The devil is in the detail

Spooky sales, weird ales, and marketing trails. Halloween’s no longer just dedicated to little kids collecting enough sweets to open their own pick ‘n’ mix stalls. It’s stretched way beyond trick and treating.

These days it’s an actual holiday season. Ghoulish productions, haunting VR experiences, Dracula cupcakes – you name it. With a forecast spend set to hit £419m this year, brands can’t afford to be zombies.

Some of us feel nostalgic about our childhood Halloweens. We think about our first ever mummy costume made using the softest loo roll, or cutting eye holes in a bed sheet to become a ghost. (Sorry, Mum.)

Speaking of nostalgia, I must mention Halloween 2008; the time that my Mum gave apples and pears to the beady-eyed children on our doorstep. Suffice to say, I did not enjoy collecting eggshells from the porch that year.

Fast-forward to the present where the ever-increasing popularity of Halloween represents a need for escapism; giving us a way to forget about our deadlines, to forget about the economy, to forget about politics and world affairs – the real-life scary things.

It’s a chance for anyone to be anything; whether that’s Frankenstein’s monster, Freddy Krueger, or ruining the film Frozen for young children by dressing up as a ghoulish Elsa.

As one of the biggest retail occasions (outside of Christmas), marketers look beyond targeting just kids. It’s a holiday of mass opportunity. Brands that generate interest and buzz from their exciting campaigns and promotions will stick in shoppers’ minds come the biggest retail occasion in less than two months’ time. (I won’t drop the ‘C’ word again but I’m clearly talking about that event where – if you’re my age – the most exciting present you can expect is a pair of Family Guy socks.)

Though Halloween is the perfect way to get into a stronger position ahead of the ‘C’ word, it’s important to remember that what you do could also go against you. Weak efforts (like a single pumpkin displayed at store front with a faint outline of a face used by a fine marker pen) will be considered a lazy and boring attempt to capture the season. Let’s face it; no business wants to be regarded as the Homer Simpson of their market.

Going beyond dress-up and trick or treating

Campaigns can focus on providing a service as a way of creating brand awareness. Last year, Budweiser sponsored a Halloween party.

Weird Beard Brew Co adopted their own unique event this year with a tap takeover in branches of The Draft House.

Some scary badges I know. Go check them out!
(I haven’t been paid for this endorsment, although if you’re reading this Weird Beard Brew Co, you know where to find me.)

Last year Topshop crated a lot of buzz in their Oxford Street store last year by partnering with Stranger Things for a live gory production.

As someone who watches horror films from behind a blanket, I did not go to see it with my own eyes.

Full marks to Fanta and Snapchat for creativity this year. Every can bought, releases a scary Snapchat filter.  

     

What a brilliant way to generate brand affinity and fun! I’d imagine the Fanta Lemon witch filter would be quite the sight, but hey, I might put that as the cover of my next blog.

Asian markets have also jumped on the ghoul train. Don’t be shocked if next year you find that your friend travelling in Thailand sends you some of Dracula’s finest cooked noodles.

    

So, this Halloween, don’t be an angel. Be a demon. Climb aboard the brand wagon and get involved in frights, lights and scary nights!

I’ll see you soon. Probably in-line for the latest flat screen TV on Black Friday.



I now pronounce you big data and market research

For any laggards out there, big data is the (too large for traditional processing) collection of consumer data relating to our behaviours and attitudes – all captured through our online activity. Companies harness this info to target their desired audience(s). Big data erupted over the last decade and consumer research has never been more effective. 

Three of the companies heavily connected to this are Google, Facebook, and Amazon; all using big data and market research in their strategic decision-making – for better or for worse.

Despite concerns over privacy issues, I’m okay with this. With summer officially gone, I was in the market for a new winter jacket. After a simple Google search and visit to a few online retailers, I transferred my focus to social media where I was suddenly bombarded with adverts of furry parkas as I scrolled through various platforms. I’m now £49.99 out of pocket but am also guaranteed warmth against the chilling winds that will surround me in the coming months.

All it takes is a few searches showing interest in a set of new salt and pepper shakers to impress Grandma with my cooking skills (mainly to add some much-needed excitement to the flavourless chicken I’ve just popped in the oven), and I’m suddenly being targeted with ads for new bowls, cutlery sets, and a new blender. Some may find this annoying but, for me, it makes shopping easier and more enticing than ever. My wallet’s been dented but at least I get to make a delicious smoothie whenever I want.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been a tidal wave of conversation around big data; you have the clear benefits to business strategy and consumer needs on one side – and the societal implications of living in a big data environment on the other. 

In a highly hedonistic and post-modern market environment, I say ‘hell yeah!’ to big data.

Unlike during the 60’s, when my Grandad was told that Brylcreem was the only way to get the Elvis shine and hold, consumers now give the directions. It’s us in the driving seat and brands are our passengers. We’re creating demand like never before. Having our behaviours and attitudes mined and analysed means our needs and demands are met instantly through segmented targeting.

When I need something, I want it now (I am a millennial after all). So, it’s good to know that my data’s been collected and my needs are being catered to. (And I will get it delivered tomorrow afternoon thank you very much.)

Naturally, this phenomenon raises considerable ethical issues – particularly when companies transfer any consumer data they’re holding to external companies without prior consent. The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal is a high-profile example. In spite of this, the collection and transfer of data across multiple industries continues and competition has never been so fierce.

