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Posts from January 2014

Minding our mobile manners

by Rachel Steinhardt

“Hey! Pay attention to me!” Consumers feel the pull of distraction from every direction, but which voices are louder: the virtual ones emanating from the screen’s glow, or the disgruntled ones coming from friends and family across the table? Our 2013 Year in Media, Entertainment and Technology trend research revealed that many consumers are constantly conflicted about their mobile versus real world behaviors.

im_YearinMediaEntertainmentandTec_384306_2Frankly, we’re impressed by the thoughtfulness with which consumers have seemed to approach the issue throughout the past year, though it’s clear that there are no easy answers for people trying desperately to balance their hyperlives.

In the weeks since we’ve completed this trend’s research, we’ve noted that Apple, the harbinger of all things mobile-culture, changed its tune about where consumer attentions “should” be. Where mid-2013 iPad and iPhone commercials depicted people choosing to stare at screens instead of the real world (voice-over text: “This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product.”), the latest campaign shows people glancing at their devices, but then turning their heads to their surroundings.

It’s subtle, but this slight difference perfectly captures the way we think people are thinking about their mobile manners. Other examples can be found in our research. Our most-read tech-focused observation article of 2013 showcased the creepy factor of a video that imagines a world where consumers don’t ever look up. The nervousness with which consumers clicked play on this video points to a growing unease, and perhaps guilt about not engaging with surroundings.

All of this explains the genesis of our Balancing the Social Media Diet research brief, in which we attempted to define the real strategies consumers are employing to change their uncomfortable new online social habits, and the ways that brands can help (or get out of the way) during this process. In the Year in Review research, we’ve put forward a few more ideas and examples for excellent mobile app design that could help consumers keep their phones in their pockets.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon,



The year in home: Consumers focus on living well, integrating tech and sharing their spaces

Posted on  17 January 14  by 


by Nissa Hanna

In the post-holiday slowdown, dwellers are taking a much-deserved break. The we’re-hosting-this-year-and-the-house-is-showing-its-age DIYs have been admired by guests; the new furnishings are settling in; and the bar cart’s a little lighter. So now consumers finally have a moment to simply enjoy their homes before the activities, parties and projects of 2014 come knocking.

im_YearInHome2013_384298_2And to see what’s ahead, it’s necessary to get directions from the year that’s behind us. CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights’ Home Year in Review offers a look at the most important and popular content of 2013 to help you zero in on the behaviors, values and attitudes that are on the horizon. Here are just a few of the themes:

The mission to keep up with the Joneses has shifted to the mantra of quality of life. Today, consumers are trying to balance practicality and enjoyment, which means living well … within their means. And that’s playing out in the types of homes that consumers are buying: young first-time purchasers prefer a fixer-upper and plan to outfit it with smart tech, while downsizing Boomers are sacrificing the space of private rooms in favor of large multipurpose areas.

Technology in the home was a dominant issue that spanned the category’s top three most-read trend articles, which illustrate the tensions between integrating tech devices and keeping usage in check. The interest in smart home technology is on the rise thanks to more accessible price points, wider availability and enhanced performance. But some consumers are exploring their connectivity comfort zone by setting parameters around where and when devices can be used.

Interestingly, collaboration also emerged as a primary theme across dweller demographics. Older divorcées are buying or renting homes with peers; nearly self-sufficient seniors are sharing spaces; 20somethings are choosing to live with friends instead of partners; and young Bay Area entrepreneurs are rebooting the commune concept.

photo credit: Tracey & Doug,

CES 2014: Where everything connects to each other, but not always to consumers

Posted on  16 January 14  by 


by Katie Elfering

Now that the CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights team is back from Las Vegas, ready to stop watching the Michael Bay gaffe GIF, and almost done battling the “nerdflu” that comes from sharing space with 200,000 of our closest techy friends, it’s time to think about what we saw at this year’s CES.

