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The Fart of War
How emerging concerns around methane will impact dairy consumption Burps & farts. They are hilarious. But their impact on climate change is no laughing matter. Especially when it comes to the methane gas generated by livestock. As this article illustrates, belching bovines produce 26 percent of U.S. methane emissions related to human activities, second only to natural gas production (29 percent). And, since more and more consumers are educating themselves on how their consumption is impacting others, we at MotivBase wanted to better understand how expectations around methane gas and dairy were shifting. Namely: Who cares about this issue? What are the growing demands that consumers will increasingly place on brands and companies that require dairy production for their products? To uncover the answers to these questions, we leveraged our MotivBase Trends Platform to perform an anthropological analysis of the meanings consumers link to Methane Reduction, in the context of buying dairy products. Consumers want to advocate with their wallet When we explore this culture of methane reduction, our system can analyze the language used by consumers as they directly and indirectly engage around a topic. By applying structural anthropology to studying online data, we can not only identify new and emerging priorities for the consumer. But we can identify the unspoken motivations, attitudes, values and fears that are hidden in the language and word choice used by people as they discuss an issue. Consumers who care about methane reduction believe in relying on scientific data and logic to make decisions on what is or isn't good for them, their families, their communities, and the planet. Not only do they value eco-centricity, but they are fearful that major corporations have too much power over a relatively compliant population that's being kept in ignorance. As a result they are motivated by a deep desire to prove they are trying to make the world a better place. This group is driven to make a difference through their actions. In their minds, this is more powerful than just words and helps to make the world slightly better than how they found it. This movement is early on but growing. When we examine how mature this mindset is in the marketplace, we can see that it is relevant to 34.8 Million Americans, and that it is still an “idea” that sits in Early Consensus. From an anthropological perspective, a topic is mature when it is consistently understood to mean the same set of things in culture. And conversely, it is considered immature when the meanings that it stands for are constantly evolving or exhibit inconsistent patterns. The further down the right a topic sits on the maturity curve, the more consistently it is understood by consumers to mean something(s) to them in their lives. But while this movement is early on, our system predicts the population size will grow by +60% and the topic will reach mainstream acceptance in the next 12-24 months. What is driving growth? Within the Macroculture of Methane Reduction, our team of PhD Social Scientists was able to follow the breadcrumbs left by consumers to identify 4 key Microcultures that are driving increased awareness and concerns around this issue. Consumers are Realizing Grass-fed = More Gas Consumers are learning that dairy cows digest and absorb grains more easily than grass, producing less methane. This microculture is relevant to 36.3 million Americans and growing by 34%. These consumers appreciate the environmental benefits of a quick-digesting diet that delivers more nutrients to cows and reduces their methane output at the same time. But they share concerns that growing grain for cattle may use up too much land. Healthy Cows = Less Gas Consumers believe that methane emissions can be reduced if dairy cows' lifespan is maximized because so much methane is produced in the weaning and maturation years of replacement cows.
And they think that humane treatment of animals is the best way to achieve longevity. For example, they're reading that regular rest from milking reduces exhaustion and helps prevent painful inflammatory conditions (e.g. mastitis) that lead to premature slaughter. This microculture is relevant 28.1 million Americans and growing by +40%. Burp Bibs to the Rescue.
Consumers are increasingly looking to the dairy industry to use the latest biotech to improve cows' digestive chemistry and collect, convert, and recycle methane. This includes learning about solar-powered, wearable methane collectors that capture the methane that a cow exhales and turns it into CO2 and water. Or Burp Bibs that can be placed around a bovines face. Relevant to 24.1 million consumers, this desire for modernized solutions in agriculture is growing by +41%. Consumers are “over” over production:
Overproduction in the dairy industry means overproduction of methane emissions. This microculture is relevant to 19 million Americans but is growing by +33%. Consumer are increasingly getting frustrated by the food spoilage that comes from unsold dairy, and they think farms should scale back production to match consumer demand to eliminate food waste and reduce methane emissions. Conclusion: While the culture of reduced methane in dairy is still relatively small, we are seeing more and more consumers question the choices dairy producers make. As more and more people grow increasingly aware of how their choices impact the environment, the more they will start to consider how their personal dairy consumption impacts the world around them. Will consumers start to demonize grass-fed dairy, as they increasingly link this to promoting methane production? Will consumers be willing to spend more for products where they feel confident the animals were treating humanely, not just for the good of the animal, but for the good of the planet? Our findings would indicate the answer is yes. But the rate of this change will depend on which companies embrace this consumer-led demand and make them more accessible to a larger, more mainstream group of consumers.
