Celebrating the Public Sector is now in fashion

What does tie-dye, the National Parks and an election have in common? They have inspired a whole new crop of exciting and coveted cause-oriented merch.

From USPS’ sold-out crop top (never thought I’d type these words) to the vintage-inspired Parks Project hoodies to Jason-Wu-designed-Biden sweaters, the popularity of cause-oriented merch keeps on booming. This is not just in the US either. In the UK, celebrating the lifesaving efforts of the National Health Services (NHS) is now fashionable – its coveted t-shirts and sweaters designed by Jonny Banger are ubiquitous with cool Londoners on Instagram.

The popularity of such statement pieces (which can financially support the causes they espouse) coincides with this year’s massive work-from-home shift, as consumers are more inclined to choose comfortable clothing over business wear anyway.

A recent article on the New York Times declared that “politics are back in fashion” and it focuses more on the US election and the fashion industry unifying to get the vote out. In a time when the fashion industry itself is going through such turmoil and so many brands are going bankrupt and so many Americans have lost their job, it’s refreshing to see that high fashion is having a bit of a ‘meaningful’ makeover.

“This new wave of merch doesn’t feel exclusionary in the way that a designer logo might. When so many are reeling from economic devastation and grappling with health issues, rocking a huge brand name could feel tone-deaf—unless, of course, it’s one that’s literally saving lives, conserving land, or enabling us to, you know, send mail.”

The fashion industry’s goal is to reframe voting and turn voting day into the event of the year.

“ the goal is …for Election Day, and going to the polls to be the shared experience of the year, the way the Met Gala and the Oscars have been in the past. To make it about dress as celebration of democracy, taking an abstract ideal and rendering it easy to access and to put into action”

“Turn up for the turn out!” Ms. Erwiah said. “Everyone is sitting at home in sweatpants. Why not get dressed up for voting? Watch the election like we watch the Oscars. This date could be like the Grammys.”

Ms. Dawson said: “We want people to think: Oh my God, what am I going to wear to the polls?”

Ms. Erwiah added: “There’s no prom, no homecoming, but you can vote!”

2020 really is the year we realize all the essential things we took for granted – democracy, our health, the post office – are actually pretty cool (and fashion-forward).

Sources:

https://www.elle.com/fashion/a33577438/public-sector-merch-trend/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/02/style/politics-is-back-in-fashion.html

https://footwearnews.com/2020/business/retail/american-eagle-vote-election-2020-1203052964/

The Cassandra Report

 

What it takes to launch a new fast-fashion collection? A brand partnership, a pop star and 6 new Instagram AR filters

Remember when Target released their insanely popular and highly anticipated partnership with Zac Posen? Back then, the existence of that partnership alone drove enough PR and excitement to make that launch an astronomical success.

Fast forward to today. H&M is dropping its new collection in partnership with Kangol. But that is certainly not enough to entice Gen Z today. Beyond the new partnership and, of course, clothing collection, the brands partnered with British pop start Mabel – not just as a spokesperson but – to create a music video along with new 6 AR-filters that allow people to star in their own music videos (and H&M social channels). Basically, H&M’s new collection is a Tik-Tok campaign on Insta.

Gen Z’s fashion trends have also dramatically changed since Covid as nearly half of young consumers say that COVID has changed the kind of clothing they shop for, according to according to YPulse’s new fashion and style report. Since the start of the pandemic, quarantined young consumers have helped create a loungewear and athleisure boom, and their fashion interests have been changing. The pandemic has spurred at-home fashion trends, and Glossy reported that young shoppers now prefer “comfortable, seasonless” fashion over “runway trends” so H&M/Kangol’s new line will likely also appeal to them based on the cool, laid-back, 90’s nostalgic vibe of this collection.

Why it’s hot: Fast fashion keeps getting ‘faster’ with evolving consumer trends and needs

Burger King angers Twitch streamers with stunt campaign

Burger King has been known for creating campaigns that tap into new technology to create PR, sometimes risking backlash (remember their tv spot that purposefully activated Google Home smart speaker in people’s homes?). Well, this time Burger King angered Twitch streamers by exploiting a donation feature that lets streamers collect donations from fans.

