Trendspotting,
that fuel business

Today, Look At Media is a successful media company that has won prestigious awards and brings together popular media platforms such as Look At Media, The Village, FurFur и Wonderzine with a monthly set of audience more then six million readers. In 2012, Look At Media won the first prize of Gold Cannes Lion in the Mobile category for “The Village: Parking Douche” project. Over the past seven years, we have successfully completed more than 250 special projects and solved relevant business objectives.

We asked our customers what they think a perfect trend report should contain to help them solve specific business tasks and singled out four basic expectations that later formed the foundation of the De:Coding project. 

Advertisers have been increasingly seeking our advice to adjust their communications to the needs of their target groups. To develop new products and services or customize the existing ones, as well as maintain a meaningful dialogue with consumers, it is important to understand what the audience is actually like nowadays and to probe into its prevailing values ​​and attitudes. The analysis of customer enquiries and marketing research projects has revealed that analytical trend reports often fail to satisfy the requirements of brands. We asked our customers what they think a perfect trend report should contain to help them solve specific business tasks and singled out four basic expectations that later formed the foundation of the De:Coding project.

1. Focus on detail

It is interesting to get the information about consumer behaviors in different situations - travel, food, sports, personal and gender relations. Trend reports should include cases and visual confirmation of trends, and their description should evoke semantic contexts.

2. explore local sensitivities

Western reports do not take into account the local context and the specific features of the Russian market, whereas most trends here generally undergo deformations and acquire distinct local overtones. It is important to understand the degree of refraction major Western trends become subject to in Russia.

3. evolve TOOLS TO DESCRIBE the pragmatics of TRENDS

Trend reports should reflect both external manifestations of tendencies ("what’s cool to wear" or "what’s cool to do") and the underlying meanings of the prevailing practices, as well as analyze their internal content, including the origins of consumer trends and mechanisms of their evolution. This helps to predict their development in the mid-term perspective and the direction they may be heading in years to come.

4. keep in mind REPORT’s PRACTICAL VALUE

In practice, it is often not enough to understand theoretical assumptions behind certain trends – one needs more hands-on tools to apply this knowledge to practice. The report should offer a "toolkit" enabling companies to find brand ambassadors and opinion leaders, develop brand communications and content strategies, new services, as well as promotion strategies – that is to say, a set of instruments for developing a new idiom and tone of communication.

«Attitude is how people think they behave, while behavior is how people actually behave. Attitude signals what people want, while behavior signals what they need. »Tomer Sharona senior UX researcher,
Google
 

What approaches are currently used to study target audiences?

Today, most agencies still rely on widely used and popular marketing methods (all kinds of surveys, focus groups, etc.). However, questionnaires alone do not fully cover consumer behaviors (in particular, hidden motivations). The problem is that respondents tend to rationalize their own actions and judgments post factum. As a result, respondents’ answers are very different from what they actually do. Also, their responses may be presented in a formal language dictated by the rules of approved social behavior, or behavior that they would like to demonstrate. Tomer Sharon, a senior UX researcher at Google, has amply illustrated the difference between consumer attitudes and behaviors: attitude is how people think they behave, while behavior is how people actually behave. Attitude signals what people want, while behavior signals what they need.

What methods are used today in academic research?

Social sciences today are increasingly turning to methods which have been largely ignored for quite a long time, namely, possible modifications of the methods and instruments of qualitative research - direct (or overt) observation, methods of visual data collection and analysis (visual sociology and anthropology), etc. The choice has been made in favor of methods enabling the observer to capture even the most insignificant episodes in people's day-to-day activities. In many research situations, this approach has demonstrated a great potential. In this case, respondents are not required to give their opinions or explain their own behavior - they just go about their business as usual, while a researcher is watching them covertly (or overtly) and making notes.

 

Give an example so I knew what you are talking about.

Classic examples of such studies are anthropological expeditions where the researcher is totally or partially immersed in the life of the community under study, collecting and analyzing visual data, conducting hours-long interviews with informants, and so on. The idea of such anthropology, in the broadest sense, is to closely monitor the engagement of actors - that is, those who commit the act or are simply involved in it. Researchers provide photo and video surveillance, communicate with the audience in the mode of informal conversation and record every step of the object under study. They do not ask questions requiring "correct", expected answers, but offer a comprehensive interpretation of behaviors in the given community.

Do I have to rely on anthropology alone to understand my consumer?

Many Western agencies, for example, Creative Semiotics, Space Doctors, Flamingo, Truth, Semiovox, BAMM, FLAMINGO, ECE IPSOS, also rely on semiotic or cultural studies. Researchers in these fields do not have direct contacts with the community; instead, they are looking into cultural artefacts and the ways culture interacts with people who consume it. This is an attempt to overview culture in the broadest sense. After all, in modern world it is cultural reality that forms the aesthetic tastes and needs of consumers, indicative of the motivations behind their choices.

This approach enabled us to elaborate a unique research methodology, which consists of three elements: a framework, a code and relevant practices. 

What methods are used in De:Coding projects?

Based on the feedback from advertisers and the experience of our Western colleagues, we have elaborated a De:Coding analytical laboratory. The idea of ​​the project was to utilize a cross-disciplinary approach. We brought together the expertise of our leading editors, viewpoints of trendsetters, opinion-makers and experts, contributions from our group of internal analysts, as well as from experts in semiotics, sociology and psychology. This approach enabled us to elaborate a unique research methodology, which consists of three elements: a framework, a code and relevant practices. Each element performs its own function, subject to the analysis. As a result, we have drawn up trend reports resembling magazines where consumer trends of male and female audiences are analyzed in virtually all key categories: sports, travel, fashion and beauty, food, love relationships, work, home, etc.

 

What exactly is your model about? What are framework, code and practices?

Framework describes the prerequisites for emerging tendencies, such as historical events and social and economic processes. The code is a broad cultural platform that expresses macro-trends and explains the motivations and values ​​of modern target audiences. The code includes a set of axiological criteria that help predict consumer behaviors. Practices are consumer trends and behaviors in the key categories of consumption. After describing each practice, we give recommendations how to build your brand understanding into marketing and business solutions and strategies.

Is that all?

Also, for each audience segment (male and female), we examined a set of characteristic archetypes. In a broad sense, archetypes are images universally present in our unconscious mind, or patterns describing our perception of the world and largely defined by culture. They help to structure cultural models and understand the fundamental values of the consumer. Using this powerful instrument, we can describe the nature of a brand and make it strike a resonant chord with the prevailing attitudes and values ​​of target audiences. The understanding of archetypes helps to develop your content strategy, namely, the way you approach content, the themes and tone of voice you use, etc. This tool enables you to articulate your creative ideas in precise idiom and understand where exactly, in which sphere of knowledge, you can find the desired plotlines along which you are going to develop your scenario.

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