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An Interview with Lynne Barcoe, Co-founder of Humanise

As our name suggests we believe in a human centric approach – insight from the inside out to reveal honest truths.  And so for the last 15 years we have been working with world leading brands in doing just that leading them to maximise their opportunities in the family, youth, baby and chief buyers markets.

Tell us about your background

I am a marketer by background and the inspiration to set up a family centric insight agency was sparked when I worked for Durex.  We were working with a youth team who were all 18-24 years old and the depth of insights we got for them was real, raw, and so much more inspirational than via a generic insight agency.

Also at the time I had a 9 month old and Durex was part of SSL that had Medised as one of its brands (baby pain relief).  The marketing team kept coming to ask me about the realities of being a parent (which I told them in all it’s reality!).  I realised there was a real need for brands to get nearer to their consumers.  At that time MumPanel was born and it has now grown to a 40,000 strong Family Panel, made up of all families up and down the country, that now powers Humanise.

What do you think some of the key issues in marketing are today?

Well I think one of the key issues in marketing is stereotyping and not really understanding everyday consumers.  It’s so easy to group people together in easy to manage and refined segments but the reality is often so much more nuanced.  For marketers to really relate to and with consumers they need to empathise and relate to their everyday lives, wants, problems and dreams.

Also, so much ‘me too bias’ creeps in –we as marketers can put our viewpoint on to situations instead on really understanding it from the consumers world – it’s really hard not too and sometimes it’s really without meaning too.

For example we were looking at cooking habits of families and recipes to help those in most need.  It was revealed that a high proportion only had one pan, and some did not even have an oven or cooker.  So all these lovely recipes aimed to help them that involved multiple cooking utensils was redundant and not helpful.  The agency had assumed that everyone had more than one pan.

We need to really know consumers real lives, as we say go below the meniscus.

Do you think today’s data driven marketing approach still delivers insight?

I think insight data is extremely important, but we need to make sure we go beyond the data to understand it – ask why, and not just look at the big numbers and headlines but emerging chatter and the flip side.

Data is only as good as the question that was asked and sometimes those questions are not the right questions.  We think it is really important that data is balanced with observing real behaviours and listening to silences as well as the noise.  Look at the last few elections – the data has been wrong because people didn’t want to tell the truth about how they really felt – plus there were groups of people who were not even asked that made the difference.

I think it is very dangerous to rely solely on big data – it misses the soul of insight.

For example we have just completed a large cost of living crisis insight piece from the viewpoint of families, and we can see that it is affecting everyone, but everyone is feeling the pinch differently and starting from different levels.

We see news headlines that everyone is heading to the discount supermarkets but actually that’s misleading – yes some are but in fact some are moving from discount supermarkets back to the likes of Asda because they are understanding their consumers needs greater with their Essentials range and rewards.

Also, it’s not only those on low incomes that are changing behaviours – those with solid incomes and even two homes are visiting B&M bargains, buying on Facebook Marketplace, and getting presents from charity shops – for many reasons from a point of principle, to saving money and the environment and to anticipating bigger bills to come.

Data doesn’t tell the full story and doesn’t show why people are doing what they are – for example we have heard from families using the likes of Gousto and Hello Fresh – because they use the upfront discount and then switch to another as it’s cheaper and stop when the discount goes.

Plus, there is often (nearly always) counter reactions to behaviours that data doesn’t link – so for example yes people are going out less, getting less takeaways but what they are doing instead is buying in the best supermarket pizza and upgrading their in-home experience.

It’s so important to back up data with reality and go beyond it.

Lynne Barcoe


Family Insight Experts

Co- Founder

0044 (0)7801 364 334

0044 (0)161 413 4717

The Family Panel is part of Humanise