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.

Evolution of the Experience Economy

Experience Economy

Previous generations sought status in the form of homes, cars and labels, but millennials are trading in a social currency that’s far less tangible. With 72% of millennials saying they would rather spend money on an experience than a material item,[1] the “experience economy” has seen rapid growth, opening up a world of opportunity for both brands and consumers alike.

For some brands, marketing to an experience-focused consumer is a natural fit. Airbnb, the online home rental provider, tapped into this insight with their debut television commercial, encouraging travelers to go beyond visiting a place: “Don’t go there, live there.” Expanding upon this tagline, Airbnb began offering “experiences” in addition to home rentals, through which customers can take classes, go on tours and book other cultural activities that aim to help them explore the city they’re visiting in a more authentic manner.

But a brand doesn’t have to provide tourism and hospitality services to participate in the experience economy. The act of using a product or a service is by definition an interaction, and savvy brands have harnessed that potency to foster a relationship with users. Coca-Cola® honed in on the communal aspect of consuming their product, and the resulting “Share a Coke” campaign launched a cultural zeitgeist, with soda drinkers across the country looking for a bottle bearing their friends’ (or their own) names.

Digital companies, like eyeglass retailer Warby Parker, have revolutionized the e-commerce space by adding interactive elements to the online shopping process. Consumers are sent their preferred styles to test out, which can then be easily purchased; Warby Parker will even reimburse the cost of frame adjustments at any eyeglass retailer. They’ve made the online transaction interactive without physically engaging with the consumer, creating a lasting impression that feels personal—a prime example of how brands can encourage experiences, even if they can’t directly facilitate them.

Another way that brands can make this economy work for them is by creating an interactive engagement adjacent to their product. Casper®, the direct-to-consumer, mattress-in-a-box retailer, recently launched a brick-and-mortar destination called The Dreamery, at which they literally sell the act of sleep: for $25, consumers can take a 45-minute nap on a Casper® mattress. Not just a novelty for sleepy passersby, it also serves as a creative way for potential customers to take the mattress for a test-run—something that Casper already provides to anyone who buys one of their mattresses in the form of a 100-night, risk-free trial. By turning the act of sleeping into a commodified service, Casper® has essentially created a new product category, one in which it is uniquely situated to flourish.

So, if millennial consumers have demonstrated that they will connect with brands that understand their desire for the personal and ephemeral, what experience will you create for your brand? The end-game of creating these interactions is not just to sell more product: it’s to create a lasting relationship with the consumer.

[1] http://eventbrite-s3.s3.amazonaws.com/marketing/Millennials_Research/Gen_PR_Final.pdf

Summer Camp for Grownups—So Much More Than S’mores

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Americans live hard: a 60-hour workweek, a mortgage, car payments. Even if you’re driven and love what you do, grown-up life can drain the batteries.

Which is why summer camps for adults started springing up over the last decade. The weekend or week-long sleep away camps—with bonfires, ballads, beers and burgers—offer a good dose of nostalgia and a break from the daily grind

But now we see that goals for adult weekends (or weeks) away are changing: it’s no longer about escape from the life we live—it’s about enhancement of the life we love. Summer camps are expanding into opportunities for adults to explore other interests that their busy lives haven’t allowed: Formula One driving workshops, Life of a Zookeeper experiences and Cocktail Mixology camps are but a few of the ways we can cultivate our passions

We anticipate that forward-thinking brands will push this model further, creating immersive adventures to reveal their business identities with their target and growing their consumer into educated product evangelists who share their enthusiasm widely. Experiences will be manifested in the form of photos, social media interaction, personal blog posts, and enthusiastic stories that get shared over and over at business luncheons, weekend conferences and keynote speeches.

Marketers looking for new and innovative ways to develop not just large numbers of consumers, but passionately motivated members of an “extended marketing family,” would do well to “take it to camp,” and envision an adventure that benefits both the time-crunched consumer and the brand.

A Taste of Spain

 

Tempted to take your tastebuds on a tour of Spain, but can’t pack your bags and hop a last minute flight? Well, you’re in luck. New York City has a growing number of exquisitely authentic Spanish-style restaurants, sure to please even the most gourmet foodies. Two restaurants in particular, Toro and Txikito, both located in Chelsea, boast a scrumptious selection of tapas and Spanish-inspired craft cocktails to accompany your authentic meal. Muy delicioso!

‘Tis The Season: Restaurant Week

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—at least for foodies in NYC. Restaurant Week is upon us yet again, offering 18 calorie-filled days of the city’s finest dining experiences at a fixed price that makes our wallets and taste buds equally happy. With over 290 restaurants to choose from, you can enjoy a 3-course meal for lunch ($25) or dinner ($35). Happy dining!

Snowy Day Activities

 

After storm “Hercules,” we’re looking to beef up our Netflix cue. The good news is that Netflix just added tons of new movies (after they also removed quite a few on January 1). These include classics like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, TV shows such as “Dexter” (seasons 5-8) and of course, many titles we’ve never even heard of. You can find the full list here.

Cheers to staying entertained while seeking indoor refuge from the polar vortex!

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ

 

We think it’s totally okay to put your New Year’s diet resolutions aside for just one day—as long as you make that day REALLY count. Thankfully, the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival is coming to NYC just in time. On January 25th, the festival will make its 5th annual appearance in town and will be bringing the two other B’s—bacon and bluegrass—along with it. If you’re gonna have a cheat day, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Comment with your favorite BBQ spots in NYC!

Bud Light Floating Hotel to Set Sail Super Bowl Weekend

 

Though the Super Bowl will be held in New Jersey at the Meadowlands at MetLife Stadium, The Bud Light Hotel New York will take over a Norwegian Cruise Line ship and will be docked at Pier 88 in Manhattan on the Hudson River over Super Bowl weekend (January 30 – February 2). The floating hotel will offer lodging for 4,000 guests, though it is not open to the public. Bud Light Hotel will also take over the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, where Bud Light plans to construct heated venues to host concerts and parties. (Heated being the key word.)

Netflix—Still #Winning

 

Some major cable companies are talking with Netflix about making it available like any other channel. This just goes to show that traditional cable companies have to get with the times or be left behind. The move will benefit those with both cable and Netflix—no more switching between TV settings, which makes being a couch potato even easier! Pass the remote.