Brands that feel are brands that succeed

Have you ever wondered how some brands simply explode with success; not just winning the hearts of customers but actually converting them into an army of loyal enthusiasts who take it upon themselves to spread the brand’s reach, far and wide?

This free report is an eye-opener that will help you understand how rising brands like Greggs, Monzo and Aldi became the phenomenon they are by simply making their customers ‘feel’.

Get it ahead of everyone else by reserving your copy now.

Powerful emotions driving your customers

At Kokoro, we have painstakingly identified five crucial emotional states that underpin consumer happiness. We have developed a unique tool, our 5Drivers model, which helps brands understand the emotions they play to and where growth opportunities exist. It’s been externally validated and proven to make a real commercial difference.

Download our handbook for a taste of what 5Drivers reveals about your brand and its exciting chances for growth.

Why homewares are where the Millennial’s heart is

Our high streets continue to see an influx of homeware offerings from brands better known for clothing. ASOS has launched its own-brand Supply range just a few months after the debut of River Island’s RI Home collection. This blog explores what lies behind this trend and how it may well intensify.

Source: ASOS Supply, RI Home

As Millennials struggle to get on the housing ladder, and move from one rented property to the next, buying big-ticket items like kitchens, wardrobes or beds seems like a dubious investment – a mind-set change that put pressure on many furniture retailers.

At the same moment, young adults are actually spending more time at home as, saddled by student debt and often blocked in career terms, they can’t afford to go out as much. This has produced a cultural shift where the home is increasingly seen as a refuge from stressful everyday life.

However, cash-strapped and home-trapped though they may be, Millennials seem determined to make sure these refuges are stylish vehicles for self-expression – injecting personality through smaller, affordable,  accent pieces such as vases, knick-knacks or cushions. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that these are all hero items at the successful lifestyle and gifting chain Oliver Bonas, which has popularised inexpensive, quirky, handcrafted-style home décor.

Source: Handpainted ceramics range at Oliver Bonas

Unique designs and a homemade aesthetic tick two important boxes for this type of homeware shopper. It allows them to curate a collection of distinctive, identity-projecting items that are also flexible enough to fit changing lives and living spaces.

Beyond ceramics and trinkets, bigger pieces like a rug or a striking duvet cover can turn a room from drab and impersonal to bold and welcoming. This is particularly appreciated by students or younger professionals who are renting and cannot join in on other interior trends such as statement tiling, colourful blinds or moody wall paint.

Of course, putting your own stamp on your living space has always been a popular way of impressing friends and demonstrating status. Today, inevitably, social media has magnified this phenomenon. Artfully arranged interior shots and immaculate #shelfies are booming as décor begins to rival fashion or food as an Instagramable way of signalling lifestyle accomplishment. Once it was just OOTD or ‘look at my uber-healthy smoothie’, now it’s ‘check out my china’ too.

Source: #shelfie tagged posts on Instagram

Looking ahead, it’s clear that homeware players which supply low-cost kudos – whether through original designs or handcrafted character – will play well to a pressured generation whose lives are on show like never before.

Take a look at 3 factors behind the organising trend and what it means for retailers

3 factors behind the organising trend and what it means for retailers

The first glint of sunshine or glow of a daffodil and it seems our thoughts turn to ‘a bit of a spring clean’. With reports of charity shops receiving double the amount of donations they’d normally expect, it looks like a fit of ‘out with the old’ is gripping the UK.

Another symptom, and perhaps a cause, is the recent debut of Marie Kondo’s Netflix series. Kondo is more established in the US, but her mantra of decluttering and organising appears to be resonating here also – overthrowing some old notions around Brits’ obsession with tradition and horded nick-nacks.

Three factors seem to be driving this feeling that we’ve had ‘enough of stuff’.


After a period of relative stability, low inflation and high employment, the age of austerity, arrival of Trump and never-ending saga of Brexit have made recent years feel turbulent and the future harder to predict.

It’s unsurprising therefore that people are taking refuge from this uncertainty by hunkering down at home – shutting the door on the world and relaxing in the place where they’re most able to enjoy order and calm. Decluttering is a potent way of taking control of your environment and, by extension, your life.

Whilst this response may sound promising for Home sector retailers, there are dangers attached. In this chaotic climate, shoppers crave stress-free logistics and can be less tolerant when stores fall short. Today it’s even more important that brands have great customer recovery strategies and are able to make people feel genuinely valued.

