Finding Humanity In An Era Of Change

A perspective from Cannes 2018

By Sharon Love – CEO, TPN

 

Awards for Creativity. Big data. Provocative speakers. Branded beaches. Yachts, parties, concerts, and rose… Some aspects have remained the same over time but the annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has definitely undergone some change—even in the four short years I’ve attended. Beyond the greater presence of big media platforms and the continuing corporate dynamic, there felt to me, this year, a shift in the posture of our industry. A humbling pivot that’s put many marketers in a defensive position. And for good reason. In a moment of transparency concerns, a tech explosion, and the fight for equality and inclusion, how does an agency or brand survive and thrive? The answer may be to rediscover our humanity.

 

Embracing the human spirit in creativity

The list of jobs gobbled up by robots grows each year. And today it seems feasible that new technology, big data, and in-house creative shops may replace the “agency” as we’ve known it to date. Angela Ahrendts—formerly CEO of Burberry, currently SVP, Retail, Apple— went on the offensive at Cannes during her panel “Reimagining the Retail Experience” championing the value of “the human business” with regards to technology, the digital boom, and the future of retail. She acknowledged the importance of technology (she works for Apple, after all!) but was purposely focused on the need for the human touch. At TPN, we share her opinion that retail isn’t dying, it’s merely changing. That truth was complemented in another great panel, “The Not So Secret Life of Creatives”, where they discussed how Pinterest lets you play in a virtual world to generate ideas that you later cultivate in the offline world. My takeaway? Those of us that adapt the most efficiently and find that right balance of man-and-machine will win moving forward.

 

Seeing each other human-to-human

As marketers, an important part of what we owe our clients is a clear delineation of who their target audience is. No one today should be wasting time or money marketing to the wrong person, even slightly. Data has made us more accurate, in a lot of ways. But as I listened to Faith Popcorn’s session, “The Death of Masculinity and its Impact on Creativity”, I was reminded of the limitations of big data. Her take on the constant blurring definitions of masculinity and femininity, and beyond, cannot be captured in data. It’s too nuanced and shifting. Perhaps one way to ensure we’re connecting with our audience in the right ways is to view them as people as opposed to males, females or other gender labels. That would allow us to avoid offensive or alienating stereotypes. Wherever we can, we should ask ourselves how we’d like to be approached by a brand—as a woman? As a man? Or perhaps just as a person of certain interests. That theme seemed to align well with the message Seth Farbman (CMO, Spotify) sent at his panel “Creativity in the Age of Resistance”. He highlighted the voice they give to artists to make positive change—with themes of inclusivity and acceptance of all rising to the top. Seth stressed that using Spotify’s platform for positive change has become “an obligation”. The nature of your brand or platform, of course, figures largely into your ability to deliver this promise. But overall, the thought of steering clear of any level of stereotype and bias is a smart one for the times.

 

Fulfilling the equality promise

Many sessions focused on eliminating bias from our business—both in our internal company structures and in our work. The argument for gender and racial equality as a business imperative has been talked about for a long time and now there is conclusive evidence that companies who have a diverse workforce and leadership team deliver better results than those who do not. Early in the discussions about the importance of diversity, the moral imperative for equality had to take a back seat to business to get all the people who needed to hear it onboard. So why are some brands so slow to act on this and clean up their act? I just saw on Facebook this morning an old friend bemoaning the back of her (unnamed here) breakfast cereal box. It was a heartland story of where the grains had been raised for the cereal and featured the family of farmers who had grown it—there was not ONE female in the picture! It was kind of shocking. But there is reason for hope that the cereal box debacle will be a thing of the past. At one of my favorite panels, “Agents of Change”, featuring Katie Couric, Queen Latifah, Madonna Badger, and Mark Pritchard—they shared that though 29% of ads still portray women negatively or inappropriately, that number is down from 51% just two years ago. It seems like the hard work is beginning to pay off. As Omnicom’s Chief Diversity Officer, Tiffany R. Warren stated in her panel “Diversity—a Values Issue and Business Imperative”: “Diverse teams mean diverse thinking. We need representation in front of and behind the camera at every level, so we can normalize what used to be marginalized.”

