Lightbox Loves

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Lightbox Loves: The Cult of the Banal

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We’ve all heard that sex sells, but these days it’s the ordinary pleasures that are exciting consumers the most. The meteoric rise to fame of Essex housewife Sophia Hinchcliffe in the last six months is a case in point. ‘Mrs Hinch’ cleans for 30 minutes every day, documenting the process on her Instagram stories and her cleaning demonstration videos have earned her 1.5 million Instagram followers, now referred to as the Hinch Army.1

The cleaning craze is only the latest of mundane obsessions to take hold of Instagrammers. In 2016, the mania for paint-mixing videos inspired dedicated accounts with followers in the hundreds of thousands, as did fizzing bath bombs and icing cakes.2

It’s not just Instagram where ordinary events have attracted interest. ‘Slow advertising’ was made famous on TV by Ronseal, the paint and wood stain brand, with its 2016 Gogglebox ad break spot. The three-minute advert simply showed a man painting a fence. The literal representation of the product reflected the mundane nature of DIY, not only bringing the brand to life in an authentic way but standing out by doing something radically different from other splashy adverts.

Samsung followed up in 2017 with a similar Gogglebox ad break takeover, featuring three minutes of a washing machine cycle. The hypnotic spot was so popular that a 66-minute version was created. In 2017 Argos live-streamed a room of playing kittens to provide a distraction for stressed Black Friday shoppers.

While YouGov reports that 56% of all British adults agree that adverts should entertain them, entertainment could mean something very different from what we have come to expect.3 There are many reasons why visually monotonous, prosaic content continues to take hold of viewers’ attention. It soothes, de-stresses and engrosses with addictive repetition.

With competition for attention at an all-time high, advertisers who want to stand out should look for more ways to engage with the cult of the banal. Cleaning product brand Easho teamed up with Mrs Hinch to run an influencer campaign and claimed that sales of some products increased by 200% off the back of it.4 Advertisers who can drum up the humdrum may find they can appeal to consumers exhausted by their hectic lives.


  1. Gay, Hannah & Ali Gordon. (2018). ‘Cleaning product sales set to continue to rise in 2019’, BBC, 1 Jan 2019. Available at:
  3. YouGov Profiles+ GB Nat Rep, definitely or tend to agree that ‘I expect adverts to entertain me’, 6 Jan 2019.
  4. Gay (2018).
Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: When is a sausage not a sausage?

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…when it’s a Gregg’s vegan sausage roll. Launched last week across their 950 UK outlets, Gregg’s took the #Veganuary trend to a new peak with their first ever vegan friendly sausage roll.

The fast food giant introduced the world to their new product in a style similar to Apple’s iPhone launches, sending specially boxed rolls to the most influential bods they could find to record their “unboxing” reactions. The polarizing Piers Morgan obviously got in on the debate, engaging in Twitter banter with @Greggs and provoking further support for the baker purely through his own Marmite personality.

A smart stunt? Or a longer term strategy for Greggs? We think a bit of both.

As the trend towards lower meat lifestyles accelerates, even the protein-heavy Body Coach Joe Wicks has released a Veggie cookbook as his 2019 hit. And, we are now seeing mainstream food brands finally pick up the pace by including more meat free  products in their repertoire.

Iceland this month became the first UK supermarket to stock the “No Bull burger”, a meat-substitute popular in the US, as, like Gregg’s, they’re also looking to take a chunk of the growing meat alternative market. A market estimated to be worth $5.8bn by 2020 (The Grocer).

It is for Gregg’s, of course, not simply about the vegans. A vegan sausage roll shows a progressive side to a very traditional bakery brand, the home of steak bakes and stodgy carbohydrates. It opens up a world of flexitarians, pescatarians, non-factory farming enthusiasts, allergy sufferers, non-pork eaters and more.

It also gives meat eaters another option. 56% of meat eaters have eaten meat free alternatives in the past 6 months and 1 in 3 claim to have already reduced their intake overall, as cutting back consumption becomes fashionable. (Mintel, 2018)

Where other quick service restaurants such as TGI Fridays have taken a “limited time offer” approach to their new plant-based offerings, we think both Gregg’s and Iceland are making smart steps to be part of the new-normal when it comes to diet.


