Human insight & design strategy

New Formations 2020 Report

Buy your New Formations 2020 Report Now!

We are very excited to launch the latest edition of ‘Quantum Originals’ - our syndicated series of reports that investigates complex cultures, shifting consumer values and demystifies the impact of milestone events in consumer lives

Snacking - A new product launch in China

Creating a positioning and personality for a new brand looking to enter an already crowded snacking category in China

Social Media behind the numbers

The context of Social Media

Culture Pulse

Using cultural DNA to explain contemporary trends.

Talk to the mom

Challenging category communication norms for an infant-oriented category

Fighting Dengue

Designing a product range anchored in deeply held cultural notions

The biscuits aisle

Disruptive innovations for the biscuits category in Australia

Disrupting Deodorants

Disruptive positioning inspired by traditional and contemporary cultural concepts

Bringing Restoration

Developing innovation spaces using human body metaphors

Intangible Halal

Creating brand mixes rooted in cultural beliefs

The purpose of purpose: Why does it matter to the consumer?

It is now beyond doubt that purpose is critical for branding and how brands perceived as meaningful are benefitting from significantly higher share of wallet globally. The Millennials are also being referred to as “pro-social” or even the “purpose driven generation”.

We all know that purpose works for the business, feeds the topline, keeps the bottom line healthy and also creates better engagement with consumers. This is backed by statistics, academic work and expert views but why does purpose work for the consumer and why do they seek purpose?

Building meaningful brands: Real questions to ask

Every culture sustains itself by creating a meaning system that gives its everyday and existential reality a reason to be and a reason to perpetuate itself. This meaning system is socially constructed based on the cultural knowledge and value systems within a given culture. Together, these exist as a legitimising entity that helps preserve the integrity of everyday reality for an individual or society.

The same truth applies for brands and their survival. Brands need to create a meaning system that is culturally contextualised so that it works to ensure their perpetuity and competitiveness. It needs a belief and value system that legitimises its existence.

How is the social construction of this meaning system to be understood from the brand’s perspective? What values does the brand need to embody to be relevant and purposeful for the consumer? And why do some brands have more meaning and relevance than others?

To answer this, we need to understand how cultures construct and help people navigate and make sense of their everyday reality. It is within this reality and meaning system that a brand must exist.

Consumer Pulse - Urban Wars

Sao Paulo is an urban beast. Like any great metropolis, it has an imagined ‘ideal’ face; sanitised, skyscraper-ridden, and sufficiently Americanised – and a dark underbelly; overcrowded, crime-ridden, torn by racial violence, and in the throes of political and economic crisis. And like anywhere else, these ideas of the city are constantly at war.

Consumer Pulse - Rise of the Hipster Beard: Threatened Masculinity or Evolving Masculinity?

A glance through my social media timelines and I am bombarded with peers sporting or trying to sport a beard, awash with pictures of grim looking Indian men that let their beards do the talking instead of their expressions. Facebook too, has decided that it’s time I grow a facial mane and buy into this new range of ‘beard care’ brands, hitherto an unheard of phenomenon in India; until recently. 

Is it time to kill the consumer?

Remember the film WALL-E?
I seem to remember it better and better every day now.
The film painted a dystopian picture of a future Earth, inundated with garbage; and a small colony of obese humans confined to their loungers as they were plied continuously with food, drink and entertainment.

But the film was really about a robot. A robot we all fell in love with. An AI with emotions who falls in love with another robot. The film was really their love story.

Doesn’t sound so implausible anymore. Does it?

Consumer Pulse - Islam in Indonesia, a consumer point of view

Understanding Islam Law (Sharia) is quintessential for any business in Indonesia. Acquiring Halal labels normally used for regulatory purposes, mainly for consumed goods, has recently become a trend for unconventional products who pursue these labels for marketing purposes. Wardah established themselves as one of leading brands of beauty cosmetics in Indonesia via this strategy. Now, we see more brands trying to exploit this sentiment; detergents, refrigerators, and hand-sanitisers are a few of the latest products jumping on the bandwagon.

Consumer Pulse - Indian web series creating new adulting goals

Young Adult depictions in popular Bollywood films have one recurring feature – weaving their story and characters around celebrating the “glory days of youth”. Almost all popular youth films like Dil Chahta Hain, Rang De Basanti and Wake up Sid largely revolve around the reckless, unabashed fun and lack of direction that youngsters in India seem to live their life by.
Young adults are depicted as typically care free, impulsive and hell bent on only living in the present, with no care or concern for the future.

There is a strong idea of them having to mend their ways, have a clear goal to be taken seriously or truly grow up (much like Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya).

Designing for a new Indian identity

I was at an upmarket mall in Mumbai on a recent weekend and there were groups of college boys, young couples and even families that were there not on a shopping expedition but there for the sheer excitement of hanging out. It was as if they believed that proximity to prosperity in itself would be a guarantor of good times. After the initial euphoria of being there had died out though, a different body language surfaced – the awkwardness of not belonging.

Deep Design to the Rescue:
 Solving Wicked Problems of the Future

Let me begin by stating a controversial opinion: our contemporary lives are defined by 200 years of dehumanisation.

From the time of the industrial revolution, the nature of work and labour has changed dramatically. The relationship between man and machine has always been tenuous, with machines being used to help man work faster, better, and more productively, yet causing existential angst for mankind. The rise of the machine and its intelligence, once driven by man, now threatens to replace and succeed men.

Consumer Pulse - The Korean wave finds spiritual home in South India

The Korean wave – the spread of Korean popular culture comprising of music, movies and drama started in India in the late 90s. However, it has been largely confined to Manipur and other north-eastern states

Consumer Pulse - Yours Anonymously

Anonymity as a context, revolves around being un-identifiable or inaccessible. The word is very often used to describe namelessness as well. However, in the digital world, the former descriptions are more pertinent.

Consumer Pulse - John Oliver and the Rise of Mainstream Hacktivism

Apart from re-inventing the evening talk show format, using social media ‘like a boss’ and dumbing down hard news into binge watchable content, John Oliver has pushed the envelope by initiating social action on the online space like a true hacktivist.

Consumer Pulse - Exclusive Inclusion

The Third gender, though a creation of Nature, has not just been treated differently but with disdain. Indeed, the very word by which it is referred, "hijra" has been derived from the Arabic word ’hjr ’meaning "leaving one's tribe“. Indian society has shunned this section of the population through most of history until now. The Indian Constitution guarantees this section of society the basic rights but they suffer discrimination with regard to social and cultural activities and deprivation in access to basic amenities and facilities like education, health services, employment, etc.

Consumer Pulse - Proxy ‘WhatsApp’ stores are redefining Indian retail

While online shopping has made significant strides in the organized retail market in India, in-store shopping is also turning over a new leaf by appropriating social media apps such as WhatsApp.

Consumer Pulse - Culture of Food In India

In recent past the food discourse in India has shifted from social and religious rituals to a lifestyle and nutrition centred discourse, leading to the emergence of the modern food template.

Traditionally, it was believed that ‘we become what we eat’.

Consumer Pulse - Pimped up Tuks: An expression of individuality and attitude in Sri Lanka

Tuk-tuks are an everyday part of the lives of almost all urban Sri Lankans. Tuk-tuk owners often purchase their vehicles through leases and loans obtained through financial institutions and operate the vehicle as a taxi – based out of an established taxi rank. A tuk-tuk owner therefore, can be defined as the quintessential Sri Lankan small business owner.

Consumer Pulse - The Rise of the Gojek

The GoJek app and its drivers

Jakarta’s hellish traffic is notorious internationally, and it is only increasing. Weaving through traffic in an ojek (motorcycle taxi) is one of most well-known workaround for any who have stayed in Jakarta for any extended amount of time.

Consumer Pulse - Indonesian Food trends: From Street Food to Instagram & Pop up food festivals

Snacking and eating has always been part of Indonesian society. However, a new trend has emerged in street food, to online & pop up food festivals. If the food experience before was enjoying the cuisine in a specific place, enjoying the ambience, some shift has now occured with the emergence of online shopping for food and thereby building a high trial experience.

Consumer Pulse - Spectre of Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. General anxiety levels seem have drastically shot up over the last two centuries, synchronous with radical transformations in our social reality. Briefly examining two seminal historical events of the 18th century is key here in understanding the possible link between anxiety, especially identity anxiety, and rapid social change.

