Kill ’em with kindness

Last week, the University of California opened the world’s first institute to study kindness. The idea would be to pool the knowledge gleaned from researchers and house all of their insight about kindness in one place.

A few topics the institute is looking to dive deeper into include:

  • Why does a person give up his or her seat on the train?
  • Why does somebody volunteer his or her time to help someone in need?
  • How does kindness spread, and does being kind impact our brains?

Researchers even agreed on an academic definition for kindness: an act that enhances the welfare of others as an end in itself.

But it’s not all philosophical. Data from UCLA scientists has already shown mindfulness and kindness alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections.

Why it’s hot
As student enrollment continues to decline and people opt for nontraditional career paths, public and private higher education institutions are adding programs and offerings with seemingly little strategy behind them. Since 2012, 41,446 degrees or certificate programs have been added across the country.

UConn offers a BFA, an MA, and an MFA in Puppet Arts. One can get a degree in bagpiping from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Even Notre Dame offers an interdisciplinary academic field called Peace Studies.

Will these new offerings drive action and shift the “is college worth it” narrative that continues to be omnipresent? The verdict is still out.

Sources: National Center for Education Studies; NPR

Via putting customers first

Via asked riders to share their ideas and insights to improve the experience. The fist thing they’re implementing is to make all rides to the airport ViaExpress, which means once someone hops on board, the driver will never make more than one additional pickup. He’ll also take the fastest route he can find.


Consumers Dine Out More Amid Job Growth

A recent study by Visa Business and Economic Insights shows that consumer spending on restaurants has accelerated in recent years, thanks in part to strong growth in the job market, among other things.

According to the study, there is a direct correlation between increase in restaurant spend (especially among Millennials) and increase in jobs. It’s interesting to note that this sales increase in the restaurant segment is outpacing the growth of the overall retail sales, which indicates that, when it comes to retail spending, Americans (and especially Millennials) prioritize social/entertainment options like eating out, versus traditional retail spends that are more personal by nature, like fashion/clothing or personal care.

eat out

Another interesting learning shows that restaurant spending increased around the same time that gas prices plummeted, freeing up funds for discretionary spending. Restaurant credit spending growth began to accelerate in early 2014, with lower-income households (those earning less than $50,000/year) leading the way –the consumer group that benefited the most from the lower gas prices.













Why is this hot?

The correlation between economy/jobs and spending is well known, but the fact that eating out, a social activity by nature, is outpacing other retail categories, indicates a preference for bonding and connecting, over more individual rewards.

What Brands Can Learn From Consumer’s New Year’s Resolutions

As we enter 2016, and people are setting New Year’s resolutions, research states that approximately only 12% of Americans will actually keep to them throughout the year. The insight into why people fail or succeed with their resolutions and the understanding of consumers’ aspirations in the New Year can be valuable information for marketers. Ad Age published an article focusing on research around resolutions and the four  lessons marketers can learn to better target their consumers.


1. The power of social proof. One reason people make New Year’s resolutions is simply because other people are making them. As Robert Cialdini, author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” says, “We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”

The lesson for marketer: Make the example of others adopting the behavior change you require visible to the people whose behavior you want to change.

2. The importance of milestones. Research by Kathy Milkman at Wharton and others looked at how significant dates and times spur goal-directed, aspirational activities.

Lessons for marketers: Milestones matter, so look for one to ignite your behavior change strategy.

3 .Future self is a virtuous stranger. A fascinating area of behavioral insights is how timeframes affect people’s choices. When we contemplate our future self, he or she is a model of virtue, easily able to overcome the short-term temptation our present self falls victim to. So our resolutions are often “sized” for our future self, not for our fallible present self. So, resolutions suffer similarly. What seemed like a good idea on December 31 can become a royal pain a couple of months into the year.

Lessons for marketers: Programs that help potential customers bridge the gap between present and future self can also help marketers with the tricky job of selling products or services with future benefits.

4. Make it easy. This one is almost insultingly obvious. In the book, “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics,” Richard Thaler writes that one of his mantras is, “If you want to encourage someone to do something, make it easy.”

Lesson for marketers: Make your marketing easier to act upon. How can you make the decision to choose your product both cognitively and physically easier?

Read more here.



Foot Locker, ASICS Kick Off Runner Inspiration Contest

Remember “Just Do It”? Great line, right? But what about the personal stories? Introducing: “Do It For A Reason”. At this point, I have to say that I’m a runner who runs for a reason. I started to run 9 years ago when I realized that if I was ever going to become a dad, I was not going to be a young one. I that point, I decided that I wanted to be an active father for my future child. In other words, there’s a reason why I run, which is why I love this campaign! (spoiler alert: our daughter was born last August and will be 8 weeks old next week)

The “Real Lives. Real Runners” contest is a partnership between Foot Locker and ASICS, and a follow-up to last year’s “All Runners Welcome” effort. Five films have been selected, and you can count on 26.2 miles of sniffles: It includes an ex-con who took up running while still in prison, one young man inspired by his late mother, another out to beat the running streak of his late father, a Stage IV melanoma patient and an Army veteran.



