#TheBigeyeLens: An Eye on the Future

Coinciding with the launch of Bigeye’s new website and #TheBigeyeLens campaign, this week’s episode explores connections between human eyesight and trend forecasting. We’re joined by two guests: Doctor of Optometry, Dr. Amanda Stebbins in Orlando, and Thomas Klaffke, the Head of Research at TrendWatching, based in Berlin, Germany. With an eye on the future, we hear about the latest advances in correcting vision, and how COVID has accelerated disruptive innovations in retailing.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS…

Thomas Klaffke: When you look at trends, with the lens of lots of different innovations, you immediately get lots of cool ideas as well.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: How you perceive the world around you is so unique. And I always tell people, “You and I could have the same length eyeball at the same curvature eyeball. What you think is clear is different than what I think is clear.”

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Today we launched a new website at bigeyeagency.com, showcasing Bigeye’s expertise in strategy, creative, media, and analytics. To accompany the website launch, a new campaign, #TheBigeyeLens highlights Bigeye’s approach to audience research. With an eye on the future, Bigeye yields actionable insights that inform communications strategy and accelerate customer-centric brand innovation. The primary visual element that we’ve designed to accompany our #TheBigeyeLens campaign is based on an instrument known as a trial frame that you might’ve encountered at your optometrist office as a child. It’s used during a sight exam to test individual lenses, which an eye doctor uses to determine the exact vision correction required for each eye. As marketers, the language we use to describe a brand’s mission often reflects perceptive and time-based concepts. We talk about having a vision. When we narrow our attention to a specific topic, we describe ourselves as being focused. Hindsight is always 20/20. And when disaster strikes, we ask whether an event was foreseeable. To learn more about vision and forecasting trends, I consulted with two experts. The first, Dr. Amanda Stebbins, is the Doctor of Optometry at The Spectacle Shoppe in Orlando, located on Sand Lake Road. I asked Dr. Stebbins how human vision works.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: Well, there are two main components of vision. There’s perceptive vision, and then there’s objective and subjective portions. The objective is what I am kind of the expert of. I’m an expert at deciding what I think you need to see. My machinery is good at determining what we think you need to see, but then there’s always the subjective portion, which is what you think you need to see. And that’s kind of how patients and doctors work together to figure out what’s best for each individual person. It’s really up to the brain to decide, it’s not the eyes, it’s actually the brain that decides what you want to see and how you want to interpret that. So we just help you see it clearly or in focus.

Adrian Tennant: Dr. Stebbins showed me the kinds of tools she used to test patients’ eyesight.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: Here in this office, we’ve got a lot of technology. So we have machinery that can measure the length of your eyeball, the curvature of your eyeball, any kind of impedances you may have along the way, or what we call aberrations or distortions, our equipment can tell us every single thing right down to the fractions of a millimeter as to what your vision and what your prescription should be. and again, that’s the objective sight, that’s what we know it should be. On the subjective side, we’ve got what we call a phoropter, which everybody knows it’s that little butterfly-shaped looking thing that goes in front of your eyes. We ask you, “Which is better one, better two?” We start off with what we think you should be. And then you get to choose subjectively what you think you should be or how your brain kind of interprets that clearly.

Adrian Tennant: On the new Bigeye website, we show an illustration of a trial frame into which loose lenses are placed. Dr. Stebbins explained how it works.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: So it just holds the lenses. I can put in a lot of the same measurements that the phoropter has such as I can change the PD or the pupillary distance between your eyes, which we set on the phoropter. And the axis of astigmatism – astigmatism means that the cornea is warped a little bit. And so we basically have two prescriptions in two different meridians. Well, this gives me 180 degrees of where I want to put that secondary prescription.

