Former Deputy Supreme Commander of Europe, General Sir Richard Shirreff, recently spoke at the MRS Impact Conference discussing how strategic thinkers should respond to unpredictable events. Whilst his speech was focused on war and gender based violence, his message that “you can’t design strategy unless you understand the minds of the people, the environment and the landscape” relates especially well to us as market researchers.
What is Business Sustainability?
Sustainability in business is the management of a company’s financial, social, and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities (‘profits, people, and planet’, also referred to as the triple bottom line).
Business sustainability represents resilience over time, as businesses that effectively manage their ‘triple bottom line’ can survive shocks because they are connected to healthy economic, social, and environmental systems. In this way, a synergistic relationship is nurtured, as these businesses ultimately create economic value and contribute to these healthy ecosystems and communities of which they are a part.
What is Sustainable Development?
According to the World Council for Economic Development, sustainable development is ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. For example, for industrial development to be sustainable, it must address important issues at the macro level such as economic efficiency, social equity, and environmental accountability.
Best Practices for Sustainability
- Learning from customers, employees and surrounding communities, by engaging with stakeholders. Not just pushing out messages but understanding opposition and joint decision-making.
- Providing the structures and processes that help embed environmental efficiency into a firm’s culture and to mitigate risks by putting into place environmental management systems.
- Collecting and collating information for measurement and control, allowing the business to be entirely transparent.
- Systematically analysing the environmental and social impacts of the products they produce and use through life-cycle analysis. (Source: http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=business-sustainability)
What are the Benefits of Business Sustainability?
Investments in socially ethical practices may initially cost a business money, but beware of pressures from investors for short-term profits. The long term benefits out-weigh these costs, as sustainable businesses typically lead to enhanced recruitment, branding, and PR, leading to increased profitability.
Sustainable businesses attract and retain employees more easily and have less risks to their finances and reputation. These businesses are very adaptive to their environment and thus more innovative.
For example, O2 have launched their ‘Think Big’ Programme, which is a three year sustainability plan that promises to deliver up to four million tonnes of carbon savings and encourage and equip young people’s entrepreneurial skills by awarding young people grants to help them carry out their ideas within their local communities.
Proof of the growing importance of sustainability in business is 2degrees, the world’s leading collaboration platform and service for sustainable business, which has over 45,000 members from 178 countries.
The QRi Team x
As healthier lifestyles are becoming trendy, especially for Millennials, consumer trends against consumption of sugary foods, alcohol, and fatty foods are emerging. According to Channel 4, one in four British people aged 16-30 say they do not drink alcohol, compared with one in seven older people (60 and over). To facilitate this, new alcohol-free bars and yoga raves have been popping up in London and around the country. For example, Redemption, an alcohol-free bar whose slogan is ‘spoil yourself without spoiling yourself’, are expanding, now with three branches offering not just mocktails, but also ultra-healthy gastronomy, attracting people from many different dietary backgrounds.
There has also been a rise in special ultra-healthy diets, such as veganism, vegetarianism, and the paleo-diet, as well as an uptake in activities such as yoga, meditation, jogging, cycling, and niche activities like Zumba and Bikram yoga. These changes towards a cleaner lifestyle are reflected in the marketing strategies of products. Clear, simple labels, with few words and ingredients are more popular as they are seen as more transparent and trustworthy. Products linked to healthy activities, such as running or yoga, or simply being outside and active are also popular.
Millennials make up one third of the global population. Their tech-savvy and need to connect with people and products means that they have to be engaged through technology as they are less brand loyal than previous generations . Millennials are more entrepreneurial and ambitious than previous generations, with many of them expecting to own their own company, and wanting to have a positive impact on the world (see our previous blog Generation Z: #TheNewGeneration). It is important to engage with these instincts by being high-energy, connected, self-conscious and world-conscious, healthy and smart.
The QRi Team x
2 Robinson, N. (2014) Top five food and beverage trends for 2015. [online: http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Supplements/Food-Ingredients-Health-Nutrition/Top-food-trends-for-2015]
One of our esteemed clients is a benefactor of a Secondary School in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. So, for the past year, we have been researching the Education System in Nepal in order to find out what areas of the school need the most attention and the ways in which donations can be best used. Simon Patterson, our CEO, went out to Kathmandu Valley in March to visit various schools in the district, meet with teachers and headmasters, and the District Education Officer.
We wanted to find out what type of funding would be useful in schools in the Kathmandu Valley, and how these funds could best be used by the schools. But we also wanted to delve deeper, to understand the underlying issues that surround the education system in Nepal, and to look at where the school system is at now, and moving to in the future.
