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Lightbox Loves: The Wonder of Wordle

By | Lightbox Loves

Breakfast routines haven’t been the same since December. Where once I sat eating my cereal with the dulcet tones of Dan Walker informing me of the latest news, I now find myself pouring over the latest Wordle each morning praying for 1 out of 6. The daily word puzzle craze, initially built by coder Josh Wardle for his partner, has taken off in a big way. From just 90 users in November 2021 the puzzle now boasts a monstrous (and ever growing) 2.5m global players, including the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Richard Osman. But what makes this game such an attractive proposition?

There are four winning factors.  Firstly, Simplicity, – it’s an easy concept with low barriers to entry.  Guess a 5 letter word in under 6 attempts and you win. The fewer guesses, the better.  Secondly, Ephemerality – you only get one game every 24 hours. Don’t waste your only shot at glory.  Thirdly, Shareability – succeed or fail and in just 3 taps your Mum, your mates WhatsApp group, or the whole world can know about it on Twitter.  And finally, Accessibility – free to use and open to all, it’s no surprise the app downloads are rocketing.

In a world that has become a battleground for consumer attention it is refreshing to see a game born from the more playful and purer days of the early internet. Though this isn’t to say that brands can’t capitalise on the consumer attention the craze is receiving.

Brand social media teams, across categories as diverse as charities to fast food, have created memes or tweeted around Wordle in a bid to be associated with the increasingly popular puzzle.  Nokia offering a “Snake” focussed throwback, Lego obsessing over the coloured blocks and even the National Library of Scotland getting involved.

Whether Wordle is a short-term phase or a long-term keeper it’s too soon to tell. What is clear though is that brands can reap the most rewards from this puzzle mania if they behave true to themselves. Creating and commenting on posts that are relevant in terms of content but also, more importantly, that are relevant and give value to their audience. As Plato said (and we can be about 99% sure he was referencing social media here) “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something”.


Lightbox Loves: Christmas Specials

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Back in September, with things looking more promising than since the start of the pandemic, 3 in 5 Brits were expecting to celebrate Christmas 2021 normally. Despite the emergence of the Omicron variant tarnishing this optimism, and despite 2 in 3 now expecting further restrictions post-Christmas, a quarter of Brits feel this Christmas will at least be more exciting than last year’s.

More than anything, just shy of half of all Brits are looking forward to spending time with loved ones this Christmas, and what better way to spend time together than gorging on a festive tin of chocolates in front of this year’s TV Christmas specials? We love TV here at the7stars, so Christmas specials are always a hot topic whether we’re discussing them in-person or on Teams. And 2021 looks set to deliver. Below are this author’s ones not to miss.

  1. Around the World in 80 Days (BBC One & iPlayer 5.50pm Boxing Day)

Starring David Tennant, this adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1872 novel is set to bring a bit of Christmas cheer, with leading man Tennant recently describing the series as a “romp” with “real heart”. And, if that isn’t enough for you, superstar composer Hans Zimmer scored the soundtrack.

  1. Spitting Image Christmas Special (ITV & ITV Hub 10pm Christmas Eve)

Usually accessible through Britbox, this Christmas special is making a one-off appearance on ITV. Featuring household names ranging from Emma Radacanu to Prince Andrew and, of course, Boris Johnson, this hour-long special is sure to have the nation’s living-rooms in stitches.

  1. LIVE Joe Lycett: Mummy’s Big Christmas Do!

Part of C4’s drive to spread its operations across the UK, this 90-minute live performance from Brummie comedian Joe Lycett combines three of his favourite things; “LGBTQ+ culture, Birmingham and chaotic live television” and promises to deliver “devilish” surprises.

*Since writing, this show has sadly been postponed for the time being*

  1. Last Train to Christmas (Sky Cinema & NOW 18th December)

Not so much a Christmas special, but this film follows Nightclub owner Tony (Michael Sheen) as he takes the train to visit his girlfriend (Nathalie Emmanuel) for Christmas. Things take an unexpected turn though and Tony finds himself transported through time as he moves through the carriages. This nostalgia-inducing, 80s-based one-off is sure to be worth a watch.

  1. The Girl Before (BBC One & iPlayer 9pm 19th December)

Nothing screams Christmas like a psychological thriller. The Girl Before follows new tenant Jane’s discovery that the previous occupant of her home met a mysterious end in the very property Jane now resides in. Running over Christmas as part of the BBC’s festive schedule, with all episodes released immediately on iPlayer for us binge-watchers, it’s set to be a big hit.

The above are just some of a wealth of Christmas specials though and others include: Call the Midwife, A Boy Called Christmas, A League of Their Own, Paul O’Grady, Nevermind the Buzzcocks and, of course, Doctor Who, among many others. So, whatever your TV preference, and whatever form Christmas takes for you this year, we’re sure they’ll be plenty to keep you entertained. Enjoy!


