Pokémon Go: The Triumph Of Fluent Innovation

Pokémon Go is the game that caught the world. With downloads in the tens of millions and active user rates overtaking Tinder and Twitter in the US, it’s a game that’s become a cultural phenomenon in less than a week and sent franchise owner Nintendo’s share price soaring. The appeal seems obvious. For kids, the catch-em-all, collect-em-all appeal of Pokémon is evergreen. For parents, it’s a way to bond with kids and get them out of the house. And for that massive slice of the game’s audience in between who were there for the first Pokémon craze in the late 90s, it’s a childhood dream come true.

PG Squirtle

It’s also a brilliant example of Fluent Innovation, the kind of innovation we’ve been talking about a lot at BrainJuicer lately.

PG Drowzee

Fluent Innovation is all about combining genuine, surprising novelty with stuff that is already fluent and familiar. “20% exciting surprise, 80% delightfully familiar” – as we put it in our previous post about it. That combination of the instantly familiar and the marvellously new is what made Moka coffee machines sell, what helps scientific papers get cited… and now it’s what’s broken augmented reality games – where the game interface overlaps with the real world via your device – through to the mainstream in one remarkable swoop.

PG Zubat

Pokémon Go maker Niantic previously made another augmented reality game, Ingress, which worked in very similar ways to Pokémon Go (Ingress’ maps of key locations overlap heavily with the new game’s Gyms and Pokestops). It was a big cult success, but on nowhere near the mainstream scale of Pokémon Go. Some gaming commentators have sighed over the fact that the genuinely innovative, smooth-running and feature-rich Ingress only achieved a tiny percentage of the success Pokémon Go has. The difference, obviously, is Pokémon: add a strong franchise to new technology and you have a success on your hands.

PG Squirtle 2

The reason why this technique works so well is Fluent Innovation. The barriers to an unfamiliar behaviour – interacting with the world via augmented reaity – are lowered by the addition of familiar unique assets – Pikachu and his chums. There are a lot more useful things you can do with the new behaviour than catch Pokémon – but without that shot of fluency they just feel weird. Just look at Google Glass, which sought to bring augmented reality to the masses and ended up an ambitious white elephant as far as wider consumers were concerned.

PG Taurus

But it’s not just a case of add a branded character and sell more. At the height of the Pokémon craze, you could buy Pokémon toothbrushes, watches and duvet covers. I’m sure they sold fine, but they didn’t dramatically expand teeth-brushing or time-telling overnight. They didn’t have any real innovation in the mix. For Fluent Innovation, neither the new or the familiar is enough by itself.

(With thanks to the trainers in our London, Shoreham, New York and Miami offices for the images used in this post!)

Re-uniting The Kingdom: What’s The Story For Theresa May’s Britain?

This is a post outlining the results of our latest BrainJuicer Politics study into where Britain is headed, post-Brexit. Dig into the detail in the full post – but here’s our executive summary.

  • If the Referendum was to be held again, Leave would still win.
  • The country is emotionally divided – Remain voters are distraught about the decision, Leave voters delighted and very positive about the future.
  • Looking at the narratives people fit the UK into, the country’s Current Story is still Comedy – things will be fine in the end.
  • But Britain’s Optimal Story – the one which would make people happiest if it came true – has changed. It’s now Rags To Riches – drawing strength from Britain’s experience of tough times to inspire future prosperity.
  • Theresa May is seen as the politician most likely to help this happen, well ahead of any rivals.

Continue reading

“You Had Me At Hello”: Introducing Fluent Innovation

Earlier this week we gave a webinar on Fluent Innovation – an idea we’re using in our new product development work (our famous Predictive Markets tool, instance). The core of Fluent Innovation is very simple – great innovation isn’t just about having a good idea, it’s about making that idea acceptable. And the way you make an idea acceptable is by making it Fluent – familiar, easy to process… “surprisingly obvious”, you might say.

To explain this in the webinar, we told the story of the Bialetti Moka coffee pot, one of the great classics of 20th Century design, and beyond that a massive commercial success – when people say every Italian home has one, they may not be far off!


The Moka Pot. Innovative inside, familiar outside.

The Moka is a beautiful piece of engineering, but that isn’t the only place its genius lies. The Moka combines a brilliant idea and immediately appealing design in a way that’s a perfect example of Fluent Innovation. Continue reading

Say Hello To System1

As you might have read on advertising news sites, the BrainJuicer Group is launching its own creative agency. System1 – Feel More: Buy More is the first creative agency to guarantee ROI to its clients.

Why are we doing this? How are we doing it? What makes us think we even can? Read on!


The best advertising is brilliantly emotional, creative advertising that makes people feel more. Because if they feel more, they buy more.

That’s the mantra BrainJuicer has lived by since we started testing emotional advertising close to a decade ago. We’ve tested thousands of ads since then – digital, TV, print and poster – and we know that it works. Putting emotion at the centre of copy testing is the tried-and-true way to deliver ROI.

It’s become a bit of a mission, to be honest. We don’t just test ads for our clients, looking for ways to make them more emotional, we spend our own money every year testing hundreds of other ads from round the world, looking for entries in our FeelMore50 list. Why?

Because emotional ads work best, and we think there should be more of them.

And you know what people say about wanting something done. Sometimes, you have to do it yourself!

Hence System1 – Feel More: Buy More. A creative agency dedicated to crafting emotional advertising for its clients. System1 will be a sister company and client of BrainJuicer, putting all its prospective ads up for testing before they get presented to  clients, and continuing to rework the ideas until they hit a minimum level of quality. Every ad System1 makes is an ad it knows will work effectively and efficiency. In other words, guaranteed ROI.

