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Published: 17 Feb 2017

MailChimp’s Obscure Omnichannel Campaign

Email marketing service MailChimp has launched an absurdist advertising strategy that pushes its messaging beyond omnichannel formats and into completely different product categories – all in the name of wordplay.

In 2014, MailChimp became a meme with a pre-roll audio ad on blockbuster podcast Serial that featured a young woman mispronouncing the platform's name as MailKimp. Now, New York-based ad agency Droga5 has created the 'Did You Mean...?' campaign, which riffs on more misnomers via three surreal short films: MailShrimp, JailBlimp and KaleLimp. For instance, MailShrimp features a shrimp sandwich singing about its career ambitions. The clips are being screened in cinemas across the US and UK – without any mention of MailChimp's actual name or services.

Bemused cinemagoers who visit the films' websites can follow digital breadcrumb trails to a range of products (bearing mangled versions of the company name) that infiltrate completely unrelated product categories. For example, FailChips are bags of broken potato chips – MailChimp partnered with media company Vice for a short documentary on the provenance of FailChips, while Vox Media's food vertical Eater uses them in a recipe for Chicken Karaage.

There's also WhaleSynth, a synthesiser tool distributed on tech product platform Product Hunt; and VeilHymn, an interactive music video. Meanwhile, MaleCrimp, SnailPrimp and NailChamp are aimed at beauty fans.

The appeal of regular omnichannel campaigns diminishes as digital content platforms become increasingly alike in format. 'Did you mean...?' is a delightfully obscure way of reclaiming versatile messaging.

In Unadvertising: Honest Marketing, we explore other brands that break with traditional advertising formats. For the latest on online culture, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups.

Published: 30 Jan 2017

Activist Attitudes: Retail Brands Stage Own Summits


Hopping onto the ‘New Year, New You’ bandwagon with a subtly activist stance (a perspective that chimes with our Currency of Dissent Macro Trend), two British retailers are remit-pushing with proprietary London summits.

  • Lush’s Eco Summit: Natural beauty brand Lush is staging a free Lush Summit (February 8-9) inviting campaigners and fans alike to celebrate mutual eco-ethical interests. The agenda will include presentations from international speakers, charities and grassroots organisations (all still TBC).

    It’s organised by Soapbox– an interestingly under-the-radar arm of Lush dedicated to exploring social and environmental issues via content hosted on its website (there is no Soapbox tab on Lush’s site – only those in the know are aware of its existence). The Summit will be broadcast live via both Soapbox and Lush TV, the brand’s content hub. See also Brands Take a Stand and Retail’s Elastic Brands.
  • Topshop’s Self-Improvement Expo: Fashion retailer Topshop is hosting a New Year Goals festival (January 26-29) in its London flagship – a series of health, wellness and new skills events run by locals. These include early morning yoga by Secret Yoga Club; workshops hosted by knitting brand Wool and the Gang and skills collective TheIndytute; talks from female entrepreneurs such as Phoebe Lovatt, founder of gym empire Frame; and goal-setting sessions with The Working Women’s Club – a women-only networking society. See also Feminism-Fuelled Retail. Tickets cost £5 ($6.27), redeemable against purchases.

The theme of retailers becoming enablers is also explored in B2C Retail Trade Show Trend, Active Flagships and The Supportive Sell.

See also: Stores Tap January Wellness Surge

Published: 27 Jan 2017

Häagen-Dazs: Virtual Reality Brand Storytelling

Since 2009, American ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs has used its platform to talk about waning honey bee populations. The brand's latest project to call attention to the issue will be The Extraordinary Honey Bee, a virtual reality experience that lets viewers fly with bees to gain a fresh perspective on the situation.

A trailer of the experience was released at Brand Storytelling, a five-day associate event of the Sundance Film Festival dedicated to storytelling in marketing and advertising.

Marketers up against ad blockers and divided attention are turning their energies away from interruptive advertising during engaging stories and towards producing such content themselves. "At the core, brands are basically a story, so if you don't tell a compelling and engaging story you're basically a commodity," explains Alex Placzek, Haägen-Dazs's US director of marketing.

