daily Insight

Introducing TrendLAB: Rapid opportunity spotting

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Introducing TrendLAB: Rapid opportunity spotting

The old saying goes, “may you live in interesting times” – and whether it’s a blessing or a curse, we truly are living through times of rapid change across both business and culture. Categories that were once seen as stable are being upturned by changing consumer behaviors, the delay or decline of life-stage triggers such as marriage or home ownership, and disruptive new ways of shopping. The way consumers expect to interact with brands and categories is also rapidly shifting as consumers become more empowered than ever, with everything from ‘super-fan’ communities, to UGC (user-generated content), to social media conversations becoming as meaningful as brand-led communications and experiences.

Given this increasingly fast-moving category and consumer landscape, it’s no surprise that demand is higher than ever for foresight that helps connect the dots between what these shifts mean and where forward-looking opportunities exist in the market. With an immense number of trends to keep track of, and large amounts of primary research and syndicated data to sift through, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the challenge of staying ahead of the curve, sorting short-term fads from deeply rooted consumer shifts, prioritizing opportunities, and giving clear guidance on what emerging trends mean for your brands and categories.

Introducing TrendLAB

A multi-method approach to rapid opportunity spotting, TrendLAB is perfect for when you have a particular category/sub-category or need state you want to understand more about. Designed to give clarity on a particular area of focus, TrendLAB combines data and insights from social analytics, category experts, and early adopter consumers to keep you ahead of the curve and give a concise picture of:

  • Changing consumer needs
  • Rising challenger brands and disruptors
  • Emergent discourses
  • Evolving benefits

TrendLAB will keep you ahead of the curve

The core TrendLAB offering triangulates different data sources to pinpoint early signs of opportunity within a defined territory:

TrendLAB will keep you ahead of the curve</
  1. IDENTIFIES potential trends: Using organic social data from consumers’ publicly available conversations and posts, we compare current and historical conversations to identify consumer shifts in topics/brands and pinpoint what influenced that shift

  2. VERIFIES growth opportunities: Tapping experts and influencers relevant to the topic or category, we explore consumer-led shifts to ensure these trends are meaningful and are being driven by macro changes in discourse and demand

  3. EXPANDS on ways in: We recruit early adopters who are already exhibiting the behaviors, beliefs, and expectations identified – and are fulfilling them via ‘hacks’ and ‘work-arounds’ within the category or have sought parallel solutions from other categories. Our learnings here add inspiration and explanation around opportunity sites for growth

How to make the most of TrendLAB?

TrendLAB works best when focused on opportunity spotting within a defined category topic/sub-topic – and when clarity on a path forward is required within a matter of weeks. Focused on shifts in wider discourse, emerging opportunities, and evolving benefits/behaviors, TrendLAB delivers a succinct report focused on opportunity platforms for growth.

Is TrendLAB right for you?

  • Do you have unanswered questions around where your category is going?
  • Are there specific hypotheses on the table you want to prove/disprove?
  • Are you seeking emergent benefits to fuel innovation and messaging?
  • Is your core audience aging out of the category? Are you concerned about relevance for the incoming cohort?

Contact us to learn more about how TrendLAB can speed you towards clearer direction on future opportunity spaces and growth areas.

Move over, Millennials – it’s Gen Z’s turn in the spotlight

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More and more, the generation our clients are interested in understanding is Gen Z – what matters to them, how best to connect via content and products, and what their expectations are towards brands and experiences. In 2017 alone, we spoke to over 50,000 Gen Zers across categories ranging from snacking to streaming and fashion to fan fiction – all of which gives us deep insight into this broad and still developing cohort.

We’ve been working with kids and young people over the last 20 years, defining Gen Z as those born between 1997 (an age break recently validated by Pew) and 2011, giving us a group ranging in age from 7 to 21 years old. Given the many developmental stages that take place within this age range, it is important to understand the significant differences that exist between younger and older Gen Zers while identifying the common macro forces that provide common threads across this cohort.

At the younger end of the cohort, Gen Zers are still going through the work of childhood, achieving personal growth as they age up through universal developmental stages like building a friendship circle, figuring out what their interests and talents are, practicing and developing skills, beginning to understand cause and effect, and understanding others’ POVs for the first time. Meanwhile, the oldest Gen Zers are leaning into early adulthood milestones, such as renting their first apartment and drinking their first legal drink – and in between, this cohort is going through multiple life-changing firsts, including their first phone, first love, first job, etc.

