What Razor Loves: January 2020

We’re an eclectic bunch at team Razor.

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


Chloë B
Netflix released season two of Sex Education this month and I AM OBSESSED. I loved the first season and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s definitely ramped up a gear. It’s so refreshing to see a show tackle sensitive issues in such a bold way and it must be amazing for Gen Z growing up with something like this as part of popular culture. From the characters, to the jokes and the upbeat tone running through every episode, everything is spot on and I can’t wait to watch more!

Chloë F
It was the worst and best of times. Netflix’s ‘Don’t F*** with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer’ and C4’s ‘Catching a Killer’ made me feel palpably dreadful about the human race. Then I binged ‘Cheer’ on Netflix and the world was okay again. Fair do’s, it’s TV with my name on it, but still. The mental and physical torture those kids go through, their open-mindedness in small towns that we never think are open-minded. Magical. One thing’s for sure though, there’s no way I’d ever make Mat.

One of my birthday gifts was a year’s membership to Salon London. (Think TED Talks given in intimate settings; a fun, social way of expanding the old grey matter.) Last year, I went to a talk given by a consultant forensic psychologist who gave an insight to complex/high-risk criminals and why they commit brutal crimes. Perhaps not the most uplifting topic but most definitely interesting one. This month I went to my first event, as a member, about the science of stress. Psychiatrist, Professor Carmine Pariante, explained why we should avoid stress while neuro psychologist, Professor Catherine Loveday, talked about why we should embrace most stress and see it as a challenge. All delivered in a funny and relaxed way so quite a pleasant night in all. Coming soon… how to argue with a racist. <<rolls up sleeves>>


I listened to an Intelligence Squared interview with BJ Fogg (co-founder of the Stanford Behavioural Design Lab) which inspired and scared in equal measure. The inspiring bit was his ‘Tiny Habits’ theory, or how to make habits stick by taking baby steps. For example, if you want to floss your teeth regularly; start by flossing just one tooth and pat yourself on the back. That becomes so easy that you add one more tooth, and another and another and then – routine. So far, so inspiring. HOWEVER, the Stanford Lab also saw many Big Tech bros pass through its doors, leading some to think of Fogg as enabling (even promoting) persuasive technology, by teaching them how to make apps and gadgets addictive, and in turn behaviour changing without us realising. EEK.


I read Red Notice by Bill Browder for my book club this month and it was fascinating! I hadn’t fully understood the degree of corruption that exists within Putin’s Russia. This is a book of bravery, brutality and justice. Basically if you like thrillers and find Russian culture interesting, then this is definitely one to read.

I’ve just finished listening to The Dropout podcast about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos. In addition to interviewing ex-employees and explaining what happened, the producers also try to analyse how and why something like this can happen, with the help of some experts in behaviour. As a psychology grad I found it really interesting.


FOOD: Bigger than the Plate

The kids recently went back to school and it didn’t seem fair to me that they get to crack on with that heady job of learning while all us oldies have is a more crowded commute.

To celebrate September, and to do some learning, the Razors went on a field trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum to feast on its latest exhibition, FOOD: Bigger than the Plate.

I love the V&A. I love wandering past all the ‘old stuff’ and into a space that, over the years, has given me McQueen, Kylie, Princess Diana, Bowie, and cruise ships. They’re nothing if not eclectic over there. 

What did I learn?
That pineapple fabric is pretty cool, that I need to watch more YouTube (Italian Grandmas Try Olive Garden For The First Time had me hooting in hallowed halls), that chickens are fabulous and complicated, and that the people who get our food to our plates – from cake to carrot – deserve all of our respect. 

Like any good schoolmistress, I naturally doled out some homework after our visit. Here’s what the team had to say:

“I was fascinated by the ingenuity of others and their desire to find ways to be more sustainable (who knew you could make cups and saucers out of used coffee grounds?!). With all the talk of global warming and how we’re ruining our planet, it was comforting to see many examples of people trying to make a difference. (It made me feel like I should do something too!) I also really enjoyed the video reel on how food is produced and farmed all around the world. I’d genuinely never given any thought as to how my iceberg lettuce is harvested and prepped to be sold. I often think about technology and the potential for it to render humans obsolete, so it was quite refreshing to see examples of humans and technology working together in food production.”

Chloe B
“I really enjoyed the exhibition. There’s something that stuck with me from the moment we walked in: 60% of the world still doesn’t have access to clean water. I had no idea it was that much and it’s already made me stop being so wasteful with tap water. I’m a big hypocrite when it comes to eating meat (I love eating it but can’t bear to think about the process behind it) so watching the video reel of a mass production line was pretty disturbing. It might not be enough to put me off meat for good but it’s definitely made me want to make my food choices more carfeully.”

“I thought the digital farming aspect was fascinating. Using computer robotic systems to adjust and monitor climate, energy and plant growth inside a specialised growing chamber really blew my mind. Creating varying climatic conditions for different products opens up agricultural research to the digital generation and could allow for more products to be grown here rather than imported from different countries. It was scary, but comforting, to see how the digital world could farm products locally and help reduce climate change. I like to think of my food being grown organically but if this method could help to reduce the global impact of exportation then why not? The marriage of farming and technology is a beautiful concept and I think it should be adopted everywhere. I also enjoyed LOCI Food Lab where you personally select what makes a great food system and they make an hors d’oeuvre snack tailored just for you. Yum!”

“This exhibition made me think how little I know (or think) about where my food comes from; and that I totally take for granted how accessible it is. I’m out a fair bit during the week which means I’m often guilty of food wastage. I actually stopped myself buying an iceberg lettuce the other day having had my eyes opened to the laborious process from field to supermarket. The final exhibit is LOCI Food Lab where we got to try a canapé of sustainable food which I found surprisingly enjoyable and made me feel positive about the future of food!”

“My general expectation was that I’d come away from this exhibition with some new ideas to help change my behaviours. What I hadn’t banked on was how charming it would also be. FOOD: Bigger than the Plate is as entertaining as it is informative. I could go on about almost every exhibit for hours, but my favourite part was a 13-minute silent loop of short video clips showing the sinister truths of food production (not just obligatory abattoir scenes but the crop-dusting and crop-picking too). When we see these kind of clips on TV there’s usually a narrator stealing focus. This time, the images did all the talking, leaving me with plenty of food for thought.”

Here’s to being well and truly back at school! (If we’ve whetted your appetite, the exhibition will be on until Sunday 20th October.)

What Razor LOVES: July 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
Six the musical. I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat and have booked to see it at the theatre for a second time. For anyone that doesn’t know what Six is all about, it’s a sassy, poppy, girl power musical all about the six wives of Henry VIII. I recommend it to everyone!
Click here for more info.

Chloë F
I’ve been loving a podcast by a poet called Tim Clare. He spends each episode reading out the first 250 words of someone’s writing and then totally rips it to shreds…which sounds brutal but he’s funny and well-intentioned. His advice is always spot on. Precision, precision, precision.
Click here for more info.

I recently welcomed Adam Buxton back into my life. Not that I’d exiled him or anything; he just slipped off my radar since my Adam & Joe listening days on 6 Music. But I was thrilled to not only spot him in my podcast player but to also find an extensive back catalogue of conversations with his celeb pals. His interviews are so funny, warm and gentle that I find them a delight to listen to. People open up to him with ease – a dream scenario in the world of market research!
Click here for more info.

Facebook Spaces caught my attention this month. Facebook bought VR company Oculus and developed a VR messenger service where friends can hang out together as animated characters in an AR environment. Another example of how a Black Mirror episode (Striking Vipers) has become reality.
Click here for more info.

I’m nerding out about GDP as a measure of a country’s progress. I’m already a massive fan of the Reasons to be Cheerful podcast, but the episode discussing whether or not GDP was still (ever?!) the right measure of a country’s progress really piqued my interest. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I’m FASCINATED.
Click here for more info.

A podcast I’m really enjoying is called How I Built This; a series of interviews with innovators and entrepreneurs to understand the stories behind the movements they built. I love learning about how an idea turns into a successful business, and being inspired by the eclectic mix of people responsible. (Check out episodes on Five Guys, TOMS, Airbnb and Bumble!)
Click here for more info.

This year, I’ve challenged myself to learn more about different branches of philosophy. I came across the BBC podcast series, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, who gives great introductions to a broad range of different philosophical fields. An episode introducing the idea of logic really caught my attention this month with a wealth of implications for how we use reasoning and argument in our work here at Razor.
Click here for more info.

I’ve been learning about ‘Nutritional Movement’, which is being led by Katy Bowman; a Biochemist in the USA with a real interest in movement and the importance of it for our health. The idea is that she’s not just saying we need to move more than we do (in our very sedentary lives!). She’s saying we need to increase the amount and the type of movement we do to give all of our muscles and joints the movement they need to stay healthy.
Click here for more info.



The December treadmill

Have you watched this video of Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, doing the rounds? If not, please do so. (Don’t just read the title and switch off thinking you’ve already got the gist of what he’s going to say.)

Don’t worry, I’ve not turned anti-Christmas or anything like that. It’s December tomorrow and, I assure you, I’ll be swept up by the festive magic. What I’m talking about is the needless stress and worry usually going on behind the scenes – and it turns out, I’m not alone.

Even retailers have sensed the mood of the nation and scaled things back a bit versus last year. #EltonJohnLewis aside, there aren’t really any ‘cinematic’ masterpieces doing the rounds. (LOL at this Twitter response, by the way.)

The first time that the thought of Christmas brought me out in a cold sweat was 2014. I’d been several months into redundancy, was being anti-social, and feeling incredibly low. Then I got a Christmas job at my local department store which saved my sanity – such is the power of retail. We had a family chat agreeing to forgo presents that year and instead focus on food, games, and films. Even though I had to wake at stupid o’clock on Boxing Day to work the sales, it remains one of my favourite Christmases to date. Yes, I felt incredibly guilty about being the reason for no gifts, but taking that extra pressure away from each other was the best feeling.

It got us thinking about how we used to wait for birthdays and Christmas as children to get the treats we wished for. As adults, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to buy what we want, when we want it. So, rather than being total Scrooges and giving each other nothing, we now agree a number of gifts or a spend cap up-front to keep ourselves in check. Or, even better, we opt for event/experience tickets so as not to have to find storage space in our homes for more ‘stuff’. (The latter also doubles up as a birthday gift policy among my friends.) Happy days.

But the stress isn’t always financial. There’s also the time and thought it takes to come up with something meaningful. (We’ve all made that joke about kids being more interested in the box than the gift itself.) Sometimes, no matter how well you know someone, you just cannot figure out the right gift for them. You might come up with a fantastic idea…but then it comes in/with different colours/shapes/sizes/features and, oh my word, what would you pick if you were that person?!?! <Insert mind blown emoji here.>

Some of my colleagues will scoff at this for sure. They are skilled market researchers and know how to extract key information from people without being rumbled. You should hear the variety of conversations we have at Razor HQ. I know that our resident thoughtful present-giver, Chloë F, quietly makes a note of gift ideas all year long and springs into action when the right time comes. 

Inspired by the Fowler’s shopping skills, I made my first purchase on Instagram this year. It’s amazing what gift ideas you can pick up when scanning to see what public posts your friends have liked. It’s sneaky but it works!

Happy (stress-free, I hope) shopping! And do give us a shout if you need any ideas. We’re very good at brainstorming.



Christmas unwrapped

With Halloween and Bonfire Night well out of the way, it’s okay to start thinking about Christmas, right? In fact, it’ll be here before we know it so we might as well spur into action and see what’s cropping up on this year’s wish lists. Those in the know have placed their bets on 2018’s best seller toys. And we’ve packaged up a few of our favourite trends.

Pikmi Pops appears to be this year’s strong contender against LOL Surprise and Hatchimals Colleggtibles. These brightly coloured lollipop-style surprise balls include stickers, scented toys, accessories and lanyards.
Shopkins’ Hairdorables are a little more pricey but come with 11 surprises to unwrap before the owner discovers who their cute mini doll will be. There are 36 varieties to collect – each with different hair, outfits and accessories. There’s even a YouTube ‘Hairdorables’ channel to foster strong loyalty and fandom.

Slime mania
Anyone with kids is most likely used to having the tell-tale signs of this popular trend dotted around the house. With many kids avidly watching YouTube tutorials and making their own slime at home, parents are left to deal with slime residue on furniture and carpets.

Hamleys recently showcased Elasti Plasti in its six brightly coloured pots. The slime expands by up to 100 times, makes weird and wonderful noises, and can be blown into large bubbles. So Slime DIY Slime Factory is the ultimate do-it-yourself kit that makes neon, pastel and metallic slime along with confetti, glitter and sprinkles.

Robotics & coding
It’s never too early to get the young ones into coding. Given the attention and hype that AI gets, it’s not surprising that a few gadgets caught our eye. Botley the Coding Robot is aimed at the early years and teaches kids programming skills with stickers, coding cards and activity accessories. Boxer is a pocket size AI robot who comes with a mini remote control and tiny football. His cute facial expressions change throughout the 10 game cards.

Last, but not least, we have the BB-9E App-Enabled Droid that parents will pretend to buy for their kids but probably end up playing with themselves! It’s an updated version of last year’s droid from soon-to-be-released The Last Jedi movie and uses a smart device to control it.

Yep, this trend shows no sign of abating. Be it ride-on unicorns that have castor wheels inside the hooves for an authentic ride – or Vtech’s Myla Fantasy Unicorn that comes with a wand that changes the colour of the unicorn digitally.

But the one that really tickles us (or our toes) is a craft kit that converts a pair of stripy socks into your very own personal unicorn pet.

Licensed toys
These popular toys continue to dominate seasonal gifting but the two that stand out are both by Viacom IP: Paw Patrol’s Ultimate Fire Truck which comes with a super cool extendable ladder, and Nella The Princess Knight Talk and Sing doll which says 10 phrases and sings the program’s theme tune.

Both toys are popular with pre-schoolers.

Old school role play
Some things never go out of fashion – like toys designed to encourage role play. Mini kitchens and supermarkets have always been popular but we love this fancy option by Waitrose which also helps build brand familiarity at a young age.

Aspiring mechanics and engineers will enjoy the Bosch Toy Workbench which comes packed with tools, accessories, and sound effects for realistic play. Brilliant for kids to play together and boost their social skills. Playmobil City Life Wedding Limo is somewhat traditional with its limo containing a bride, groom, and a driver. It comes with flowers, champagne and glasses, a tin can trail and veil. It says that the bride cannot fit into the driver’s seat so, if there is a runaway bride scenario, at least the driver will come in handy!

Razor Kids is our specialist kids and family research unit. We turn chatter into commercial insight.

To find out how we can help your brand, get in touch with #LesleyRazor or #ChloeBRazor.
020 3865 1075

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.

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.

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!


Back to school time is upon us! Uniforms are being prepped, snazzy lunch boxes are waiting to be filled, and people are flocking to Paperchase for the latest funky stationery. 

Seeing kids gear up for the new school year got me thinking about some of the ‘in’ brands from my school days; all left back in the past along with BBM and Bebo: (Argh, I feel old! *starts weeping*)

Hoodies, jogging bottoms, and beach vibe stores. Everyone I knew loved shopping in Hollister. I can even remember queues coming out of the door during its peak. But today’s teens don’t share the same enthusiasm; it’s an expensive brand and, as savvy shoppers, they’d rather invest their money elsewhere. They connect more with brands that show realness and diversity in beauty – Hollister’s image comes across as a little too ‘perfect’.

Soggy footwear ruined by the rain is neither practical nor a good look; but we still wore UGGs whatever the weather. Unfortunately (maybe fortunately depending on how you look at it) cheaper, knock-off versions swept the market and soon everyone was wearing them, taking away their exclusive status and ruining the brand.

Despite the brand trying to make a comeback numerous times, teens shun UGG these days in favour of trainers and an everyday wardrobe of athleisure wear.

Body sprays
Sickly-sweet smells always dominated the school changing rooms. Every girl’s schoolbag had a can of Charlie or Impulse in there. Some still do in fact! Just last year, Impulse brought out a new range to satisfy a need for lighter fragrances in the form of mists. And these aren’t just for teens; luxury retailers have their own ranges as a cheaper, everyday alternative to perfume.

