PC gaming platform, Steam, has seen record figures of 20 million concurrent users globally. Twitch has also seen 15% year-on-year growth in the hours streamed.

Expectedly, we have seen growth in VOD platforms, with Broadcaster VOD up around 10% week-on-week. Netflix has reduced the streaming quality in its platform across Europe in order to cope with demand. However, the social hunger is being aided by a Netflix innovation, the Netflix Party Chrome extension, which although not new, has seen growth. This allows friends to socialise whilst they all watch a show or film together at the same time, creating shared moments and events whilst staying home.

Other apps which will likely see growth at the moment are technologies to connect households together. The Houseparty app can be used for just that, to party from your house, so everyone’s party arrangements don’t need to be postponed. This, combined with pubs and breweries now offering delivery or drive-through services, means that we don’t need to worry about running dry.

At the same time, local groups who would usually meet face-to-face, such as toddler entertainment or keep fit classes, have been moving to video platforms such as Zoom or YouTube. Courtesy of The Body Coach Joe Wicks, the nation can now get fit together every morning at 9am. This connectivity enables businesses to still provide a service (and earn revenue) remotely. The transfer from community halls to online will likely encourage older generations to embrace these technologies too.

Ultimately, what the consumer needs in order to weather this storm is the ability to connect and experience things with the people they know. Thinking outside of the box will be required, but as this unfamiliar situation continues, we expect to see more brands and media platforms innovating and diversifying in order to continue keeping us together, yet apart.

https://www.ladbible.com/technology/gaming-xbox-live-usage-sees-spike-as-people-start-to-self-isolate-20200317

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/mar/19/netflix-party-could-this-group-watching-tech-gimmick-be-a-lifesaver

Lightbox Loves: A Social Media Surge

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During self-isolation and lockdown, people have been flocking to social media platforms, using them as a replacement to face-to-face contact. As the world as we know it is turned upside down, social media has become an anchor as the nation rely on it to keep in touch with the people in their lives, steer away from boredom, and to stay up to date with news on an international level.

In their Webinar this week, Facebook shared that as people stopped going out, they had seen total messaging on the platform increase by more than 50%, while time spent voice and video calling had increased by 1000%. In Italy specifically, 70% more time had been spent on Facebook owned apps in the past month. Furthermore, with venues and gyms now closed, artists, celebrities and fitness instructors have taken to the livestream stage, doubling Instagram and Facebook live views in just a week.

Other platforms have also seen major increases in usage as more people search for an online escape –TikTok saw an 18% boost in downloads this month, and was downloaded 2 million times between March 16 and 22, an increase from the previous week’s 1.7 million. The video app Zoom has also seen its popularity sky-rocket, now gaining 200 million daily participants, up 150 million from December.

Expectedly, consumers have now become more responsive to digital marketing as more of their lives move online. This uplift in social media means that there has been a significant drop in cost per clicks on online platforms this month. Click-through rates in the UK have had a 60% increase in the last week, and these results are expected to continue.

For those looking to connect with audiences during this period, these numbers suggest that social media is where brands should be optimising. Not all businesses are in the position to be spending, however it is worth considering for those in the position to do so.

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/people-are-spending-20-more-time-in-apps-during-the-covid-19-lockdowns-re/575403/

https://sensortower.com/blog/tiktok-record-revenue-downloads-february-2020

https://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/as-coronavirus-pushes-thousands-inside-everyone-is-going-live-on-instagram/

https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/coronavirus-causing-unprecedented-volatility-online-marketing/1678082

Lightbox Loves: The Road to Empathy

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When Virtual Reality (VR) first came to mainstream market, it was thought its best use cases would be for jazzing up the entertainment or education sectors.  However, as years have gone by, we’ve discovered another important use case for VR – it actually helps build empathy. Although timely, given that half of Brits feel that empathy in culture is declining, how can turn this insight into an opportunity?

Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, tested multiple hypotheses surrounding empathy using VR. One of these was to see whether showing a 65-year-old avatar of yourself in the future encourages you to save money for retirement; it does. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the marketing industry has cottoned on to its power to drive social change.

In 2016, ‘Charity: Water’, a charity which aims to bring clean drinking water to developing counties, showcased their immersive VR story to donors. The footage allows prospective donors to see through the eyes of a 13-year-old Ethiopian child named Selam, who spends her life struggling to provide water for her family while studying at school. However, as the simulation progresses, we see the transformative power of the donors’ money has on Selam and her community. Raising $2.4 million in one night, it can be argued that, through VR, this campaign has effectively used immersive storytelling to evoke empathy among its audience.

