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the7stars

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

Lightbox Loves: Influencer Relevancy

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Influencer-marketing couldn’t escape the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but it may have helped it to find a new purpose. As brands paused their sponsorships, influencers went from having an average of 35% paid posts to only 4% in April. However, as the months have gone on, businesses and creators in the industry have adapted, with many shifting their focus to other streams of revenue that allow them to create DIY content without having to leave their homes.

Influencers have adjusted their content to become more relevant. There’s been a huge uplift in tutorials relating to fitness, recipes and hobbies, as the focus to helping one another and giving new perspectives has grown. It’s no surprise therefore that the7stars quarterly tracker – The QT – highlighted that social media usage increased by 47% in May, with it continuing to rise again in August. With more time spent online, consumers are more receptive to the content of these influencers than ever before, and value turning to those who are most closely aligned to their priorities. Niche influencers such as ‘plantfluencers’, have seen spikes in followers during the pandemic as people congregate around those that fit their needs.

By adjusting content to become more audience focused and specific, influencers have seen an increase in engagement. Instagram influencers, for example, have seen likes increase by an average of 68%, as well as a 50%+ uplift in comments. Rather than influencers leading completely different lives to their followers – jet setting, making personal appearances and attending launch parties – they’re spending more time at home and consequently, spending more time connecting with their followers mirroring their environments and situations.

This increase in engagement suggests that now is a good time for brands to re-evaluate the influencer landscape. Many influencers are arguably now closer and more relatable to their followers than they have been previously. The rise in niche influencers also facilitates targeting audiences authentically by aligning to what they’re truly passionate about.

The7stars QT, August 2020
https://www.businessinsider.com/how-coronavirus-is-changing-influencer-marketing-creator-industry-2020-3?r=US&IR=T
https://www.forbes.com/sites/charlesrtaylor/2020/07/30/is-covid-making-marketing-influencers-more-influential/#312e2e084200

Lightbox Loves: Bouncing Back

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School is out, beaches are packed and despite there being no Wimbledon this year, pitchers of Pimms are back on pub menus. A first glance, it looks like a very British Summer is upon is, and whilst thousands are enjoying summer holidays and the great outdoors, it looks like not even the sunshine can stop the stay-at-home economy from booming.

Our latest wave of the QT (the7stars proprietary consumer sentiment tracker) has demonstrated that despite lockdown easing, brands cannot be too quick to assume Brits are breaking the habit that has become so engrained in us: staying at home. When asking the nation how they are planning to spend this Summer compared to last year – 64% still claim they are planning to spend more time at home, rising to 69% among those aged 55-64 and 70% for those in the South West. In similar vein, 1 in 2 of us are intending on spending less time enjoying UK day trips to indoor locations and for 2 in 5 of us, we are even planning to spend less time making the most of outdoor attractions.

This inclination to be at home is also reflected in our holiday plans. Although given the green light to enjoy Britain’s most attractive holiday destinations, only 10% plan to spend more time than last year on a staycation – although intention doubles amongst parents.

However, there are many glimmers of hope – the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has resulted in a 19% increase in high street footfall across the UK. Granted, brands cannot be expected to be as generous as Rishi Sunak, but assuming consumers will bounce back to normal without a nudge is not always realistic. Even when financial incentives are not possible, demonstrating reassurance in other ways might be enough to show empathy – through the likes of creativity and messaging – as we slowly go back to old behaviours.

They say it takes longer to break a habit than start one, so whilst Brits adjust and recover, brands need to show patience and understanding in the meantime.

Sources: The QT, August 2020.
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/10/eat-out-to-help-out-scheme-increases-uk-high-street-footfall-covid-19

Lightbox Loves: Taking A Temperature

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Last Friday saw a record-breaking day of hot temperatures in the UK, with Friday August 7th now reported to be the hottest August day since 2003. Here at Lightbox Loves we’re sure that we weren’t the only ones in Adland finishing up their afternoon emails with an ice cream in hand.

It’s commonly known that sales of ice cream spike in warmer months, and that advertisers plan their marketing around this seasonal trend accordingly. However warmer temperatures can also affect the sales of products less obvious too, such as hair removal products. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that temperature can affect our receptivity towards advertising altogether, depending on its content.

Evidence suggests that our receptivity to emotional marketing can fluctuate according to our bodily temperatures in a way that mimics a homeostatic response; much like drawing for a cornetto to cool ourselves down on a hot day. One study found that “emotionally cold” marketing received a better response if a viewer is feeling physically warm, and conversely, “emotionally warm” advertising elicited a better response if a viewer was physically cold. Though viewers could also respond equally well to both forms of advertising if their temperature was close to their homeostatic ideal of 37C. Coca Cola might have picked up on this having produced different Christmas campaigns for different climatic conditions; opting for an “emotionally warm” campaign in cooler regions such as those within the northern hemisphere, and a “cooler” campaign in warmer regions such as those down under.

However, it should be stressed that temperature is just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to consumer preference; the same research points out that ice cream advertisers shouldn’t necessarily opt for packaging with “cold” colours – as customers looking to pick up ice cream will be chilly if they’re in the frozen section of a supermarket. And any advertiser looking to test creative strategies with seasonal differences in mind should note that there can be significant variations in purchasing thresholds across regions. Terry O’Reilly, host of the advertising podcast Under the Influence, pointed out that in Scotland BBQ sales increase rapidly once the temperatures breaches 20C, though the same effect only occurs at 24C and above in London.