Common across Gen Z, these youngsters are developing their identities in a world where traditional social structures are losing stability (from less set career paths, to declining religiosity, to increasing skepticism toward established authorities). Filling this gap is an increasingly complex array of brands, products, and media that Gen Zers use to explore who they want to be, how they want to be perceived by the world, and how they can best achieve it. Aligning, adapting, and sharing branded (or brand-supported user generated) content gives young people a way to express a POV, establish allegiances, and evolve based on reactions from their peers and the wider world.

This Explore/Express cycle helps Gen Z construct, curate, and evolve their identities:

While the exact age cutoffs for any generational cohort will always be open to argument, the shared experiences and collective consciousness exhibited within generations provides much insight into their expectations regarding brands, content, and experiences. From our experience studying youth and tracking this generation from infancy, we have identified a number of macro factors critical to understand when addressing Gen Z.

  • Inheriting a World in Crisis – from living through the impact of the global financial crash and seeing their parents and older siblings struggle, to global warming, terrorism, and political instability, they live at a time when stability can’t be taken for granted.
  • Practiced Pragmatism – no rose-tinted glasses for today’s youth. This generation is financially savvy, looking to get the best bang for their buck and saving for a rainy day.
  • The Hustle is Real – from the Kardashians to Michelle Phan, this generation is growing up with a new set of entrepreneurial role models and a variety of platforms to help them achieve their goals. From actively monetizing their social media influence, to using tools like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, their expectations about work have been developed against the rise of the gig economy and the power of networks.
  • Mature & Mindful – in comparison to their older counterparts, we are seeing the rejection of some of the more hedonistic and rebellious aspects of teen life. Illegal alcohol and drug use is down, physical fights are down, teen pregnancy has dropped, and traditional dating is becoming a thing of the past.
  • Diversity is the New Normal – in the US alone, the Census Bureau predicts half of all under 18s will belong to a minority racial or ethnic group by 2020. At the same time, gender and sexuality are increasingly fluid with fewer kids self-identifying as straight only.

And last but by no means least, they are Mobile-First Media Omnivores. Beyond being digital natives, they are platform agnostic. From our work, we know the average age for children’s first smartphone ownership is decreasing, and the majority of Gen Zers spend most of their free time online, consuming content across more screens (e.g., smartphones, tablets, wearables, TV, laptops, gaming devices) than even Millennials. They move fluidly across platforms and channels, readily consume user generated content alongside professionally produced media, and expect brands to keep up, providing seamless digital interactions whenever and wherever they desire.

This new ecosystem means brands have to adapt and evolve to stay relevant:

  • From consumers to fans – we must move beyond the top-down construct of a passive consumer to account for today’s empowered, interconnected, demanding, and influential fans.
  • From macro to micro – mass-market macro content and products are easy to ignore for today’s consumers who are spoiled for choice; instead, they crave brands that super serve their niche in the long tail of micro audiences and needs.
  • From product to content – marketing and content are increasingly synonymous, and traditional product manufacturers must also be adept content creators and storytellers to build stronger connections with consumers.

Achieving that elusive Gen Z connection

From our work and experience with this cohort, we have identified five drives that brands can leverage to build Gen Z engagement. These drives have been seen consistently across the various categories and different Gen Z segments we’ve worked with.

  • Drive for personalization – how are you giving Gen Z the ability to make something truly theirs?
  • Drive to express themselves – how are you enabling Gen Z to use your brand and content in a way that can be communicated outwards as they construct their identity?
  • Drive to further causes they care about – how can your brand purpose authentically support the issues they care about?
  • Drive to have meaningful brand dialog – how can you incorporate feedback or foster authentic interactivity across the brand experience/content touch points that matter most?
  • Drive for instant gratification – how are you ensuring timely and seamless access, information, service, and engagement?

Is your brand set up to win with Gen Z? Successful brands consistently demonstrate several of the above benefits to drive connection and win the hearts, minds (and wallets) of the next generation. From Nike, to Fenty, to Teen Vogue – are you keeping pace with the brands and platforms that Gen Z is integrating into their worlds?

We’re happy to share more around our experience and understanding of Gen Z – please get in touch!

Beyond ‘Scraping’: Insight-led Social Analysis Helps Brands Move Faster

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In a business environment where everyone's looking to disrupt the status quo, brands need to move faster than ever before to confirm hunches, deal with setbacks, and bring projects to fruition. One way businesses can operate more nimbly is to incorporate social media research, a valuable but often mis-understood resource, into their insight studies. Our sister agency Fizziology is a leading social media research firm – and increasingly, we build their proprietary offerings into our approach to solve for a variety of insight challenges.

Brands have long used social media for marketing analytics, customer relationship management, and content distribution. But social media can also deliver important consumer insights around intent, purchasing, and emotion that can make a huge difference for your brand and products.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms make it easier than ever to tap into those insights. When examined with a research lens, rigor, and a strong focus on benchmarking, social media analysis can reveal a wealth of information about consumers.

