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News to me: European consumers stay informed with novel ways to “read” the paper

by Sairica Rose, cultural fluent

Taking a moment to sit and read a broadsheet from cover to cover is a pipe dream for many busy, perma-connected consumers. But the ritual of enjoying the news is experiencing a revival. Tech-enabled tools are helping even the most time-stretched and digitally dependent consumers go beyond scanning blogs or scrolling social media feeds to stay reliably informed.

Printed press remains a cult hero in southern European countries. Over 40% of Spaniards claim to read newspapers “every day” or “nearly every day”, according to the Centre for Sociological Research. And the majority prefer turning the pages (64%) to reading online versions (29%).

But getting news delivered in a sensually appealing format isn’t just for midlifers and seniors who nostalgically recall the ink on their fingers. The good news for European consumers (and journalists) is that a spectrum of innovative services are springing up to bring them reliable, relevant stories in a click — and save them the trouble of leafing endless pages or subscribing to entire publications.

Multi-tasking British teens and young adults can tune in to Clippet, an app that breaks news into digestible audio chunks. The news service employs 12 journalists aged 18 to 28 to script, produce and read 60-second “clippets” based on current events.

Phonicle is a nifty news-reading app that features professional radio DJs delivering top stories from mainstream dailies to on-the-go, info-thirsty German consumers. The free app seeks to bridge the gap between radio and printed news by combining the quality of a curated selection of up to 20 daily news articles, with the convenience of an audio platform.

For news buffs for whom every second counts, the UK’s Few Minutes app delivers popular news stories from major international press, filtered to suit users’ available reading time. Consumers can get their info fix while, say, waiting for a bus or having a coffee — and explore stories in further depth by bookmarking for later.

And selective, thrifty Dutch and German consumers can access full press articles online — without having to pay for the whole newspaper — at the Blendle digital kiosk. The service works on computers, iPads and smartphones, and claims to be to journalism what iTunes is to music: a practical, simple platform for readers who want to pick and choose what they consume, at a reasonable cost.


Classes and services help European consumers rekindle and revamp family traditions

by Sairica Rose, cultural fluent

New tech for old wisdom? Sounds like an oxymoron. But busy lives and generational differences have made it harder for many urbanites to embrace their heritage and the here and now — so, culturally proud, family-focused consumers of all ages are turning to services that steer them back to their roots by enabling better communication across generations and teaching young people the cultural traditions that far-flung relatives can’t.

In family-centric southern Europe, where grandparents play a key caregiving role, intrepid seniors are taking steps to better communicate with their grandkids. In the Spanish town of Boadilla del Monte, open-minded abuelos attend Grandparents’ School to learn how their grandchildren think, feel and communicate. The Town Hall-sponsored course, held at a local seniors’ centre, consists of 10 free, weekly two-hour lessons offering practical guidance and insight into youngsters’ relationships, education, values and leisure activities — all of which have evolved drastically since senior participants were kids.

Keeping in regular touch with the grandkids also means bridging the great tech divide — or so believe savvy Italian grandparents tapping into Lifeshare. The free app lets smartphone-braving seniors receive pics of their beloved grandkids without touching the screen, and get real-time notifications of their movements via SMS. The youngsters can customise the app’s settings, deciding what to share with whom.

In Turkey, home-style dishes have traditionally been passed down from mom to daughter, but with greater urbanisation and more women joining the workforce, learning to cook often gets relegated to the back burner. Now, young, nutrition-aware working mums are signing up for cookery classes at KitchenCreates, in Istanbul’s family-friendly Kadikoy neighbourhood. The sessions satisfy those looking to pick up culinary skills and learn how to incorporate international fare and lighter versions of traditional Turkish dishes into family meals.

In the same neighborhood, affluent young Turkish adults and midlifers can create decorative terrariums at monthly Bee Design and Flower Shop‘s workshops. In a modern take on their grandmothers’ gardening circles, participants — mostly women — learn how to artfully arrange succulents and cacti while nibbling snacks, sipping drinks, listening to jazz and mingling.

Embracing family and cultural traditions can boil down to spending quality time with loved ones. In the UK , where 7 in 10 families find it tough to grab an hour a day together (Daily Mail, 18 April 2014) the #PledgeOneHour campaign encourages parents to take advantage of free online ideas for enjoying quality time with their kids. The one-stop site offers indoor and outdoor activities, and craft and cookery make-and-dos. It aims to save parents precious time researching ideas which, according to the website, accounts for 202 days of childhood wasted.

The fight is on against food villains — but who should shoulder the burden?

Posted on  20 July 15  by 


by Sairica Rose, CEB Iconoculture cultural fluent, Spain

National government-propelled health drives in countries like Mexico and Turkey are actively addressing consumers’ sugar, salt fat, caffeine and additive intakes by taxing or restricting availability of “bad-for-you” food and drink. Their mission: to lighten the load for national health services, which are buckling under the strain of obesity and diabetes epidemics.

But some experts argue that such efforts are misdirected. UK Life Sciences minister George Freeman advised the government against heavy-handed legislation that “punishes” consumers for their choices in the aisles and at the table, and he warned processed food and beverage manufacturers that if they don’t cut added sugars, they could face taxation. The industry, he claims, should pay for Britain’s soaring obesity levels, not the consumers. Off the bat, Tesco became the first supermarket to pledge to reduce the sugar content of all its drinks by 5%.

French MPs, meanwhile, have voted to ban free soda refills in all public places, saying non, merci to the bottomless cup that French fast food outlets like Quick and KFC fleetingly borrowed from their American counterparts. Elsewhere in Europe, efforts have bubbled up to curb excessive consumption of energy drinks, especially among kids. In 2014, Lithuania became the world’s first country to outlaw sales of energy drinks to under-18s. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) took a softer approach, launching a nationwide awareness campaign to dissuade parents from giving kids the sugar- and caffeine-laden beverages as an alternative to soft drinks.

Independent watchdogs are also fighting back against mass marketing from the food and beverage industry. The 2015 US documentary Fed Up gives consumers food for thought on hidden sugars in processed foods. It spotlights real families’ obesity battles, and the potentially misleading information their doctors and nutritionists are spoon-feeding them.

And, as scientists connect fizzy drink consumption to 184,000 adult deaths around the world each year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has spearheaded “Change the Tune,” a remake of the classic Coca Cola Hilltop ad from 1971. The video shows stars who suffer from sugar-related diseases imploring viewers: “Please drink less soda. It isn’t happiness.”

Happy or not, global brands and consumers are hearing — if not always heeding — calls for change. For more on how consumers’ perception and practices are changing (or not), see our Food Villains trend.

BRIC consumers travel to learn and discover

Posted on  8 June 15  by 


by Sumaa Tekur

Educated urban consumers in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are increasingly traveling not just for rest and relaxation but cultural exploration and learning. For these busy, curious middle-class explorers, travel is about more than taking time off from the daily routine; it empowers them, challenges their mind and exposes them to Cultural FusionSM.

Urban Indians eager to explore the culture and beauty of India’s hinterland are attending arts festivals and folk fairs in far-off villages, signing up for vintage car rallies, and experiencing rural tourism by driving off the beaten track. These Culture Travellers are curating their travel experiences to take them beyond travel brochures to reconnect with local cultural pride.

Midlifers from Brazilian cities may be tied to work and family responsibilities, but they’re also prioritizing self-growth through travel. These consumers are going on solo vacations to carve out some me-time. Singles’ travel packages are popular with not just singles but also married and coupled midlifers in Brazil who enjoy taking time out to explore their interests. While Alone on the Road, they can meet people and prioritize their own needs without worrying about other responsibilities.

For urban, educated Russians, the leisure of travel is in the learning. Travel companies in Russia are improving on standard package tours by including subject experts who will pepper the journey with their knowledge of the arts, literature and culture.

Young Chinese travel enthusiasts find the packaged tours sold by travel agencies too formulaic for their evolved tastes. Routine tourist spots and common shopping destinations hold little appeal for travelers who prefer experiences that open up their senses to the arts and culture of a place. These consumers are using online tools to customize their travel and create an itinerary that suits their interests. They’re often called Super Tourists and like to combine adventure and nature.

Empowered Gen We teens are still growing up

Posted on  2 June 15  by 


by Nissa Hanna and Melissa Minkow

Today, teen stars tend to originate in the YouTube universe, but Tavi Gevinson is one of the first self-made Gen We celebs who got her start as a fashion blogger, with Style Rookie in 2008. And while some video stars have already faded, Gevinson’s trajectory continues to be bright —having segued to heading up an online and print magazine (Rookie) and acting (a role in a Julia Louis-Dreyfus flick and a part in a Broadway production).


Gevinson (now 19) is on a summer 2015 bookstore tour to promote the latest issue of the print mag, titled “Yearbook,” and to conduct meet-and-greets with her teenage fans (an essential activity for a Gen We audience that forms close-feeling relationships with their online idols but still deeply desires opportunities to connect with them IRL).

