Your Ad Here: Out-of-Home Marketing


If you’ve ever traveled on I-90 on your way to Mount Rushmore, the Badlands or the Black Hills, you may have seen billboards for miles to the east and west for Wall Drug. If you’ve ever been to Times Square, this phenomenon is far more noticeable with print or digital displays covering nearly every surface in sight. Out-of-home advertising has been around for hundreds of years, but in the digital age, like all things, the medium is evolving.

Some of the advancements being made in out-of-home advertising are changing the way we think about the space. Digital displays can become dynamic based on the speed of traffic on the interstate or peak search trends within a specific area. Like its online counterpart, consumer data is being leveraged to make the out-of-home experience even more personalized. Delta and Equinox partnered last year to promote a “Sweatlag” workout, designed to ease jet lag, using dynamic billboards and incoming flight data to target specific consumers.

But it’s important to consider both the positives and negatives when thinking about out-of-home advertising as part of your media plan. Consumers are spending massive amounts of time in front of screens on a daily basis.1 They are also getting increasingly adept at ignoring and avoiding marketing attached to the content they are consuming. This is why outdoor displays are becoming an advantageous alternative. They aren’t skippable and are a part of the environment in which consumers live.

Additionally, a creative outdoor display can become viral and “Instagrammable,” helping to extend the reach of the brand. Spotify’s #DavidBowieIsHere campaign visually took over a New York City subway station, using a hashtag and app integration for multiple consumer touchpoints. However, public art has become largely saturated by branded displays like murals, so outside the box thinking that has legs to become viral and spurs consumer engagement must be considered to succeed in the out-of-home market.

Another consideration is that ROI can be more difficult to track than online media investment. There are ways to track specific engagements such as search trends based on location, specific codes associated with a CTA or geographic surveys, but they aren’t fool proof. Unless the out-of-home display is the only advertising in market, it can be difficult to pinpoint the direct effect on ROI.

Digital and television still dominate media spend, but brands and marketers are always looking for new ways to reach consumers.2 According to a study that surveyed 1,200 consumers, 69 percent said they trust outdoor ads and public displays when making a purchase decision, a higher clip than social, video and banner ads.3 With the ability to target high-priority areas, viral capabilities and technological advancements, marketers would be smart to consider out-of-home in media plans and be willing to be creative and extend their boundaries in order to make consumers stop and say, “Wow!”




Purpose Driven Purchases


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.



The Art of Listening


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.


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.


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.




Keeping Up in the On-Demand Economy

Man Writing I Want It Now

Public transit running on delay? Request an Uber or Lyft for immediate transportation. A party gone dry? Tap a button and have alcohol rush-delivered. Forget a necessary ingredient at the grocery store? Order it through Postmates and get it in time for the next step of your recipe.

By catering to the needs of consumers in what feels like an instant, the on-demand economy has shortened consumer attention spans, rendering the need for patience in the marketplace nearly obsolete. Perhaps the most visible example is Amazon Prime Now, which offers 2-hour delivery on over 25,000 products spanning 25 product categories, from household essentials to electronics to pet supplies. The service eliminates the need to leave the room, without sacrificing immediacy or efficiency.

Traditional retailers can’t compete with the convenience and speed of immediate delivery, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for them to succeed. Since brands likely can’t be faster or more convenient than top performers in the space, they should compete where their on-demand counterparts can’t—by creating that which can’t be replicated digitally. This is an opportunity to give consumers a compelling reason to come to them, something that offsets the “inconvenience” of in-person shopping.

Innovative grocers have taken this to heart. With delivery services like Peapod and Instacart eating into profits, they have started to expand shoppers’ expectations of what a grocery trip can entail. Rather than just purchasing food for the week ahead, consumers can now grab a drink, test out new foods and be entertained. Providing samples for customers may not be a novel approach, but Trader Joe’s makes them an integral element of the shopping experience—checkout lines frequently snake through the maze of store aisles, and shoppers know to expect a sample station along the way. Not just the chance to try something new, it’s also a way to lessen the burden of waiting in line. Whole Foods takes it a step farther, with stores now including restaurants and bars within. The bar at a Brooklyn location hosts weekly trivia nights, reflecting an attempt to create a community for shoppers.

