April 11, 2022No Comments

Daily Ad Brief: Marketing Champions Interview

In this interview, Charlene and I dive into the heart of our consumer research at Sleeping Giant Labs to understand how communicating with those who love the brands we serve has changed. The same strategies one used in 2019, or even last month simply will not work today. Consumers are demanding more. So we share our consumer research Limbic Resonance model and how being a Trauma Informed brand, the underlying models we used to create the Consumer Emotional Index positions a company for today. We touch on the #metaverse, while we reveal how those who live different lifestyles have been affected differently by the pandemic, and how by crafting deeper conversations with the communities we market to can create relationships that last a lifetime. 


March 1, 2022No Comments

Daily Ad Brief: Marketing Champions Interview


February 18, 2022No Comments

Daily Ad Brief Interview: Media Champions


February 14, 2022No Comments

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In the fitful early days of January as the Omicron spike and bitter winter temps forced us back inside, I begrudgingly headed to the store to pick up some ice cream. Realizing that a winter hat, N95 mask, and sunglasses can look like a full-on disguise, I did not interact with the person who entered the shop alongside me. However, as soon as we crossed the store threshold, I heard my fellow patron let out an audible groan. “Uuugh!! Not Valentine's Day….” I smiled at the person beneath my mask, creating an empty gesture of unspoken commiseration. This year, following what has felt like a forced holiday season cycle, shoppers are not feeling the love.

It has become a telltale sign of change when shops swap out seasonal decor to orient us throughout the year. In the pandemic world, it felt necessary to move through time based on visible markers and yet, we cannot cheerfully pretend that it’s business as usual. It has been a long hard two years for nearly everyone we’ve interacted with, and this presents unique challenges for businesses to keep their finger on the pulse of their community. We are left scratching our heads when familiar landmarks like cheerful red balloons, flashy florals, and chalky heart-shaped candies are met with disdain. Expectations for gifts or grand gestures have given way to stress and anxiety, rather than the annual uptick in diamond sales. Understanding that things have changed for the communities we serve is the first step we all need to take today. As marketers, we need to embrace change, and the only way forward is to figure out who our clients’ customers are, beyond knowing the websites they frequent. We simply cannot depend on third-party cookies as our sole source of information. The same marketing tactics that we’ve depended on for years will fall flat if we do not take into account just how much life is in flux for the communities we serve.

One example of this is how the stress of job changes, childcare, and school interruptions, coupled with sickness, have driven many relationships to the brink. According to a recent article in Forbes, one UK law firm reported a 122% increase in divorce inquiries during the pandemic. Our own Consumer Emotional Index (CEI) research that reaches out to 1,000+ consumers every quarter tells us that 58% of people are feeling “on guard” and 51% are having trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Finally, 76% of our respondents shared that they are worried that COVID-19 variants will slow down the overall pandemic recovery. We don’t share these grim statistics to feel lousy, but more so to ask the question: what do we need to do to support one another during these trying times? We know instinctively that everything has changed, but what does that mean to the campaigns and products that we develop?

Human interest stories and fundraising campaigns seem to be one way that we are transcending the isolation of the COVID-19 winter. Upworthy (a positive news aggregator) is now seeing north of 100 million views per month and popular social media giant Humans of New York has now collected millions of dollars to support individuals through storytelling. The increase in crowdfunding has shown that individuals want to be able to engage with one another and make a measurable difference in the life of someone else. Consumers are craving deeper and more meaningful connections, and they want to support brands that resonate with their values and identity. Our CEI data shows that 62% of consumers want brands to support their local community, and 54% said they want brands to help them achieve their goals. This is telling us—now more than ever—that our future success lies within our relationships. Showing the people we care about that they are seen, known, and valued is the new box of chocolates. It requires far more engagement than a shallow marketing strategy, but the rewards are profound. It’s the true difference between building a brand or simply having a collection of products.

This is a rare opportunity in time, when consumers are open to finding connections with brands. For those of us who have been in marketing for a long time, this may feel a bit scary. We are moving away from pitches and selling to a model that looks more like collaboration. When I talk with people about being a trauma-informed brand, it means creating an atmosphere of communication, empowerment, and trust. As a brand, how are you accomplishing this? Today, we are growing together with our community and allowing ourselves to be forever changed and impacted by the events of the last couple years. Listening carefully to what our consumers have been through, and how, when, and where to connect with them will enable a deeper kind of intentional brand/consumer relationship.

So, where does this lead us? Coming back around to my fellow shopper who was pained by the Valentine's Day aisle, it means that our consumers want to be met where they’re at. They want us to remember that some folks out there are lonely and celebrating SAD (singles awareness day), are interested in only sustainably lab-grown diamonds, or have furry pets who can’t have chocolates around. As a brand, if you don’t know the answers to these questions, or ones like them, you are not asking the right questions. We need to take the time and make the effort to be more engaged brands, value consumer emotional data (i.e., their feelings), and establish lasting relationships with our communities. It can no longer be about selling. Our research and the CEI do just this; we ask all the questions you need and present the answers in an actionable way that is easy to understand. It means that it’s time for us to bring curiosity and awareness to our communications and campaigns. I wish I’d turned to that person in the shop and said, “Feels too soon for Valentine's, right?!” I could have validated a little piece of truth for both of us before I hurried off. We have the power and it’s the right time to make this change and to usher in a new way of relational communication.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

January 3, 2022No Comments

Sleeping Giant Reflects on the Fires Affecting Boulder, Colorado

I had prepared Sleeping Giants annual end of year letter reflecting upon the many challenges of 2021 with aspirations for the new year. While it was heartfelt, I will admit it was definitely going to read as overly hopeful considering our own experiences over the past few days. 

