Purpose Driven Purchases

JulyBlog

When presented with the Nike swoosh, do you think about shoes or the “Just Do It” mantra? When a Coke advertisement plays, do you relate it to soda or happiness and friendship? Nike, Coke and brands as a whole are banking that it’s the latter that enter people’s mind. The why behind a company is increasingly more important than the what, as consumers are becoming far more than just individuals who buy things.

According to a recent study of more than 2,000 Americans, 64 percent of consumers said their purchasing consideration is driven by a company’s ethical values and authenticity. Additionally, 42 percent of consumers reported that they stopped doing business with a company because of its words or actions around a social issue.1 A brand’s purpose is moving the needle more than its product’s benefits, and that is reflected in messaging, too.

Earlier this year, Budweiser released a four-minute commercial to honor Dwayne Wade’s retirement from the NBA. It had nothing to do with beer and everything to do with the impact the all-star basketball player has made off the court during his career. Budweiser branding can be seen subtly throughout, but the ad is largely evocative and emotional—focused on purpose over product—with a “bigger than basketball” message.

This all follows the trend that brands are racing to demonstrate they are not only a means-to-a-profit end, but a living entity with beliefs and values. It is this dynamic to which consumers are responding to, using the online community as a telling and vital space for brand commentary. Sixty-three percent of American consumers believe their words and actions—from posting comments on social media to participating in boycotts—can influence a brand’s reaction to an event or its stance on an issue of public concern.2 Consumers are purchasing with their values, making it all the more important for a brand to own theirs.

There is no question that defining a purpose can be a difficult proposition for a brand. And turning that into relatable, topical and effective messaging can pose an even greater challenge. That purpose, though, can help create a consumer connection that is greater than a pair of shoes, beverage or computer—it’s helping to grow a crop of brand advocates who believe in why a company exists. Consider this: Brands with a high sense of purpose have experienced a brand valuation increase of 175 percent over the past 12 years, which is more than double the median growth rate of 86 percent and the 70 percent growth rate for brands with a low sense of purpose.3

We believe that as the brand-consumer relationship continues to become a fundamental aspect of marketing, telling the story of a brand’s why will eclipse the what. The lesson here is to commit to something, anything, as no marketing or social buzz can overcome ambiguity.

  1. https://www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/strategy/Brand-purpose?c=strat_competitiveagilnovalue_10437228&n=mrl_1118
  2. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/strategy/brand-purpose
  3. https://www.marketingdive.com/news/study-brands-with-a-purpose-grow-2x-faster-than-others/521693/

 

The Art of Listening

JuneBlog

The media landscape, and how we consume it, is evolving to the point that almost every half-decade it’s like we’re living in a whole new technological world. But nearly a century after families raptly congregated in their dens listening to the first radio stories, we’re revisiting that specific story-telling technique: the simplicity of voice and sound.

Podcasts, coined by combining “iPod” and “broadcast,” are having their turn and there is no indication of that trend slowing. The numbers of Americans who are familiar with, have listened and listen regularly to the episodic story-telling form has been increasing steadily for the last decade: an estimated 90 million Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month.1

The history and evolution of podcasts is well detailed. Multiple podcasts began as, and still are, a hobby; people following certain interests and passions while using the boundless format that the medium provides. From interviews and true crime series to movie reviews and fantasy sports, podcasters haven’t held back in their ability to tell countless types of stories.

Podcasts have continued to grow, joining the likes of online audio and social media as a consumer habit in which marketers monitor. Among Americans who listen to podcasts, 28 percent of the time listening to audio is spent on podcasts, which is more than traditional radio (24 percent), streaming audio (15) and owned music (13). On smartphones, that number increases to 42 percent, with streaming audio at 18 percent.1 Consumers are listening and brands have taken notice.

There is no question that authentic brand engagement is becoming harder and harder to garner with waning attention spans and advertising overload—almost like Waldo at a party filled with Waldos. Brands are turning to podcasts as a way to engage, and in some cases, creating their own content to tell their own brand stories.

ZipRecruiter worked with Shark Tank investor Daymond John on a branded podcast called Rise and Grind. Trader Joe’s gives listeners a look into how it fills its aisles with Inside Trader Joe’s. General Electric created a science-fiction series called The Message. There’s a strategy behind all of it. GE’s chief creative officer Andy Goldberg explains why brands are getting involved.

“I don’t consider it advertising. It’s a podcast show that just happens to be produced by a brand instead of a network. I’m not saying, ‘Hey, go out and buy a jet engine.’ It’s a science fiction story to connect listeners with what the GE brand is about, without selling the GE brand.”

Podcasts, both branded and non-branded, are going to continue to be incorporated into our daily lives. Streaming audio giant Spotify joined in with its podcast acquisitions earlier this year, hinting at growth and evolution of the medium. There are indications that Spotify’s curated playlists will soon include more than just music, with select podcasts integrated into daily lists as well.

Research has shown that consumer concentration is more than 1.5 times higher when consuming a podcast than social media, providing a great opportunity for brands to reach their audiences in an authentic and engaging way.2 Consumers want to listen. Now it’s up to brands to tell them a compelling story.

  1. https://www.edisonresearch.com/the-podcast-consumer-2019/
  1. https://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2019/04/15/the-pros-cons-and-best-practices-podcast-marketing

Dragons and Hashtags: A Cultural Phenomenon

MayBlog

When A Game of Thrones—the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—was published in 1996, names like Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, the Red Keep and The Wall were confined to those first 694 pages. More than 20 years later, those stories have erupted beyond any number of pages, through eight seasons of appointment-viewing television into a cultural phenomenon which may not ever be matched.

So, it comes as no surprise that in today’s digital world where conversations are happening online, brands have not been shy about entering into the #GameofThrones conversation during the final six-episode race to the Iron Throne.

Bud Light got the ball rolling with its crossover Super Bowl ad in which Bud Light’s Bud Knight was unhorsed by Game of Thrones’ the Mountain and subsequently killed in an extremely “Game of Thrones” fashion. Shake Shack for the past month has offered special menu items, the Dracarys Burger and Dragonglass Shake, paying homage to #FortheThrone. Johnnie Walker released a special White Walker Scotch. And in the lead up to the premiere, the Minnesota Timberwolves became the Direwolves on social media, creating cross-branding content and merchandise.

But what happens when the cultural phenomenon surrounding a work of art becomes bigger than the art itself? On the same weekend that Avengers: Endgame broke domestic and international box office records, nearly 18 million viewers tuned into the climactic third episode of Thrones’ final season and show-related hashtags trended up and down Twitter and round and round again. When so many brands enter the fold, trying to grab a slice of the pie, is the overall effect diminished? Or does it allow creatives the opportunity to use the cultural event to produce something unique for their brand?

We may never see another television show like Game of Thrones again, but our culture craves transcendent events—an opportunity to be a part of something that extends far beyond our couches, online communities or hashtag. As millions sit down to watch on Sunday night, brands will be looking for a way to say goodbye and take one last bite of pie. They’ll also be looking for the next one—and that’s a good thing. Brands would be wise to let creatives be creative. Game of Thrones has shown us that culture drives the conversation and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a small part of it.

Beyond the Binary: Trending Toward Genderless

A Young Business Girl Uses Megaphone

He/him. She/her. They/them. Singular pronouns. The way we talk about gender is fundamentally changing, with the concept of fluidity and non-binary gender identifiers becoming commonplace. It should come as no surprise that as public conversations surrounding matters affecting the transgender community are growing, so too is the conversation around the idea of a gender spectrum.

It reflects a larger change in how gender is depicted and discussed. A commitment to inclusivity, driven by Millennials and Gen-Z, has deeply impacted the political and cultural landscapes. Activists have helped bring attention to the discrimination they face, as with access to bathrooms that align with their gender. Television programs and films are more frequently including transgender characters, in turn opening up roles for transgender actors.

Similarly, visibility of non-cisgender identities is impacting how brands are communicating with audiences. Last year, Coca-Cola made headlines with its “Wonder of Us” Super Bowl commercial, in which it included the gender-neutral “them” pronoun along with “him” and “her.” It was a small moment, but represents how brands are addressing changing gender norms.

This shift is not exclusively because of changing attitudes toward gender politics, either. According to a recent study, 74 percent of women said they prefer gender-neutral messages, rather than those geared specifically toward women.[1] It’s happening across age groups, too—especially in the toy aisle. Barbie, long known for outdated and unrealistic gender norms, has started showing boys playing with Barbies in its commercials. Stores have heeded the call as well, with Target re-labeling the toy aisle simply “Kids” rather than “Boys” and “Girls.” While toy packaging still seems intended to overtly appeal to one gender over the other through color, it’s a step toward granting children the space to explore what they like, rather than telling them what they should like, based on gender.

Beyond inclusive messaging, product categories that once existed in gender-specific buckets have been embraced by people for whom they were not initially intended, prompting savvy brands to create actively ungendered versions of said products. Consider Fluide, a company that offers “makeup for everyone.” Its social media feeds are filled with people across the gender spectrum wearing bold lipsticks, nail polishes and eye shadows. Similarly, Zara created a clothing line called “Ungendered” with unisex items like jeans, sweatshirts and shorts. While communicating an inclusive image is a start for brands, actively creating gender-neutral products is a snapshot of the potential for a gender-fluid future.

As this cultural shift continues to grow, it’s important to be aware of the sensitive nature of the conversation. People with non-binary gender identities are fighting just to be recognized, so when handled with care, expanding a brand’s conversation to include them can be a way to show support. For brands inclined to address social changes happening in society, respect is always the best path forward.

[1] https://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/6894/2016-05-12/study-women-prefer-gender-neutral-marketing-messages.html

Silver is the New Blonde

A Young Business Girl Uses Megaphone

For decades, Americans were told to preserve their youth, because to age was to become irrelevant. Once a person grew out of the coveted 18–49 demographic, they were relegated to a space to be considered only when absolutely necessary. In fact, in a 2005 survey, nearly two-thirds of companies indicated that they had no plans to target consumers over the age of 50 in their product development, marketing or advertising.[1] But a lot has changed since then. The entire process of aging is being redefined by healthier lifestyles and longer lifespans. Aging adults are active participants in culture, refusing to sit on the sidelines. More than ever, brands have no choice but to consider mature consumers not just as a niche audience, but as a core part of their strategy.

At its core, the decision to appeal to an older crowd stems from undeniable numbers. The segment is already large—nearly one billion people over the age of 60—and it’s growing. By the middle of the 21st century, this age group will outnumber those under 15.[2] Add the fact that people over 50 currently comprise 35% of the U.S. population but contribute 43% of the national gross domestic product.[3] Is it becoming clear that brands are selling themselves short by not considering this segment?

In 2019, inclusivity is the name of the game, particularly for brands that are focused on appearance, like fashion and beauty, representing a major reversal for industries that previously framed aging as a negative. To that point, more people over 50 have been featured in high-profile advertisements in recent years. Helen Mirren starred in a L’Oreal commercial. Joan Didion fronted a Céline ad campaign. Instagram-influencer/grandma Lyn Slater became the face of clothing brand Mango.

As with all messaging, connecting with the 50-plus crowd requires a carefully considered sincerity and authenticity, showing this segment that brands consider them people and understand their needs. Slater told W Magazine, “I would rather pressure MAC Cosmetics to think of me as a consumer, than help promote a separate over-50 makeup brand.” This cuts to the heart of the silver revolution: shifting away from a mindset where older age groups are excluded, to one where they aren’t just included, but celebrated. Brands would do well to reject ageism—or any other deterrent of inclusivity—and embrace this segment. We could take a cue from L’Oreal, which did it with panache when they deemed “Silver Chic” the hair color of 2019.

[1] https://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-2014/advertising-to-baby-boomers.html

[2] https://msb.georgetown.edu/newsroom/news/rise-of-silver-economy

[3] https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/economics/info-2015/longevity-economy-economic-growth-new-opportunities.html