The Time is Now for 'Indies' in Insights


I picked up this month’s NZ Marketing magazine focused on the disintermediation of the marketing industry by specialist agencies and it got me thinking about my own journey and what is happening within my industry...consumer insights.

Like many other professional services based on human capital and earning an income from our expertise, independent specialists and boutiques are on the rise. I left agency land over 10 years ago and have never looked back. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility that working independently affords me. I have more control over the type of work I do and now have the privilege of being able to turn down jobs if I want to.

“The secret to job security in 2018 and beyond is to remember that we build our own security and carry it around with us. No employer can assure you lifetime employment anymore. No private company can. No public employer can." Liz Ryan, CEO/founder of Human Workplace

Adapting to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

As we enter the age of Professor Schwab' s Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are reminded that this move toward more autonomous working conditions is not without its challenges. Workflow and wondering where the next job is going to come from has forced me to adopt new business development and networking skills – not as easy for a closet introvert. In the early days…this means having to take whatever job comes your way just to keep the lights on. Finding the right partners to collaborate with both from a skill and culture fit... wrangling Xero, paying salaries and wondering whether the bank will mind extending my overdraft one more time :-)

But it seems the trend toward independence in professional services is here to stay and consumer insights is no different. So what is behind this rise of the ‘Free Agent Nation’?


As Richard and Daniel Susskind allude to in their recent book ‘The Future of the Professions’, technology and cloud computing are disrupting the 'traditional contract of professional services' enabling ‘corporations of one’ to operate and act like larger organisations through the use of virtual assistants, outsourced admin, machine learning, collaboration with peers, online service platforms, accessible data visualisation tools and online accounting software.

“Online platforms allow traditional professionals to convene, collaborate and deliver services in teams and structures that were not possible in the past.” Daniel Susskind

Millennials’ have also exerted a significant influence on this entrepreneurial approach to work and career. Technology has lowered the cost of entry where younger employees can launch a ‘side hustle’, join the global gig economy or be part of the burgeoning start-up culture. It is this cohort that also respond positively to more flexibility and meaningful work in their career.

Client brands seeking more ‘bang for their buck’

There appears to be a shift among some client brands looking for more value and specialised expertise that is not always available within full service agencies. With experience and expertise comes speed and higher cognitive thinking. Brands are able to extract more strategic value from the specialists they engage with in a more efficient way. This has become particularly valuable in today’s environment where brand marketers are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data they are now dealing with.

Through this decentralisation, there is also an opportunity to make marketing research and consumer insights more accessible to a wider range of businesses, not just the few that can afford it.

“Most people in most organizations cannot afford the services of first rate professionals or indeed any professionals. Think about the expertise of legal is a very, very scarce resource in society. We’ve built a Rolls Royce service for a few and everyone else seems to be walking.” Richard Susskind, The Future of the Professions

So, what does this mean for the independent consumer insights specialist?

Like other professional services, the impact of collaboration on the cloud, machine learning and enhanced data capture will continue to disrupt the reliance on large, full-service agencies for insights that can be sourced and managed internally. However, what brands will continue to seek out is the ‘why’.

As experts in this field, the future is bright for consumer insights and human behaviour specialists. With marketing shifting from mass to personal, the need to move away from a 'one size fits all' approach is imperative. "Consumer insights research gets under the skin and inside the consumer’s head to find the “why” of a purchase, to understand what happened, and to project what could occur in the future." Jure Klepic

“When handling data, researchers see so much more than just numbers. We are consistently looking for the “why” behind each data set and ought to view ourselves as storytellers and problem solvers— as our role is one that aims to enrich, not only the market, but the daily lives of consumers.” Zoe Rose, Sr. Research Associate,

So to all my fellow indies in the consumer insights world, stay strong knowing that we are at the cusp of change and a brave new world lies ahead. Carpe diem!


8 things I learnt @ Nurture Change 2017

The promise of '5 days of business as un-usual' on a tropical island in the South Pacific with 200 other like-minded business owners is pretty motivating. But add to that the line-up of inspirational NZ and global speakers that include Sir Graham Henry, Sir John Kirwan, Daniel & Justine Flynn (Thank you), Kathryn Wilson (yes - that Kathryn Wilson), Frances Valintine (Tech Futures/Mindlab), Dan Alpe (Jucy), Chris Quin (CEO of Foodstuffs North Island), Bernard Powell (Winner of NZ Best Workplace) and Linda Jenkinson (Uber entrepreneur) that's when you realise you are going to something pretty special. 