Lightbox Loves: Black Friday

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

From the warm, welcoming smell of mulled wine emanating from a kitchen urn to the accompanying dulcet Bublé tones, it’s undeniable that the Christmas season is underway. To jumpstart the selling season, British retailers have seized upon Black Friday – a sales promotion on the holiday Friday of the Thanksgiving weekend that’s widely celebrated in America.

In the run-up to the event the7stars’ very own quarterly tracking survey, The QT, took a closer look at the sentiment of shoppers towards the Black Friday sales. The report found that whilst 2 in 5 Brits were indeed looking to shop for Christmas gifts during the event, more than half reported indifference as a feeling towards it. Negative sentiments were particularly emphasised by those aged 55 and above, of which 59% reported scepticism, 41% bored and 37% irritated.

Negative sentiments could perhaps be attributed to a slew of media preceding the event, with Which? reporting that 98.5% of items tracked since last year’s Black Friday had been cheaper or at the same price point in the following 6 months. Increasing awareness around sustainability and the role of consumerism in the climate crisis could also be contributing towards negative sentiments towards the promotional period – some brands have even run campaigns highlighting this connection, such as Patagonia’s Buy Less, Demand More campaign in 2011.

Despite these gloomy bellwethers, early reports suggesting that this year’s Black Friday was on track to be the biggest ever: figures from Barclaycard – based on credit and debit card spending from midnight on Thursday to 5pm on Black Friday – showed the number of transactions up by 2.4% per cent compared with 2019. This figure also represented a 23 per cent increase on comparable volumes in 2020, when lockdown restrictions prevent much physical shopping.

With this year’s Black Friday being a bumper sales period for brands, should brands still take notice of public sentiment and negative press? Most definitely: the climate crisis is not going to go away, and with sustainability and purpose led marketing set to be hot topics in 2022, it’s possible that the mass sell-off and promotion by brands around this period could become toxic to consumers. The mood music needn’t spell the death knell of Black Friday though, and there are ways of subverting its negative connotations with consumerism, and instead connecting it with brand purpose. One such example of this was a 2019 Just Eat campaign, in which they partnered with the charity Food Cycle: for every order made on Just Eat that Black Friday the company also donated 50p to the charity, and ultimately raised over £250,000.

Lightbox Loves: Love to hate the Christmas Creep?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

From the moment John Lewis released its much-anticipated Christmas advert last week, the bitter air of late autumn was filled with familiar conversations. “I swear it gets earlier every year” pleads the man in the coffee shop as he collects his festive cup. “It wasn’t like this in my day,” your granny assures you, as she knits your yearly reindeer sweater.

It’s true: Christmas season is upon us, in media circles at least. The likes of Boots and M&S joined John Lewis in launching their campaigns in early November, while online retailer Very opted for an even earlier start, telling a tongue-in-cheek tale of a family jumping the gun on festive celebrations – much to the surprise of calling trick-or-treaters.

But this is no new phenomenon. In 2015, Aldi and Lidl both released their seasonal campaigns the day after Halloween. The cause – then, as now – was a wealth of data showing consumers planning their gift shopping earlier to beat the forthcoming rush. There’s even a term for it: the Christmas creep, and experts claim it dates back to the 19th century.

So, are early Christmas campaigns simply something we all love to moan about? the7stars’ Lightbox Lowdown found that a majority (51%) of Brits think Christmas ads start too early, with just two-in-five looking forward to seeing them. This year, however, the strategic reasons for launching such early campaigns are three-fold. Firstly, supply chain shortages are still fresh in Britons’ minds, prompting many to buy early; by mid-October, one-third had done at least some of their Christmas shopping, according to YouGov. Furthermore, with many of the UK’s near-neighbours, including the Netherlands, implementing fresh restrictions on retail to curb rising coronavirus cases, many British shoppers are preparing for the worst. Lastly, as reported in the7stars Christmas Trends 2021, 36% of Brits plan to spend more on Christmas this year to make up for last year’s lost time, with early campaigns a means to captivate their attention.

While the timing of this year’s festive offering is expected, some critics have been disappointed by the content of campaigns rolling off the production line. Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of PRWeek, noted that the lack of sustainable overtones in the current crop of campaigns was a strategic own-goal, given their release during the COP26 negotiations on home soil.

Whether the relative latecomers this year will opt to go bolder on sustainability or other topical consumer themes remains to be seen. But, if one thing is certain, it’s that the wave of cheer hitting our screens is just getting started – as are the inevitable cries of it all being forced upon us. Bah, humbug.

Lightbox Loves: The Metaverse

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

The metaverse…what is it and why should brands care?

The term “metaverse” is everywhere right now, it’s even been coined as the ‘future of the internet’. But defining exactly what the metaverse is can be difficult and there’s one simple reason for this: it doesn’t necessarily exist. Facebook describe it as ‘a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you’. Put simply, it’s the internet brought to life. A virtual world where users can create an avatar, interact with one another as well as interacting with brands and experiences. Advancements in AR & VR technologies have accelerated the growth of the metaverse, allowing users to connect easily from their physical world, wherever they are. The metaverse can constitute anything from a virtual shop front where users can experience online shopping as if they were truly in a store, to going to a Travis Scott concert in the game Fortnite with 10 million other users.

Facebook have taken a considerable interest in the metaverse and have already revealed their early ambitions about rebranding as a metaverse company, including developments in the physical tech required such as VR headsets or Oculus glasses. Mark Zuckerberg recently said “We believe that this is going to be the successor to the mobile internet.”

However, not everyone is fully on board with the metaverse yet, according to the7stars latest October Lightbox Pulse, with 86% of people either having not heard of the metaverse before or saying that they didn’t understand it. On the other hand, 28% of Gen Z think that the metaverse will be the future of the internet. Many brands have already started launching in this space, for example Balenciaga have released a dystopian game called Afterworld where they hosted a virtual fashion show to launch their Autumn 2021 collection. Brands, especially those that have a Gen Z or young Millennial audience, can embrace this movement to make the metaverse more real and accessible to everyone. Only time will tell how these audiences will interact in this metaverse and how brands will exist in a meaningful and valuable way within it.  Watch this ‘metaverse’ space….



Lightbox Pulse, October 2021, the7stars

Lightbox Loves: From Fans to Family

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Ever been heartbroken at the news of a celebrity couple’s divorce? Perhaps Brangelina’s split, Prince Charles’ affair or Kim & Kanye’s recent parting drew up a well of emotions in you?

Research defines celebrity-fan relationships as parasocial, wherein fans feel an intense and familiar connection to celebrities despite the relationship often being one-sided and mediated over mass media channels. Such a phenomenon was born during the 1950’s and 60’s when the Golden Age of Hollywood first catapulted starlets and heartthrobs onto the screen. However, the transition towards multimedia channels has evolved a breed of ‘superfans’, or ‘stans’ who now have access to a foray of personal information about celebrities and influencers thanks to the scope, constant feedback loop and direct communication lines of social media. The boundary between private and public blurs so much that fans have begun to enter the personal space of their idols digitally, impassioning keyboard warriors to ‘protect’ and ‘support’ during controversies and even liken celebrities to family – brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers whose image, behaviour and personality they can shape beyond normal celebrity worship. This hyper form of fan culture is known as parakin relationships.

Classic examples are arguably more prevalent in collectivist societies where people have one idealised standard and subsequently quash down public figures who sought after individuality or deviate from the norm. For fans who source much of their self-identity from celebrities, influencers and their respective fandoms, fans feel the need to control their idols’ image to coincide with their own sense of self.  In return, fans can escape from their reality and exaggerate the confines of their daily lives. Whilst normal fans create fanart – drawing or painting images of their idols, superfans create and shape the celebrity themselves.

But why is this important and what does it even mean for brands?

In the branded world, co-collaboration and creation with fans is celebrated and often strategic. If celebrities and influencers can be seen as personal brands themselves, earning much of their revenues from likes, shares and comments online, perhaps it’s not so much of a surprise to see fans co-create with public figures in the same way? In fact, this points to a natural desire for devoted fans to want to co-create with branded communities. Celebrities such as Taylor Swift held a ‘Secret Session’ concert in her own home, whilst Tom Daly leverages the digital channel Patreon to provide insight into his personal life, and consequently foster the relationship to his advantage. American start-up ‘Community’ have even developed a one-to-one messaging platform for musicians to message their fans directly. If used positively, stans’ fervour and loyalty can be capitalised, such as in the case of  Game of Thrones where 1.7 million people signed a petition to remake the 8th season. Similarly, Rihanna’s personal perfume ‘Baccarat Rouge 540′ went viral on TikTok, reflecting the fans desire to embody her and boosting sales. What remains clear is that super fans’ strength in numbers, passion and assertiveness can change the game, and make big business.

Source: Canvas8

Lightbox Loves: The Campus Comeback

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

After what has been a well-documented difficult eighteen months for young people, this month, students have been returning to universities up and down the country as campuses re-open and Freshers’ Weeks begin. Many will have been caught up in the pandemic A-levels fiasco, whilst others will have already begun their university experience with online learning, little face-to-face contact and the mental and emotional strain that this brings.