These experiences can be complimentary or require purchase, so long as they demonstrate concern and appreciation for consumers. Cosmetics store Sephora allows shoppers to try on any product prior to purchase. Home goods retailer Sur La Table offers cooking classes that not only provide the chance to test out their cookware, but also impart new recipes and skills. The opportunity to take a product for a test drive is something that online retailers can’t provide as easily. It’s the “touch and feel” effect, and it’s lost when a purchase is made fully online.

At its heart, creating an experience is just a way to provide excellent customer service. Consumers are willing to slow down when it feels worth it, and by putting their interests at the forefront, savvy brands are able to connect with them in a meaningful way. Carving out their own niche will help traditional retailers succeed in the evolving on-demand culture, building loyalty and affinity in the landscape in which they operate.

Ditching the Digital

Ditching the Digital

As cultural anthropologists, TTC studies emerging behavioral patterns and their social implications, setting aside several days annually to exclusively focus on one trend. Recently, we wrote about the growing omnipresence of the digital detox, in which people purposely separate from electronic devices. Finding vast implications for our personal and professional lives, we departed for a dude ranch in the mountains of Mexico to observe how it might impact us.

Our weekend detox demanded the conscious uncoupling of human and device, and by extension, of human and social, professional and familial circles. The toughest part of that, for some of us, was simply giving ourselves permission to do so.

“The challenge was in allowing myself to be unavailable,” said Pamela Thomas, president of The Thomas Collective. “The advantages to being present and disconnected are clear, but can become hindrances if you don’t give yourself the space to be unreachable.” The concept behind the digital detox relies on an individual’s recognition that a purposeful break is even necessary, given their increased reliance on their devices.

For most of us, a digital detox was easier said than done. Smart phones are so much more than telephones. One of the most frequently used capabilities is the camera, which has allowed the world to document their lives on social media.

“I’m a photography lover, so I did use my phone on airplane mode to take photos,” admitted Deanna Brigandi, account coordinator. “But that made me think, ‘Who am I taking these photos for?’ Do I take photos to look back on later in life, or do I take them knowing I will eventually post them to social media? I think it’s a little bit of both.”

Brigandi’s quandary was shared by all on the trip. Does the focus on documenting an experience take away from the experience itself? The compulsion to take a photo seems to be in part driven by the desire to preserve a moment, as Brigandi mentioned. But studies actually show that when people take photos, their memories of those moments will fade more than those who did not.1 So then, by refraining from taking photos, we are actually making stronger memories.

Nearly everyone in the group articulated a level of discomfort when first separating from their devices, but some eventually found that taking a step away from their social orbits wasn’t necessarily a negative.

“It was a challenge to break out of the routines associated with my device, but once I actually did it, I was surprised by how much easier it was to be out of contact with people than I expected,” said Doug Burger, senior account coordinator. Smart phones have led us to assume a default setting of interconnection, but once that option is no longer available, we’re reminded that constant contact simply isn’t necessary.

Our takeaway in the brief time we spent away? A deeper understanding of how strong our relationships had become to our devices. Self-insight is always the first step in breaking a habit, and the next is deciding to change. But we live in a world that expects immediate responses, and demands—in both work and play—availability and participation. Until we are ready to limit professional and social participation, the digital detox will just be a reminder of that.


What’s in a Word?

What's in a Word

Language is powerful.

Not only is it the medium through which we express thoughts, but it can also foreshadow cultural shifts. The words people choose and the order in which they use them reflect the cultural moment, providing insight into their desires and motivators. It would be foolish to assume that successful brands don’t have a finger to the pulse of how their audience communicates. But an equally important question to ask is: Why are they communicating that way? Why are certain words used and others avoided? The “why” of language can predict future behavior and is a valuable tool for those looking to gain a greater understanding of a segment of the population.

Considering language is akin to analyzing choice. People choose to use words that are culturally and topically appropriate, and avoid those that are not. An obvious example is profanity. Since it does not adhere to the norms of most public interactions, it is common to avoid using profanity in situations where it may be considered culturally or socially unacceptable. But language is constantly evolving, so words considered appropriate today could be taboo tomorrow.

