Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: The Post Wellness Era

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As with the natural ebb and flow of cultural trends, it seems that the age of the ‘that-girl’ wellness trend has come to an end – paving the way for newer movements such as the ‘feral club rat’ and ‘goblin mode’ to redefine the zeitgeist.

From athleisure to green juice detoxes and restrictive meal planning, the pandemic triggered an influx of self-improvement mania that started with good intentions, but soon soured into a performative obsession.  However, as scenes of the war in Ukraine, on-going climate change and the cost of living crisis became the top news stories, people awakened to issues much bigger than themselves. This caused people to strive for more than just pursuing a seemingly endless journey of self-optimisation and giving birth to the ‘that-girl’ antithesis – the ‘feral club rat’ and ‘goblin mode’ which embraces the messiness of life.

People have also gained consciousness of the underlying consumerist agenda behind the wellness trend which profited off people’s insecurities. For 2022, the majority of Gen Z are now more likely to say that ‘personal development’ or ‘having fun’ are their top priority lifestyle changes for the year ahead.

The new dawn of the post wellness revolution sees people seek a balance with a gentler form of self-development taking over the reins.  This manifests in the likes of TikTok and YouTube star Emily Mariko, who embodies this shift in culture most accurately with her unrestrictive yet healthy food content on social media. Meanwhile, vegan/vegetarian meat alternatives company Beyond Meat, are riding the wave by partnering with fast food chains such as the likes of KFC, Subway, TGI Fridays and McDonalds.

With the hashtag #feralgirlsummer garnering more than 300,000 views on TikTok, it seems that this movement is here to stay. But how can other brands, also resonate in this space authentically? This new era calls for brands to send messages of empowerment, balance and support, which prove more meaningful than pushing glorified aspirational ideals and exploiting people’s feelings of not being enough. Relevant brands will also do well to help consumers become unapologetic in their self-indulgence to keep up with more progressive mindsets. Ultimately, those who speak the post-wellness language are asking for more humanity, authenticity, and relatability in the brands they love.

Source: Canvas8, The Guardian

Lightbox Loves: The Loyalty Economy

By | Lightbox Loves

Whilst many Brits started the year with a renewed sense of optimism, the country is facing a difficult trajectory for the year ahead. Referring to the7stars’ own quarterly tracker, the QT, we know that the Brits are already starting to feel the impact of the rising cost of living, with 1 in 3 Brits are feeling less comfortable on their income than they did this time last year. Inevitably, this extra financial stress will result in a change to consumer purchasing habits which will have repercussions for brands and industries alike. 

With the rise in inflation and cost of living, and customers becoming increasingly expectant of brands, loyalty will become pivotal in retaining customers within an even more competitive landscape. However, we know that brand loyalty is waning for most. According to a recent report, 27% of UK adults feel no loyalty to any brand. Worryingly, it has become increasingly difficult to garner initial loyalty in the first instance, with nearly 40% of global shoppers agreeing that they’d need to buy from a brand five or more times before they would consider themselves loyal — an 11% increase YoY.

As a result, it is important that brands do not confuse habitual purchasing with perceived loyalty, which will be especially pertinent during a time where consumers will be more conservative with their spending. To obtain and develop loyalty, consumers need to feel valued and understood, meaning their interaction with the brand needs to extend beyond the transaction process. 85% of respondents overwhelmingly agree that they’re more inclined to buy from a brand whose values align with their own (rising to 90% for Gen Z). Therefore, the onus is now on brands to tap into and earn consumer’s emotional loyalty.

In a time where consumers are more vigilant when it comes to their data privacy, striking the balance will be key. A recent report suggested that 68% are willing to share information with brands they love in exchange for more personalized loyalty experiences and rewards, but will abandon brands that ‘over-personalise’. Loyalty programs, incentives and exclusive offers could be key to unlocking that personal experience that shopper’s crave, resulting in the holy grail of customer retention (87% of Brits say that a loyalty program influences them to buy again).

The secret to building true emotional loyalty requires crafting journeys, remaining principled, and creating experiences – moving beyond the data and understanding consumers as individuals. Now more than ever, it’s important for brands to recognise the difference and invest in the moments that matter, keeping shopper’s coming back for more! 

