How Can Innovative Thinking Survive Research?

HOW CAN INNOVATIVE THINKING SURVIVE RESEARCH?

You’ve got a great idea for a new campaign or offering that’s based on a thoughtful and compelling customer insight. And then you hear three words that make you die a little on the inside:

“Let’s test this.”

If you’ve felt this way, it’s because you’re an experienced enough designer or marketer to know the old saying is true, “research is where great ideas go to die.”  I’ve spent countless hours behind the glass watching random samples of customers as they take an hour out of their day to critique innovative thinking with little or no context. All too often, concepts we’re all super-excited about are slowly diluted down to the point where they lose what made them special, or thrown out entirely in favor of something that everyone can easily agree on.  

It’s understandable why gaining a large consensus looks like success, but what are you gaining consensus around? If the metric of success is what’s most likeable and easily digested by a large group of people, well, that’s not really aligned to the idea of innovation.  

If you look into the stories behind innovation we take for granted, from electric lights to disposable diapers, to cellphones, there is always resistance and derision to new thinking. I’m old enough to admit that, when I started my first professional job, they were in the process of switching from a paper to an online system billing system. During the IT training session on the tool, you would’ve thought the company was asking longtime employees to sacrifice their firstborn when asked to save some time and resources by using their desktops to enter hours.  

People in general have a hard time conceptualizing really innovative “outside-of-the-box” ideas and solutions, let alone understand how they could implement them into their lives. Why? Because we’re asking people to go against instincts and behaviors they’ve built over time, slowly, which are reinforced with our own experiences and beliefs. People go with what they know because it’s ingrained and easy to do. Real innovation is disruptive and challenges the status quo. It can ruffle feathers and make people confused or even uncomfortable.  

Does this mean research around innovation is useless? Absolutely not. Instead of using research as a safety net at the end of the process, we can use it as a whetstone to sharpen our thinking if we re-consider how we’re asking questions, who we’re talking to, and what we’re asking.

Images pulled from the mockumentary film Brüno

HOW WE ASK: IN AN ARTIFICIAL ENVIRONMENT

The normal set-up for qualitative research is in an unfamiliar setting surrounded by unfamiliar people. When people walk into an interview or focus group, they register the thought that they’re being watched and judged by strangers both behind the mirror and sitting next to them. Instead of being honest, people tend to put their best self forward when they’re in a forced group dynamic. Entertaining at times, but not as helpful as it could be.  

Images pulled from the mockumentary film Brüno

WHO WE ARE QUESTIONING: RESISTERS

Mass acceptance and adoption is the grand prize for innovation, and it’s tempting to take our new idea to those who represent the mass market (and ultimately present the largest opportunity). The general consumer population is fantastic to engage when you’re uncovering a problem to solve, as just about everyone is great at letting you know what’s wrong. However, are they the right group to present a unique solution to? As the majority of people are resistant to change, does it make sense to get their opinion on something that forces a fundamental shift in their thinking during a 45-minute discussion? 

Images pulled from the mockumentary film Brüno

WHAT ARE WE ASKING: LIKEABILITY VS COMPELLING

  • “Is this something you think is interesting?”
  • “Based on this, would you consider buying?”
  • “Would you say this fits you and your lifestyle?”

All of these questions basically boil down to the same thing – do you like this? Being likeable is fine, but it’s rarely the hallmark of transformative ideas. If likeability is the deciding factor, know that the idea that’s easiest to accept within the artificial environment is what will win. While your new idea or product might do well in the marketplace for a bit, “likeable” is rarely memorable or exciting. Imagine a friend trying to set you up on a blind date and you ask them to describe this potential love interest. If they led with, “well, they’re really likeable,” it probably wouldn’t get you all that fired up to put on your good pants and go out to dinner.

We should re-think our approach to validation and design and apply research that helps to make the thinking more meaningful instead of diluted. You’ve worked long and hard on that new idea; the approach to how you pressure-test its merits can and should be just as innovative.

Alex Bragg will dive deeper into this topic at this year’s virtual Brandemonium. Register to learn more: https://www.brandemonium.com/

 

The Pandemic is Supercharging the Need for Food Industry Innovation

THE PANDEMIC IS SUPERCHARGING THE NEED FOR FOOD INDUSTRY INNOVATION

When the pandemic began in mid-March, many Americans were met with a new sight — empty shelves at their local grocery stores. Five months later, shelves are mostly full again but many other aspects of the food experience are changing.