Take “anti-aging.” Once a term used to describe an entire genre of skincare products, it is now thought to perpetuate ageist thinking. Beauty brand Neutrogena proudly aligned itself with this change by declaring, “We’re not anti-aging, we’re anti-wrinkles.” Allure magazine banned the word from its pages. In its place are descriptors like “age perfect” and “renewal.” Neither the products nor the conversation have changed—just the positioning.

Like subtle changes in language, the dialogue surrounding a brand’s category or products can shift with culture. Take Kleenex’s need to rebrand their “man-sized” tissues as “extra large” due to complaints of sexism. Weight Watchers, whose very name had become problematic, changed its name to simply “WW” to better align with the cultural shift towards body positivity. Rebranding is drastic, but changing the language consumers use to refer to a brand has the power to change how they think, feel and (optimally) act.

As always, brands should proceed with authenticity when adjusting their usage of language. Trends come and go, especially in regards to how people speak, and brands should be thoughtful in their communication, not impulsive. Slang words and phrases seemingly become ubiquitous overnight, but that doesn’t mean brands should start advertising how “lit” their products are. In fact, 69% of consumers consider brand use of slang language annoying.[1]

It’s impossible to overstate the power of language. The way people speak informs how they think and act. Brands must continue to adhere to the old adage “think before you speak.” But to ensure the most culturally intelligent communications strategy, perhaps the counsel is to listen before you act.


Empowering the Fempreneur

A Young Business Girl Uses Megaphone

Once upon a time, the descriptor “bossy” was akin to slander for many women, but those days are long gone. This is the era of the fempreneuer. The girl boss. The boss lady. In the last two decades, there has been a 114 percent increase in the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. alone.[1] And it’s not just one generation: Women of all ages are forging their own paths in the business world, from Baby Boomers to Millennials. While motivations differ on a granular level, business-minded women are pursuing their own paths for two overarching reasons: necessity and autonomy.

“Necessity entrepreneurship” is the driving force for many women starting their own businesses, according to the National Women’s Business Council.[2] It’s the idea that, for any number of reasons, women are not seeing the positions they want in the labor force, so they’re creating opportunities for themselves. Factors such as income inequality, the glass ceiling and lack of flexibility in dealing with work and family care are potent enough for the fempreneuer to carve out her own career.

Another motivator? Autonomy. Women are starting businesses to achieve the lifestyle they want. More than ever, these #dontquityourdaydream-ers are turning their passions into their careers, with side hustles becoming full-fledged businesses. The digital sphere, and especially social media, have provided ample opportunity to capitalize on niche interests. Personal trainer–turned fitness magnate Kayla Itsines began her career as a personal trainer at a gym. Rather than limit her client base to members of the gym, Itsines took her workouts to Instagram. Her tips and transformation stories racked up a following of over 10 million people, creating a fitness empire that includes best-selling books, stadium tours and an app that topped the fitness charts in 2016.[3]

These female entrepreneurs live in a world where their start-ups receive half the funding of their male counterparts, while producing over twice the revenue.[4] This structure has created new ways to build a business, such as seeking funding from female-managed investment firms, like Golden Seeds, which focus on women-led businesses. Social media has also proven to be a potent tool for women that saw it not only as a way to showcase their offerings, but a platform to build their personal brand.

The increase of female-owned businesses has resulted in another realm of growth: an industry that aims to help women succeed in the entrepreneurial space. In many cases, it’s the result of a “women-helping-other-women” ethos. Those who have succeeded in their business endeavors seek to impart knowledge to women looking to launch their own brand. Create & Cultivate, founded by Jaclyn Johnson, an under-30 female entrepreneurial success story, is a series of conferences that connect like-minded women and provide workshops and networking sessions related to starting a business. Girlboss, founded by Sophia Amoruso, a woman who also found success in the entrepreneurial space at an early age, is a multifaceted platform that provides women with career and financial resources, in addition to hosting events that bring would-be fempreneurs together.

All indicators signal that this female entrepreneurial movement will not slow down. We believe that women will continue to innovate and create new opportunities for themselves. This enterprising attitude is something that brands should consider: Women are ambitious, smart and unwilling to settle. To succeed with this segment, it is crucial to demonstrate an understanding of its motivations, and support the trails women are blazing.


Gluten-Free: Sounds Good to Me


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.