Understanding the Boob Window
How consumer expectations for female superheroes are changing. For decades, the superhero universe has been dominated by men. Male characters have been thrust in the limelight, while female characters have been leveraged as supporting roles, or mere victims for our caped crusaders to save time and time again. Recently a shift in culture has led to more gender representation amongst superheroes, specifically in film. Captain Marvel and Black Widow have had their own blockbusters produced in the Marvel universe. Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn have become lead characters in multiple DC movies. While the media has largely focused on troll culture (especially during the casting of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel and that film’s subsequent launch), we here at MotivBase were curious if this type of thinking was as dominant as social media and the news would have us believe. Or was there something deeper and more meaningful hiding behind all the chatter? As we well see, there is a culture shift underway challenging the toxic masculinity that has been associated with hero culture in the past. To explore this area, we used our MotivBase Trends Platform to explore the culture of female superheroes. Naturally the tension of female heroes being compared to their male counterparts. But as we can see in the screenshot from our platform posted above, there is also a direct association with the culture of female superheroes and the desire for strong female characters. Consumers are linking this culture with how comics treat women, how movies approach building a female cast and how females are not just underrepresented as heroes, but also as villains in film. But perhaps most interesting is the association consumers are making to the role of how female superheroes are physically portrayed and how their costumes often hypersexualize the character. This is captured in the topic “Boob Window”. A Boob Window is a hole in clothing or a female superhero’s costume that shows a woman's cleavage. It can appear on the front of the chest or on the side, but the intent is to make the costume more revealing. In order to better understand why the topic or meaning behind the boob window is so dominant, we double-clicked into this culture. As we can see in the topic universe, this is not a “troll” championing the sexualization of female super characters. In fact, it is the opposite. The Boob Window is a cultural artifact being used by consumers to say that the superhero genre needs to be more respectful of its depictions of women. Consumers are increasingly contemplating the unrealistic body images that can be found in superhero universes. The purpose behind why a costume is designed a certain way is being discussed. And consumers are more readily comparing the way we treat female heroes to how we treat their male counterparts. Perhaps, most interestingly, true comic aficionados are rejecting when a film adaptation sexualizes a female character's outfit, and deviates from an original comic design that didn’t showcase that character’s breasts. One example of this is the choices made during the movie X-Men Apocalypse when Olivia Munn’s costume for her character Psylocke added a Boob Window to the already revealing original design. When we turn to what is motivating this shift in culture, we can see that consumers want to be seen as someone who has the desire and ability to succeed in life. And they are not afraid to work hard, as they believe that this effort will be rewarded with positive outcomes. But we can also see that this desire for a more balanced approach to how female superheroes are portrayed is intrinsically linked to how women are portrayed in the beauty industry and by a growing awareness in how a patriarchy has driven unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for women. What does this tell us about the future? First, it points to a push towards more equality in the universes of superheroes. Old tropes are being challenged, and expectations are being reset. Secondly, this push towards a more body positive approach to the female form and femininity is not just taking place as consumers consider the female superhero. This trend is emerging in the retail landscape, the fashion industry, and (as we mentioned) in beauty. Cultures are not isolated and distinct. They intersect and impact each other. We anticipate this trend will only grow with time. As we can see in the chart above, the culture is currently relevant to 35.7 million people, but is predicted to grow by more than 14% in the next 12-24 months. Conclusion: While we often are distracted by the loudest voices on social media or the latest topic to trend on Twitter, we have to remind ourselves that a lot of chatter does not, a trend make. In order to understand if something is consistently growing in importance in culture, and is likely to have a long term impact on how we think, we need to go beyond what is being said to explore why things are being expressed. As we can see with something as specific as the boob window, there is something deeper transpiring than the mere talk of cleavage. It is a shifting expectation that women deserve more respect. As parents introduce superheroes to their children, they are more aware of how this sexualization has a negative impact on self esteem. As more women become fanatics of the Marvel and DC universe, they start to expect their heroes to be treated with equal respect to how male heroes would be treated. Because that is a fantasy, they want to also see transpire more in the real world.
Are plant proteins really the way of the future?
What market data and projections will not tell you. According to NielsenIQ, the Fresh Meat Alternative category has grown by over 25% this year (last 52 weeks) compared to the period before. But so has Traditional Fresh Meat, although only at 4.2%. I was recently in a meeting where an executive used these data points to tell her team that they needed to accelerate their plant protein innovations because they were missing out on important growth opportunities. At first glance, one might be tempted to conclude that plant proteins are the way of the future. But a quick look at the comparative size of the alternative meat category gives us much needed perspective. The fresh meat category is twenty-four times the size of its alternative counterpart, making what previously looked like a rather nominal 4.2% growth rate appear a lot more significant. While this type of market analysis is necessary and can provide a good understanding of what might be going on, it does not help us understand why. Queue in the music...here comes the Cultural Anthropologist. Understanding why the marketplace might be exhibiting two seemingly contradictory behaviors is exactly the type of question for which you need to keep the anthropologists around. Because their job is to study and decode meaning. By asking not what people are saying or doing but rather what they mean or imply by their actions, anthropologists can decode ‘the why’ behind shifts in culture and help us avoid the tunnel vision that market data often creates. To do this in the context of plant proteins, an anthropologist must study the natural language and specifically, the words that are used by consumers when they are engaging in conversations in the broader context of plant proteins. This is fundamentally what the field of structural anthropology is all about. It tells us that the structure of language in any context is representative of the structure of the human mind. Which means, studying the language used in and around plant proteins allows an anthropologist to understand and pinpoint the most dominant interpretations of plant proteins in people's minds. For example, if a lot of the words used in this context are about nutrition, then an anthropologist asks why there is so much discourse around it only to discover that it is because people are concerned about whether alternative meats will lack the nutritional density of their traditional counterparts. In fact, in a recent study that my team of anthropologists conducted using MotivBase Trends, examining discourse among more than four hundred thousand unique Americans around alternative meats and plant proteins, we discovered that the meanings around “plant proteins” were quite different from the meanings around “alternative meats” or even “faux-meat burgers”. When people talk in the context of “plant protein”, they are referencing a new way of eating and living. The requirements are significantly more stringent for consumers in this context because they are thinking about it as a lifestyle change to adopt more plant proteins in their day-to-day diet. On the other hand, when people talk in the context of “alternative meats”, they are referencing a single moment in time when they feel the need to replace a traditional solution with an alternative one. Perhaps it is to accommodate a vegetarian guest in the house, or to simply reduce one's meat consumption from time to time, but the mindset is one that is short-lived. Which also means that the requirements that go along with it are less stringent. For example, in the context of “alternative meats”, consumers expect less in terms of matching the nutritional qualities and density of traditional proteins. They are also less concerned about how these alternative products are made or how much sugar they contain and tend to focus their time and energy on the issue of taste and experience rather than nutritional density and value. All this of course changes when we enter the culture of “plant protein” where the conversation is significantly more nuanced around the specific micro- and macro-nutrients that traditional and alternative meats need to deliver to ensure a balanced and healthy diet and lifestyle. So if you looked at the growth numbers around the industry-defined category of Fresh Alternative Meats and thought you needed to expand or accelerate your plant protein strategy, I'd urge you to think again. Take a step back and ask if you are making any blatant assumptions about what these category names really mean to the consumer. Ask whether the way the industry defines alternative meats is the same as the way people define it. Because when you do, you'll discover that you need to be very specific in how you interpret market performance data. Growth in substitutes represents a different culture and a different opportunity than plant protein does. Industry measurements may not make this distinction, but you have to...because your consumers do. Unfortunately, these types of assumptions of meaning are commonplace in corporative innovation and marketing and it results in the launch of products and brands that end up hurting an entire category or culture. In fact, Mintel has just released a study claiming that the food industry's obsession with plant-protein claims is actually making the category lose its credibility in the eyes of the consumer. It only takes a few minutes for us to ask such questions through an anthropological lens. For example, we can see that "plant protein" as a culture is stagnating and volatile, while "alternative meat" as a culture is growing...and now we know why that might be the case. This is why you need to keep the anthropologists around. They will help you ask not what people are saying and doing but rather what they mean. Meaning invariably opens up doors we didn't even know existed, and perhaps most importantly, gets us out of an industry-led mindset to begin to speak the consumer's language.
