Social justice sells

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”


Whatever your stance on Nike’s latest campaign, it’s certainly made waves around the world. It’s hard to write this in an unbiased and non-political way because Trump is a c*ckwomble. But I’ll do my best.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the long story short:

  1. NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, kneels during pre-game national anthem in a #blacklivesmatter protest against police brutality.
  2. Trump et al lose their cool, publicly damning this action.
  3. The protest receives further backlash claiming it’s disrespectful to the US flag, the national anthem, and to war veterans.
  4. Others kneel in solidarity and the movement spreads.
  5. (Repeat points 3 and 4 a few times.)
  6. Fast-forward some months and Nike names Kaepernick as the face of its 30th anniversary ‘Just Do It’ campaign.

In 2017, Kaepernick said, “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”.

When Nike then named Kaepernick as the face and hero of ‘Just Do It’, backlash came from Trump and other pissed-off Republicans who’ve burned their Nike goods or cut the swooshes out of their clothing. But the fact is that many of those most upset were not core customers in the first place.


Taking any brand into the eye of a political storm is a bold stance. For Nike, it’s clearly been a deliberately divisive strategy; one that’s certainly paid off based on the latest figures.

When you alienate one group, you’ll appeal to another by default. 18-34 year olds are clearly the future target audience for the brand and this stunt has resonated with them. 50% of this audience told a Marketing Week survey that they now view Nike more favourably. 49% would even be more likely to purchase products from Nike in the future. Only 9% said they would buy less; does that sound like failure to you?

No doubt Nike will be here long after Trump has left The White House. And this campaign is a great example of when disruption and a cause can work for big brands.

Social justice sells.

Virtually there

My wife accuses me of ‘moderating’ her when I think we’re just having a chat. It’s not because I’ve asked her to fill in a food diary, do a selfie video, or map a series of choices that I’ve written on index cards for what we might do this weekend…honestly, it’s not. (I only did that one time and it was very insightful.)

I bridle, but I think she has a point. For twenty years now, my job has been to put people at ease and then…get something from them. At the risk of sounding Machiavellian, this is my approach to both client relationships and market research participants (or consumers, or humans, or whatever you’re supposed to call them nowadays). 

That’s the job, right? To engage people in conversation and learn some stuff about them. Sure, you’re also going to turn it into insight…and a debrief…or a new brief…but it all starts the same way. With rapport.

This week, I’m interviewing women via Zoom Video Conferencing (my new favourite toy). We’re talking about weight loss and it gets pretty personal. They’re at home and they’ve not had to dress up or tidy up for the camera. I’m at home and I haven’t dressed up either (but I am doing them the courtesy of getting dressed). Our pets walk past the camera and their children can be heard arguing off-stage. It’s like life is only slightly interrupted.

And it’s great. Because it’s rapport. And because I’m good at my job, I’m really good at rapport. It doesn’t matter that there are also six clients on the call (with muted camera and microphones) and that they’re messaging me questions from the sidelines. The questions are useful and their presence is unintrusive. We’re on a level. There’s no fuss or faffing – just space to have a conversation. 

We wrote another proposal recently that recommends virtual interviews only – and I know the client is sceptical. If we don’t win it, I’ll be sad but I’ll understand. But I honestly, honestly believe that if we’re good at our jobs we can develop rapport with anyone – quickly, easily, on all our own terms. 

I’m under no illusions that virtual depths are anything new. But having been a staunch ‘face-to-face’ is best kinda researcher, I’m now changing my tune. Life is hectic, we all want market research to be easy, and none of us enjoy schlepping home from the other side of town late at night and hungry. But we do it because we believe in it.

Maybe we’re just not trusting ourselves to enjoy a different way of chatting; being mutually comfy, staring straight into someone’s eyes and talking? Rapport is what qual researchers should be really good at. So, let’s use it and make everyone’s life just a little bit easier. 

