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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.


Iconosphere 2015: Special Tracks, Special Speakers

Posted on  5 March 15  by 


We’re gearing up for our ninth annual member event, Iconosphere, in the Windy City May 4-6. So geared up, in fact, that we’re ready to announce our two keynote speakers, as well as our new way to help attendees navigate the conference.im_Iconosphere2015MktgFeat_401152_2

Now that marketers must become content providers, you’re probably wondering how to make the stickiest, slickest and smartest of content. Look to the guy who produced the most profitable movie in Hollywood history. Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions made the horror flick Paranormal Activity for a mere $15,000, and it grossed close to $200 million worldwide, ushering in the new “micro-budget” model of studio filmmaking. In his day-one Iconosphere keynote, Blum will share his unique insights into newly successful forms of storytelling, discuss the game-changing ways in which Gen We and Millennial consumers are influencing content, and answer plenty of our attendees’ toughest questions.

But wait, there’s more. On day two we give the stage to journalist powerhouse Hanna Rosin, who wrote the 2012 book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, sparking a national conversation and prompting marketers to sit up and take notice of major shifts in gender roles. The insights she shares in her talk are sure to have a major impact on how brands position themselves to women in the lightning-soon future.

In the moments between these keynotes, attendees will be soaking up the smarts at our consumer strategists’ presentations. We have so much deep research to share this year that we decided to organize the content by theme: “Mindbenders” presentations will rock your marketingscape with new avenues and strategies; “Demographic Dives” will go deep on particular generations or groups; “Behavioral Beacons” will help brand owners understand consumer shifts within particular categories; and “Functional Excellence” will bring meta-level marketing insights to the mix.

Won’t you join us? Contact us soon or you’ll miss the party — and the take-home favors are sure to be the most actionable consumer insights of the year.

Got data?

Posted on  24 February 15  by 


The CEB Iconoculture Values and Lifestyle Survey is a long-term effort that identifies and monitors trends, measures the relevance of core values among consumer groups in multiple categories, and provides magnitude and direction of the forces shaping consumers’ lives. We’ve now amassed five years’ worth of data, having started conducting the survey in 2010. 3,020 US consumers age 15+ took the 40-minute survey in 2014. Each year, we internally pass around the key findings from that survey, sliced and diced by category, generation and gender. They’re a helpful tool in our process of unlocking significant consumer insights. This year, it hit us: Why not share the love?


We’ve just published our first slate of US “Data Dives” into the survey findings from 2014: 10 short slideshows (consumer activities, consumer values, fashion and style, food and beverage, health and beauty, home, media and technology, money and spending, shopping and retail, transportation and travel) outlining the most compelling consumer behaviors in the categories marketers can’t ignore. Wondering whether kids actually go to the mall anymore, whether the DIY home spirit is as strong among Millennials as it is with Boomers, or whether Latino consumers’ values really differ from the rest of the population? Then these docs are sure to tantalize. Contact us to get your hands on the full slideshows.

Macrotrends for macro beers

Posted on  3 February 15  by 


by Emily Weiss

Audiences expect to see memorable, splashy ads from big beer brands during the Super Bowl. It’s a game-day inevitability, much like the crushing heartburn that settles in when you reach the bottom of a basket of Buffalo wings. This year was no exception, but the most talked-about ad around the (virtual) watercooler here at Iconoculture was undoubtedly Budweiser’s “Brewed the Hard Way”. Instead of pandering to the values and attitudes that drove the seemingly limitless growth of the craft beer movement over the last five years, Bud made a bold display of embracing its workaday roots, declaring that its products are “not to be fussed over” and are simply made for people who “like to drink beer.”

The brand is right in its instinct to pivot. Our research shows (as do national sales numbers) that Big Beer has taken a big hit, especially among Millennials. im_MillennialsNoBigBeer_398073_2But we also know that preferences for highfalutin foods and beverages are waning. Trends like Foodies Recalibrate and The Ideal Gets Real reflect that consumers may be more open to simplicity, rusticity and transparency than they have been in the past. So we had to ask ourselves: Has craft beer passed its prime? Or is Big Beer just grasping at straws, trying any tactic to stay relevant?

While some among us and in the media felt that the ad was refreshingly realistic, others criticized it for being hypocritical. It remains to be seen whether this spot will turn heads and win new fans, or alienate a whole potential consumer base. But no one can say Budweiser is sending a weak message: They’re “proudly macro.”

photo credit: Rick Marshall,

CES 2015 wrap-up and initial thoughts

Posted on  13 January 15  by 


Another year, another Consumer Electronics Show. This year, as many predicted, was full of tiny tweaks and incremental improvements on phones, tablets, cars, household appliances and, of course, wearables. TVs got even more visually vibrant (and the acronyms equally difficult to keep straight) — UHD, SUHD, 4K, 8K, OLED, and the list goes on. We saw a continuation of many trends we reported on throughout 2014, including MEcosystems, Fishing in Too Many Streams, Wearable Carrot and Stick, Ready-to-wear Software, Distribution Retribution and Unseen Screens.