Why are performance nutrition bar sales dropping?
How studying meaning can reveal the “why” behind market shifts and protect you from making hasty decisions. As many CPG teams will tell you, COVID-19 caused sales slumps for a number of food categories. And one of the biggest drops was performance nutrition bars.
Why? Articles like this suggest that the dip in sales was linked to consumers not needing a “grab-and-go” solution during a stay-at-home period. The article goes on to say that, according to Nielsen statistics, sales of performance nutrition bars were down 17% in the first seven months of lockdowns. But, is the drop in sales simply due to a short-term change in behavior? Or is there a deeper, more meaningful cultural shift transforming consumer expectations? After all, while restrictions have started to lift and consumers are starting to head back out into the world, personal nutrition bar sales have continued to dip, dropping another 19% in the last 28 weeks. To better understand the “why” behind this shift in the market, we turned to our MotivBase Trends platform to study the changing meanings that are shaping the culture of performance nutrition bars.
The difference two years can make. We began by looking back at the culture of performance and nutrition bars from two years ago (or pre-pandemic). Immediately, we can see that the culture was relatively nascent, but growing. Nutrition bars in the context of performance were relevant to the 24.2 million Americans, but the role nutrition bars could play in helping one maintain energy levels and prevent loss of muscle mass was pushing this culture closer to the mainstream. Also, nutrition bars were linked to topics like gym performance, heavy workouts, and achieving what the consumer calls “an airbrushed look”. In essence, nutrition bars were associated most dominantly with improving both physical fitness, and attractiveness. When we leveraged our AI Anthropology engine to analyze the long form text used by consumers as they engaged with topics linked to performance and nutrition bars, the dominant motivation was the desire to “Unlock the full potential of the body” and the most dominant attitude was to prove “My health is completely in my control”. In essence, performance Nutrition Bars were benefiting from an association with being attractive. They also served as a reward or treat after you sacrificed in the gym or during your workout. But then, the pandemic hit. Fast Forward to 2020 When we examine the exact same culture one year later, we can see a pretty drastic change. First, the culture grew, and was relevant to a larger portion of the population (61.4 Million Consumers). But the culture became volatile. As a reminder, when a topic is volatile, this is our AI system saying that there is so much inconsistency, we can’t calculate growth. We can estimate where it sits on the maturity curve, but there is so much disagreement or new meanings entering the cultural universe, that we can’t confidently predict that a topic is increasing in relevance with consumers. To better understand why the culture became volatile, we can look to see if any new motivations have emerged. Immediately, we can see that the role of social connection has infiltrated the culture. Given the threat of Covid-19, people became less concerned about physical prowess and performance, and more concerned with the feeling like they were nurturing human relationships. We can also see this in the topics consumers associated with the culture. The linkage to gyms was replaced with more individualistic types of exercise. But, perhaps more importantly, consumers more readily linked nutrition bars to indulgent, hedonistic food options. Nutrition bars were no longer a “treat” after a workout. They were competing with other, more indulgent snacks because the role of exercise was disrupted. Performance Nutrition Bars in the Present When we examine this culture in the present, we can see that the topics consumers are associating with performance nutrition are still volatile, and the size of the culture has decreased compared to a year ago. By examining the topic universe, we can see a return to concerns around the body and the role of exercise. But there is one key difference that surfaces. Consumers are more educated on the “problems of sugar”. This association with sugar was not dominant in 2019 or in 2020. Yet in 2021, the problem of sugar surfaces as one of the key associations being made by consumers as they engage in the culture of performance and nutrition bars. And this association is impacting the motivations and attitudes that dominate the culture. If we look at the two most dominant motivations, we can see that it is being led by consumers that are dedicated to gathering evidence to validate their decisions when it comes to food. They are also looking to advocate on behalf of what they believe to improve the world around them. But they are also suspicious of big food companies for promoting products that actually contain unhealthy ingredients like sugar. In layman’s terms, it seems like while the pandemic made more people ask if nutrition bars were right for them, it also led to more people educating themselves on whether a nutrition bar was truly nutritious, or full of sugars that were negating the so-called benefit of the bar. What does this mean for the future? With this understanding of the changes in meaning that have reshaped Performance Nutrition Bars, we can now leverage the Motivbase & Nielsen IQ Combined Service, to better understand where the market is headed. Essentially, any culture that is identified can then be matched to the NielsenIQ sales data, to identify categories and product groups that are most relevant to consumers. This can tell us if there are solutions that are currently winning in a culture (sales are increasing) or if there is a decrease in sales, this indicates a potential gap in the market. As you will see, the category of performance nutrition bars is decreasing (as was called out in the article above. But interestingly enough there is a group of healthy nutrition bars that are bucking the overall category trend. While there is still a decrease in overall sales, the Top Gainers are growing by 33%. An examination of the “Top Gainers” reveals brands that are positioned to use natural sugars or limited amounts of sugar. Simple Mills, Boobie Bars and Fit Crunch all look to reinforce the limited amount of sugar in their bars, and Love Good Fats is positioned as Diabetes Friendly. This similar trend can be seen in the New Coming products, like Alani Fit Snacks and Hungry Buddha bars. Conclusion: Covid-19 didn’t just hurt Performance Nutrition Bars by impacting grab-and-go occasions. Covid-19 made consumers: Re-evaluate the importance of perfecting their physical appearance Reprioritize how they treat themselves Reconsider how healthy a performance nutrition bar really is (especially in the context of healthy amounts of sugar). Focusing entirely on sales data fails to reveal the bigger picture of what is happening in consumer culture. As we’ve seen in previous articles, cultural data, like the data above, can help us better understand the emotional journey that consumers are going on, to better predict the longevity and potential for a trend. This is why adding an anthropological lens to your business is so important.