Entertainment projects like recent feature film The Founder – a biopic chronicling how American salesman Ray Kroc turned the McDonald's fast food restaurant into a national franchise – show there's interest in the stories surrounding a brand. The question is whether in this age of 'alternative facts', the public will grow wary and weary of hearing these stories told by the original source.

For more on moving beyond interruptive advertising to spread brand awareness, check out The Messaging Opportunity, Mastering the Attention Economy: Social Media Week London 2016, and Live-Streaming Strategies. To help you stay attuned with how consumers connect through entertainment, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups.

Published: 23 Jan 2017

Message in a Coca-Cola Bottle

Coca-Cola Audio Cap

As part of its 2016 Christmas campaign, Coca-Cola developed a bottle cap that allowed customers to record a message to friends and loved ones.

Designed in collaboration with US ad agency David and Spanish digital agency Gigigo, customers could record a 30-second audio clip that would then play when the cap was removed from the bottle.

The special edition 'Message in a bottle' drinks were distributed among Central and Eastern European influencers and were available for a limited time at two stores in Sicily – a trial run for a wider European release in 2017. The audio bottles were launched alongside a promotional video, which demonstrated different ways to surprise your loved ones at Christmas.

This pack innovation follows the soft drink giant's camera-integrated bottle (July 2016), which allowed drinkers to take a selfie when the bottle was tipped to 70 degrees. The images were then uploaded to Coca-Cola Israel's social media pages. It's also a further example of the brand embracing personalisation following its wildly successful named bottles in 2015.

To read more about how beverage brands are upping the stakes through innovative materials and technology, check out our Alcohol Packaging Trends 2016 report. For further insight into digital packaging developments, read Packaging Futures 2016/17: Digital. For more digital Christmas campaigns, see Christmas 2016: Digital Trends & Tactics.

Published: 20 Jan 2017

Edelman Trust Barometer 2017: The Era of Distrust

Edelman Trust Barometer 2017

Global PR firm Edelman Communications has released its 2017 Trust Barometer survey, revealing that among 33,000 individuals across 28 nations, trust in government, media, business and NGOs is at a universal all-time low.

Less than half said they trusted the media (43%) or government (41%), while NGOs (53%) have fallen to trust levels on a par with business (52%). In the GDP five (US, China, Japan, Germany and UK), trust in NGOs has even dipped below the 50% mark.

Crucially, among global respondents stating they are "uncertain" whether these institutions are working for them, business holds the highest trust score (58%). Brands have a lot of leverage with dissatisfied consumers, with three out of four survey participants also believing that businesses can improve both profits and economic and social conditions in the communities they interact with. Consumers expect responsible business from brands looking for continued support.

The public is also increasingly withdrawing into peer communication. For the first time ever, 'a person like yourself' is now considered as credible a source of information as an academic expert, and 55% say an individual is more believable than an institution. To stay in touch with this hyper-individual audience, marketers will have to build and maintain brands through community engagement from the ground up.

For more on engaging with consumers in the era of distrust, see Brands Take a Stand and Renegade Retail from our Currency of Dissent Macro Trend. For more on how to connect with anxious consumers, see our report on Playful Escapists.

Published: 18 Jan 2017

The Trump Opportunity

Crooked Media podcast Pod Save America

The publishing industry has been quick to seize on the audience-building opportunities of a Trump presidency. Daily Twitter updates from the man himself are driving non-stop analysis and reaction, to the extent that a number of news outlets have set up dedicated Trump-centric spin-offs.

Slate's Trumpcast podcast, Mic's Navigating Trump's America newsletter, and Crooked Media – a politics news site launched by former Obama White House staffers – are among a slew of new destinations devoted to tracking the Trump phenomenon. In December, the Washington Post even released a browser extension that enables users to fact-check Trump's tweets – from within the tweets themselves. The Post example is a useful case study for any marketer: culturally relevant, offering utility, and reflective of core brand values.

These media properties have been created to scrutinise and critique, but there's also an opportunity for brands to help consumers of any political stripe navigate the realities of Trump's America.

With the Brexit referendum in the UK, both political spokespeople and the media were attacked for failures in communication. A report from the Electoral Reform Society in September 2016 was highly critical of the campaigning, saying that the general public were ill-informed and misled by both sides. Clearly, brands could have played a part in engaging the public (as we discuss in Brands Take a Stand).

