Home Improvement Sneak Peek – What Inspires You To Renovate or Redecorate?

I think it’s safe to say that the home improvement category has received a huge boost in part thanks to the internet, but especially Pinterest these days. According to Unmetric, a company that analyzes data for the content marketing efforts of brands via social channels, the ‘Home’ category raked in 2 million repins and topped the list of Categories With The Most Repins. The 2013 report looked at 5,000 branded Pinterest pages from the beginning of Pinterest until March 14, 2013.

So yes, it is safe to say that the internet has inspired many home improvement fans, but is it the top dog when it comes to inspirational content? We recently conducted a Home Improvement BuzzPoll because we were curious to find out how people renovate, redecorate and remodel their homes and we actually found that television is still the king of home improvement content according to 200 U.S. home owners, ages 18 and up. In fact, a recent press release by Scripps Networks Interactive, parent company to HGTVDIY NetworkFood NetworkCooking ChannelTravel Channel and Great American Country, complemented our findings. For the second time in a row, “HGTV was the #1 cable network on weekends among all women, including upscale W25-54. As it did in first quarter 2014, HGTV attracted an average of 14 million viewers every Saturday and Sunday between 7A-8P. Top rated weekend programs among W25-54 during second quarter were Property Brothers with a .77, Flip or Flop with a .71 and Fixer Upper with a .70. HGTV also posted its best ever June primetime rating with a .52 among P25-54 and continued to perform strongly with female audiences in primetime, garnering a .70 rating among W25-54.”  In a separate press release they also found that their DIY Network beat their previous top performance records and continue to attract audiences for a second consecutive quarter.

Other items of interest in our study include when consumers plan projects and how far in advance they begin planning. See below for a sneak peek as to what else you will find in our upcoming home improvement infographic and stay tuned for more results.

home improvement sneak peek


Wait a Minute! Who’s Driving the Bus?

When working with clients throughout the years I have noticed that some place customer feedback at the center of their decision making while others listen, but ultimately think the customers do not know what they want and need to be marketed to by experts. Even though I have seen instances where each of these approaches has been correct, recently I am noticing somewhat of a shift across various industries with more companies relying on customer driven feedback. One key reason for this is the rise and adoption of social media which allows consumers to instantly connect with brands and provide feedback. Capitalizing on this, many brands have created social sharing “spaces” where the customers can interact with marketers to help create or improve products and services. In some cases these interactions have been initiated by the customers and have grown organically.

As this trend continues to develop and new technology is introduced it seems that it would be hard to keep the expert-centric approach intact. There is so much rich customer-generated content and insight that companies can access for brand development from the increasing number of websites and applications – from the brand’s own Facebook, Pinterest, and websites to those created by consumers. The idea of having consumers tell companies where they see the brand and where they give it permission to go is not a new one. It’s been used by customer-centric brands for decades. But what seems new is that some companies are now allowing the customer to co-create with their marketers and to “make” the brand.

Will this result in more customer research? I would think so. But I also think it might result in changing how we do research. For example, analyzing and obtaining insight on how customers interact with a brand on social media is quite different than asking and tracking their opinions about and their satisfaction with a brand.

Millennials Expect More From You

It is clear that in 2014, social media has a huge role to play in cultivating the relationship between companies and their consumers – there is evidence, for example, that around two thirds of Millennials engage with brands via Facebook in some way. Generation Y expects a greater level of co-operation and communication with brands than any before and this will only become a more prevalent feature in the marketing machine.

However, surprising as it may seem, some companies are simply not utilising the power of social media and therefore are missing out on valuable interaction.

Compare, for example, the Twitter feeds of 2 mobile phone operators here in the UK: My own provider Vodafone (17% market share) and Tesco Mobile (7% market share). Vodafone treat their Twitter feed as little more than an alternative avenue for advertising or customer service, with Tweets typically looking like these:



Tesco Mobile have a totally different and far more relevant approach. They have received media coverage thanks to the sense of humour on display, and take a much more fun and friendly approach to interacting with their customers. Many of their Tweets have links to current affairs and are not even relevant to their products and services (the first Tweet relates to reality TV shows – The Voice being a singing competition, and Splash diving):


Tesco are rewarded for this with 55,000 followers which, while less than Vodafone UK’s 97,000, is a good number and much better in proportion to their overall market share. This gives them several benefits including a large audience for direct sales messages and learning more about their user (and potential user) base. It is probably fair to say that only one of these companies is harnessing social media to its full potential!