Another application of VR can be seen in the Toms ‘A Walk In Their Shoes’ campaign. To prove their commitment to social change, Toms used VR to follow a consumer’s trip to Colombia to meet a child who benefited from his purchase. The footage allowed consumers to witness the brand’s dedication to helping others, through tapping into our emotions.

Ultimately, when combined with effective storytelling, the positive outtake is that VR has the potential to make us more empathetic. Whilst we may still be some way away from VR being widely available for brands to use, it is exciting to envisage a future where we can experience new and unique perspectives through technology to better understand others as humans.

https://www.wired.com/brandlab/2015/11/is-virtual-reality-the-ultimate-empathy-machine/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/04/increasing-number-of-britons-think-empathy-is-on-the-wane

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlVIsVfWwS4

https://www.conecomm.com/insights-blog/toms-att-walk-in-their-shoes-vr

Lightbox Loves: International Women’s Day

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It’s 2020 and we’re no longer short of empowering and remarkable female role models.  Now that’s something worth celebrating this International Women’s Day.  Whether your preferred female motivational hero is Sheryl Sandberg or the Spice Girls, this recent quote from Lizzo hits home- “You are capable. You deserve to feel good as hell, if I can make it, I know you can make it. We can make it together.”

As one of the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Best Companies to Work For (now eight years running!) as well as Campaign’s Best Place to Work, we’re constantly aiming to improve our understanding of what it takes to be both a great employer and a progressive place to work – one where women and men feel they can make it and help colleagues to do the same.

In our latest Lightbox Pulse we surveyed 2,000 adults in full time employment to explore some of the enablers and obstacles to creating a great place to work, with a focus on what differences, if any, there are for women versus men.

We discovered that both men and women find asking for a promotion or a pay rise intimidating. When asked which topics they felt most uncomfortable talking about at work, the top taboo cited was asking for more money – 49% of women said asking for a pay rise made them uncomfortable compared with 40% of men. This was considerably ahead of other taboo subjects of conversation such as how much sex they are having (46% of women found this difficult compared with 37% of men), or taking drugs (both a no-go area for just 25% of women and 22% of men).

But how does this compare with colleagues’ responses at the7stars?

Asking for a pay rise or talking about the amount of money earnt were also considered to be the most uncomfortable subjects for discussion.  And it is our female colleagues who were most likely to find asking for a pay rise a taboo topic, whereas males were more likely to agree that talking about salaries was a taboo topic.  One point of significant difference was that colleagues at the7stars found talking about mental health was felt to be less of a taboo subject than the national average (32% versus 43%) – thanks to Team BOOST for all their great initiatives in this area.

A progressive workplace comes from being more open, transparent and inclusive – creating an environment in which both women and men feel empowered and supported by each other.

As Lizzo would say – you deserve to feel good as hell, so have a great day.

Lightbox Loves: Listening

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As an industry, we spend billions of pounds and countless hours talking to different audiences. But how long do we spend listening?

Listening to people isn’t just the remit of a focus group. By leaning in to listen, we can all help brands make more powerful connections with culture and customers.

Brands optimise messages; agencies use mass channels to reach as many people as possible with each message. Even social media, once heralded as a platform for dialogue, increasingly has broadcast only formats, such as Instagram stories, where users can’t comment back.

The wealth of datapoints makes it easy to think we know what’s going on with customers. Digesting sales metrics, brand trackers and digital activity reports tell us what has happened to a brand. They provide incredibly useful direction of how to amend, optimise and evaluate our campaigns.

But rarely does data tell us why something has happened: at best, it provides a hypothesis. Often, the best insights aren’t found in existing information, however much we look. Focussing solely on available data you become a bit like a drunk looking for his keys under a lamppost, “because”, he says “that’s where the light is”.

This is why listening matters. Opening our frame of reference opens us up to new stimulus.

Focus groups illuminate audience’s attitudes in surprising and directive ways. The multi-award winning “This Girl Can” campaign, a huge part of the revolution in female marketing, owed much of its success to working sessions aimed at uncovering the hidden barriers to women exercising.

So, whether it is probing your aunt about her gardening, or listening to a radio chat show outside your usual preferences, taking the time to curiously listen will inspire in new ways. Foster’s “Your Call” campaign was famously inspired after ana evening eaves dropping in a pub.

You never know where inspiration might strike, so be curious, be nosey. Take out those headphones and listen.

 

 

Lightbox Loves: “Dark” Social Environments

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“The greatest growth in how people are communicating continues to come from private messaging, small groups, and disappearing stories,” Mark Zuckerberg stated in one of their latest earnings calls. This continuing shift in the way people are communicating and sharing content online is being part driven by the new, younger online audiences craving privacy and deeper connections than are found within many public social platforms.