Quick reads on social conversations allow companies to tap into the zeitgeist and gear their strategies toward the present moment. Are the movie rights to a best-selling book worth bidding on? What do your consumers think of a particular ingredient or benefit? When a brand doesn’t have time for an in-depth research project, social media analyses can provide direction quickly, sometimes in as little as a few hours.

Quick reads on social conversations allow companies to tap into the zeitgeist and gear their strategies toward the present moment.

By gleaning social media clues, companies can also get reads on what audiences think of specific celebrities. Before you hire an actor as a spokesperson, you might want to know—does your target audience admire her?

Social media research goes beyond "reading" tweets and Facebook posts—it can also analyze imagery. Analysis of social photos can help companies determine the colors their target market is wearing, the context their products are being used in, or the wider visual codes acting in that category.

Don't Try This at Home

Anyone can enter a hashtag into a Twitter search and see what people are saying about it. But drawing conclusions based on one data dump or one trending word is a dangerous experiment, especially when sentiment can turn on a dime. Two ways we’ve overcome those challenges include using benchmarks and human coding:


    Benchmarking is a critical tool for actionable social analysis. A science fiction movie will generate far more buzz on social media than an adult drama, but that doesn't mean another sci-fi reboot will be more successful than a low-budget, high-concept drama. Now that social media has been around for a decade, we can use baseline data to contextualize the online conversation. Not every social post has the same value.

Human Coding:

    While AI is making great leaps, we use human coded and validated social data, ensuring that the insights generated are real and worthwhile, to sort through the noise on complex conversation topics rather than relying on algorithms that miss cultural nuance.

Researchers can use baseline data to contextualize the online conversation. Not every social post has the same value.

The possibilities are countless, though there are, of course, limitations. Researchers can't directly engage with their subject or ask follow-up questions. Since certain audience demographic information, such as household income, isn't available, you can't directly map audience segments to individual opinions found online.

But there are tremendous advantages to social research. Other forms of research actively employ methods to reduce and eliminate response bias, which is the inclination among survey subjects to give misleading responses. With social you don’t have to account for that bias. People do not know they are being listened to—they are just sharing their thoughts with friends and family. And these thoughts are registered in the moment, providing timely information in the context of the conversation.

The immediacy of social media, as well as the insights gleaned from social media, work in concert with traditional research methodologies and compliment each other. We combine in-depth research methodologies with fast moving organic social data—creating seamless bundled solutions that give clarity on where to find opportunity.

Social media analysis can help in a variety of ways. At the beginning of major research studies, it can be a fast and affordable way to test early hypotheses and sharpen a study’s focus. It can provide ongoing data and insights between traditional research waves. And it can even be used to dive deeper into traditional research findings—helping researchers understand the “why” behind an insight, including real-world examples.

Where will your next big idea take you? Creating nimble, iterative learning plans that combine both in-depth learning plus social media analysis can shine a light on the proper path—keeping you one step ahead.

Insight Strategy Group is proud to be part of the MarketCast Family alongside Fizziology. Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how to dial up the impact of social media research within your Brand, Insight or Innovation activities.

The Millennial Values That Drive the Sharing Economy and the Future of Brand Success

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The Millennial Values That Drive the Sharing Economy and the Future of Brand Success

Millennials have embraced the sharing economy like no other generation. The generation's proclivity for sharing isn't a quirk or coincidence. It comes from fundamental generational values that will determine business success well into the middle of the 21st century.

A few marquee brands typify the sharing economy:

  • Uber and Lyft, where people share extra seats in their car
  • Airbnb, where people share extra rooms in their home
  • Rent the Runway, whose members share access to designer clothes
  • WeWork, where people share office space
  • And, increasingly, media subscriptions like Netflix, for which people share streaming passwords to limit costs

Certainly, these companies have thrived because they’ve tapped into previously untargeted niches. But the values of Millennials have also played a part. Millennials value efficiency, immediacy, transparency, practicality, connection, and control. Sharing economy companies fulfill these needs.

Affordable access to the latest styles, a set of wheels, and a dream vacation gives Millennials a chance to experience a world cut off to generations before them. And sampling from this deluge of choices lets Millennials steer their own path—the epitome of adulting in today's world.

What’s more, Millennials are creative problem solvers and are more attuned to value propositions than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. They take a heuristic approach to products, beta-testing services as they come out to see if they add value to their lives. Owning a car was once a compulsory step on the path to adulthood. But some Millennials have opted out of car ownership. They've beta-tested Ford against Lyft and found that the latter offers the efficiency, practicality, and control they prefer.

Appealing to Millennials isn’t so much about figuring out where your product fits into the sharing economy as it is about developing and marketing a product that’s in tune with Millennials’ values. Where would following such values lead?

Companies who tap into the values of the sharing economy succeed because they let their customers evolve and experiment.

A good example of a company that has gone in this direction is Dollar Shave Club. The subscription service delivers razors to members' homes via mail, eliminating the need for a monthly trip to the drug store.

Millennials are no more likely than anyone else to share their razor with strangers, but they do value the immediacy and efficiency of a reliable subscription service. The company's irreverent and wildly popular marketing video—"Our Blades Are F***ing Great"—didn't hurt either.

In the summer of 2016, Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion. Companies who tap into the values of the sharing economy succeed because they let their customers evolve and experiment.

Connection vs. Commitment

As much as Millennials value connection, they are also hesitant to commit. Some accrue social currency, for instance, by attaching their identity to a brand without actually buying it—taking a picture of a pair of designer shoes, for instance, and later posting it on Instagram.

Companies like Uber and Rent the Runway know that Millennials don’t like to commit and model their services with that in mind. The services don't require monthly fees, for example, and have easy cancellation processes so as not to trap users, which would reflect badly on their brand.

The Media Landscape

With all that in mind, how will Millennial habits and the habits of other generations impact the media world specifically? Likely, all services will become more fluid and shareable. Streaming services, for example, know that users share passwords, but are savvy enough to realize that password-sharing is, in the long-run, good for their brand. These companies could put up barriers, but they don’t, which is a smart move. Barriers to content prevent people from watching it and becoming passionate about it—which should be the ultimate goal.

So What's Next?

Companies need to ask whether their product or service delivers on Millennials’ values. That may lead to a sharing service or a subscription-based product—it depends on the approach—but understanding and tapping into Millennial values gives you a greater chance of success

Companies need to ask whether their product or service delivers on Millennials’ values.

What we're calling "the sharing economy" is a reflection of the values of the largest generational cohort in the United States. If you want to understand those values better, and how they relate to your brand, reach out to one of our experts.

RevLAB: Rapid Qualitative Testing

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The language of marketing is changing. We talk about 6 week sprints; about design thinking; about iterative learning. And yet often the options for testing ideas and stimuli remain divided between ‘classic’ qualitative approaches (with an associated timeline of several weeks) and the new tech-based quick turnarounds. With classic qualitative you get the expertise of a great moderator, that human touch to unearth and articulate great insights. With digital or machine testing you get speed, scale, and often cost efficiencies. But what happens when you want a little more human intuition and consumer texture or nuance without sacrificing speed? It’s a classic Goldilocks and the three bears challenge – what’s the approach that’s just right?


Introducing RevLAB

A qualitative approach to rapid stimuli testing, RevLAB is perfect for when you have product or communications stimuli ready to test but you want to sense-check and strengthen the solution prior to moving into standardized tests such as BASES or LINK testing.


From early idea screening to final concept refinements, RevLAB delivers powerful recommendations on how to optimize existing stimuli — strengthening consumer appeal, heightening brand differentiation, and improving concept success.

  Insight Strategy Group RevLAB; Rapid Qualitative Testing; Marketing 

The core RevLAB offer:

  • FAST: up to 15 days end to end: from kick off to final report
  • RIGOROUS: experienced moderators and strategists
  • ACTIONABLE: clear recommendations on how to optimize stimulus

What is it?
Rapid turnaround testing via in person focus groups in select markets. Focused on reviewing existing stimuli, revealing actionable insights, and revising in-going content.

What does it cost?
RevLAB is designed for high quality strategic outputs married with speed. We gain efficiencies by standardizing aspects of setup, location, and sample. Please connect for more detail on pricing options.

  • Do you have stimuli ready to test? RevLAB is effective for insight statements, proto-concepts in any form, creative content, etc.
  • Are you approaching a critical stage-gate in your development pipeline?
  • Do you have more options on the table than you can take into more rigorous and costly testing? (BASES, LINK, etc.)

Contact us to learn more and see how RevLAB can speed you towards stronger stimuli and solutions.

Moving Beyond the Binary: How Applying an Intersectional Lens in Market Research Reaps Rewards

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Intersectionality: Moving Beyond the Binary

Due to recent societal and cultural shifts, consumer identities are increasingly becoming more multifaceted and complex. But for the most part, market research classifications and analytical techniques haven’t yet caught up.

