What’s next for brands? Seven lessons from 2012.

As we’re awaiting the final results of our end of year study to gain a more in-depth understanding of the Zeitgeist, we’ve been discussing what’s next for brands in 2013 based upon our learning from CultureQ over the past Summer and Autumn.  As always, we’ve been reviewing the data from our research in the context of socio-cultural and political events. The highly anticipated IPO of Facebook, the largest in the technology sector and the second biggest offering ever, kicked off Summer. Surely, there was no clearer symbol of Facebook’s market dominance. Anticipation quickly led to speculation about the integrity of the offering, Facebook’s revenue strategy, and many of the company’s policies and strategy, and the public became more cynical about the extent to which Facebook values the people it connects. Consumers are growing notably more frustrated and less forgiving of brands they judge as taking more than they give Although participants in CultureQ respect brands such as Facebook as leaders, they are growing notably more frustrated and less forgiving of those they judge to be taking more than they give. Facebook is one of the few leadership brands that our participants did not also name as a top favorite brand. Increasingly, people’s favorites offer a mutually beneficial relationship that recognizes their contributions to brand development as well as their role in bringing a brand to life. Engaging with users as people rather than just consumers is especially important for brands that want to connect with Millennials. As summer wore on, Chick-fil-A aptly demonstrated the danger of a brand being associated with views that are misaligned with many of its...

Millennials: Humor them

It was Nick Shore’s MTV Insights Article “Q: What’s the Opposite of Nirvana?” that led me to question the role humor plays in the lives of Millennials and explore a bit more about how marketers are using comedy to capture our attention. “As someone charged with studying Millennial behaviors, motivations, insights and trends I have, of course, bandied about a lot of rhetoric about the generation using optimism, fun and unity as their way of pushing back on Gen X values. Of a generation bullishly refusing to go to the dark side, even in the face of, say, a trillion dollar pile of student debt,” Shore writes. We’re all pushing hard to stay afloat through challenging times. And, well, humor is the perfect antidote to our overwhelming everyday struggles. We bond equally over dim-witted Internet memes (they’re really inside jokes for our generation) and intellectual, witty humor on shows like The Colbert Report, The Office, and New Girl—just to name a few. In the run-up to the 2012 election, Comedy Central partnered with TRU Insights and Insight Research to analyze the role humor plays in Millennials’ political beliefs, behaviors and capturing their vote. According to the study, “62% like it when politicians use their sense of humor; 55% want politicians to show their sense of humor more often; and 54% agree the funnier a politician, the more likeable he/she is.” Obama apadted a looser, more easygoing demeanor than Romney throughout his campaign, and often relied on jesting to undercut his opponent. While I’m by no means attributing Obama’s success in the Presidential race to his comical advantage, it’s interesting...

Spotlight on Google: don’t be evil

Quick, answer this question: How many miles is the earth’s surface from the moon? Time’s up. Did you get around 238,857 miles? More importantly, how did you get that answer? Chances are you Googled it. Google. The noun that became a verb. Have a question? Google it. Can’t find directions? Google it. Need anything at all? Google it. Rarely has a company held such a ubiquitous influence over society. Hitwise, which measures internet traffic, reported in July 2012 that Google accounted for 65.70 percent of all searches in the United States. Google’s contribution to the mobile world, Android, has nearly 52 percent of the market share for smartphones. (Apple is around 34 percent.) Gmail has around 425 million users as of June 2012. Google Books seeks to digitize all known books and magazines. In 2008, Google even invested in a DNA sequencing company. The list goes on and on, and a quick read can make Google seem rather ominous, like an empire seeking a monopoly on all industries. After all, Google controls what information we receive, how we receive it, and how we share it, a daunting idea that would horrify the Orwells of the world. Yet, based on much of our CultureQ research, Millennials view Google as just the opposite. Overwhelmingly, Google is seen as a socially conscious, responsible, helpful company. How did this come to be? The oft-quoted motto of Google is “Don’t be evil.” Perhaps it’s just that simple. The pre-internet age of industry operated under the idea that companies could create destinations for users, to “control” consumers, in a sense. Unlike those old-media companies, Google...

