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News

We are Hiring

The Sparkler team is expanding! We are currently hiring for the following roles. Associate Partner - InsightWe are looking for someone who has worked within the realm of qualitative research for at least 8 years. They should have worked across a wide range of project types and clients, with an emphasis on strategic projects, ideally with digital, media and technology clients. The Associate Partner role sits at the heart of the biggest team in our business, the Insight team.  This team has around 25 people in it, including four other Associate Partners, each of whom looks after a team of 4 to 5 people who specialize in either qualitative or quantitative research. The team as a whole works across most, if not all, of our key clients. If you are interested in this role, please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.ukJunior VideographerWe are looking for a Junior Videographer to join our growing in-house design studio. This is a creative role that focuses on creating high quality, short insight-led films that capture the heart of the consumer. It would work closely with our Head of Design, qualitative and quantitative teams, and our wide range of clients.The ideal candidate should have at least 2 years’ agency or freelance experience who can take our AV expertise a step forward. They should also have a formal qualification in film or documentary making i.e. Bachelor’s degree or higher. They must be a creative, with an appreciation for strong communication. And should also be able to take on other design work, including animation and graphic design.If you are interested in this role, please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.ukPanels and Communities The Panels and Communities team provide on-going insights using a series of digital platforms. The team combines top drawer account handling, with the best quantitative and qualitative research skills. They work with some of our biggest clients including McDonalds, eBay, Google and EE. We are hiring across all levels , so if you’re interested in working for the P&C team please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.ukCareers at SparklerWe are always on the lookout for talented, enthusiastic and people with an entrepreneurial spirit to join the team. To read more about working at Sparkler please click here. And if you think you might fit the bill we’d love to hear from you. Please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.uk

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Opinion

Are you a Fidgeter?

3 MINUTE READGot a spare hour to while away? Even, if you don’t, type the word “spinner” into Google and see what happens. Come on, I dare you! Now I bet you can’t stop, right? Google’s take on the fidget spinner is almost as addictive as the original plastic toy that whirled its way into kids’ lives the world over a couple of months ago.The first time I spotted one was at a bus stop where some school kids were debating whose spinner was best, but it’s now become much more than just the latest playground craze. Since then I’ve seen adults spinning away on the Underground and in airport lounges. It’s a stress buster, it’s a concentration aid, it’s even a distraction from smoking! But where has this sudden mania come from?As it turns out, fidget spinners are nothing new. They’ve been around for years, reportedly used to help children with autism and attention disorders concentrate (although some experts contest their efficacy here). To me, this makes their sudden popularity even more remarkable: these toys didn’t have a glitzy advertising campaign behind them and they certainly weren’t strategically launched in time for Christmas. In fact, no one really knows who makes them and you’re just as likely to buy one from your local market stall as you are to get it from one of the big toy stores.What makes the fidget spinner really stand out is the huge potential it has for showing off, both on- and offline. The craze has been picked up by YouTubers everywhere. You can watch tricks and stunts tutorials and unboxings, there are Reddit forums dedicated to customisations and Instagrammers celebrate beautiful or limited edition designs.But I wonder if there’s something much simpler about the appeal of this gizmo too. In a world of glass-screened, button-free gadgets, the super tactile and hugely satisfying whirring of the fidget spinner sets it apart from the likes of Pokémon Go as it appeals to our inherent need to… well, fidget. Playing with that bit of Blu Tack on your desk, biting your nails or fiddling with your hair, we all do it! Whether it’s out of nervousness, agitation or boredom, it’s a need that exists in all of us. Mystery solved. I’m off to practise my pinch grip. 