Adrian Tennant: The technological evolution of the trial frame is the phoropter. I asked Dr. Stebbins how other tools she uses to assess patients’ vision have changed during the time that she’s been practicing optometry.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: Well, one of the things that you’ll notice in this room is that everything’s digitally controlled. So a lot of it’s a little bit less of me manually moving my arms and more focusing on an iPad. It looks great. It looks cool. But really what this digital phoropter is doing is communicating with the machinery across the hall. That’s what we call a wavefront aberrometer. Most people know of one or two areas or orders of blur. We call them aberrations, nearsighted, and farsighted are our big two. You’re the nearsighted or farsighted. And then astigmatism as well, too. So near-sighted or far-sighted astigmatism are the big things that we correct. That’s being, you know, not being able to see up close, not being able to see far away, starbursts in your vision. Well, they’re actually a lot higher order of aberrations. Trefoil coma, spherical aberrations, astigmatism, higher orders of astigmatism. We’re now able to measure them and taking that data from across the hallway, from aberrometer along with what you choose the “better one, better two” behind the phoropter here, we can mesh those numbers together and actually start creating lenses for eyeglasses that fix some of those higher-order aberrations. Now, what that means to you is driving at night with a standard pair of glasses without those wavefront measurements, you might see a light coming at you and go, “Okay, it’s got a little bit of starbursting and it’s got a little bit of shadowing effect.” We can now make it to where we can minimize those. Now, LASIK has been doing that for years but that’s very individualized and we are fine-tune carving that cornea with a laser. You just can’t do that with contacts and with glasses. Now, thanks to the digitalization of how we make eyeglass lenses, we can actually inscribe those tiny, teeny, tiny little measurements into glasses and Zeiss is really the people that are behind it, which is if you notice my equipment, most of it’s Zeiss. And it’s because they’ve figured out how to do that first. That’s advanced a lot. But again, you’ll always go back to a “better one better too.” cause we want to know what you think, your interpretation of it, not just what we know it should be.

Adrian Tennant: I wondered if the advances Dr. Stebbins described in vision testing technology are being matched in eye health.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: One of the biggest challenges is getting you to sit still while we shine an impossibly bright light in the back of your eyes. Not having you cry or close your eyes or just not want to do it. So everybody knows, and everybody’s annoyed, with having that big, bright, light shine in your eyes. And it’s been probably 15, 20 years, but it’s gotten much more advanced in its resolution, but Optimap came out with a way to take an unrelated pupil, shine two laser beams in that on that dilated pupil, and get a full scan view of the internal retina. So it’s a quarter-second flash of green light that you see and it’ll interpret the entire retina or most of the entire front retina out there with the exception of the far periphery. But that could be assessed otherwise. We can now just see, not straight onto the retina, we’re actually able to see all nine layers of the retina. So things like macular degeneration are caught a little bit earlier. Changes from glaucoma are caught a little bit earlier. Where in your retina, if we see a freckle or a nevus, a little mole, we can start pinpointing exactly where it is. So that’s advanced a lot too. So having to physically sit and shine a bright light at the patient is thankfully becoming a thing of the past. Everybody’s a lot more thankful for that. No longer do you have to be dilated for three, four hours after your eye exam. And even to the extent that the dreaded air puff machine that people hate, we’ve moved on beyond that. We can now use a nice little handheld device called an eyecare tonometer to very gently kind of tickle your eyelashes to get those same measurements. That’s been a major improvement too. Everybody to this day still says to me, “Oh, thank goodness you don’t do the puff of air.? And I tell them, “I hate that thing to that thing is an awful piece of equipment.”

Adrian Tennant: I asked Dr. Stebbins about the origins of that air puff instrument, the tonometer.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: Veterinarians actually came up with that one because believe it or not, horses will get glaucoma. Some breeds of dogs, a little Shar Pei, the ones with little wrinkly faces, will get glaucoma and the dog’s not going to let you pump air in their face. Certainly, a horse isn’t going to let you puff air in their eyes. So the need was there. Pediatricians saw them using that and thought, “Well, there’s a juvenile form of glaucoma. That’s a great idea. Let’s see if we can use this in humans.” And so, yeah, we even now have take-home versions of that for our severe glaucoma cases who may need to check their pressures throughout the day. We’ve got a little handheld take-home version that they can do on themselves. So, yeah, giant steps, I think.

Adrian Tennant: From instruments that analyze eye health to the common ways we correct vision. I asked Dr. Stebbins what improvement she’s seeing in lens technologies.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: Blue coats! The blue anti-reflective coats are really kind of our latest and greatest and our driving lenses, our latest and greatest. So the blue and reflective coats eliminate a lot of the blue that’s coming off of these computer screens that we know we’re all behind all day long. It’s going a little bit further down in the spectrum and that UV spectrum blue light has been linked a lot to macular degeneration and degradation of pigment layers. So 85-year-old you will be very, very thankful that you protected your eyes from blue. driving lenses. We’ve had to change a lot of those and they’re really tweaking the wavelengths that they’re blocking for driving glasses. because if you’ve noticed the headlights have changed. headlights are no longer a yellow-based headlight. Headlights are now, I like to think they’re blue, but it’s actually the lack of yellow makes them a little bit blue. But it’s a very bright, clear headlight now, the LED and the halogen headlights. So the manufacturer of those headlights is Hella. Hella has actually worked with Zeiss again, and they’ve kind of created together, you know, this is our wavelength and they’re going “Okay, let’s put that into a more appealing and more pleasing, less bright wavelengths.” As Zeiss has come out with the drive-safe lens, it binds up the corridors of a progressive a little bit, but really gets rid of all that glare coming from those newer, brighter headlights that are very obnoxious. So it’s really all about filtering and finding out what your specific thing is, what you do the majority of your day, and eliminating anything harmful coming off of that. That’s really what we’re getting good at.

Adrian Tennant: Concluding our conversation, I asked Dr. Stebbins why she thinks we use sight and vision-based words and phrases to describe temporal and cognitive concepts.

Dr. Amanda Stebbins: Your perception and how you perceive the world around you is so unique. And I try to explain to people why we always do one and two – “why can’t I do the online test? Why can’t I stick my head in the box? You tell me what my prescription is. I don’t want to do this.” And I always tell people, “you and I could have the same length eyeball at the same curvature eyeball. What you think is clear is different than what I think is clear.” You can even go back to looking at those internet sensations, this, the dress, blue and black or is it black and gold? Well, perception is different between so many people. So I think vision is such an important part of our lives, an important way to experience this world and kind of shapes our experiences and shapes our perception of those experiences that I think we just naturally gravitate towards using that sort of language to describe our experiences. Having hindsight means you look behind you. Well, yeah, we could look back in time, yeah, we wouldn’t do a lot of different things and we’d all know a lot better! Having the foresight. We all wish we could see into the future to kind of perceive what’s going on. I like that everybody thinks with their eyes!

Adrian Tennant: Next we’ll meet someone whose profession is looking into the future. That’s coming up after this short break.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re marking the launch of Bigeye’s new website with conversations about what it means to have an eye on the future. As an audience-focused agency, Bigeye builds personas, performs qualitative and quantitative research, and cultivates actionable insights to architect marketing strategies that achieve tangible results for our clients. As we’ve seen during COVID-19, identifying trends in consumer behavior and adapting to meet changing customer expectations are key to adopting a truly agile approach to marketing communications. To learn more about identifying trends and translating them into innovative products and services, I spoke with Thomas Klaffke, Head of research for the global insights firm, TrendWatching. Thomas spoke to me from his home office in Berlin, Germany. I started by asking him to explain what TrendWatching does and the types of clients they serve.

Thomas Klaffke: So TrendWatching is basically a trends intelligence firm. So our mission is to guide, inspire, but also empower business professionals to bring to market sustainable and inclusive innovations that benefit all. And we do that really by turning trends into meaningful opportunities. So right now we have around 100,000 people that are receiving our free content that you can see on the website, but also for our newsletters and so on. We have a few thousands on social media as well. And, we have around 800 clients that are using our premium platforms where we constantly, every week, add new innovations and trends and reports and so on. It’s basically all of the content that we’re producing that our clients have access to, including our individual analysts.

Adrian Tennant: Thomas is the head of research at TrendWatching. He explained his role.

Thomas Klaffke: I’m basically responsible for all things regarding our research system. So we bring out lots of content, on a daily basis. So we need a really, strong research system that covers everything that really funnels in all of the content needs that we have. So a year ago we started building a new research system that has basically three elements. One of them is our internal team. So we spot interesting innovations, trend signals, and so on internally. And we actually also integrate people that are not in our core content team, but also, sales unit or in operations, because we just also want to create that kind of innovation, enthusiastic culture. And then the second element here is our insights community, which is called TWIN: TrendWatching’s Insights Network. And here we have around 800 people from all around the world, that are either also working within the trend industry or that are just interested in that. And they’re sharing basically on an online platform all of the interesting innovations that they can find, industry trends, all sorts of signals.. and they’re sharing that with themselves, and also of course with us. And we’re using them basically tapping into that pool of that community as well. And then the third one, which is the most important one is that we’re also tracking websites, blogs, newsletters, ourselves, partly the third-party tools, but using some kind of, algorithms, a little bit of AI that helps us filter through all of the noise, sort of checking around 2,000 to 3,000 sources. And then we’re kind of using that also to catalog all the different things that we get in. And I am responsible for that part of the company basically before then gets to in the analysis where, well also play a role. Of course.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Thomas how he characterizes a trend.

Thomas Klaffke: I can give you a couple of elements that I think are really important when it comes to trends. We’re really focused on consumer trends and where consumerism is heading, especially for our clients.. so the three elements that I think are always really important when it comes to trends is guidance. So a trend should give you guidance with regards to future and what is to come in the coming years. The second element is inspiration, I think. So you should get inspired by that trend. It should kind of trigger new ideas, new thinking basically. And the last one I think is usefulness. So you should be able to kind of directly get some value out of that trend in terms of, building a new product or, it helping you change or improve your strategy, things like that. And at TrendWatching, we always try to have a good balance of these three elements. And we recently also introduced, for us a new element, which is impact, which is really about building a better world through trend-driven innovation, basically.

Adrian Tennant: Thomas holds a Master of Arts degree in Future Studies. I asked him if what he’s learned from Future Studies influences his approach to research.

Thomas Klaffke: I studied Future Studies here in Berlin at the Free University of Berlin. And it’s basically quite a philosophical, degree. So in general, it’s really about asking the question, what is the future, really? What if we talk about the future I’m talking about? One thing that you learn early on in Future Studies is that the future does not exist. The concept of something that is coming, still not there yet, you cannot actually analyze this. So we’re not actually analyzing the future. We are analyzing what we in future studies called present futures. So ideas of the future that are present right now that are discussed within society and politics and so on. So you’re looking at these present futures. That’s the main thing of interest that it’s basically, and that also kind of has something within that, which is that we’re basically all, always looking through a certain frame, through a certain lens when we look at things. So, that means that, when you’re analyzing different people, for example, different businesses, different kinds of societal movements, and what their idea of the future is that really also, shows you, the ideologies and the belief systems that are behind that, and really shows you kind of also yet the frameworks that it uses and that makes you just more conscious about also your own frameworks and, and how, the world is moving forward in general. So it’s really just about Looking at what is being discussed and what is behind that. There’s a lot of systems thinking, systems theory in that as well. and all of those things I think help you just to, be more conscious about yourself and your own lenses and, just, for me, especially when it comes to research, being able to find the exact right sources that I need for looking at certain things. if I’m, interested in, for example, remote work and how this will pan out, I can potentially maybe better understand, where I find these kind of communities or these, people and companies that are looking at this right now and tap into their ideas and then combine that with what we have internally at TrendWatching as the bigger framework.

Adrian Tennant: Over the past decade, many new brands have adopted a direct-to-consumer business model rather than seeking shelf space on retailer shelves via traditional distribution. Due to lockdowns as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers were forced to purchase essential and non-essential goods online. In response, many retailers implemented omnichannel solutions integrating online ordering with collection in-store or curbside pickup. I asked Thomas what he foresees the evolution of retailing looking like over the next few years.

Thomas Klaffke: Retail is an interesting space right now, I would say, because there’s a lot of things that have been accelerated for COVID. Like you mentioned, for example, online shopping of course is a big one. And it is of course now, interesting to see how things will pan out once people have more opportunity again to go out and shop. But I think, a couple of things that we’ll definitely see over the coming years, and that have definitely changed are that you have a lot of smaller DTC brands that are gaining more leverage over the bigger brands. So we will see, I think, a lot more kinds of collaboration and also acquisitions from bigger brands with smaller brands. Then I think, small offline retailers will actually move even more online. This is something that you’ve seen a lot already, probably like in what you could call developed countries, but it’s actually a much bigger trend in developing countries where you have lots of these very offline mom and pop shops, corner shops, convenience stores, where we’ve seen lots of innovations from Latin America, for example, but also Southeast Asia, where there are new startups helping them go online, basically. So that is, I think, a big move that is coming from these regions at least. Then, also maybe a little bit more in Europe or in the US, North America, you’ll see, I think a lot more within last-mile innovations. So whether it’s faster delivery, whether it’s automated vending machines or kiosks, a new way of picking up your packages. Also autonomous delivery methods, I think, have seen some surge and more investments over the last couple of months. So I think two other kinds of smaller trends within that are ghost kitchens, which are restaurants that are, they basically don’t have any seating you can order food from, and you have the same thing also for dotcom warehouses which are called dark stores. One thing here is that’s kind of split in between carefree consumerism and sustainable or conscious consumerism. And, so I think, on the one hand, we, of course really like the new convenience that these innovations bring with them and the new trends. But on the other hand, it also generates more packaging waste, for example. And so I think there will also see some sort of new trends happening, whether it’s reusable packaging or biodegradable packaging, I think there’s a lot happening in those spaces, which hasn’t really come out yet. It hasn’t come into the mainstream, but also government regulations are shifting in the EU. They just banned single-use plastics, just I think a few days ago. So I think you will see a move there, you know, quite soon. Maybe two more things: one is that, as you see more retailers going online, I think you’ll also get more and more kind of niche and curated online stores and shopping communities because it’s the kind of acceleration created by a lot of supply of new online retail and now we are going again into a phase where there’s curation happening where people are basically overwhelmed by what is out there. And, you’re already seeing what we called kind of “niche Amazons” that are focusing on certain consumer types or certain niche markets, things like that. And in the offline sphere, I think people would just demand more from going to a store. I think the service just has to pick up and be better and, one thing is the trend that we released just recently called Local Change-Makers, which is all about bigger retailers or bigger brands, collaborating with local stores on the ground. This is all kind of triggered by this new way of doing retail, but it is also triggered by a big trend that we call authenticity or became a more authentic brand. And so bigger brands are trying to collaborate with smaller companies, organizations, and communities on the ground. And are using their networks to also ship their goods or sell their services. As it’s much more authentic for our global brand to collaborate with some smaller, more local, companies that really know what it’s like to be on the ground.

Adrian Tennant: You’ll be able to hear more of my interview with Thomas Klaffke in an upcoming episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. This is the final episode of this season of the podcast, but we’ll be back with season eight on Tuesday, August the 10th. We’ll also be publishing a bonus episode in the meantime, so please watch out for that. Thanks to both of my guests this week, Dr. Amanda Stebbins, the Doctor of Optometry at The Spectacle Shoppe in Orlando, and Thomas Klaffke, Head of Research at TrendWatching. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the redesigned IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights”, just select “Podcast.” And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, Goodbye.

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