We caught up with the Yearbook tour at a stop in a Minneapolis suburb in late May — seeing it as a unique opportunity to observe the interaction between a self-made star and her fans, and as a chance to hear teen girls say what’s on their minds. A whole hour was dedicated to answering questions (mainly from 15- to 18-year-old girls).

A couple of the questions underscored how the demographic is facing the unique challenge of growing up empowered. For as much as they’re capable of starting companies and creating fully functional and affordable Braille printers out of Legos, they’re still kids. They have to figure out who they are, how they fit in and what comes next. One girl asked how Gevinson takes herself seriously since she’s so young. This girl explained that she’s the same age as Tavi and she feels really smart and competent, but she struggles with feeling like her opinions are valid due to her age. Another girl asked if growing up scares Gevinson.

It’s important for marketers to understand that this generation of teens is enabled by tech resources and the support of grown-ups, which fosters the significant sense that their voices and ideas matter. But it’s also key for marketers to remember that members of Gen We are still vulnerable, growing up and in flux.


Amy Schumer: A Media Watchdog for the Millennial Woman Consumer

Posted on  18 May 15  by 


by Rachel Steinhardt

In 2011, we promised you that “a new breed of girls-behaving-badly comedy is ready for the spotlight.” But it has taken an additional four years for popular culture to deliver female-led comedy that is not only mainstream but dominates a summer film slate. Post-Bridesmaids, this summer will bring out four such films: Hot Pursuit, Pitch Perfect 2, Spy and Trainwreck. After that, expect all-female remakes of Ghostbusters and 21 Jump Street.

In contrast to 2011, though, the edginess of female comedy in 2015 is not merely about raunch, or, as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd puts it, “Dirty words from pretty mouths.” Maureen misses the mark: the shock-factor of female comedy today is its incisive social commentary, not its bawdy jokes (though, sometimes bawdy jokes can be in the service of incisive social commentary).

One comedienne in particular exemplifies just how ready consumers are (finally!) for seriously smart satire delivered with suggestive sass. The stampede of clicks on clips from consecutive weeks of Amy Schumer’s show, Inside Amy Schumer, demonstrate that she knows exactly which unfair and hypocritical issues consumers are dying to see skewered, and she delivers the goods reliably. Furthermore, unlike many other Millennial women we’ve researched, Schumer doesn’t shy away from self-identifying as a feminist (, 17 March 2015) and may be helping reclaim the term for her gen. Here are seven of the most-viewed Inside Amy Schumer sketches, and our take on why they resonated so strongly with consumers’ overwhelming desire for media to Get Real about women.

“12 Angry Men”

Schumer knows that women are sick of men passing judgment on their bodies, both in real life and in media. After reading internet “deliberations” on whether she, herself, would be considered attractive enough to be on TV, she spoofed the ultimate serious deliberation: the 1957 film where jurors argue in search of a verdict.

“Milk Milk Lemonade”

Suddenly, pop culture is rife with odes to the derriere. Schumer hits on consumer discomfort (or, at least, befuddlement) with this fixation, as though the hyper-sexualization and general objectification of other aspects of female anatomy is more acceptable (Schumer, and many consumers, know it’s most certainly not).

“Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup”

Women receive mixed messages about beauty standards every day. Schumer plays on the ubiquity of the “inner beauty” trope from boy bands like One Direction, while pointing out that nearly all images of women in mass media feature painted on “beauty.” Stop talking out of both sides of your mouth about makeup, media! Women quickly glommed on to the #girlyoudontneedmakeup hashtag to prove they were in on the joke.

“Last F—able Day”

Why are lead roles for Xer and Boomer actresses so few and far between? Consumers know why entertainment brands limit them: Because less sex appeal will return less cash at the box office. It sounds cynical, and Schumer takes that consumer cynicism to the extreme in the sketch where her favorite extremely talented actresses explain what happens on the day they’re deemed too old to reel in moviegoers.


Millennial women struggle to accept compliments from each other, preferring instead to make ludicrously self-deprecating remarks. Schumer identifies the truth that a healthier response to a compliment is, simply, “Thank you.”

“Ask If Birth Control is Right for You”

Marketing messages within birth control commercials encourage women to ask their doctors for advice, but male legislators often see it as their role to attempt to wield power over women seeking readily available birth control options. That’s just as absurd as a mailman doling out opinions on the matter, but that’s what happens in Schumer’s commercial parody.

“Football Town Nights”

Using a popular TV drama as a common touchstone, Schumer identifies the pervasive, systemic and tacit permissiveness inherent to rape culture.


Click here for Inside Amy Schumer episodes.

