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When apps converge, mobile users relax

Posted on  2 July 14  by 


by Rachel Steinhardt

Making dinner plans using a smartphone might require the use of five apps: Yelp for reviews, OpenTable for securing the table, Google Maps for directions, and perhaps the city’s transportation app for the train schedule and a weather app for determining appropriate attire.

To people who study user interface designs, this is several clicks too many. If the average iPhone owner has more than 25 apps installed, she’s not far from re-creating the entire internet out of laborious app icons on her home screen. Why must consumers duck constantly into one app after another to complete a single task? It’s getting old, and there must be a better way.

Well, there is. While most tech bloggers focused on bigger headlines coming out of Apple’s iOS 8 software announcement (HomeKit, HealthKit), a few picked up on a detail that Apple is calling Extensions: It’s a method that software developers can use to allow people to use apps within apps. The concept should be familiar to people who’ve added a Pinterest button, ad blocker or language translator to their web browser; Extensions are simple apps that sit on top of a major app.


Apple isn’t the first company to realize that consumers are sick and tired of backing in and out of different apps (it’s just the most influential when it comes to app design). Many smartphone owners have experienced the annoyance of clicking a link within an app that aims to open another app, only to be shunted off to the app store because the second app hasn’t been installed yet. Thoughtful idea, poor execution. Simple linking isn’t nearly convenient enough.

Google has integrated a few third-party apps into its own. For instance, now consumers are prompted to schedule an Uber car ride straight from Google Maps. We explored the consumer demand for transportation apps that pull together commute alternatives from a variety of services into one app in our recent piece of research Taking the Smart Way Home.

But app integration needs to accelerate across all categories, even though some brands might resist ceding app access and control to the mega-apps that consumers use most frequently. Once apps start talking to each other, and to the phone’s operating system itself, consumers can start to reap the benefits of a smart device that can finally make on-the-nose suggestions, so that people are free to stop clicking incessantly to find what they want.

photo credit:


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,

Below the Radar

Posted on  20 June 14  by 


by Nissa Hanna

A few weeks ago, American Express debuted Spent: Looking for Change, a documentary that explores the story of the one-third of US consumers who can’t afford to join a bank. The focus on the low-income demographic signals a significant shift for a brand that’s legendary for its gated community of affluent customers. In fact, over the last few years, AmEx has recognized the importance of this cohort with the rollout of two cards, Serve and Bluebird.

But unlike American Express, most brands are failing to consider the value of reaching out to and creating solutions for the growing group of lower-income consumers. This marketing blind spot can be attributed to not knowing or misunderstanding the demo. Which is where CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights comes in … and what we have to say will surprise you.


Collectively, they hold $833 billion in spending power (reality check: That’s almost twice Walmart’s annual revenue and nearly five times the spending power of married Millennial moms). Speaking of, moms, Millennials and urban dwellers are all strongly represented lower-income cohorts. And US consumers who self-identify as lower-income spiked in recent years while the self-identifying middle class shrunk.

Pervasive myths about the behaviors and mindsets of lower-income shoppers are also obscuring marketers’ perspective and inhibiting innovation around products and services that make these consumers’ lives better and easier. Through our research on this cohort’s values and drivers, we’ve invalidated three of the most pernicious misconceptions: that lower-income consumers make irrational choices; buy only on price; and have little access to information.

Think you know the lower-income consumer? Think they’re not a relevant audience for your brand? Cross-check your awareness with our executive summary insights on a segment that’s growing in size, influence and buying power. It will quickly get you up to speed on who they are, what those myths get wrong, similarities with higher-income shoppers and how brands are building successful relationships with this consumer group.


photo credit: BobMical,

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,

Consumers in emerging markets vote for sustainability

Posted on  4 June 14  by 


by Sumaa Tekur

Consumers in emerging countries demand corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability from brands much more than do consumers from developed countries. An intuitive respect for the environment — which is rooted in the cultures of many emerging nations — should be the overarching mindset that drives business decisions, a growing set of global consumers believe.

The recently released 2014 Aspirational Consumer Index shows that consumers in developing countries trust brands that not only deliver exceptional products and services and inspire personal relationships but also support community initiatives and protect the environment. 38% of the 20,000 respondents from 20 countries who were surveyed by BBMG and GlobeScan were as conscious of corporate responsibility as they were of shopping and style (, 2 June 2014).

These “aspirationals,” as the study called them, look for ways to unite materialism, sustainability and local culture. 95% of aspirationals believe that everyone needs to consume less to preserve the planet’s resources; 90% even encouraged peers to buy from brands that they believe to be responsible.

India has the highest concentration (58%) of aspirational consumers, followed by South Korea (53%), China (51%) and Turkey (48%).

Brands in emerging countries are taking note of these consumer priorities. In Brazil, Nestlé Nespresso demands that contractors follow its AAA sustainable quality program, which ensures proper treatment of workers and also protects the local ecosystem (, 28 May 2014).

Other brands that are trusted for their commitment to sustainability include Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Unilever (all three ranked high worldwide in the 2014 Aspirational Consumer Index), Wipro, Itaú Unibanco and Natura. These brands focus on sustainability programs, design “shared value” schemes and develop low-cost products and services, amongst other responsibility-focused policies.

Corporate sustainability trends for the future will increasingly be influenced by emerging markets as they expand globally. And consumers are having a clear say in the matter by exercising their wallets.

My Best Advice: “Use Your Superpowers”

Posted on  9 April 14  by 


Superman ShieldThe power of network leadership can reveal itself in surprising ways.

As work becomes more interconnected globally and across functions, managers will only be as effective as the teams they build around them. Increasingly, this means being able to see new possibilities in your team members that even they may not have been aware of. Identifying these hidden skills of a team member may create a powerful outcome in a vital moment.

To illustrate this idea, I thought back to what felt at the time like a pivotal moment in my young childhood. For context, I grew up in a great neighborhood for kids.  Stuff was always happening and there were lots of other kids around, the overwhelming majority of whom were inexplicably kind to me despite the fact I was the youngest of the group.  During summers, my mom could really just open the door and let me run out and play.

While the other kids were great considering the age difference, they did hang on to certain older kid prerogatives, such as choosing personae first during a game of “superheroes”.  The littlest kid (me) picked last, so I always ended up with worse superpowers.

This was material.  Think about the “Superfriends” as one example of how uneven superpowers can be:

  • Superman can fly, move at the speed of sound, and has superhuman strength;

  • Wonder Woman has an invisible plane, a lasso of truth, and amazing strength;

  • Batman had cool gadgets, a rocking car, and a brooding sensibility that women clearly dig;

  • and Aquaman, well, he swims and talks to fish…

In this context, it’s pretty clear that Aquaman could be replaced in the Superfriends by Sebastian, the crab from the Little Mermaid, without any net loss of capability to fight evildoers.  Although the author of this piece seems to disagree.

Then One Day, I Snapped…

For a long time, I did my share of Aquaman duty.  Then one day, I snapped.  We were fighting bad guys in space, far from not only the earth but any of the oceans where my powers were relevant.

Batman was flying the plane.  Superman was flying outside to fix a laser.  Wonder Woman had captured one of the villains with her lasso of truth and was interrogating him.  Aquaman was, well, obeying the seatbelt sign.  I’d had it.  I burst from my “seat,” shouted at the older kids and raced back to my house.

I ran into the kitchen, sputtering and crying.  It took my mom a few minutes to figure out exactly what my issue was.  (As a parent, I now have the same mental checklist: “Limbs intact? Yes.  Blood? No.”) Pretty quickly, she realized, “friend issue.”

She let me blubber for a moment then said, “just use your superpowers.”

I didn’t quite understand so I kept blubbering, albeit with the short sharp inhales that suggested I was normalizing (“Uuuhh, Uuuhnh, Sniff”).

She said again “use your superpowers,” and this time I got it.  It’s advice that served me well that day, and more or less every day since.  I took advantage of the cookie opportunity my misfortune had created, and raced back to my seat on the spaceship.  I sat quietly for a few minutes then screamed, “oh my goodness, we are crashing into the ocean!”