That’s what System1 is. Just as important is what it isn’t. System1 is not a bunch of BrainJuicer researchers thinking they can make great ads. We believe that testing helps ads, but we don’t believe the testers know how to make them. So System1 is a separate organisation, headed by the fantastic Rod Connors, former Unilever and Nike Marketing Director and founder of The BSG agency. It’s supported by an advisory board of top industry figures including Kellogg’s VP Marketing Peter Soer, HHM creative partner Adrian Holmes and head of Herd consultancy Mark Earls. And it will draw on a poll of the freshest and best freelancer talent in the UK and worldwide.

Everyone at BrainJuicer is enormously excited to see System1 launch. And, of course, to check out the highly emotional work it will be producing. Good luck Rod and the team!

Brexit – What’s The Story?

Which way is next month’s Referendum on Britain leaving the EU going to go? Opinion polls are split over whether we’re heading for Brexit or not. But you can get useful insight into the dynamics of the race by using other, more emotional methods.

We used our Storyteller tool – designed to help brands find the right story to tell – to look at what the underlying narratives motivating Brexiters and Remainers might be.

The results – set out in this case study – make clear why there’s not yet a clear outcome. It’s because neither side is convincingly telling the story the British people want to hear. And with a month to go, victory will go to the side that tells it best.

1. Finding Britain’s Current Story

Instead of directly asking about Brexit, we wanted to get at the deeper issues lying below the referendum debate. So we asked not about the referendum stories, but about the stories of Britain itself. What is Britain’s story, at this crucial moment in its history?

Brexit ST 1

Every Storyteller project starts by establishing the Current Story – the archetypal narrative that people find most believable right now. We wrote our seven brief narratives, based on the Seven Basic Plots identified by Christopher Booker. We made sure none of them directly mentioned the EU or the Referendum, so people could project their own concerns onto the stories more easily. Then we found out which of them people think might come true. Continue reading

Most Innovative Agency 2016

We are proud and delighted to be named Most Innovative Agency again in the GRIT Report  2016 (Check out the results teaser over at Greenbook). This is the fifth consecutive time we’ve won it, but it never stops being an honour to be recognised for innovation, both by our clients and agency peers. Over the years we’ve been pleased to see other agencies do well too – this year, it’s great to see InSites, an agency whose innovations in online communities we have massive respect for, break the Top 3. It’s a time of huge change for market research – look at our partners ZappiStore, jumping up the rankings from 25th in 2015 to 11th in 2015. They’re helping the whole industry get leaner and faster, and that is definitely where some of the future lies.


Coming first in this survey doesn’t make us complacent – quite the reverse. We feel the pressure to keep on trying out new approaches and ideas. Last year, for instance, was all about applying behavioural science to branding. We launched our Fame, Feeling and Fluency model of brand growth which lies at the heart of our tracking and audit products, and was nominated for an MRS Innovation Award. We also unveiled the unique brand strategy product Storyteller, and were delighted when a paper combining the 3Fs and Storyteller won the prestigious Ulrike Schöneberg Award at Germany’s major research conference. This year, we’re focusing on  digital– moving a DIY version of our Ad Testing tool to ZappiStore, and working on new digital testing tools you’ll be hearing about very soon. Continue reading

The 3Fs: Good For Your Brand, Good For Your Budget

Spend any length of time in market research and you become aware of the notorious Cost-Speed-Quality Triangle. Notorious because the idea is you can only have two out of the three. Good and cheap research takes time. Fast and good research ain’t cheap. Fast and cheap research means cutting corners on quality.


The triangle is a seductively simple way to explain the pressures all of us live with – particularly at a time when research buyers are also expected to do more with less thanks to the rise of zero-based budgeting and othe trends. So in recent years, there’s been a push back against the basic assumptions of the Triangle. It’s become less an iron law, more an equation with multiple solutions.

You could argue, in fact, that three of the most important trends in modern marketing are each solving one variable in that equation – pushing back on one corner of the triangle. Outsourcing and procurement works to lower the cost of research. The increasing use of existing data and sophisticated analytics packages work to raise the quality. And automation works to raise the speed.

But all those solutions have something in common. They involve making existing research faster, or cheaper, or work harder. That’s great – as far as it goes. But there’s a whole other way to solve the equation. Do different research.

One of the reasons we developed our 3Fs model of brand growth – Fame, Feeling and Fluency working to track current brand strength and predict future growth – was to address exactly these problems. By thinking about branding from first principles, and asking what are the baseline heuristics which guide decision-making, we could answer another question. How can we help people get the most from their budgets by asking a few simple, useful questions – not a lot of useless ones?

A focus on Fame, Feeling and Fluency – simple heuristics, simply asked – gives the most possible bang for your budget. There is plenty of additional research you could do around your brand, like understanding the stories it can tell or using qual to dig into the roots of Feeling and Fluency. But the 3Fs are the core, giving you a read on the most basic factors driving brand growth. Does your brand come quickly to mind? Do people feel good about it? Is it distinctive?

Even better, these fundamentals are slow to change, so you can conduct effective and efficient strategic research with far fewer dips than traditional trackers (and free up your budget for more tactical, short-term work, if you want!).

How does embracing the 3Fs model deal help solve the equation posed by the Triangle? It can be done quickly, and we are working on automated versions of all our tools to help this happen. It obviously lowers cost, because it’s shorter and less frequent than conventional trackers. And by focusing on the handful of metrics that really drive growth, it raises quality too.

In an age of tightening budget belts, doing the same things better can only get you so far. You need to change your research diet too. The 3Fs offer a great way to do that.