February 22, 2018

LinkedIn, J. Crew and WeWork – Unlocking Personal & Professional Brand Potential

It’s a fascinating time to be alive. As a society, our connected experience is no longer straddling the line between “the real-world” and online — it’s distributed through both and fully interwoven.

Anchoring this point, a new alliance has caught our eye. Linked In x WeWork x J Crew have joined together in a very interesting partnership. Each partner has a different reason for existing, but all three merge elements of the other’s primary customer experience.

The fashion brand J Crew, is searching for a radical shift in strategy to succeed in modern retail world. Partnering with LinkedIn and WeWork, they benefit from direct access to entrepreneurial customers who already understand the value of looking clean and stylish.

WeWork and LinkedIn view this opportunity as another way for their brand to serve their customer’s professional image and meet the needs of their mutual audience segment.

Whether this experiment takes off or not, we expect to see more of this kind of corporate teamwork, as brands strive to unlock their experiential potential.

More on the story over at Retail Dive.

Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 13, 2018

3000 Years of Valentine's Day History

“Valentine’s Day is a marketing holiday manufactured by the gift card industry.”
We've all heard that position stated before. Okay. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at this anti-sentimental view of an otherwise tender holiday.
Is Valentine’s day a consumer holiday? Was it invented by greeting card companies? Where did it come from? And how did it become what we know it to be today?
According to history.com, 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year worldwide. This makes the holiday the single most popular greeting card holiday and the second most popular greeting card giving occasion behind birthdays.
The average person spends $146.84 on the holiday, according to Time Money. Between these two facts the consumer marketing angle seems well reasoned. So people are definitely buying cards, flowers and candy. Where did all of this start? Let’s take it back to the beginning.
V-Day is named after St. Valentine, a third century Roman saint. But the holiday is believed to have origins in traditions that pre-date St. Valentine himself. Hmm, let’s go all the way back...
February finds its meaning — 800 BCE
The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia is a pagan celebration anchored to February 15th. It was a holiday of health and fertility, alternatively called “Dies Februatus” or “purified day” and gave the month it’s name.
Valentine’s day gets its name — 250 AD
Next on the calendar we have the execution of St. Valentine on February 14th in the third century AD. Legend has it that the saint wrote a letter to the daughter of his jailer the night before he died and it was signed “from your Valentine.”
A couple centuries later the church named St. Valentine’s Day a holiday to memorialize the saint and further subdue the pagan traditions of courtship and matchmaking from Lupercalia.
Flowers take on symbolic meaning in the West — 1714
The modern tradition of flowers as messages is credited to King Charles XIII of Sweden in the early 18th century. He learned of flower arranging in Persia and identified the various meanings of different flowers when presented as gifts.
Manufactured cards and candy take off! — 1800s
The tradtion of St. Valentine’s day remains largely focused on romance and hand-written notes until the 1800s when the industrial revolution hits and “fancy” cards manufactured in Europe are newly in vogue.
This is also around the time that Cadbury Chocolates was founded in England and chocolates were introduced on a large scale as a quintessential gift for sweethearts.
Conversation hearts were introduced in 1866 and were not heart shaped until almost 40 years later. This is when the full-on marketing hit, the early twentieth century.
Hallmark is born — 1900s
In 1910 Hallmark was founded and they produced their first Valentine’s Day card shortly after. 1910 is the same year that “Florists Telegraph Delivery" was founded, still around today as FTD, Florist’s Transworld Delivery.
A look back through ancient history to the 20th century confirms that Valentine’s Day, as we know it, truly came together in the first decades of the last century. So what we view as a traditional approach to Valentine’s Day, flowers, chocolates and cards is really only the last 100 years of a 3000 year old tradition.
In the 21st Century consumer audiences are participatory, not passive, and marketing of all kinds has become very self aware as social attitudes evolve. Will this post-modern progression take Valentine’s Day somewhere it’s never been? Only time will tell.
However, maybe it’s already gone irreversibly into a bizarro future.
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

January 26, 2018

What, exactly, is the media value of Snapchat?