Looking Back on the Business of the Super League Through an Anthro-Lens
Could thinking about meaning have kept England's most-moneyed football clubs from going offside? When 12 of Europe’s top football (or soccer!) teams banded together and announced on April 18th that they would form a breakaway Super League to loosen UEFA’s death grip on top tier inter-league competitions, they didn’t expect the reaction: the 130 million soccer fans in Europe’s big five markets (Spain, England, France, Italy, Germany) unanimously decried it as the death of football. In England, where the so-called “Big Six”– that is, the wealthiest clubs in England’s top league: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Tottenham – signed on, the response was most febrile. Outside of Elland Road (Leeds Utd), Stamford Bridge, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and Emirates Stadium fans protested. At Old Trafford, they even managed to breach the stadium and force a postponement of a match. Owners were bewildered by the strong and at times violent response of their fans. The question then becomes, if the top brass at England ’s most-moneyed clubs had considered what their fans were saying, had understood the context, and had cared to consider meaning in football’s cultural environment, could they have been better prepared for this reaction? A look at MotivBase’s system says yes. Our engine gathered and examined over a million structural connections from the language of fans prior to the announcement of the Super League. The results are not that surprising: fans outright discussed how a super league would ruin football, contravening the spirit of the sport and putting profits over the beauty of the game. These weren’t just words, but together represent a universe of language that can reveal the meaning behind the fans’ reactions – you know, the people who pay the gate fees, buy merchandise, and generally drive profit for clubs by increasing their marketability. By studying the structure of their language, we see that it was not a rejection of England’s richest clubs making more money that rankled fans, but that a super league would not be a proper competition. In other words, winning not buying success is what should give teams the opportunity to make their mark in Europe. This seems like a subtle difference and daresay even an obvious one, but the owners and their brain trusts missed it. Had they not, maybe they could have built an alternative to UEFA’s Champions League more palatable to fans, one that wouldn’t have collapsed only 48 hours after being announced. European Football Competitions at a Glance The landscape of European football can be confusing. Almost every country has their top-tier domestic league and below that extends a football pyramid, from which teams can be promoted or worse, demoted. Each country has their own football association that governs the sport and the leagues domestically. Now, there are also intercontinental competitions between teams from Europe’s various domestic leagues, and these are overseen by UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations. Every year, teams from all of Europe’s top domestic leagues can win the right to play in one of UEFA’s competitions, the most prestigious being the Champions League. They do so by finishing at the top or near the top of their domestic tables, depending on the league. While sporting glory is up for grabs, so too is a lot of money: in the 2019/2020 Champions League, for example, all teams were set to get a piece of about 2.5 Billion USD, which came from broadcasting rights, commercial rights, and gate sales. For many fans, the beauty of this structure is that to secure their piece of the pie, domestic clubs can never take a night off, each match is of importance. In leagues where there is increasing parity on the pitch, like England’s Premier League, a team near the bottom can beat one of the league’s top clubs on any given night (for example, Aston Villa crushing the defending league champions Liverpool 7-2). This is exciting stuff for fans, but not for the top clubs, where revenue is king. Enter the Super League. The brainchild of Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez, it offered the biggest clubs and brands easy money: nearly 500 million US dollars per year for each team with no qualification necessary. This was a closed shop, and for England’s Big Six, who have an eye-watering combined value of over 20 Billon USD, it was just too tempting to pass up. But this league, where the rich would get richer, provoked the ire of England’s football fans. Rather than just chalking this up to jealousy over the financial might of the few, we asked why; the answer: proper competition The Meaning of Proper Competition Long before the announcement to form the Super League, leading voices in the UK were worried about the state of football there; they witnessed the financial disparities affecting the game, which favor the big clubs, and called for regulations. For the fans, the sentiment was the same: the financial gap between the Big Six, their big-money owners - especially the American contingent of the Glazers, Fenway Sports Group, and Stan Kroenke -, and the rest was problematic. Of the 20 teams that form England’s top flight competition, these clubs consumed nearly 60% of the revenue, and their financial muscle has translated on the pitch. No club outside of these six, except Leicester in 2016, has finished in the top 4 spots (qualifying for UEFA’s Champions League) in the last decade. Nevertheless, the Premier League still offered tough competition. Take the most recent season, finished after the Super League debacle: Arsenal failed to qualify for a European competition for the first time in 25 years. Instead, West Ham United grabbed a coveted spot in UEFA’s second tier competition (the Europa League) in only its second time finishing in the top 6 spots in those same 25 years! It was this possibility, a team like West Ham ousting Arsenal from a top spot, that got fans’ blood pumping. For them, it was what the Premier League was all about. So when the Super League was only still a whisper, fans were already asking: what was it going to do to the quality of the game? To them, it would turn meaningful games into drab affairs where the results didn’t matter and the big clubs might rest their best players, saving them for the games that tied to the largest financial returns. The idea of a league that offered the Big Six automatic qualification which didn’t rely on sporting merit, well this was anathema. To keep the integrity of the game, these fans talked about the need for a proper competition, not one that would squeeze out smaller clubs, lining the pockets of the richest clubs even when they didn’t win a thing. After applying an anthro-lens to evaluate the meanings associated with the culture of fairness among the UK’s football fans, an obvious fact emerged: even before April 18th fans strongly believed that a super league not grounded on the principles of fair competition would destroy their game. By mapping and quantifying these meanings, we could even make a few predictions: we saw that this belief was relevant to 25.2M consumers in the UK and growing. More than this, there was established consensus among fans that a super league was about buying success and would undermine any notion of fair competition. And while meaning in a culture can change and be re-shaped, once those meanings become established there is little to be done outside of ensuring compliance with consumer needs. Organizations need to build solutions that respond to and address the cultural requirements laid out by the consumer. So, joining a super league when your fans are vehemently opposed? Well, that’s just bad business. Had the top brass of England’s biggest clubs considered taking an anthropological approach to studying their fan base, they would’ve potentially saved themselves from a PR embarrassment and certainly from losing millions of pounds.