Consumer Pulse - A Natural Refrigerator

The people of Jaana, Raison, Naggar, Bhagsu and many more towns in Himachal Pradesh use their next-door water-fall as a refrigerator during the summers.

Consumer Pulse - Not Yesterday’s Jilbab

The Indonesian Muslim women of today are at a crossroads between their culture, religion, and self-actualisations. This is manifesting in many different ways, and a prominent aspect of it is in the phenomena of trendy hijabs.

Consumer Pulse - Global Dominance of the Haka

“HAKA” is a traditional “Maori dance” which originated as a traditional war cry or display of power. Pre-European era warriors performed the "HAKA“ prior to battle to show their strength and power to intimidate their rival tribes.

Consumer Pulse - No Birthdays for Girls: A Sign of ‘Progress’?

On fieldwork in rural Lucknow, we were pleasantly surprised to hear families talking about the importance of educating the female child. However, although parents weren't overtly discriminatory based on gender, it was clear that the son was considered to be the more important. The son was called bhaiya (older brother) even in homes where the boy was the youngest of all the children.

Consumer Pulse - Coffee Selfie Craze

The newest F&B consumer trend in Singapore is coffee selfies, where consumers can take selfies that get printed onto their coffee foam.

Consumer Pulse - Youth in small town India give wings to their unfettered desires on social media

As I made my way through a maze of narrow alleyways, I felt that not much has changed in Varanasi. It still is the veritable holy city, where the day begins with the sound of temple bells and ends with the aarti on the banks of Ganges. Through the day people line up at the temple to pray. The street animals, cats and dogs, continue to litter the streets, yet are revered. However, I was in for a surprise, when I met the young women in Varanasi. Despite growing up in a traditional set up, these young women are a far cry from the stereotypical definition of traditional Indian woman dressed in salwar kameez, with kohl lined eyes and hair tied in a plait.

Consumer Pulse - Korean Beauty

In South Korea about 70% of young women between 17-25 go under knife to enhance beauty. Typical treatments could be skin cleansing, jaw line correction, enlargement of eyes etc. I did a portrait with a young law student Hyein Song who refused to follow her peers and change her identity. Hyein says that she is comfortable with the way she looks; small eyes are a part of her identity and when she travelled to the US people appreciated her looks. She feels that because of excessive surgeries people have begun to resemble each other and its mechanical perfection they are chasing.

Consumer Pulse - Rise of Futsal and Astro-turf Football

Mumbai has been facing a scarcity of public spaces. Children and adults alike with a penchant for sports are now turning to Astro-Turf football (Indoor Football) arenas to satiate their sporting and adrenaline rushes.

Consumer Pulse - A Christmassy Slice of the Global

Spotted outside a large local store catering to children – a long queue of excited mothers with their children. At the end of the queue is a man dressed as Santa Claus sitting on his elaborate chair.

Consumer Pulse - An interesting new money saving network

Bishi (pronounced as bee–she or bee–cee) is a social circle wherein each member contributes a pre-decided amount of money to the pool every month.

Consumer Pulse - The Pink Symbol

During the late 1800’s, the famed pink city Jaipur was painted this colour on the orders of Maharaja Ram Singh to welcome Queen Victoria to Jaipur as a mark of hospitality.

Consumer Pulse - Ramadan in Indonesia

Ramadan is meant to be a time of piety, a time of renewing one’s faith and reconnecting with the Muslim brotherhood. In Indonesia, the festival has evolved into a space of indulgence; adhering to the day’s fast is rewarded with sumptuous feasts. The atmosphere in Jakarta transforms during the month of Ramadan; large evening food markets spring up, offering a variety of mouth-watering delicacies. The food bazaars offer a variety of Ramadan-specific dishes such as kolak, an Indonesian dessert made with palm sugar. Breaking fast is a social affair; the month of Ramadan is filled with social engagements as people break fast with family, friends and neighbours. The street food markets and malls are a popular point of congregation for youngsters to break fast with their friends

Consumer Pulse - A Little Bit of Bollywood in my Life

Bollywood is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. This thought gets reinforced when we see the CEO of a renowned brand talking about the mega impact of Bollywood on his business or the mother of a teenage girl who constantly compares the looks of her daughter with Deepika Padukone. However, what is interesting is that suddenly the power distance between the regular person and celebrities has reduced. There is a movement away from mass adulation and hero worship to seeing Bollywood stars in normal, real life.

Consumer Pulse - Ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting to school

A young mother in Ex-Aurangabad has an 8 year old son. She wants her son to get the best possible education he could receive within the constraints that she has. She believes that her son must go to an English medium school. At this young age, the mother sends her son to a school which is 2 hours away from her village, even though there is an English medium school in the village they reside in. According to her, she needs to keep her son away from the ‘village environment’ and that the language and the culture in the nearby school is very ‘village like’. Her aim is to ensure that her child has access to better sensibilities and ‘polish’ than what is currently accessible to them. By limiting interactions with her own villages children and pushing him to be like the city ones, she feels she is creating better access and more promising avenues for him. She says, “I don’t like their accent and their language. This village environment is not good.”

Consumer Pulse - ‘Candid’ Pre-wedding Photo Shoots

Whether it’s arranged or love, pre-wedding photo shoots are very popular today. Couples plan elaborately themed ‘candid’ photo sessions with professional wedding photographers

Consumer Pulse - Selfies in History

Youth in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are caught between proving their globalised identities, whilst at the same time not losing their Islamic roots. They feel they have to do this without appearing too traditional or fundamentalist.

Consumer Pulse - No Solitude in Shopping

Online shopping is now part of everyday life, especially for young consumers in India.

It mimics offline shopping behaviour which is marked by a need for company and affirmation of product choice before purchase. Often, solo in-store shoppers are constantly on their mobile phones – either calling or texting – to discuss their purchase options.

Consumer Pulse - The Machine as Trainee Semiotician

Over the past few years, self-expression online has shifted from textual updates to visual ones. One of the most popular visual genres online is called the selfie. We see them everywhere - from the Oscars to small towns in India.

Consumer Pulse - Parsis and their Endless Love Affair with their Cars

Recently, while helping a friend search for a second-hand car I was suggested by the dealer that “if you want a genuine good quality second- hand car, you can blindly trust a Parsi-owned car...” I was intrigued by this piece of information and we did some research on our own.

Consumer Pulse - Kottu: From Revolution to Reimagination

It used to be a cheap takeout meal but now it has invaded the menus of top restaurants and 5 star hotels. To aficionados, the perfect Kottu is simply a work of art, with the beat of the metal paddles against the griddle - a musical performance in itself – creating the soundtrack to dinner.

Consumer Pulse - Fair skin in India and the UK: Two Sides of the Same Coin

It is no secret that fair skin is aspirational in India (and many other parts of Asia) and tanned skin is aspirational in the UK (and many other parts of the West). Indian scriptures, epics and folk tales depict fair-skinned women as good and dark-skinned women as evil. Fair-skinned superiority was embedded in the psyche early on.

Japan’s Masculinity in Motion: From Samurai to Herbivore

The Japanese salaryman has moved over for its new incarnation, the herbivore man.

Decoding the Asian Millennial

A term that has been touted as seminal, but also overused, overhyped, over-essentialised – yet one that reframes our understanding of an entire generation. The world might be obsessed or sick of it, but quite unable to ignore it.

Leveraging the Power of Anthropomorphism

Falling in love with things is an idiosyncratic behaviour that begins very early in our lives and began very early in human history. This ubiquitous phenomenon can in part be attributed to anthropomorphism (or personification), a psychological process that allows us to make sense of the world around us.

The Future lies in Story Telling, not Story Selling

Don’t chase me every minute and everywhere. I hate being followed around.

Navigating an Unexplored Market: Myanmar

Navigating an Unexplored Market: Myanmar

Managing Business as Unusual is the Normal

Learning to do business in an unreasonable world.

Nothing in the consumer world today is moving along predictable linear lines. Gone are the days when marketers led the consumers along a “new and improved, better than before” step-wise journey.

Over the last decade, forces like the Internet, mobile, liberalisation, digitisation, modern format retail, accelerated urbanisation, media revolution, amongst many others, have completely transformed the way consumers connect with business and vice versa.

Newsletter sign up

It seems that you have already subscribed to this list.Click here to update your profile.