Evolving notions of femininity and masculinity have made way for a pluralistic understanding of gender expression. There’s no longer just one way to be a man or a woman, but instead an infinite spectrum. Stay-at-home dads, dual-income households, career-focused women … gender roles are converging more than ever before, shattering traditional gender perceptions and expectations. In addition, the most studied generation of all time, millennials, aren’t just the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history, they’re also significantly more likely than older generations to identify as LGBTQ, according to a survey published by GLAAD.

Given these societal changes, understanding how consumers navigate race, gender, sexuality, and other social categorizations (e.g., class, education level, ability) is critical in developing a rich and authentic snapshot of who consumer segments are, how they perceive the world, and what impact this has for brands. In traditional market research, however, the richness, depth, and intricacy of consumer identities are often lost in translation, relying on outmoded binary divisions and often treating demographic groups as homogenous.

At Insight, we’re moving beyond this by incorporating an intersectional framework into our research, our analysis, and our deliverables, and taking into account more than just traditional demographics to paint the whole picture of who consumers are.

What is Intersectionality?

Coined in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the term intersectionality rose out of frustration that mainstream feminism often referred to a universal category of womanhood from the point of view of white women, and that race and ethnic studies often focused on racial inequality from the perspective of men of color, without taking into account how the experiences of women of color were impacted by both their race and gender. As such, intersectionality sought to emphasize how the intersections of identities such as race, class, and gender created singular and distinct experiences, different forms of discrimination, and a diverse set of voices.

Since its inception, intersectionality has made its way into many fields in academia, from sociology, to psychology, to law, and has now entered the popular discourse, gaining even greater spotlight during the 2016 election and the 2017 Women’s March.

What Does This Look Like in Practice?

Intersectionality doesn’t call for a new set of research methods and classifications, it simply asks that we re-conceptualize the meaning of social categories and understand their consequences on consumers’ experiences, their decisions, their relationships to brands, and ultimately, their relationship with themselves. It can also lead to simple, small changes, from the language used to the options provided in survey demographic questions.

Intersectionality doesn’t call for a new set of research methods and classifications, it simply asks that we re-conceptualize the meaning of social categories and understand their consequences.

Some tangible examples include:

Expand identity options

Going beyond traditional sexuality options in screeners and surveys (e.g., heterosexual, bisexual, gay) to include a wider range of choices (e.g., heteroflexible, asexual, queer) when applicable to the project, has yielded incredible insights on how consumer identities are shifting and is especially relevant for understanding generational shifts. We also increasingly include a “select-all-that-applies” approach to other identity questions (e.g., race/ethnicity), instead of forcing consumers to tick off just one box, better reflecting how they perceive themselves and accounting for the fact that intersecting identities impact social behaviors.

Treat sex and gender as separate

As relevant to the project, we avoid the sex identifiers “male” and “female,” instead referring to respondents in our reports by their gender: women, men, or other/non-binary, based on how they self-identify. In screeners and surveys, we sometimes expand the gender options beyond just woman or man, including options like transgender male and transgender female (among others) to be more inclusive of diverse gender identities.

Consider more gender-inclusive research designs

In our kids’ practice, we push our clients to include both boys and girls when testing traditionally gender-typed toys and products, as we find that today’s kids are increasingly gender-fluid when it comes to what they wear and consume and generally more open to playing with toys traditionally marketed to the opposite sex. While this might not always be relevant to all clients, the rise and popularity of men in the beauty blogging/vlogging world goes to show that even industries dominated by women consumers are shifting, evolving, and appealing to broader segments.

Dig into the complexity of respondent backgrounds

In our qualitative explorations, we unpack how factors like gender, race, ethnicity, where they grew up, and/or socio-economic backgrounds impact who they are and how they experience the world. This creates richer consumer profiles and uncovers deeper implications regarding how brands can resonate more deeply with targets in an authentic, holistic way, and which identity dimensions drive the strongest brand and content connections.

Why Does This Matter For Your Brand?

As market researchers, our job is to understand people and communicate to brands who they are, what they think, and how they act; in turn, informing how brands can deepen their relationships with consumers and increase engagement. At Insight, we are moving beyond market research practices of the past, which gloss over the diversity within consumer groups and often fail to take into consideration how consumers’ various intersectional identities influence their choices, attitudes, and behaviors.

Using an intersectional framework allows us to deliver richer, more genuine insights—in the same amount of time as traditional methods.

Using an intersectional framework allows us to deliver richer, more genuine insights around who consumers are and why they do, think, buy, eat, or watch what they do — in the same amount of time as traditional methods of data collection and analysis. This not only has implications for content (i.e., including characters that better reflect who audiences are, how to increase interest and affinity) but also for positioning and marketing products, optimizing product design, and more. It’s therefore not only good for business, it’s also a way to treat consumers more fairly, more humanely, and more holistically.

While intersectionality will prove more critical for some categories than others, we challenge all our clients to expand the way they have traditionally classified and understood consumers to ensure their future relevance.

Brand Tracking Leaving You Flat? Try Brand Building!

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Brand Tracking Leaving Your Flan?

Brand tracking is a common practice across a lot of different businesses, particularly consumer-facing businesses. It’s one of the ways executives measure performance, providing statistics for their management team, board, and investors. Brand tracking usually reports on the current status of your company by analyzing past performance. If you want to know how you did last year, for example, brand tracking is ideal. But it typically doesn’t explain why you performed that way, or how to improve.

Brand Building is Insight Strategy Group's approach, and many of our clients prefer it. With Brand Building, we measure where our clients have been, and also indicators that suggest future performance and drive growth. It's a forward-thinking, 360° view, rather than the window to the past that is brand tracking.

More than a report card on traditional marketing and business metrics, Brand Building uncovers the relationship you have with your customers. It also explains that relationship. How does that relationship help contextualize your performance? What levers can you pull to strengthen your brand? Because Brand Building relies on metrics that tend to be predictive of future success, it gives you a direction or a recommendation for what you can do now to grow in the coming months and years.

More than a report card on traditional marketing and business metrics, Brand Building uncovers the relationship you have with your customers.

Say you run a grocery chain. You already have certain business performance indicators you’re looking at, like weekly sales and store traffic. You may also have information about name recognition, market penetration, and shopper behavior—both for your chain and your competitors.

These are all things that a brand tracker tells you. But Brand Building goes further—discerning details about customer experience and customers' emotional attitude toward your stores. Brand Building's advanced analytics mesh the tangible with the intangible, providing revelatory data that predicts the future of your brand.

Brand Building's advanced analytics mesh the tangible with the intangible, providing revelatory data that predicts the future of your brand.

You might find out—based on analysis that synthesizes survey responses, in-store observations, and sales data—that your target market increasingly values short check-out lines over all other factors. Or that they spend more money at stores with the most attractive produce selection, or the largest beer selection. Brand Building combines signals from multiple data sources, giving you the confidence to build more registers, or stock more Hefeweizen.

Because you’ve looked into the details that go beyond brand tracking, you can land on a data-driven strategy that builds success in a competitive context. And Brand Building, the most evolved approach there is, got you there.

Today’s Consumers Want To Unplug, And Want You To Help Them Do It Online (Really)

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Today's Consumers Want To Unplug, And Want You To Help Them Do It Online (Really)

As technology encroaches on our lives and as our smartphones start to feel like an extra appendage, more and more people say they are looking to "unplug"—to relieve that twitchy phone finger from the burden of non-stop engagement with the online world.

The challenge for brands in this atmosphere, it seems, is to get their audiences to engage online without appearing to add to the digital muck. But our research has shown that consumers who say they want to unplug don’t necessarily want brands to get them to turn off their phones. What they want is for brands to create an experience that makes them feel like they’re unplugging. And there are ways to do this without being disingenuous or deceptive.

Here are four ways brands can help consumers have more authentic social interactions online.

1) Concentrate on One Experience

Brands that try to accentuate one experience will probably have more luck getting users to engage online. Honing in on one digital experience makes users feel as though they are, at least for the most part, tuning out technology while still engaging with it.

Honing in on one digital experience makes users feel as though they are tuning out technology while still engaging with it.

The Light Phone is a credit card-sized phone that its designers say "is designed to be used as little as possible," but still keeps users connected. GoPro cameras and drones help users maximize their outdoor experiences through technology.

2) Create an Aspirational Atmosphere

Speaking of outdoor experiences, one of the best and most authentic ways to get consumers to engage on social media and other technologies is to project the lifestyle consumers aspire to, and invite them to contribute to the image-building. The #vanlife movement, which blossomed primarily on Instagram, is a perfect example of this. Users share their tranquil experiences of natural bliss on the road, but they do it on Instagram rather than in a diary. If you can get users to feel as though they are depicting, online, the lives they aspire to, then you’re on the right track.

3) Tap Into Nostalgia

The Netflix series Stranger Things was immensely popular in part because it tapped into a deep, widespread sense of nostalgia for simpler, pre-Internet times: the 1980s. This sense of nostalgia carries across generations—it's felt by Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers. The irony of this nostalgia is that even a show that taps into a deep yearning for a time before smartphones still requires engagement with technology. Stranger Things fans watched the show via a streaming service, on devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, or big screen TVs. Still, if you can tap into nostalgia, consumers don't care about those contradictions.