Unpicking the truth from Trump's communications could be an even harder task. As we can see, the media is starting to tackle this issue head on. Brands need to step up to the challenge.

Published: 16 Jan 2017

BMW’s Tango-Powered AR Visualiser

BMW is piloting a 3D augmented reality (AR) experience app powered by Google's AR technology Tango, allowing consumers to customise and interact with virtual life-sized versions of its i3 and i8 car models.

The i Visualiser is available in select BMW sales outlets that are equipped with Tango-enabled mobile devices, the first of which was launched by Chinese tech company Lenovo in November 2016. As more of these Tango-enabled smartphones come to market, BMW plans to make the app available on Google Play.

Built by global full-service agency Accenture for BMW's Future Retail programme, the i Visualiser lets users customise features such as interior and exterior colours when viewing the AR experience on screen. Users can virtually open the car's doors, turn on lights or experience the view from inside the car, and are then able to save and share the final visualisation. While this is the first customer-facing personal screen-based AR experience by an automaker, Fiat Chrysler showed a similar Tango-based prototype, also by Accenture, at the 2016 Mobile World Congress.

With car buyers increasingly choosing to research their options digitally instead of visiting physical dealerships, automakers are exploring new tools to influence couch-bound customers – as outlined in New Directions in Auto Marketing. Other new technologies carmakers are using to educate and engage via digital – and especially mobile – include 360-degree video and chat bots. Kia Motors North America recently created the NiroBot for Facebook Messenger as a way to introduce the Niro hybrid utility vehicle.

For more uses of AR in the customer journey, see Retail: Digitising Luxury, 2017.

Published: 12 Jan 2017

Augmented Reality Promo from The New York Times

Outthink Hidden

Hidden Figures – a film about the untold achievements of three black female mathematicians whose work helped launch humans into space in the 1960s – was released in the US this month. To help promote the movie, IBM and the New York Times have partnered to create Outthink Hidden, an augmented reality (AR) experience that highlights the achievements of scientists with marginalised backgrounds.

At 150 geo-locations across 10 US cities – including science-focused tourist attractions like the Nasa Kennedy Space Center and educational institutions like California Polytech and Princeton University – Outthink Hidden surfaces individuals who are not prominently celebrated in the canon of science history. Using The New York Times' new T Brand Studio AR app, visitors at the geo-fenced locations can access 3D-rendered imagery, text, video and soundbites to learn more about lesser-known thought leaders across STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines.

The depth and variety of content from The New York Times is an intriguing exploration of the amount of information an AR spot can carry. Additionally, the project points to exciting opportunities around event-jacking by demonstrating how the virtually layered content can be tailored around niche or underrepresented interests.

For more on event-jacking and niche engagement, check out our video Pop Culture Year in Review: 10 Trends for 2017 and our Media & Marketing Look Ahead 2017. For more on AR applications, see Innovation & Emerging Technologies: EmTech 2016 and Retail: Digitising Luxury, 2017.

Published: 6 Jan 2017

Duracell Saves Christmas with Last-Minute Batteries

'Batteries not included' are three words guaranteed to send kids into Christmas meltdown. Realising its product is a scarce commodity on this festive morning, US battery manufacturer Duracell provided a seasonal emergency delivery service across the American Midwest.

In a campaign created by Wieden+Kennedy, the brand partnered with logistics service Postmates to get last-minute packs to locations in Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee. Between noon and midnight on Christmas Eve, parents could head to and request a drop-off, with the service distributing over a tonne of batteries during that time. As for reach beyond the delivery area, a YouTube clip of the day's rescue missions has so far amassed six million views.

Consumers are weary of interruptive advertising and contextless marketing messages. Contextual and brand-relevant services are a powerful way for brands to remain relevant to consumers' lives. Solving a problem in the moment builds loyalty and keeps the brand front of mind for more considered purchases.

For more on brands that use their assets to market with utility, see Mastering the Attention Economy: Social Media Week London 2016 and Marketing Alcohol to Moderate Millennials.

