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How brands can tap into passions – findings of award-winning Time Inc. UK’s study

At the FIPP World Congress earlier this week, Jennifer Dunleavy, the creative media manager, and Richard Thomas, the head of ad insight, shared insight into Time Inc. UK’s “Live the Passion” study which investigates the interrelated relationship between brands and people’s passions.

The study, which won gold in the 2017 FIPP Insight Awards, investigated what passion meant, how people defined it, and how it interacts with publishers’ brands.  

On Time Inc UK’s website: See more about the study here

Time Inc. UK wanted to research this area because they have a variety of verticals in passion areas that serve highly-engaged and passionate audiences. “We wanted to dive deeper into this world of passion what it means and what it impacts on behaviour and how to tap into this passion and how it interacts with brands,” Dunleavy said. 


The study did qualitative and quantitative research, with interviews in seven online communities, aided by an anthropologist, with 3,246 passionate people, to help brands understand consumer behaviour. 

Dunleavy outlined that they wondered how people understand their passions, how they defined their passions, and what they meant to them. “We wanted to cast our net really wide and understand how they themselves defined their passions,” she said. 

The research revealed that study participants used really strong language to describe their passions, related to love and marriage and commitment. “First of all,” Dunleavy said, “It’s not a hobby, because hobbies and passions aren’t synonymous. People’s passions were more than a hobby to them, they live and breathe it.” 

Dunleavy and Thomas said passion is like a religion, that people lean on it when they’re in times of need, when they’re going through something tough. Passion forms a part of people’s identify, they wouldn’t be who they are without it. It’s part of who they are, most couldn’t imagine life without it. “People’s passion is not a guilty pleasure,” Dunleavy said. “Passion feeds the body. People who were passionate, led a healthy lifestyle. Passion fuelled the self-esteem; it was something they felt fulfilled by and a sense of pride when they engaged with it.” 

So, what does having a passionate audience mean and what is the commercial advantage of engaging with these people? 

Thomas illustrated that a passionate audience love to spend money. If a brand can create a relationship with these people, that’s potentially for a lifetime. “They invest heavily in their passion,” he said. “This is a compulsion to spend. The majority don’t feel guilty to spend, it’s an investment that is central to who they are as people.” 

Media companies can make their brands the bridge between people and their passions.

“A lovely thing for brands is that people never turn their passion off,” Thomas said. “It’s always there at the back of their mind, whether they’re at work, or at home.” 

Passionate audiences are ready to engage with content, and actively seeking content to get them to their passion. They want to see adverts, they want to see brand that can connect them to their passion.

From the study’s analysis, consumers look to magazine media as a catalogue. What can they buy next? “The marrying of content and advertising fits into their sphere and they’re willing to engage with it,” Dunleavy said. 

The passion study continues to feed the commercial side of things for Time Inc UK, who understand the importance of passion to deliver to their audiences. For magazine publishers, it’s worthwhile to read the study to learn more about people’s behaviour and what motivates and pushes them to engage in their passion.

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