4) Unplug Now, Share Later

Some destinations force you to unplug in the moment and share your experience later. Long wilderness hikes take you out of range, so you have to curate and share your photos once you're back to civilization. Increasingly, organizers of social gatherings are trying to replicate this experience. At weddings, couples ask guests to pocket their phones and be more “present,” to create a more authentic experience. Online engagement still happens, it just happens later, when the couple posts their official photos to Facebook and Instagram. If brands could tap into this desire to disengage from technology in the moment, while encouraging consumers to get involved later, it could go a long way in how they present themselves as authentic to their audiences.

Project the lifestyle consumers aspire to, and invite them to contribute to the image-building.

Strava, a smartphone and smartwatch app, tracks runners and bikers as they exercise. After they've finished exercising, Strava users can share their route, time, and speed with followers, who can congratulate them with "kudos." The app tracks run and bike segments in a leaderboard, so, when a session is over, users can see how they compared to athletes in their area. And it does all this without interrupting the run or ride itself.

A Challenge for Marketers Everywhere

To get consumers to believe that you want them to unplug—which you do—you have to be in it together. Speaking directly to their frustrations about their desire to untether themselves from their smartphones will allow people to have authentic social interactions while, at the same time, also engaging on social media.

Research Questions:

What single experience/need could consumers see your brand fulfilling?

What unplugged experience does your target consumer aspire to?

What is your target consumer nostalgic about, and how could your brand fit in?

What are the best ways for your brand to help consumers unplug now and share later?

It’s Time To Rethink How You Do Segmentation Research

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It's time to rethink how you do segmentation research

Segmentation is the practice of dividing a large group of people into sub-groups that share characteristics. A group of Millennial men, for example, might be broken down into "Busy Dads" or "Striving Singles." Whether it's the hokey persona names or debate about whether dividing consumers into distinct categories actually works, segmentation studies have their skeptics.

In the coming years, that skepticism will diminish. We've never had more data about consumers, and we've never had more powerful ways to analyze them. We're about to enter a golden age of segmentation.

Melding New Tactics With Old

Demographic segmentation will always have a place, since it makes sense for some businesses to target their offerings by age, gender, or region. That said, the increasing amount of compelling data available on consumers, in conjunction with improved research techniques, allows sophisticated researchers and marketers to go well beyond basic demographics. Researchers who model their customers' perceptions and behavior more accurately will:

  • Stay ahead of trends
  • Validate new target audiences
  • Anticipate customer needs before they happen

  • Give a face to a target audience—bringing them to life beyond demographic stats

We're proud to use these emerging techniques that help our clients stay ahead of the competition.

Data Fusion

Customer data is valuable, but doesn't tell a complete story. It doesn't tell you anything concrete about people who aren't yet customers, and it may be thin on your audience's unanticipated needs. Often, companies have more than one customer or user database. Which one to use?

To remedy these challenges, we do original research on a company's customer base, then fuse it with their existing databases and applicable secondary sources.

Secondary sources answer questions that a customer database can't.

Secondary sources answer questions that a customer database can't. Have they done recent home repairs? A survey a customer filled out five years ago won't say. Do they have cats or dogs? An appliance company is unlikely to have asked. What do they value? Customer questionnaires rarely achieve such a deep level of understanding.

By combining primary research, existing data, and reliable outside data we're able to develop a deeper understanding of an audience. This understanding goes well beyond demographics and can drive a more nuanced, more successful strategy.


Thanks to Internet browsing data and social media advertising, companies can now target customers in ever-smaller numbers. These micro-segments can be incredibly profitable—if you know what they are.

We define micro-segments as sub-groups within a larger traditional segment, defined by niche behaviors or interests. While there is a near limitless range of criteria to create a micro-segment, we suggest identifying micro-segments that have directly actionable marketing implications. For example, a marketer may generally target young music fans. Micro-segmenting could allow that marketer to advertise a new vinyl record release to vinyl enthusiasts from one of their favorite bands, while advertising that same record in digital or streaming formats to that band’s other fans.

Micro-segments can be incredibly profitable—if you know what they are.

Often we find that the same person belongs to more than one micro-segment. Smart marketers can use this information to deliver near-personalized messages to their target consumers—employing machine-learning and artificial intelligence to help.

The Glorious Future of Segmentation

As data collection increases alongside processing power, segmentation will only get better. We envision a world where, consistently:

  • TV executives drive social media buzz with a guest appearance from an actor beloved by an influential micro-segment
  • Product managers anticipate features based on the changing Internet browsing behavior of their target market
  • Fashion brands identify and successfully target potential consumers by matching their social media behaviors with those of existing customers

The era of mass marketing is coming to an end. From media to fashion, brands are finding success by starting small, making a strong connection with consumer needs, and riding a wave of deep engagement. Increasingly, companies will vie for supremacy within smaller and smaller customer niches. Advanced segmentation techniques will help them stay ahead of the competition.