They certainly have me thinking about which ‘The Voice’ judge I would duet with – it has to be Tom Jones right?

Leaving Your Brand in the Hands of Teen Influencers

I saw an article in Ad Age recently that discussed how Wet Seal, the retail brand was foraying into SnapChat via a 16 year old. They hired beauty vlogger Meghan Hughes, aka MissMeghanMakeup, because the brand wanted to consciously increase their following on the hot, new social media channel. She took over Wet Seal’s SnapChat during the weekend before Christmas and chronicled her days by way of SnapChat stories. And it worked! She got them 4,000 new followers in just over 2 days.

Hiring a teenager to communicate to your brand followers may sound shocking but it’s nothing new. Other brands that have enlisted the help of a teen influencer are Taco Bell, MTV, L’Oreal and Kmart to name a few.

Seeing this article in the news reminded me of a presentation I attended back in October at an ARF Young Pros event. Jillian Curran, Senior Manager of MTV Insights provided a great overview of MTV’s study on Millennials. Their study decided to focus specifically on the younger Millennial’s (14-17 year olds) so they could get a better understanding before the group aged into their core target demographic, ages 18- to 24.

A fascinating point in the presentation was when Jillian shared this key finding: 78% of 14-17 year olds claim “someone I know would consider me an ‘expert’ in at least one thing.” If older Millennials are noted as feeling special, younger Millennials should be noted as being specialized. An image that drove this point home was of Harry Potter representing older Millennials with the word ‘specialness’ underneath, while a picture of Katniss Everdeen was chosen to represent younger Millennials with the word ‘specialism’.

Younger Millennials are taking pride in using the internet to find their own niche interests with 2/3 saying they are into something ‘random’ that other people aren’t. And when they take this knowledge to the internet, they gain a following and fast.

What do you think? Would you leave your brand in the hands of a teen influencer? Sound off below.


A New Form of Currency on the Horizon? What it Could Mean for Stores

I recently read an article about a Marc Jacobs pop-up shop opening next weekend for New York Fashion Week. The interesting thing about the Daisy Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop? According to the store’s press release, “no dollars will change hands”. Instead of paying for goods with cash, customers will use “social currency” – a tweet, Instagram post, or Facebook post that includes the hashtag #MJDaisyChain.

In a world where social media has taken over, it only seems fitting that it has finally found its way into our monetary system as well. And really, it’s a win-win situation for both companies and consumers. Customers are able to receive goods for posting tweets and pictures that cost them nothing, and companies receive an instant burst of marketing across several different social media platforms. Of course it wouldn’t make any sense for stores to use this social currency exclusively, but I think it works perfectly in the Marc Jacobs setting – as a temporary pop-up shop geared towards the release of a new product. Without having to do much work, companies are able to accomplish a large scale marketing campaign while also providing customers with a very attractive reward. This type of consumer/brand experience will work to endear the customers to the brand which may keep them coming back.

Another bonus? We all know that during this past holiday season, store traffic dropped almost 15% due to customers window shopping and then heading online to compare prices. But, with this new incentive to come into stores and pick up merchandise for a mere social media post, where else but the store would customers be able to find such a great deal?

So what do you think? Will this new social currency catch on?

Data Integrity, or Just Plain Integrity?