The education system in Nepal turns out to be an extremely complex issue; social divisions, inequality, and political motivations are all being combated in order to provide equal and quality ‘Education for All’.
Education in Nepal has been a political issue and facilitator of social divisions since the early 1800s, and especially from 1846, where, under Rana rule, education was extended only to the social elite. Due to an agreement with India and Britain, Nepal predominantly traded through these two nations, therefore, English was an incredibly important language to speak. However, only the social elite were able to learn English, thus enabling them to form connections internationally, leaving the rest of the country behind.
After Rana rule collapsed in 1950 education was liberalised, and was finally offered to all. However, due to the Caste structure in Nepal, there were still deep social divides, with higher castes still having access to the prestigious English tuition, and the lower castes, ethnic and religious minorities were again left behind, with poorly funded schools, a severe lack of qualified teachers and a lack of child-friendly environments leading to low enrolment rates and high drop-out rates among these communities. This divide was due to one main factor; private schools charging fees, employing more qualified teachers, and teaching in English. Compared with government schools, private schools had much higher School Leaving Certificate (SLC) pass rates, but more importantly, the students were learning English, something considered to be essential for a successful life.
In 1996, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) propagated a civil war against the government. This greatly affected schools as the Maoist forces became violent against private schools and government schools, while some schools became politically aligned and were used as recruiting grounds for the rebel forces.
In 1990 an international conference for Education For All (EFA) developed an agenda to provide a universal basic education to all children. Nepal adopted the global EFA initiatives and also implemented the Basic & Primary Education Project as a national response to the EFA. From their implementation to their end in 2006, these initiatives went a great way in increasing access to education despite the political difficulties caused by the civil war and engrained social perceptions.
The school system in Nepal has become decentralised, giving more control to the schools and communities rather than the government, allowing schools to cater better to local needs. Schools that are a part of this decentralised system are called Community Schools. These are managed by School Management Committees (SMCs) which are made up of members of the local community, working closely with the Head-teacher and local government officials to improve educational quality and raise funds for the upkeep and development of the school and teachers.
In Nepal there are conflicting ideals of diversity and identity trying to be enforced by an idea of uniformity that actually increases the inequalities experienced by the ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities. By decentralising the educational system, diversity is allowed to flourish as Community Schools are able to develop their own curriculum based on the needs of the local community, and some have even developed their own code of conduct. An important development of Community Schools is their ability to teach in ‘mother-tongue’, as there are over 90 living languages in Nepal, but for the past 60 years, education was predominantly in Nepali and/or English.
Today, English remains the most highly regarded educational tool, as it is often a prerequisite for a career at an international donor agency – the gateway for social mobility. However, there is still a split between schools that offer tuition in English and those that do not. Private schools are no longer the only schools to offer English, Public Schools and Community Schools do, but these often require their students to pay extra for the English tuition, creating a gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.
Social mobility is a shared aspiration of parents for their children, and is something that is regarded as only possible through an English-medium education and/or education in Nepali, preferably at a private school. ‘Mother-tongue’ education, although hoped to decrease the divisions between localities and minorities, actually increases divisions due to the belief that social mobility and development is only possible though English or Nepali education. Private Schools tap into parents aspirations for their children’s development and future, creating a new ‘caste-structure’ of the affluent and poorer communities.
Community schools have gone a long way in increasing community involvement with the education system, allowing a more integrated ‘local’ education that is more relevant to the community, and also allowing communities to exert control over under-performing teachers. But this also has associated problems as teachers are feeling disengaged and feel a lack of control over their profession, leading to resistance towards decentralisation and Community Schools.
Overall, Nepal has made great progress in reforming its education system, especially if one reminds themselves of the position they were in 65 years ago. They are getting much closer to their original goal of providing a universal education to children in Nepal, especially to previously ignored groups, such as girls and Dalits.
The decentralisation of the education system and the creation of Community Schools is an important factor in providing quality education to all. In the areas where the Community School system works, it works extremely well.
Community Schools need to engage with both the community and teachers, so that the school becomes a centre of shared learning. But also should be of benefit to the community, teachers, and students, which can be achieved via strong leadership.
Teacher morale is extremely important, as they can be the biggest hindrance to, or driving force of,the success of a community school. Schools that engage and involve the teachers with the design of policies, curriculum, codes of conduct, and listen to their requests re: fair salaries, safe working environments, eliminating discrimination, access to training and development, etc. will perform better than schools that do not. Indeed, teacher motivation and involvement in the life of the school appears to be vital in order for them to feel part of the Community.
Nepal is continuing in its fight to provide quality education to all children and to eliminate inequalities. Social barriers need to be knocked down, something that Community Schools have the potential to do as they can combat the discrimination towards ‘mother-tongue’ languages by making them more common in an educational setting. They are also driving towards including more female and minority group teachers, as well as implementing strict standards for teacher qualifications.
NGOs, charities and international aid are still vital in providing schools, communities and individuals with the resources required for an education, and they will play an integral role in the future. But Nepal is beginning to show that it can operate independently of international or charitable aid in the education sector by engaging its communities in the efforts to raise money and develop the education system.
The QRi Team x
The Value of Measuring Countries as Brands Using QRi QualiQuant®
QRi are FutureBrand’s independent global research partner for the Country Brand Index. We have been collaborating with Futurebrand using our QualiQuant® methodologies to build the Country Brand index of 75 countries, which was launched today!
We defined the research approach against FutureBrand’s initial hypothesis, providing in-depth analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data underpinning the report, as well as managing recruitment, and questionnaire development.
Determining Emotional & Rational Responses
When a person first experiences something, their face gives away their emotions through small muscle contractions called micro-expressions. People make choices in only a few milliseconds; the emotional and cognitive centres in the brain made the decision before you realise you have made the decision.
So, while you are forming your first impressions or making a decision, your facial expressions are giving away your thoughts before you even know you’ve had them!
This is really important for market researchers as it gives an insight into emotional thoughts and reactions before a person’s rational processes take over and influence they way they act.
Market researchers can use facial coding and eye tracking to understand how people think and feel.
Eye tracking allows researchers to see where the viewers (e.g. of an advert, video game etc.) are looking, the results of which can later be analysed to provide evidence of visual patterns. This is very popular in research into effective adverts, websites, television programmes, commercials, and many more.
Eye tracking can be used to assess the effectiveness of branding, navigation usability, advertisements, and overall design by examining fixation, blinking, pupil dilation, and saccades (the fast movement of eyes).
Facial coding looks at the facial expressions caused by contractions and relaxations of the facial muscles, voluntary and involuntary (the difference being that involuntary ones are much faster and fleeting than voluntary ones). These are basically system 1 and system 2 responses. System 1 is generally automatic and affective, which means it relies on mental “shortcuts” i.e. they are emotional responses. System 2 is more controlled, slow, effortful and conscious i.e. they are rational responses.
“System 1 is really in charge as it effortlessly originates impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2” – John Pawle & Dominique Delfaud
We used facial coding in our study into cappuccino flavours (How does your cappuccino feel?) to see the system 1 responses and compare them to system 2 responses. We were testing new and unusual cappuccino flavours and found that consumers first reactions are to try and recognise the flavours rather than determine if they actually like or dislike them.
When the brain experiences an unexpected taste they show surprise as a system 1 response, but once the taste buds become acclimatised to the flavour, perhaps after a second taste, they may become more positive (or negative) about it, showing their system 2 response.
This shows that experience of the taste changes over time as system 2 responses take over from system 1 responses. We found that unrecognised or foreign tastes can produce a negative or uncertain system 1 response, but consumers learn to appreciate a taste as they become more familiar with it.
But recognised flavours tended to produce positive system 1 responses and system 2 responses remained positive, indicating that we like what we know as they tap into our emotions and memories to elicit a positive emotional response.
By using facial coding we got a unique insight into people’s emotional responses to flavour and how their rational responses can take over after more exposure to a flavour to change their initial emotional perceptions.
Read more here!
This video by Huffington Post of Kids tasting coffee for the first time will make your day (but it also shows some great system 1 & system 2 responses so it’s academic really…)
The QRi Team x
We thought it might be fun to write a little about some great ads that are out there.
Here is an ad by Somersby brought out the summer of 2013:
For anyone that has ever gone into an Apple store, this is a perfect parody, with enthusiastic staff in matching t-shirts using techno jargon to promote their Apple (cider) products, giving demonstrations and allowing their customers to try out their product for themselves. They tap into and poke fun at (in a loving way) why people queue for hours to view and buy an Apple product, something that many of us have experienced.
The QRi Team x
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover
Everyone knows that we shouldn’t ‘judge a book by its cover’, but unfortunately, that is exactly what we all do, intentionally or not, consciously or not; within the first 39 milliseconds of meeting someone, we have formed our first impressions (Bar, Neta, Linz, (2006) Very First Impressions, Emotion 6 (2): 269-278).