THE SUPPLY CHAIN IS RESPONDING TO RAPIDLY CHANGING DEMAND

While the demand at grocery stores has skyrocketed, the closure of restaurants, schools, hotels and other industries led to a huge dip in demand across most other parts of the supply chain. This meant farmers, ranchers and other food producers had goods but nowhere to sell them. As a result, some were forced to dump milk, exterminate livestock and plow vegetables. The interruption to demand is also leading to higher prices. Consumers paid 2.6% more for groceries in April, the largest one-month increase since February 1974, which hasn’t done much yet to tamper demand.

The supply chain has endured, so far. The disruption in meat supply, even as major packaging facilities shut down due to Coronavirus outbreaks, has been minor. However, farmers and ranchers are under a lot of pressure as they grapple with rapidly fluctuating demand and many lose money as customers in industries outside of grocery shrink. Even with many COVID-19 vaccines in the works, medical experts warn that our situation will not change overnight, leaving food producers to wonder how they can sustain this new volatile climate.

ONLINE GROCERY IS FINALLY MEETING EXPECTATIONS

While marketers have been predicting the rise of online grocery, seemingly since the advent of the Internet, pickup and delivery only amounted to about 6.3% of all grocery purchases in the U.S. in 2019. In the past, the convenience of online grocery wasn’t enough for consumers to let other people pick out their perishables like meats and vegetables for them — and the fees associated with these services did not help. Of course, the pandemic has changed that equation. With people looking for ways to reduce contact with others and many large retailers waiving fees associated with these services, pickup and delivery have become go-to options for consumers. 

In August 2019, only 16.1 million households bought their groceries online, leading to just $1.2 billion in sales. When the pandemic began in March 2020, online grocery revenue rose to $4 billion. Online ordering continues to grow steadily each month, reaching 45.6 million households and $7.2 billion in sales in June 2020. Industry experts wonder if online grocery is here to stay, but the fact that it continues to grow month-over-month, even as the economy reopens and more people return to work, suggests real staying power.

A GLOBAL HEALTH PANDEMIC, MAKING PEOPLE HEALTHIER?

“Before COVID-19 came along, it was increasingly clear that the diet quality and nutritional status of Americans was terrible,” says Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Obesity, heart disease death rates and diseases linked to the foods people eat, like diabetes, are all on the rise. Data is only beginning to become available on how people’s diets are changing during the pandemic, but early results look promising. Americans are eating almost every meal at home, even as restaurants begin to recover.

Researchers believe that more cooking at home, if it persists, could eventually lead to reductions in chronic diet-related illnesses, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. But that’s only if healthy eating continues and isn’t a blip on the radar that increased while people were ordered to stay at home and cook more meals from the safety of their kitchens. And while some consumers are cooking more fresh food, others are eating more processed foods than ever. Flour, sugar, canned soups and alcohol—not typically cornerstones of a well-balanced diet—have all surged in U.S. sales during the pandemic. 

This poses a unique opportunity across the industry as analysts try to predict what the future could hold. Food manufacturers have been working for years to develop healthier options. Will the pandemic cause health to stay top of mind for consumers and lead to increased demand for healthy food choices or will consumers looking for an escape look for more indulgent, comfort foods?

SO, WHAT’S NEXT AT RETAIL?

Consumers are poised to demand further innovation, which will lead retailers to innovate around two different ends of the experience spectrum. On the more digital end, imagine smaller footprint stores, like the ones Giant Foods is testing in urban neighborhoods. The physical store may become less important while organizations begin to heavily leverage e-commerce, pickup and delivery on and off-premise. Technology will help customers select from a wider range of goods that could be available to them in mere hours. 

On the other end of the spectrum, pent-up desire for normalcy could lead consumers to power down their iPads and head to the aisles of a supermarket. The new, massive, 100,000+ square-foot H-E-B stores offer one example of new-age supermarkets that prioritize the shopping experience as they build banks, coffee shops, restaurants and even movie theaters into their footprints. As consumers’ attitudes toward shopping change it will lead to new behaviors. And, while retailers will continue to create new experiences to try to appeal to these evolving behaviors, only time will tell which experiences will thrive and which will continue to evolve.

