Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: Somatovisceral Nonverbal Communication

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In 2017, Oxford University released a report on jobs most and least likely to be automated. It was bad news if you worked in data entry, watch repair or insurance underwriting but good news if you were a dentist, detective or choreographer. Of this latter group, most jobs were essential services, but in the ‘new normal’, choreographers are particularly vulnerable with performance spaces closed to the public. However, this has not reduced the societal need for dance, with Dance Challenge search interest up in the UK almost five-fold since mid-March. So, what is this need for dance, and how can this help us talk to consumers, especially under lockdown?

Dr Carla Walter, a marketing and entrepreneurship professor who just so happens to hold a PhD in Dance Studies, examined dance as advertising language; her principles can help understand this phenomenon. Dance, as a loose descriptor for ritualised movement (from the wedding, to the club, to the meme), creates a socially collective experience; the sense of integration of self into something larger. Here the TikTok challenge is a perfect example, in itself it is a collection of individuals expressing the same movement as a way of socially engaging under lockdown. But why dance here, rather than say song or speech? Walter suggests that the combination of affective, the somatovisceral communication – that dance makes you want to dance – and cognitive, the nonverbal communication – that dance means something – makes the process uniquely powerful.

Privileging the emotional over the linguistic, dance opens itself to interpretation in different contexts, extending its potential reach. Ghanaian dancing pallbearers have moved far from their own context to become a widely used meme in the past month. Indeed there seems to be a viral dance video for every moment; in lockdown, alongside Captain Tom and doughnut-ing Thames ferries, we find the dancing nurses. The ‘imagined freedom and fun’ that Walter suggests is embedded in dance as communication, is expressed through the bodies of the healthcare workers, the very bodies that they risk in service of the public. Their dancing expresses a powerful emotional message of hope that crosses ideological division embedded in speech.

If this hope, freedom and fun is valuable for the public right now, it is equally valuable for brands at a time when creative responses to the crisis have had a little homogeneity. Standing out could involve turning brand posture to dance, in a tradition including everything from the dancing iPod listeners to the ASDA ‘back pocket pat’. And maybe it could help to employ some of those choreographers.

Google Trends 6th May 2020

Lightbox Loves: Dancing In The Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lightbox Loves: Entertainment, Engagement and Empathy

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Life on furlough is an interesting one. I had big plans at the start of the month, as I’m sure a lot of us did. I was going to become a bi-lingual, athletic, sewing-pro; a much-improved version of myself, so much so I even signed up to do a Harvard Business School course on wellbeing. However, whilst this abundance of free time can offer us a plethora of options to seemingly become more productive than ever, we should not feel like a failure if we haven’t ‘bettered ourselves’ (whatever that means) by the end of it, whenever that might be…

It is very easy for social media to led us to believe that everyone is being super industrious with their free time. Every day presents a new opportunity to bake banana bread, nail the latest TikTok dance or do a home workout (…did not know it was possible to pull a muscle in my hand till I tried this!). It is as if we’re clock-watching, ensuring that we’re accounting for every minute of our day. However, who’s the judge of what we deem to be worthwhile or not? We are, and that’s where we need to be more kind to ourselves about what is realistically achievable during this time. I will be the first to admit that I’ve given all the above a go (switch the banana bread out for Guinness cake, a much better option and far more decadent). However, filling time with self-improvement goals can be exhausting, especially when what you feel most productive doing – for many of us, work – is no longer an option.

As a result, there are lots of opportunities for brands to find ways in which they can support our happiness (and sanity) during these strange times, through offering engagement, entertainment and empathy. To achieve the former, Ancestry offered free access to UK and Ireland records over Easter weekend, to provide focus and escapism to those with a lot more time on their hands than anticipated. To entertain us, Andrew Lloyd Webber is releasing shows every Friday for a limited time on YouTube. To show empathy with parents who are now at home with their children 24-7, Disney unexpectedly made Frozen II available to watch from home.

Brands that communicate with authenticity, clarity and relevancy will have the biggest positive impact. With over two-thirds of respondents agreeing that the way a company responded to the crisis would have an impact on the likelihood of them buying its products in the future, emotionally supporting consumers in this way is vital to long-term usage. As retail consultant, Mary Portas, articulates, “the brands that survive will be the ones we want to buy into, not simply buy from.”

The more ways in which brands engage, entertain and empathise with us during this period, the quicker we will remember them when life returns to some sort of normality. I, for one, know that a retro Flump ice lolly is a sure way to win my affection during this time.

