Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: Good Brand Hunting

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There has never been a greater call for a hero against the enemies of our damsel in distress – Planet Earth. To win against foe’s of sustainability and charity, we need people willing to fight The Good Fight; and those people need a leader. This is where your brand comes in.

So what is The Good Fight? Aristotle wrote about the “three proofs“ or the 3 appeals: Ethos, Pathos and Logos as a means to convert people to join your good fight. The three proofs were to be used by people to make good of their personal life, but what if brands applied these laws to themselves?

Ethos puts characteristic at the start of any journey: what do you want your brand to be? What do you want your brand to stand for? In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics he mentions the idea of eudaimonia – the idea that you aren’t just good, but rather you become good/flourish into a good being. Objectives and actions are what results in a good, memorable brand. Whatever market you’re in, you must first figure out what that market and the brand contributes to the things that could damage our world physically and mentally.

Pathos – like any great ad that has spoken to you emotionally, they need to connect to your life whether by directly appealing to everyday things we all go through or (the game changer) by showing world problems we are distant from as they were happening on our exact streets e.g. the Save The Children “Most shocking second a day” video. By brands relating themselves to a cause, they take the mantle for the fights that others can’t fight. Another example is Iceland’s stance on palm oil. This is important because even though someone may not relate to that exact ad, everyone can relate to a time they needed the big guys to fight their corner – and that is the sweet spot brands need to hit.

Lastly, Logos is the appeal to logic, making it difficult for people to argue against your cause. For example, Immanuel Kant’s Contradiction in Will says; for a maxim such as ‘no one should help one another to exist’, it must violate itself as you would need help to bring said maxim into fruition.

When all three proofs are dialled in at the right frequency you get a brand beloved, credited with and the embodiment of The Good Fight.

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: The Growth of Disloyalty

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It might sound controversial, but the future of customer loyalty looks to reside in low commitment. Where once the long-term contract reigned supreme, there has been a rise of subscription or pay-as-you-go models, such as gyms, TV services and mobile phones. In July 18 subscription TV services overtook traditional pay TV models[1] . It’s time for other industries to pay attention.

This gap between the purchase and committing spend has proven to actually encourage an increase of overall purchases. In the fashion world, Swedish firm Klarna partnered with ASOS to allow shoppers the freedom to buy, but only pay once they’ve decided to keep the product, up to 30 days later. The benefits for the brand a consumers alike were clear, as order values increased by 30% and spend by 34% [2]. Similarly, Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe is also following a similar model, giving customers 7 days to try up to £750 worth of clothes before purchase.

New challenger brands in the mattress industry embrace the “try before you commit” culture, with many offering 100 night trials. The likes of Eve and Simba have already taken a 5% share of the market, with a predicted 20% still to come over the next 3 years. Sales of Eve mattresses specifically have grown 100% from 2017 to 2018, and, perhaps more surprisingly, return rates have fallen[3]. As our own QT shows [4], 70% of consumers like to touch and feel furniture before they buy, an extended trial period can only help with this.

The temptation and freedom of such trials encourages people to buy and keep products, they might not have picked them up in the first place if payment was upfront. A recent trends report[5] proposes that if companies can emphasise the ease of exit/entry to their services they can actually maintain long-term loyalty.

It’s difficult to see what this would look like for other industries, but that’s not stopping some, even from the least engaged-with industries. Energy and insurance providers have started enabling consumers to switch whenever they want, benefiting from and fuelling this rise in disloyal loyalty. Consider the services you use and the brands you encounter, and think if there could be a new way to engage with them.




[4] The QT – November 2018, the7stars propriety consumer tracking study


Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: The Continual Rise of Quantified Self

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The ubiquity of data is no new phenomenon and major news stories relating to big data are as regular as ever. Historically, the handling of big data required significant IT infrastructure and investment, with specialized expertise and equipment. Such requirements kept it exclusively in the hands of major industries like banking and telecoms. However, personal data is becoming evermore accessible as individuals start to take ownership of their digital selves.

Wired magazine (1), coined the phrase ‘quantified self’ to refer to the increasing occurrence of self-monitoring and analysis, be it through apps, coding courses, open-source data or wearables. There’s seemingly no limit to how much we can analyze now, from our heart-rates, diet, sleeping patterns, spending habits, reading history and even happiness.

As of November 2018, there were “over 260,000 health and wellbeing apps in the Apple store” and according to Mintel, smartwatches hit an estimated four million in 2017, up 18% on the previous year, and an estimated 20% of Brits are “using wearable technology to measure their steps (2). Growth in the UK has been modest, worldwide, smartwatches grew 88% to 141 million in 2018 YOY (3).

Whilst benefits such as increased self-awareness may seem obvious, it’s not without two significant potential pitfalls. The first is nothing new. Professional data handling still requires major IT infrastructure, most easily tackled by large companies. Profit combined with personal data will always raise eye-brows, and the introduction of GDPR aims to give the public some level of peace of mind although how effective it is is yet to be seen. However, it’s not all nefarious and shadowy from brands. The Apple Heart Study is a collaboration between the tech-giant’s available data and Stanford Medicine, aiming to increase the accuracy of identifying irregular heart rhythms (4).

The second, is more focussed on individuals. With great data comes great accountability, and it’s down to each person to properly interpret and understand their data to avoid any erroneous self-diagnoses or false conclusions. The term ‘cyberchondria’, referring to people over-diagnosing their symptoms based on Google searches and alike, has been coined in recent years. For individuals, there looks to be a degree of recognition that a more fruitful relationship with their data can come as a result of upskilling, with online searches for things like ‘coding courses’ reaching an all-time high in July 2018 as people look to avoid this pitfall.

It seems ‘lifelogging’ is here to stay and some people are starting to see the benefits of being ‘data driven’, but remember the golden rule if you’re going to dive into your data yourself: correlation does not equal causation!







What's Hot

What’s Hot – November 2018 Edition

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Shortlist has announced that it will be closing down the print magazine with the last issue due to be published on the 20th December this year. The publication circulated just over 500,000 free copies a week according to ABC figures for the first six months of 2018. This makes the free weekly the biggest men’s magazine in the UK, with distribution taking place in nine cities across the country. Shortlist will continue with an online presence whilst the group Shortlist media will move forward with a rebrand as ‘The Stylist Group’ to focus on its free women’s magazine Stylist. Across the wider print market men’s magazine circulations have seen a large decrease in recent years with the Men’s Health in particular suffering the most, seeing a 16.4% YoY.

Channel 4 has announced its intention to move its national HQ to the city of Leeds alongside two smaller new production hubs in Bristol and Glasgow. The new HQ has been described as a “broad-based centre” that will entail commissioning, production and digital content. The broadcaster will keep a headquarters in the capital, however 200 out of 800 staff will be moved to Leeds. The Northern city was chosen above contenders Birmingham and Greater Manchester with the aim of capitalising on talent in wider parts of the UK. Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon said she wanted to “supercharge the impact we have in all parts of the country”. The chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, Sally Joynson has commented that the move would be “transformational” for the TV industry in the city and North of England.

Despite a recent 13% dip in its global audience, the Mail Online is set to hit record revenue levels – overtaking levels achieved by its print counterparts, The Daily Mail & The Mail on Sunday, for the first time. The online news site trumped the print titles’ combined revenue of £119m by 3% – bringing in a cool £122m in revenue for DMGT. With print circulations continuing to decline, publishers are needing to expand their portfolios and take advantage of the broadening use and capabilities of digital platforms and technologies. Although web traffic to the site suffered, due to a decline in indirect visits from social media platforms, after Facebook’s decision to deprioritise news appearing in users’ feeds, the time spent on the site reportedly increased to a daily average of 145 minutes, with the majority of that coming from direct traffic.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which can only mean one thing…the battle of the Christmas ads is in full swing. Arguably the most anticipated ad is the notorious efforts bought forward by John Lewis each year. However, they’ve had stiff competition from Sainsbury’s, Iceland & Aldi. Despite pulling in the big guns (Elton John), John Lewis’s ad failed to reach the top-spot in Marketing Week’s survey of their readers’ favourite Christmas ads, coming in 4th after the aforementioned brands. 20% of Marketing Week readers voted Sainsbury’s’ “Big Night” as their favourite festive ad of 2018, with Iceland’s emotionally charged partnership with Greenpeace coming in 2nd – despite it being banned from airing on TV – and Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot in third.

We are delighted to have been named Best Research Team at the Media Research Awards

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23rd November 2018 marked the bi-annual Media Research Group (MRG) awards, held in Bratislava after the 3-day annual conference.

the7stars were privileged enough to be shortlisted in three categories: Best Research Team – Media Agency, Rising Star, and Best Collaboration – for our whitepaper co-authored with Sign Salad on the topic of Diversity in Advertising.

 The competition was fierce, but we managed to bring home two trophies – beating Mediacom and OMD to the title of Best Research Team, in what the judges said was a unanimous decision, and our own Michelle Milner taking home Rising Star alongside her friend Jess Percival of Twitter.

 One of the only opportunities to celebrate media research at its finest, and after our success at the other ceremony of note in our industry – Mediatel Research Awards – back in February, we were delighted to have ‘done the double’!

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: The future of Christmas Ads?

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With the smell of mulled wine and mince pies getting stronger, Christmas will soon be with us. Whilst many vent their frustration with the ever earlier festivities, the launch of the year’s Christmas ads still seems universally loved.

Hotly anticipated every year is John Lewis. Their £7 million ad showcasing Elton John’s biographic, certainly delivered this year. True to form, it was an emotionally charged piece, showing that ‘some gifts are more than just a gift’ as we follow Elton John, Benjamin Button style, from present day to receiving his first gift as a child, a piano. A piano that started his spectacular career.

It’s not new news to say that Nov/Dec advertising is extremely competitive, and during a time where every brand is pushing similar messages, there’s a risk of consumers becoming emotionally numb to ads. A recent report from Retail Gazette hints towards this, reporting that John Lewis sales are down 1.6% year-on-year. Given this, there could be an argument for brands to take a different approach.

M&S seem to think so. This year, “M&S has decided to ditch blockbuster ads for a digital first campaign”. M&S’ marketing director Nathan Ansell is taking advantage of new routes to purchase, saying it’s “about moving into things like Instagram shopping [and] Google Shopping”, taking a fresh approach to reaching customers.

Another new approach this year comes in the form of brand’s cross promoting each other. Taking themselves less seriously and getting in the festive spirit. Aldi & Coca Cola, M&S and Sainsbury’s to name two examples, are happy to like share and interact with each other’s campaigns.


Yet another tact comes from Iceland. At a time of mass consumerism, the brand used their Christmas showpiece to share sage advice and warn against the dangers of Palm Oil. A fantastic message helped by a controversial ban sent the social chatter rocketing. Iceland and associated conversation reached a huge 65K mentions on the day of going live, with JL achieving shy of this, with 50k mentions despite having the benefit of being on TV.

John Lewis lead the emotive brand ad charge this year, but there are some competitors taking different tact’s, much to the public’s enjoyment. This behaviour could pave the way for some innovative ads in future Christmas seasons, though the public might start to miss the big emotional splashes made by brands every November. What can be guaranteed, is that regardless of the approach, Christmas ads will continue to be eagerly anticipated and reviewed with great vigour.

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: The Snowflake Generation

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The term ‘Snowflake Generation’ is increasingly used to define young adults who are easy to offend, delicate and meltdown in difficult situations (1). They are said to be raised by helicopter parents who hovered over their children, getting involved in every detail of their lives and doing nothing but praising their failures (2). But is this really a new phenomenon?

This ‘thin-skinned’ generation are mostly defined by their easily defended nature, but their protests do have some substance behind them. Research found almost half would boycott a brand if they went against their social beliefs (3) and H&M felt the snowflakes’ wrath, as they boycotted the store after the infamous monkey sweater scandal at the beginning of the year (4). They don’t always get it right though, as the Student Union at East Anglia University learned the hard way. Having realized that a Mexican restaurant was handing out Sombreros the Union deemed “discriminatory or stereotypical”, they confiscated the Sombreros from students and warned the restaurant to cease handing them out. However, the Union themselves were accused of hypocrisy after it transpired that they hosted a ‘Pimp my Barrow” event which encouraged students to appropriate African American cultural traditions (5). It has also been argued that Millennials and Gen Z are fast becoming the generations people love to hate, due to what older generations perceive as their inability to deal with difficult situations.

Despite older generations’ perception that the Snowflakes don’t have the ability to handle difficult situations, they have proved themselves to be more willing to openly discuss and tackle mental health issues, a big issue that previous generations have been too stoic to discuss (6). It also turns out that they have good reason to complain, leaving university in debt with house prices sky rocketing ,the job market shrinking and lower earns than their parents (7).

But let’s face it, this isn’t the first generation to be disparaged, stereotyped or generalized by older generations and they certainly won’t be the last. It’s well documented that older generations have always regarded those younger than themselves to be selfish, lazy or overly confident (8). So to all the Snowflakes out there; carry on petitioning, protesting, and generally standing up for what you believe in. As John Lydon once said, “if there’s not a rebellious youth culture, there’s no culture at all”!









Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: It’s the network, stupid.

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We are now all too familiar with echo chambers (EC) and how they can produce people who are convinced of things that are demonstrably untrue. We all have our own theories about why people hold views that are mistaken. These theories often boil down to “people are stupid”. Indeed much psychological literature does blame cognitive biases and errors in thinking for people’s fallacious conclusions (1).

However, recent research coming from academics working at Oxford University and UCL have proposed that the fault might not lie with the individuals after all, but rather the networks themselves (2). The team have built a Social Network Simulator to see how agents sort themselves around different beliefs and into different binary groups of opinion.

What they have been able to demonstrate is that even perfectly rational and honest actors can form themselves into ECs, as people seek out opinions within a given range of their own and then prune their social network of people they deem to be wrong. All rational agents start with a level of uncertainty about their beliefs and a corresponding range of opinions they are willing to consider given what they already know about the world. As their confidence increases, their tolerance for views that fall outside their own reduces. So a view they would have once been open to, they then come to see as beyond the pale. Crucially this is not a function of cogitative errors or ignorance since all actors have the same cognitive ability and access to the same information. It is the product of the network itself and can happen even when people are perfectly rational and honest and is independent of their open-mindedness and access to information (3).

What’s more, the study also suggests that the bigger the network, the bigger the problem. In fact the larger the network the larger the quantity of people who will give you confidence in your pre-existing opinions, and so the further from the truth you get.

As the7stars’ own research with Newsworks shows only 35% of users understand the news they see on Facebook is matched to their profile (4). It’s reasonable to assume this naivety increases confidence in the news user are exposed to without understanding their targeted nature.

As the authors of the study point out these findings make the case an even stronger case for social network owners to build their systems in a way that mitigates these echo chambers and preserves people’s tolerance for new information. (5)


Picture: Wonder net image of fake news spreading on twitter the host of nodes on the head of the mushroom represent all the bots created during the Pizzagate scandal, all of which target a single giant node in the middle of the map–an influential person, who then slowly begins to believe the bots and spread the fake news out into the real-news ecosystem.”


1,2,3,5: Jens Koed Madsen, Richard M Bailey & Toby D. Pilditch, “Large networks of rational agents form persistent echo chambers”, Scientific Reports, 8, Article number: 12391 (2018)

4:The7stars + Newsworks ‘Pop Goes The Filter Bubble’ Research 2017