Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: The Rise of Gen Alpha Influencers

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

As Gen Alpha enters tweendom, their immersion in social media is more significant than ever before. With the oldest members of this generation already 14 years old, many have established their presence on various social platforms, paving the way for a new wave of influencers within their age group. From beauty routines to fashion trends and culinary endeavours, Gen Alpha influencers are captivating their peers with content that blurs the lines between childhood and adulthood.

Influenced by the digital realm from a tender age, Gen Alpha views social media stars as role models, with 49% trusting them as much as their own family and friends when it comes to product recommendations. This shift in consumer behaviour is significant, indicating that traditional marketing strategies may not be as effective with this demographic.

However, concerns arise regarding the appropriateness of certain products promoted by these influencers. The phenomenon of “Sephora Kids” highlights a growing interest among children in beauty and skincare products designed for adults, raising questions about premature exposure to such industries.

For Gen Y parents, navigating their children’s online presence is a balancing act. While many aim to limit their children’s exposure to social media (75% want to keep their children off of social media as long as possible), they also recognise the importance of teaching responsible online behaviour. As Gen Alpha’s digital footprint grows, parental involvement in monitoring and guiding their online activities becomes paramount.

As such, brands must tread carefully, ensuring their efforts align with the values of Gen Alpha and their parents. Collaboration with child influencers can be fruitful, but it’s essential to avoid exploiting their influence for products unsuitable for their age group. This not only protects brand reputation but also prioritises the well-being of young consumers. As social media platforms face scrutiny and potential regulatory changes, brands must adapt and self-regulate to maintain ethical standards.

Source: Canvas8

Lightbox Loves: How Stanley Cups and Crocs Became Icons of Contemporary Culture

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Terence Reilly is the mastermind behind the remarkable marketing strategies that have propelled products like Crocs and the Stanley Quencher cups from obscurity to achieve a cult following amongst Gen Z consumers.

Originally targeted at workmen and outdoors enthusiasts back in 1913, the Stanley Quencher cup has undergone a remarkable transformation. It has evolved into a symbol of contemporary well-being and ‘Clean Girl’ aesthetics. Similarly, Crocs, once dismissed as ‘unfashionable’ in 2016 and associated mainly with professionals who spent long hours on their feet (e.g. medical professionals, waiters), have now found their place in the luxury fashion industry.

Both brands owe their iconic status largely to a shift in their marketing strategies:

Embracing User-Generated Content:

The success of the Stanley Quencher on TikTok underscores the influence of user-generated content. The cup gained viral fame when a TikTok video showcasing its resilience in a car fire amassed 96 million views. Capitalising on this momentum, Stanley actively encouraged further user-generated content from enthusiastic fans, even rewarding the woman involved in the incident with a new car.

Cultivating Collectibles Culture:

Crocs have positioned themselves as a footwear brand catering to a diverse audience, from luxury fashion aficionados to those seeking comfort. A key aspect of their appeal lies in the customisable and collectable nature of their shoes, featuring 13 holes where wearers can attach charms to express their personality and individuality. Doing so encourages emotional engagement with the brand and the product, transforming a mere shoe into a symbol of one’s identity.

Symbolising an Ideal Lifestyle:

Stanley successfully tapped into the ‘hustle’ and ‘girl boss’ culture prevalent on platforms like TikTok. While these trends coincide with the economic challenges of modern times (e.g. rising inflation, rent prices and uncertain job markets), the Stanley cup offers an aspirational avenue for its audience to embody this ‘girl boss’ ideal. While career advancement may pose real-life challenges, owning a Stanley cup symbolises this achievement and status. With online resale values soaring to £300 and beyond, the Stanley Quencher has aligned itself with contemporary wellness and lifestyle ideals.

For Crocs, the journey to iconic status was paved through collaborations with aspirational brands, celebrities, and influencers such as Balenciaga, Justin Bieber, Liberty London, and Post Malone. These partnerships have positioned Crocs as a symbol of belonging to a particular community within modern pop culture.

Lightbox Loves: 2024 Trendsetters

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

As we step into 2024, the consumer landscape in the UK is marked by a series of trends that are influencing values, behaviours, and social connections that are sure to implicate consumers’ relationships with brands in the coming year.


Human & AI Harmony

In a world where algorithms increasingly dominate, Mintel reports that just under 50% of Brits say they are concerned about interacting more with AI than humans when it comes to services such as customer service and emergency response, signifying a need for balance when it comes to technology and authentic human interaction. With 60% of Brits agreeing that AI should be “human centric, trustworthy and responsible”, as stated by the UK’s first AI safety summit (the7stars Lightbox Lowdown), individuals are seeking to leverage human skills and emotions first and foremost, to optimize the benefits of the ongoing technological revolution.


Value Redefined

Traditionally, value in a purchase has been viewed as the ratio of quality to price. Brands often focus on managing the price aspect to enhance value, but the influence extends beyond that. Consumers now have diverse definitions of ‘quality,’ and as budget constraints tighten trade-offs, they seek a realistic balance between quality and cost. Interestingly, 67% of UK consumers who have bought furniture in the past 12 months would rather spend more on items that last a long time, than items that need constant replacing (Mintel). On the other hand, sustainability, convenience, and heritage, although important, should be presented through a quality lens, allowing brands to showcase how these attributes enhance the functional superiority of a product.


Connection Resurgence

3 in 5 of Gen Z say that their social behaviours were one of the biggest changes they made post pandemic (Mintel). Additionally, only a quarter (23%) of Brits say that they go out socially now as much as they did before the pandemic (the7stars Cultural Codes). With this in mind, it’s evident that social connections and interpersonal relationships in the UK have been evolving over the past few years. Now that there is an emerging consciousness amongst consumers regarding the impact of technology on their social lives, there is a growing desire for meaningful, real-life connections. Propelled by concerns for both physical and mental well-being, Brits have a desire to explore new forms of intimacy and genuine relationships. With 2 in 3 of 18-34’s believing that it’s important for brands to have a physical presence (the7stars Cultural Codes), it’s evident that the same principles apply when it comes to their relationship with their favourite brands.


Optimistic Alliances

With ‘permacrisis’ being a prime buzzword over the past couple of years and 43% of Brits expecting issues such as high inflation to continue well into 2024 (the7stars Lightbox Lowdown), this trend recognizes the prevalence of uncertainty in the contemporary world. With more than 3 in 5 (64%) of UK consumers saying that they trust financial service providers to offer objective advice to those struggling with money (Mintel), Brits are looking to brands for answers and support amidst the uncertainty of today’s times. Brands should embrace a true depiction of reality and showcase authentic products and services, accompanied by actionable information. This approach would help provide consumers with a sense of grounding, reassurance, and the ability to navigate uncertainty confidently.

These trends signify a fundamental shift in the UK’s consumer landscape. As individuals strive for a more balanced and purposeful existence, businesses are compelled to adapt, fostering innovation, and authentic connections to thrive in this dynamic environment.


Source: the7stars Cultural Codes 2023, the7stars Lightbox Lowdown, Mintel_2024_Global_Consumer_Trends_English.pdf

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