Lightbox Loves: Lockdown Lifestyle Changes

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On average it takes 66 days to form a new habit (Lally et al., 2009). So, as we fly past the 2-month mark of life in lockdown, how have public habits changed? The latest mobile data network report from EE (covering February to May 2020) helps shed some light into this and highlights 2 key areas of new habits/trends; communication and fitness.

With restrictions on visiting family and friends in person and the wide enforcement of working from home, our modes of communication have had to adapt. EE have seen a fivefold increase in Zoom usage during lockdown with commuter towns such as Stevenage & Hereford experiencing as much as a 120% increase in communications app data usage as a result of working from home measures.

Overall traffic to communication apps has seen a 45% increase across lockdown with voice calls up the same percentage, while globally WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage since the start of the outbreak according to Business Insider. Interestingly, contrary to recent trends of shorter calls, lockdown has seen the number of calls lasting longer than 5 minutes double as the public seek to bridge the social gap created by lockdown measures.

In the realms of fitness, both Strava & MapMyRun have seen huge jumps in data usage compared to pre-lockdown (triple for Strava & double for MapMyRun respectively) as the public seek to both get outdoors and stay fit and healthy. Comparatively FitBit has seen data usage decline as the daily movement around the UK has fallen, particularly driven by fewer commuters.

Research by Nuffield Health has shown that 76% of Brits have taken up a new form of exercise since lockdown began with 4 in 5 agreeing that they will keep up with their new routines once normality resumes. However, physical activity differs by age, with half of 18-24s getting less than 2 hours exercise a week compared to the evergreen over 65s; nearly half (47%) of whom reach 3 hours worth of exercise a week.

It is undeniable that social distancing and lockdown measures have had a significant effect on the structure of people’s lives and the habits that fall within them; whether these will last out in the long-term however is unclear. What we do know is that it is more important than ever in these uncertain times for brands to keep up to speed with developments within societal habits and norms. TSB are a great example of this, with their recent TV campaign focusing on the nation’s gratitude towards keyworkers for their amazing contributions during this global crisis.

Phillippa Lally, Cornelia H. M. van Jaarsveld, Henry W. W. Potts & Jane Wardle. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of social Psychology.

Lightbox Loves: The Last Dance

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Move over Tiger King. There’s a new champion as the most in-demand documentary in the world and it comes by the name of The Last Dance. This is the story Michael Jordan and the 80s/90s Chicago Bulls franchise. There have been lots of great sports documentaries released on streaming platforms so why is this one so popular?

With the volume of 80s and 90s sporting memories, pop culture references, soundtrack and fashion present in The Last Dance, nostalgia is an extremely powerful force at play whilst watching the new docu-series. Our own Lightbox research into nostalgia showed over half of Brits would rather go back to the past than the future and this plays into their media habits, especially in the current times. For example, Spotify reported a 54% increase in searches for ‘oldies’ or ‘throwback’ since the lockdown and in terms of The Last Dance, there has been a correlation to the release of the series and a peak in UK searches for 90s music and fashion. Clearly there will be genuine nostalgia within that audience but also “fauxnostalgia” from viewers feeling a sense of fondness towards a time they haven’t lived through, driving up streaming figures.

Timing also played a valuable role in the popularity of The Last Dance. Consumers have upped their searches for streaming platforms and video content over the lockdown period and brand-new content has been in relatively low supply with production studios, cinemas and live event spaces being shut. On top of this, there has been desperation amongst sports fans with a number of humorous social posts throughout the past 2 months highlighting life without sport or wacky alternatives to watch. The Last Dance has given fans and major sports platforms, from news publishers to podcasts, something to debate and be excited by during the void of no live sports action.

Even for brands who aren’t content specialists, this highlights the importance of entertaining your audience and, although this may have been serendipitous timing, listening to what your consumers are looking for and fulfilling that need.


the7stars x YouGov, Nostalgia update, April 2020

Google Trends


Lightbox Loves: The New Generation of Influencers

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There is a new generation of cool kids making waves on TikTok and they look nothing like the picture-perfect influencers of yesteryear. The new stars have risen up from the multitude of subcultures that the platform nurtures and with their alternative attitudes, they’re being hailed as a much-needed anti-dote to social media perfectionism.