India: E-shopping for onions

Posted on  21 April 15  by 


by Sumaa Tekur

Online grocery shopping is poised to shake up the traditional brick-and-mortar retail market in India, bringing much-needed convenience to time-stressed urban Indian consumers. The online grocery market is already crowded with startups like BigBasket, ZopNow, Local Banya and AaramShop, but these delivery platforms operate only in select Indian cities and have not yet gained mass traction. Enter India’s e-commerce biggies, Flipkart and Amazon.

In the last week of March 2015, Amazon announced its foray into grocery delivery with a Bangalore pilot project called Kirana Now, in which Amazon is partnering with kiranas (mom-and-pop stores) to offer express delivery of groceries (, 26 March 2015). A week later, Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce site, announced that it would sell groceries online from the second half of 2015 (, 8 April 2015).

The Indian consumer’s relationship with e-commerce started with low-risk purchases (like books) that didn’t require a see-and-feel experience. They were also considered acceptable online buys for Indians, a majority of whom don’t like using credit cards and instead used the cash-on-delivery option to ensure that the ordered product reached them before they paid for it. Online retailers gained consumer confidence by offering prompt service and multiple payment options, including consumer-favorite cash-on-delivery. The wide choice in online stores, competitive pricing, free exchanges and returns, flexible payment options, and reliable delivery have all contributed to consumers’ growing preference for online shopping.

Now, retailers are set to transform even the humdrum experience of grocery shopping into a pleasant, hassle-free one. Groceries account for 60%-70% of India’s traditional brick-and-mortar retail in India, which is worth $2.3 billion (, 23 September 2014), and business advisory firm Technopak reports that India’s online grocery market is growing by 25% to 30% annually (, 2 October 2014). This category is ripe for success among stressed-out urban consumers who are sick of dealing with potholed roads, heavy traffic and pollution, and a lack of parking space at brick-and-mortar stores.

But while these consumers might accept online shopping as a practical alternative, they also demand innovation. Smaller online grocery retailers have paved the way, and now larger brands must follow. For example, Big Basket saves on shopping bags: The delivery person brings the groceries in a red basket and leaves them on the kitchen counter for the consumer to store as they like. And promises three-hour delivery free of cost, regardless of the size of the order. In contrast, Flipkart uses elaborate packing, with layers of cardboard and plastic for even relatively small products like books or headphones, and it charges for next-day delivery (along the lines of the Amazon Prime quick delivery service).

Indians make frequent (almost daily) veggie purchases, primarily to ensure freshness. And since freshness is non-negotiable, the kiranas, with their fresh goods, win over large supermarkets. Along with offering fresh fruits and veggies, e-tailers also need to consider the quantity that a household needs. Household size is decreasing in urban India — the average is 4.8 persons per household in 2011, down from 5.3 in 2001, according to the decennial Indian national census (, 23 June 2014) — but there are a large number of one- and two-person households as well (nationally, there are 10.1 million single-person households) (, 15 June 2014).

Single-person households would likely prefer to buy 250 g of carrots, not 1 kg (often the only option available while online shopping). Smaller-size households with young adult singles or couples are also the most likely to shop online by virtue of being tech savvy and seeking convenient solutions for household chores. For large-size families, grocery shopping is still a weekend outing that’s combined with other weekend chores; not so for single working professionals who prefer to keep the weekend to meet friends and indulge in social activities.

Despite how quickly online grocers are refining their business model to better suit the new and demanding Indian consumer, all formats of grocery business — kiranas, supermarkets, discount stores and hypermarkets — are coexisting, at least for now. Meena Ganesh, co-promoter of and online jewelry store was a panelist in the retail discussion at the Times Literary Festival 2015 in Bangalore on 1 February. How much did the most expensive jewellery bought on cost, the session moderator asked Meena. Without batting an eyelid, she responded: “A diamond ring for Rs 20 lakh ($32,000).”

Whether it’s onions for Rs 20 (30 cents) a kg or a diamond ring for Rs 20 lakh, one thing is for certain: A growing number of consumers are ready to click to buy.