As for my wife, she’s truly excited to be going with me on an accompanied shopping trip where I shall scrutinise her choices and then buy her a coffee for a summary chat afterwards. 

Born to moderate? Moi?



A ‘hop-ed’ piece

The craft beer revolution may be retreating from its explosive peak; but it’s here to stay and its impact on the market will be long-lasting.

Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed a journey from being a traditional ale (and sometime lager) drinker to being a DIPA and Saison swiller. But, recently, I felt that journey had reached a crossroads. A bank holiday BBQ with friends meant I needed to buy beer; so, in the preceding week, I scoured a host of craft beer sites looking for the interesting brews that would inspire my taste buds and put me ahead of my chums in our ‘craft beer arms race’. Naturally, my friends were all engaging in this daft competition too. As a result, we washed down our burgers and bangers with a raft of very expensive, incredibly strong and, largely undrinkable, beers from flamboyant cans. This is probably atypical and, quite frankly, sad behaviour but I suspect that many beer drinkers will have experienced echoes of this scenario.

There are signs of craft beer growth slowing in the US, and I can see why it’s appeal may be waning. Firstly, there’s the problem that assails modern consumers in so many areas of their consumption – choice paralysis. Whether it’s on or off-trade, making a decision has become infinitely harder as even bog-standard boozers have a dizzying array of beers stretching the length of the bar and mainstream supermarkets range scores of craft SKUs. Remember the good old days when you could just ask for ‘a pint of best’ and you knew what you were getting?

Then there’s the cost and strength – a bruised wallet and thumping head after my BBQ were my initial triggers for writing this! Obviously, when beers cost £6 a can and weigh in at 8.5% ABV, they can’t be a part of mainstream session drinking (highlighting the limitations to growth for the category). Linked to this is the fact that the same hop-forward, premium-priced craft beer – which feels well-suited to drinking in a Dalston industrial estate taproom – seems out of place in the neighbourhood pubs of the suburbs and provinces.    

Finally, craft is finding it hard to retain its cool. On the one hand, the leading-edge of craft is part of the caricature of the achingly cool hipster which is becoming passé. And on the other, as big brewers buy up the micro-breweries or develop brands which invoke craft tropes, the authenticity of the category is being chipped away.

But that’s not to say craft is dead. The impact of Punk IPA and its ilk is likely to be similar to that of punk rock. Punk rock raged and snarled during its 18-month peak in the late 70s before retreating from the limelight; but it continued to influence music and culture for decades to come. Similarly, craft beer taps into too many long-term established trends to simply evaporate.

Provenance has excited food and drink consumers for years, making even the most mundane product sound interesting (who knew Himalayan salt could be so exciting?!). Craft beer plays to this brilliantly with beers brewed super-locally. The focus on provenance is aligned to other enduring trends around artisanal product, collaboration and experience. These are brought to life on a trip to any microbrewer’s taproom. (On a recent visit to Beavertown I enjoyed a small-batch collaboration with a Danish brewer next to the tank it had been brewed in, whilst I ate street food from a local start-up.) What’s more, experiences like this are ripe for social media sharing/boasting and the edgy can designs are highly Instagrammable too!

In addition, with younger consumers less likely to drink regularly and the consumer trend towards small treats, there is genuine interest in unique, special products at a premium price-point amongst a key group.

So, what does all this mean for the next few years? For my money, I suspect a slowing of UK craft growth but for it to remain a sizeable fixture on the drinking scene. Craft beer itself may change, with more lower percentage options – like table beer – proliferating, and some of the more extreme flavours falling by the wayside (particularly away from taprooms and specialist sites). In an effort to play to the desire for artisanal product and social media-friendly experiences, craft brewers are likely to put even greater focus on events and gifting.

And of course, there’s no doubt that craft has – and will continue to – influence the mainstream. Think big brewers producing hoppier styles and playing with more daring branding.

Next BBQ season I suspect I’ll be drinking a 4.5% pale ale whilst listening to Sham 69!