 

Applying the good in tech

The power to ‘do good’ using data & technology is very exciting—both as a human being and as a marketer. One compelling session I attended, entitled “Androids, AI and the Future of Creativity” touted a function of new technology as a way for humans to understand what it really means to be human—when you interact with a robot, you begin to appreciate the things it can’t do that a human can. But the flip side (the dark side, if you will) of what data & technology have already wrought is concerning. We need good and responsible data and tech to win the day. Simply vilifying data/tech as bad (taking our jobs way!) or dangerous (destroying our privacy, rigging our elections) is to ignore all of the good it can do, and has done. The opportunity to connect our audiences with relevant, uplifting, and helpful content has never been greater. Our customers look to us to provide helpful information. It’s a great responsibility. But as we work to utilize the ever-expanding network of data, and the power of platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram plus technology like AI, machine learning, and Voice, we need to (somehow) avoid fueling the increasing dependence our audiences have on mobile and social media as personal validation. As Scott Hagedorn, Chief Executive of Hearts & Science pointed out, it’s led to a rise in depression and anxiety (not to mention a polarizing political divide unlike anything we’ve ever seen). It will take human understanding and intervention to help brands utilize the power of data and technology in a transparent, positive, and ethical manner. And the ones who do so will win the ongoing trust of consumers.

 

For an industry a bit on its heels, the unity, positivity, and human spirit in the air at Cannes was palpable. Hopefully, as marketers, creators, thinkers, and—most importantly—humans, we continue to respect the huge responsibility we have to the brands and consumers we serve and harness our platforms and power to make real change, for good.

Digital & Social Content Predictions for 2018

Digital and social content changes quickly! Brands must ensure their content is evolving just as quickly to meet consumer demand. We’ve been looking at the major trends. Here’s what you can expect to see:

VIDEO DOMINATES

Did you know that in 2017, 90% of all social content shared by consumers was video?1 Video must be woven into content marketing plans as consumers are overwhelmingly expecting this content type. Social platforms like Facebook have also placed a higher emphasis on video content, but its the marketers job to design video to grab attention within the first three seconds.

MORE EPHEMERAL CONTENT

Ephemeral content has been on the rise for three main reasons: 1) it’s mobile first, 2) it’s perceived as being more authentic given the content is often ‘scrappier’ and 3) it often sees higher engagement as consumers typically only have 24 hours to view it before it disappears. Snapchat pioneered this space, but Instagram and Facebook developed products to take advantage of the trend too.

INFLUENCER MARKETING GROWS

While Influencer marketing has been on the rise for some time, the space is maturing. We’ve seen the landscape divide into four main segments: Micro influencers (1k – 30k followers), the ‘Power Middle’ (35k – 250k followers), the Established Influencers 250k – 5MM, and Celebrity Influencers. Influencer marketing has become an important tactic as it ads authenticity to brand messaging and has more credibility with consumers.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE GETS CONVERSATIONAL

Consumers have been reaching out to brands on social media with customer service inquiries for years, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots have become so advanced that full dialogs can not only help answer common consumer questions, but can also help guide the shopper journey via a conversational experience.

AUGMENTED REALITY BRINGS NEW BRANDED EXPERIENCES

Pokemon Go put Augmented Reality (AR) in the spotlight, and the technology continues to grow as it has true potential to bring deeper, more immersive brand experiences to consumers. Nissan recently launched an AR Star Wars experience in their dealerships that enabled customers to view cars through their phone and highlighted Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility technologies.

Social Media Marketing Trends 2018

Written by: Andy Perez — TPN Content & Social Marketing Director

Highlights from Cannes 2017: Consuming vs. Doing

There’s no question that technology has fundamentally changed our lives—constant connectivity is a reality. But what level of connectivity is the healthiest? And how do we actually make consumers lives better verses creating addictive behaviors? This question entered my mind several times over the past few days at Cannes and particularly in listening to talks by Pinterest President, Tim Kendall and Senior Global Brand Director of Social Mecca and Video at Lego, Lars Silberbauer. Here are a few highlights below:

Are you living your life—or your selfie’s?
Tim Kendall (President, Pinterest) stressed that current technology trends are driving consumers to spend time behind smart screens verses beyond them. The average person spends 3 hours a day on their smart phone and the numbers are scarily rising. The Internet promise of connectivity is actually creating a world of isolation. And, current social platform KPIs focus on impressions and time spent on-screen verses igniting real life experiences.