The dimensions of the face are what can make someone look dominant, trustworthy, or attractive and slight changers to these dimensions can affect whether someone finds you approachable, intimidating, intelligent, or untrustworthy.
According to Dr Tom Hartley, there are three dimensions of a first impression:
- Approachability – how approachable is this person? Will they help me? Will they hinder me?
- Dominance – how capable are they of carrying out their intentions?
- Attractiveness – is this person a potential romantic partner? Are they young and good looking?
However, studies suggest that these first impressions can be deeply misleading. A study by Alexander Todorov of Princeton University on people’s first impressions based on still photographs suggests that there is not a static link between face and personality.
“The face is not a still image frozen in time but rather a constantly shifting stream of expressions that convey different mental states” write Todorov and his colleague Jenny Porter. So why do we form opinions so quickly?
It’s something we picked up from childhood, possibly even infancy. A study, published in Psychological Science, found that children as young as three form first impressions based on facial expressions, judging a person’s characteristics such as trustworthiness and competence by looking at their face.
Infants learn to read facial expressions, with activity in the left temporal region of the brain activated by processing positive faces and the right activated by processing negative expressions. This has been linked to our basic survival instincts; positive expressions convey a pleasant meaning, whereas negative expressions convey danger.
Reading facial expressions and making judgements based on them is actually acquired behaviour, something we have honed from infancy. However, in this day and age, with a daily assault of photos of people on social media, this actually might be of detriment to us. Not only in the sense that you can falsely make a judgement about someone based purely on a profile picture, but that people can also manipulate you into falsely believing that they possess certain characteristics such as trustworthiness by a well-chosen (or photoshopped) image. Alternatively, you may be putting a bad or negative image of yourself out there, and based on how quickly people form first impressions, one poorly chosen photo on your Facebook or LinkedIn page may even be enough to influence the first (and sometimes lasting) impression of a potential employer, colleague or friend.
The QRi team x
There has been a lot in the media about Generation Y over the past few years – who are they, what makes them different to Generation X and the Baby Boomers, how are they affecting markets, trends, and the economy, how will they change the way things are done now?
But now, the time has come to ask those same questions again of a different generation, Generation Z.
There is a debate about when Generation Z starts, with some arguing that the earliest members were born in 2000 and others saying they go back as far as 1990, which would mean that the oldest members are now in their early 20s.
So what defines Generation Z? While definitions vary, their general characteristics are as follows:
They are often the children of Generation X, and are completely unique as they have grown up with the internet, never having known a time without it; they are avid networkers, using social networks and mobile phones as their main means of communication and entertainment; and are often referred to as Digital Natives.
The importance of digital media in their lives has had a massive effect on the way that they work and interact with others. Gen Z-ers ‘multi-screen‘, multitasking across up to five platforms daily and spend the majority of their time on computers and mobile devices. Their constant connection to the world (ironically also a sort of disconnection) has given them a fear of missing out, meaning that being connected to social media has become critical in their everyday lives.
But there is much more to Generation Z, than social networking and technology.
Gen Z-ers’ most informative years have existed in a world post-9/11, most not remembering or having experienced relaxed security at airports, or a time before the ‘War on Terror’ or economic recession. This has given them a sense of social justice, philanthropy and maturity. Unfortunately, Gen Z has been given a bad rep by the media in the UK, often being portrayed as selfish, binge drinking, insensitive, badly behaved and out of control. (As if to prove my point, when I searched Google for figures of the number of people in the UK that are 20 or younger, the first page spits up statistics about smoking, binge drinking, drugs, unemployment, and STIs).
About 30.7% of the UK population is below the age of 24, and whilst there are some issues with disaffected youths in this generation, the majority are healthy, respectful, ambitious individuals who care about their education and the world around them. Nothing sums up better how many Gen Z-ers are feeling than this letter by a 16 year old girl written to The Times:
Sir, I am getting increasingly annoyed at the barrage of articles about teenagers, and the adults who keep trying to explain our behaviour (“Moods and meltdowns: what’s inside the teenage brain?, Mar 1).
I am 16 and a straight-A student, like most of my friends. We are not as irrational and immature as adults seem to think. We’ve grown up with financial crises and accept that most of us will be unemployed. We no longer flinch at bloody images of war because we’ve grown up seeing the chaos in the Middle East and elsewhere. Most of us are cynical and pessimistic because of the environment we’ve grown up in – which should be explanation enough for our apparent insolence and disrespect, without “experts” having to write articles about it.
Has no one ever seen that we are angry at the world we live in? Angry that we will have to clean up your mess, while you hold us in contempt, analysing our responses as though we were another species?