I sense this theme will be recurring in a market research blog, but a recent news story really spoke to me about the increasing need to balance two seemingly opposite traits: transparency and secrecy. It was big news recently that Facebook was sued for compiling what users believe to be ‘private’ messages to harvest information with the intent to sell to marketing companies. (This reminds me of a previous post, about Fair Data…)

Has the giant of social media, the all-intrusive, ever-present Facebook wronged its loyal users? The suit is seeking class action status on behalf of all U.S. users who have messages with a URL located within. People everywhere are up in arms over data mining and user profiling. Google, Yahoo! and LinkedIn are all dealing with similar allegations. I feel that when a tech giant like Facebook steps out of bounds in this sense, there is another layer of confusion because we are dealing with the internet, big data, tech, whatever you want to call it. (Disclaimer: I do not know enough about their user agreements or privacy policy to say whether they have or have not broken any rules, I can only observe that people felt betrayed) People are crying foul, and saying we need more protection.

I think the technical jargon around data can get intimidating. There are secure servers, protocols, etc. And that’s not even including the legalese that comes into play. Though I really believe the expectations around data are essentially the same good business ethics that have always been expected by consumers. As a consumer, I recognize companies are marketing to me, or trying to somehow get information from me to help sell to me. And I participate in this system, though some would argue I have no choice (cue Morpheus with the Red Pill and the Blue Pill). In return I expect whomever I share my thoughts/ideas/data/money with to abide by a general set of rules, and that they will be open and honest with me. And by being honest with me, they get my unhesitating willingness to give them deep insights into my soul (did I say soul? I meant my Amazon.com wish list. Same thing, right?)

I guess this post is not so much of a deep dive into the ethics of it all, but really a call to everyone out there to realize, the game has changed but the rules have (or should) not. Without the consumer’s trust, your brand is nothing. The emotional connection fails. All of us (tech companies, market researchers, or the mom and pop shop around the corner) need to be aware of the fact that the only thing our customers ask of us is good, old fashioned integrity.

Social Media Expressionists, Influencers & Visual Communicators

Among marketers, there is a huge fascination with mothers and trying to reach that mom who has kids in that 0-24 age range. Everyone seems to want to talk to them. And maybe social media is the new way to get at them. I read recently about a study in Quirks magazine by BabyCenter.com and comScore that 91% of moms now use social media regularly –that’s a 20% increase over the past 2 years! And Facebook is a favored channel, with 9 out 10 moms having used Facebook in the past 6 months (compared to 80% of the general population).

Social media savvy moms also seem to be eCommerce moms. Mothers who are active social media users tend to shop more online than moms who shun social channels. In fact, social media moms are responsible for 32% of total online spending in the 2nd quarter of 2013. And social media content has an influence on their purchase decisions. The study found that almost ¾ of moms rely on social media recommendations. But friend opinion posts are more influential than brand posts, and ones from a fellow mom are even more impactful – further underscoring the importance for companies to win over social-surfer moms. Moms are also more active on Pinterest than the general population – communicating their preferences, dreams, aspirations, and attitudes through pictures.

All this digital activity makes a lot of sense. Given that a typical day of in a mother’s life is a juggling act of work, parenting and home responsibilities, social media and eCommerce better enable moms to do more research, manage household purchases and easily mass-communicate with friends and family.

To Piggyback Or Not To Piggyback?

Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in market research — implementation of social media platforms such as Pinterest to conduct qualitative research online. It’s been highlighted in this Quirks article, but I’ve also come across this topic in other online MR conversations. I see how this seems easy, useful, and innovative to some, but I worry that it’s a bit shortsighted.

While I wholeheartedly agree that researchers need to reach and interact with respondents in ways applicable to what they do online and also find the use of imagery in research powerful I see issues with just turning to a social media platform as a research tool. For one, this type of integration between a social media platform and research is time consuming and only seems to work on a few people at a time. The researcher needs to train each respondent on the platform so they are correctly pinning images. Also, the respondent then needs to go out and find each image which can potentially result in them not thinking broadly enough about the topic or even becoming distracted from the task. Many Pinners know how tempting it can be to continue clicking through links!  But even more importantly, this does not allow us to engage a higher number of respondents, apply certain analytics or control for bias.

Using technologies not intended for research purposes tends to leave a lot of opportunity on the table. I think research should invest more in developing its own technologies keeping methodologies and best practices in mind.