First Shave

The FMCG landscape continues to change with the rise of emerging brands desperately trying to disrupt and survive in an incredibly crowded marketspace. Their fight to stand out has made our job as researchers more challenging and more interesting.

You only have to walk down supermarket checkout aisles to spot the latest snacking innovations. Established brands are now competing with a new array of brands entering the health and well-being space (Popchips, Hippeas and KIND to name a few!).

Femcare is another market being shaken up by challenger brands. It’s fascinating to watch newbies entering the category embracing holistic health care, female empowerment and fun. While we know consumers are seeking brands with empathy, clear and authentic values, it’s a big switch for consumers to start thinking about those values in the context of this category.

At Razor, we love and feel privileged to work with some of the ‘big players’; but we’re also passionate about working with entrepreneurs who inspire us and have ideas we feel truly excited by. We’re very aware of the restraints that exist within small businesses, so we developed First Shave; an approach designed to give start-ups a leg-up. (Or, if you like, a ‘first shave’ of research.)

Our method is rapid, inexpensive and incisive to support the needs of challenger brands. Recently we helped an alcohol-free spirit brand get to market and we created an innovation roadmap for a vegan brand. Exciting stuff!

So, if you’re a fledgling brand looking to back a hunch, settle an internal debate, or need to impress potential customers and investors, do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!



 

 

What Razor LOVES: October 2019

We’re an eclectic bunch at team Razor.

Each month, we’ll share with the world a flavour of what’s caught our attention and influenced our thinking and conversations in the office.

 

Chloë B
I recently binged How to Fail by Elizabeth Day during a flight to Australia. The book is all about what it’s like to fail across a range of different areas as you navigate your way through life; covering topics such as family, relationships, careers and friendships. Most importantly, she talks to – and about – all the amazing people who’ve shared similar ‘failure’ experiences (Phoebe Waller Bridge and Dolly Alderton to name a couple) and how to take what they’ve learned to create new and exciting paths.

Chloë F
It’s been an inspiring month for me. I kicked it off with a talk by Ian Urbina, a NYT investigative journalist who spent five years researching his book, The Outlaw Ocean. It’s opened my eyes to a world I simply didn’t know existed. Horrifying and inspirational. I’ve also been caught up in the debate over whether two winners of The Booker Prize should have been allowed. (In my opinion, Bernadine Evaristo’s book Girl, Woman, Other, should have won entirely on its own.) I’ve got better at going to exhibitions and went to see Anthony Gormley at the RA and Olafur Eliasson at Tate Modern. I binged Unbelievable on Netflix and The Rap Game UK on BBC Three. And I loved the films The Farewell, Judy and Hustlers. Top that, November!

Gem
It’s crime season over at The Postal Museum* and the star of the show is the latest interactive 1960s exhibition, The Great Train Robbery: Crime and The Post. Most of us know about this heist as one that gave the robbers glamour and fame. What history doesn’t focus on is the traumatic impact it had on those affected at the time; from the workers (victims) on board the train to the families of the victims and the criminals involved. Never-before-seen artefacts and documents tell their stories and how members of the Post Office Investigation Branch risked their lives to track (pardon the pun) down the perpetrators of the GTR and other crimes. As a fan of admin (and intrigue), I found myself fascinated by the intricate paperwork and methods used to unpick the events during a very limited tech time – especially by today’s standards.  

Kate
I’ve binged the How to Fail with Elizabeth Day podcast which celebrates the things that haven’t gone right in life. She’s interviewed a series of people I really admire like Phoebe Waller-Bridge (hilarious) and Tara Westover (I loved her book) but also people I admittedly have little interest in or perhaps didn’t hugely respect before listening (like Camilla Thurlow from Love Island). Irrespective of my view of the interviewee, I love learning about their personal stories and feel inspired by their strength to not only share their failures but to actually use them to succeed.