Mood Management & Snacking
Uncovering Innovation Opportunities using the MotivBase & NielsenIQ Combined Service Tired of trend tools that give you a top 10 list but no consumer context around what you really need to do? The MotivBase & NielsenIQ Combined Service doesn’t just tell you IF something is trending. It decodes WHY something is trending, delivers a more accurate prediction of its growth and validates the market potential of a trend by matching consumer insights with NielsenIQ sales data. To showcase this, let’s look at the culture of mood management, but point our attention to the role snacks are playing in the mind of the consumer. Why Meaning Matters: At its core, MotivBase is an AI Anthropologist that can decode the implicit meanings behind the topics, trends, ideas, and categories that matter to your business. In layman’s terms, when you run a search on our platform, you are asking us to help you understand the meanings that are associated with it by consumers. Your search is asking MotivBase to create a MACROCULTURE that you wish to explore. By analyzing millions of people, tens of millions of conversations, and billions of connections, our AI examines the broader context of discussions around your search. Take a look at this MACROCULTURE focused on mood management and snacks. As we can see, the most dominant meanings associated with this MACROCULTURE are things like meal planning, eating smaller meals and increasing snack consumption, and finding habits, foods and routines that help you control your cravings or deal with urges in a healthy and productive way. These are MICROCULTURES that are shaping the overall MACROCULTURE of Mood Management and Snacks. In addition to identifying the dominant associations consumers are making, we can also leverage the platform to look at the past 4 years of engagement to identify if these MACROCULTURES and MICROCULTURES are growing (or increasing in relevance in the mind of consumers) to prioritize innovation opportunities. For example if we look at the MACROCULTURE itself, we can see that it is currently relevant to 76.8M people and is expected to grow by 13.2% in 12-24 months. This MACROCULTURE also is just about to mature and land in what we call the Zone of Innovation. This tells us that the AI is seeing increased amounts of agreement and consensus on what mood management means and the role snacking plays in it. This suggests that it is the perfect time to innovate and serve up new solutions. But we can also size MICROCULTURES. Let’s examine the MICROCULTURE of Planning Meals This culture is currently relevant to 70.2M people and is expected to grow by 12.9% in 12-24 months. And once again, we are seeing it mature and enter into the ZONE OF INNOVATION. Now compare that to the culture of Controlling or Curbing Craving. Not only does it sit in early consensus, where consumers are still figuring out how this relates to mood management and snacking, it is only predicted to grow by 7%, and that is estimated to take upwards of 5 years. So.... If you want to make inroads with consumers when it comes to mood management, your snacking solutions need to complement or work in conjunction with meal planning. By studying the associations and meanings consumers are revealing for us, we can see they desire snacks that help them portion control and allow them to be more mindful of their consumption. They may talk about cravings. But the true goal is to snack smart, nourish themselves to avoid mood swings and make it to the planned meals that they have strategized to feed themselves. It is a subtle difference, but you are not crushing the craving. You're providing the perfect solution to fit into the consumers routine and food strategy, that keeps them on target and adhering to their food plan. Are there a lot of mentions about craving control? Yes. Does controlling cravings get mentioned more than meal planning? Yes. Which is precisely why we focus on meanings rather than mentions. When we ask what these mentions mean, we discover that the connection between meal planning and mood management is significantly stronger and more mature than the connection between mood management and curbing cravings. Which basically means that snacks that are proactively planned versus reactively consumed will be more relevant to people that are looking to better control their mood, but controlling their food consumption. Now, what products are currently solving this problem? CULTURAL DATA MEETS SALES DATA: By adding NielsenIQ data to our MotivBase Platform we are now able to match what trends really mean to existing products and their marketplace performance. In the past, our clients would have to manually find products that they think fit into the culture of mood management. Now, they can rely on our Anthropology Engine to do so for them. When we run a search for a topic in MotivBase Trends, our AI Anthropologist analyzes the meanings most associated with Mood Management, and then surfaces products that most match those meanings. In essence, the machine is identifying products that fit a macroculture because of the way they are marketed, categorized, make certain claims, or hold certain characteristics. Here are some immediate observations we can make by examining the data from NielsenIQ. Overall, even the top selling products in this macroculture are all losing sales YOY. This is contrary to the macroculture itself, which is growing in the next 24 months. Apparently, the existing solutions in the market are not sufficiently solving the problem that is most relevant to consumers in the context of Mood Management. We’ve identified a gap in the marketplace. So, what is primed to fill this gap? Well, there are only three categories growing - dessert bars, baking cups and brownies. But, in each of these categories, the focus was on claims and characteristics that focused on naturally and lightly sweetened products with real, healthful ingredients. This tells us that consumers are focused on desserts and sweets that can satisfy them through the day or after a meal. They consider such solutions to be uplifting, but want to ensure these products do not contain any ingredients that can have a negative impact on their mood. Furthermore, because the focus is more so on meal planning than on curbing craving, it teaches us that these categories are of interest to consumers as long as they can fit into their planning routine. This isn’t about impulse buying or eating but rather about planning sweets that can uplift the mood and still feel good because it’s made with better-for-me ingredients. MotivBase = Cultural Trend NielsenIQ = Sales Data With a MotivBase license, you get the world’s only AI Anthropology engine capable of decoding and quantifying the meanings behind emerging cultural trends. And with the NielsenIQ integration, you get an easy and efficient way to match what a trend really means to existing products and their marketplace performance. It’s everything an insight or innovation team needs to build robust business cases for your organization.
Why meaning matters.
In April this year, as the people of India were trying to come to terms with an overwhelming spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Washington Post Journalist Annie Gowen tweeted a shocking photo of an open-air crematorium in New Delhi with the caption "Stunning photo of funeral pyres in Delhi…". She was immediately attacked by politicians, journalists, and citizens from India and around the world for her choice of words. People mostly felt that her use of the word "stunning" was not only inappropriate but also propagated an imperialist and racist narrative toward the developing world. Did Ms. Gowen use an inappropriate word? Technically speaking, no. By using the word "stunning", she was simply implying that the image was in fact shocking. But that is not how it was interpreted because meaning is contextual, and it cares very little for technicality. In the aftermath of the immense criticism she received, Ms. Gowen tweeted once again clarifying the technical definition of the word "stunning" to justify her language in the tweet. What she failed to realize is that what something means is rarely governed just by what some dictionary or technical literature says it means. Meaning is dependent on the context a word gets placed into most often, and the way in which it is used commonly in language. If you examine the analytics around the word "stunning," you will find that it is most often used in the context of implied beauty. For example, according to Google Trends when people search the word stunning, they are often referring to people, music, movies, spaces, and travel destinations. All these contexts are positive and joyful expressions of beauty. The more the word gets used in such contexts, the more it creates a mental image in the mind of people as being a pointer to something that is celebrated, not mourned. Meaning matters. What things mean are constantly changing and evolving in culture. And that has significant implications for the language we use when trying to describe an idea, communicate a benefit, or tell a story. Those that struggle to wrap their minds around the idea of changing meaning will often have to deal with disastrous outcomes. Just ask Burger King. The restaurant company launched a series of campaigns in early March across multiple countries with the tagline "Women belong in the kitchen". While the intent of the campaign was to create a conversation about the under-representation of women in professional kitchens, it did exactly the opposite. It inadvertently gave a voice to a whole crowd of consumers who agreed with the misogynistic interpretation of the statement, which in turn also angered the progressive consumers who were appalled by the cultural insensitivity demonstrated by the Burger King brand. Once again, intention did not match interpretation because no one chose to ask the question - "what would just a statement mean or imply to audiences?" If they had, they would have realized that humor is not one of the implied outcomes of such a statement in today's polarized cultural environment. As a cultural anthropologist, I am preoccupied with the study of meaning. Learning to ask, "what does this mean?" teaches us to be discerning in our use of language, which in turn also helps us learn more about the world and appreciate its nuances and idiosyncrasies. But to think through the lens of meaning, we must internalize three important rules. The first rule is that meaning is rarely technical and often illogical. For example, if you examine the meanings around Gut Health in the United States, you will find that it is anything but scientifically sound. Yet these interpretations, of the value of Gut Health to our lives, exist and drive purchase decisions among millions of people every day. The second rule is that meaning is never fixed. It is always changing. We therefore must be prepared to evolve our understanding of a topic, idea, issue, or trend. The third and final rule is that meaning can be contradictory. That is, there could easily be two opposing interpretations of an idea and they could very well co-exist in culture. For example, if you look at the meanings around organic food, you will find two interpretations of its value to the sustainability movement. One that is positive and the other that is negative, focusing on food waste and the inefficiency of land use. Both these meanings co-exist, which indicates that if we choose to pursue one angle, we will always need to be prepared to deal with the threats posed by the other. Mastering the lens of meaning does not just make us better communicators and marketers, it makes us better prepared as innovators and leaders. It allows us to understand why things are the way they are. And understanding is often the first step to building empathy. Want to learn more? Watch this 4 minute introduction to structural anthropology and learn about how we study and measure the changing nature of what things mean in culture.
Why are immune support supplement sales dropping?
How studying meaning can reveal the “why” behind market shifts and protect you from making hasty decisions. In 2020, COVID-19 was sighted as a major cause for a massive spike in immune support supplement sales. In fact articles like this projected that the growth potential for 2020 would be the highest in a decade. Publications like the Nutrition Business Journal went as far as to project that immune support supplement sales would spike above 25% (up from 8.5% growth in the previous year). But, something changed. People stopped buying. In fact, market data from the last 6 months indicates that sales of immune support supplements have dropped by more than 30%. To better understand the “why” behind this drastic shift in the market, we turned to our MotivBase Trends platform to study the changing meanings that are shaping the culture of immune support supplements. The difference a year can make. We began by looking back at the culture of immune support supplements a year ago, during the peak of the sales spike. Immediately, we can see that the cultural data and the market data did not align. While purchase behavior was showing growth, cultural data was indicating high levels of volatility in consumer culture. From an anthropological perspective, a topic (like immune support supplements) is mature when it is consistently understood to mean the same set of things to large groups of people. Conversely, a topic is considered immature when the meanings that it stands for are constantly evolving or exhibit inconsistent patterns. But when a topic is volatile, this is our AI system saying that there is so much inconsistency, we can’t calculate growth. We can estimate where it sits on the maturity curve, but there is so much disagreement or new meanings entering the cultural universe, that we can’t confidently predict that a topic is increasing in relevance with consumers.
In other words, people might have been buying immune support supplements, but they didn’t agree upon or deeply understand “why” This can also be seen in some of the tensions that present themselves in the topic universe or the dominant meanings that consumers were associating with immune support supplements back in 2020. If we zoom in on the dominant topics that were shaping the culture of immune support supplements in 2020, we can see that consumers were unsure about what the “right solution” was. On one hand, they are looking to vitamins and multivitamins as a potential way to bolster immunity. But we can also see that food (and more specifically the role of nutrition) is also very prominent in the culture. The more we explore the meanings, the more we can see that consumers were going through an awakening, where they were starting to become increasingly aware of the role they needed to play (through diet in particular) in supporting or protecting their immune system. But they are unsure on what is truly, the best solution. This lack of clarity is also very present in the Ethnographic DNA of the consumers who were most engaged in the culture of immune support supplements. In 2020, these were people motivated to take steps to enhance their longevity, and protect the wellbeing of their loved ones. They were in the throws of COVID-19. They were scared. They were looking for ways to take control of their health, but in the process they were deeply confused by the product information that was being presented. But at the core, people in 2020 were fearful of harm, occurring to themselves, and their loved ones. They were trying multiple solutions, but were unclear on if they were actually taking the right steps. The big supplement shift in 2021. When we fast forward to the present, and examine the culture of immune support supplements, we can