As marketers, how can we create content that inspires consumers to stop tapping and start doing? Or, maybe not stop tapping…. just lessen it a bit to make sure consumers connect offline as well.

Using social media to ignite real play
Lars Silberbauer (Senior Global Brand Director of Social Mecca and Video, Lego) explained how he brought this iconic 85-year-old brand into the world of social media. Lego’s vision was to bring creativity and building together.

Using a delicate mix of digital tactics to inspire kids to play in the offline world, Lego gained a social following of over 1 million in just 3 weeks. The company focused positioning Lego as a play-starter with the hope of capturing new authentic Lego creations around the world. This effort led to an incredible set of Lego-user generated content and product innovations that continue to make the brand more modern and relevant.

As marketers (and good humans), we have an opportunity to develop content that helps our target consumers and shoppers to make, to do and to live in the real world. And that’s even more important now that we’re working almost exclusively in the world of digital.

For the Love of Cereal?

Cereal is a mainstay of the American diet. Since the introduction of cereal in the 20th century, which evolved from oatmeal and granola, we’ve been enjoying this simple, ready-to-eat meal around our breakfast tables…. and in the evening, as a quick, it’s just me and I don’t want to clean dishes, dinner solution… and as an afternoon snack… and as a late night I’ve got the munchies but I don’t want to go out hunger fix.

Although considered a basic breakfast staple, cereal has made its way into the American lifestyle as a popular, anytime meal. There are even restaurants purely dedicated to cereal, like R U Cereal in Albuquerque and Cereality Cereal Bar and Cafe at Terminal C in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. People love cereal.

General Mills is embracing cereal lovers everywhere with its website and social media campaign, Hello, Cereal. Its Facebook group alone has 313,000 followers and is growing.

According to a recent article in the New York Times:

The Facebook group is part of a broader online effort by General Mills that includes a Web site, and accounts on social networking sites like Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. While representatives of the company tend to post about popular General Mills brands like Cheerios and Lucky Charms, the company occasionally takes the counterintuitive approach of highlighting rival cereals.
On Facebook, for example, Hello, Cereal Lovers featured a recipe suggested by a user made with Post Honey Bunches of Oats, while on Twitter it reposted a recipe made with Post Fruity Pebbles and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
Carla Vernón, marketing director for General Mills cereal, said taking a “brand agnostic” approach was suited to social media.“It is a new framework to consider now that we’re in great conversations with the people that buy and enjoy our products,” Ms. Vernón said. “It’s important for us to be authentic and recognize what they want to share and hear about.”
The first Twitter message was sent in December and the first post to Facebook was made in January, but Ms. Vernón said that the effort had thus far been “piloting and learning” and that “it’s really truly in launch phase right now.”

So by embracing cereal as a whole and being inclusive of all brands (though it does primarily promote its products) has General Mills elevated the conversation about cereal? Through this platform, GM promotes cereal as more than just a breakfast solution and embraced consumers using cereal for multiple usage occasions and different functions. From coatings for chicken to ice cream toppings to crafted jewelry, cereal is versatile, going beyond the bowl and milk.

What can other brands take away from this campaign? Is it enough to embrace the consumers that already love your product or category, in order to get them to buy more? Or does this type of campaign need to incorporate more elements to also drive conversion, to up sales in general? Should your campaign be inclusive of competitors, if consumers are helping to drive the content and conversation? It’ll be interesting to see where this campaign is after a year and how other brands may employ something similar or better.

Retail Technology Takes Consumer Tracking To The Next Level

As the variables impacting shopper behavior continue to increase and diversify, retailers want to know more and more about their shoppers to keep them shopping and coming back for more. Online, retailer and e-commerce websites can track and get to know shoppers through a plethora of tactics (i.e. bread crumbs, click-throughs, mouse hovers, shopping carts, favorites, cookies and social media, just to name a few). In-store, loyalty programs have been around for years that enable retailers to collect data about shoppers’ habits. Many shoppers have caught on, connecting the ads they see online to their search habits or the catalina coupon printed at the register for brand X because they bought brand Y the week before.

Theories behind shopper behavior have been driving retailer research and exploration for years. Technology is now enabling the testing and observation of such theories in store on a whole new level. Today, retailers are experimenting with various technology in-store in an effort get more well-rounded snapshots of their shoppers and to bring those tactics for data collection on par with the depth of data that can be reaped online.

