Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: Festive Cheer​

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

As we near the end of 2023, it is probably safe to assume that not many will be sad to see it go. the7stars’ latest QT report shows that overall, 2023 was viewed as disappointing – with 1 in 3 adults giving it a negative review, and only 18% reviewing it positively. Given these statistics, and the tumultuousness of the year, it has been – and remains – vital for brands to create enjoyable experiences for consumers. This should encompass all their interactions, from customer service to products and/or services, as well as crucially, their media and communications.

There is arguably never a more important time than in the build-up to Christmas and the festive season to bring joy to customers. And this year has seen several brands leaning into cultural trends to do so. One trend we’ve seen deployed of late is nostalgia, given research has found it can have a positive effect on emotional well-being. This trend (Nouveau Nostalgia) was identified as one of the key cultural trends for 2023 by the7stars in the Cultural Codes and can be defined as the power that nostalgia holds in the current climate to provide a comfort blanket. Especially now, as digital archives mean old content is far more accessible and can be more easily harnessed in a future-oriented role.

A prominent example of this comes in the form of this year’s Barbour Christmas advert, featuring none other than Shaun the Sheep – tapping into their customers’ inner child. It also enabled them to engagingly inform their audience about their re-waxing service that helps extend the life of products. Another great example comes from Very’s animated Christmas ad featuring some 90s nostalgia via Girls Aloud’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody,’ which successfully launched a new creative brand platform. These are just two recent, successful illustrations of brands using trends to their advantage to remain top-of-mind in a cluttered marketplace.

The above clearly outlines the advantages of understanding customer behaviour attitudes and then tapping into this via media. In this instance, using nostalgia, brands have been able to offer some entertainment and comfort to consumers that are currently seeking this. Moving forward, those who continue to understand their audience and translate this across their media will be at the forefront – by tailoring this into what their consumers want and need at that moment.

Sources: the7stars QT, HBUK, the7stars Cultural Codes 2023, Mintel

Lightbox Loves: Charitable Giving

Lightbox Loves: Charitable Giving

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

the7stars’ QT report reveals a significant decline in consumer confidence towards charities (22%), compared to both earlier this year and the same period last year. Amidst the cost-of-living crisis, individuals are not only tightening their wallets in terms of monetary contributions, but they are also increasingly seeking transparency in how their donations are being utilised.

As people grow more sceptical, Britons are exploring alternative avenues to support some of the causes close to their hearts, ultimately reshaping the landscape of charitable giving.

Such changes include favouring support for smaller parties like individuals, friends, and families over large corporations or established charities. While this can be attributed to Brits placing greater trust in the faces they know well or perhaps feeling a stronger sense of emotional connection to these individuals, what’s clear is that it’s become even more important for charities to shed clarity about their specific mission and connect to their audiences on a more direct level.

Furthermore, there’s also a notable inclination amongst Britons to invest in local causes that impact their day-to-day lives. This localised mindset is reflected in data released by Canvas8, with 19% of Britons expressing full trust in charities centred on their immediate area, as opposed to a mere 10% for nationwide initiatives. This underscores the prevalent belief that charity begins at home, with a consensus that tackling major societal issues should predominantly fall under the government’s responsibility. Nevertheless, aiding friends and family in times of need remains a paramount concern for many.

In conclusion, while charitable giving in the UK remains robust, a prevailing sense of distrust has spurred a shift towards supporting individuals and local causes. This underscores a yearning for concrete, immediate impacts within communities.

Source: the7stars QT 2023, Canvas8

Image of a women dressed as Barbie in a life-sized Barbie box with pink ballons in the background.

Lightbox Loves: Barbie the New Feminist Icon

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

As well as capturing the hearts of the nation this summer, the Barbie movie offers a refreshing perspective turning gender stereotypes on their head and championing female empowerment.

The Rise of the Female Gaze

The film unfolds in Barbieland where Barbie’s dominate and Ken’s exist merely as their accessories. Cleverly subverts gender roles, Barbie is transported Barbie into the real world and is forced to contend with a patriarchal world and the corresponding limitations placed on female power. In navigating the real world Barbie, once a two-dimensional character, proves herself to be a problem-solver and natural-born leader. By heroing these qualities the movie promotes female empowerment and breaks the stereotype that women are weak or incapable.

In an age where empowering messages for young girls and women are more important than ever, the Barbie movie is exemplary in showcasing a role model that females can aspire to. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, renowned for putting women and their untold stories at the forefront of her movies, Barbie appeals to an audience who are hungry for more and better representation. The film courts the rarely portrayed ‘female gaze’ a term coined to counter the traditional male gaze ‘not by objectifying men but by telling women’s stories with nuance, depth, and authenticity’. Research conducted by the7stars found that 68% of 16-34-year-olds found it refreshing to watch a movie that portrayed the female gaze.

We’re seeing brands catch on to this thirst for representation and championing of female voices. Fashion brand, Simply Be has launched a podcast series, talking to some of the UK’s biggest female icons as they share their remarkable journeys of determination. “Shaping Success is about celebrating women, from all walks of life and in all their shapes and sizes. We worked closely with the7stars and Platform Media to build a podcast series that amplifies credible voices and influencers’” Simply Be head of marketing, Sinead Donohoe said.

Encouraging a more diverse expression of femininity

As well as upholding female empowerment the Barbie movie is impacting wider culture with numerous subcultures emerging off the back of the hype. One such subculture is Barbicore, a kind of ‘feminine realism’ that suggests that all expressions of gender are ‘fake’ in a sense. This aesthetic has emerged in an era of hyper-feminine and maximalist looks and is proving popular among cisgender women and the queer community. Barbicore idealistically ‘envisions a world where the female gaze reigns in every area, rather than taking masculine-coded ‘seriousness’ – which takes just as much effort for people who aren’t cis men to participate in – as the prerequisite for professionalism and respect’. This aligns with ‘Ephemeral Experimentation’ a trend that the7stars identified as ‘one to watch for 2023’ as part of our Culture Codes research. The trend ties into Gen Z’s commitment-free, trial-and-error approach to identity and encapsulates their desire to challenge assumptions and live limitlessly.

(Sources: – ‘What’s behind the rise of the female gaze’, ‘How Barbicore is eschewing the male gaze’, ‘Barbie movie elevates the female gaze’, – ‘The new movie breaking barriers for girls and women’, ‘Barbicore trend and female empowerment’, the7stars Cultural Codes research, the7stars Pulse research).

Lightbox Loves: Festival Fans

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

With Glastonbury done and dusted for another year, the festival saw 210,000 descend on Worthy Farm for five days of music, culture and arts. Tickets for this year’s event sold out in just over an hour whilst Elton John’s closing Sunday set drew in record TV audiences of 7.6m. Despite being in its 53rd year, the festival’s popularity shows no signs of waning.

In the late 1960s, with the birth of Woodstock, a breadth of festivals emerged, sparked by a countercultural wave that saw an anti-establishment rejection of the mainstream and an embrace of alternative ideals; freedom, self-expression and creativity. Today, music festivals have grown into a lucrative and competitive industry that sees approximately 1,000 events take place in the UK every year, from the mass-market summer headliners to hundreds of smaller, niche micro-events. This has no doubt been driven by the boom of the experiential economy, as, as the7stars’s March QT outlines, consumers increasingly value spending money on experiences as they look for meaningful ways to spend time with others.

With this growth, an increasing number of brands have looked to embed themselves in the festival scene. Whilst festival audiences are hugely diverse, large, shared experiences such as these channel connectivity and community. This concept is embodied in the7stars’ Cultural Codes with the idea of Collectivism exploring how shared behaviours enhance the joy that comes from social engagement. With festivals providing an opportunity to be part of larger cultural moments, they offer brands the chance to capture audiences with emotionally led, memorable moments that drive brand perception and loyalty. And this is something that festival-goers appear willing to engage with; according to YouGov, 53% say that they are open to getting involved in brand experiences.

There are a multitude of ways for brands to align with festival culture. From headline sponsorships, such as Virgin’s 22 year-long sponsorship of V Festival, to owning a space within the site itself as Vodafone did this year at Glastonbury with their free ‘Connect and Charge’ hub. Kopparberg too have become synonymous with the summer festival scene, targeting festival goers across social platforms for their recent “To Firsts That Last” campaign, whilst upweighting their digital OOH activity to key summer events such as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and Secret Garden.