Based on number of You Tube views through Oct. 15, the creators of the top three spots get to fly to New York City for a Foot Locker and ASICS America screening event, with the final winner being selected a panel of judges, and the winning spot is scheduled to air on the national TV broadcast of the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon, scheduled for Nov. 1. The filmmaker who wins also gets a cash prize from MOFILM, plus an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas for the annual MOFILM Awards.

For ASICS, the Japanese company that stands for “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano,” or “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body,”  the films reinforce its commitment to the many reasons people take to the streets. “The videos are incredibly exhilarating and truly speak to the diversity of what running means to people from all walks of life,” says Shannon Scott, ASICS America senior director of marketing, in the announcement.

Source: MediaPost

All films: YouTube

Why this is hot?

Simply put: human connection! By getting to the core of what motivates people to run, ASICS connected, not just with runners, but with every person who has a dream, a mission, a vision and a goal for their lives.

Talenti Uses Social Posts To Create Personal Flavors

Unilever brand Talenti Gelato is generating personalized flavor concepts for fans by analyzing their social posts.

Consumers are being encouraged to visit the campaign’s “Flavorize Me” site by August 22 to elect to have an algorithm connect to their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The algorithm analyzes commonly used words and hashtags to create personality/flavor profiles for each user that specify percentages of sweet, spicy and salty, and to generate a list of ingredients that fits with each profile.

Each ingredients combo in turn generates an ideal, not-in-existence personalized flavor. Given that there are hundreds of available ingredients, there are about 50 million potential flavor combinations, according to the brand.


Examples of flavors generated so far, displayed on the Flavorize Me site, include Honey Allspice Nectarine, Marmalade Cabernet Peanut Butter Cup, Ebelskiver Biscuit Mint, Gingerbread Loganberry Malbec, and English Trifle Peanut Butter Cup Lavender.


Why this is hot?

It’s more than product customization; it’s your personal brand! It starts with consumer data, followed by a thorough analysis (algorithms included) that deliver not just flavors, but an insightful picture of where consumers’ tastes are going. And it ends beautifully with a personalized product that takes the brand to a real next level: less about the “brand” and more about the consumer.

As more consumers are less interested in owning a car, automakers are becoming mobility companies

More cities become more crowded. Drivers want to drive less. People want to walk and ride their bikes more. Cities want to manage the chaos. And automakers are rethinking their business. Take a look at what Ford is doing:

in January, Ford Motor launched the Smart Mobility Plan, a global program that, based on some 25 transportation and telematics commerce research, is testing flexible ownership, and multi-modal urban travel.

The first test will involve peer-to-peer ride sharing. Ford Credit is inviting up to 14,000 pre-screened customers in six U.S. cities and 12,000 in London to sign up to rent their Ford Credit-financed vehicles for short-term use. That, says Ford, will help them offset monthly vehicle ownership costs.

“Consumers tell us they are interested in sharing the costs of vehicle ownership, and this program will help us understand how much that extends to customers who are financing a Ford vehicle. As most vehicles are parked and out of use much of the time, this can help us gauge our customers’ desires to pick up extra cash and keep their vehicles in use.”

Ford is also looking at bicycles as a way to extend mobility beyond four wheels. The new electric MoDe:Flex electric bicycle, the third Ford has introduced since March, folds so as to be stored in (ideally) a Ford vehicle, where it can also be charged.The bike is paired with a mobile app, including one for smartwatches, that gives weather, congestion, parking costs, time, traffic and public transportation info. It includes eyes-free navigation, route planning, and health and fitness information, per Ford.

Source: MediaPost

Why this is hot? As technology changes people behaviors and expectations, companies have an opportunity to reinvent themselves and create new products that add more value to people, while remaining true to their DNA.

For Mother’s Day, Samsung didn’t create an ad. They just showed reality.

The new Samsung’s funny Mother’s Day ad reminds young consumers how bad their moms are at, well pretty much anything technology related… including texting.

As Mother’s Day has become a repetitive cryfest in which advertisers keep tapping into the same sentimental formula, this Samsung ad, “#TextsFromMom,” is a breath of fresh air.

The spot looks at how your mom probably uses text messaging—or rather, misuses it. The whole thing is pretty funny, and nicely pokes fun without getting too mean. And it sticks the landing by reminding you that you shouldn’t be texting with Mom at all this Sunday.

You’ll also notice that some of the moms’ phone numbers are visible in the spot. If you dial them, you get to hear what they have to say in their voicemail messages.

You can also show off your mom’s funniest texts using hashtag #TextsFromMom for a chance to win a Galaxy S 6 edge.


Why this is hot

How many Santa Clauses ads did you see last December? How many of them did you care about?

And how many “Moms being hugged by their lovely families” are we going to see this Mother’s Day season? More than we need, which is why this Samsung ad is hot!

Searching for Love on Valentine’s Day and beyond

Love changes everything—what we buy, how we make purchase decisions, and who influences those decisions. On Valentine’s Day and beyond, the web plays a big role. In this infographic, we explore online moments of love and how marketers can win them.