Edelman, Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic, March 30th 2020
Refinery29, No, You Don’t Need To Use Isolation To Write A Novel, 6th April 2020
Portas Agency Newsletter, April 2020
Marketing Tech, How marketing can be a force for good – with Covid-19 helping showcase brand empathy, 14th April

Lightbox Loves: A Dance Challenge

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

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

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

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

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













Lightbox Loves: It’s In The Game

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

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

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

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

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

Lightbox Loves: new habits

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Consumers are spending an unprecedented amount of time in their homes, meaning we are all looking for new and exciting ways to keep busy, active and entertained during isolation. Although lockdown period is still in its infancy, brands are already starting to see changes in our behaviour, particularly when it comes to what we’re buying online. For example, Dixon Carphone, the UK’s biggest electrical and mobile phone retailer, has said that online sales for electricals in the UK and Ireland had surged 72% in the past three weeks alone.

This uplift in demand for electrical goods, which could be down to increased home-working, but also an enhanced desire to have the most up-to-date home entertainment products, also extends to gaming. Nintendo’s sales for their latest game: ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ has surpassed all initial sales records previous game releases, and more traditional entertainment brands such as Hasbro have experienced increased searches for their board games and jigsaws on Amazon. Whilst demand for entertainment is surging, so is our desire to keep fit, as we turn to online platforms to buy the equipment we need to stay active. Stationary bike company Pelaton is seeing a rise in stock value, and Amazon seeing yoga mats and resistance band sales increase over the past few weeks. This is correlated with the increase in demand for at-home fitness programmes such as FIIT, Barry’s and The Body Coach, who have all reported an increase in engagement on their owned social content during recent weeks.

As consumers are continuing to adapt to new ways of life, brands must also be flexible to meet the unexpected changes in our behaviour and needs. For example, many restaurants have adapted to delivery, with fast food chain Leon even turning some of their shops into mini supermarkets. Disney surprised their customers earlier on this month by releasing some key blockbusters to our screens early, such as Frozen II. When done authentically, brands have a real opportunity to show they understand their consumers and can adapt to the fast pace of change accordingly, which will pay off in both the short term and long term


Lightbox Loves: Being Social, Distantly

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So far, the events of 2020 have been weird; with the changes to life in the UK in the past 7 days making things even weirder. As the whole nation becomes “socially distant” in an effort flatten the curve, we are seeing growth in digital channels that allow us to be social without physical contact.

On Monday 16th March, Boris Johnson directed the nation to be as socially distant as possible. Human’s are, by their nature, social creatures, so this directive has driven some quick innovation and growth in areas which provide social interaction and entertainment though channels.

Online gaming is one area which has seen a large growth. On Tuesday Xbox Live reported seeing a spike in users and PC gaming platform, Steam, has seen record figures of 20 million concurrent users globally. Twitch has also seen 15% year-on-year growth in the hours streamed.

Expectedly, we have seen growth in VOD platforms, with Broadcaster VOD up around 10% week-on-week. Netflix has reduced the streaming quality in its platform across Europe in order to cope with demand. However, the social hunger is being aided by a Netflix innovation, the Netflix Party Chrome extension, which although not new, has seen growth. This allows friends to socialise whilst they all watch a show or film together at the same time, creating shared moments and events whilst staying home.

Other apps which will likely see growth at the moment are technologies to connect households together. The Houseparty app can be used for just that, to party from your house, so everyone’s party arrangements don’t need to be postponed. This, combined with pubs and breweries now offering delivery or drive-through services, means that we don’t need to worry about running dry.

At the same time, local groups who would usually meet face-to-face, such as toddler entertainment or keep fit classes, have been moving to video platforms such as Zoom or YouTube. Courtesy of The Body Coach Joe Wicks, the nation can now get fit together every morning at 9am. This connectivity enables businesses to still provide a service (and earn revenue) remotely. The transfer from community halls to online will likely encourage older generations to embrace these technologies too.

Ultimately, what the consumer needs in order to weather this storm is the ability to connect and experience things with the people they know. Thinking outside of the box will be required, but as this unfamiliar situation continues, we expect to see more brands and media platforms innovating and diversifying in order to continue keeping us together, yet apart.

Lightbox Loves: A Social Media Surge

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During self-isolation and lockdown, people have been flocking to social media platforms, using them as a replacement to face-to-face contact. As the world as we know it is turned upside down, social media has become an anchor as the nation rely on it to keep in touch with the people in their lives, steer away from boredom, and to stay up to date with news on an international level.