As was expected, this year was all about connectivity and the Internet of Things. Crock-Pots, toothbrushes, fridges, washing machines — if there was a way to make it “smart,” it was at the show. Big brands, like Samsung and LG, launched new options for connecting the home, including native-language texting with appliances (LG’s HomeChat), which lets consumers set up modes and behaviors for their appliances. While the technology in these networks is definitely innovative, it misses one key aspect of consumer behavior: It’s rare for consumers to own an entire suite of one brand’s products. Today’s consumers mix and match their home appliances and electronics, so while these brand-centric ecosystems are innovative and interesting, they don’t solve a real need in consumers’ real lives.

show_exh-directoryWhat does? Our team was impressed with Revolv, a home automation system that picks up where Belkin’s WeMo products (another of our faves) left off. Revolv serves as a central, brand-agnostic hub for consumers to connect the “things” in their homes, from Philips Hue lightbulbs to Sonos stereo systems to, conveniently, Belkin’s WeMo products. The DIY aspect and flexibility made it a winner in our minds, even if the price point and high-end brands still haven’t brought it down to a mainstream level. Another good DIY option? Sense Mother, which lets users connect “cookies” to everything from toothbrushes to coffeepots in order to help them track behaviors.

Beyond connecting every smart device imaginable, the other big buzzword was “wearables.” This year’s show included a “Wrist Revolution” section on the floor where smart watch makers and fitness device hawkers could showcase their wearable wares. While many of these wearables won on aesthetics or functionality (but rarely both), a few caught our eye as standing out from the crowd. Garmin’s Vivofit upped the fitness-tracking game by augmenting workout activities based on what the wearer could reasonably accomplish, making workouts more effective. LG put the tracking in tech that consumers already use to work out: earbuds. Its Heart Rate Earphones do exactly what the name suggests — measure a user’s heart rate during a workout and report back to the brand’s Lifeband fitness tracker.

As is expected with the wearable hype, health and fitness took center stage at CES. But while fitness trackers were everywhere, it was the brands that went beyond workouts and into more holistic health that caught our attention. Netatmo’s June brought a blingy aesthetic to sun protection, alerting wearers when they’ve been outside too long without protection. Withings moved beyond scales and blood pressure cuffs with Aura, a sleep-tracking system. InteraXon offered demos of Muse, a brainwave-tracking headband that helps consumers relax and de-stress. Lumo Lift helps consumers correct their posture, thanks to a discreet wearable that attaches to clothing.

As we’ve said for the past few years, CES has become less about revolutionary product launches and game-changing innovation. The show is now more about evolution and finding ways to truly integrate these technologies into consumers’ lives — and this year was no different. While the Internet of Things and wearable tech inch closer to the mainstream, we’re keeping our eyes on the ways that these trends are becoming more actionable and accessible to consumers in the present moment.

photo credit:

The year in eating and drinking: New Year’s Resolution edition

Posted on  8 January 14  by 


by Charlotte Beal

At this time of year, the food media is dominated by tips and recipes for resetting diets and eating more healthfully. It’s basic good timing after a couple months of debauchery, but a deeper investigation of the consumer zeitgeist reveals more interesting ways that food and beverage brands could capture attention right now. CEB Iconoculture’s Food and Beverage Year in Review takes a look back at our most compelling content of 2013 to assemble the full plate of where eaters are today, behaviorally and psychologically. Here are just a few of the timely applications:

im_2013EditionOurmostreadstoriesa_384263_2Add another layer to the cliché of healthy eating by entrancing eaters with experimentation and diversity. Our research shows that consumers are seeking out new flavors like never before. Marketers should leverage the intersection of nutritious, novel and ethnic wherever possible.

Set the diet rules, but let the consumer be in the driver’s seat for indulgence. There’s a reason why diets that allow for debauchery some days and extreme restraint on others are popular: They tap into the modern consumer’s tension over control vs. exploration. Think about ways to find the sweet spot in that equation.

Help consumers explore and discover within a relative safe zone. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is rooted in hyper-accessibility. So much choice is leading to strict avoidance of certain ingredients or products. Demonstrate to shoppers that they don’t need to ban your product, they just need to legitimize it with new uses and broader spectrums.