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Keep It Real: The Active Explorer’s continuous search for authenticity

As it warms up outside and more travelers flee to foreign lands, it seems the perfect time to broach the subject of authentic experiences.

We hear it every day. People want “real” experiences. More and more, consumers strive to live like locals, if only for a few days. Acting as chameleons, blending into their temporary surroundings to truly experience a place for its roots and culture.

Last year, we surveyed more than 400 Active Explorers and learned what drives this demographic to explore as well as what shapes their travel habits.

Now, recent studies show that frequent millennial travelers (who also happen to make up a large portion of the Active Explorer demographic, nudge nudge) are more interested in walking a day in the shoes of a local than a cookie-cutter, vacation-in-a-box type of tourist package.

The classic breed of tourist as we know it is a dying one. Fanny packs and maps flown full staff are the tools of yesterday, replaced by mobile devices and app stores. LonelyPlanet is becoming a lonely place as millennials ditch traditional guidebooks for peer recommendations through social media or Yelp ratings.

Sure, attractions like the Space Needle or Eiffel Tower still hold appeal to the deep-seated tourist in all of us, but the younger generation of frequent travelers would rather take a moment to veer off the beaten path for a more fulfilling travel experience than surround themselves with other visitors.

Why cab around Copenhagen when you could blend in, unnoticed, biking alongside the Danish baker? Why spend your time gazing at Times Square when you could camp out on a rooftop in Brooklyn? These are the stories millennial travelers want to tell—a personal experience tailored to them.

So, what does this mean for your brand? It’s yet another cue to stay genuine in your mission and values while offering unique experiences your competitors can’t match. Don’t just say you’re authentic. Be authentic. Build trust. It’s the holistic experience that consumers crave, with 63% of global consumers expressing they would prefer to buy from a company they deem authentic.

There’s a reason campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty and Chipotle’s Food with Integrity continue to resonate with people. The Active Explorer holds authenticity in high regard—whether shaping their travels into cultural adventures or engaging with your brand. Keeping it real has never been so vital.

Need help figuring out what your brand is all about and how you can convey the truest version of your product or service? Let us lend you a hand.

Love is Served: Food Gets a Little Emotional.

“[Food] makes you think of happy times. It warms your heart.” – Active Explorer, anonymous

kzwp2iiyxma-toa-heftibaAfter years of studying the Active Explorer, one of the most loyal and dynamic psychographics in marketing today, we’ve learned one thing: they never cease to surprise. After tracking down every food trend, from meal delivery services to sous vide cooking, that affects this adventurous group, we finally sat down and asked them a few questions about how they think about eating.

And it comes down to honesty, authenticity, and family.

The most important value for food companies, from restaurants to retail, among Active Explorers is honesty (24%). A close second was family (21%). We were expecting more exploration values to pop, like originality (2%) or innovation (1%). Maybe even adventure (2%) or discovery (1%). But no. AE’s may be pushing the envelope on self-discovery, only not when they’re hungry. The biggest values after family were ethical (9%), respect (7%) and caring (7%).

“Comfort food to me is the meal you cook after you have completely ruined a meal you were going to try.” – Active Explorer, anonymous

xksrpuh0vzo-yvonne-lee-harijantoFood is comfort, and comfort means food. That’s what our User Group played back to us. They rely on it to warm them during spells of cold weather (29%) and ground them after stressful days at work (16%). But you don’t need to be sad to reach for the mac and cheese: comfort food is what AE’s reach for when they’re in a good mood (13%) or when they’re in the mood to celebrate (11%). In short, comfort food is “fresh, fills you up, and makes you feel loved,” in the words of one respondent.

Ultimately, this is what food means to Active Explorers. It’s an emotional connection to friends and family. It’s a place to feel safe and warm. It’s a place you leave every morning, touch base at lunch, and return to at dinner to share stories, build memories, and express love.

No matter whether they’ddzyotzunbk-eaters-collectivere cooking for themselves or going out to eat, food occupies a special place in the mind of the Active Explorer. It’s a beginning and an end to the day, fuel and sustenance, an expression of honesty and family. It’s where they start and where they inevitably return. It’s a place called home.

For Active Explorers, Food Buzzwords Don’t Equal Buzz.

shutterstock_126187640We were wrong.

Like we said in our first post about the Active Explorer Food Survey, we went into our latest study with some expectations about how they viewed the terms “natural,” “sustainable” and “gluten-free.” We thought we were confirming some things about the Active Explorer that we already knew. Some of that – well, most of it — turned out to be wrong.

But that’s a good thing. We’re happy to be wrong. Now we understand some things that get us a lot closer to right. This information may come in handy if you’re in the food industry, or even within shouting distance of it.

So, how do Active Explorers feel about the words “all-natural,” “sustainably grown, and “no trans fat?” Suspiciously, it turns out. Those terms seem to be table stakes on the grocery shelf. They’ll make Active Explorers more likely to buy those products than products that don’t have those terms – but surprisingly, they won’t pay more for those products. Let’s take a look.
chart

Of the terms we tested, only “organic” makes Active Explorers more likely to buy and pay more. Other terms, like “fair trade,” “farmer-owned” and “non-gmo” didn’t move the needle at all. That’s at odds with what we suspected they valued in a food provider.gf-2

And don’t get us started on “gluten free.” It was a net negative for our user group, making them less likely to buy and less willing to pay more.

What we’re learning is that Active Explorers aspire to a certain set of values, but that those values only come into play when there’s a clear, differentiated benefit for themselves and their family. “Organic” is the one value that drives purchase intent and price upward, which makes sense – it’s not just a label, but a certification, a badge that makes you feel more wholesome. That makes sense: more than half of AE’s (56%) say that food certifications are somewhat important or very important in their food purchases.

Everything else? Just words on a package.

But that’s in the grocery store. What happens when Active Explorers go out to eat?

That’s a funny story. We’ll save it for next week.