Researchers believe that more cooking at home, if it persists, could eventually lead to reductions in chronic diet-related illnesses, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. But that’s only if healthy eating continues and isn’t a blip on the radar that increased while people were ordered to stay at home and cook more meals from the safety of their kitchens. And while some consumers are cooking more fresh food, others are eating more processed foods than ever. Flour, sugar, canned soups and alcohol—not typically cornerstones of a well-balanced diet—have all surged in U.S. sales during the pandemic. 

This poses a unique opportunity across the industry as analysts try to predict what the future could hold. Food manufacturers have been working for years to develop healthier options. Will the pandemic cause health to stay top of mind for consumers and lead to increased demand for healthy food choices or will consumers looking for an escape look for more indulgent, comfort foods?

By Dan Whitmyer, Strategy Lead

THE INCREASING VALUE OF POLARIZATION

THE INCREASING VALUE OF POLARIZATION

In a time where call-out culture can make or break you, organizations are choosing to make polarizing choices for their brands – which could yield huge risks or rewards.

For better or worse, over the past several years, we have become increasingly more willing to stand firmly on one side of an issue instead of finding common ground. Democrat or Republican, mask or no mask, neon orange or traditional car color schemes (we’re getting to that one).

This creates a bit of a dilemma for brands – stay in a “safe” space to avoid consumer backlash or take the arguably more valuable route and decide to create something that some people love (and others may hate).

ICE CREAM AND ACTIVISM

Everyone loves ice cream but not everyone loves Ben & Jerry’s. The Burlington, VT-based company has been one of America’s top makers of ice cream since the late 1970s with their variety of fun, over-the-top flavors. But, as anyone familiar with the company’s history knows the company is a strong proponent of being outspoken on issues they are passionate about. This should come as no surprise from company co-founders who are willing to get arrestedand more than once – for what they believe, and the brand bearing their names reflects those values, too. 

The company’s Global Head of Activism (yes, they have someone solely responsible for activism initiatives), Christopher Miller, meant it when he said the company’s statement on George Floyd’s death “was not a marketing exercise” and that companies that have been silent shouldn’t worry about entering an “uncomfortable” conversation now. They’ve also been vocal on other often polarizing issues such as LGBTQ rights, artificial growth hormone use in cows, GMOs, global warming and more.

Ben & Jerry’s social activism survived their purchase by Unilever in 2000 and continues to strike a chord with their customers, too, helping them grow from a gas station in Vermont to reported sales of $681.5 million in 2019 – success he equates to being willing to do more than “just sell ice cream.” It’s hard to deny his claim; people talk about Ben & Jerry’s when they take a stance on polarizing issues. Interestingly, Unilever, which also owns the non-controversial, competing Breyer’s brand, can use its brands to benefit from both the activism and the backlash. 

NEON ORANGE, AN UNREQUITED LOVE STORY

In the context of marketing there is typically an instinct to appeal to as many consumers as possible – leading to ideas that are, by definition, the lowest common denominator. This leaves your products and brands in a gray space—no one really loves or hates you. While that may seem safe, the risk to a brand is that no one really cares about your brand or products when you hang out in a gray space. In highly visual categories, like automobiles and fashion, there is tremendous value in appealing to the human desire to be noticed.

When Porsche introduced “Lava Orange,” an eye popping neon color scheme for one of their most popular models, the 911, many questioned the decision. Color choice is especially important considering that 60% of people say that color is one of the main factors they consider when purchasing a car. So this bold color left many wondering, “why design something with such a limited appeal?” According to lore, the car company’s response was simple – yes, a lot of people may HATE this color, but the ones who love it, REALLY love it. Turning off a bunch of people who probably weren’t going to buy a Porsche anyway, was worth it to create true fanatics.

FROM SHOES TO SOCIAL JUSTICE

Acknowledging that it’s impossible to always please everyone, companies are best served figuring out what they believe is right for their culture, employees and customers and just doing it. Which, of course, brings us to Nike. 

Long accused of sweatshop labor, Nike addressed the issue and has been increasingly involved in taking on business and social ethics issues ever since – their biggest, arguably coming in 2016, with Colin Kaepernick. Nike’s decision to stand (or kneel, rather) with Kaepernick made a statement, and so did consumers when they made his “True to 7” shoe sell out on the first day. Nike’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the LGBTQ+ community via its “Be True” line and other social causes has placed the company smack in the middle of the culture wars. But with many of the world’s most popular – and socially active – athletes on its roster, the riskier move for Nike would have been to do nothing. Instead, actions that may seem unthinkable to most brands simply reflect Nike’s commitment to its values and to the athletes that support them. 

The embrace of polarization in messaging mirrors the increasing fragmentation of content. Throughout media, there has been a decrease in a willingness to appeal to the masses, instead calculating that it’s better to identify an audience and demonstrate fierce support for the values they share. The resulting “controversies” resonate throughout the opposing media landscapes provoking boycotts and backlash from some members of the public, while increasing loyalty and affinity with others. Seems unsustainable for a variety of reasons but, in the meantime, we’re all living by the immortal words of 90s hip hop icons, Black Sheep. “You can get with this. Or you can get with that.”

The choice is yours.

CAN BEING AROUND YOUR KIDS ALL DAY ACTUALLY MAKE YOU MORE CREATIVE?

CAN BEING AROUND YOUR KIDS ALL DAY ACTUALLY MAKE YOU MORE CREATIVE?

As summer winds down and economic recovery plans are put into effect, numbers of coronavirus cases are skyrocketing. The question of how to safely reopen schools continues to be a mystery – experts say it’s dangerous, some are offering creative solutions like outdoor classrooms, and many are expressing concerns about the risks associated with not providing in-person learning for families that lack access to the necessary resources to create a supportive at-home learning environment.

If you’re a parent, your most important job is keeping your family safe. But you also have another job, which is um… your job.

Balancing the needs of our families, our careers and ourselves has never been more difficult. The tug of war we are experiencing can force us to compromise. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that Youtube can be educational so you can spend three hours working through a thorny brief, or perhaps you put all your conference calls on mute so you can play dress up with your kids.

It’s now apparent that we’re in this for the long-haul and work is piling up. Getting things done now means taking a video call while your 4 year old dances around your desk and sneaking away at midnight while your newborn snoozes – it’s not easy. 

In the past, coming up with creative ideas required input from the world around us and uninterrupted time to concentrate. With that world in crisis and kids needing more attention, how are we supposed to concept? The answer, ironically, is to get creative.

Accept that you have a new partner in crime. The good news is that they’re amazingly creative but maybe not so great at sticking to the brief. (Did you know LOL dolls also need to manage their blood sugar?)

Try integrating your kids into the creative process.

THE INTERNET IS (SOMETIMES) A BEAUTIFUL PLACE.

We all noodle about on Chrome while working but as parents we’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the Internet (and gaming consoles and smartphones, too). Channel the need for screens into something that can inspire rather than distract.

The Getty Museum Challenge motivated people to recreate art using three objects lying around their homes; the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City allowed their security guard to take over Twitter to not only educate our children about the “Wild West” but provide some much-needed entertainment for the adults; and sites once used for events have included educational programming in an online format. And let’s not forget about Pinterest, be inspired while you scroll through thousands of ideas to keep them entertained, and find something yummy for dinner. 

UTILIZE THE WISDOM OF U2.

U2’s frontman Bono was on to something when he said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.” Sure, your parents may have yelled at you to “turn that music down” while doing your homework but research shows certain types of music may help with creativity. It has been found that “happy” music can help people better perform creative or “divergent” thinking.

Additionally, music for many of us offers therapy and stress relief. From balcony concerts that make us feel remotely connected to our neighbors during isolation, to Hamilton’s appearance on Disney Plus and #EduHam at home, music serves as a release from the day-to-day stresses in life and a way to safely keep us connected with others. So, go ahead and get “Lost in the Woods” with your daughter.

GET SOME FRESH AIR

Open their eyes to the world around you and take in the beauty of the unnoticed. The small details up close and the blur of the trees in the distance make for a completely different perspective. Take the time to explore the shapes in the clouds. Sometimes it’s the little things that spark brilliant ideas. You just have to go out and look for them.

“IN A TIME OF TEST, FAMILY IS BEST.”

This Burmese proverb offers a lot of insight into how external sources aren’t the only to inspire – some of the best creative sources exist inside our own home. The partner we chose in life might just be our strongest ally.

It’s been a while since we’ve had to use our creativity in unique ways – to see a pile of pillows, blankets and couch cushions as a castle is design thinking. Maybe listening to music together can lead to discussions on current slang and trends. Teaching your little one how to draw might just help those rusty storyboard skills. Taking time to engage and play games with your children can actually lead to tangible business ideas – just ask Travis Scott about the power of virtual Fortnite concerts.

There’s no one right answer but keep taking breaks to build a marble run when asked. Have your kids tell you a joke (“What do you call a pile of cats? A MEOWtain!!!!) or take them out for a hike and really listen to what they say (they have some very weird ideas about the world). Being more in tune with their needs and giving your mind the ability to wander could actually help to challenge and push our creativity to new limits.

Your mini me’s are always modeling their behavior based on what you do. Maybe it’s time we took a cue from them for a change, and use our imaginations in a new way. Seems like it’s going to be awhile before things get back to “normal,” so let’s find ways to use this new-found time with our families to make something amazing.

 

Commentary provided by Kate McGuire

SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER?

SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER?

Coming up with creative ideas requires input from the world around us and uninterrupted time to concentrate. With that world sharply limited and kids needing more attention, how are we supposed to concept? The answer, ironically, is to get creative.

“SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER.” 

From kids finishing school and heading to camps to grown-ups finding inspiration in the great outdoors, summer is a chance to relax, have fun and recharge your creativity. The sunny season is typically full of pool parties, baseball games, and music festivals but this year is a bit different.

Virtual school, as weird as it was, provided some loose structure to our days and gave us a few activities we felt contributed to our children’s prosperity. Now, with many camps and pools closed and families shying away from other summer activities, children have more free time and less to do. Naturally, they turn to their parents for help.

Balancing the needs of our families, our careers and ourselves has never been harder. The tug of war we are experiencing can force us to compromise. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that Youtube is educational so you can spend three hours working through a thorny brief, or perhaps you put all your conference calls on mute so you can play dress up with your kids.

Maybe there’s another way through the madness. Accept that you have a new partner in crime. The good news is that they’re amazingly creative but maybe not so great at sticking to the brief. (Did you know LOL dolls also need to manage their blood sugar?)

Here are a few ways to integrate your kids into the creative process.

THE INTERNET IS (SOMETIMES) A BEAUTIFUL PLACE.

We all noodle about on Chrome while working but as parents we’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the Internet (and gaming consoles and smartphones, too). Channel the need for screens into something that can inspire rather than distract.

The Getty Museum Challenge motivated people to recreate art using three objects lying around their homes; the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City allowed their security guard to take over Twitter to not only educate our children about the “Wild West” but provide some much-needed entertainment for the adults; and sites once used for events have included educational programming in an online format.

UTILIZE THE WISDOM OF U2.

U2’s frontman Bono was on to something when he said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.” Sure, your parents may have yelled at you to “turn that music down” while doing your homework but research shows certain types of music may help with creativity. It has been found that “happy” music can help people better perform creative or “divergent” thinking.

Additionally, music for many of us offers therapy and stress relief. From balcony concerts that make us feel remotely connected to our neighbors during isolation, to primetime television sing-alongs, music serves as a release from the day-to-day stresses in life and a way to safely keep us connected with others. So, go ahead and get “Lost in the Woods” with your daughter.

“IN A TIME OF TEST, FAMILY IS BEST.”

This Burmese proverb offers a lot of insight into how external sources aren’t the only to inspire – some of the best creative sources exist inside our own home. The partner we chose in life might just be our strongest ally.

It’s been a while since we’ve had to use our creativity in unique ways, to see a pile of pillows, blankets and couch cushions as a castle is design thinking. Maybe listening to music together can lead to discussions on current slang and trends. Teaching your little one how to draw might just help those rusty storyboard skills. Taking time to engage and play games with your children can actually lead to tangible business ideas – just ask Travis Scott about the power of virtual Fortnite concerts.

There’s no one right answer but start by taking breaks to build a marble run when asked. Have your kids tell you a joke (“What do you call a pile of cats? A MEOWtain!!!!) and get out for a hike and really listen to what they say (they have some very weird ideas about the world). Being more in tune with their needs and giving your mind the ability to wander could actually help to challenge and push our creativity to new limits.

Maybe taking a cue from our children will force our brains to use our imaginations in a new way. As hard as this is, let’s find ways to use this new-found time with our families to make something amazing.

 

Commentary provided by Kate McGuire

SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER? old

SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER?

Coming up with creative ideas requires input from the world around us and uninterrupted time to concentrate. With that world sharply limited and kids needing more attention, how are we supposed to concept? The answer, ironically, is to get creative.

“SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER.” 

From kids finishing school and heading to camps to grown-ups finding inspiration in the great outdoors, summer is a chance to relax, have fun and recharge your creativity. The sunny season is typically full of pool parties, baseball games, and music festivals but this year is a bit different.

Virtual school, as weird as it was, provided some loose structure to our days and gave us a few activities we felt contributed to our children’s prosperity. Now, with many camps and pools closed and families shying away from other summer activities, children have more free time and less to do. Naturally, they turn to their parents for help.

Balancing the needs of our families, our careers and ourselves has never been harder. The tug of war we are experiencing can force us to compromise. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that Youtube is educational so you can spend three hours working through a thorny brief, or perhaps you put all your conference calls on mute so you can play dress up with your kids.

Maybe there’s another way through the madness. Accept that you have a new partner in crime. The good news is that they’re amazingly creative but maybe not so great at sticking to the brief. (Did you know LOL dolls also need to manage their blood sugar?)

Here are a few ways to integrate your kids into the creative process.

THE INTERNET IS (SOMETIMES) A BEAUTIFUL PLACE.

We all noodle about on Chrome while working but as parents we’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the Internet (and gaming consoles and smartphones, too). Channel the need for screens into something that can inspire rather than distract.

The Getty Museum Challenge motivated people to recreate art using three objects lying around their homes; the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City allowed their security guard to take over Twitter to not only educate our children about the “Wild West” but provide some much-needed entertainment for the adults; and sites once used for events have included educational programming in an online format.

UTILIZE THE WISDOM OF U2.

U2’s frontman Bono was on to something when he said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.” Sure, your parents may have yelled at you to “turn that music down” while doing your homework but research shows certain types of music may help with creativity. It has been found that “happy” music can help people better perform creative or “divergent” thinking.

Additionally, music for many of us offers therapy and stress relief. From balcony concerts that make us feel remotely connected to our neighbors during isolation, to primetime television sing-alongs, music serves as a release from the day-to-day stresses in life and a way to safely keep us connected with others. So, go ahead and get “Lost in the Woods” with your daughter.

“IN A TIME OF TEST, FAMILY IS BEST.”

This Burmese proverb offers a lot of insight into how external sources aren’t the only to inspire – some of the best creative sources exist inside our own home. The partner we chose in life might just be our strongest ally.

It’s been a while since we’ve had to use our creativity in unique ways, to see a pile of pillows, blankets and couch cushions as a castle is design thinking. Maybe listening to music together can lead to discussions on current slang and trends. Teaching your little one how to draw might just help those rusty storyboard skills. Taking time to engage and play games with your children can actually lead to tangible business ideas – just ask Travis Scott about the power of virtual Fortnite concerts.

There’s no one right answer but start by taking breaks to build a marble run when asked. Have your kids tell you a joke (“What do you call a pile of cats? A MEOWtain!!!!) and get out for a hike and really listen to what they say (they have some very weird ideas about the world). Being more in tune with their needs and giving your mind the ability to wander could actually help to challenge and push our creativity to new limits.

Maybe taking a cue from our children will force our brains to use our imaginations in a new way. As hard as this is, let’s find ways to use this new-found time with our families to make something amazing.

Plant-Based Meat Ready To Boom or Bust

PLANT-BASED MEAT READY TO BOOM OR BUST

COVID-19 has reached the U.S., dramatically changing the American lifestyle. As cities across the country shutter bars and restaurants while establishing “shelter in place” orders, grocery stores’ shelves are emptying at alarming rates due to skyrocketing demand as analysts wonder if the beef and pork industries can keep up.

As the pandemic puts pressure on the supply chain, there’s speculation that plant-based meat options could be ready for another big moment.

In their 2018 “Year in Food” report, Grubhub identified plant-based food as a trend that was rising in popularity. Investors had put more than $13 billion into U.S. plant-based meat companies in 2017 and 2018, which coincides with consumers pushing for both healthier and more sustainable diets. 

Then in 2019, plant-based meat had its first big moment when seemingly every Quick Service Restaurant lined up one-by-one to release a new plant-based menu item. Burger King had the Impossible Whopper, Taco Bell the Oatrageous Tacos, KFC premiered Beyond Fried Chicken… even Little Caesars started selling pizzas with plant-based sausage. While there were substantial questions if plant-based options at QSR were anything more than an industry-wide limited-time offer, (LTOs are a common activation used across the restaurant industry to drive short-term appetite appeal and trial) plant-based meat is better poised for growth at grocery.

According to a January 2020 survey by Gallup, forty-one percent of Americans have tried a plant-based meat product at some point, with more than half of those who have tried it agreeing that they’re very or somewhat likely to continue eating plant-based meat products as part of their diets. The emptier-than-usual grocery store shelves suggest that the 41 percent of people who’ve tried plant-based meat products could increase when consumers are presented with fewer options than usual while looking for available protein options with acceptable shelf lives.

Another key finding from the January 2020 Gallup survey is that the most likely factors that lead consumers to eat plant-based meats are health and the environment — two factors that should stay top of mind with more people than ever as the world responds to a global health crisis. If more people are thinking about the key factors that drive plant-based meat consumption, it’s another reason that we could see the number of triers increase.

Last, look at the wallet. It’s common for consumers to cut expensive foods from their shopping lists — like red meat — during a recession. During the 2008 recession, low-cost sources of protein like nuts, eggs, and legumes found their way into more people’s diets as they looked to save money. As the stock markets tank, record numbers of Americans apply for unemployment, and analysts predict a recession — let’s face it, meat is expensive. If industry analysts are correct that plant-based meat will soon be less expensive than conventional meat options, it could be plant-based meat products that are finding their way into more shopping carts of shoppers looking to save some money at their dinner tables.

Then again, if manufacturers don’t find efficiencies in the supply chain and plant-based meat remains as expensive as traditional meat options, it probably won’t capture the low-cost, protein-on-a-budget shoppers. And what if consumers turn to food as a way to cope with stress — and we know that people have a reason to be stressed about jobs and the health of their families — we could see increases in comfort food purchases, possibly at the expense of plant-based meat. While so much is still uncertain about how our new normal will look once this pandemic passes, only time will tell if plant-based meat is ready to boom or bust.

This article was originally published on Food Dive’s website, April 14, 2020.

Embracing Our New Work From Home Lives

EMBRACING OUR NEW WORK FROM HOME LIVES

At Kickdrum we regularly mix working from home with our standard office routine. But staying in place for COVID-19 has taken it to the next level. With no more hitting the gym, grabbing dinner, hanging out at a coffee shop or basically going anywhere we’ve had to figure out new ways to stay sharp and be productive. Here are some things our staff is doing to maintain their mental health in these strange, stressful times.

Alex Bragg
Maintaining my fundamental routine while being flexible to what’s happening in the moment is what keeps me balanced. Getting up, dressed and started at the same time as always? Yes. Giving myself permission to set work aside for a moment when my kids are laughing about something on TikTok? Also yes.  I’m also killing it on Season 20 of Diablo III.

Dan Whitmyer
Watching what’s happening around the world and not knowing what’s coming next definitely has me feeling some stress and anxiety. I like to use physical activity as a way to combat that. My goal during the crisis is to get 10k steps each day, which I’ve found is about 572 laps around my living room.

Jason Schmall
I have three school-age kids and while second grade is a snap, I’m spending a lot of time relearning middle school math in an attempt to be useful to my fifth grader. Do you know how to divide fractions? Thanks to youtube, I do.

Kate McGuire
I’m currently out on maternity leave, and having a two-month old and a 3-year old in the house is keeping me incredibly busy. In the midst of the daily chaos, my husband and I have committed to a 30-day yoga challenge to incorporate a little tranquility into our lives.