Looking ahead to 2015, consumers will begin to see the positive effects of big-name content producers, distribution providers and device manufacturers teaming up to create seamless and consistent experiences across devices. On the first day of CES, news broke of the UHD (Ultra High Definition) Alliance between premier television makers like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and Sharp and heavyweight content producers such as Disney, Fox, Warner Bros. and Netflix (among others). Their unified goal is to set 4K standards for content, distribution and devices so that consumer adoption is streamlined and easy to understand (, 5 January 2015).

Beyond media, there were exciting announcements in other categories too. On the wearables front, we saw brands take a step in the right direction with products that helped to empower the user rather than just report on the data collected. The Pacifi smart pacifier and Belty smart belt are two examples of this first step. In the automotive category, big brands like BMW and Mercedes toyed with autonomous cars and mobile/wearable integrations. And, as always, the home space had some key players announce innovations in laundry and kitchen appliances (Samsung and LG) as well as connected home systems like LyveHome, Nest and WeMo.

Although there were still plenty of “tech for tech’s sake” products unveiled at this year’s CES, we did see a few glimmers of hope for consumers. Brands are beginning to meet consumers in the middle with practical products that fuse purpose with pleasing aesthetics.

The Millennial Ties That Bind – Why Millennial core values are a marketer’s best friend

Posted on  26 June 14  by 


by Robert van Alstyne

(The first of a three-part blog series distilling insights from CEB Iconoculture’s newly published Research Brief, “The Millennial Ties That Bind”)

The massive Millennial generation is far from starved for media attention, whether they’re being scolded for their selfie-taking ways or lauded for their entrepreneurial ingenuity. Everyone has an opinion about them — and, seemingly, a half-baked marketing plan targeting them. The problem with all of this armchair analysis? It results in superficial inferences that are not only shallow but dangerous. The marketing reports focus on low-hanging demographic and lifestyle pattern shifts among today’s 19- to 36-year-olds — “Sure seems like young people are taking their sweet time getting married these days!” — and then leap directly to conclusions about how these exterior changes define Millennials’ internal state of mind, purchasing priorities and marketing communications preferences.

Ties that Bind

CEB Iconoculture’s latest piece of pivotal Millennials research, “The Millennial Ties That Bind,” takes the opposite tack, digging deep to uncover the core values driving this dizzyingly diverse consumer cohort. Crunching the numbers on proprietary data culled from our annual Values and Lifestyle Survey, CEB Iconoculture conducted two regression analyses that enabled us to identify the 14 core values that matter the most to Millennials relative to other generations. (Hint: You won’t find authenticity among them.)

The unifying principles of these values are central to the worldview of a generation intent on maximizing personal agency and finding individualized fulfillment in a volatile environment — essential knowledge for any marketer hoping to move beyond superficiality and toward connection with Millennial consumers.

NEXT: We’ll examine the other half of “The Millennial Ties That Bind,” the key cultural factors responsible for the Millennial generation’s distinctive cultural identity.

How to Capture the Attention of Distracted Consumers in the New American Family Room

Posted on  25 June 14  by 


by Rachel Steinhardt

How do you solve a problem like consumer distraction? You stop thinking of it as a problem, and start seeing it as a chance to invite consumers to distract each other even more.

That somewhat churlish-sounding platitude turns out to be reasonable advice for brands hoping to create a brand strategy that undoes some of the damage done to first-screen (or one screen) content engagement.


While the research CEB Iconoculture conducted among our IconoCommunities participants for our Iconosphere presentation “Alone Yet Together” yielded relatively clear answers about how parents and children feel about gadgets on the couch (most families “co-media multitask” with first, second and even third screens, and they often use them to connect to, rather than distance themselves from one another), it was harder to ascertain what media, entertainment and tech-related brands should do to pull eyeballs and brains in the most desirable direction.

But by studying up on a few basic tenets of human psychology and attempting to define specific scenarios out of the most common tech-consumption behaviors, we hit upon a deceptively simple truth: Families are desperately seeking ways to play, learn, laugh, discuss and, most importantly, bond with each other while they have devices in hand and the TV streams a family show. It’s a brand’s job to create tech-bolstered media that unlocks those positive emotional moments, and fights hard not to let family members slide into individual, introverted media silos.

We hear you: Subtly forcing quality time sounds contradictory; like a parent hell-bent on a fun-filled road trip while the kids sulk in the back seat. But it doesn’t have to feel that way. Brands shouldn’t focus exclusively on apps that cajole kids and parents to pay exclusive attention to what’s happening on the TV screen (the equivalent of the well-intentioned road trip). That ship has sailed. Instead, the goal is to create a contextual digital experience (an app, video, game, etc.) that is so surprising and so blurt-worthy that it demands to be shared across the room; shouted over the din of the TV, or, equally likely, texted and tweeted and Instagrammed and SnapChatted, and even better — held aloft, screen turned outward alongside a amused face that demands, “YOU GUYS, LOOK!” Ready for more? Then click here for the executive summary. And CEB Iconoculture members can read the complete Research Brief here.