The donation feature in Twitch was designed to incentivize streamers to continue creating content that their audience appreciate by tipping them. The way it works is that a viewer can have a typed message read out aloud by a computer whenever they donate money to a streamer. In this case, Burger King targeted some of the most popular streamers and used a bot to donate $5 (a BK value meal) to have its message (unsolicited by both the streamer and the viewer) read out loud to everyone watching.

There’s been huge backlash and the campaign merely lasted a few hours on Twitch. Researches show gamers tend to be more open to advertising than the average person but not when done in such a scummy way that disrupts the experience to everyone involved and takes advantage of talent/influencers who have worked hard to build their audiences.

“Unlike other audiences, consumers in the video game arena are very discerning, protective and don’t appreciate marketing stunts that disrupt their experiences or minimize the work of their favorite streamers”

“Seeing a giant brand like Burger King coming into the space and marginalizing both the audience and the talent certainly doesn’t land well with the people they are trying to market to,” says Chris Erb, CEO of gaming-focused agency Tripleclix.

 

Sometimes, there’s a (not so) fine line between being a savvy and a scummy marketer. For brands to have success with these consumers they need to actually build relationships with gamers and their influencers, and not market to them.

RZA of Wu-Tang puts the ‘good’ in Good Humor with new inclusive ice cream truck jingle

The well-known ice cream truck jingle has a racist past so Good Humor partnered with RZA to create a more inclusive jingle as a free alternative to the problematic tune “Turkey in the Straw.”

‘Turkey in the Straw’s’ melody originated from British and Irish folk songs, which had no racial connotations. But the song itself was first performed (and gained popularity) in American minstrel shows in the 1800s. Some songs using its same melody contained highly offensive, racist lyrics,” Good Humor explains.

While Good Humor hasn’t owned food trucks since the 1970s and didn’t create this jingle, they wanted to “be part of the solution on this issue” and create a more inclusive tune that can “continue to spread joy to everyone for the next 100 years.”

Good Humor will provide educational programming to teach drivers how to update the soundtrack on their trucks but also explain the importance of doing so. They’ll also be working with the company that makes ice-cream truck music boxes, to pre-install the new option.

Good Humor x RZA: a new jingle for a new era

In a behind-the-scenes clip, the RZA spoke about his new jingle, saying, “We wanted to make a melody that includes all community, that’s good for every driver, that’s good for every kid. And I’m proud to say, for the first time in a long time, a new ice cream jingle will be made available to trucks all across the country, in perpetuity. That mean’s forever — like Wu-Tang’s forever. And I can assure you, this one is made with love.

RZA’s new jingle “drew inspiration from his childhood memories of chasing after ice cream trucks on Staten Island — blending traditional ice cream truck sounds with jazz and hip-hop elements.”

Outside of taking a stand to be on the right side of history and our culture, this is also a smart move by Good Humor since it partnered with such an iconic and hugely influential musician, helping to modernize the brand.

Why it’s hot: The best advertising doesn’t just sell, it becomes part of the culture.

Sources: Rolling Stones, LA Times

Back-to-School Ads Get A-

This Back-to-School (BTS) year is unlike any other and so is its advertising. According to research, BTS advertising so far in July is down almost 50% vs. year-ago period as many retail marketers pull back on spending and families remain unsure of whether kids will return to in-person classes this Fall.

But there’s a silver lining to this. Despite BTS advertising budgets being down, the quality of the work that does exist – which is usually pretty cliché filled with sunny and happy kids in yellow buses – is up.

From JansPort backpacks #LightentheLoad campaign tackling mental health in today’s volatile and uncertain environment through candid teen interviews to Old Navy’s campaign starring five activists (reflecting today’s civil rights movements and concerns) to the Tik-Tok influenced campaigns by Hollister and American Eagle, the work is more relevant and grounded as it leans into the realities of the pandemic head on.

Although Hollister’s creative isn’t necessarily my favorite, their light-hearted “Jeanology” campaign which riffs on the idea of conducting science experiments with Bill Nye has a lot going for it. As part of the campaign, Hollister entered a long-term partnership with the D’Amelios, who rank among the most popular content creators on TikTok. The tie-up extends beyond social media content, as the D’Amelios’ hand-selected denim picks will receive a special tag in stores and online starting today.

TikTok also continues to have a strong hold on the attention of Gen Z: The percentage of U.S. consumers ages 13 to 35 who use it rose to 27% in April from 19% in January, according to Civic Science data, as the service saw a surge in activity as a result of the coronavirus.

Why it’s hot: It’s interesting to see how brands are adapting to address the moment – not just from a messaging but production standpoint. Also, for Hollister in particular, it’s cool to see that the campaign extends beyond the video app to cover all of the brand’s social media channels, as well as in-store activations. A true URL + IRL campaign.

Will “conscious traveling” become more prevalent post 2020?

The Year of Return: 2019, was a tourism campaign to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in America. It was an instance of “roots tourism”, which appeals to travelers to visit a destination on the basis of their ancestry.

Beyond the education and personal transformation that many travelers gain from this type of tourism, could it also be an opportunity for racial reconciliation?

Travelers felt that the trip helped them to conceptualize slavery differently, and this led them to a deeper understanding of race relations in the United States. For example, one traveller said that prior to visiting Ghana, they felt a “certain anger towards white people”. But visiting Ghana and specifically the Cape Coast dungeon exposed them to learning more about all of the actors in slavery – (white) Europeans and (black) Africans.

Travel and tourism are often linked to expanding our view of the world but it hasn’t been linked to social justice much until now. It’ll be interesting to see if and how the travel industry evolves post-pandemic, post-recession, post-social injustice protests to offer more ways for people to ‘travel with purpose’ – whether that means new destinations that can help us expand our mind not just our passport stamp collection, new experiences that allow us to go deeper and travel more meaningfully or even new ways to travel that can help us protect the planet (more sustainable/eco-friendly).

Source: Quartz Africa, Suitcase Magazine

 

Titk-Tok to expand into live-streaming and educational content

TikTok is looking to expand into more live broadcasts and educational content as the social video app diversifies away from the dance and music videos that have fueled its rapid growth in the past two years.

According to Tiki’s Tok, people are spending more time watching videos on the app during the pandemic, while creators are broadening the range of content they share to include sports, gaming, cooking, fashion and beauty videos.

Diversifying its content slate could help TikTok extend its audience beyond the 16-to-24 demographic that makes up 43% of its user base and appeal to brands that want to reach consumers with greater spending power. Live video has certain advantages in creating a sense of immediacy among viewers, while educational content can help to cultivate the types of enthusiasts that are important for niche marketing. Both are areas that have experienced a sharp uptick in interest due to the coronavirus pandemic, as people spend more time on social media to stay entertained and informed while outdoor activities are restricted.

While TikTok could be gunning for more older users over the long term, its predominantly young core users are a large draw for advertisers that struggle to reach those groups elsewhere. TikTok’s expanded range of programming may become a bigger threat to rivals like YouTube and Instagram that also are dominant among younger audiences. U.S. children ages 4 to 15 spend an average of 82 minutes a day on TikTok — twice as much as last year — compared with 86 minutes for YouTube and 50 minutes for Instagram, per a recent study by digital safety app maker Qustodio.

Why it’s hot: It’ll be interesting to see if Tik-Tok can expand to attract older audiences while keeping its cool factor.

Google releases Action Blocks for people with disabilities

Google released a new tool called Action Blocks for people with cognitive and motion disabilities. The system allows users and their caregivers to add Assistant commands to the home screen of Android phones and tablets. Each command is represented by a custom image and it can be controlled with just one tap. For instance, when a user taps an Action Block icon of a cab, the system might order a rideshare.

 

Also worth mentioning that Google has also improved its Maps apps to show if businesses or public venues have accessible entrance. When enabling this feature, you can see a wheelchair icon next to the location.

Why it’s hot: Embracing the diversity trend goes beyond race and gender. With something like 630 million people having some form of cognitive disability, this is not a niche group and it’s great that Google is providing services that ‘level the playing field’ for them.

How can brands help people celebrate missed milestones?

The longer this public health crisis lasts, the more we grieve. We’re grieving for the fact the world won’t be the same anymore, we’re grieving for a lack of safety and connection but, on a personal level, we’re grieving for all the personal milestones we’re having to cancel and/or postpone. How many graduations, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even funerals, are passing by without being properly acknowledged/celebrated?

As a way to provide some cheer and support during these time, as well as some good will with new clients, some brands and celebrities are trying to offer ways to help them celebrate these milestones.

Anheiser-Busch’s Natural Light is throwing a virtual graduation ceremony on their Facebook page in May, hosted by Marc Cuban. John Krasinsky hosted a virtual senior prom last week with some very famous guests like Billie Eilish.

Why it’s hot: As more personal milestones get canceled and pass by without closure and proper celebrations and ‘temporary behaviors’ like virtual celebrations become the new normal, there’s opportunity for brands to create a more personal connection with their audience and provide some much needed cheer and hope in difficult times.

And in times when people are adjusting their spend and reconsidering purchases, providing a meaningful experience for consumers in a difficult time can help build goodwill with their audience in the future. And it’s also a unique way to respond to this crisis given every other brand seems to be responding the exact same way.

 

 

 

Live-streaming event helps Chinese cosmetics chain achieve 200% growth

Lin Qingxuan is a Chinese cosmetics company with more 300 retail stores and over 2,000 employees. When forced to close 40% of its stores during the coronavirus crisis, the company acted quickly to leverage WeChat and TaoBao (owned by Alibaba, it’s the world’s biggest e-commerce site) to engage with its customers virtually.

The store sent coupons to their customers and redeployed their 100+ beauty advisors from the closed stores into online influencers. On February 14th, the store launched a large-scale live stream shopping event and were able to engage with 60,000 customers live (they currently have 6 million followers). The sales from one shopping advisor in two hours equaled that of four retail stores.

From “online clubbing sessions” to streamed music festivals, many Chinese brands turned to live streaming during this crisis. It’ll be interesting to see how this industry will grow in the US.

 

 

INSIGHTS | Brands turn to livestreaming as China stays home

Interesting to note that despite having a pretty big following and social presence online, Sephora has canceled all its North American in-store classes and services as of 3/12.

Why it’s hot: This crisis will likely force brands to be braver and creative and, ultimately, expedite their digital transformation.

Dove creates “Girls Room”, a web-series targeting teens

Dove launched “Girls Room”, a new online video series focusing on teen girls and their experience dealing with social media pressures, body image issues, and bullying.

Dove co-created the series with Lena Waithe, who is almost as well-known by her acting career as her activism (he’s been called a “queero” in 2018 for creating meaningful work that inspires and tells the story of queer Black people coming of age).

The series has just launched ahead of Women’s History Month which, a perfect time to elevate stories about the challenges of young women in today’s culture.

Dove’s strategic move to connect with today’s teens shows the brand is willing to invest and play the long game by nurturing these relationships early so that they can hopefully become top of mind for years to come.

Why it’s hot: Although Dove has promoted body positivity and “real beauty” for over a decade, they’re looking for newer and fresher ways to bring this message to life in a way that aligns with today’s teens and their mobile-first media consumption. When it comes to fighting body issues and anxiety, Instagram is today’s biggest culprit so creating a series fit for this medium and mindset makes perfect sense.

 

Snapchat offers mental health intervention

Snapchat has released a beta version of a search tool called “Here For You” that will proactively offer mental health support and resources for those searching for sensitive topics like anxiety, depression, suicide and bullying.

Although not the first platform to offer resourceful tools (Instagram rolled out a “restrict” feature that lets users block abusive comments and Pinterest offers self-directed “emotional wellness activities”), this initiative feels specially relevant for Snapchat since:

1) they have one of the youngest audiences of any social media platform as it reaches 90% of 13-24 y.o, a group who may be the most vulnerable to online bullying on the platform

2) they have the advantage of being considered an intimate space for teens, and therefore a more comfortable place for users to search and, potentially, actually use these tools in needed times

Axios says that this is the first product launch “around what will be a bigger health and wellness push from Snapchat” to be rolled out over the next few months.

Why it’s hot: Social platforms will continue to play a huge role in our lives, especially among the very impressionable teen audience, so it’s reassuring to see how the main platforms are looking for ways to offer specific resources and tools to help those in need. Also, the accessibility to these tools, and awareness of this topic, will continue to normalize mental health.

Sources:

MIT Technology Review: bit.ly/39VjUol

Social Media Today: bit.ly/38Neawu

 

 

Budweiser flips label for social sharing: meet the #SelfieBud

Budweiser created a specialized labeling for social sharing as part a massive promotional effort around the Super Bowl. The SelfieBud special edition label is printed backward so it appears normal in selfies on social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Although Budweiser also launched a traditional Super Bowl commercial (minus Clydesdales), they know they need to do more than just a TV spot to stay relevant with younger audiences. The SelfieBud was part of a bigger experiential marketing campaign involving a BudX Hotel takeover that featured influencers with significant followings on social media.

Influencer marketing strategies are forecast to become more popular, with brands spending as much as $15 billion on such campaigns by 2022, according to  Business Insider estimates based on data from influencer marketing agency Mediakix.

https://www.bustle.com/p/budweiser-selfiebud-launched-at-super-bowl-2020-its-instagram-star-in-the-making-21768468

Why it’s hot:

-In today’s always-on world where it can feel like we’re all sharing similar experiences or at least similar stylistic aesthetics on social, original and exclusive experiences drive social currency for brands.

-Adapting your packaging to be more “user-centric” in order to solve a problem or demonstrate you understand your audience’s pain points (remember Snickers’ sassy wrappers?) is a fun way to drive excitement and, hopefully engagement for your brand.

Brands tap into growing ASMR Video trend

We all know tax season is a stressful time, especially if a) you’ve never done it before and b) you have to do it yourself (Turbo-Tax-style). H&R, known for its vast network of tax experts,  uses humor and the popular ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) which is “the experience of a tingling season on the skin often triggered by specific auditory and visual stimuli such as whispering”, to de-stress and help millennials feel more relaxed during tax season.

The fact that the brand can actually back up the idea of ‘peace of mind’ by having real people available to talk to (unlike Turbo Tax which mostly focuses on their online tool) makes this entertaining piece of content more believable and endearing.

JetBlue also tapped into this growing trend very recently to create a 9-minute long soundtrack YouTube video with the purpose of calming passengers during the extra stressful holiday traveling season. The video is called “AirSMR” and it features sounds of a standard JFK airport Terminal: suitcases rolling, fingers tapping a keyboard, and planes taking off and touching down (but none of the really annoying sounds of TSA agents or crying babies of course).

https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2019/12/17/airport-asmr-jetblue-thinks-boarding-calls-suitcase-sounds-will-calm-you-so-they-released-track-it/

JetBlue shared the video on YouTube and other social media channels like Instagram, which, interestingly, resulted in 100% negative comments due to general negative airport experiences shared by customers. While it’s nice the brand is trying to stay relevant by tapping into this growing trend, it’d have been even better to have released this idea in conjunction with actual meaningful improvements to customers’ travel experiences, or, to have done like H&R Block which used the trend to make their own ads more pleasant.

Why it’s hot: Today’s always-on, overstimulated lives are causing extreme levels of burnout. Smart brands will look for ways their advertising and/or their experiences can  help today’s burnout consumers de-stress, reset and reboot.

What does Hygge, Popeye’s chicken sandwich and the color blue have in common?

In short, comfort. Whether it’s the grueling polarizing political climate, the endless buzz of tech always pressing for our attention or our own personal life commitments tugging at us in all directions, we seem to be increasingly living in a constant state of anxiety and it’s only natural that we’re craving comfort.

According to Google Search data for 2019, Americans were more likely to be cooking up a Shepherd’s pie or indulging their sweet tooth with a homey snickerdoodle cookie rather than the Instagram-famous Unicorn cake which topped last year’s trending search spot. Speaking of comfort foods, after selling out in just two weeks, Popeye’s now famous chicken sandwich was brought back in the Fall to amazing success.

Why the bend toward comfort foods in 2019? It’s possible that these trending searches for folksy foods are driven by a culture increasingly hungry for an anxiety antidote, a bite of hygge, if you will.

The Pantone Color Institute would agree. They announced recently that the color for 2020 is the classic blue. You don’t need to know much about color theory to know blue = comfort. Pantone settled on a shade that offers “reassurance, confidence and connection that people may be searching for in an uncertain global miliu.” 

Specially in uncertain times when it feels like things are always changing and nothing is ever certain, how can we offer our consumers more comfort?

How can brands balance the need to provide new and exciting experiences/innovation while also making them feel comforting and familiar?

 

 Sources:

https://www.cnn.com/style/article/pantone-color-classic-blue-2020/index.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/eveturowpaul/2019/12/13/googles-year-in-search-reveals-2019-as-the-year-of-comfort-foods/#4e6709002be5