Shoppers are, even if unconsciously, seeking support beyond the merely functional. Yes, it’s vital to get the basics right, but a demonstration of true understanding, such as an apology at the right moment, can count for even more.


The current housing market is, of course, a difficult landscape for the young. Saving up a deposit requires 10 years of living with Mum and Dad. The property ladder seems to have been pulled up by previous generations. This is spawning a desire to make the most of what personal space you have.

Clearing out the relics of your current reality and making a fresh, more optimistic environment is becoming more attractive. For retailers, fashions rooted in positivity and individual passions are likely to do well; especially if these allow young people to put a personal, perhaps unorthodox stamp on their rooms. Shut out of making the really big purchase of bricks and mortar, they are prepared to invest in quality – expressing themselves through handpicked specialness rather than generic clutter.


It’s well documented that the snowstorm of information and social media we face is seeing a huge growth of interest in mindfulness. This most commonly takes the form of meditating, but increasing numbers are seeking to cut distractions from their lives by removing clutter from their homes. It sounds simplistic, but fans of this movement report how their sense of centredness and wellbeing grows with every bagful of unnecessary ‘stuff’ they jettison.

In the retail sphere we have observed consumers’ interest in offers and deals wain – not only because these don’t always deliver real savings, but also because they just encourage the accumulation of home-cluttering objects! Thus, brands with ever-present offers risk looking like part of the problem. Going forwards it’s likely that sales will have to be very high impact and tempting if they are not to be just screened out as ‘noise’.

See 3 ways brands have felt the health benefits of veganism

From ‘stuff’ to stuff of dreams

How IKEA’s new Planning Studio plays to hearts as well as minds

The homewares sector is besieged on several fronts. More people are renting, Brexit uncertainty makes big ticket investments feel riskier and over 30% of spend now happens online. Meanwhile, fashionable brands like Made are piling on the pressure. There have been high-profile casualties such as Multiyork and Warren Evans, and last year IKEA’s profits were down nearly 40%.

However, IKEA has made a bold response – creating a new type of store on Tottenham Court Road that represents a shift from its traditional OOT ‘warehouse’ approach. We used our 5Drivers model of the emotions behind buying behaviour to unpick the proposition and see if it fits in neatly with modern needs.

Immersion: consuming consumers in the brand

The biggest change the Planning Studio makes is the way the consultation process has been put centre stage. IKEA has always helped shoppers plan their homes, but here the maze of high-shelved aisles has been replaced by sleek surroundings where visitors can feel comfortably absorbed in one-to-one conversations with experts. They can stand in a fully equipped room-set and visualise how products will work at home.

At a subtler level, the very location of the store accentuates the feeling that you’re part of an enjoyable experience that goes well beyond the functional. Of course, Tottenham Court Road lies at the heart of one of London’s most fashionable quarters, and visits to this store can be just one part of a seamless flow of enjoyable moments such as other prestigious shops, great cafés and restaurants. All this glamour can’t help but cast a little reflected glory on IKEA and heighten the sense that this is an exciting sensory world into which you’re happy to plunge.

Desire: playing to passion not just practicalities

A natural by-product of this enhanced experience is the products themselves start to attain the ‘objects of desire’ status that justifies paying a premium versus a discount, online player. The usual understated design signature is there and this is reinforced by the elegant room-sets. Also, through their knowledge, friendliness and willingness to push beyond standard, functional advice, staff members play a key role in setting an aspirational tone.

Freedom: helping people think outside the flat-pack box

The Planning Studio limits its scope to kitchen and bedroom areas, but in many ways the format plays well to people’s appetite for transcending their limitations. Support from expert staff in an environment that oozes confident style can embolden users to go for a more ambitious, unified look and buy products they might not have otherwise considered.

Putting the accent on the creative, ‘fun’ part of the process, rather than the practicalities of finding and transporting items, leaves users feeling energised and empowered. With car ownership falling to just 50%, inner city locations look set to become even more relevant and liberating.


Overall it appears the Planning Studio is an idea whose time has come. It’s a brave departure for IKEA, but we believe that the emotions it plays to are prevalent and hugely influential.

And, as Kokoro’s 5Drivers model makes clear, emotions move faster and more powerfully than rational thoughts – and brands that leverage them well can gain a big advantage.

See how quiet voices being heard amongst the noise?

This is Marketing – listening to the stories consumers tell themselves

In 2018 Seth Godin was inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Hall of Fame. Business Week put his book ‘Linchpin’  on its list of ’20 of the best books by the most influential thinkers in business.’ The power of his ideas has made him a highly in-demand public speaker.