The New York Times recently covered this subject with an overview of an experimental tracking system at Nordstrom, which tracked customer movements via the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones. Nordstrom posted a sign alerting customers of the experiment and ultimately ended the experiment in May 2013, in part because of the complaints.

“Way over the line,” one consumer posted to Facebook in response to a local news story about Nordstrom’s efforts at some of its stores. Nordstrom says the counts were made anonymous. Technology specialists, though, say the tracking is worrisome.
“The idea that you’re being stalked in a store is, I think, a bit creepy, as opposed to, it’s only a cookie — they don’t really know who I am,” said Robert Plant, a computer information systems professor at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, noting that consumers can rarely control or have access to this data.
Some consumers wonder how the information is used.
“The creepy thing isn’t the privacy violation, it’s how much they can infer,” said Bradley Voytek, a neuroscientist who had stopped in at Philz Coffee in Berkeley, Calif. Philz uses technology from Euclid Analytics, of Palo Alto, Calif., the company that worked on the Nordstrom experiment, to measure the signals between a smartphone and a Wi-Fi antenna to count how many people walk by a store and how many enter.
Still, physical retailers argue that they are doing nothing more than what is routinely done online.
“Brick-and-mortar stores have been disadvantaged compared with online retailers, which get people’s digital crumbs,” said Guido Jouret, the head of Cisco’s emerging technologies group, which supplies tracking cameras to stores. Why, Mr. Jouret asked, should physical stores not “be able to tell if someone who didn’t buy was put off by prices, or was just coming in from the cold?” The companies that provide this technology offer a wide range of services.

The article goes on to discuss several companies that are on the leading edge of these new technologies. RetailNext, one such company, uses multiple layers of technology, such as video footage to study shopper navigation and differentiate individuals, smart phone WiFi pings to pinpoint where a shopper is in the store, and mobile device identification codes to identify repeat shoppers and their frequency of shopping. RetailNext can help retailers collect this data to ultimately impact the design of their stores, such as display placement in relation to the shopper path recorded.

Just last week, an European outdoor advertising firm kicked off ads using face detection technology, OptimEyes. This technology promises to enable advertisers to know the number of people seeing their ads and the kinds of people specifically, identifying them by gender and approximate age. According to Todd Wasserman at Mashable:

Amscreen, which has a network of more than 6,000 screens in Europe in gas stations and convenience stores, is using the technology to let advertisers see the results of their ad spends. Such ROI data is common for online ads, but has proved elusive for more traditional forms of advertising, like outdoor and TV… The company isn’t alone in looking to Minority Report-like face detection as a solution for advertising ROI. Last year, Microsoft filed a patent for Kinect that would let advertisers know how many people were using the product at any given time. A company called EyeSee manufactures mannequins for retail stores that use face detection to let retailers assess their traffic.

This area of technology will continue to develop and further push the line. How shoppers will react or adapt to these tactics as they become more main stream remains to be seen. Take into consideration that there are several factors at play here. Some technology gathers data purely through observation, some gather data through submission (think app downloads and email sign ups) and others gather data building off other technology (like smartphones). With that said, some shoppers are participating in the data collection voluntarily, perhaps in hope of a coupon or special sale, while others feel a heated aversion to such tactics and consider any range of these techniques a violation of privacy.

However, I can’t help but wonder if that as generations of shoppers shift and as millennials, who are so accustomed to sharing everything about themselves, grow older, this aversion will become less and less. Until then, as the boundaries of privacy become blurrier and the avenues for retail continue to blossom into more areas of daily life, retailers will have to walk a fine line of learning all they can about their shoppers through technology while not alienating them by trying to learn too much.

Introducing “APPtitude”

As of June 2013, there were 900,000 apps available in the iTunes app store. So how is it possible to know which apps can help drive marketing efforts and which are a waste of time?

The answer: “APPtitude” — a new feature by TPN’s Millennial Minute that will highlight the latest and greatest apps, app news and how each can tie into retail marketing efforts.

This week’s featured (and inaugural) app: Instagram.

Background

Instagram launched in 2011 as the iPhone version of a classic Polaroid camera. Most of you probably downloaded it. Or, your kids did. Facebook recently bought the app and last week it launched a new feature that allows users to take short, 15-second videos, in addition to photos.