As festivals become increasingly awash with marketing messaging, it’s important that brands connect with these communities in a genuine way, as the recent backlash to British Airways’ Glastonbury mock-up highlights. These days, audiences are not just there for the music but for a wide range of reasons – fashion, food, wellness, activism, connection with others – so it’s crucial that brands show audiences why they are there and why their brand matters to them to drive meaningful interactions and positively enhance the festival experience. With some of the biggest summer festivals yet to take place – Boardmasters, Creamfields, Boomtown, Latitude and Reading & Leeds – there’s opportunity yet for brands to connect with these valuable festival audiences this summer.

Sources: Campaign

Lightbox Loves: Modern Families

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

In an era marked by social awareness and a desire for progress, young British parents (those falling into Gen Z and Gen Y) are using their personal experiences of the modern world to redefine traditional parenting norms and values. With three key shifts in their approach to parenting compared to previous generations:


One of the fundamental shifts in parenting approaches is the emphasis on embracing open mindedness. Young parents not only want their children to appreciate and respect diversity in other people, but also to be as true to themselves as possible no matter how much it deviates from the status quo (whether this be through sexuality, career plans or the lifestyle they desire). With single parent families making up 15% of all families in the UK in 2021 and same-sex couples accounting for 1 in 6 of all adoptions in 2020, Gen Z and Gen Y couples are taking on more modern approaches to parenting shaped by their own family set-ups that fall outside of what was considered a ‘traditional’ family set up.

Healthy cynism

In an age of misinformation and distrust to authoritative figures, parents are also encouraging critical thinking and courage to challenge those in positions of power and authority. Described as ‘healthy cynism’, Gen Z’s and Gen Y’s own personal experience of recent multi-crises in the news see them wanting to strike a balance between more traditional parental values such as kindness and empathy, with self-determination and the ability to be opinionated about the world around them. Things such as online safety controls, parental guidance and curated media consumption have thus played an even more crucial role for families, especially in navigating potentially toxic online environments.

Gentle parenting and emotional intelligence

With mental health becoming one of the biggest topics talked about over recent years, Gen Y and Z parents are now prioritising their children’s emotional intelligence, understanding and expression. With buzzwords such as ‘gentle parenting’ trending on platforms such as TikTok, modern families aim to promote more open conversations about feelings, helping their children navigate and manage emotions like anger and irritability, which would have otherwise been classed as misbehaviour or naughtiness in more traditional approaches.

Named as ‘the most miserable’ generation, Gen Z’s and Y’s have grown up in a world of economic instability and emphasis on social injustice. With a greater sense of distrust towards those in power, young Brits have a resolve for paving the way for a more progressive Britain – an agenda that starts in their own home. From true representation of modern family make-ups in communications, to helping parents bring mindfulness and mental health to children in a playful way – brands would benefit from showing their alliance and a thorough understanding of young families’ evolving familial values that shape the decisions they make in the future.


Source: Canvas8

Lightbox Loves: Curiosity

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” This Albert Einstein quote reminds us of the power of curiosity. It is a tool that allows us to understand current events, people & trends – as well as empowering us to be creative and innovative.

There are a number of reasons why curiosity is so important in the modern day; chiefly the speed of change & development of technology combined with the scale of mobility and continuing diversification of demographics. What this means is marketers need to be able to learn and adapt to new environments and challenges, and necessitates a requirement – be curious and open to new perspectives and skills in order to be successful.

A Harvard Business Review survey found that “only about 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.” But why is this actually an issue, what are the tangible benefits of curiosity I hear you ask. Let’s dive in!

Firstly, one of the primary benefits of a curious workplace is an increase in innovation and creativity as employees can be freed from the fear of failure, and are able to discover new solutions or better ways of working. A field study by INSEAD quantified this, and found that a one-unit increase in curiosity (for instance, a score of 6 rather than 5 on a 7-point scale) was associated with 34% greater creativity. By unleashing curiosity, employees can explore different avenues which then lead to the creation of new ideas. And importantly, curiosity also allows people to uncover and avoid their biases by exposing us to new perspectives and sources. For example, when curiosity is triggered we are less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias and to stereotyping others – thereby reducing decision making errors.