Whilst it's hard to capture everything I learnt and took away from Nurture Change, I wanted to share my Top 8 (I had to stop somewhere). 

1. We are not alone

As business owners, it's really easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, managing cashflow, worrying about clients/projects, wondering how far you can extend the credit card/overdraft and thinking I promise this weekend I won't think about the business - yeah right!

Nurture Change and the people I met, made me realise I am not alone in this. Intrinsically you know that there are others like you, but you don't often get the chance to spend time with each other, share those experiences and learn from others ups and downs. No matter what size of the business or category we are in, there is someone else that can share your pain or offer you advice or simply relate to what you are going through. 

2. Spend time ON the business

I read a lot of books, listen to business podcasts, go to networking meetings but until you commit to something longer term, it often doesn't really sink in. You get back to the office or home and reality hits quickly. 5 days away from the business and home/family is a helluva commitment, but I now know how necessary it is and that it is an investment in the business and me as it's leader. 

Being surrounded by other business people, hearing their stories, learning about different aspects of running a business like workplace culture (thanks Bernard), working out how much your business is worth (cheers Warrick Jackson from PWC) to realising that optimal gut health can supercharge your focus and energy to work smarter (love your work Chantel Hutnan). 

3. Focus on your BIG ROCKS

Sir Graham (Ted) Henry discussed the importance of not getting sidetracked by the small issues and distractions (him and the ABs had plenty). Set yourself 3-4 'Big Rocks' and work backwards to ensure that all your energy goes to completing those and not 'sweating the small stuff'.  Also, deal with the elephant in the corner - don't let it grow bigger!

4. Keep your jellybean jar full


Linda Jenkinson was one of the most inspirational women/business leaders I have ever had the privilege to meet. My pen did not stop. She gave us advice on how to build a billion dollar business - love it - think big! Use the power of authentic relationships and a cycle of gratitude. Don't ask something from someone without knowing you can give something in return. Always pay it forward and always say thank you! 

5. Do what you love and No apologiES

‘Some people save lives, I design shoes’.

Kathryn Wilson backed herself and her passion for shoes. She had to ask for help, see past those that didn't think she could do it and own her space. Get an amazing advisory board that can fill in the gaps and help guide you through the craziness of business. 

6. Know your numbers

I remember reading a similar piece of advice from Diane Foreman. Chris Quin recommended developing 5-6 metrics that you live by. Create a dashboard and study it everyday. How can you tell if you have made progress if you don't know where you started?

7. Create an inspiring workplace


The pocket rocket, energiser bunny Bernard Powell gave some stellar thoughts on getting the best out of your workforce and workplace. From simple things like personalising workspaces to creating a 2-second lean. Every week ask what can we improve by 2-seconds/2mm/2%? Ensure everyone has a living job description and get them to right it themselves. Celebrate your wins - big and small! Hire slow. Mandatory weekly meetings that everyone attends to not only go through the week but brainstorm improvements, values, new ideas. 

8. the power of Connection

Finally and probably most importantly, I walked away with some incredible connections, friendships and memories. The challenge of going to something like this on your own is that you have to step outside your comfort zone, get uncomfortable, be vulnerable and let your guard down. But by doing so, it's amazing the people you get to meet, experiences you get to share and stories you get to tell. In the words of Daniel and Justine - what if? 


Thank you to Zac, Steve, Hayley and Hazel. What and incredible team you make and what an amazing experience you have created with Nurture Change. I am already looking forward to the next one!




Entering the YouTube Zeitgeist

We know the global importance being paid to video, but what about in Australia. What kind of video content are people watching, when are they watching and on what device? At Fresh Focus, have spent the past 12 months getting under the skin of smartphone users and the role of mobile in the path to purchase. We now want to bring this same level of insight to video content.

The Study

Fresh Focus conducted a 5 minute online survey of n=1040 Australians aged 18-70 years across different locations and ethnic groups The aim of the survey was to understand short-form video content consumption patterns.

The survey was carried out through the Pureprofile online panel. Survey participants were given a brief definition of the term ‘short-form video content’ and then asked to respond to a series of questions.

The Findings

1 in 4 Australians claim they constantly watch short-form video throughout the day. This means they are engaging with different types of video content multiple times a day. 

18-44yr olds are 4 x more likely to always watching video content than their older counterparts. Not a surprising figure but one to be mindful of when planning and future proofing your marketing strategy. What role will video content play in delivering your message?

Mobile and girl.jpeg

18-44yr olds are    4 x more likely to always watching video content

Non-Europeans are 2 x more likely to constantly watch. We know from other studies that streamed content, particularly on YouTube through anime, vlogging and online soap operas, which is how many migrants stay connected with their home countries and in their natural language.

While the median Australian from the 2016 Census born overseas was still born in England, there most interesting shift comes from NSW and Victoria where the typical resident who was born in NSW now comes from China rather than England, which was the case in 2011. Further, in Victoria the typical Australian born overseas now comes from India which wasn't even in the top four list even 10 years ago.

3 out of 4 Australians consume short-form video on their smartphones.

This clearly has implications for production quality, how data-rich the clip is and where it’s being viewed… is it being viewed by a white collar worker who has choices about what device he uses – whether it’s a mobile, laptop, tablet or desktop. Or is it a tradie who has only one choice during the day – and that is his mobile.

YouTube and Facebook are now the two players fighting for eyeballs. Whilst YouTube is no surprise it is interesting to see Facebook having such a significant presence. In fact, it is the dominant channel amongst female viewers and millennials, particularly Europeans.

What are they watching?

Humour and entertainment lead the most watched categories. How to videos – which have now become a genre in their own right, mirrors the global trend of consumer empowerment. Music, movie trailers and of course news clips. Breaking announcements are more likely to be watched through Facebook than on the 6pm news.

Also, rising content genres are product reviews, unboxing videos, product demos and marketing promotions. This clearly represents a significant opportunity for brand marketers being able to create affordable and highly personalised marketing campaigns for niche audiences, which was impossible in the era of broadcast television.

It also overcomes one of the main barriers about online shopping – that consumers feel they don’t get to see or understand what the product is going to be like. Now they can find out before they click to buy.

A day in the life of video content


Day in the life.png

Early morning and catching up on what you missed over-night with news updates, sports highlights and interviews. No more breakfast television.

Looking throughout the day or bored at work and researching/reviewing the next product you are going to buy. We know from our mobile research, that online research is a significant part of the sales funnel and for males, shortcuts their time in store.

For white collar, autonomous workers and students they can look at video all throughout the day, but for blue-collar workers and those in less autonomous jobs i.e. call centres or healthcare workers, we know that lunch and break time is when they catch up. The digital smoko.


But it is when viewers get home that usage spikes. They are on free wifi, often faster than what they can get during the day, there are no interruptions and they can spend 1-2 hours uninterrupted viewing. This is video primetime and for millennials and non-Europeans, this now replaces traditional broadcast media as their source of entertainment.


It also goes one step further and becomes personal development and upskilling time with how-to videos, genre-specific vloggers and product demonstrations.

3 in 10 listen with headphones on, which is not unusual but those that constantly watch video content are just as likely to listen with headphones as they are off. Just something to think about with production, sound and how much more personal the story can be with headphones on.


3 in 10 listen with headphones on

We wanted to understand how this medium can be used as an advertising/promotional channel. With 1/3 of Australians choosing to watch sponsored content – it signals an opportunity for brand marketers…particularly if marketing to women who are significantly more likely to click through.

1/3rd of Australians will always or sometimes watch the full ad before skipping which again presents a unique opportunity to have that one on one, tailored conversation with your audience on a specific channel.

So what does this all mean for marketers?

  1. Short-form video content has arrived and presents significant opportunities for brand marketers
  2. Reach non-Europeans through non-traditional media. Social media channels offer the unique ability to have a direct conversation with this increasingly powerful buying demographic.
  3. Video now plays an increasing role in the consumer path to purchase even if you can’t always attribute it to a sale.
  4. Our ever-evolving relationship with video continues to impact how brands are and should be communicating with customers
  5. Make every brand experience significant - make it easy to find your product/services with video and tell your story through this powerful medium.