Published: 3 Jan 2017

JWT Takes On Black Lives Matter

JWT and BLM's Backing Black Business website

Global marketing communications firm J. Walter Thompson (JWT) has formed a strategic partnership with non-profit organisation Black Lives Matter (BLM). JWT New York will work to produce "game-changing campaigns that will inspire, inform and influence behaviour", according to a statement from the company.

The first initiative is a website created to help people find black-owned small businesses in the US. Backing Black Business is the first step to "uplift and sustain black businesses" said Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of BLM. Currently in beta, the site lists more than 300 companies so far.

As noted in Brands Take a Stand, JWT is a pioneer in pushing the idea that agencies and businesses can take on controversial causes and make a difference. Lynn Power, chief executive of J. Walter Thompson New York, said: "Working in advertising, I believe that the messages we push out have an impact, and that we have a responsibility to try and shape culture positively." As with its documentary series Her Story, JWT aims to "play an active role" in changing narratives around civil rights.

The BLM movement has been a crucial cultural and political voice in 2016 – but as we noted in Brands Take a Stand, few brands have championed the cause for fear of alienating consumers. American ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's was one of the few to come out in support of BLM in October 2016 (see US Election: Brands Get Proactive).

For more on how brands can navigate our current politically charged consumer landscape, see our latest Macro Trend, The Currency of Dissent.

Published: 27 Dec 2016

Brands Bring Christmas Cheer Via VR

One in 10 UK homes will own a virtual reality (VR) device by Christmas, according to recent research by Carphone Warehouse. The technology is edging towards the mainstream, but few major brands have used their festive marketing budget to test the waters (the notable exception being department store John Lewis, which created two VR experiences to complement its Buster the Boxer campaign).

The fear for marketers is that VR may remain gimmicky for consumer engagement until mass adoption of the technology, which some commentators believe is still five years away. As such, two savvy brands have pursued a different Christmas VR strategy to John Lewis, focusing on the potential impact the technology may have outside of entertainment and marketing – specifically in the healthcare arena.

Honda started producing VR content in April, and for Christmas the car firm has created an immersive festive experience for children receiving treatment at the Children's Hospital of Orange County in California. For every 'like' the video receives on Facebook, Honda will donate $1 to CHOC Children's and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (up to $100,000).

Similarly, Australian health insurance company Medibank has created a VR experience called Joy for hospital patients, designed to alleviate their loneliness during the holiday season. Medibank partnered with Google and Australian VR firm Liminal to create a virtual world "where [people] can feel comfort and connection," according to Liminal clinical neuroscientist and neuropsychologist, Sami Yamin. "Joy was conceived out of extensive research into the known alleviators of loneliness – including pet therapy, bibliotherapy and the incorporation of nature scenes," he said.

For more on the potential of virtual reality, see Future of Video: Ignition 2016.

Published: 21 Dec 2016

Christmas Campaigns Don’t Connect on Mobile

British retailer John Lewis may have deployed Snapchat lenses to boost its lavish annual TV ad, but 44% of UK mobile users still reported not having experienced a single Holiday campaign on their phones this year (Marketing Week, 2016).

Linear TV is the primary battleground for advertisers vying for the most evocative Christmas campaign – but brands are missing a trick by not providing digital channels for conversion and connection alongside their blockbuster efforts.

A few brands attempted to engage with online culture. Microsoft played into the memes surrounding Yule log videos with a macabrely branded video promoting its Dead Rising games franchise, while Burger King combined Yule logs with holiday jumpers. Scottish whisky brand Lagavulin created an experience not dissimilar to watching a crackling fireplace, with an hour-long video featuring the famously stoic US actor Nick Offerman sipping whisky in silence. Finally, Icelandic vodka brand Reyka lampooned often-eventless Facebook Live broadcasts with a two-hour live stream wishing every Icelander a Merry Christmas by name. However, these campaigns also fail to connect to a larger brand narrative or genuine customer concern.

Alternatively, Budweiser's US ride-hailing partnership with Lyft earlier this year – in which free rides were given out to curb drunk driving – demonstrated how to reach seasonal customers by addressing current needs. Such mobile-enabled utilities give brands a chance to be an appreciated part of the festivities and the stressful weeks leading up to them.

For more on marketing by providing useful services, see Mastering the Attention Economy: Social Media Week London 2016. To stay on top of developments in online culture, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups.

Published: 20 Dec 2016

BuzzFeed Launches Cookbooks

Tasty Cookbook

Popular Facebook-based food video creator Tasty, created by global digital media giant BuzzFeed, has introduced a fully customisable cookbook concept, following strong demand from users who desired a tangible product alongside their online experience.

After answering a series of BuzzFeed-style questions, users are assigned an algorithm-generated 'social foodie archetype' that helps them build a cookbook based on their preferences. Archetypes include 'Entertainer', 'Carb Lover' and 'Health Nut'.

Users can then choose seven bundles of seven recipes (giving them 49 recipes altogether), which are used to populate the cookbook's chapters across 114 pages. In total, there are 100,000 different recipe combinations from which to choose. For gifting purposes, users may optionally add a custom dedication, including a range of emojis, to the inside back cover. BuzzFeed then prints the customised book, which cost $35 per unit.

Launched in July 2015, BuzzFeed estimates that 50% of Americans see a Tasty video once per month. The page has over 75 million likes and its videos often reach up to tens of millions of views. Thanks to its ever-growing popularity, Tasty also launched a UK-focused page called Proper Tasty in December 2015, which currently has almost 15 million followers.

For more on food and social media, see Food Content is King, while Food Presentation Trends looks at how digital channels are influencing food styling, photography and plating.

Look out for our forthcoming industry trend Kitchen of the Future, wherein we will examine how concepts like Tasty are empowering a legion of 'everyday experts' who desire fast-paced, visual 'upskilling' opportunities.

Published: 13 Dec 2016

Voice Control Breathes Life into Children’s Story

American digital agency AKQA has released The Snowfox, a voice-activated digital storybook for children. Instead of using visual triggers and tap navigation, the tale progresses as the child reads the text on-screen out loud. The app achieves this by using Apple's SiriKit, which gives apps access to Siri voice interaction technology.

Voice interfaces are on the rise. Sales of Amazon Echo connected home devices are estimated to have reached five million units (CIRP, 2016), spawning consumer demand for voice-based user experiences beyond simple selection and yes/no commands.

Earlier this month, Adweek reported that US media conglomerate Hearst had launched a dedicated 10-person team to develop voice-interface experiences. A recent product from Hearst in this field is an Amazon Echo Skill from Good Housekeeping Magazine that gives step-by-step instructions for stain removal. It also delivers a soundtrack to scrub to.

Audio formats like podcasts and content for the growing connected car market will obviously profit from voice interfaces. However, over-the-top smart TV system Roku just started exploring TV viewers' multitasking skills with a visually interactive ad for BMW. This indicates hands-free voice interfaces could enhance interaction and personalisation across all content channels.

To read more about the emergence voice interfaces, see our report from Business Insider's Ignition 2016 in New York. For more on what's coming down the pipeline in media and marketing, check out our Look Ahead 2017 and our video report Pop Culture Year in Review: 10 Trends for 2017.

Published: 9 Dec 2016

BMW’s Personalised TV Ad

BrightLine for BMW

BMW has launched an interactive ad for its X1 model that enables people watching on smart TVs to customise the viewing experience using their remote controls. An interactive banner beneath the 30-second spot reveals a customisable version of the X1. Viewers can scroll left or right with their remotes to see the car from different angles, as well as colour variations.

The ad was created in partnership with US digital agency BrightLine. As co-founder Robert Aksman told marketing blog Luxury Daily, the campaign is innovative "because it allows audiences to begin their showroom experience without getting off the couch".

The opportunities for interactive video advertising are increasing as more consumers adopt connected TVs and video consumption accelerates across all platforms. Seventy-four per cent of consumers say there is a connection between watching a video on social media and their purchasing decision-making process (Brightcove, 2016).

At this year's Unbound conference in London, interactive video firm Wirewax suggested the future of interactive video marketing would be "non-invasive hotspots", where viewers can pause the action to reveal extra information and additional content. A recent Wirewax shoppable video for Ted Baker resulted in $80,000 of sales in the first week of release.

Look out for our full report on the Unbound conference, coming soon.

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