As many of you know, Sleeping Giant is based in Colorado where a terrifying wildfire has tragically played out over the past few days. The experience was surreal and brought our values sharply into focus. For context, a fast moving fire broke out just east of Boulder Colorado on the morning of December 30, when drought conditions combined with 90 mph winds, creating a blaze that burned 991 homes and local businesses right in our own backyard. Our family, like so many others, had to evacuate and spend a night in a hotel with the uncertainty looming large as we struggled to even comprehend what was happening so quickly. Ultimately, my home was spared, but so many of our dear friends and neighbors lost everything. During that long and sleepless night, with outreach coming from far and wide, it became crystal clear to me that my only concerns really were about people. None of the rest mattered, and no single item was really important to me. Certainly my mind drifted to important objects - most of them sentimental - like old photos (of people) or irreplaceable family heirlooms- nothing expensive mind you, just special. Once we knew that our friends and family had moved to safety, I felt at peace about the rest of it. Now, as the fire is out, we are just beginning to fully comprehend what has been lost. Our community has a long road ahead filled with taking care of one another and beginning to rebuild. 

Everyone has had so much to manage recently, including the resurgence of Covid-19, job losses, and uncertainty around every corner. Now, more than ever, we must turn our attention towards compassion, generosity, and genuine care for the well being of people. We at Sleeping Giant wish you peace and comfort as you navigate whatever challenges you are presently facing. In this moment, our team wanted to reach out and offer our support in any way we can.  We hope to hear from you and, when the time is right, we are motivated and rededicated to helping you connect and care for the people in your own community. 

Colorado has faced tremendous challenges in the past, so I am certain we will overcome our current reality, with the support of those who can help. So, if you are able, please consider donating to the Community Foundation Boulder County here.

September 20, 2021No Comments

Forbes: It’s Not Your Imagination, Consumers Care Less.

In the early days of the pandemic there was a global sense of solidarity, rallying behind healthcare and frontline workers, and drive thru parties. Many watched viral videos of neighbors socializing on balconies or howling at the moon to feel connected during lockdowns. Now, as Covid-19 numbers climb and vaccinations and masking has become a political wedge, we see folks retreating into their respective corners. We are hearing about burnout in healthcare workers, anger from exhausted caregivers, and passionate pleas from communities where people live, work, and play. Therefore, it’s now more important than ever for companies to explore an approach that authentically engages and connects with communities beyond traditional marketing tactics, as the advertising strategies that worked for your brand in 2019 simply will not work today. Continue reading...

January 26, 2021No Comments

Forbes: Why Brands Must Have A Deeper Understanding About The Nuance Of Emotions

As the world struggles to cope during this unprecedented time, the value of understanding the nuance of the emotions, individuals are experiencing is critical. Sleeping Giant’s CEI, Consumer Emotional Index, is hard at work to understand and surface consumer feelings, attitudes, and behaviors to empower brands to utilize insights, and to connect on a deeper level. We are experiencing a societal level trauma, which is transforming the way audiences want to interact with brands. Continue reading...

August 4, 202039 Comments

The Pandemic Paradigm Shift

By Gary Moskoff, co-authored by Leah Friedman

As the last few months have unfolded, in one form or another, I have been asked many iterations of the question everyone wants the answer to: “What’s next?” 

We’ve sheltered in place, we’ve stopped seeing our family and friends, some have stopped working, and others are working overtime. It goes without saying that the answer to this question is hyper-elusive, since information seems to change day-by-day, and at times hour-by-hour. As a marketing veteran of 25 years, I’m asked for my view on this question and have endeavored to research an answer. 

This question (and others) have led to some lively dinner conversations in our home, as we’ve been sheltering in place. My partner (who is the co-author of this article and our resident art psychotherapist & professor) and I are constantly diving into the “why” of all things. What we realized is that underneath the question “What’s next?” is a more urgent call as collectively we face an existential threat to what was previously “normal life.” Deeper still, is the realization that what was considered normal before, is now unsustainable and in many cases impossible to be revisited. The recent series of unprecedented events has called into question our most basic assumptions about community, brands, advertising, how we want to communicate, who we are, and who we want to be. 

These wonderings led us to a series of research inquiries now informing how we are relating to, and thinking about, current events. We became interested in the way people were describing their experience and behavior in reaction to the pandemic, and subsequent global response to the renewed awareness of racial injustice. What became immediately apparent, is that the descriptors we noticed were largely emotional. Marketing people cringe with use of the “f” word… but according to our research, we are hearing a lot about people's feelings concerning all things.