see two important shifts in the culture. The first is that while the maturity has stabilized and slightly increased, the size of the population that this culture is relevant to, has actually decreased. Secondly, we can see in the topic universe, that unlike 2020, the dominant meanings that consumers are associating with this culture, are much more educated and nuanced than a year ago. Consumers are clearly being more selective in the choices they are are making as indicated with topics like “certain supplements” or the direct association now being made to Vitamin B and its role in keeping the immune system strong, making new red blood cells, and transporting oxygen throughout the body. The association with vitamins and supplements has decreased. But more importantly, the conversation has shifted from what foods should be eaten less (and what supplements should be used) to what nutrient rich foods (like flax seeds) should be eaten more (in lieu of relying on supplements). In other words, while COVID-19 may have driven a large number of consumers to purchase immune support supplements, it also drove them to educate themselves on how they could truly bolster their immunity. This can also be seen in the Ethnographic DNA for 2021. The key driver is no longer fear of harm to you or your loved ones. It is fear of falling prey to a vested agenda. People are wrestling with doubt in the “system”, and wrestling with the belief that the medical industry is designed to profit from our sickness. But most importantly, the dominant motivation is one that says that the solution is most likely not entirely encapsulated in a pill or gummy. If you want to regain control of your body and health you need to embrace a more holistic approach to your wellbeing. More Money. More Problems. Normally, our clients are excited when we see more affluent consumers engaging in relevant culture. But in this particular instance, the drastic shift in the type of consumer that engaged with immune support supplements in 2020 versus 2021 is troubling for the supplement industry. In 2020, consumers from households making less than $50,000 were very dominant in this culture. When we take this into consideration, with our topic universe and ethnographic DNA in mind, we can ascertain that COVID-19 drove a large number of consumers to try immune support supplements as they were fearful for their health. But this also drove large numbers of people to question the validity and efficacy of immune support supplements. One year later, in 2021 we can see that lower income consumers abandoned this culture in droves. Instead, the culture is dominated by households making +100k. But these consumers are not willing to accept that any or all immune support supplements will truly help them better control their health. Instead, they are embracing a holistic approach. They are gravitating to natural solutions. They are looking to nutrient dense foods to bolster their immunity. This is where they are spending their money. Conclusion: Our research technology specializes in studying meaning, and more accurately predicting growth opportunities for our clients. One of our key roles in 2020 was preventing our clients from getting distracted by short-term behavior, or getting enamored with things that were garnering a lot of mentions. Focusing on top 10 lists of what people are saying or only focusing on what people are doing will never give you the full picture of what is happening in culture. Cultural data, like the data above, can help us better understand the emotional journey that consumers are going on, to better predict the longevity and potential for a trend. The reality is that while COVID-19 may have forced a group of consumers to over engage in the immune support supplement category for the short term, the culture was very small, and not showing culture growth to prove that this sales growth would continue. If you are a client, I suggest that you run a search on “immune support” and “skin health” to see a culture that is not only growing consistently, but that is going to break into the mainstream in the next 12-24 months. This is why adding an anthropological lens to your business is so important.
Feature announcement: microculture filters.
We are very excited to announce the addition of a new 'microcultures filter' feature to our application to improve the speed and ease of self-serve or DIY analysis. The purpose of this addition is to help users quickly and easily isolate the part of a macroculture that pertains to a particular theme of meaning. In essence, we have created a tool that isolates parts of the meaning-web so we can understand those parts more easily. Let me give you an example. Let’s say your macroculture (starting point) is natural cleaning. You begin by searching the topic “natural cleaning” and examine the resulting meaning map. Now, you see a topic that interests you – ‘harsh chemicals’. You now want to understand what this topic means in the context of the underlying macroculture of natural cleaning. Now, all you have to do is click the topic and add it to the microculture search bar. The result is a new meaning map that is focused on that part of the macroculture (of natural cleaning) that pertains to harsh chemicals. To understand exactly what harsh chemicals mean, we can now dive into this new map of meaning and quickly get a clear sense of what harsh chemicals mean in the context of natural cleaning. For example, here we can see that the harsh chemical microculture is really focused on those types of cleaning applications where the elimination of odor and bacteria are top concerns. These are areas where consumers think more heavily about the use of harsh chemicals and associate these chemicals with allergies, skin irritation, the weakening of nails, and the use of excessive amounts of water. All this was of course extracted in a matter of 90-120 seconds of analysis thanks to this 'microculture filter' that allows us to quickly isolate parts of the macroculture that we’re interested in. The rest of the analysis remains the same. We still deliver the sizing, maturity, and ethnographic DNA of the microculture as we always have. That does not change. This implementation is all about our continued endeavor to make our technology more friendly to quick DIY application. If you are a client and you are reading this, you will receive an email from our customer success team later this week confirming when this change will be visible to you in the application as well as in the reporting we deliver. Ultimately, the goal for this improvement is to make the process of identifying microcultures easier while in DIY mode.
The Self-Care Snare
How inaccurately defining a culture can cost a CPG billions In Nestlé’s latest move to capitalize on the growing demand for minerals and nutritional supplements, the Swiss food giant has spent $5.75 billion to buy the main brands from Bountiful Co. In fact, this Wall Street Journal article goes on to say that these types of acquisitions are being driven by CPGs like Nestlé scrambling “to add health and wellness brands as shoppers spend more on self-care.” But this begs an important question: Is there a natural, consumer-led connection between the culture of supplements and the culture of self-care? Or are CPG companies making billion dollar assumptions without understanding the consumer-led perspective? To answer this question we decided to leverage the Motivbase Trends platform. In what follows, we use our anthro-lens to see if supplements naturally emerge when you explore the culture of self-care. Or if the self-care assumption could lead to Nestlé trying to force a square peg into a round hole. The Consumer-led POV: First and foremost, when we examine the culture of “self-care” we can see that it is, in fact, growing. This culture is currently seeing 86 million consumers directly and indirectly engage with the topics that are linked to practicing self-care. And, that population is predicted to grow by 11% in the next 12-24 months. Additionally, we can see that consumers are in agreement with what “practicing self care” means. This is, in essence, what maturity represents. The more a culture matures, the more consumers are using similar language (imagine people using synonyms) when discussing and defining the culture. Cultures in the early consensus are still malleable. They are being shaped by the consumer, and can be shaped by brands or companies that invest in educating the masses further. But as cultures mature and enter into the mainstream (or mainstream acceptance as seen in our Zone of Innovation), they become more established in the mind of the consumer. Often we are tasked with the goal of finding cultures (or trends) that are just