We recently explored how the millennial generation’s consumer ethos of “self, society, and planet” has impacted other demographics and encouraged brands to become more transparent about their product sourcing and social impact. This shift is perhaps most obvious when it comes to food labeling – after all, this is the generation that saw calorie counts added to fast food menus and prioritizes organic and local ingredients. However, today’s consumers want greater transparency for all products, not just those they literally consume.
Millennial Americans, those born between 1981 and 1996, are now the consumer demographic with the greatest spending power. They are a generation that grew up surrounded by rapid technological advancement and came of age at the start of the social media era. They are more likely than previous generations to be multicultural, tech-savvy, and socially engaged. Now, their preferences are shaping how brands market to and communicate with their target audiences.
Perhaps this shift is most obvious when it comes to food. Most millennials grew up eating processed foods and were children at the height of fast food’s prominence, gleefully collecting Happy Meal toys and making friends at the adjacent indoor PlayPlace. However, as young adults, they were the recipients (and sometimes engineers) of the changing trends toward organic, local, unprocessed food. Today, the primary value that millennials prize when eating is transparency. Continue Reading
Our series Lessons from Startup Culture focuses on the ways in which startups have changed the business landscape through the necessity of innovation and outside-the-box thinking. While many larger companies face different challenges, there is still a lot to be learned by examining how small businesses navigate product design, branding, and marketing on a limited (often nearly non-existent) budget.
In this installment, we’ll explore the marketing strategies that pioneering startups have developed in response to emerging social media landscapes and out of a need to build name recognition and introduce new products to their target markets. Continue Reading
In our contentious political and social climate, most brands choose to play it safe and advertise their products without engaging with any issues that may alienate a portion of their consumer base. Not so with Gillette, which recently released an online ad titled We Believe: The Best a Man Can Get that courts controversy by invoking the #MeToo movement, toxic masculinity, and bullying (among other hot-button issues). The ad, which provoked a firestorm of competing editorials and news coverage, has placed Gillette at the center of an ongoing debate about social messaging from brands.
A lot has been published about the ad’s message and the public’s response. What I’d like to examine is the risk vs. the reward of socially-engaged brand content and how brands are creating a new playbook for effective social messaging. Continue Reading
The concept of hermeneutics – introduced to me by the remarkably intelligent Rodger Nishioka – is that we all have various “lenses” through which we interpret the world around us. These may be immutable characteristics such as age and race, or changeable ones such as level of education, location, or job status. The unique way we each process information is related to the combination of lenses through which we receive it.
We recently explored the potential behind a hermeneutics-inspired approach to consumer segmentation in marketing and advertising. These lenses of interpretation are a kind of inverse of the typical approach to consumer segmentation – separating people into various demographic groups (from the outside in) and targeting them with messages that are calculated to resonate. The hermeneutic approach suggests an internal lens, allowing us to attempt to see through a consumer’s eyes by understanding the factors that influence their perception.
How might this concept help us create brands that attract a wide audience and inspire ongoing relationships? Continue Reading
In the world of high-profile brands, there are many success stories that we return to again and again. Steve Jobs and the creation of the Apple brand – Tesla’s Elon Musk – Richard Branson and his serial entrepreneurial success – Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Other brands don’t get as much attention. This bias is so ingrained that we sometimes overlook brands that might have a lot to teach us.
I originally hesitated to write about Zumba, the global fitness brand that continues to explode in popularity despite a lack of attention from the business community. But to dismiss the brand is to fail to notice how deeply and brilliantly it has tapped into evolving trends in the fitness (and music) world and how innovative its founders’ approach to growing their brand truly is. What makes Zumba work and what can its success teach us about building our own brands? Continue Reading
One enduringly successful brand, the outdoor lifestyle-focused REI (which is celebrating 80 years this year), has taken the concept of brand action to new heights in recent years. Their OptOutside movement boldly reshapes the status quo among retailers and provides a powerful model for brands that want to turn their brand image into a signifier of something greater. Continue Reading