Why It’s Hot: The best ads hit us on an emotional level. By understanding how people find and fall in love, brands can uncover fundamental human truths and develop creative and messaging that truly resonate on Valentines Day and beyond.


SuperBowl: Negative buzz around the “Dead Child” ad drove big lift in Purchase Intention for Nationwide

Whaaaaaaat? That can’t be right, right? But it is. At least according to YouGov BrandIndex. Here’s the story:

We know that Nationwide got a lot of negative buzz, as soon as the ad featuring the death of a child debuted on the Super Bowl. We can debate the creative idea, and even the communication and brand strategies behind it, all we want. All I’ll say is that the idea is, at least, controversial; and that it’s not surprising that it generated such a negative reaction during (and after) the game.


Well, according to YouGov BrandIndex, in the ranking of the brands that saw the biggest lift in purchase consideration compared to pre-game baseline, Nationwide comes second with an impressive 6% lift, on top of well established brands like T-Mobile, Doritos, Coca Cola and BMW.



Purchase_ConsiderationThis may strike you as odd, considering the outcry in the wake of Nationwide’s ad, and you may not be alone. So what’s going on here? We can hypothesize about ads, consumers, and the like, but the reality is that we don’t know. All I can say is that, in general, people say what they think, but do what they feel.

Maybe the ad message did get to people’s heart, despite the anger expressed online? What do you think?


Why is this hot?

Because it forces us to question everything we hear from consumers, not just on focus groups, consumer studies, surveys, online panels and social listening. It forces us to “listen between the lines”.

Budweiser’s anti-craft beer Super Bowl ad made me sad!

Blasphemy! While watching the Super Bowl (commercials) this year, I was taken aback by this non-puppy ad from Budweiser called “Brewed the Hard Way”

The industry and social media is all a flutter as to whether this was a mistaken strategy.

The ad appeared to mock not only craft beer, but also the people who enjoy it — a move that proved to be both tone deaf and embarrassing for the company.

The ad, which began by noting that Budweiser “is not brewed to be fussed over” ended with the tagline: “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”

Except, whoops! Just over a week ago, Budweiser’s parent company bought well-known Seattle craft brewery Elysian . Among the beers that brewery made last year? The Gourdgia on my Mind Pecan Peach Pumpkin Amber.“Elysian’s brands are an important addition to our high-end beer portfolio, and we look forward to working together,” said Andy Goeler, CEO of Craft at Anheuser-Busch at the time.

In fact, Budweiser’s parent company has quietly been buying craft breweries and launching its own craft-style brands for the past few years. Shock Top is a Belgian-style wheat ale produced by the company (which, it’s worth noting, also has a pumpkin seasonal). Organic craft brewery Green Valley Brewing Company doesn’t fly the Anheuser-Busch flag, but it’s owned by the company. So is Goose Island, which was purchased in 2011. And it owns stakes in Seattle’s Red Hook Brewing and Portland’s Widmer Brothers Brewery.

The apparent attack on craft beer comes as the King of Beers has seen its crown become more tarnished. Young drinkers have been turning away from the brand for more than 25 years. In 2013, the company shipped 16 million barrels of Budweiser, while overall craft beer shipments came in at 16.1 million barrels.

On social media, craft beer lovers, not surprisingly, took aim at Budweiser – noting the defensive nature of the ad.

Best response:

Why It’s Hot

Frequenters of this blog know that I care about two things (1) Beer and (2) Marketing Strategy! So I do believe this shows us the power of a misguided insight — Budweiser chose to fight against a trend vs. embrace it. If anything, they were appealing to people who already drink Bud. However, the reaction only amplified the exposure of the ad. Go craft beer!!

Your Girlfriend is a Bunch of Guys Working For Amazon

Virtual dating evolved. It’s not just about meeting someone online. Not even dating someone virtually. Now you can date a virtual person.

Services like Invisible Boyfriend are making the dream of an ideal man, a reality… well, not really, but you got the idea.

The problem is that the boy you are dating could be a 13-years old child in India, or a 60-something in Russia. Who knows. And, more importantly, do you care? You should, and here’s why: You are sharing your dreams (from the car you’d love to buy but can’t, to the body you’d love to curve, the places you’d like to visit and food you love to eat. Your hidden (real?) personality is becoming available to the service, and why not, to Amazon. Just imagine the things they can offer to you, based not just on what you search for, but in what you dream with. The sky is the limit…

Why is this hot?

The implications for uncovering consumer insights go beyond what people actually do online. Now we have first hand exposure to what people really wish.



Get Customer Insight in Real-Time

There’s a new tool that is radically improving marketing research, known as RET (real-time experience tracking) and leveraged by leading brands including Unilever, PepsiCo, HP, Microsoft and InterContinental Hotels.

The tool is a quick SMS-based microsurvey that customers can take on their mobile phone every time they encounter company’s brand. The survey requires input of a four-character text message – that’s it! Read more here.

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Why It’s Hot:
RET data enables brands to identify not only what most motivates customers to buy your brand but also how various touch points combine in a chain to influence the customers’ decisions. It also enables companies to assess and respond in real time to customer’s reactions to products, services or branding efforts. These insights can be acted on immediately and achieve greater impact with lower spending.