Featuring talks on Gen Z, veganism and Love Island, the Hitwise Summer Summit 2019 sounded like it was organised with quite a number of the SearchStar team in mind. Did you know we have a Love Island WhatsApp group?

In reality, we were in for a feast of data-rich talks from inspiring industry leaders. And that’s before we were invited up to the sunny rooftop bar. Here are our key takeaways from the event:

The Power of Gen Z

Don’t underestimate the twenty-somethings of today. Tom Johnson, Managing Director at Trajectory, opened the day, taking us through all things Gen Z – from the key events that shape us, right through to the tough choices we’re forcing brands to make in order for them to stay relevant.

Brexit, Trump and the #MeToo movement were billed as the major events that have shaped Gen Z so far. We were introduced to the notion that brands are leveraging these key events and political issues, building their brand strategies around them – think Nike’s Colin Kaepernick’s “Believe in something” campaign – in an effort to appeal to Gen Z.

Tom spoke of how these strategies, while hugely beneficial in some cases, aren’t without risk. Outlining the options facing brands in today’s politically charged climate, Tom highlighted the risk associated with each one:

- Pick a side (risk: alienating others)

- Stay out of it entirely (risk: losing meaning)

- Own another agenda (risk: not walking the walk)

The key takeaway here was that brands are increasingly pressured to take a stance and own an agenda. But before they do, each brand needs to consider the impact and ensure that their house is in order.

Nothing but the truth

Don’t assume audience trends, just tell the truth. Lisa Luu, Global Head of Insights at Hitwise, took us through the complex, and often paradoxical nature of each generation.

She used the example of gym goers over-indexing for “cake” and “cookie” searches, stressing the importance of identifying all of your customers, and avoiding any sweeping assumptions that could lead to brands overlooking key audiences.

Lisa highlighted that the contradictions within each audience make our job as marketers and advertisers that much harder, but all the more rewarding when we find true audience trends and identify new and existing customers using the data available to us.

Differentiate with Experience

The well documented “death of the high street” is forcing brands online. The only issue is, with so many brands online, how do you differentiate yourself?

Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics spoke of the importance of backing your digital strategy with an experience, to add value and increase your customer’s LTV – a tough combination to get right.

Talking through advancements in technology and AI, Richard suggested that brands should be leveraging such advancements – giving the example of Ocado’s infamously autonomous Amsterdam warehouse – to give themselves the freedom to create added experiences that speak to their consumer’s needs, beyond their primary product or service offering.

Veganism Isn’t as Easy as You Think

With seemingly 99% of SearchStar’s employees having dabbled with veganism at some point in their career, we’re no strangers to the daily stresses of veganism and vegetarianism.

So when M&S’ Head of Insight, Hayley Ward, spoke of the mixed results the food and clothing giant experienced when they tried to appeal to the growing vegan movement in the UK, we weren’t too surprised!

Hayley spoke of the success of the ‘Plant Kitchen’ – a new branch of the M&S food offering, tailored exclusively to vegans and vegetarians – noting that its success was down to their recognition of a growing trend amongst their audience.

However, she also spoke of the national backlash that M&S experienced when they first moved to make all Percy Pigs vegetarian – a powerful example of how even the biggest brands don’t always get it right. The key takeaway from Hayley was for brands to truly understand their audience and the impact that strategic changes will have on this audience.

Love Island

The best and worst show on TV. But how does Love Island fit in with a day of talks around brands understanding their audiences and owning an agenda to appeal to their consumer base?

We were wondering the same thing.

Glenn Gowen, Head of Audiences at ITV showed us that by understanding their audience – using Hitwise data to gain audience insights – Love Island is bringing huge success to their sponsors.

Glenn spoke of analysing the core audiences that tune in to the ITV2 show, and using data insights to plan how their sponsors advertise in order to maximise their results.