Nikisha
I recently went to a talk at the British Library about Indian experiences during World War Two. It was incredible to learn more about my culture in relation to this era which is often overlooked and unheard of in history lessons and the media. This examination of Indian soldiers’ emotional experiences opened my eyes to how much they sacrificed during the war and made an impact. We saw military censorship reports archived at the British Library. The letters originally written in Hindi, Gurmukhi, Urdu, Bengali, Malayalam and Tamil were then dictated to scribes by Indian non-literate sepoys. These fascinating letters humanised soldiers. They wrote about feeling homesick, not earning enough money to send home, how they missed their wives and children, and how they took pleasure in the simple things like watching films with other soldiers. The colonial photographs allowed me to connect more with my roots and I feel inspired to dig even deeper to learn more about India’s history.



*If you’ve not yet visited The Postal Museum, it really is a fab place for young’uns and grown-ups. There’s loads to learn, plenty of fun activities and things to play around with. That’s before you even go across the road to ride the famous Mail Rail. (Gem)

 

University challenge

When I began university, I was your typical student; eager to make friends, anxious to do my best in a new environment, and a little stressed about the workload (though not so much that I didn’t online shop and binge-watch Netflix for hours only to regret it later!). But the change of environment, my new living dynamic, the coursework deadlines – and the general stress of being at uni – turned out to be more than I could handle.

Mental health is regularly in the news these days and, because of my personal experiences, I have a particular interest in student mental health. I wanted to explore student experiences in more depth so, as part of my internship here at Razor, I interviewed fourteen students from a number of universities around the UK. What soon became clear is that universities could be doing so much more to support student mental health.

First year blues
The time has finally come. You have your own space and no parents around telling you to wash your dishes and clean your room. You have so much freedom! But that’s exactly it … it’s just you. Yes, the independence is empowering and exciting – but being surrounded by strangers can also be really daunting. Some people tend to retreat from situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Most of the students I spoke to had felt homesick, isolated and overwhelmed by their new living dynamic during their first year. They were expecting freshers’ week to be the best of their lives but, in reality, it was the complete opposite! I get that; it’s tiring, you’re skint, you’re usually away from home and you’re convinced that you must socialise in order to be a ‘real’ student.

“People can feel lonely and isolated. There could be more social opportunities.”

  • How to help: To improve their experience, students suggested having activities offered to them by their academic departments or halls to help them bond with their flat/course mates, rather than being left to organise things for themselves. Physical exercise, yoga and meditation could also be at the forefront to help promote more social interaction along with a healthier lifestyle.

An intense workload
I remember my first ever deadline. I wanted to cry <insert Kim Kardashian crying emoji> and put my head through a wall because I felt so tense. The intensity and depth of my degree was not at all what I was expecting and many of the students I spoke to confirmed that I wasn’t alone in feeling that way. We didn’t know about any well-being services that our university offered. It wasn’t mentioned at the start of the year, during freshers’ week, or exam periods. Finding services to help was like trying to find the culprit who stole your milk – impossible. Students, (especially final year) prioritised revision over their mental well-being, with some being in the library for 14 hours a day! But the most universities did for students was to advertise a number for Nightline, which for many felt too distant rather than a personal approach.

“The workload is intense, especially in your third year. It could cause someone’s mental health to deteriorate. Going from college to first year of uni is a big jump which explains why there’s such a high dropout rate.”

  • How to help: Students would benefit from regular support text messages and email updates, as well as reminders before and after lectures, seminars and examinations. Doing this would reinforce the support services and be highly impactful.


Social stigma
Unfortunately, there’s still a big stigma attached to mental health – especially with males. It saddens me that there are some who won’t seek support because it’s still seen as a sign of weakness; not to mention the self-stigma of feeling a burden to others. Despite there being a high suicide rate amongst male students, people don’t want to admit there’s something seriously wrong. Universities could actively normalise mental health by having regular workshops and making announcements to encourage students to speak out. This would certainly bring the idea of what it means to be a ‘man’ out of the Stone Age and into the present day.  