In their Webinar this week, Facebook shared that as people stopped going out, they had seen total messaging on the platform increase by more than 50%, while time spent voice and video calling had increased by 1000%. In Italy specifically, 70% more time had been spent on Facebook owned apps in the past month. Furthermore, with venues and gyms now closed, artists, celebrities and fitness instructors have taken to the livestream stage, doubling Instagram and Facebook live views in just a week.

Other platforms have also seen major increases in usage as more people search for an online escape –TikTok saw an 18% boost in downloads this month, and was downloaded 2 million times between March 16 and 22, an increase from the previous week’s 1.7 million. The video app Zoom has also seen its popularity sky-rocket, now gaining 200 million daily participants, up 150 million from December.

Expectedly, consumers have now become more responsive to digital marketing as more of their lives move online. This uplift in social media means that there has been a significant drop in cost per clicks on online platforms this month. Click-through rates in the UK have had a 60% increase in the last week, and these results are expected to continue.

For those looking to connect with audiences during this period, these numbers suggest that social media is where brands should be optimising. Not all businesses are in the position to be spending, however it is worth considering for those in the position to do so.

Lightbox Loves: The Road to Empathy

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When Virtual Reality (VR) first came to mainstream market, it was thought its best use cases would be for jazzing up the entertainment or education sectors.  However, as years have gone by, we’ve discovered another important use case for VR – it actually helps build empathy. Although timely, given that half of Brits feel that empathy in culture is declining, how can turn this insight into an opportunity?

Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, tested multiple hypotheses surrounding empathy using VR. One of these was to see whether showing a 65-year-old avatar of yourself in the future encourages you to save money for retirement; it does. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the marketing industry has cottoned on to its power to drive social change.

In 2016, ‘Charity: Water’, a charity which aims to bring clean drinking water to developing counties, showcased their immersive VR story to donors. The footage allows prospective donors to see through the eyes of a 13-year-old Ethiopian child named Selam, who spends her life struggling to provide water for her family while studying at school. However, as the simulation progresses, we see the transformative power of the donors’ money has on Selam and her community. Raising $2.4 million in one night, it can be argued that, through VR, this campaign has effectively used immersive storytelling to evoke empathy among its audience.

Another application of VR can be seen in the Toms ‘A Walk In Their Shoes’ campaign. To prove their commitment to social change, Toms used VR to follow a consumer’s trip to Colombia to meet a child who benefited from his purchase. The footage allowed consumers to witness the brand’s dedication to helping others, through tapping into our emotions.

Ultimately, when combined with effective storytelling, the positive outtake is that VR has the potential to make us more empathetic. Whilst we may still be some way away from VR being widely available for brands to use, it is exciting to envisage a future where we can experience new and unique perspectives through technology to better understand others as humans.

Lightbox Loves: International Women’s Day

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It’s 2020 and we’re no longer short of empowering and remarkable female role models.  Now that’s something worth celebrating this International Women’s Day.  Whether your preferred female motivational hero is Sheryl Sandberg or the Spice Girls, this recent quote from Lizzo hits home- “You are capable. You deserve to feel good as hell, if I can make it, I know you can make it. We can make it together.”

As one of the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Best Companies to Work For (now eight years running!) as well as Campaign’s Best Place to Work, we’re constantly aiming to improve our understanding of what it takes to be both a great employer and a progressive place to work – one where women and men feel they can make it and help colleagues to do the same.

In our latest Lightbox Pulse we surveyed 2,000 adults in full time employment to explore some of the enablers and obstacles to creating a great place to work, with a focus on what differences, if any, there are for women versus men.

We discovered that both men and women find asking for a promotion or a pay rise intimidating. When asked which topics they felt most uncomfortable talking about at work, the top taboo cited was asking for more money – 49% of women said asking for a pay rise made them uncomfortable compared with 40% of men. This was considerably ahead of other taboo subjects of conversation such as how much sex they are having (46% of women found this difficult compared with 37% of men), or taking drugs (both a no-go area for just 25% of women and 22% of men).

But how does this compare with colleagues’ responses at the7stars?

Asking for a pay rise or talking about the amount of money earnt were also considered to be the most uncomfortable subjects for discussion.  And it is our female colleagues who were most likely to find asking for a pay rise a taboo topic, whereas males were more likely to agree that talking about salaries was a taboo topic.  One point of significant difference was that colleagues at the7stars found talking about mental health was felt to be less of a taboo subject than the national average (32% versus 43%) – thanks to Team BOOST for all their great initiatives in this area.

A progressive workplace comes from being more open, transparent and inclusive – creating an environment in which both women and men feel empowered and supported by each other.

As Lizzo would say – you deserve to feel good as hell, so have a great day.