Suddenly my powers were really relevant.  I got three solid minutes of land-swimming and fish-marshaling to keep the bad guy in our custody and get the spaceship back to land.

Use Your Superpowers

Now, I’m not suggesting that aspiring leaders should crash their spaceships, but I did take away four lessons from this advice and subsequent episode.

  1. Know what your superpowers are: Not  just what you are good at, but what your really distinct capabilities are.  These change over time, and the bar goes up, so it is important to relentlessly measure, seek feedback and evaluate.

    I’ve seen too many careers stumble because people didn’t possess the humility to learn, assess and grow.

  2. Know the superpowers of your colleagues: What are your teammates uniquely good at?  How can you use their gifts to complement yours?

  3. Spot your team’s missing superpowers: What makes a great team? What specific capabilities and gifts do they need?  Too often leaders have an insular view of their team.

    Given porous boundaries between industries and business models, leaders shouldn’t look at past performance, or even competitors, but instead ask, “who is best in the world at what we are trying to do?”

  4. Find ways to make your powers relevant: This was perhaps the most important piece of my mom’s advice.  When a problem hits my desk, I spend a fair bit of time understanding whether my gifts can help advance a solution.

    For example, I’m a “re-framer” – my gift is not solving problems, but, for example, in structuring questions that help others create breakthroughs.  If my powers aren’t relevant, I ask myself whether I should be spending time on the issue at all.

Take a moment now to look around you and ask a colleague, friend, or family member about what they see as your superpower.  And don’t be discouraged if they highlight your ability to swim.  You never know when your spaceship will crash into an ocean.

Lately, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on subjects like talent and leadership on LinkedIn.

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.

Iconosphere 2014: Below the Radar: The Surprising Size, Influence and Buying Power of the Low-Income Consumer

Posted on  31 March 14  by 


by Kara McGuire

Marketers naturally gravitate to the consumer groups that have money to spend. That’s logical, right? Why spend advertising dollars to cater to a group with empty wallets? The problem is that there’s a concentration of brands fighting for the same group of wealthy and Relatively Rich consumers. It’s a crowded field, and only so many brands will emerge as leaders.

Yet most marketers are ignoring a consumer group that’s growing in size and influence: lower-income consumers. They may not have the most money, but based on our calculations, they have a collective $8.3 billion in spending power and make up about one-third of the US population. Economic trends suggest that the ranks of the lower class will also continue to grow in the coming years. Problem is, lower-income consumers are widely misunderstood. There are several common myths about lower-income consumers, and we plan to debunk the most common fictions at Iconosphere in May.


Until then, here’s one assumption about lower-income consumers that marketers absolutely have to forget: that lower-income consumers make irrational spending and shopping decisions. Lower-income consumers aren’t any more irrational than upper-income consumers. Different decisions don’t equal poor decisions. It’s easy for higher-income consumers to look at the behaviors of lower-income consumers and make judgments about their decisions. For example, the higher-income consumer might think, “Why didn’t they go to the store with the best prices and buy the bigger size that costs less per ounce? How irrational, or even irresponsible, for someone with limited funds to shop this way. “

But those decisions weren’t irrational at all. Quite the opposite. Choosing the grocery store closest to the bus line home instead of the cheapest one across town is perfectly logical for someone without access to a car. Opting for the smaller box of cereal may translate into a higher cost per ounce, but it’s easier to carry and the smaller box costs less, making it possible to stick within a tight weekly budget.

Some forward-thinking brands are experimenting with smaller sizes and easy-to-carry packaging for consumers who are concerned with cost, health or convenience. Coke Sixers — smaller fridge packs of Coca-Cola products — hit store shelves last fall, positioned to meet the needs of urban shoppers, smaller households and budget-conscious consumers. (here’s a pic if you want one.)

In our Iconosphere presentation Below the Radar: The Surprising Size, Influence and Buying Power of the Low-Income Consumer, we’ll debunk myths, get to know what lower-income consumers are really like, and provide tactics for developing your brand’s strategy for reaching this ignored but influential consumer.

photo credit: CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights