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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


Iconosphere 2014: A Millennial marketing intervention

Posted on  26 March 14  by 


by Robert van Alstyne

Most anyone working in marketing today has Millennials on the brain — their sheer size and stupendous spending power make them a required focus of interest. But that hasn’t stopped the majority of marketers from misunderstanding this crucial consumer segment.

While you’d be hard-pressed to know it judging by their current position as underachieving pop-culture punching bags, Millenials are actually growing up. The youngest members of this generation are turning 19 in 2014 — old enough to cast ballots and fight in wars — yet too many marketers are still talking down to them. Sure, callow kidults make up a portion of the Millennial generation, but their relatively small numbers are unfortunately given outsized attention and inappropriate cultural significance.

fim_InsidetheMillennialMind_376745_2As examined extensively in our Research Brief “Inside the Millennial Mind,” Millennials are scrambling traditional lifestage patterns when it comes to marriage, parenthood and home ownership — in part because of external economic forces and in part because of their own shifting social mores. While older generations are far too quick to equate unconventional lifestage progression with immaturity and a sense of entitlement, the reality is far more complex. Taking a close look at trending Millennial values underscores this discrepancy between public perception and Millennials’ true selves.

Our primed-for-maximum-thought-provocation Millennials presentation at this year’s Iconosphere will dive deep into what truly makes Millennials tick, deconstructing why current segmentation practices completely miss the mark and pointing toward a smarter path forward rooted in key core values that are resonant across this complex consumer spectrum and informed by the unique cultural ties that have defined their generation.

This is just one of many topics that we’ll share at Iconosphere in 2014. Click here for a look at the other topics, or register here if you’re ready to dive in with both feet.

Iconosphere 2014: Alone Yet Together: Media Consumption in the Real American Family Room

Posted on  24 March 14  by 


by Rachel Steinhardt

We believe this photograph is a Rorschach test, of sorts. What, exactly, is going on here? What you see and how you feel about it depends upon your life experience, your family, your career and your level of media savvy. But there’s one thing we can all agree on: This is not the living room dynamic of 10 years ago.

As multiple devices have infiltrated the family circle, televisions are no longer the sole centerpiece of media consumption (though they still can be, sometimes). Every possible combination and permutation of screen time takes place under one roof, and we’ve decided to define these distinct new behaviors and explore what types of content and technology combinations encourage them. You’ll see the fruits of our research at Iconosphere.

But parents have complicated feelings about this new domestic portrait, and many marketers are wary of pushing too hard to promote products and services that might serve to stoke the perceived concerns about screen time. While this type of consumer sensitivity is commendable, it might be misguided. One of the early insights we’ve gleaned from our research and that of others is that the public (academic and journalistic) conversation about the screen-time conflict can often be more negative than the one occurring in the living room trenches.

rorschachRather than be distracted by the headlines, we ask that marketers consider looking within the homes of their own families to recognize the acceptance, adaptability and creativity with which parents and kids are approaching (or yearn to approach) multiscreen interactions. You’ll be surprised by what goes on between the screens — how engaging, social and multilayered these scenarios look and feel from a seat on the sofa.

At Iconosphere, we’ll showcase a host of just-below-the-radar media experiences (games, apps, etc.) that encourage families to stay connected to the content and to each other while their eyes roam the room’s screen real estate. We’ll also hit upon the strategies that smart content creators and marketers should consider in order to take advantage of these new attention-oriented complexities.


photo credit: CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights

Raising consumer IQ at Iconosphere 2014

Posted on  24 March 14  by 


by Andy Armstrong

One of the hats I wear for CEB is working with a small group of heads of marketing communications and advertising from very large, primarily B2C companies. You’d recognize the names of the brands they represent — if you combined all of their marcomm spend, you’d have an amount that slightly eclipses the GDP of most countries.

I’ve worked with this group of executives for about 10 years, and we’ve talked about so many of the big issues that brands face. A funny thing I’ve observed: While most of our conversations start with the question “How do I do _______ better?,” the most interesting conversations all come back to a single but very interesting theme: the consumer. All of the work we do to evolve marcomm measurement systems, to improve our agency relationships, to build more efficiency in our media spending … it’s all secondary to ensuring that our brands — our creative, media, experiences — resonate with our target audience. If the marcomm process and structure is the “how,” then the consumer is the “why” … and that’s where it gets hard.

IMG_0171These execs struggle, like everyone these days, to make sense of the shifting nature of “the consumer” and why the consumer makes the decisions he/she does. There are so many changes driving the “why” of marcomm: Generational shifts are changing consumer expectations and coloring how loyalty works; the US is becoming more bicultural; what it means to be “a man” is morphing; and kids … well, kids these days. The days of pester power are giving way to real, broad, social influence.

For the first time, this group of decision makers will attend Iconosphere, when CEB Iconoculture’s eighth annual member event takes place in Chicago in a few weeks. The goal is simple: Let’s raise our Consumer IQ. They know that the real solutions to brand and share growth are in the marriage of the “how” and the “why,” and Sphere is the perfect opportunity to make serious headway against the shifting consumer landscape.

If you’ve read this far (gold star and a Girl Scout cookie to you!), you’re struggling with the same challenges. If you’re coming to Iconosphere, bring some extra socks, because the ones you’re wearing are about to be knocked off. If you’re not, you’re missing an opportunity that dozens of insight, innovation, marcomm and strategy leaders are taking advantage of. Check out our agenda, and have a think — is your company’s consumer IQ where it needs to be to engage with the “why” of your target consumers? If not, register, and come join us.


photo credit: CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights

Iconosphere 2014 and the changing nature of consumer loyalty

Posted on  13 March 14  by 


by Aaron Lotton

A good friend once described CEB’s annual Iconosphere event by saying:

“It’s the opportunity to eject from the office, shove off day-to-day bureaucracies, and carefully consider and discuss where the culture is going, what consumers are really thinking, and what to do about it.”

A lot has changed about our Iconosphere event over the years, but the words above remain true. In the spirit of immersion in consumers and culture, the CEB Iconoculture team will give you a few glimpses into the insights we’ll share at this year’s event across the coming weeks. Here is the first of many topics that I’m excited to talk about at this year’s Iconosphere event: the changing nature of consumer loyalty.

IMG_0490Our research begins with a portrait of consumer psychology in the middle of a sluggish recovery. We see consumers slowly growing more confident in their financial situation, but at the same time, they’ve learned a few lessons from recent economic ups and downs. Their spending remains frugal, but it is getting more personal. It remains informed and carefully considered, but less driven by thrift.

While this is an optimistic picture for any brand looking to win over consumers, none of the brands we’re talking to are telling chipper stories of rising consumer loyalty. Instead, they are asking us very pointed questions: What does loyalty look like today? How does a recession-chastened consumer build loyalty?

Here is what we’ve learned, and what we’ll share in detail at Iconosphere: More than ever before, loyalty is an expression of consumer values. The mid-recovery consumer still clips coupons and signs up for loyalty cards, but those are largely expressions of thrift, not loyalty. They are savings tools, and no real preference goes in the direction of brands that make consumers jump through hoops and carry cards to get perks or savings. Loyalty in 2014 is emotional. It’s tied to consumers’ personal and collective value sets. As consumers gain confidence, they patronize the brands that reflect their values, talk about those values openly, and match their values in the way that they spend their time and money.

This is just one of many topics that we’ll share at Iconosphere in 2014. Click here for a look at the other topics or register here if you are ready to dive in with both feet.


photo credit: CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights

Inside the Millennial Mind

Posted on  5 March 14  by 





Interested in marketing to Millennials? Join us for a webinar on Mar 17.

“When are Millennials going to start buying cars, houses, life insurance or just about any purchase typically associated with adulthood?” That may be the most popular client question for us at CEB Iconoculture. Unfortunately, few brands take the time to understand the volatile mix of factors that compel the Millennial generation to live and spend on their own terms.

Our research on the generation explores a handful of critical factors tugging at Millennial consumption — harsh economic conditions, shifting lifestage patterns and unique value sets — and points brands looking to engage Millennials in the right direction.

Join us for a webinar on March 17, 2014, to explore what’s going on inside the Millennial mind, and learn how brands can serve these important consumers better.

Engaging consumers worldwide

Posted on  18 February 14  by 


by Michael T. McCune, Traci Croft, Valeria Piaggio and Kathrin Schaarschmidt

Every year, the Global advisory team at CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights takes stock of the consumer mood around the world and presents our clients with an assessment of global sentiment. The webcast presenting this year’s Global Panorama will take place on March 11.

Q1 is a time when the global team at CEB Iconoculture pauses to review the recent consumer experience: What did the world experience in the past year? What expectations are they carrying into 2014? What factors will impact the evolution of consumer sentiment in the coming year? There’s a lot to sift through, but our day-to-day work documenting changes in consumer motivations and building out emerging trends provides a great foundation on which to analyze our most recent wave of quantitative data.

Now entering its fifth year, our Global Consumer Values and Lifestyle Survey collects and aggregates consumer opinion about their claimed behavior and attitudes across multiple categories of consumption. It also asks a set of questions related to their personal outlook and future expectations. For example, BRIC markets exhibit a pattern we see in many countries and regional groupings, namely a decline in optimism on topics the consumer has less control over. While consumers certainly have a lot of control over their own personal lives, the average consumer has little impact on the outcome of world events, hence a greater tendency to see downward trends.

BRICOptimistic_bloglrgThese outlooks and expectations provide us with a higher-order framework through which to talk about and synthesize the anchors of country-level sentiment and the “whys” behind the trajectories we foresee:  our “panorama.”

The global webcast is brief, but to the point. We’ll share the trended sentiment data on a regional basis across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific and lay out the broad themes for each region. It will provide CEB Iconoculture members an opportunity to compare their own perceptions and understandings, and establish our mutual starting point for continued exploration together over the course of the balance of the year.


photo credit: CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights