Brands’ Social Media Strategies: Fewer Eggshells, More Springboards

Posted on February 27, 2014 by Amos

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One thing that brands have learned when it comes to their social media strategy is that learning never stops.

This past Friday, February 21, 2014, McCann Truth Central and McCann Always On took the stage at Social Media Week NYC to present The Truth About Privacy and Sharing: From Selfies To #Hashtags. The event was held at the Highline Stages in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district.

The first half of the event featured a spirited presentation of the Truth about Privacy 2013 study findings – presented by Laura and Nadia. They told us about the pitfalls of social media sharing, which include bullying, boasting, begging, and being boring.

The second half of the event featured a compelling panel discussion, with participants including Graydon Gordian (Community Manager, Percolate), Kelly Jones (Head of Thought Leadership, Microsoft), Kandace Hudspeth (Global Director, McCann Always On) and Sharon Panelo (Strategy Director, McCann Always On). Kevin Nelson, the Global Strategy Director and head of the Telecom business at McCann, expertly moderated the panel.

Kelly kicked off the conversation with her thoughts on the value exchange between consumers and brands, especially as it related to the issue of data sharing and privacy. She mentioned how Microsoft has, “learned that consumers are more aware that they are sharing data than they’ve ever been before, and now they want something back for it.” In light of this information, engineers at Microsoft are shifting their philosophies and using consumer insights as part of the development process, something relatively new in the tech space.

Kandace and Sharon – from McCann Always On – tackled the issue of how consumers and brands cope with the uncertainty of sharing. What is the line between being smart and calculated, and reacting quickly in a landscape that moves at warp speed? Kandace’s belief is that consumers have been quicker to create coping mechanisms than brands. For the individual, she said, “The privacy issue has pushed or compelled them to find other ways to share. They’re really smart and systematic about what apps they use for certain tasks, the type of content, and with whom they share.”

On the flipside she’s found herself urging clients to gain an understanding of the right platforms on which to engage consumers. She works with them by diversifying their strategy – directing them to both ephemeral social networks like Snapchat (where experimentation is safer) and to invest in social R&D.

Sharon challenged the notion that brands need to walk on egg shells when it comes to social media strategies, stating that they need to be less scared and more empowered. She talked about how, “Culture today around privacy and data is so rooted in fear – it’s ‘Big Brother is watching you’. But there is a total positive side that most brands aren’t getting at.” Ultimately, for brands the aim should be to “not own the consumers’ data, but to present it in a way that helps them.”

Finally, Graydon shared advice that Percolate provides for their clients in the quest for meaningful social media interaction with consumers. He advised that, “The best way to appear genuine is to be genuine.” He said Percolate likes to remind clients that there are, “Still people behind the brand’s communications and that if they let their community manager get excited, their content will be excitable.”

Empowered with the results of our study and the keen advice from our informed panel members, Truth Central showed little shyness in broadcasting our Social Media Week event.

Introducing: The Truth About Teens

Posted on February 26, 2014 by Amos

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We here at Truth Central like to think we’re pretty tapped in.

But it took just two hours one evening for us to realize that we may be less cool than we like to think – certainly according to teenagers. As part of the research for our recently launched 2013 Truth About Privacy study, we spoke with a group of 16 and 17 year-olds, resulting in an illuminating discussion centering on issues of privacy and sharing. By the end of the evening, the gap between researcher and subject was rather apparent.

Though Nadia, who moderated the focus group, was able to almost effortlessly hang with the crowd for about 30 minutes, it was ultimately one small question that fell her. When a teen said that she typically doesn’t text that much, Nadia asked what “not that much” meant, guessing it was around ten texts per day. The teen laughed, “10? No, more like 300”. If this was one of those Hollywood films where an adult goes back to high school and tries to fit in, this was that scene in the cafeteria where the imposter is outed.

Then another teen helpfully added, “I wake up to thousands of texts every morning.” There it was, the gratuitous spitball that serves as an exclamation point for many high school humiliation scenes.

While the session yielded other simply humorous learnings of the cultural phenomena of today’s teens, including nuggeting, we were also able to extract a multitude of insights that proved even more central to our research objectives. We learned about the intimidating metrics of curating an interesting and authentic presence on social media. People of all ages have a loose set of rules for proper online behavior, but teenagers have clear-cut instructions for each and every social media platform.

We took some of their rules and created a guide for How to Be Cool on Instagram (according to 16 year olds). These 8 easy-to-follow instructions made us realize just how uncool we are, as we consistently break at least two of them.

There were three important takeaways from the focus group session. First, the fact that we over-use the word ‘cool’ makes us uncool. Second, that today’s teens are incredibly self-aware of how they share data online and what it says about them. And third, that we need to conduct focus groups with teenagers on a monthly basis.

Check back with every month for the latest installment of our on-going “Truth About Teens” research, as we discuss a different topic shaping the world today (for both consumers and brands) as seen through the lens of a teenager

Truth Perspective: Central & Eastern European Moms

Posted on February 6, 2014 by Rodney

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The Truth About Moms: Central & Eastern Europe is a follow up to our 2012 global study, the Truth About Moms.

Globally, the prevalence of technology is making it even easier for today’s moms to juggle and balance their changing responsibilities in the workplace and at home, helping them to be ‘super’ moms. However, in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the new regional study, ‘The Truth About Moms: CEE’ by McCann Truth Central, reveals a different picture for these emerging markets, where the role of technology to enhance and enable the lives of moms is neither commonplace nor explicitly desired.

The Truth About Moms: CEE was written with the objective of providing brands with strategies to engage modern and multitasking moms in the region. The findings are based on proprietary qualitative and quantitative research conducted in Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.

For information on how to obtain the full report, please contact

Truth Central Goes Glam; Attends Luxury Daily FirstLook 2014

Posted on January 22, 2014 by Nadia

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Following the launch of our Truth about Affluence in the fall of 2013, and with more than a couple of us at Truth Central enamored with the world of luxury, we were thrilled to attend the second annual Luxury Daily FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference at the Time & Life Building in New York City. The luxury stage was set immediately upon entering: attendees were generously greeted with sets of glossy magazines and a skin caviar sample from La Prairie. The conference line-up was extensive, consisting of leadership representing Peninsula Hotels, La Prairie, Saks Fifth Avenue, LVMH, and Pratesi – among others. We certainly left the event more enlightened, educated and impressed.

Equipped with insights from our Affluence study, we were fascinated to see how brands connect with affluent consumers. The thematic foundation of many presentations was built upon the global economic shake-up experienced in 2008, which had profound implications on luxury brands and businesses. As Renaud Dutriel – ex-chairman of LVMH U.S. – said, “We were confronted with people asking ‘Why do we need luxury’?”. A fair question given hard times, but as Sharon Osen – SVP of global marketing and brand strategy at La Prairie – eloquently stated, “Luxury is important because it reminds us to strive for perfection. Luxury is the pinnacle of ‘getting it right’.”

We learned that, because of the recent economic turmoil, attitudes and behaviors of wealthy consumers towards luxury have changed for the long term. For instance, Cara David of American Express Publishing spoke of Affluents’ “depth of memory”: despite current times of relative economic prosperity, extravagance of times past has led to fear, which has led to anxiety. The wealthy remain cautious. However, they still yearn for the sublime, and we learned, above all, that today’s luxury customer is an empowered, independent and international one.

Empowered: The Internet has provided more than greater access to better, faster shopping. It’s granted a new set of tools to the affluent population. Cara David’s American Express Publishing study finds a significantly heightened sense of resourcefulness and saving among the wealthy, along with new core values of control and planning. Consumers feel an increased sense of self-reliance in making sound decisions, with implications on the way in which a range of industries should tailor communications with the audience.

Independent: “I am who I am, where I am, when I am”. This phrase, spoken by L’Oreal Luxe VP of digital strategy, Rachael Johnson, succinctly captures the attitude of today’s luxury consumer. Always connected and very discerning, consumers don’t want to feel “sold to” 365 days a year. They expect a higher standard of content and relationship-building, says Matthew Woolsey – SVP of Digital at Barney’s New York. “Storytelling is the word on everyone’s mouth, but we choose not to create ‘empty calories’ of content.” Instead, their strategy is to delight and surprise their consumer every day, even if it means no direct link to a sale. Consumers want to make their own decisions when it comes to which brands they allow into their lives.

International: The rise of the Asian market, coupled with allure of global travel, represents a strong shift towards an international mindset among the luxury customer. Renaud Dutreil, formerly of LVMH, predicts that luxury goods closer to the body, like apparel and jewelry, will be more important in communicating status than items apart from the body, like cars and homes. He attributes this, in part, to the desire among the wealthy to be seen as “billionaire nomads”. This aspirational persona of the globe-trotting sophisticate, who hops from city to city equipped with just the priceless essentials, means assets like cars are not as needed. In addition, goods that are ingested by the body, like food, wine and even culture, will become increasingly important as signifiers of affluence. But lest we doubt the significance of hard assets, Dutreil assures that the wealthy are still renting Jaguars and taking up expensive lodging on the short-term.

It seems the world of brands is increasingly in flux, and even the most traditional categories, like luxury, are no exception. The more we learn about this multi-faceted and demanding consumer, the more the luxury category can better provide for and delight them in years to come.

Truth Central Unveils Update to the Truth About Privacy Study at CES 2014

Posted on January 14, 2014 by Amos

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On Wednesday, January 8th, McCann Truth Central, in conjunction with Ad Age, unveiled the findings of the 2013 update to the Truth About Privacy to a full house at the Wynn Las Vegas. On the surface, a five star hotel and casino may seem like a surprising place to launch our thirteenth Truth Study. But given the vast circuit of ‘eye in the sky’ video camera strewn throughout the premises, there may not have been a more appropriate venue.

As part of CES 2014, Laura Simpson (Global Director, McCann Truth Central) and Nadia Tuma (Deputy Director, McCann Truth Central) delivered a presentation of the research, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Michael Learmonth (Digital Editor, Ad Age).

In addition to Nadia, the panel featured Julie Brill (Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission) and Becky Brown (Director of Media, Intel). Each panelist brought their own, unique perspective on the state of privacy in 2014 and what it means for both consumers and brands.

Julie Brill approached the issue from a legal and consumer advocacy standpoint – stating that she believes consumers need to be better educated about how their data is being used. Brill believes that consumers understand their relationship with first party companies like Amazon or Netflix relatively well, but are currently uninformed about how non-consumer facing, third party party companies use data. She called upon marketers to help in this pursuit, by using their skill in creativity and clarity to communicate the truth about privacy to consumers.

Becky Brown spoke about Intel’s native advertising strategy as a new form of engaging consumers online. Her belief is that consumers will look for brands to curate and illuminate the latest trends and thoughts shaping our world, which Intel is already seeking to do with their “IQ by Intel” technology. She predicts that consumers will increasingly turn to brands’ native advertising for the content they consume online.

Finally, Nadia discussed today’s youth, who have grown up in a world where privacy and sharing issues are the natural way of life. Specifically, how they have adapted to the threat of bullying, which is more pervasive than adults tend to think. She said this has in part caused teens to seek out impermanent platforms like Snapchat, but they are increasingly shifting their most personal conversations offline where it is “safer”. She also cited parents playing a role in this behavior, depending on their level of involvement, to help their kids create strategies for what she called “Darwinian principles of online survival”.

The 2013 Truth About Privacy study is the result of research conducted in the US, which included an 1100 person online quantitative study and five focus groups with consumers ranging from 16-60.

For an executive summary of this study, please email us at
You can also click here to view more information about 2013 Truth About Privacy

Santa Came Early For Truth Central

Posted on December 6, 2013 by India

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As you may have seen, we recently launched our sneak peak into the Truth About Shopping with a topical snapshot of the festive retail period. The ‘Twelve Truths Of Holiday Shopping’ was scooped up and posted around the world and, even surprised us by making an appearance on a huge billboard in New York’s Times Square!

Check it out below. We hope you all had a great start to the holiday season too.

Twelve Truths of Holiday Shopping

Posted on November 19, 2013 by India

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McCann Truth Central’s, ‘Truth about Shopping’ report set out to uncover what people really think about shopping during the holiday season. The expansive global research study surveyed over 10,000 people in eleven countries including the US, UK, China, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, UAE, France, South Africa, Spain and India.

As we approach the festive period, it is clear to see that consumers are beginning to fully understand the benefits that their digital ‘data’ can bring. This holiday season signals a new era of predictive gift giving, which means it’s time to kiss bad presents goodbye. No more neon socks then!

The full study will launch in March 2014. Sign up for our newsletter for updates.

Yeah, I provide TMI, so what?

Posted on October 28, 2013 by Amos

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I am not at all concerned about being private on the Internet.

I hope that no Internet identity thieves read this blog because I guess I just made myself rather susceptible to all kinds of online risks. On any given weekend I will post pictures on Instagram of me in a ridiculously embarrassing costume, sign up for a sweepstakes that requires me to give my email address to a god-knows-who-they-are company, and store my bank account number in a mobile app without locking my phone. Perhaps this is all very naïve, I don’t know. The best ways to describe my attitude toward this very serious issue is at best, somewhat laissez-faire.

Earlier this month, I attended a half-day seminar called “Morning of Mobile Privacy” right here in Manhattan. The event set out to illuminate some of the core issues related to privacy on the Internet, and more specifically mobile Internet privacy. Speakers represented some of the major parties involved in the privacy discussion, including, brands, advertisers, advocates, consultants, legislators, and legal counsel.

The representatives from the agencies and brands shared some of the attitudes and strategies that they espouse when it comes to online privacy, such as the need to establish trust with your consumers in the early stages of the relationship and the necessity to identify the core needs for data collection, and not just doing it because everyone else does.

While the brand and agency insights were informative, it was Jules Polonetsky, Executive Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, former Chief Privacy Officer at AOL, and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs who set the tone for the day. He spoke of the relationship that many of us have with the Internet as one of friendship. This is not at all surprising, given that in The Truth About Connected You, we learned that about 30% of consumers around the categorize the relationship they have with their phones and tablets as one of friendship (and 18% would even go so far as to categorize it as ‘lovers!’).

The key takeaway for brands laid out by Polonetsky was that in order for there to be a positive relationship, the company that is accessing and storing user information from online activity, must provide some sort of utility to the consumer. The information could be used to suggest a gift for a parent or to inform your smartphone to direct you to the nearest public bathroom if you have a hyperactive bladder. As he summed up, addressing the audience as if he was speaking to each person individually, brands need to use this information to “be smart for you, not just smart about you.”

What resonated for me was that when it comes to the degree to which I share information about myself online, it’s not that I am totally naïve. In fact, I enjoy the benefit that providing information and sharing content from my life provides me, and that I simply have not been burned (yet, at least). So far I have only seen positives from my carefree method of Internet sharing. I still regard the Internet as a dependable and unwavering friend. And until I am let down, I will gladly let that Internet analyze the fact that I love watching Russian dash-cam videos and way-to-frequently Google random baseball players from the 1990s.

In 2014, Truth Central will refresh The Truth About Privacy, a study we first launched in 2011. For me, perhaps I will finally take the time to reconsider the reasons why I’m not very concerned with Internet privacy … but until then, I’ll be enjoying the spoils of my compulsive sharing.

Launch of The Truth About Affluence

Posted on September 25, 2013 by Amos

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On Tuesday, September 24, 2013 McCann Truth Central introduced the findings from The Truth About Affluence to a packed house at B.B. King Blues Club, in the heart of New York City’s Times Square. The event, which was part of Advertising Week 2013, featured a presentation from Laura Simpson, Global Director McCann Truth Central, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Suzanne Powers, McCann’s Chief Strategy Officer.

The expert panel included Anne Valentzas (VP, Affluent Consumer Marketing, MasterCard), Alexis Maybank (Co-Founder, Gilt Groupe), Mickey Alam Khan (Editor-in-Chief, Luxury Daily), and Devika Bulchandani (Managing Director of Global Strategy, McCann XBC).

The discussion included many highlights, beginning with Anne Valentzas sharing MasterCard’s thoughtful use of affluent segmentation, which helps mold the brand’s evolving approach to this important group. She explained how this deep understanding of different affluent profiles is the foundation for MasterCard’s Priceless Cities campaign, which offers unforgettable experiences in dozens of cities around the world.

Alexis Maybank pointed to the power of data in catering to an affluent crowd. For her and her customers, the information that Gilt Groupe collects is critical to providing a customized user experience. The Truth About Affluence revealed that affluent individuals are more concerned about how they spend their spend their time than how they spend their money and Gilt Groupe’s strategy enables their customers to use their time as efficiently as possible.

While Mickey Alam Khan warned of the over-reliance on data and reminded the crowd that luxury brands must focus on service and making the customer feel special, his message was ultimately the same as Ms. Maybank. He shared a few anecdotes of how luxury brands could best utilize this notion of personalization, including a story of a Bergdorf Goodman salesperson who offered to pay a parking ticket that a customer incurred while spending copious amounts of money in store.