Jane Norman
The PE bags! Everyone at my school used a plastic Jane Norman bag to carry their PE kit in. Even if you’d only bought one item from that store, you kept that bag and used it at least a hundred times until it was bruised and battered. You won’t find these bags around anymore; the retailer failed to keep up with changing trends and consumer demands leading to its administration in 2011.

So, what do brands need to know about the needs of today’s youth? They’re more demanding than ever and want brands that actually do something for them, making their life easier in some way [Uber]. They want to connect with brands but on a deeper level, feeding into product design and development [Glossier] And as we’ve heard several times, they like brands that demonstrate social responsibility [Lush].

Not much to ask for!

Everyday play

I consider myself relatively optimistic. I’m a glass half full/look on the bright side kinda gal.

But being an adult is hard work. (I’m in my thirties and still don’t feel prepared.) There’s no sugar coating it; the world feels like a pretty crummy place right now and we’re faced with doom and gloom in the news every day.

As adults, our growing responsibilities tend to come with high levels of stress. The Mental Health Foundation conducted a UK study earlier this year. Of the 4,619 respondents, 74% stated that they’ve been so stressed in the previous twelve months, that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

So, it’s no surprise that there’s a huge and growing trend for adult escapism in the form of play. When browsing Time Out last weekend to find something new – and a little bit different – to do with a group of friends, I was amazed by how many experiences exist; all encouraging adults to be transported back to more innocent times. From Disney sing-along brunches to ball pit cocktail bars and adult-only bouncy castles, we can take our pick. (And yes, I’m tempted by all of these!)

Journalist Cherrill Hicks describes this movement as the ‘infantilising trend for adult play’, which has touched everything from products to services and toys to art galleries.

But why is infantilising so popular?

As summarised nicely in a Virgin guest blog, experts suggest a number of reasons:

  • Playfulness taps into a fun, stress-free era; and that helps to escape current problems and uncertainties.
  • It draws on our collective memory of the past and connects us to others.
  • It brings out our ‘inner child’, making us feel youthful and energised.
  • It embraces creativity, humour and optimism.
  • It’s spontaneous, interactive and frees us from ‘grown-up’ rules and structures.

This is by no means a new phenomenon; it’s been a gradual shift over time and doesn’t look like it’ll disappear overnight. In 2015, the adult colouring book trend was at its peak, generating sales of over £24m. Although these sales haven’t been maintained, we’re seeing more brands offering products & services that embrace playfulness.

Injecting playfulness into everyday life
Nostalgic experiences like mini golf, retro video games and escape rooms are big business. Exercise, which has been traditionally viewed as a chore, is being given a make-over and playground-inspired fitness activities are becoming more common. Companies like Rabble promise adults they’ll ‘have fun & get fit’ with sessions such as dodgeball, capture the flag, and the hunger games all on offer. The USA stepped things up a notch with AquaMermaid school offering the chance for participants to get fit while living out their fantasies of having a mermaid’s tail(!).

Infant embodiment
Adult onesies are an excellent example of this. And you can’t step into a high street shop these days without coming face-to-face with a unicorn (still!), or a flamingo, or even (the latest Instagram obsession) a Llama. What connects these trends? They’re all vibrant, cute, harmless, and allow consumers to revert to childhood. As brand strategist Jess Weiner put it, “women are in need of fantastical magic in their lives right now, because we’re surrounded by culture and politics that are very bleak and dark and oppressive”.   

Playful brands: packaging & brand experiences
There are many ways that brands use their packaging as a vehicle to spread joy and to appeal to the youthful mindset of their target consumers. During the 2017 festive season, Starbucks offered shoppers the chance to customise their own cups with colour & illustrations.

Then there are the brands who use child-like experiences to engage; a great example is Toys“R”Us, who installed a giant Etch A Sketch in a New York subway station last year to encourage adults to take a break from their stressful days.

Closer to home, breakfast brand Up & Go launched in the UK with an inflatable assault course on the Southbank. Even the Razors went along early one morning to take part!

The desire for fun activities, and products with a nostalgic charm, is clearly showing no signs of abating. And where there’s demand, there’s always supply…