About Fresh Focus

Fresh Focus is not a traditional agency. Fresh Focus is collective of senior researchers, marketers and strategists. We believe that there’s no shortage of data telling businesses what is happening, but we think you need to dig deeper and understand the why.


Why should we care about Auckland?

The face of Auckland is changing quickly and to understand what’s unique about Auckland and what underpins the city and its people, MediaWorks and Ogilvy partnered to commission a broad-reaching study with Fresh Focus.

Through exploring the the richness of Auckland, its people and communities – we sought to really understand what is going on below the surface of our largest city

  • How Aucklander’s lives and attitudes differ from the rest of the country?
    • What are some of the challenges facing businesses in Auckland? 
    • How can businesses and brands best connect with the “new Auckland”?


This story was about understanding more deeply the powerhouse that is Auckland and how it’s driving New Zealand's population and economic expansion.

Auckland contributes $93.5 billion dollars to the NZ economy every year, and over two-thirds of New Zealand’s top 200 companies are based in Auckland. Growth in Auckland is significantly outpacing the rest of the country.  With record migration currently at more than 72,000 per year, and half of all migrants settling in Auckland, Auckland is growing by more than 700 people every single week, from migration alone.

A third of New Zealanders live in Auckland currently, but in just 25 years time Auckland is expected to house half of the entire population – roughly 2.3 million people.

To put that into context, that’s an extra 600,000 people (more than the combined population of Christchurch and Wellington cities).  In today’s setting, they will require 180,000 extra homes and put 300,000 extra vehicles on our already jammed roads.



Auckland is not only our largest and most diverse city, but 40% of Aucklanders were in fact born overseas. It’s a relatively new population.  Around half of these “new Aucklanders” have been here less than 10 years and three quarters for less than 20 years.

Over half of new migrants to the country settle in Auckland, which is a magnet for resource – whether it be human talent, business, investment, visitors and students, they are all attracted to what Auckland has to offer.



Aucklanders are more affluent.  The average household income in Auckland is $115,000 – 20% higher than the national average.

One third of households in Auckland enjoy a household income exceeding $100,000 per year, compared to just 18% of households outside of Auckland.

While a third of New Zealand’s households are in Auckland, six out of ten households with an annual income exceeding $200,000 are in Auckland.

And Aucklanders spend more…

Auckland households spend on average $1600 per week, that’s more than $300 more per household per week than an average NZ household. Even after housing expenses are accounted for, Aucklanders spend more across almost every category.

On a household equivalent basis, Aucklanders spend an extra $7 billion per year:

  • $1.2 billion more on food
  • $260 million more on clothing
  • $700 million more on transportation
  • $200 million more on entertainment

… significantly more in almost every category.

On a household for household basis, Aucklanders spend an extra $130m every week. Consumer confidence is at a three year high, driven strongly ahead by buoyancy in the Auckland market

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Today’s smartphone is just the beginning…

In March, we conducted a survey of n=1000 New Zealand smartphone users focusing on the role of mobile in the customer journey of two categories – travel and retail.

What we discovered:

·     4 in 10 NZers regularly use their mobile to purchase products/services

·     16-34yr olds are 3 x more likely to purchase products/services on their mobile

·     Non-Europeans are 2 x more likely to do this

WePay spawning a new category of mobile micro-payments

New migrants to NZ, particularly from China, are already well-versed in user-friendly mobile payment services i.e. WePay and Alipay. As highlighted in Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report, these services are digitizing micro-payments where paying for an apple with your phone at a farmer’s market is the norm.

As part of our research into the NZ smartphone landscape, we conducted a number of in-home interviews with a spectrum of local users. Crystal, a Chinese migrant who has been in NZ for six years now, spoke of how her Mum now uses her smartphone to pay for small items. It still surprises her how ‘backward’ NZ is with our mobile services.

“Even my mother buys fruit with her phone. On WeChat they have a scan or barcode. All the street stalls like the morning markets – they all have their own code. You can just scan them and the money just goes to their account so there is no cash” Crystal, 27yrs

Bridging online and offline to create a seamless customer journey

When measuring the role of mobile in the retail customer journey, we discovered that whilst the smartphone plays a significant role at the start of the purchase funnel, bricks and mortar continue to shine at the moment of truth – the transaction. Anecdotally from other projects I have worked on, we know this is true as customers playback to us time and time again – ‘I like to touch, feel, check the quality, play’. It is a highly tactile category and for this reason, mobile plays a slightly different role than in travel.

It is all about inspiration and using the functional benefits of the device to help consumers whilst in-store and create a memorable shopping experience. With Apple rumoured to be taking a step closer to bringing its augmented reality vision to life with multiple depth sensing cameras in the iPhone 8.

But mobile is already being used in store today. In July, we ran a poll of n=500 NZ smartphone users and asked...when shopping in a retail outlet and/or supermarket, how often do you check your phone? One-third check their phone either all of the time or most of the time. Only 3% claimed they never checked their phone whilst in store.

So, what are they doing?  

This behaviour is reinforced by one of our immersion interviewees – Rhea, a 19yr old University student who said:

“I love Instagram. I follow a lot of fashion store pages like Forever New’s instagram page. If I’m shopping in a store and I wanted to show my friend or Mum what I’m trying on, I would take a pic and send it to them and they would say buy it or not. You snap it…snap and send.” Rhea, 19yrs          

We need to raise the bar on NZ mobile experiences

Mobile is still not a default option for many. Why is that?

We asked participants why they did not use their smartphone more often to purchase products/services and this is what they said. For 6 in 10 – it is a screen issue – whether the screen is too small or they prefer a bigger screen.

Over half claim difficulties with navigating the mobile site – this included content/website taking too long to read, payment check out hard to use on phone or too many steps to purchase. Website difficulties and a non-responsive website were cited as equally frustrating preventing many from making their final purchase on their phone.

But one online retail store getting it right, as mentioned in Mary Meeker’s report, is Allbirds. This NZ success story offers an innovative product and makes selection simple with less choice. Less is more in this case. One of our user interviews – Joel, a 24yr old warehouse operator, reinforces this message when speaking about his experience on an Australia mobile retail site - Culture Kings.

“I have bought some clothes on Culture Kings. Culture Kings’ website is quite good on the phone. I have bought hats off there on my phone last year. They have simplified the site with the layout of the website and there is not so many dropdown boxes. It’s just a page of pictures of the product. They don’t have a massive range of stuff so it’s more mobile friendly.” Joel, 24yrs

 5 things to consider about mobile in the customer journey

1.   Time of day and mindset influences how receptive users are to your mobile content. Be available and always on.

2.   Mobile is a personal channel in a sea of broadcast… get to know your user. Avoid mass-messaging.

3.   Smartphone ownership is ubiquitous - do not waste this opportunity to connect with ALL New Zealanders. The digital divide is no longer.

4.   Mobile now underpins the whole customer journey. Don’t make it a last minute ‘add on’

5.   Today’s smartphone is just the beginning...

Storyteller or story interpreter?

The work conversation often goes like this… ‘So, what do you do?’ ‘I work in market research.’ ‘Oh, so you’re the person that rings me up during dinner to ask what I think of John Key?’ ‘No, not exactly…’ It is so much more than this.


Brené Brown, a now celebrity researcher courtesy of Oprah, recalls in a Ted Talk how she repositioned her role as a qualitative researcher, by calling herself a ‘storyteller’. This resonated strongly with me as I thought about all the stories I have heard over the years from so many different types of people and from all walks of life.

It is these human connections that makes our work so special and what many do not get to see. My husband always tells people I come back from an in home interview buzzing. It’s because I have had the privilege to enter a person’s natural environment where they are in control and most relaxed, observe how they live, meet their family, children and pets, explore what makes them tick and sometimes even be invited to stay for dinner!

One of my favourite Instagram feeds at the moment is Humans of NY. The authors collect human stories from everyday New Yorkers and present these vignettes of everyday life in a highly compelling way.

This got me thinking – maybe I’m not a storyteller after all, but a story interpreter.Because I can’t simply tell the stories I hear…I have to retell them with commercial relevance.

That is the difference between an ethnographer or cultural anthropologist. Whilst we as market researchers also observe and listen, we do so through the lens of commercial context. How does this person’s life and experiences impact the brand I am representing? What can I learn that will make a difference to how they might communicate to that person, deliver a product/service or motivate them to purchase?