Big data has transformed the quality of secondary data sources because they tell the researcher the ‘whats’ and allows them to tailor their methods to discover the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’. 

Despite experts claiming big data could replace market research, it’s clear that a long and happy civil partnership between both will serve consumers far more effectively; not to mention, giving brands a competitive advantage.

I’ve got to go now. Instagram’s just shown me the perfect panini grill I’ve been searching for.


‘I’m fine. I’m totally fine!’

We love a good natter over lunch at Razor HQ. (We chit-chat all the time but it’s even better with food.) Anyway, one of our recent lunchtime discussions steered itself towards social media and growing up in the digital age.

It’s been a hot topic for quite some time and I always end up with a feeling of sadness when thinking about it. While today’s teens have so many opportunities, there’s a flip side that isn’t so happy and rosy; there’s what feels like constant self-marketing, rating self-worth by number of likes, and feeling a need to always conform to the masses. I once read somewhere that 8 out of 10 girls around the world avoid a range of everyday activities because they feel bad about the way they look. 8 out of 10 girls?! How did things get so bad?

A couple of hours after our conversation ended and, as if perfectly timed, a contact shared a Dove advert on my LinkedIn newsfeed and I just love it.

As part of its Self-Esteem Project – designed to help kids with body confidence – Dove created an ad that scratches beneath the surface of what being ‘fine’ really means. It focuses on the complexity of young people’s minds – from being bombarded with impossibly perfect imagery to struggling with self-image and trying to figure out who you really are, all whilst going about your normal day to day. It makes me tired just thinking about it all!

Alongside this ad, they partnered up with Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe using a series of videos to educate kids about body confidence and self-esteem. The short one-minute clips cover topics such as teasing and bullying, comparing looks, media, and celebrities.

We’ve seen brands like ASOS and Misguided challenging the norm and targeting girls before now, but their campaigns tend to focus on the older teen audience. This is one of the first brands I’ve seen actively targeting tweens and younger and talking so openly about the pressures of living in a social media world.

When we carried out our own Razor Kids study ‘The Beauty Project’ with teens and tweens back in the Spring, Dove wasn’t a brand that was cutting through with any of the girls and if anything, was perceived as a bit ‘mumsy’. This move is bound to increase positivity towards the brand for our future shoppers and hopefully encourage more parents/friends/teachers/relatives to take a bit more time to check in and ask what ‘I’m fine’ actually means.

Well done Dove!

 

 

 

Healthy eating

As consumers increasingly look for more convenient, healthy food options that deliver on flavour, could the recent launch of Deliciously Ella’s frozen food range help revolutionise the category and change consumer perceptions?

It’s been years since I last bought a frozen ready meal. The only reason I visit the freezer aisles is for peas and the odd late night trip for some Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra Core (a girl’s got to have some guilty pleasures in life!). I naturally assume that frozen ready meals are of poorer quality, full of nasties, and lacking in flavour. And who can blame me, given the bad rep frozen ready meals have had over the years (*cough* 2013 horse meat scandal)?

I imagine I’m not alone on this subject and it would most likely take a new kind of frozen ready meal to draw rejecters back into the category. It feels like the Deliciously Ella frozen range has the potential to achieve this and here’s why:

  • Plant-based – Deliciously Ella is known for her veggie-focused recipes/products and this new range could provide a good mid-week or easy meal solution to help consumers cut-back on meat. All the packaging states that it’s ‘vegan friendly’ and reassures on taste with simple and clear ingredient listings and imagery on front of pack to aid decision-making.
  • Fresh and healthy – While I haven’t reviewed every frozen meal on the market, I would guess that most of them contain some additives and stabilisers to ensure longevity and boost flavour. The fact that this range doesn’t contain anything artificial is a real plus and could encourage more brands to look for ways to offer healthier alternatives.
  • Practical – The range is based on meals for two, so even if you’re buying for yourself, you can have leftovers the next day. This could help minimise food waste (and the dreaded guilt of having to throw food out!). It’s also priced quite reasonably at £3.99 – £4.99 for a meal for two and all the packaging is recyclable – something that could help consumers feel more virtuous in their food choice.
  • High quality – Deliciously Ella has huge brand-building success and credibility for creating fresh, healthy and great tasting food. Don’t get me wrong, there are other ‘healthier’ brands in the frozen food category (like Amy’s Kitchen). But few have the brand capital of Deliciously Ella, so this feels like a real opportunity to drive innovation and help lapsed/rejecter consumers re-engage with frozen food.

So, while the Deliciously Ella frozen range won’t necessarily be right for all occasions (roughly 45-minute cook time and you’d need to buy/prepare side dishes to go with it), it does have the potential to provide a practical solution for consumers looking for genuinely healthier meals that don’t compromise on taste or break the bank.

I’m excited to see whether it can shake up the category and help drive innovation. Particularly if, like the rest of the brand’s products, it becomes available to the masses in Tesco and Sainsbury’s (it’s currently only available at Whole Foods and theough Ocado). Watch this space…

And if healthy eating is something you’d like to learn more about, you’ve come to the right place. We conducted a large-scale study earlier this year and identified six discreet typologies to help grow your business. Kate Razor would be happy to tell you about the latest consumer perspectives and trends. Drop her a line.