We can go ahead and just air that question out loud. It’s okay to ask.
By now most folks are aware that Snapchat is a bit of a wildcard in the arena of media. Five years ago it was the up and comer. Two years ago it was threatening to be the future of social media. One year ago it was the Facebook Ad killer — and none of that has actually panned out. But the platform continues to hold solid ground while anyone that isn’t a daily user continues to scratch their head.
Snapchat has 170 million daily users at last count. That’s their flagship statistic. By comparison using late 2017's figures, Facebook has 1.3 billion, Instagram has 500 million, and Twitter has 330 million. And when you know that Snapchat’s audience of daily users is almost entirely between the ages of 13 and 30  you have an audience platform that can't be ignored. And now we can begin to understand the hype.
However, what is the platform doing to deliver on that value and monetize that opportunity? We aren’t sure. The data on how users are using Snapchat is extremely limited as of now, but in the meantime, Snapchat can tout the daily users and the valuable makeup of that audience to advertisers.
Putting the advertising value in perspective, Instagram’s Story feature alone has more users than Snapchat has total users, that’s 180 million. The makeup of that audience leans older but the volume and behaviors of Insta’s audience makes it more practical as a “planned, bought and measured” ad platform. The ad units available through Facebook and Instagram are more versatile and more adaptable to different objectives as well.
We call it a social media community. And social advertising is a commodity, but Snapchat is  really more of a messaging application. First and foremost it's a space for young people to send video and images to each other in privacy. But are these young people interacting with the publisher content in the Discover section of the app? Are they engaging with the ads in a meaningful way? According to a recent article on The Daily Beast, the data is not made available by Snapchat, but the simplest answer is “not much.”
So what exactly is the value of Snapchat? It’s what the kids are doing. And that’s cool. It’s setting new trends and inventing new rules. It was the first to favor vertical video and gave the world face filters. If a brand can do something organic and innovative and it gets noticed, then it can help your brand gain some favorable press, and it’s definitely fertile territory for cool points in the industry.
The data is still out on whether the ad product matters with the audience and whether the audience is who they say they are.
At this point, among a variety of very effective pay-and-measure ad channels, it’s still a variable. We believe it’s absolutely a worthwhile experiment for brands that are committed to the channel and able to optimize on performance. It’s definitely a testable variable that’s well positioned to generate word of mouth (and industry PR) for a brand that’s authentically participating in the culture of the community.
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

December 7, 2017

A New Generation of Makers

We are fully ready for the Christmas season here at BMA.
And as part of the team behind the homemade wreaths and lit garland with glued ornaments and wrapped ribbon, I can say that decorating the new office was a project. It was a lot of hands-on work but I’m glad we chose the DIY route. It was cheaper and we are super pleased with how everything turned out, and have gotten so many compliments! In fact, while decorating we had a running joke that we should open a BMA Etsy account (stay tuned).

During my hours spent decking the office halls, I couldn’t help but ponder my personal love for crafting, art, and projects. So I decided to revisit this topic and take a deeper look what is happening in the growing industry of DIY (that has gone from a 30 to 44 billion dollar industry in the past 5 years (Craft Industry Alliance).
How many others truly share my maker spirit?
Turns out a lot do. 55% of older millennials used online videos in the past year to learn an art/craft skill or technique compared to 33% of Americans overall (Mintel). That's more than I expected! Online platforms such as Pinterest and Youtube have created an awesome space for people to learn, develop and share their own DIY talents. And some eventually continue on to sell their products online.
Not only are more people creating, but more people are selling their creations. Mintel states, “45 percent of older millennials (age 30-39) sold an art/craft project they made through an online shop in the past year, compared to 18 percent of consumers overall.” It just makes sense! Millennials are digitally native and known for being savvy entrepreneurs, so what better generation to conduct mini businesses and navigate through these online resources?
Buyers are also realizing that these online platforms such as Etsy and ArtFire are teeming with unique creations. According to Statista, the number of Etsy buyers from 2015-2016 increased by 4 million. And interestingly enough, 60% of visitor traffic was generated through mobile devices. Instead of driving around to every little boutique in town to shop for something unconventional, buyers are whipping out their phones and getting items delivered right to their front door.
The passion for crafting and art has always been there. But people now have more and more digital resources at their disposal, which has encouraged a new generation of makers. But furthermore, a healthy exchange between sellers and people looking for homemade, personalized items. It’s just easier and more efficient now.
Just think of it as your modern day Sunday afternoon market.
Emily Mondloch
Research and Insights

September 7, 2017

Millennial Pet Parents

These days it's almost impossible to scroll through your social media feed without seeing your friends gushing over their pets; I'm guilty of doing it myself. My cat is both regal and gorgeous.
A recent Washington Post article pointed out some huge statistics about the implications this may have on the $63 billion pet industry which has been growing exponentially since the 90's. Findings from the same study also show that over three-fourths of Americans in their 30s have dogs, and 51 percent have cats. Many adults between the ages of 20-36 are waiting until later in life to marry and start families, but in the meantime, they're finding companionship with a furry friend.
But in a world where pets have entire Instagram accounts dedicated to their antics and promoting products (some with millions of followers), brands would be foolish not to pay attention. Expanding purchase power among millennials means pet-parenting has become an industry unto itself. The majority of millennials are more likely to splurge on pet-pampering than they are on themselves, along with spending money on strange products like dog costumes, a pet backpack, and even a brush that allows you to "lick" your cat (personally I don't need a brush for that).
According to Adweek, 44 percent of millennials consider their pets as starter children, so it's easy to see why we can be very particular when it comes to taking care of our furbabies. Just like how we treat our food, we're wary of the ingredients. We read the labels, and we do the research. We’re willing to spend the extra money on a unique brand that resonates with us. Above all else, we desire convenience, quality, and customization in the products we buy; and if a brand has an interesting origin story or aligning values, even better. If the major brands recognize this and adapt quickly, they can maintain their hold over the market and grow millennial brand loyalty for years to come.
As someone crazy enough to walk their cat, my takeaway is this: I think it’s entirely reasonable to treat a first pet as a learning experience for the future. I personally feel better prepared (not by much) for parenthood thanks to raising my cat. But I treat her like an animal, not a child; I don’t think she needs to be fed “Non-GMO Organic Wild Alaskan Salmon” pet food in order to be happy, especially while I eat Kroger brand groceries.
I guess I'm lucky that her favorite toys are hair ties and rubber bands. I've done enough research to know that the difference between a specialty food and the best grocery variety is very nutritionally minimal, but incredibly cost efficient. I try to make sure her quality of life is the absolute best it can be, and I want her to live a long time, but at the end of the day, she's a cat. If she has a clean litterbox, a full food bowl, and a place next to me on the couch where she can attack my laptop screen, she's good.
Kevin Kahler
Proofreader / Jr. Copywriter

August 18, 2016

Everything Is Changing. Here’s What You Must Know.

Everything. You need to know everything. Right?

No, you don’t. Bear with me here.

Staying current on Retail and Marketing, I read a lot of articles. "Constant Disruption" and "The New Normal” have been themes throughout many of them. I think, “Haven’t we stopped saying that yet? Haven’t I seen this exact title a dozen times before?” But then I realize this idea genuinely needs restating. Because it’s more true today than it was yesterday or last year.

Amazon, Uber, Airbnb. I hear it again on local radio after drafting this topic, but before publishing it. All of these businesses are driving changes that challenge old, accepted laws around regulation, taxation and more. We are reinventing much more than marketing. We have to stay informed.

In an era and industry that is highly dependent on media and built on technology, it’s not just that “change is constant” but that the acceleration of change is persistent. It’s like a notion I hear from a lot of young people in the advertising profession — “I used to think I was busy. But now I’m REALLY busy. I had no idea what busy was back then.”

In my effort to command the information I have to use day to day that is constantly changing, reiterating and evolving, I’ve identified a mantra —

“You don’t have to know how. But you do have to know how, to know how.” 

Generationally, everyone my age and older (I’m a younger Gen X) remembers a factory model for education. Finite lumps of knowledge were printed in books to be used for years by an assembly line education system teaching the same things to new waves of people. Some of us expect that when it comes time to learn something new, there’s a resource “book” we can go to get caught up.

Everyone younger than me has a fundamentally different view of learning and discovering. It hinges more on “Figure it out.” Access info quickly or in real time to get through. It’s a life hack approach. "I don’t have to know how to replace a toilet in my first home. I’ll watch a YouTube video and go to the store and when I’m done, I’ll know how."

There is an increasing diminishment of prepackaged, go-to, know-how. Older generations learned to rely on an authority and their volumes of material. Think Britannica. Younger generations know how to pool information and curate it to their purposes. In turn our culture and our economy moves in this direction as well.

There is a saying in philosophical circles that “the map is not the territory.” In military circles it’s "The first casualty of any battle is the plan of attack”.

As advertisers and marketers, for every fact we learn about our map the universe of territory has expanded far beyond it. For every preparation we make the contingencies multiply. The map looks clean but it doesn’t have bears and bees and bridge closures on it. It doesn’t have the location and timing of competition’s strategic deployment. We go in anyway.

Now more than ever, we must adopt a responsive, learning mindset and the intuition and judgement to drive it collaboratively to succeed as businesses, competitors and a community of stakeholders.

Jeff Smack
Digital Communications Director

May 24, 2016

Marketing Authenticity is Not a Millennial Thing

"Marketing to Millennials." It's a hot topic that almost exclusively involves older non-Millennials talking to other, older non-Millennials about what Millennials like and what “they” respond to.

This is not new. Older generations of advertisers have always spoken about younger generations of consumers like they’re bass in a pond.

We can travel back a few years and see the same approach to a young Gen Y and Gen X, even beyond Boomers the same generational trappings persist. The same wisdom comes back in response: “Be Authentic.” This authenticity conversation is already shifting to Gen Z.

Gen X is the generation that birthed Punk Rock and Hip Hop. Marketing co-opted those styles to much criticism and controversy just like the counter cultures that preceded them. Over time, marketing has refined the commercial application of culture to a degree that is basically standard fare today.

The most recent generation of young adults doesn’t draw lines between marketing and culture much at all. It’s interwoven. Older generations might argue that authenticity is dead in marketing terms. But it’s not. It’s simply been redefined by the emerging generation. Today it’s baked in. Culture and marketing are both largely supported by an internet connection so it doesn’t tend to feel as abrupt or artificial when the messages merge.

“Be Authentic” is reborn as earlier generations move into new life phases. Attitudes and behaviors evolve as well. The authenticity mantra is more necessary each time it’s redefined.

We have to find newer ways to interact with greater investment in what our audience feels, cares about and values. Any approach risks becoming a hackneyed tactic. If it’s overused, it’s less effective no matter what the message is or who’s behind it.

Good human communication can only be done well with empathy for the other side of the conversation.

As marketers and consumers, or friends and family, we are a connected community of audience. We have the info and access to reach most people at any time. If we know how to meet our audience, whether it’s our customers or our family, in a way that matters to them then we are able to keep open lines of communication. With open lines, we are free to focus on relevant exchanges and achieve greater authenticity and deeper relationships.

As far as talking to Millennials goes, you don’t have to know what a top knot is if you communicate with empathy and relevance.

Jeff Smack
Digital Communications Director

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