Why does this matter?

Earlier this year, Twitter launched Vine, the first app of its kind that allowed users to upload six-second videos. As a user of Vine, I’m not overly impressed. It lacks features to create videos truly worth sharing.

Instagram’s new video feature is essentially the same concept, but has quickly blown Vine out of the water. Here’s why:

  1. Instagram already has an established user base — people understand the app, how to use it and what kind of content works best. The video feature falls quite naturally into the structure of the originally photo-only app, making the video easy to use.
  2. Vine users weren’t quite sure what to do when the app first launched. Stop-motion movies are a lot of work, and for only a six-second video … worth the time investment? I’m still on the fence… On the other hand, the quality and beauty of seasoned Instagram users’ photos translates into their Instagram videos. This gives direction to all users and remains within the user-established Instagram style standards.
  3. Instagram includes features that Vine users have been asking for since its launch.  The most notable: the ability to take front-facing video for — of course — video selfies.

What does this mean for brands?

Brands have just started to discover ways to connect with their audiences through Vine, but Instagram provides an already-established user base, cutting out a huge portion of the work required when connecting to audiences through social media.

Further, Instagram already established itself as a lifestyle-focused app, giving brands the ability to connect with audiences on a very unique level. The addition of video will simply extend the ways in which brands build meaningful social relationships.

 

Feature photo credit: www.digitaltrends.com

Social Media, Branding Superhero

Inc. Magazine recently featured a post about whether social media is more advertising or PR. The author believes that social media can be either, depending on a marketer’s goals or objectives. My Millennial opinion: Social media is its own entity.

PR is message and communication management, a key aspect of social media. Advertising is focused on business strategy and achieving measurable results based on set objectives. Any social media promotional campaign that depends on conversion as a success factor harnesses the skills of advertising.

I agree with the author that social media can be what a client needs it to be and can lean toward PR or advertising, depending on the objective. But, as a whole, social media is the future…happening now.

The fact that social media can tackle the demands of PR and advertising in one fell swoop gives it a power that neither PR nor advertising can have on their own. It’s a medium that gives anyone the power to become a brand — and that’s exactly how my generation is using it.

We are setting the future of business by branding ourselves without the assistance of PR or advertising, but instead using social media. And thanks to this special medium, when consumers set trends on Facebook, Twitter or the like, brands tend to follow in their footsteps. If you’re wondering who is really in control…look no further. Consumers and Shoppers. They hold the power in today’s dynamic retail ecosystem.

And mark my words, the more prominent social media becomes, the more brands will begin to test its limits in ways no one could ever imagine with PR or advertising alone.

Feature photo credit: ViralBlog

Social Media’s March Madness

The Superbowl may have commercials, but March Madness is nipping at its heels with social media, thanks the medium’s ability to attract and interact with a broad range of consumers – and a lot of them.

Nielsen’s 2012 Year in Sports revealed that among 18-49 year olds, 99 percent of sports events were viewed on various devices the same day as airing. This means brands that ran campaigns during the 2012 NCAA championship game were guaranteed a timely interaction with a portion of the 20.8 million viewers who tuned in for the Big Dance.

To take advantage of 2013’s potential reach, Coca-Cola is spending 10 times what it did on social media in 2012 with a campaign that takes a look into the loss of productivity during NCAA March Madness.

The campaign pairs Coke Zero with Bleacher Report, one of the leading sports brands during March, to provide various insights via multiple channels as to why “it’s not your fault you’ve been slacking off” during tournament time.

Other brands have also embraced social media to connect with the NCAA March Madness consumer.

ESPN took a somewhat political approach by having President Obama fill out his bracket on SportsCenter, followed by YouTube star Robbie Novak, also known as “Kid President,” making his predictions. While the President’s video has only 3,000 views thus far, Kid President has racked up more than one million views, demonstrating the power of a strong social media presence.

NCAA sponsors AT&T and Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have both created campaigns that promise a chance at attending next year’s tournament, all the while ramping up brand page views and Facebook likes. Even more, AT&T and the NCAA teamed up on Twitter to provide “real-time highlights” of games under the NCAA’s @marchmadness handle.

And although the final numbers for 2013 are not yet in, brands that implemented social media campaigns during the past month are sure to see positive results — results that will likely spark an influx of social media campaigns in 2014 and years to come.