In his latest book Godin discusses how the marketing landscape has transformed over the past few decades. We all know how the internet has undermined TV’s ability to reach mass audiences. So, how can businesses find new ways to spread the word? Yes, you can target precise groups online anywhere, anytime. You can measure every click and conversion, but then you realise everyone else can do the same!

So, how does Godin think you can make your marketing more effective?

Marketing starts with the process of making something worth buying

Seth argues that making successful products isn’t solely down to design or meeting ‘wants’. It’s also about the role of marketers. Here the key is to identify an underlying human desire and make sure your proposition fulfils it.

It’s like the famous story of the drill bit. The consumer who buys it doesn’t really want a drill bit. They don’t even want the hole it makes. What they really want is a benefit the drill bit can bring – say a shelf for displaying things; even more than that they want the sense of pride that comes with visitors admiring the shelf.

For Godin, the mission of marketers is ‘to truly see and understand the people you seek to influence’ – and then to tell stories that speak to their emotions. He advises brands to employ tactics that rely on empathy and connection rather than attention-stealing ads and spammy emails. This very much echoes Kokoro’s own 5Drivers model, which sets out how particular consumer feelings underpin so much of buying behaviour.

Realise you can’t please everyone

Different people want different things even when they seem to have the same desire e.g. to some, adventure means thrill-seeking, whilst to others it means international travel.

Brands need to narrow their target audience by dividing it into two groups, ‘adapters’ and ‘adopters’ – the former want familiarity, the later embrace new things, and you need to tell each group different stories.

Assume an extreme position to find your target audience

When looking at how to tap into the needs and desires that stimulate purchasing, most brands play it safe and sit in the middle-ground. Here the competition is fierce. If your brand is a start-up it’s hard to get heard and it’s better to target one of the extremes.

Get people to buy by challenging their status and creating tension

Work out the people who belong to your tribe and how they approach their status relationships.  There are two approaches: affiliation and domination. Those seeking affiliation want to feel they fit into a particular group, and so messages that signal popularity will score.

People who seek ‘domination’ want to climb the ranks and see their group outgrow others. Here you have to signal strength and success. Seth draws upon the example of Uber in the early days, when it took on local governments, competitors and even its own drivers: ‘We’re here to win and nothing’s going to stop us. So why not join us and become a winner too?’

Build the bridge that allows your product to spread

Look at your fanbase versus the adapters. You need to convince the adapters to let go of their way of doing things. This happens through the ‘network effect’ – whereby a product becomes more valuable as more people use it. People use it, this sets off a positive feedback loop and the product becomes more useful and then more people use it, and so on.

As the rules of the industry change, This is Marketing is a timely analysis of how brands and marketers must adapt. The book’s subtitle ‘You can’t be seen until you learn to see’ is a neat summation of the growing importance of probing deeper into the real drivers of consumer choices – and it chimes with Kokoro’s growing emphasis on helping companies deliver emotional benefits not drill bits.

See what caught our attention in 2018

3 ways brands have felt the health benefits of veganism

Veganuary is now in its fifth year and bigger than ever! 2018 saw consumers and brands alike embracing the trend – a massive 16% of new food launches in the UK were vegan, double the number in 2017. Why are people making this change? Health and animal rights have always played a part, but the environmental repercussions of eating meat are a growing factor. Now many brands are recognising opportunities around the movement – and we’ve identified 3 key ways in which retailers are getting involved:

1. Positive PR

Early 2019 has been as packed as a meat pie with news stories about Greggs’ vegan sausage roll; a simple but clever concept that went viral on social media. The company’s bold and original campaign guaranteed the launch gained as much traction as possible. From vegan sausage rolls sent out to journalists in iPhone-style packaging, to having witty Twitter remarks at the ready, Greggs ensured their initiative was top of newsfeeds during Veganuary.

Source: Greggs

2. Future proofing

Whatever consumers’ reasons for being vegan or cutting down on their meat consumption, farsighted brands are taking steps to be more inclusive for those taking this path. M&S launched its extensive vegan range, Plant Kitchen, just in time for Veganuary, whilst Unilever acquired a meat-free food company to keep on the front foot in the meat-substitute market. These investments are a clear signal that veganism is being increasingly seen as not a fad but a fact of modern life.

Source: M&S

3. Shouting about existing vegan credentials

As veganism goes more mainstream, the fear of alienating consumers with messages on the subject is dissipating. In fact, shouting proudly about vegan and ethical ranges is on the rise. Many long-established products are vegan but, until recently, awareness of this was low. Aldi has moved to address this in its latest ad, which showcases a shopping basket full of vegan products, from wine to fruit to Weetabix.

Source: The Guardian

In summary, the growth of veganism is a prime example of how consumers are looking more closely at the products they buy and the food they eat. It’s a trend that presents challenges and opportunities – one that can swiftly leave a brand looking irrelevant or, if it adapts, like a company that’s truly alive to changing tastes.

Take a look a the new language of persuasion

What’s caught our attention

There’s way too much for anyone to ever read in their newsfeeds now. Here are a couple of nuggets we think are worth the read/watch. Enjoy!

The end of the beginning

Benedict Evans talks about how in the next few years nearly everyone on the planet will own a smartphone, but their use is in its relative infancy. Ecommerce accounts for a very small proportion of retail spending and other sectors haven’t been touched by software and the internet.

The next decade or two will opens up new opportunities for machine learning and crypto.

Gary V is wrong, wrong, wrong

Wow! Mark Ritson, the first person to take on the social media guru that is Gary Vaynerchuk, challenges the latter’s views on the value of social vs. TV. Just read it!

How quiet voices are being heard amongst the noise

Options, options, options! In a world of endless choice it seems one of the few ways for messages to cut through is simplicity. Many brands are choosing to go minimal with their images and offerings, paring back their branding and letting their products do the talking.

One manifestation of this is Carlsberg, whose bottle, can labels and product packaging have been cleaned up and streamlined. Excess detail and copy have been lost, a new, fresh green shade dominates and a significantly reduced colour palette is evident. The resulting look is just that little bit easier to take on board – something that message-deluged consumers instinctively welcome.

Carlsberg’s subtle makeover is about more than just speed of recognition. It chimes with the growing appeal of back-to-basics authenticity, often with an emphasis on artisan/hand-made/local products. Carlsberg may not claim to be truly any of these things but its new design signals a shift from ‘football fans and plastic cups’ to quality and sustainability. The simple design also hints at simple ingredients, which is again a resonant virtue for the growing numbers of health-conscious consumers.

Cult beauty brand The Ordinary is another good example of how less is increasingly more. Not only is its branding muted, monochrome and genderless, the products tend to focus on single active ingredients that offer particular benefits. The understated design suggests that efforts have been focussed on scientific substance not flashy style, and echoes the straightforward, trustworthy functionality of prescription medicines. The approach has generated a lot of chatter online, helping to cement its success.

Source: The Ordinary

In summary, people want brands to let their products speak for themselves in a quiet, direct, almost unbranded way – a carefully constructed naturalness and authenticity that builds trust and lessens the sense of shouty hard sell.

See how IKEA takes ‘stuff’ to stuff of dreams

Zerobnb’s new language of persuasion

The only way is ethics

It’s been building. Iceland’s now famously banned advert spoke movingly about endangered orangutans, but hardly mentioned frozen food. Last week a pop-up in Carnaby Street saw people queuing to buy gifts for refugees. Suddenly, caring is the new black. More and more it seems consumers want to identify with brands’ values and missions not just buy from them. In an era when they are inundated by so many competing messages, establishing an emotional link like this is becoming crucial.​

Zerobnb, an eco-friendly alternative to Airbnb, represents a new way of doing this. It offers an accommodation directory that lists only sustainable properties. It’s the brainchild of renewable fuel company Neste, who created a zero-impact Nolla cabin property and listed it on Airbnb. Then they noticed there was no option to filter by sustainability. Zerobnb’s response was daring and headline grabbing:

“Tourism causes almost a tenth of global emissions…. We’re not asking for much. We just want Airbnb to add a new category for sustainable home options. After that, we can get rid of Zerobnb.”​

Subvert to convert

It’s not big and it’s not clever to simply criticise competitors. Nor does it particularly endear customers to your brand. Rather, it can result in others picking holes in your own proposition. Here Zerobnb’s jab at Airbnb feels playful not aggressive. The suggestion that it will shut down when Airbnb adds the filter is a nice touch of modesty and conciliation. It’s an original, subversive technique that comes across as natural and human. Above all it’s memorable.​

Of course, not everyone could pull this off. The irreverent tone probably wouldn’t be right for a bank. However, brands who hit this sort of personable note are likely to strike a chord. Social media is encouraging a world where consumers are less likely to seek top-down guidance from ‘experts’ and instead look for support from peers – or brands that come across as peers.

See how brands can reach the hyper-stimulated consumer