What’s in a Word?

What's in a Word

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.

[1] https://sproutsocial.com/insights/data/q2-2017/

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.

[1] https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/number-of-women-owned-businesses-growing-2-5-times-faster-than-national-average-1007300927
[2] https://s3.amazonaws.com/nwbc-prod.sba.fun/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/09084854/NWBC-Report_Necessity-as-a-Driver-of-Women%E2%80%99s-Entrepreneurship-Her-Stories.pdf
[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2017/04/10/forbes-top-influencers-inside-the-rise-of-kayla-itsines-the-internets-workout-queen/#79cfe098673f
[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/annapowers/2018/07/31/women-founded-start-ups-receive-less-funding-but-produce-double-the-revenue-a-study-finds/#66568ae964e4

Gluten-Free: Sounds Good to Me

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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 lift—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.

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.

A Mixologist In Your Kitchen

The Nespresso of craft cocktails is here: Somabar, a phone-controlled mixology machine, lets you create craft cocktails with the touch of a button, or two. How does it work? Fill the Somabar with pods that include your favorite ingredients—from alcohol to juice and syrups. It’s all you’ll need to shake up the evening.

Need to get your hands on this crafty gadget? Get over to Kickstarter.