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Opinion

Human2.0

3 MINUTE READClosing the page on the much engrossing Sapiens recently left me with a lot more angst than desired.The book was at times sensational, but overall a fascinating read; providing nuggets of facts that left you reassessing the world that you live in and your knowledge of humanity to date. It chronologically covered  how we’ve evolved from one of six human species 70,000 years ago into the last remaining dominant force that we are today, with thanks to several significant revolutions – the Cognitive, Agricultural and now Scientific.The author, Yuval Noah Harahi, almost prophetically finishes on the notion that The Scientific Revolution will be our last. Envisioning that the pace of technology and science will become so exponential that it will be our unravelling, changing us from Homo sapiens to unrecognisible beings.  To add to my anxiety, he gave exemplars of this happening today, in the shape of future genetics and human cyborgs. Imagining the worst, I thought it best to finish the book and move on. But was swiftly reminded, when cracking open a 2017 trend report.Big this year: gene editing and human cyborgs.2016 saw China complete the first human trials in DNA editing and the US are set to follow suit this year. The tests focus on altering or disabling existing genes to tackle disease. It’s the dawn of a new way of applying science to save lives. It’s also the beginning of manmade evolution, where we get to choose our own blueprints.Cyborg Nest, a biohacking start up, are taking wearables to the next level this year with their new integrated product. Implanted into its consumers, their external sensor will vibrate every time its wearer faces north; a niche offer, but with huge implications. Their technology could be taken by forward-thinking companies and applied at a mass level to boost our physical and mental capabilities. Imagine a world where payments could be made at the swipe of a hand instead of a credit card? No more pick-pocket worries that’s for sure.It seemed Harahi had a point. Clichéd as it sounds; we’re on the cusp of unconceivable advancements to our existence. Whether this will change what it means to be human is unclear, but, by Darwin’s theory, Evolution is inevitable and that’s not a bad thing. Uncomfortable as it feels, it’s progress and I like that.  (One caveat:  let’s just make sure we get the ethics right, though there’s a whole other blog in that).    

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Case Study

Reinvigorating Gordon’s Gin

Gordon’s is one of the oldest and most important brands in the Diageo portfolio, operating in one of the most dynamic, fun and fastest growing categories in the world of drinks. However, Gordon’s was facing competition from a whole host of new pretenders in the gin category. Over a number of years the brand had tried to find a new place, but had struggled to find the right articulation of purpose and its role in people’s lives.In the case of Gordon’s there was no shortage of equity or things it could stand for, we just weren’t sure which would connect best with the modern consumer. We used in depth online qualitative research followed up with ethno-depth interviews across Europe to get to grips with what Gordon’s areas of equity meant to people. We followed this up with semiotic and cultural analysis to understand how these themes occur in culture and how they could be executed by a brand.After a series of workshops and working closely with Gordon’s creative agency: we arrived at the new Gordon’s brand purpose. This was launched through a new creative which gave new life, new direction, and a whole new sense of freshness to the brand.

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Case Study

High Res Shopper Journeys

Sainsbury’s wanted a more dynamic understanding of what customers go through in a supermarket – identifying where, when and how Sainsbury’s could improve the experience.Sparkler joined several shoppers across the UK, recording their whole experience, from sofa to store to sofa. This was forensically analysed, with each behaviour and mind-set recorded in ‘high resolution’. This highlighted opportunities which we jointly created concepts for in a creative workshop.This real-world data was used to identify moments that shoppers are open to meaningful initiatives. It also identified key moments to marry digital technologies to. The high resolution shopper journeys formed an innovation platform for new digital services.

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Opinion

Luddart

"Do you remember when you almost drowned in the shallow bit of the sea whilst five bald men dressed head-to-toe in brown took pictures of you instead of helping?”“Yes. I do. It took a week for my shoes to dry out.”The above conversation did not happen. It is fictional, just like the cartoon it’s based on. But despite the technical flaws that can’t be rescued by its vibrant colour scheme, the illustration carries a lot of weight in the digital age.  I found this particular picture on my Facebook feed, carrying a few thousand ‘likes’ in tow. The message is clear: people nowadays would not save a drowning person. They wouldn’t even do a Phil Collins and write a song about not saving a drowning person. Instead, they would glibly take a picture and post it online.The sentiment of this beige complaint is not alone. Anyone on social media will often see Luddite art – or ‘Luddart’ as we hip people like to call it – float up into their feeds. But ignoring the flagrant irony of posting anti-tech artwork on the internet for a moment, it’s good to question why this stuff gets such a reaction out of us, because it clearly does.The reasons why Luddart resonates are undoubtedly varied. Some people simply seek to reject any progressions beyond what they see as a halcyon age of bus conductors and rivers of jam.  Others get their kicks from indulging their sanctimonious tendencies, “This is everyone else except me, the protagonist of reality.”  And perhaps the majority simply react as a result of their guilt complexes being stirred up by the big spoon of self-reflection.With access to the sum total of human knowledge, all the people you want to hear from, and a 24/7 worldwide news feed, it’s hard to blame people for shooting that bright blue beam of information directly into their eyes from time to time. And surely it’s what’s going on inside the phones which we should be concerned with. We live in an odd time where differing political opinions are transforming into either absolute truths or #fakenews. A glowing impatience with the current state of affairs has shown itself across numerous populations. So there’s a natural imperative to converse, share jokes and seek truth. We can already see that the discourse between millions can apply massive pressure to those most able to enact change. And if this phenomenon can only be facilitated online and accessed through a device that means I spend less time staring at people on the train, so be it.New technology regularly brings about new behaviour. Nobody got carsick before the invention of the wheel. Yes, a lot of time is wasted looking at cat videos. Yes, online anonymity has allowed people to spread opinions that would otherwise crumble in the fresh air of face-to-face conversation. And yes, the edited life we show online has allowed all to look as wondrous as the cosmos. But if you were to sketch out all the positives of this interconnected era as well as the more exciting tragedies and stack them up, I’m confident the Luddart pile would be residing in the shadow of its chirpier, more valuable & constructive neighbour.  