One example that epitomises this phenomenon is the e-girl/boy (‘e’ being short for electronic). E-girls and boys are the Avril Lavignes of the 2020s.Inspired by the melting-pot of the Internet, their style is a mash-up of emo, anime and grunge and they spend a lot of time doing things once considered ‘anti-social’: using the internet, gaming and, of course, TikTok-ing. In the last six months, the number of Brits talking about e-girls and e-boys has risen 121%, to 14,000. Some well-known brands have even recognised the cultural power of these young TikTokers, with 19-year-old e-boy Noen Eubanks featuring in a recent campaign for fashion brand Celine.

Meanwhile at the opposite end of the spectrum, the adherents of cottagecore are evoking their inner grandma through matronly activities like dressing up in gingham dresses, knitting, reading, tending to their gardens and dreaming of escaping to a secluded cottage. Some credit the origins of this subculture to SoraBlu, who posted a series of shots from her rural home in December 2019 and who now has 170,000 followers.

This only scratches the surface of the multitudes of TikTok subcultures, but it’s enough to suggest that the new ideals of imperfection could change the way that brands collaborate with subculture influencers. Brands will certainly want to get the relationship right; the7stars’ study Life Behind Labels found that half of all people formulate life-long interests in their teenage years, and that 70% of people in a sub-culture group strongly identify with brands. So, don’t write off TikTok as frivolous fun, but consider the serious role it plays in the identity formation of tomorrow’s consumers.

BrandWatch, 1st Dec 2019 – 17th May 2020.

Life Behind Labels, the7stars x the Stylist, 2019

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

Lightbox Loves: Dancing In The Rain

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It’s week seven of lockdown and we’re all wondering when this is going to end. When can we see our families? When will we be able to go for post-work drinks? Will we ever have a decent haircut? Living in completely unprecedented times, it’s understandable that the uncertainty is getting to us, with 9 in 10 finding the unknown a challenge.

However, despite said difficulties, we are refusing to wallow. In true British fashion, wartime spirit of ‘keep calm and carry on’ has come to the fore with more than 60% of us coping better than expected. 2 in 3 Brits believe this mentality is appropriate at this time, meaning lockdown has not resulted in total shut down. Can’t see family? Send them flowers or a postcard. Can’t celebrate your birthday? Have a virtual house party. Can’t get married? Get dressed up and say your vows anyway.

It’s down to consumer perseverance that Google searches for TouchNote have increased tenfold since the outbreak and Channel 4 announced a new show, ‘Wedding in Lockdown’, giving disappointed couples a chance to get ‘married’ virtually with the help of a celebrity cupid. If we are not adopting a ‘do it anyway’ attitude, we’re using the gift of time to be resourceful in other ways – 1 in 5 of us have tried something new and most intend on continuing these habits beyond lockdown.

Many brands have been quick to innovate and adapt to our positive ‘carry on’ spirit and are offering their customers opportunities to make sour situations that bit sweeter. Classic British events such as Grand National and London Fashion Week either have gone, or will go ahead, albeit digitally, for the first time in their histories. Further, restaurants such as Wagamama and Pizza Express are releasing their recipes so we can enjoy our firm favourites at home, generating an overwhelmingly positive reaction on social media.

Despite difficult times, we are looking to dance in the rain, and brands who are able to help us do this are likely to reap the benefits in the long run.