Taking A Trip Down the (Grocery) Aisle

Posted on  17 April 15  by 


by Emily Weiss

Do you ever find yourself traipsing through your local grocery store, admiring the colorful produce, scanning the cleverly composed endcaps, inspecting single-serve packages of quark and generally just waiting for inspiration to come? You’re not alone. Consumers, particularly members of the Millennial generation, are making major changes to the plotted-out process of grocery shopping. Boomers and older Xers tend to keep a running grocery list throughout the week, planning out the meals they’d like to make, picking a day to do “a big shop,” and cutting coupons before heading to the store. But younger consumers are showing a greater tendency to do things on the fly. In fact, according to our 2014 Values & Lifestyle Survey, about 32% of Millennial shoppers now say they prefer to do their meal planning in-store as they shop.

fim_FoodiesontheFly_401819_2Aside from the fact that food can now be bought in a number of different locations — farmers’ markets, specialty and convenience stores, even online — and consumers are more willing to make several stops to pick up their favorite goods, mobile tech plays a huge role in this shift toward the impromptu. Recipe archive apps like Epicurious are partnering with grocery stores and other networks to give shoppers suggestions on what to make based on what’s already in their cart. Coupon apps allow shoppers to scan products right in the aisle to see if they can get a discount on their way to checkout. Pinterest provides mealtime inspiration based around parties, events, seasons and special diets, with pins that provide a shopping list as well as a recipe.

Of course, lifestage is also a factor in this approach to shopping. Time-crunched parents of all ages still have a greater need to plan ahead, but for a huge number of cooking-enthusiast Millennials without family obligations, more experimentation in the kitchen equals more improvisation in grocery-store aisles.


photo credit: Charlotte90T,

Is sugar the next Styrofoam?

Posted on  9 April 15  by 


by Monica Mason

America’s health in 2015 is in need of a pulse check — heart disease, diabetes and obesity are slowly killing communities of color. But one community that has gone relatively unnoticed is taking a stand for the sake of its citizens. The Navajo Nation, a group of roughly 250,000, has begun imposing a sales tax on sugary beverages and foods with “minimal-to-no-nutritional value” while lowering the prices of fresh produce (, 1 April 2015).

According to Indian Health Services, approximately 10% of Navajo Nation residents have diabetes and 30% are pre-diabetic. “People addicted to sugar and junk food would pay any price to get what they want,” says Terrol Johnson, a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe in Arizona and publisher of Native Foodways magazine. “My hope is that the tax will go back into the community for more education, and to invest in school lunches.” Denisa Livingston, a spokeswomen for the volunteer group Din Community Advocacy Alliance, says that “with the tax measures, the Navajo people will have … ownership over healthy foods … and re-create our grocery stores.”

What might this look like across America? The soda tax debate remains highly controversial among consumers and brands alike, but change is coming. Berkeley’s Measure D, which passed by consumer vote in November 2014, imposes a 1-cent per ounce tax on companies that distribute sugar-sweetened beverages and flavored drinks (, 5 November 2014).

The long-term future for “junky” brands is looking bleak now that newly health-conscious consumers want to make better decisions. McDonald’s was once an American icon — now most consumers over the age of 10 can’t stomach the thought of it.


Lunch Lessons

Posted on  31 March 15  by 


by Nissa Hanna

Recently, visual comparisons between school lunches in the US and other countries have been circulating online. The latest buzzy “battle of the trays” content puts the US’s sad chicken nuggets against the fresh herbed salads of Italy, and oranges with the stems and leaves still attached in Greece. However, those viral images weren’t exactly accurate (they were, somewhat surreptitiously, a creative-license-as-marketing-strategy for a healthy restaurant chain). But they still captured — and stimulated — the cultural sentiment that US school cafeterias could and should do better.

im_LearningtoEatWell_402829_2And the truth is, the food choices in US school cafeterias are improving, nudged along by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act, which started rolling out in the 2012-2013 school year, and the Smart Snacks in School standard, which launched in the 2014-2015 year. Now, kids are seeing more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, more low-fat protein and dairy, and less sugar, fat and sodium at the lunch table and in vending machines. At first, most students weren’t so keen on the changes, but the majority has since warmed up to the wholesome meals. That’s not a surprise for those of us who are closely keeping an eye on this cohort. We’ve reported on industrious, social media-savvy kids advocating for better school lunches and the generations’ exposure to and involvement in the foodie culture.

In fact, the problem that kids face in the cafeteria is that they feel the food is low-quality, not that they necessarily equate healthy food with unappetizing food. And since school menus are limited by budgets and kitchen capabilities, the shift to fresh, homemade-like meals is a work-in-progress. As the quality and nutrition improves, this generation is learning that wellness doesn’t come at the cost of enjoyment, flavor and fun. So brands and marketers can expect that those with discerning tastes won’t just be a niche subset of Gen We. An appreciation for good food is becoming a baked-in characteristic of this cohort.

For more on the changes in elementary and secondary school cafeterias and how that’s influencing Gen We’s behaviors and attitudes, check out our trend report Learning to Eat Well.

photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture,