The Blog

Dining In – Home Cooking Is the Comeback Kid

shutterstock_116301946

The growth of restaurant sales has slowed in the last decade, with some of the largest casual dining restaurants reporting stalled or falling sales. Meanwhile, meal-kit businesses are on the rise with companies like Blue Apron, Plated and Green Chef generating $1.5 billion in 2016. The single largest food retailer? Walmart.

Look around: home cooking is back in a big way.

While Americans are still overworked and under-rested, health and wellness trends have created a new middle-class ambition: healthy, home-cooked meals. Supported by falling food prices and the popularity of all things artisanal, this trend shows no signs of slowing. People are clearing jackets, homework and mail off the dining room table and replacing them with meals they’ve assembled or fully cooked themselves.

As this market expands, simplicity, flexibility and affordability are crucial. Ordering from a meal-kit service or online grocer (that now includes Amazon), accommodating dietary restrictions, access to transportation or delivery, and ease of prep will be omnipresent. It’s unlikely that home chefs will be constructing complicated, multi-ingredient recipes, but a simple, fresh and inexpensive option at home will be an increasingly common occurrence.

Successful entrepreneurs will need to find a way to add one more unique element to distinguish themselves from the pack. Look to see a focus on fair trade ingredients, tailored offerings to a specific dietary clientele, or specialized growth in a desire for non-GMO-fed verified products in the near future. The nugget here is that a growing market is a diversified one, and the visionary leaders will identify a need ahead of their own consumers.

Gluten-Free: Sounds Good to Me

shutterstock_142037104

Offering far more than just a gluten-free pasta option, New York restaurant Senza Gluten has dedicated its entire menu to fine gluten-free dining. Pizza, pasta, flatbreads, sandwiches and desserts—you name it. Not in your area? Try Find Me GF, an app that identifies gluten-free businesses near you.

With 18 million Americans diagnosed as gluten sensitive and one in every 133 Americans with some form of celiac disease, this is more than a trendy dietary preference. Whether due to modern trends in wheat hybridization, increased reporting, greater attention paid to nutritional issues in general, or light shed on the issue by celebrities, wheat gluten sensitivity is a hot-button topic.

Think this is limited to mom-and-pop shops? Industry giant Archer Daniels Midland has responded by gaining a controlling interest in smaller businesses such as Harvest Innovations, an industry leader in minimally-processed, gluten-free nutritional alternatives. With facilities in places like Indianola, Iowa and Deshler, Ohio, this trend is more than an urban exception; it directly affects the nutritional—and financial—health of our nation’s heartland.

Consumers have responded with profitable demonstrations of brand loyalty and a willingness to pay a little extra for good food that’s healthy, sustainable, and locally-sourced. The challenge for brand managers today—for all industries—is to discover how their product fits into a growing consumer landscape composed of niche needs.

 

How Do Your Customers Get Their Web? Browser? App? OTA?

marketing_virtual_realityAs the web gets larger and larger, its access points get smaller and smaller. Soon they may even be invisible.

Browser-access is antiquated

Going fast are the days of using a desktop web browser for online commerce. Recent Nielsen data clearly shows that the trend for mobile Internet access favors mobile platforms (iOS, Android, etc.) by 90%[1]. Traditional desktop layouts are over-complicated for smaller touch-screens, draining battery life, clogging download speeds, and wasting valuable bytes of data downloads via a cellular connections. The first correction was the platform-adaptive web design – a simple solution for those who require only a basic Internet presence. But for greater consumer interaction, let’s look at the app.

The App is the current state of online access

User-friendly apps (applications) are ‘micro programs’ that streamline layout, options, and access directly to a specific commercial or industrial entity. Retail business apps offer QRC and barcode scanning options, insurance apps offer online claim forms with pop-up selections rather than character-entered data, content and media providers like Netflix or The New York Times offer episode lists, articles, and subscription information directly to the consumer with no distribution middle-man. Voice command systems like Siri and Google Now bypass the keyboard entirely, so that the consumer doesn’t have to scroll through a list of options – the mobile device does that for you far more efficiently.

The future is OTA

Following through with this kind of innovation, we see online access being built directly into the product itself. Just as apps make online access faster, easier, and more direct, Over The Air (OTA) information systems will challenge the way brands interact with their followers and customers. Amazon’s Echo exists as a stand-alone wireless household information station, feeding families everything from recipes to product prices without even going to a separate device. Tesla Motors is equipping its cars with online functionality to update and upgrade the software performance in its vehicles. Does the idea of your car getting a software update while it sits in your garage at night sound like science fiction? Think again – it’s already here.[2]

What this means for client/consumer interaction

A landing page will be a thing of the past. A scrolling list of options will seem quaint. Modern aggressive marketing means predicting the needs and interests of the client, bypassing slow and costly access to fulfilling them, and offering direct pipelines to do so, in some cases without even having to ask. The ideal Internet is invisible, seamless, self-sufficient – leaving your customers and clients free to focus on all the exciting products and services your company has to offer.

[1] http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/
[2] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-25/those-pesky-software-updates-now-coming-to-a-car-near-you

 

Does Your Brand Have an Opinion?

Does your brand have a voice?
Does your brand have a voice?

Less than three weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled five to four that all Americans, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, have the right to marry. Immediately, brands joined the public in voicing their support for the vote through their social media feeds, illustrating that—once forbidden territory—marketers are stepping forward and publicly taking a stand on issues previously thought “too political.”

Consumer Connections Through Cause 

With the rise of social media marketing, companies are attempting to be more human, hoping to relate to their consumers as they connect with them. Brands are creating roles as friends and peers, instead of large corporations with communication becoming more individualized and localized. These “personal“ connections are subsequently leading them to pipe up on issues that are relevant to their consumers: in this case products from JELL-O to Cheerios and Target to Uber, posted photos incorporating the rainbow flag into their products, receiving generally positive feedback from their social communities.

The Constant Search for Relevancy

Consumer-driven social media is dictated by the people. Constant updates are made to Facebook based on fan feedback and new apps are popping up to fill voids in the social sphere, which will only grow. And as those budgets increase, companies must be ready to add a relevant opinion to the conversation on issues that don’t directly involve their products and that extend beyond what is happening in the headlines.

It is important for brand owners to start planning now and thinking beyond the basic values of their marketing identity. By developing guidelines for their social and political stances, they will set up more opportunities to engage and ensure that they can join the conversation quickly and connect further with their fan base.

Netflix-Inspired Travel

There are few things as wonderful as spending an evening on the couch catching up on your favorite show. But what if you could place yourself in the setting of your most beloved protagonist? Welcome to TV tourism. Think about it, New Mexico never held as much attraction as it did after Breaking Bad, and surely you’re dying to spot Sherlock Holmes in the window of some mysterious London building. Karen Clarkson, vice president North America at the tourism authority VisitBritain, said “American visitors are known to visit specific locations related to entertainment and literary heritage.” Now the question is, when is the next flight to King’s Landing? [more]

3D on the Rocks

3D Printing seems to be on everyones mind these days. It is predicted that 3D printing will be a $20 billion global industry by 2019. It has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about food, art, manufacturing, learning, nutrition and even mixology has been added to the list. If you love whiskey, you’ll be happy to know that you will now be able to take it ‘3D on the rocks’. [More]

Hotels Stepping Up to Court A New Generation of Travelers

With the rise of shared economy websites, AirBNB and other community marketplaces are cashing in on the demand for affordable, unique and personal travel experiences. In an attempt to lure millennial traveler back from these competitors, major hotel brands are giving themselves a face life—launching “lifestyle” brands to whet the appetite of a younger traveler, a target which the New York Times defines as “between 18 and 34 years old.”

Some well-known brands are leading the pack, including Marriott International’s new Moxy Hotels which will feature shared spaces or “living rooms” with free WiFi and a 24-hour self-service cafe. Other are differentiating their millennial focused brands by offering more reasonable rates, locally sourced amenities and high-tech luxuries.

LinkedIn Moves to Visual

The trend towards visual social media platforms is no secret—in October of 2013, Twitter redesigned its feed so that photos would appear without clicking a link, and then Facebook purchased Instagram, the ultimate image-sharing app. Now LinkedIn is joining the party, by launching a redesigned homepage urging users to upload photos, which could help boost the site’s mobile growth. LinkedIn is continuing to look into other ways to grow their news feed, but it seems that images are a good place to start. [source]

Healthy Treats: It’s Not Just About Kale Anymore

For the past few years we’ve been hearing about super foods—like our favorite kale—and dieting. But now this healthy eating focus is extending past those initial fads and instead becoming incorporated into all our favorite things, including cupcakes. We are beginning to see more and more startups and brand extensions aimed at satisfying our desire for sweets and great tasting food while maintaining a healthy value. Eat Limmo is one of the most recent examples: a startup that uses fruit peels to make a healthier, but still tasty, cupcake. [Source]

TTC Turns 10

A lot can happen over a span of a decade. In the case of The Thomas Collective, a lot did happen, and we have officially reached the milestone that sets apart the new from the established.

It’s been a ride: the last decade saw up playing polo on elephants in Nepal, challenging men to wear kilts on national television, even developing an intern program to monitor the endangered coral reefs of Thailand. We also grew our expertise across the digital landscape, where we’ve performed virtual blogger tastings of Chilean wines and Scottish whiskies, built up a substantial Facebook following for a multitude of consumer products brands and annihilated the social stigma of embarrassment towards urinary health by creating the sassy, social media superhero AZO Girl.

This first year of establishment was the growth of our portfolio to include some of the most interesting brands around, while winning them some of the top awards in the industry. What’s next? To initiate the next decade of work, TTC has announced the “TTC Ten,” pledging to support 10 U.S. nonprofit organizations over the next five years. We’re hoping to bring to the field of selected organizations, real solutions created by right brain thinking and left brain creativity.