Whilst government advisers have warned that Freshers’ Week festivities may bring about a spike in covid cases, students appear undeterred by the threat of a winter surge, with 2021 seeing a record number of young people accepting university places. With 87% of students planning to get vaccinated ahead of the start of term, students seem positive about the future; according to YouGov, 32% believe that it is unlikely new restrictions will be introduced in the autumn, versus 25% of the population as a whole.

the7stars QT national tracking study further reveals that Gen Z’s are the driving force behind current UK happiness levels with 62% of 18-25s happier than this time last year. Given this optimism, it’s no surprise that students are keen to make up for missed opportunities, friendships and experiences after a year of closed campuses. According to HiveMindMarketing, 52% claim that the pandemic has made them more intent on returning to a normal university lifestyle, whilst Redbus Media report that 63% plan to socialise more this academic year. Students have long been considered a distinctive and attractive target audience. As they fly the nest, many lack established relationships with brands, having moved away from the preferences of their families and parents.

In a new environment and in their formative years, they are open-minded and ready to form new brand loyalties. Research shows these are often long-lasting, with many remaining loyal to brands that they first purchased at university. With students more determined than ever before to get out, spend and engage with the world around them, this offers brands a great opportunity to capitalise on their optimistic spirit. With their appetite for experience, now is the perfect time to follow the lead of others – Nando’s, Red Bull, Wagamama, who in July ran a two-day student katsu curry giveaway and Papa John’s, who’ve recently collaborated with student favourite, Depop – who have entrenched themselves in student culture having recognised the opportunity, and start to initiate long-term relationships with this highly valuable audience.

Lightbox Loves: Autumn Confidence

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

With a collision of events this September – from back-to-school, returns to the office and some late Summer sun – opportunities to spend combined with a positive mindset are resulting in renewed levels of consumer confidence.

At the start of 2021, household savings were at the second highest level on record, with  £190 bn saved during lockdowns. Following a year of restrictions, consumers have been biding their time since early in the year to find their moments to splurge. Intentions to spend on non-essential items have seen a significant increase since June.  In our August edition of the QT, we also found happiness levels are at an all-time high, reflective of the return to more regular social habits and routines. The UK is a social nation – with 21% of consumer spending ordinarily dedicated to ‘socially consumed services’ (such as eating out, leisure activities and holidays). With these activities being stifled during lockdown, people have jumped at the chance to make up for lost time.

Brits are revelling in the new found ability to plan ahead. 87% of people agree that having a holiday planned gives them something to look forward to, and our August QT results echo this sentiment, with 25% intending to spend more money on travel in the next 12 months – almost doubling in sentiment since June.

Brits are also looking for more ways to live, and spend, ‘in the now’.  With an ever-increasing awareness of wellbeing and self-care, there has been an influence on the role for self-gifting. Fatigued from deferred gratification during lockdown, more consumers are turning to little luxuries – whether it’s an ad hoc treat or a regular self-gifted subscription. Additionally, consumers are building anticipation for a big spending opportunity this Christmas, with 1 in 3 planning to start shopping earlier this year and a further 30% planning to spend more money overall on Christmas this year.

These positive signs present many opportunities for brands.  Whether it’s being the antidote to the mundanity that has been too prevalent in recent times, providing an upgrade moment to a spending occasion, or helping people to purchase now for future plans.  Capitalising on the current levels of confidence and joy will be key to capturing consumers wallets this Autumn.

– Rachel Coyle

(Source: the7stars QT, Canvas8, The Times, the7stars Christmas Trends 2021)


Lightbox Loves: Christmas Shopping in the Summer

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Is August too early to be talking about Christmas? A quarter of Brits don’t think so. 25% of shoppers turn their attention to planning Christmas shopping by the end of the Summer, with August seeing the volume of Christmas related Google searches double month on month. The early opportunity in this time varies by industry and audience but if consumers are thinking about Christmas, so should brands and retailers.

eBay reported that sporting goods, as well as toys and games, are the two categories of gifts that start seeing the earliest research, with electronics and clothing shopping peaking later potentially due to the timing of the mega-sales period around Black Friday. With 13% of adults (7 million people) planning to splash out more than normal this Christmas, there is an increased revenue opportunity from gifting than previous years. This makes it beneficial for brands to speak to the audience that gift their products when they begin their research.

With newly formed shopping habits emerging over the last 18 months, marketing teams will not only want to think about who is shopping for their products as gifts, but where they will be shopping. the7stars quarterly tracking study found that Brits plan to shop online more than previously for media products (books, music, games etc.), clothes and electronics, whilst grocery and beauty are more likely to be shopped in store. The increased intent to shop online is being driven in most categories by those aged 35 and over, mirroring where the growth in online shopping came from during the pandemic.

Regardless of whether you’re a Christmas fanatic or a more of a scrooge, the marked increase in intent and research that is being seen this Summer means it’s certainly not too early for brands to be implementing plans to gain the attention of shoppers this coming holiday season.

– Ben Lovett



Googe Trends

The7stars QT August