These, aptly named, “dark social” environments come in a wide variety of modes but the majority can be grouped into three main categories: private messaging platforms (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc.), shared interest closed groups (e.g. private Facebook Groups) and experienced based communities (e.g. online gaming such as Fortnite squads). What users are enjoying about these spaces is that they allow them to be and share what they want, avoiding “friends” and relatives who may be judgmental or share unwanted comments, as well as being away from advertisers snooping eyes.

Understandably, the likes of Facebook may be concerned by and reacting to this shift as around 98% of their revenue comes from advertising across their public platforms. Not only do “dark” environments often contain little to no advertising, they are very sensitive to intrusions and breeches of privacy. Additionally, from a brands and agency point of view, it restricts the amount of insight that can be gathered from online conversation and how and where content is being shared.

Although there are options to appear in private message environments, brands are looking for alternative opportunities to engage their consumers in more private social environments. Nike released branded Air Jordan skins within Fortnite and Adidas have recently been prompting their fans to start private interaction with them over WhatsApp to promote their Predator range.

Understanding the attributes of the sub-culture you are engaging with and how they identify themselves (something we dived into with our Life Behind Labels research), makes interactions from brands valuable to the consumer, rather than just a blatant data gathering exercise. Creating bespoke content for different sub-cultures is the key to making these kind of activations work and should be a focus for any brand looking to enter the private social arena.

https://qz.com/1793651/facebook-q4-earnings-reveal-its-future-is-in-private-messages/

https://hbr.org/2020/02/the-era-of-antisocial-social-media

https://www.statista.com/statistics/271258/facebooks-advertising-revenue-worldwide/

https://www.voguebusiness.com/consumers/gen-z-reinventing-social-media-marketing-tiktok-youtube-instagram-louis-vuitton

https://twitter.com/adidasUK/status/1224625382437064704

Lightbox Loves: Ads & Crafts

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Both Waitrose’s latest ad and Carling’s 2019 campaign have a key ingredient in common and no, it’s not grain: it’s craft. While the term ‘craft’ is most often applied to independent micro-breweries, craft has taken on a new significance to big brands across multiple categories. Spurred on by rising consumer concern over provenance and ethics, big brands are adapting lessons from the craft beer revolution to breathe new life into faltering mainstream products.

The hallmarks of a craft brand, as pioneered by BrewDog and their kin, is a quality product, a clear brand identity and a strong brand purpose. It’s not hard to see why these behaviours are being adapted by big brands with high levels of success. In 2018, Carling launched a craft rebrand that increased their sales by 8.7% while the likes of Fosters and Carlsberg fell. Bringing back its original black label and Burton-on-Trent emblem built a clear identity based on Carling’s history and quality ingredients. Carling cemented their new craft identity with the ‘Made Local’ advertising campaign, championing other makers who help their local communities to thrive. By mimicking the behaviours of its smaller challengers, Carling recreated a brand that better resonated with modern beer drinkers looking for authentic products.

Similarly, in the face of declining pre-packaged bread sales, bread brand Allinson’s  revamped their breads to emulate hand-crafted artisanal loaves sold in independent bakeries. With paper wrappers, a simplified design and cheeky names like ‘Scandalous Seeds,’ they look like bread’s answer to craft beer. Like Carling, Allinson’s also saw success in numbers with a year-on-year sales uplift of 73%. It could be said that Waitrose has applied this strategy to their most recent campaign, conveying a sense of crafted quality and authenticity by focusing on the bakers and farmers who produce their goods rather than on their chain of supermarkets.

The mass appeal of craft can be put down to science. Craft appeals to us on a system 1 level (the part of our brain that makes instant decisions based on instincts). Our brains quickly interpret crafted designs as expensive, higher quality and even luxurious. Craft also appeals to us on a deeper level, to our innate saviour complex. Craft products position themselves as the little guy, the one battling the monotony of mass production to bring people authentically made products with a personal history and social purpose. Whether or not they actually are ‘the little guy,’ brands can benefit from thinking like they are; If brands can show consumers that they care about their craft, then both brand and consumers will be better off.

‘Carling’, Warc (2019) [https://www.warc.com/content/article/dba/carling/126505].

‘Allinson’s’, Warc (2019) [https://www.warc.com/content/article/dba/allinsons/126506].

‘How to create a successful craft brand’, Warc (2017) [https://www.warc.com/content/article/admap/how-to-create-a-successful-craft-brand/110764].

Ibid.