Source: The QT Feb 2022, Canvas8, State of Brand Loyalty survey

Lightbox Loves: Offering glimmers of hope

By | Lightbox Loves

Against a backdrop of a devastating war and an increasingly worrying cost of living crisis, it has been questioned what role brands have to play, particularly within such delicate circumstances. Through monitoring how brands have responded to these harsh realities, the ones that have positively stood out are those that have found an authentic way to show glimmers of hope in times of need – offering an opportunity for brands to positively connect with their customers.

The catastrophic attacks in Ukraine have affected us all, and in response, many Western global brands, such as Apple, H&M and Disney have halted business in Russia, showing resistance to Putin’s invasion. These decisions have been met with unwavering support from Britain. However, the brands that have arguably gained the most positive traction, are those that have offered support and hope to individuals affected by the war.

AirBnb have not only offered free housing for 100,000 refugees, but have also waivered their fees to Ukranian accommodation hosts, after people across the world started to book to stay at their homes– not for a holiday, but instead to put money straight into the pockets of those most in need. This initiative has raised $2million to date, and although an idea not started by AirBnb themselves, the brand facilitated an initiative that has had a direct positive impact to individuals, offering small silver linings in a tangible and authentic way.

Closer to home, millions of Brits are understandably concerned by the cost of living crunch – the7stars latest QT tracking from February highlighted that 1 in 3 people feel less comfortable on their income than they did this time last year. However, whilst rising prices are inevitable, brands can still show they are on the side of their consumers. Iceland has promised to freeze the price of all its £1 frozen lines, in a pledge to stand in solidarity with their shoppers. This demonstrates genuine helpfulness from Iceland, and will have a direct positive benefit to their customers, especially with grocery prices otherwise rising at its fastest rate in 8 years.

When it may sometimes feel that wider institutions are not on the side of people, brands can (and should) offer hope to their customers. Initiatives that have a direct positive impact to those most in need will resonate, and brands that enable this, are likely to reap the benefits in the long run.

Sources:  the7stars QT;;

Lightbox Loves: Live Sport for All

By | Lightbox Loves

Live sport is back in full force, with the Winter Olympics, the Superbowl and the Six Nations tournament being held around the world in recent weeks. Global lockdowns had a devastating effect on the sports industry at both local and international levels, with 15% of people citing watching sports as the thing they missed watching the most during lockdowns (Statista, 2020). Yet the last two years have undoubtedly had a lasting impact on how we enjoy live games, with just 8% of global consumers saying they’re comfortable with attending a near or totally filled stadium (YouGov, 2021).

Live sport is therefore adapting to a new environment.  We’ve identified four ways the live sports experience is becoming more accessible and immersive for all:

Firstly, sport streaming is on the rise. 24% of consumers watch live sport online, with those aged 18-24 more than twice as likely as those over 55 to watch sports via a live stream (YouGov, 2021). Online services are increasingly bidding for exclusive sports rights and competing with the traditional broadcasters – as seen with sports subscription service DAZN recently expanding their offering in the UK, announcing deals with Matchroom Boxing and the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Secondly, social media has a newfound importance in the viewing experience.  Over half of people say they monitor their social feeds while watching sports (YouGov, 2021). Streaming introduces new possibilities for interaction such as options to watch along with your friends virtually and comment in real time on matches and sporting events.

Thirdly, personalisation and interaction are driving deeper engagement. In the US, Amazon offers a choice of announcers for their NFL games, whilst basketball team the L.A. Clippers have pioneered a new ‘CourtVision’ technology which allows fans to switch between multiple ‘Modes’ including different camera angles and real-time data.  Other viewer interaction techniques also include the ability to shop for official merchandise and view bios and statistics of the players.

And finally, technology is facilitating further innovation.  The future of watching live sport is becoming more immersive, enabled by the development of sophisticated AR and VR technologies and the rise of e-sports. For example, Formula One hosted a successful virtual tournament during lockdown in which drivers raced against a host of celebrities, highlighting a future opportunity for consumers to play alongside a team or sportsperson from the comfort of their living room.

In many ways sport is now unique in the world of entertainment. It remains one of the few events viewers continue to tune-in to watch live. Last summer, the UEFA Euro 2020 Final racked up almost 30 million viewers – making it the most watched programme of the year. A combination of new media channels for reach and engagement alongside new technology and innovations will enhance the experience for viewers, while also providing more opportunities for brands to be a part of the experience with them.