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Lightbox Loves: 12 Year Countdown

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We are reminded every day that we live in a time of political and economic uncertainty, so much so that some of us might have just become immune to it, ready to brew a cuppa and wait for it all to blow over. Another worrying headline has recently been added to this negative atmosphere: we’ve got as little as 12 years to limit our negative impact on the planet[1], or else!

As we wait for our government to take the lead in the fight against climate change and pass new laws on single-use plastic, recycling, green energy and everything in between, 15-year-old Swedish eco-warriors[2] are showing the world how change doesn’t always happen from the top down. Greta Thurnberg is the 15-year-old climate activist who skipped school and camped outside the Swedish Parliament demanding action against climate change. She also took part in the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland, alongside climate advocate David Attenborough.

One of the major contributors to climate change has been the fast-fashion industry, with Brits throwing away tons of clothes each year[3], sometimes after only wearing them once or twice. According to EcoWatch[4], the clothing industry is the second dirtiest industry in the world, next to Big Oil, making it a great contributor to our damaging carbon footprint.

Good news comes from the Waste & Resources Action Programme though, which has launched a Sustainable Clothing Action Plan[5], which has already helped reduce the carbon footprint per tonne of garments by 11.9%. 11 retailers have already signed up to this plan, including H&M. With more brands soon to follow it looks like sustainable fashion is becoming more and more… fashionable.

It hasn’t come as so much a surprise then that online retailer ASOS has had the worst ‘November in living history”[6], seeing its shares plunge and underwhelming growth, despite unprecedented discounts. As brilliantly put in our previous Lightbox Loves article, big brands need Pathos to keep their customer loyalty.

Moreover, studies have shown that “93% of the millennial generation want to buy from companies that have purpose, sustainability and environmental stewardship built into their ethos”[7]. This number may seem a little high for a generation famous for living their life on Instagram where they can’t be seen wearing the same thing twice, but reality trumps the occasional vanity photoshoot. The climate change threat is real and, unlike previous generations, millennials have knowledge at the touch of their fingertips 24/7, being able to fact check everything they hear, see or read in seconds.

Studies have shown that almost half of Brits don’t remember what they got last year as a Christmas gift[8]. The pressure to buy expensive gifts and the last-minute rush, results in piles and piles of unwanted gifts every year. What better time to start thinking about the impact your fashion habits have on the world around us!










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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.

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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


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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!







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.

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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”!









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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





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Lightbox Loves: Ikigai. Yes, that.

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First, let’s rewind to October 2016.

Life was so much simpler back then. The nights drew in, we started to decline social arrangements, and Netflix was calling. Suddenly, we were all about the hygge (hoo-gah) lifestyle. Direct from Denmark, the UK went crazy for this idea of cosy, contented living. See how the interest in this Scandi concept grew quickly, obsessed us for a winter, and then fell out of favour in the UK.


As autumn is in full swing once more, I got to thinking, Carrie Bradshaw style, about what other exotic concept we could look to adapt as a nation – given our current state of play as a country is, well, stressful. Enter Ikigai.

For those blissfully unaware, Ikigai is a concept straight from Japan, which means “a reason for being”. It’s the sweet spot where what you love, what you can be paid for, what you are good at, and what the world needs, all intersect.


Now the time is nigh for the Ikigai concept to truly take root in the UK.

If you consider the cultural trends towards career breaks*, calls to curtail the 5 day working week*, the appetite for side hustles*, higher tuition fees and declining university admissions* along with an impending financial crisis, we’re veering towards the perfect storm for millennials who get itchy feet as they arrive at around a decade in the workforce.

Brand purpose is already a hot topic, with CSR, environmental and societal credentials a must-have to be considered for purchase by a millennial audience. What is less often considered is how these types of concerns factor into the career choices of the Gen Y workforce. Moving forward, could companies utilise the concept of Ikigai to promote their own employer brand to a highly selective and sensitive Gen Z workforce? Only time will tell.