Sources: Lightbox Love, Bauer Media, Google Trends, Brandwatch

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: A Dance Challenge

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TikTok, one of the newest kids on the block is already starting to change the social media landscape, with now over 1.5 billion users worldwide, it is one of the fastest-growing social media applications out there (1), currently it’s the third most downloaded app after Strava and Zoom on the App Store. This platform has really come into its own during the lockdown and self-isolation due to the uptake of its increasingly popular dance, fitness and other viral challenges. After remaining stable over the last 12 months according to Google trends, searches since March for the term ‘TikTok Dance’ have significantly spiked in popularity (2). Even if you haven’t downloaded the app itself, many are starting to find these video challenges flooding into their other social media platforms (3) – with many of our family/friends and favourite celebrities sharing videos, even NHS staff are taking part in a bid to boost morale whilst treating patients (4).

An example of a particularly popular dance trend is The Weeknd’s: Blinding Lights challenge. Even though this song was released in late November and charted in the Billboard Top 40, it dropped 41 places in its second week (5). It wasn’t until a dance challenge associated with the intro of the song became popular on TikTok in this last month that it really started to take off – coinciding with the world now being in lockdown. Many who are isolating with their families saw it as the perfect track and dance routine to get everyone involved (6). This in turn has contributed to the rise in popularity of the single and its stellar performance back up the charts worldwide – it currently stands at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (7) and receiving 64 million listeners monthly on Spotify, a first for The Weeknd (8).

In fact, nearly every single in the current top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 has found some traction on TikTok (9) – this includes Dua Lipa, Doha Cat and Bobby Ritch and previously Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’

Music artist Drake has recently taken the TikTok dance challenge concept to a whole new level – by creating a track and dance routine specifically for the platform in order to catapult his new single into the public conscious before it was released (8). Using a popular hip-hop dancer named Toosie and getting him to post a clip of himself and some of his friends doing a choreographed dance, to a snippet of the then unknown and unnamed song. People started to accept the dance challenge tagged #ToosieSlide. In just a few days millions of views were amassed on the video app, all before the track was available on streaming services (10).

It will be interesting to see what the future brings beyond lockdown and whether this cultural trend will continue. It does seem though, that after being viewed as an ‘additional social media channel’ with most popularity amongst Gen Z, TikTok has finally begun to find its place in the cultural mainstream.













Lightbox Loves: It’s In The Game

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In recent years, we have seen the growing prominence of product placements within narrative media with nostalgia hits like ‘Stranger Things’ and their team up with Coco-cola. Have we understated the presence, and cultural impact, of product placement within video games? NBA 2K and the FIFA series (to mention only two) have successfully connected with brands to create some of the best harmonised advertising without having to waiver authenticity or fight for attention with other advertisers.

The ‘real-life’ experience offered by sports franchise games is heightened by the real-life advertisement that takes place, from trainers to endorsement deals. NBA 2k in-game product placement includes: Gatorade energy drink and trainer brands Jordan, Nike and Adidas – with which you are given the ability to dress your avatar. As the player progresses in the game, they are given the choice to pick brands with which to associate, altering what you and your avatar sees during your gameplay. This works by subconsciously creating brand infinity with the gameplayer, in a relevant context, further inclining the person to, for instance pick Gatorade the next time they finish a workout or a basketball game in their real-life activities.

In addition, gaming allows brand an unprecedented exposure time. As infographic report released by EA Sports shows that in FIFA14 during a single quarter, users played an accumulated 18 billion minutes, compared to a total 11,430 minutes played in total in the Premier league over that same period. With the 260 million+ units FIFA games have sold during its inception in 1993, you are able to connect with a massive and committed audience. Sports brands have noticed this, The Drum reported that the Vanarama National League – fifth tier in English football – filed a petition to be included in the game as a reflection of the commercial value they would stand to gain, including: in-game dynamic advertising as well as digital and social exposure.

However, for Non-endemic brands, the challenge posed is much different and so to the solutions. Nintendo have found that with the experience between virtual gaming and the real world blending with tech advancements; an opportunity to position their brand in the virtual world and become more culturally connected to a younger audience. Birthing the release of their latest project the Ring Fit (a game where you become the physical character in your living room and use motion sensors to move your character around) – a lesson for non-endemic brands to take heed.

So the next time you hear someone say ‘gaming is the future’ don’t let it pass you by, rather ask yourself what is your brand’s future in gaming.

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