Millennials and Libertarian ideals

With the Presidential election fast approaching, politics have been top of mind for many of the Millennials we’ve been speaking to in the US through CultureQ.  In research last December, many started to express Libertarian-like ideals, mostly in response to SOPA, which had the potential to impinge upon their right to on-demand entertainment. Two thirds of registered Millennials backed President Barack Obama and his promise to deliver a “change we can believe in” in 2008. Yet, today, many of those same voters feel that while their candidate won, they have still lost. Current numbers show that less than half of younger voters plan to take part in the coming election compared to almost 70% for 2008. So where have all these Millennials gone? Sadly, a large segment likely will not vote, but many of the others have chosen a new standard bearer, the Libertarian Party. It’s not surprising, when you think about it. Libertarian ideals are perfect for Millennials; both groups favor open and transparent systems and feel that the government should not be involved with the minutiae of everyday life. Millennials, who have been empowered by technology since a young age and are entering the workforce during a prolonged downturn, feel that the political system is broken and needs to be fixed. Like Obama in 2008, Libertarians represent an anti-establishment movement.  They fit the bill many Millennials are seeking - they berate government intervention. Recently, there has been a surge in support among youth for Libertarian candidates, the highest profile being Representative Ron Paul of Texas. Many CultureQ participants qualitatively and quantitatively spoke about Paul.  And, despite him not...

Spotlight on Trader Joes: hip, cool and off-beat

Poring over the Q2 data of our CultureQ research, I of course found countless insights about those big-name brands I expected to dominate the discussions—blue chip brands like Apple, Ford, and Nike, and social media giants like Facebook and Twitter. But I was fairly surprised to see that Trader Joe’s was mentioned nearly as much as the expected set (albeit most often by trend setters and early adopters), and greatly intrigued by the enthusiastic clamoring of our participants for this quirky chain of grocery stores. According to our data, Trader Joes’, or “TJ’s” as its loyal customers call it, has cultivated an eclectic, cult-like following of Millennials. It seems they love everything about TJ’s from its products to its employees to its kitschy store design, and their intimate connection with the brand is captured in their CultureQ musings. The first Trader Joes opened in 1967, the first trademark Hawaiian shirts were donned by employees in 1969, and since then, the store has expanded into a small grocery store empire of over 350 stores in 30 states. And all the while, Trader Joe’s has retained its quirky vibe and “neighbourhood feel despite being a chain,” as one CultureQ participant reflects. Despite its hundreds of locations, it somehow it still feels local and original, which adds to its appeal. It still promotes itself as “Your Neighborhood Grocery Store,” and its stores are tucked away in intriguing locations, such as a beautiful, old architectural-gem-of-a-bank in Brooklyn that another participant labelled a “palace of food.” Trader Joe’s is cool, but in an off-beat way. It seems that their coolness is a product of...
The Creative Capital for Hipsters

The Creative Capital for Hipsters

Choosing where you live determines a number of important things: whether or not you need a car, if you will live in a house or an apartment, and in it’s own way the types of industries you can work in.  What we don’t usually consider is that sometimes the decision of where to live was made for us on a more subconscious level. Research has been done recently on this by psychologists at Cambridge and the University of Texas. One thing that pops up when you speak to Millennials deciding on where to live is where are the creatives, those who are often associated with being open and embracing new experiences, moving. These are the people who are going out and effecting change in the world as entrepreneurs, business leaders, and social enterprisers. The notable hot spots for creatives today are San Francisco, New York, Austin, Nashville, and Denver (in terms of being open to experience). One place that is surprisingly left off the map, though, is a small city in the smallest state, Providence. I don’t think that it is coincidence that this New England city shares its name with human destiny. In fact that is how Providence got its name in 1636, from Roger Williams as he was a religious exile from the Puritan Massachusets Bay Colony. Since Williams’ time, the city has grown organically and seen much change. Just look at the various monikers that have developed, “The Beehive of Industry,” ” The Rennaisance City,” and now “The Creative Capital.” It should not come as a surprise that Providence attracts a creative and intellectual population; Brown...
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