It is becoming evident that this historic period in time is actually being experienced as a trauma. Trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter one’s sense of security, which can leave one struggling with emotions, memories, and anxieties that won’t go away. It can also leave one feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. And although we are all sharing this experience, we are not all experiencing it in the same way. This means that we must be careful not to make assumptions about how someone is experiencing these current events. Past trauma history, individual characteristics, and intersectional identities are all factors. We are talking about trauma on a societal level, that will no doubt impact an entire generation.

In our journey to describe the collective mountain of societal reaction to this pandemic, we’ve been asking people a series of questions, over time. It has been very interesting to see what is changing and moreso, what has stayed the same. 

To showcase the data and highlight how different people are feeling right now, we’ve launched the CEI, the Consumer Emotional Index. We seek to understand what people are doing with their time, and subsequently how those choices are impacting their lives. Identifying the emotional components allows us to gain insight into our reactions to these current events, and how to work successfully within this shared trauma state.  

Trauma, as it’s being experienced in real time, makes it difficult for us to access the full capacity of our brains. In short, we believe that many of us are making decisions with our lizard brains. Our lizard brain, the oldest part of our brain, knows only fight, flight, or freeze. However, for as useful as this response is, this critical survival tool was not meant for long term use. Technically speaking, as the brain detects a threat, the amygdala initiates a quick, automatic defensive response involving the release of adrenaline, norepinephrine, and glucose to rev up your brain and body. However, as we are many months into this experience, the long term impact of the overuse of this response means decision making is now more complex as fatigue sets in from such a prolonged hypervigilant state. In practice, this means we see people not sleeping, making poor choices, and buying products impulsively to self soothe. 

According to the CEI, 68% of respondents are experiencing one or more symptoms of PTSD based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). There are obvious mental health implications here, but if we consider this data from a marketing perspective, understanding how this shared trauma impacts individuals within a community can inform how a brand effectively communicates with their communities now and moving forward. 

The impact of trauma has been coupled with a mind boggling amount of change, which has happened seemingly overnight. Due to this pacing, we must take a moment to understand how a trauma informed perspective will facilitate new communication strategies that will create deeper relationships with our communities than ever before. 

Brand messaging has simply become more difficult today than it was even a year ago, in 2019. Anything less than a fully trauma informed approach may be experienced as hollow or simply for marketing success. As awareness of the trauma caused by COVID-19, and the increased surfacing of systemic racism has affected society, it is no longer acceptable for brands to be simply looking to make a sale. The expectation is that awareness translates directly into action. We must engage with our communities in an authentic way that goes beyond optics, to reflect real values and right action within the communities we serve.

In unprecedented times, brands are being asked to act as community leaders by showing the values of their company with service, dedication to their employees, and commitment beyond marketing and social media. Our data shows that 30% of CEI respondents want the brands they engaged with to support their employees offline, and a staggering 53% of respondents want brands to support their community’s values. 

By digging deeply into the specific values driving community members, we see that consumers are demanding a more authentic form of engagement. For example, we observed that 69% of CEI respondents want companies to support front line workers, while only 41% of respondents want to receive a discount on a product. This new level of commitment means brands can fully understand and deliver the right message based on a far more emotional metric than ever before.  

Having studied communities since 2003, I am always looking to understand how different individuals want to be communicated with. With the many events that have unfolded, it’s easy to understand why everything has changed overnight. 

As we knew it would, our research ultimately led us right back to our original question, “What’s next?” With our new awareness gleaned from the CEI, we dove right into how a trauma informed perspective could help brands approach their communities with fresh eyes. The basic tenets of a trauma informed lens outline that: one needs to be approached in the right way; and we need to help folks feel safe, trusted, supported, collaborated with, and empowered. When someone is approached with that in mind, they begin to open up, they begin to feel whole, and they’ll remember those who understood them and helped them feel like there will be a future beyond this trauma. 

We are all seeking to align ourselves with communities and companies that reflect our own values, intentions, and perspectives. So when we see companies/communities donating time, talent and treasure, we resonate with them. A brand has to align with someone's lifestyle identities, desires, and behaviors for them to really want to be a part of their community. 

We hope the CEI helps people and brands dive deeper, to communicate with intention with the communities they serve, in a way that feels right, that feels real, from a place of caring, support, and partnership.

Gary Moskoff has a passion for research, strategy, and digital storytelling. Currently, he leads Sleeping Giant (SG), a research driven creative agency founded in 2003. SG enables its clients to find their truth and empowers them to create, and then share their story. Over the years, Gary has built a variety of platforms and online experiences, which has driven upwards of 100 million downloads. SG clients have included Intel, AT&T, AOL, Google, Nite Ize, Cherwell Software, NTT, CROCS, Spyder Active Sports, and WMI.

Leah Friedman is an educator, facilitator and specialist in art therapy, therapeutic relationships, and group dynamics. Her background blends professional counsel, creative problem solving, and education. Trained in art therapy, mindfulness, visual literacy, and psychology, she has cultivated exceptional communication skills supporting the training of new therapists and groups.


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