Tim McCort
I’ve learned that in order to get a good night’s rest, you have to stop reading the news about an hour before bedtime. Maybe four hours before…

Kyle Ebersole
Every time the news makes me anxious I embrace baking as a new way to calm down. I now have enough baked goods to run a pretty legit school bake sale.

So pick up a new exercise routine, call some friends, or get a book you’ve been meaning to read (don’t settle for the crummy Netflix adaptation!) Whatever you need to do to get through the days and weeks ahead, we support it. From all of us at Kickdrum, be kind to each other and stay healthy.

Watching the Super Bowl as the only ad nerd at the party

Football

WATCHING THE SUPER BOWL AS THE ONLY AD NERD AT THE PARTY

As a person who works in advertising I am legally obligated to have an opinion about the Super Bowl commercials, and I do, but this year I watched at a party with a bunch of people who don’t work in advertising. The place was filled with kids playing, dads grazing the dip selection, and moms grouped near the crockpot occasionally peeling off here and there to stop a toddler from tumbling down the stairs.

I watched the commercials, but more interestingly, I watched the people watching the commercials and here’s the thing…they didn’t. To them, they were just breaks from the football game – a good chance to resume a conversation, manage a conflict between kids or consider having a second cookie. It painted a pretty clear picture about how people think about brands, which is mostly that they don’t.

My Twitter feed is filled with strategists and CMOs, who were focused on nothing but the commercials. They breathlessly recounted the wins and losses for each spot and brand, while admitting they “weren’t really paying attention to the game.” They’ve now listed their top 10s and rated them all on a 5-star scale.

Meanwhile, at the “regular people” party the attention was all over the place, including, very occasionally, on the commercials. Here’s what I saw: People were excited about the new Top Gun movie, Lego Masters looks like a fun new show and people looked up when they saw Martin Scorcese in a commercial but were confused that it was for Coke. Aaaand that’s pretty much it. It was a good reminder of the role brands play in people’s lives, which is very little.

Our party broke up just after the crescendo of the evening – the halftime show – the only part of the evening that everyone at the party truly focused on, then I watched the rest of the game at home.

The Chiefs mounted an exciting comeback and I really liked the Amazon Alexa commercial. A simple joke, produced to the nines – nice job.

Commentary provided by our very own Jason Schmall.

Ending the Timesheet Time Suck

ENDING THE TIMESHEET TIME SUCK

If you pay your agency based on billable hours, how much time do you think you spend each year arguing about scope, disputing overages and worrying about how many agency people are dialing in to a meeting? How does that compare to time spent on actual work?

The awful truth is that timesheet administration takes more time than you realize and the impact on the work product is bigger than anyone ever lets on.

Earlier in my career, I worked for a large New York agency that required me to meet with a “business analyst” each week. Her primary job was to tell me where we were spending too many hours and where we needed to cut back. Guess where we always needed to slash hours? 

CREATIVE TIME. LITERALLY, THE WORK PRODUCT OF THE AGENCY.

It became my job to limit how much time a creative team could spend on a problem. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually uttered sentences like, “We only have 34 hours left on this project, so please work quickly,” or “Only record 34 hours on your timesheet for this project.” And, I was downright depressed by how much work I saw my colleagues put in above and beyond what they were “allowed to” in an effort to bring the best possible work to our clients. 

Today, an entire hours-tracking industry has emerged, completely dedicated to supporting the billable hours model at agencies with software that provides timesheet tracking, productivity reports, under-earned/over-earned reports, etc. It’s created a belief system that agency value can be measured exclusively on spreadsheets.

But getting to a great idea is an iterative process, filled with false starts, almost-great ideas, edits and redos during the journey from brief to concept. The focus throughout has to be on pushing through to a breakthrough idea, not sticking to the budgeted hours.

THE IDEAS ARE THE WHOLE POINT OF AN AGENCY.

That’s why we only price ourselves on a project basis. It gives us more freedom to focus on the problems we’re solving, protects clients from financial surprises and fosters a better agency-client relationship.

Sure, there’s always the risk we priced it wrong but the reward is being treated as a valued partner instead of an overpriced vendor. If we invest a little time here and there, we believe it’s always time well spent.