What Millennials’ Passion For Soft Disruption Means For Brands

Millennials posted by Insight 0

What Millennials' Passion For Soft Disruption Means For Brands

The standard rap against Millennials is that they’re distracted, have short attention spans, can’t let a minute go by without looking at their phones. But what seems like distraction is actually deep engagement. Millennials are basically beta testing the products of the world, even if they haven’t been asked to. Nothing is ever finished or perfect in their eyes, and they won’t take a passive stance knowing that’s the case.

Millennials aren’t out to blow up the status quo; they just want to make things better—call it soft disruption. Whether that means making things fairer, more convenient, or more transparent depends on the situation.

Repeated conversations about Millennials’ needs for customization speaks to the soft disruptive sensibilities of this generation. Here are the three best ways for brands to engage with Millennials.

1) Solicit Input

Millennials are influenced by the technological landscape they inhabit. It's a hackable and malleable landscape that a generation weaned on a continuous stream of new technology loves shaping.

Many of today's most successful innovations rise from the people, through open data, hackathons, and unsolicited ideas. In the old model, companies created products. If consumers wanted specific improvements, companies might find out about them through customer feedback—or customer returns. But there’s a way to prevent that last step from happening, which saves everyone time and money.

Brands, it turns out, can learn a lot from the people who are or could be using their products. Rather than imposing a product on consumers, companies would do well to ask customers directly what they want. For example, Glossier started as a fashion blog, then expanded to include product sales by asking their readers what they wanted in a face wash. Then they developed the new product, already knowing that consumers would like it before it hit the shelves. Now, more than 100 top customers are on a Slack channel, leaving feedback that helps the company's product team innovate faster.

The companies who understand how Millennials think aren't just accepting customer feedback—they're asking for it.

New developments in tech plus opportunities for engagement give Millennials the space to shape products their way. And the companies who understand how Millennials think aren't just accepting customer feedback—they're asking for it.

2) Permit Experimentation

Like generations before them, Millennials face societal hurdles. Rather than withdrawing out of a sense of disenchantment, they’re motivated. Since everything is falling apart, they might as well follow their instincts and experiment. When Millennials aren’t pleased with the way something is working, the question they pose is, “How can I change this?” They don’t shy away from attacking a problem.

Millennials use the technologies and tools that are around them to innovate, molding the world to their liking. Out of a kind of existential fear of what the future may bring, Millennials feel that the time is now to put their imprint on it.

Twitter's rise is emblematic of this instinct. "At first, Twitter was more about telling your friends what you were doing right now," says media critic and journalist Jeff Jarvis in Fast Company's oral history of Twitter's early years. But, then, Twitter was "avidly embraced by young adults," as a 2009 Pew Research Center Report put it. Nearly one in five Millennials had used Twitter by 2008, the platform's third year of existence, but only 10% of those aged 35-44, and only 5% of 45-54 year olds. According to Pew researchers early in Twitter's existence, "Users have themselves expanded the information carried in a Twitter message through the development of tweet shorthand and symbols that allow for the sharing, replicating, and searching of tweets."

The Twitter we see today wasn't hatched by the brilliant minds of the platform's Gen X founders. Twitter's Millennial users invented it.

The Twitter we see today wasn't hatched by the brilliant minds of the platform's Gen X founders. Twitter's Millennial users invented it. And it has now spread to other generations. "My son had to push me to Twitter, I will confess," says Jarvis, a member of the Baby Boomer generation. (Donald Trump, another Baby Boomer, sent his first Tweet in May 2009.)

Does your brand give customers the opportunity to experiment with their own usage for your offerings?

3) Give Them Choices

Millennials have grown up in a world of choice. Generation X grew up reading the morning paper, while Millennials chose from infinite web sites. Generation X chose between Ragu and Prego. Millennials can choose between Ragu's roasted garlic or Prego's creamy vodka. Critics like to say Millennials have been coddled by the conveniences of the era, but this is simply their reality. For better or worse, Millennials expect lots of options.

Many Millennials are motivated by the number of options they have. Because they've always lived in a world partially tailored for them, Millennials are driven to pursue an aspirational lifestyle, with nuanced products customized to their every need.

Delivering a product that goes beyond "one-size-fits-all" is how you'll win with Millennials.

What's Next For Companies?

If marketers are saying you need flashy ads to break through to distracted Millennials, you're getting bad advice. Instead, satisfy their desire to provide input, to experiment, and to make choices.

The big question:

Where does your product fit in the world that Millennials are creating?

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