McCann’s XBC’s Devika Bulchandani pointed out that what is often thought of as the old luxury paradigm (immersive in-store experiences) and new luxury paradigm (mobile, seamless, instantaneous shopping) should not be considered contradictory ideas. Rather, the modern approach to affluent marketing is about maximizing the value of those experiences within the limited expendable time that Affluents have for shopping experience. While affluent consumers will always seek out indulgent experiences once-reserved for brick-and-mortar stores, they readily accept the use of mobile for quick, seamless and efficient purchases. Bringing those two worlds together will be key for brands targeting this lucrative demographic.

For an executive summary of this study, please email us at

You can also click here to view more information about The Truth About Affluence

Around the World in 80 Bathroom Cabinets

Posted on September 16, 2013 by Laura & Rodney

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This article was originally featured on the Huffington Post on September 11, 2013.


We’ve all done it. Stood before a bathroom cabinet not our own and peeked inside. Sure, we’ve done it to borrow a couple dabs of toothpaste. But there’s no point in denying that we’ve also done it on a few occasions simply to gather a few clues about the identity of the cabinet’s owner. From hair removal creams to hemorrhoid treatments, our cabinets are the home to revealing products that provide a glimpse into our personal lives and priorities. It’s not surprising that half of us (48 percent) say we would be offended if someone had a peek inside without our knowledge.*

Our photographic essay, “Around the World in 80 Cabinets,” allows you to peek inside bathroom cabinets around the world, from Australia to Uzbekistan. Each of the cabinets are distinct in their contents, but you’ll also notice that there are shared principles for the bathroom cabinet the world over, whether that cabinet is curated on a shelf, a ledge, a drawer, a rack, a cupboard, a box or in a suitcase. We catalogued cabinets in all these variations and asked the owners a series of questions. Herein, we offer a teaser of what we found.

Predictably, all the bathroom cabinets we captured were stocked with at least one dental tool, one type of soap, and one type of moisturizing ointment. With these three items to hand, we are able to perform the fundamental rituals of personal care: scrub, cleanse, anoint. We all know what it is like to go without performing these actions for an extended length of time and many people talked about the products in their cabinets as the things they “couldn’t live without.” Indeed, one woman described her cabinet as something which helps her “feel human again.”

Despite near universality, bathroom cabinets are also largely personal spaces that are created by individuals who alone know the logic of their layout. If you awoke and found one of these cabinets in place of your own, chances are you’d manage to accomplish the essentials of your care regime, but you’ll also need to be a bit flexible in just about every other regard. What does a stock of three tubs of Nivea Soft suggest? What factors might precipitate the choice of a Hello Kitty storage case? For whom would six different types of facial lotion make sense?

Every cabinet tells a story. For example, in our cabinet from Norway you might notice a little love note written by the cabinet’s owner to her boyfriend on the day of a job interview. The note reads “Looking Good!” Or in our cabinet from France, the female owner explained that her cabinet contained an unusual product, a magical elixir created by her young son (a pot where he had mixed together ointments and potions and lotions that he’d found around the house).

Whereas some products have a magical and display-worthy character, there are other products that we are less keen to display. When asked about which products they were most embarrassed about, men pointed to acne-control creams and women pointed to tampons and sanitary towels. But, in all bathroom cabinets photographed, we detect a desire and a belief in positive change, whereby both men and women clearly project their hopes onto a variety of products.

In fact, cabinet owners were often “proud” about their face cream, body cream and hair care products. Here brand visibility is desired and positively regarded. And frequently, behind the brand name stands a product with remarkable provenance, for example, precious oils or a luxurious lotion, or simply a family tradition or an unparalleled formula.

Seeking the human truths that lurk behind the looking glass, or on the edge of the bathtub, leads to a rich treasure trove of insights whether you’re a voyeur, marketer or simply a bathroom anthropologist. Pioneering brands, companies and industry professionals in health, wellness and beauty would also do well to notice what the looking glass reflects: we invite you to take a peek.

*This essay is based on findings drawn from two separate global studies by our team at McCann Truth Central: The Truth about Beauty (2012) and The Truth about Wellness (2013). We prepared our visual anthropology of bathroom cabinets for The Truth about Wellness. For details on methodology, respondent base, and executive summaries of the studies please visit:

For more on personal health, click here.