Ultimately, temperature can not only affect sales, but a consumer’s receptivity towards marketing of these products. Advertisers can and have leveraged this evidence to drive sales and gain an edge over their competitors. However there isn’t an off-the-shelf piece of advice that advertisers can apply at a macro level towards their campaigns; keen advertisers looking to leverage the power of temperature changes to boost the saliency of their adverts should grab a themometer – or several, and think about how these findings could be utilised in ways that might swing customer preference at every step of their path towards purchase.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53694492

https://mediatel.co.uk/news/2015/06/30/how-does-weather-impact-advertising/

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-temperature-affects-response-advertising.html

Lightbox Loves: Sustainability During a Pandemic

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Given the global pandemic, you might think it’s safe to assume that people have more pressing matters to contend with than the environment. Is it even possible to be sustainable during a pandemic, or perhaps a recession? Looking at 2008, it appears not. Sustainability was put on pause to aid competitive pricing and essentially survival. However, with the momentum the sustainability movement has had over the last few years, it will be harder for brands to ‘opt out’ this time around.

Admittedly from the offset, it does appear that the pandemic has somewhat stalled the sustainability movement. The United Nations has confirmed that Covid-19 has put the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach, which is disappointing news, especially given that most goals to protect the environment by 2030 were already unachievable before this all happened.

Granted, there are other pressing issues at the forefront of society; one of seismic proportions being the Black Lives Matter movement. Nonetheless, this movement indirectly drives sustainable practice. Vogue Business has found that companies with a more diverse leadership have better environmental compliance reporting, in addition to stronger financial returns. It goes without saying that increased empathy and an anti-violent stance radiates out to many other causes.

Whilst it is tempting to overlook sustainability in the face of uncertainty, Brits will not. Imagery illustrating the positive impact of lower levels of Co2 emissions across the world have been circulated widely and consciousness amongst Brits is actually rising. From January to April 2020, there has been a +13% uplift in concern about pollution and +24% uplift in people avoiding unethical brands (IPA TouchPoints). This, coupled with Brits enjoying buying less and a slower pace of life, as our QT showed, could be resulting in greater awareness of our surroundings and the impact we’re having as a consumer.

Proving that sustainability has the potential to gain customers in the long-term. H&M launched their ‘Let’s change. For tomorrow.’ campaign in June, promoting that half of their materials are recycled, organic or sustainably sourced, with the aim for this to be 100% of materials by 2030. Businesses who recognise that sustainability is an important deciding factor for consumers in the long-term look set to be the ones who stand-out from the crowd.

Whilst there’s no escaping the present reality, the effects of climate change are set to ultimately overshadow the effects of Covid-19 in the long run. Whilst it may be tempting for brands to scale back to a bear minimum, sustainability will become a pathway to recovery and resilience.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02002-3

https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/sustainability-in-fashion-relies-on-embracing-diversity

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/how-to-be-green/why-sustainability-strategic-business-imperative/

Lightbox Loves: Learning Something New

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It is unprecedented for so many of us to spend this much time at home. The sudden change in routine has challenged us to occupy ourselves when our opportunities for socialising have become seriously limited. Take to Instagram and you’ll see cakes being baked, books being read and Netflix being watched – but is this a true representation of how Britons have spent their time inside?

Well, in some cases, yes. One in five of us say that we have spent more money on books in the last 10 weeks than we did previously. This trend was documented soon after lockdown was announced and suggests that Britons quickly rediscovered a love of reading that they had perhaps forgotten. Whether or not those books have actually been read, however, is another matter…

In other areas of ‘self-improvement’ (anything which makes you feel better afterwards counts), TV shows centred around activities have benefitted from the lockdown. These include crafting, cooking and art shows, which encourage those at home to get active and have all risen in popularity during the last couple of months; The Great British Sewing Bee attracts up to 6 million viewers per episode. This again suggests that people have decided now is the time to make a mask, order some new paint brushes, or create the ultimate soufflé.

Finally, if we look at Google Trends, we see that the learning doesn’t end there. Searches for ‘learn a language’ increased steeply after Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement in March, and have remained at higher levels than in the nine months prior. Searches for ‘online courses’ have followed a similar pattern. Admittedly, this does not tell us if people have followed through with these ideas, but it does illustrate that we have a desire to learn and have tried to use this time to benefit our future selves.

This desire to learn presents brands with an opportunity to assist us and build an even closer relationship between brand and consumer. Cookalongs are one such way this could be done – various Instagram accounts have run these successfully. Advertisers should consider how they can help us on our journey of self-improvement, or reassure us that it is perfectly OK not to have done any of the above – how often do you eat soufflé anyway?

How are Brits spending money during COVID-19? https://yougov.co.uk/topics/consumer/articles-reports/2020/06/04/how-are-brits-spending-money-during-covid-19

Book Sales Surge as Self-isolating Readers Stock up on ‘Bucket List’ Novels https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/25/book-sales-surge-self-isolating-readers-bucket-list-novels

Lockdown TV: What habits will stick as we leave lockdown? https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/lockdown-tv-what-habits-will-stick-we-leave-lockdown

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