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Opinion

Is perfection the answer?

4 MINUTESHow many companies pride themselves of their excellence and claim to be the best in the industry? In a digital age economy where consumers are more and more demanding, being average just isn’t seen as an option. However, a little-known but powerful theory in marketing strategy might dismantle this commonly held assumption. I’m talking about “The myth of excellence”- the argument against the belief that a company should try to be good at everything it does. That is to say, to excel at all the components of its offer - price, product, service, experience and access.These are the 5 key elements that are usually important to customers. They value honest price, look for consistently good products, value services that meet their everyday requests, want to be respected and be offered tailored solutions and get what they want how they want it. It seems intuitive to believe that if companies invest their resources to perform well in all these areas, their success will be guaranteed. As it often happens with marketing strategy though, we may need to think again.“The myth of excellence” comes from the work of internationally renamed strategist and former vice-president of Capgemini Ernst & Young, Fred Crawford, and strategy consultant Ryan Matthews. According to them, being the best at everything isn’t desirable for businesses, because it takes all the differentiation away. "The predictable outcome [is] that the company ends up world-class at nothing; not well-differentiated and therefore not thought of by consumers at the moment of need."So how do market leaders succeed instead? They engage in consumer relevancy, which is the ability to conduct business in ways that customers find meaningful. What does this mean in practice? These companies focus on excelling at one element of the transaction (i.e. the element most important to their target customers), differentiate on a second, and just meet expectations on the remaining three. It is argued, it is not sustainable to invest the same resources on all five elements, and consumers don’t want them to either.The research conducted behind “The myth of excellence”, which involved more than 10,000 consumers and interviews with directors of global leading companies, showed that customers don’t need “world-class performance” or “excellence” from all the elements of a company’s offering. They much prefer companies that have a strong and well defined value proposition, that are consistently good at what they do and can be relied upon in today’s rapidly changing world. As such, domination or differentiation on more than one attribute isn’t desirable, it confuses consumers and results in resources being wasted.However, it is important that companies still achieve industry-par (i.e. average) levels on the 3 remaining dimensions. The definition of average can continually change, as it depends on what other companies in the industry offer, and failure to keep up can cause scores to drop.This strategy has guaranteed longevity to some of the most successful companies in the world. Think about Zara for example, and why you go there. First of all, they have affordable prices, but also because they offer trendy and design clothes. However, I’m pretty sure that most of you don’t go there for the service (looking for a sales assistant is a similar experience to the quest for the Holy Grail) or a bespoke experience. Zara is a great executor of consumer relevancy: they excel on price, differentiate with their great products, and are average on service, experience and access. Does this make Zara less of a great brand? Not at all, that’s what makes it a strong top of mind brand!Now think about Starbucks. Their coffee is good enough but the prices aren’t what I would define as affordable, yet it still is the first place I think of when I need caffeine. And why is that? I think it’s because, no matter where I am in the world, Starbucks provides me with the consistent and comforting experience of feeling at home. It is also great that I can have access to the most customised cup of coffee without feeling uncomfortable (I’m the kind of person who asks for unsweetened almond milk, to give you an idea). Starbucks’ success lies in the experience it provides to the customer, and differentiates with access, customisation being at the heart of their business model. Their prices aren’t particularly competitive, and their service and products are average, and yet it’s one of the most successful brands in the world!Marketing strategy is often about trade-offs, and companies shouldn’t be afraid of considering which elements to prioritise. That is not to say that companies should settle for the minimum and not strive to improve, but more that they should be strategic about where they invest their energy and resources! 

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Case Study

Studio Showreel

We believe that research needs to live and breathe in order to reach its full potential, and that visualising research in engaging ways is one of the most effective ways of achieving this.Below is a short video which illustrates how our studio team helps to activate insights through design. 

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