I would like adults to treat us not as strange creatures from another world but as human beings with intelligent thought – a little different from yours, perhaps, but intelligent thought nonetheless.
Stop teaching adults how to behave around us, and instead teach them how to respect us.
Kilmarnock, E Ayrshire
Why is all of this so important?
Well, mostly because Generation Z is growing up; they are entering adulthood and starting to have a serious effect on the economy, businesses, technology, media, and so much more, and their influence will only grow.
A study in New York discovered that up to 60% of Gen Z want to change the world or have some impact on the world, compared to 39% of Gen Y, with roughly a quarter of Gen Z-ers being involved in some sort of volunteering. They are much more entrepreneurial than previous generations, with the majority of Gen Z-ers interviewed saying they want to start their own business and be self-employed.
Possibly for these reasons, and a kind of ‘anyone-can-do-it’ attitude, they lack brand loyalty. More concerned with the product than the brand, they will quickly abandon a brand in favour of higher quality. This means that companies will have to rethink their brand and product strategies to always be at the forefront of their field, otherwise they will start losing a large and influential customer base. Their constant connectivity means that they know about things the moment they are happening, and a sort of prestige has developed around being the first to know and spread the word. Companies need to be reaching out to these people first, as the second they know about something, the rest of their network knows too.
But perhaps the most important thing is not to patronise this generation. They have grown up with more access to real world content than any generation before them, and have grown up with full, un-censored knowledge of what is happening in the world. The most important part of Jenni Herd’s letter to The Times is where she asks for youths to be treated as ‘human beings with intelligent thought – a little different from yours, perhaps, but intelligent thought nonetheless’.
It is this feeling that companies need to tap into if they want to be successful with this generation. Don’t be a ‘try-hard’, be genuine. Gen Z-ers know the difference, a skill they have been taught through their constant connection to the internet, they have learnt how to distinguish between the best brands and the top quality products, and the brands that are faking it, trying too hard or not authentic.
Gen Z-ers judge each product on its merits – Mashable used the example of two movies that were release in 2009, one based its marketing strategies on the fact that there were two well-known actors from popular movies, so therefore, this movie must be good. The other built its reputation through film festivals and small scale releases, until word of mouth took over. The first movie (called Year One) made just $62 million, the second (Paranormal Activity) made $193 million, with very little marketing. This goes to show that Gen Z-ers make their own judgements, and take quality over popularity, platform, production value or brand name. They have been described as ‘Curators’ because they collect or curate their own version of the world through what they wear, watch and read.
Finally, as this generation is so connected, it is important to generate (but not dominate or domineer) a conversation with Gen Z-ers. If you can do this effectively, word of mouth marketing will take over, and they will create a transparency around your brand (bad as well as good) that will help you develop and innovate to improve your brand and products and help your future success.
The QRi Team x
Forming and nurturing good relationships between a company and its customer base is the one of the most vital and effective actions a company can take to ensure their success. Promotional engagement of a company or brand is an effective marketing strategy as it directly engages consumers; the consumers can see their in-put from the changes the company has adopted and a relationship between the consumer and company will be developed through this engagement. An example of a company that has begun to change its image through engagement marketing, by listening to their consumers and implementing the changes they have suggested is Ryanair.
Ryanair, the budget airline, has seen its net income double in the second quarter of 2014, rising to £156m. Their chief financial officer Howard Miller has put this down to improvements in customer service. The previously reviled airline company, seems to be turning its image around and attracting new customers that would have previously shunned the company. Within a year Ryanair saw their number of passengers increase by 3% up to 81.7 million. They have put this mostly down to improving customer experience and enhancing their service through many small changes. These include:
- Allocating seats
- Simpler website design
- Free 2nd carry on
- ‘Quiet flights’
- 24 hour grace period for booking errors to be corrected
- Reduced boarding card and bag fees
- A new service for group bookings and corporate travellers
- Families can receive discounts
These are initiatives from the ‘Always Getting Better‘ programme which is hoped to keep increasing the number of Ryanair passengers and expand their customer base to encompass corporate travel and business customers. So maybe good customer service really is all it takes to be successful. Ryanair was previously known for its extremely cheap flights but terrible customer service (there are many horror stories circulating about the service of the Ryanair airline and it was even been cited as the worst brand for customer service in 2013), but now it seems to be turning its image around, keeping its low cost flights and improving its other services to really compete with other budget airlines. Although, it may take some time to see how effective this customer service reform is in the long term on their image as a budget airline; there seems to be a lot of negativity to dispel first.
The QRi Team x