Milking Memories: Five Steps from Insight to Campaign

This month I co-authored an article for the Market Research & Intelligence Association titled, 'Milking Memories.' Appearing in VUE Magazine, the article shared findings from two years of research we conducted on behalf of the Canadian dairy industry. If you'd like to read the original article you can view it here, alternatively a transcribed version is available below. 
To start this article, let’s go back – way back into your childhood. What are your earliest memories of milk? What do you remember doing, seeing and experiencing in relation to milk? How do these memories make you feel? If you’re feeling warm and fuzzy, you may be experiencing nostalgia, a physiological state that’s been shown to make people feel loved, protected and physically warmer (Zhou et al., 2012).

High School: A Teenage Stage of Change

For many North American teenagers, the transition into high school represents a period of transformation and change. A social environment with new rules, structures and social experiences, high school can have a profound influence on teen motivations and behavior.

“When you first go to high school you’re more careful. You don’t want older kids making fun of you. You’re entering a new place. It’s different. I have shirts I wear in public but not in school. I don’t want people to think I’m weird.” – Teen Girl (2012)

The Science of Environmental Change

Research has found that environments can have a major bearing on human behavior. When living in a known environment, human actions have a tendency to become habitual (i.e. repeated without awareness). However, when an environment change occurs it can create a 'window of opportunity' in which habits are more likely to be considered.

"I started feeling insecure because it was a new school. You pay attention to those things that you can change; like what you eat, the clothes you wear, you can even change your personality. In elementary school everything was perfect. I'd wear sweatpants, but in high school I wear skirts.” – Teen Girl (2012)

The High School Stage of Change

The teenage transition into high school provides an excellent example of how environmental change can impact behavior. From food to fashion, entering high school can cause teens to re-evaluate many of their behaviors - which is what makes it an important stage of change.

Standard Deviations: Where Market Trends Emerge

In business a lot of effort is spent exploring the middle of the market - whether it's understanding what the average person wants, or the mid-point of customer behavior, we search in the middle because it appears to offer the greatest marketing opportunity.

The middle has size, the middle has scale, and focusing on the middle fulfills a deep human desire for safety and security.

Like many other animals, human beings often gravitate to the middle of a pack during times of danger because in the middle they feel less vulnerable to predators and external threats.

This same pattern of behavior can be observed in organizations when executives focus their attention on the middle of a market whilst ignoring patterns of behavior on the edges. Being in the middle seems safer.

However, when it comes to discovering trends and opportunities the middle of the market is the worst place for companies to focus.

It's not from the middle of the market that trends emerge but rather on the edges, as standard deviations in behavior that eventually become the average. The edges are dynamic and niche but make no mistake, it's from the edges that trends emerge.

So if businesses want to become more innovative, they need to move away from the safety of the middle and invest more time exploring the edges. Because hidden in standard deviations are future market trends and opportunities waiting to emerge.

PS. Thanks Pacific Planning for bouncing these idea around with me last month.

Cultural Appropriation: Why People Hate Hipsters

“Hipsters adopt the styles and affects of many cultures; cultures which aren't theirs. Cultures which they don’t actually belong to… Other sub-cultures enjoy what they enjoy, and that is the end of the story… People see hipsters as devaluing cultural fashions by cashing in on their capitol without embodying their meaning.” - Mike Rugnetta

This is an interesting video posted by Mike Rugnetta on the PBS Idea Channel. It suggests that the social disdain for hipsters may stem from their blatant and condescending appropriation of sub-culture. If you have a spare six minutes, this video is worth a watch:

Instacode: A New Language for Digital Youth

“People show more of themselves on Tumblr. They don’t use their real names, or write personal stuff, but they blog pictures. I don’t do any written stuff because I don’t want people from school to read it… I wouldn't want them to read about my feelings and tell other people what I've been thinking… Depending on my day and how I’m feeling, I might post a dramatic picture of rain on glass.” - Digital Youth (2012)

For digital youth, participating online is a social necessity. While previous generations have the luxury of keeping their digital and physical lives separated, digital youth must stay continuously connected in order to remain informed and in-touch with their friendship groups. Digital disconnection = social death. 

However this continuous connection also means that any private conversation, comment or personal interaction, could easily be shared through their entire social network. Social success, or social distress, is only a click away.

Hence the rise of instacodes. The deep human need to express thoughts and feelings, without fear or social judgement, has given rise to a system of codes and visual metaphors that digital youth are using to express themselves secretly on platforms like Instagram and Tumblr. Instacodes let digital youth communicate private things in public places.