Additionally, research conducted by Professor Todd Kashdan of George Mason University found that employees who are more curious at work reported higher levels of job satisfaction and engagement when compared to less curious employees. So apart from curiosity being beneficial to work outputs, it also makes work more enjoyable!

Not only is it hugely important for us as people to be curious, but there are also proven benefits for brands and companies to encourage curiosity to ensure they have their finger on the pulse of the nation, create effective campaigns that connect to their audiences, and ultimately deliver novel and interesting results.

Sources: The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Harvard Business Review: The Business Case for Curiosity (2018); Forbes: Curiosity: Why It Matters, Why We Lose It And How To Get It Back (2021); BBC: Curiosity: The neglected trait that drives success (2022)

Lightbox Loves: Cathartic Sprees

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Ever had a bad day and found yourself clicking ‘add to basket’? It seems you’re not alone. According to a recent report from Canvas8, “cathartic sprees” are becoming an increasingly common way for consumers to deal with stress and anxiety.

So, what exactly is a cathartic spree? It’s a shopping binge that’s driven by emotions rather than necessity. Cathartic sprees sees you splurging on a new wardrobe, indulging in expensive beauty treatments, or treating yourself to the latest gadgets, even if you can’t afford them.

Many believe this behaviour has been exacerbated thanks to recent macro-economic pressures, whilst the weight of work, social media, and personal relationships also play a part in making people turn to shopping as a form of escapism or to de-stress from modern day life.

While retail therapy can provide a temporary sense of relief, the long-term consequences can be damaging. Many end up with credit card debt (particularly as people rack up their reliance on ‘buy now pay later’ – BNPL – models) and a sense of guilt and regret after the initial high wears off.

With 39% of Gen Zers and 34% of Gen Yers naming finance as their main source of stress, brands such as Klarna are already facing large public outcry meaning that releasing BNPL features may not be the quick fix and answer that brands are hoping for, as they risk being perceived as enabling toxic shopping habits.

On the flipside, retailers can help people where they truly need it the most – whether it be helping consumers to set a budget or supporting financial literacy organisations, retailers will do well to help consumers make sensible financial choices. For instance, smart money app ‘Plum’ are helping people save for a rainy day with the ‘Naughty Rule’ where users can set aside savings for every splurge they make, helping consumers balance indulgence and practicality.

All in all, retailers don’t have to be the people’s enemy when it comes to their financial goals. With YouGov reporting that as many as 64% of shoppers are looking to make cuts in their household spend in 2023, many are prioritising being retail savvy and financially intelligent more than anything else this year. As such, brands may be able to win consumer loyalty by showing support and offering practical and responsible solutions to make money go further during this challenging climate.

Source: Canvas8, YouGov

Lightbox Loves: Bank Holiday Boosts

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

The UK has just enjoyed a sunny four day bank holiday weekend which will undoubtably have people excited about the prospect of the three bank holiday weekends coming up in May (a 2019 YouGov survey suggested that 41% of the UK say that the prospect of a bank holiday puts them in a better mood!). Despite nearly 1 in 3 Brits saying that they will not be prioritising leisure products, activities or services in 2023 (the7stars QT, May 2023), it appears that bank holidays may be exempt from this cautiousness.

With Brits choosing when these one-off occasions happen to ignore the cost-of-living crisis and instead choosing to take advantage of the opportunity to go out, celebrate and spend money. For example, it is projected that Brits will have spent £960million during the Easter period (which is £60million more than last year). Furthermore, MCA has already reported that pubs and hospitality benefitted from a 3% increase in the total number of sales over this Easter weekend.

This trend we have seen at Easter isn’t an isolated occasion as the extra post-Christmas bank holiday on the 27th December 2022 saw a 40% increase in shopping activity and footfall compared to Boxing Day. Likewise, the British Retail Consortium reported a 5.1% year-on-year increase in retail spending in March 2023 around Mother’s Day (well ahead of the 12-month average of 2.6%) and Valentine’s Day helped boost British retail sales by 5.2%.

Whilst spending grew across the board, there are a number of sectors that are fairing particularly well during these calendar events. Most notably retail, hospitality and entertainment as they lend themselves to these moments of coming together and celebrating.

Overall, the bank holidays may just be the perfect opportunity to maximise marketing and drive increased spending around these sectors to give your leisure brands the boost they need this year. Consider marketing tactics such as promoting special offers and using email marketing to capitalise on these periods of increased consumer spending.

Lightbox Loves: Peer Power

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

the7stars’ QT finds that people’s confidence in brands have diminished steadily throughout the whole of 2022, declining by 13% pts between November ‘21-’22. Last year was plagued by brands facing rounds of scandals and public distaste, with Balenciaga and Ticketmaster being only a couple of many. In a similar vein, celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres (arguably brands in their own right) have also fallen prey to online cancel culture. Perhaps what makes the sting of such scandals even more bitter, is that many of these names once held huge public adoration, but now Brits are fighting back against inauthenticity.

People are now seeking information from peers in their communities instead. Most people in the UK spend an average of 2 hours per day on social media, with platforms chock full of user generated content on consumer experiences, product recommendations, hauls and reviews. This has led users (who are already natives to the platform) to start using social channels as search engines in their own right, and consequently evolving their sources of influence from a top down approach (e.g. search engines), to a more peer-led means of information sharing. In fact, according to studies led by Google, almost 40% of younger audiences are turning more towards Instagram and TikTok for information, whether this be finding places to go for lunch or getting recommendations on what to buy for Mother’s Day. Not only does this signal a breakdown of information hierarchy, but it also symbolises people’s desires to decentralise influence and hear from a variety of voices within online communities in the search for authenticity.

The popularity of #BookTok is only testament to this, with brands such as Snapchat even starting to innovate with the movement and releasing features within their map tool, allowing users to recommend restaurants to each other. However, people’s growing bias towards their peers can also have negative repercussions. For instance, low barriers to entry when it comes to important topics such as medical advice, psychological wellbeing and finance can proliferate misinformation and have huge detrimental effects to people who take advice from strangers without caution.

Overall, peer prominence means that for brands, lateral communication is now more central to media habits more than ever. Whether this be through providing customer service on more personal platforms such as WhatsApp or engaging with trusted online communities, what lies true is that brands need to operate as more than just faceless businesses but rather cultivate personal human to human relationships founded on trust and candour.

Source: the7stars QT, Cybercrew 2023, Canvas8

Lightbox Loves: AI and Empathy – Does it Compute?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Oil and water, toothpaste and orange juice, humanity and technology, empathy and business growth. Easy right? Things that don’t mix. Okay maybe the first two… but the second two? Many market researchers would beg to differ.

The qualitative research industry was historically built on in-person, face-to-face methods of data collection, a long and arduous process. But in recent years qualitative research has been able to add a great deal of technological solutions to its arsenal. The speed of development and increased accessibility of technology has facilitated this with. As such the rise of tools such as mobile ethnography, VR and AI, have been gleefully taken into the stride of researchers across the industry.

However, some believe that the empathy in face-to-face interaction (which remains the most powerful way to gain meaningful insights key to unlocking business growth), is lost through the intervention of technology. AI poses a particular challenge to this, due its infamous inability to understand context and subtext as well as the nuance in language and the way humans formulate responses. Whilst much of what people say is explicit, still, large parts of our communication is expressed implicitly, particularly when we consider communication around difficult subjects like private personal problems or more complex societal issues like issues of race and class.

Joyshree Reinelt of Innate Motion describes it like this, “We need to open up the soul, and embrace vulnerability. Empathy is something that’s needed more than ever in the current stressful environment many consumers find themselves living in – something AI isn’t about to deliver.”

Market research at its core is people focussed, and that rings true more now than ever before. Technology that merely enhances the empathetic interaction between researcher and participant, and by extension, brands and their consumers, will be key as we navigate these turbulent times.

Because when technology is the method of communication instead of the medium, empathy and its ability to drive growth is lost. That being said, the benefit that technological advancements have made to be able to access a broader and higher volume of people can’t be underestimated. This has meant greater understanding of people, which is the ultimate goal. So the role of technology in qualitative research at this moment in time is perhaps not in understanding the complexity of human feelings but in being an enabler to allow researchers to better understand people.