“People don’t associate men with crying and expressing how they feel. You can’t show anything otherwise it’s a sign of weakness. But when I come home the tears would flow like a tap.”

  • How to help: A mental health platform, on the same awareness scale as UCAS, for all students to help educate them about coping and normalising their mental health.

A long wait
I remember trying out the support services during my third year because my dissertation was driving me insane. The experience felt like an episode of Friends in reverse where nobody’s there for you! There was an awkward middle-aged man staring at me repeatedly asking “so what’s wrong?” for an hour. It was as awkward as kissing with braces or saying goodbye to someone only to end up walking in the same direction as them. I waited three weeks … for this?! Other students also felt the services offered were inadequate. Either the counsellor wasn’t emotionally available, or they had other priorities. Students were also unaware that they could ask for a female counsellor.

“My uni has the money but they don’t want to spend it on mental health which feels ridiculous. Students know there aren’t enough counsellors and the long waiting time puts them off from trying to get help.”

  • How to help: Students suggested that universities could provide a variation of counsellors of different genders and backgrounds. Most importantly, someone who’s kind, willing to listen, and concentrates on emotions. A helpful tip is knowing you don’t need to be registered with a GP in order to access mental health services at university!


There’s a clear need for universities to be doing more and there are plenty of opportunities to do so. I recommend checking out Time to Change; a wonderful and growing movement to change how we think about mental health. The website includes personal stories, videos and resources to help you, or anyone you know, with mental health troubles.

If you know anyone struggling, or in distress, simply be there for them and encourage them to talk just by asking how they are. It doesn’t have to be a lot but showing them you’re in their corner will make a world of difference.

It’s time to change!


Teen culture

I’d been hunting quite some time for my next Netflix binge. So, when the ‘recommended for you’ email hit my inbox last month, I rushed to find out what was on offer.

Netflix suggested that Skins would be the show for me…and they were right! It’s boozy, sweary, and offers the kind of escapism that I love.

I never watched Skins when it was originally broadcast (waaaay back in 2007). But, as a Year 9 girl, I do remember hearing others talk about the parties, drugs, and lusting over Effy and Cook.

First season’s done and, so far, the flashback to 12 years ago has made me scream with laughter. I’ve also observed several things:

  • Firstly, a world without proper smartphones. I enjoyed slipping back to a time when we weren’t constantly glued to our phones. In one of the last episodes I watched, Tony had EIGHT contacts on his phone. He also had a rubbish camera and probably Snake, but that was it. Spending less time on your phone meant more hanging out with your mates in real life rather than wasting hours scrolling through apps.

  • A world without proper smartphones also meant a world without 24-hour social media. No selfie-taking, no staged images of laughter, and no comparing lives with others. What you see is what you get; you know who these characters are and it’s so refreshing to see their good and bad sides on display without a filter in sight.

  • The light humour blanketing some pretty hard-hitting issues. Skins covers a range of teenage struggles and, in the first season alone, I’ve already watched episodes covering sexuality, anorexia, drug use and overdosing. The funny thing is that every time I hold my breath waiting for something bad to happen…it’s fine! It’s all just a laugh and everything seems to work out okay in the end. It’s all part of the charm of Skins that makes it so easy to binge-watch.

  • Attitudes towards mental health. At this early stage, I can only comment on Cassie’s eating disorder so far. It’s another topic that seems to be covered in a jokey manner but I’m not sure this storyline would be portrayed in the same way in the present day. The show successfully shed light on such a sensitive topic at the time – but there’s been cultural shift in attitudes towards mental health since then and shows like 13 Reasons Why received much criticism for ‘glorifying’ similar issues.

  • Finally, Skins is known for promoting a hedonistic teen culture. It didn’t shy away from topics like booze, sex, drugs and raves, even for the underaged. This is a big contrast to the clean-living activist image that we see promoted by Gen Z today.

But that’s just the first season. I have six more to go and I can’t wait!