about to enter mainstream acceptance. Because once a culture passes into the established idea territory, they become rigid in the mind of the consumer. There is general consensus, and consumers have a checklist in their mind of “table stakes” that need to be satisfied if you want your product or service to be relevant to people in that culture. In such an environment, the only way to innovate is to achieve complete compliance with the consumer's expectations (their mental specifications). Practicing Self-Care is almost an established idea. As we can see in the chart above, the culture of practicing self-care isn’t just mainstream. It is inching closer to the established idea territory meaning that the expectations and needs of the consumer are quite set. It will be difficult to force a new idea into this culture. So do vitamins and supplements naturally emerge? Short answer. No. At their core, consumers who are engaged in this culture are driven by the belief that it is important to work towards establishing a healthy routine and strive to achieve balance. This is bigger than just taking natural steps to improve one’s physical well being. It means caring for your mental wellbeing, and considering your spiritual wellbeing. But, when we examine the most dominant meanings (or topics) that naturally emerge in the culture of practicing self care, vitamins and supplements do not naturally emerge. Instead, we see that the consumer-led POV is one that is looking to find natural ways to overcome anxiety, recondition the mind to think more positively, increase exercise and improve overall sleep. Even the consumer's emotional DNA illustrates that these consumers are looking for the most natural ways possible to achieve the goals above. The consumer’s primary attitude is to seek out products that have undergone the least amount of modification from their original state (these are considered the safest). This attitude pertains to both the processing a product has undergone, as well as the source ingredients used to make it. The closer the product and/or ingredients are to their naturally occurring state, the better the product becomes. Self-Care versus Overall Health. While the topic of “Self Care” may get more mentions, it is the topic and culture of “Overall Health” that holds the deepest, and most valuable meaning for vitamins and supplements. Granted, this culture is currently relevant to a smaller group of consumers (68.7 Million Americans between the ages of 18-64) it is predicted to grow and reach 89.3 million consumers in the next 12-24 months. We also see that it is less mature, with higher growth trajectory than “self-care” meaning there is more opportunity to shape the narrative around who a supplement may provide the added benefits one needs as they look to take control of their health. So do vitamins and supplements naturally emerge? Short answer. Yes. Extensively. Dietary supplements, nutritional supplements and health supplements are all front and center when we examine the culture of “overall health”. Secondly, we can see that the consumer is focused on “wellness” or finding a way to improve their diet, exercise regime and their approach to supplementation in order to improve their immunity, overcome weight issues and protect their general health. Even the emotional DNA for this group reinforces a greater openness to supplements. Yes, they too look for natural and unaltered products to feel like their choices are better for their health. But their drive to achieve balance and the fact that they are motivated to incorporate technology and science as a way to improve human life makes this culture more relevant to a company looking to drive growth in the vitamin and supplement industry. Looking at Supplements in the Self-Care culture: If you are CPG making investments into supplements and vitamins, you need to be aware of where there is a natural fit for your future business in the hearts and minds of the consumers who will finance your return on your investment. Currently, the cultural connection between supplements and self-care is just not as strong as it is to the culture of personal performance or the culture of improving one’s overall health. When we force our system to identify the intersection point between self-care and supplements, we can see some interesting areas of focus present themselves. For example, the role of sleep is front and center. And the role of supplements in helping facilitate better sleep hygiene would be a key starting point for any company looking to forge a stronger connection between supplements and self-care. It also appears that if you can illustrate the role supplements can play in improving mood, the more likely you are to drive relevance within the self-care culture. But you need to understand that this is not only a less mature culture but was also until recently, volatile. Is the culture growing? Yes. But it is still in early consensus and still not predicted to enter the mainstream in the next 12-24 months and given its volatile past could get disrupted again. Conclusion: This is not to say that Nestlé’s investment will not payoff. Supplements and vitamins are growing in the midst of this pandemic. But it's less about self-care than it is about investing in one's overall health and wellbeing. The distinction between the two can make or break success here for the company. Which is why you will constantly here us say the following mantra - meaning matters. But if your goal is to identify areas of opportunities in the next 12-24 months to reap the benefits of the acquisition, self-care is a snare that will prevent you from tapping into and connecting with the consumers who are naturally looking for the solution you have to offer.
MotivBase Joins NielsenIQ Connect Partner Network
The partnership will help to identify and predict cultural trends and the impact they have on products and performance. MotivBase, a technology-enabled research company and AI Anthropology platform that supports Fortune 1000 Companies, announced today it has joined the NielsenIQ Connect Partner Network, the industry's largest open ecosystem of tech-driven solution providers for retailers and manufacturers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. As a Connected Partner, MotivBase now offers a solution that can decode and quantify the meanings behind emerging cultural trends while simultaneously using NielsenIQ data to match what trends really mean to existing products and their marketplace performance. This allows companies to instantly identify gaps in the market and link cultural data to market data to quickly validate decisions. Mutual customers will now have the capability to marry MotivBase’s predictive capabilities with NielsenIQ’s robust sales data to better inform innovation, R&D, and decision making. Through this relationship, CPG companies will be able to decode and quantify growing trends in consumer culture with MotivBase’s AI Anthropology Engine, while verifying the business potential with NielsenIQ’s sales data. “Companies leverage MotivBase to map the meanings that consumers are attaching to the things they consume. As culture shifts, and these meanings change, they reshape how and what consumers buy,” said Ujwal Arkalgud, CEO and Chief Anthropologist at MotivBase. “By tracking them we can predict what’s going to happen. By joining the NielsenIQ Connect Partner Network, we’re giving Innovation and Insights teams quantitative proof of performance in the now. MotivBase predicts the future. The NielsenIQ data quantitatively validates it using data from the past and present.” MotivBase is the first insight platform to merge cultural data and sales data, and the users of the platform will be able to search the MotivBase database, and access both trend and NielsenIQ data instantly. In addition to access to the platform, the MotivBase team of PhD social scientists who build bespoke trend reports leveraging the technology will be incorporating this new data set into deliverables for all CPG companies that are mutual MotivBase and NielsenIQ customers. "There is power in partnering up and we're happy to have MotivBase on board within the NielsenIQ Connect Partner Network," said Brett Jones, Global Leader, NielsenIQ Connect Partner Network. "MotivBase's merging of technology and the social sciences help to bring an anthro-lens to our NielsenIQ data. MotivBase powered by NielsenIQ is a win-win for shared clients." About MotivBase
MotivBase is the world's first and only AI Anthropologist that can decode the hidden meanings behind consumer interactions. The company works with 130+ corporations globally at the front-end of innovation and their work has contributed to $5 Billion + in directly attributable new revenue.