Following instructions. A lost art?

Scentists reckon we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish

I read often about how life in a digital age, where we are bombarded with vast swathes of easily digestible information, has resulted in a population who have short attention spans and aren’t interested in detail.  Until this week I would have disagreed with this sweeping generalisation.

However…I’m now not so sure how sweeping and generalised this actually is.

I’ve just launched a product trial where participants need to scan a QR code and enter a password to enter the trial. That’s it.  Oh, and if they have technical problems to contact the helpline (I am to technical problems what chocolate is to teapot construction).  The instructions were delivered verbally, in writing and via video.  And so far about 50% have contacted me (not the helpline 😊)  not knowing the password or not knowing what to scan.

So that’s at least half who haven’t read the instructions.

Of course, it’s not a big deal. And it’s an insight in itself for the eventual product launch. But it has made me really think about how much attention we are willing to pay – or have time to pay – to the details of life and what the implications of this are for marketeers as we strive to grab and hold people’s attention. Clearly it’s never been more important to tell a compelling story that is clear and succinct, and to be easy to deal with, as people aren’t going to hang around to figure it out.

Now please excuse me, just remembered it’s time to go and feed my Goldfish.

#shortattentionspan #feedthegoldfish #storytelling #shortandsweet

Getting real: Generating NPD solutions that work

image created by Javi_indy –


Working on NPD for healthy meal solutions, it struck me, once again, just how important the reality factor is in generating product innovation that has genuine relevance, and therefore a chance at commercial success.

We were working in a situation where our client had some NPD ideas that performed well qualitatively but were bombing in quant. screening and nobody could quite put their finger on the reason why.  The solution was to ‘get real’!

We recruited to the same health-based segmentation as for previous studies, but thought long and hard about how we could prevent the ‘beauty parade’ approach that can occur in NPD groups.

Putting people in touch with the ‘me that I am’ as opposed to the ‘me I like to present to the world’ is crucial.  We used two pre-tasks to up our reality quotient.  We sent our group participants out to buy something ‘healthy and delicious’ to help them produce a midweek meal, and they completed a photo audit of their cupboards/fridges.

Getting our heads around their thinking as to what makes ‘healthy and delicious’ work for them was eye opening.  We saw how their vision of themselves, in relation to health, got diluted as it was filtered through the reality of everyday life.  Factors such as convenience, ease, and managing the family’s needs made a significant impact.

The warm up exercise where people introduced their ‘healthy and delicious’ choices, equipped us with a semiotic lexicon as to how health is decoded at point of choice.

It also meant that everyone in the group had ‘outed’ themselves, in terms of their ‘reality’ of healthy eating as opposed to the vision we like to present to the world and sometimes ourselves; making for a much more productive group experience.

The net result is two winning ideas; reimagined and reshaped in a way that is grounded in customer need and expressed in a way that works with how health is decoded.  It also helped the client think about their segmentation through the ‘messy’ lens of real life, rather than the neat ordered world that quantitative output can create.

As is often the case with research, it’s the tiny details that make a difference; and nowhere is this more helpful than bringing the reality factor into research.





The power of storytelling

“This buggy signifies everything that ended my happy carefree low cost child free life”

– lessons from eBay on the power of storytelling

Storytelling - buggy 26-05-2016

‘Storytelling’ is in vogue, as a dynamic tool to bring research findings to life.

A couple of recent eBay listings would seem to confirm the power of storytelling:

Joel Andresier of Southampton listed his used baby buggy, waxing lyrically (and in my opinion quite hilariously) about the impact it had had on his life (check the link – he’s less than positive!).  At one point bids hit £154,200 and prompted 6 pages of buyer questions (he did reset the price leading to an eventual sale at £325, as Mr. Andresier wasn’t optimistic about the bidder stumping up £150K!)

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“How am I supposed to walk in that?”

We’re sure you’ve seen the recent coverage of one temp’s fight calling for the law to be changed so companies can no longer force women to wear high heels to work, click here to read the full story.

Working from a small, friendly and casual office, we’ve got a fairly relaxed approach to what people wear, so heels, suits, and enforced dress codes aren’t an issue for us but we loved this film from @Stylistmagazine, which points an uncomfortable, although hilarious perspective on high heels; no one is pointing a gun at our heads to wear them, but many of us do.   Lots to think about with this one….

It brought to mind Naomi Wolf’s brilliant book ‘ The Beauty Myth’.  Written back in 1990, it is a damning feminist perspective on society’s and women’s treatment of themselves.  It’s 26 years old now, but amazing how little has changed.

Well done to Stylist Magazine, for so brilliantly and pertinently capturing the zeitgeist, and encouraging us all to think more deeply about the underlying issues, whilst being laugh out loud funny.



British Men Try High Heels For A Day via @YouTube

Getting my hustle on

Getting my hustle on

So you’re now either picturing Paul Newman or Tom Cruise in a dimly lit pool hall or maybe even hearing the brilliant Van McCoy telling us all to ‘Do the hustle’.

For a word most often associated with manipulation and deceit, it really caught my attention at a recent event I attended, listening to some of my favourite inspirational entrepreneurs, how often the varied speakers referred to hustling.

Of course, they were not proposing we all adopt a more criminal approach to our business endeavours.  Rather that we seize opportunities with both hands and full commitment – head and heart aligned to create significant intent and action.

This flip of hustle from shady to shiny really stands out for me.  A philosophy that’s about rolling up your sleeves and throwing yourself into the mix is both energising and motivating.  I will admit to a tendency to wait for ‘perfection’ before acting (yes, it’s one hell of a long wait!).  I find the nudge that ‘hustling’ delivers to be confidence boosting and legitimising of risk taking.

As an industry we’ve never been under more demand to innovate and move boldly, at the same time as increasingly needing to demonstrate ROI for our clients, which creates a particular kind of tension.  Risk taking and innovation by their essence being ‘untried and untested’ require a leap of faith on the part of all stakeholders.  But these leaps are how we get to game changing ideas and services.   We can take inspiration from the brilliant James Dyson who, despite continual  doors shutting in his face (‘nobody will ever want a bagless vacuum’) persevered (to the point of mortgaging his own home), to bring his innovative designs to the marketplace.   I think he’s had decent ROI on his risk!

So taking bold steps feels rather important, not just for brands and businesses but for our own brands – personal and professional.  So bring the hustle on!


Meet Pip

June 24th is #BringYourDogToWorkDay but at Breathe we have the pleasure of a four legged friend in the office every day of the week.


Meet Pip, our resident Bichon Frise.   Inspired by our clients, Nestle Purina, and their well thought through dogs at work policy, we decided to follow suit, and we’ve really felt the benefits; from increased productivity as a result of enforced breaks for dog walks to the major de-stressing effect of a quick cuddle and tummy tickle.

Not that we need ‘proof’, but the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that access to dogs was a calming influence and reduced stress levels, whether people had access to their own pets or other people’s.

We love that we’re able to do this. Nestle Purina’s research showed that 82% of workplaces don’t allow dogs, but 50% of us would bring our dogs to work if they were allowed.

And most importantly, Pip loves it here; snuggled on his dog bed, he’s happy to get attention from all of our team….now if only he could write a good recruitment questionnaire!


Times have changed, and so have we!

Say hello to Breathe Ltd.

Well done to those eagle eyed readers who’ve spotted that we’ve dropped ‘Research’ from our name.

We still do research.  But we also do so much more.  And we wanted our name to reflect that.

Our view, and our clients’ view, is that research and insight is only as valuable as the use you can make of it.  Unless it’s alive and kicking through the business, it can’t inspire action.  And we really like action.

Our 3 step approach at Breathe is to generate brilliant insight AND ensure that those truths are embedded in such a way that they galvanise change.  So research is the start point of what we do but not the end point.  And we thought our name had better reflect that.

If you’re interested in hearing more about our 3 step process and how it can inspire change in your business, please get in touch. We’d love to chat.

Call Emma Underwood or April Blanchard on 020 8668 9377 or email

Don’t brand me – the Millenial brand challenge

Much has been written of the Millennial generation and their attitudes towards brands.  Whilst they’re highly brand aware, they tend to identify with brands that demonstrate authentic values.  Hence the rise of the idea brand over luxury or glamour based offerings. And, as an increasingly narcissistic group who are more interested in their own lives than those of anyone else (hey, it’s selfie time!), brands such as Tom’s Shoes, that offer experience and personalisation, are winning.

This poses a threat for those brands that have built their success on lifestyle aspiration, demonstrated through conspicuous branding (think about the troubles Abercrombie has faced in recent years and you get the picture).  Indeed, Nikki Baird of research firm RSR recently suggested “Victoria’s Secret may be next” when it comes to brands that Millennials will uncrown, as what the brand stands for falls wide of the mark in terms of Millenials preferences (think ‘Perfect Body’ idealism, think minimal diversity, think PINK logos).

While some brands are responding with less conspicuous branding (in fact, this is a noticeable part of Abercrombie’s current approach) and alignment with causes that project positive values and ethics, one has to wonder whether they will ultimately have the flexibility to make it through the Millenials ‘authenticity radar’.   Perhaps a case of too little, too late?

How neuroscience has proven what Shakespeare knew all along

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”

William Shakespeare

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Neuroscience is now proving what Shakespeare so rightly intuited – that the power of our thoughts shapes the very nature of our brains.  Of course, this is important in the world of counselling, therapies and life coaching but also in our world of marketing and insight generation.  In particular, this highlights the creative struggle for advertisers:  As human creatures, we have an inherent bias to the bright, shiny and new (Magpie syndrome!) yet this learning suggests the value in consistent reinforcement of core messaging.  In other words, we really do need to “say the same thing” but make sure we’re saying it in new and exciting ways.

Read the article in full here

Too much Information

No, we’re not talking about ‘Big Data’ overload, but the impact of multi-sensory overwhelm on people with autism.


The Breathe team have had the great privilege of working with young adults with autism, their families, and parents of children with autism, to get a hands on view of living with autism in the UK, on behalf of the National Autistic Society.

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