Photo credit: neilojwilliams,

Growing Up Grows Up

Posted on  17 June 14  by 


by Charlotte Beal

fim_GrowingUpGrowsUp_391227_2Kids today — can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ‘em … can’t have a successful business of any variety without ’em?? That’s right. Our multimodal research conducted in spring 2014, the results of which debuted at Iconosphere a few weeks ago, revealed that children under the age of 18 wield way more power (in the trillions, in every category) than most marketers realize. Here’s why:

  1. Parents have changed. Millennial and Xer parents have decidedly different approaches to parenting than their parents did. A generation ago, family life was viewed as a parent-driven machine whose primary goal was the transformation of children into capable adults. Today it’s a co-experiential journey for adults and children alike, where the importance of sharing a mutually enjoyable present day is just as critical as producing a well-adjusted person at the end of the line.
  2. Kids have changed. This co-experiential parenting style is producing an entirely different generation of kids. Parents’ pride in their progeny’s creativity, embrace of tech devices for educational purposes, transparency toward finances, and increasing desire to develop “grit” are resulting in a generation that’s unusually informed, expressive and empowered.
  3. Family dynamics have changed. In a culture of family-centric parenting, all members of the household have a legitimate vote for purchases that our grandparents would have defined “Mom and Dad only.” Think vacations, cars and houses.

Now, marketing needs to change. The smartest brands will embrace an inclusive approach to parent and/or kid marketing, making it more of a family affair. And they’ll acknowledge the incredible savviness of the young people at the table. Ready to get started? Then click here for the executive summary. And for members, we’ve got the full scoop — including more details about the 0-18 generation, more parenting insights and brand best practices — in our Research Brief.

photo credit: Ahsan Saeed,


The Millennial Ties that Bind

Posted on  10 June 14  by 


by Robert van Alstyne


The Millennial generation — defined by CEB Iconoculture as consumers who are now age 19 to 35 — makes for a terribly tough marketing target. Easily the most diverse adult generation in the history of the United States, their ranks are 76 million-plus strong and encompass unprecedented variety in both lifestyle and lifestage. Brands relying upon traditional segmentation methods to reach this convention-defying consumer cohort inevitably fall short by foolishly ignoring the generation’s challenging complexity.

Fortunately, there is a better way, and all you have to do to discover it is read our research. “The Millennial Ties that Bind” provides an actionable framework for brands and marketers to reach these consumers by speaking to the common bonds of this uncommonly diverse generation. In this research we:

  • Deconstruct why current Millennial marketing practices completely miss the mark by ignoring the generation’s widely varying take on lifestyle and lifestage
  • Uncover the core values resonant across this highly varied spectrum of consumers
  • Illuminate the unique cultural commonalities that have defined their generation
  • Clearly define the types of products and marketing messages that resonate with them

Just now entering their peak purchasing power years, the generation’s already responsible for an estimated $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending — an estimated $430 billion of it discretionary (, 15 January 2014). The time is now to get your Millennial marketing house in order. Ready to get started? Then click here for the executive summary. And CEB Iconoculture members can read the complete Research Brief here.


Photo Credit: W. G. M. Photography,

Six Ways to Win with Millennials

Posted on  4 April 14  by 


Organizations are closely watching the rapid rise of the Millennial generation and recognize their growing influence in the marketplace. While brands and agencies may be aware of the power of this segment, most are still missing the mark when it comes to execution.

Brands are simply trying too hard; emphasizing hype and overextending in areas that are not in sync with their unique value set. Millennials sift through the marketing hype and engage with brands that don’t just complement, but add value to their current lifestyle. The question for marketers then becomes – so how can we win? You can succeed by addressing what Millennials want.

They search for brands that:

  • Help Them Do Something – Act as a tool to enhance their lifestyle
  • Positively Disrupt the Status Quo –Step out of the box, not simply for the sake of it
  • Fold Into Their Lifestyle –Fit into their established lifestyle, don’t push a lifestyle upon them
  • Encourage Participation –Provide forums for consumer contributions, without requiring it
  • Engage instead of advertise – Talk with consumers instead of at them
  • Feel authentic in Brand Identity – Know their brand values and stay true to them

When brands market with these unique values in mind to address real consumer needs, it becomes easier to not only truly satisfy demanding Millennials, but also transform them into powerful advocates.

CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights’ is thrilled to announce our latest eBook, The Marketer’s Handbook, to help companies and agencies navigate this complex landscape. We also invite you to share our latest infographic highlighting the rapid rise of the Millennial generation and their shifting dynamics.