Source: YouGov 2022, Statista 2022.

Lightbox Loves: Marketer’s COVID Guide

By | Lightbox Loves

The last two years have proved to be a testing time for many, with COVID hampering both lives and business. As the world tears down many COVID restrictions, we dare hope that finally we’ve caught a break and can enjoy new normality. Here we take a look at how a brand who conquered this adversity successfully, and how you can make sure your brand can stand the test of any times. 

For many of us KFC is a household treat as succulent as any, but back in 2020 when the pandemic hit, the stuff of nightmares appeared reality when all KFC shops (amongst others) were forced to close. There were two marketing challenges for KFC to answer.  How to maintain brand salience with their doors closed and how to ensure customers would return once restaurants reopened? Difficult challenges indeed, which they passed with flying colours. The first POA was to create a unified global voice with the aid of the Pratfall effect. By blanking out their famous slogan: ‘It’s __ __ Good’ along with a public announcement campaign, which informed the mass: “that thing we’ve been saying over and over for the last three quarters of a century? Ignore it for now.” Replacing them with alternatives suggested from the public. This quickly grew attraction reaching over 2 billion impressions and an uplift of brand word of mouth by a significant 3,842%, week after the campaign. Which translated to 2% growth in global sales, or $8m in profits. Therefore, answering both challenges in an engaging and differentiating manner in what was a potentially difficult time for their business.

On the other hand, Corona had the opposite result, not due only to the difficulty that the pandemic brought (something all brands/ industry suffered from) rather due to tone-deaf marketing that proved detrimental in sales and the eye of the public. Outside from drawing the unluckiest straw with their name matching that of the virus, when their marketing team decided to go ahead with their new Corona Hard Seltzer launch with the tagline: “it’s another way to find your beach” seeming to encourage social gatherings right at the start of the pandemic, which was quickly associated with the “spring-breakers” who became “super-spreaders” of COVID-19. Thus, heavily damaging brand outlook and consideration. Unsurprisingly, an influx of negative comments made their way to the brands twitter page, with some calling the ad “in extremely poor taste” and imploring the company to “do better.“ Additionally, purchase intent dropped to the lowest its been in the 2 years prior and buzz fell from 75 at the beginning of Jan’21 to 51 by late Feb’21.

In an ever changing, fast paced world, we find ourselves needing to adapt quickly to respond to such types of events.  However the contrast of the two brand examples show that the best course of action when market trends change dramatically is for advertising and content marketing plans to follow suit, or risk finding themselves caught in a bother.


Lightbox Loves: The Virtual Takeover

By | Lightbox Loves

As our media behaviours continue to evolve, the one that everyone has on their watch list for 2022 is gaming. the7Stars’ QT recently identified that 57% of Brits game as a form of escapism, with 2 in 5 relying on it as a means of entertainment. Although a higher percentage of younger people play games, casual mobile gaming has driven an increase across all age groups. This growth in gaming offers new in-game channels for marketers to directly deliver messages to all types of immersed audiences, via their medium of choice.

Brands can now leverage the power of programmatic ads and in-game out of home experiences. From static ads to dynamic virtual billboards, in-game advertising enables greater customisation of the user’s experience as well as availabilities for geo-targeting – all whilst being fully integrated into the storyline of a game. As such, ads in the gaming universe complement their surroundings and become part of the digital world, as they would in real life. This makes an effective way to reach audiences in a non-intrusive yet identifiable way.

Additionally, gamers’ acceptance and expectation for brand engagement on virtual platforms is evident.  Studies have highlighted that 70% of young gamers believe that brands should pay more attention to gamer culture, and more than half of gamers agree that brands should work to get their products in video games.

With increasing volumes of audiences spending time and money in virtual gaming experiences, brands that fail to tap into gaming’s massive marketing potential could be missing out on a major opportunity to reach these engaged consumers. Brands that are ready to act and to evolve with the gaming world will reap the benefits of these highly immersive and shoppable environments.

Source: the7stars QT, Ypulse,

Lightbox Loves: The Wonder of Wordle

By | Lightbox Loves

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

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

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

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

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


Lightbox Loves: Christmas Specials

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lightbox Loves: Black Friday

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

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

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

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

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

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

Lightbox Loves: Love to hate the Christmas Creep?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

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

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

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

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

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

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