Millennials Make Mattress Brands Rethink Their Marketing

Mattress companies are increasingly shunning showrooms and are instead trying to capture millennials—who are likely looking to make their first big-ticket purchase in the category—by marketing with whimsical social-and-digital-first content.

Thanks to mattress-happy investors of years past that led an industry renaissance and prominence to e-commerce, the crowded, new-generation room now features the likes of Casper, Leesa, Purple, Tuft & Needle and Nest Bedding, among others.

According to IBISWorld, the mattresses market is a $14 billion a year industry. A figure that fat is nothing to sleep on, so brands in the space have been experiencing considerable share of voice by creating disruptive, out-of-the-box content and building digital-centric marketing to tap into a group looking for a good snooze—and some entertainment. It’s even created somewhat of a ripple effect to sister industries like linen, which have gone to such lengths like starting subscription-style bedding programs.

Joe Alexander, CEO and founder of Nest Bedding, a direct bed-in-a-box brand founded in 2012, told AListDaily that millennials are spurning traditional brands by buying from whichever company that the internet declares as “good.”

“To ignore millennials is to ignore the present and the future. These buyers are brand loyal—and they are fiercely loyal,” Alexander said. “We focus a lot of attention on brand building in social media. We call it ‘personality branding’ in that we have found that millennials love to see the human side of a brand. We create fun content while also communicating one-on-one with our base.”

To show that they’re a group of people just like them, Nest Bedding has marketed to millennials with a “professional napper” contest, set up a sleep line to have grandpa read bedtime stories and used influencers like model Lindsay Pelas and Silicon Valley actor Jimmy O. Yang to create quirky videos.

“It gives us a fun force to interact with our base, and a familiar face to lead our brand online . . . This is much more credible than, say, paying a Kardashian to stand in front of your mattress box,” Alexander said. “Consumers want to be entertained. I think more brands are understanding that the new consumer is looking for experiences—not just products—and taking your products and making them experiences then communicating that experience is where you win in the new market.”

“Being genuine and in tune with your customer base is key. Shareable entertainment is a great and effective brand lure.” —Joe Alexander, CEO and founder of Nest Bedding

Earlier this month, Casper, which raised $170 million in June with plans to I.P.O., launched Woolly, a 96-page digital and print publication dedicated to sleep content. For $12 an issue, you can brush up on content relating to comfort, wellness and modern life in the McSweeney’s-made magazine. The caveat? There are no ads for Casper in the quarterly editions.

“A mattress company launching a print magazine isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened in 2017, but it may be the most comfortable,” Casper wrote in its announcement.

Before that, Casper, which officially made its way to Target stores this year, maintained another form of content marketing with the sleep-focused, standalone online publication Van Winkle. Continuing its history of whimsical social marketing, the brand also tested “Staycation Story Hacks” this summer by encouraging brand loyalists to share experiences on Instagram or Snapchat Stories.

“Innovation has always been our catalyst for growth,” Philip Krim, CEO and co-founder of Casper, said at the time of their Series C funding. “As we look ahead to Casper’s next chapter, we see the future of sleep driven by unparalleled research and development, and an evolved consumer experience.”

Clever marketing is a different way to bring consumers into the brand without overtly saying “buy my product” and potentially driving people away.

Kerri Homsher, external communications specialist for Ikea, told AListDaily that since consumers are smarter than ever, the product and marketing efforts should be just as canny. That was the Danish retailer’s marketing strategy for the back-to-school season earlier this fall.

“In today’s digital media landscape and with how people consume content, understand the importance of giving people a reason to stop the thumb and engage—and then share,” Homsher said. “Consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand if they saw a recommendation from a friend, and many look to influencers as trustworthy sources, just like their friends.”

Since caring for biological needs for the sake of maintaining metabolic homeostasis is all the rage, and a shift in consciousness is collectively being made, the mattress market has evolved from a state of stagnation to one that is innovative. One thing remains clear—the tussle to own the conversation by way of marketing en route to monetization has no creative limits.

In October, Mattress Firm, a 30-year-old brand that’s previously had social media tussles with upstarts like Tuft & Needle, got in bed with a new agency to revamp its image and handle its $250 million advertising budget to reach the rapidly changing consumer.

“As the media landscape continues to evolve, it’s important we uncover new ways to introduce and reinforce our brand to millions of Americans,” said Sicily Dickenson, chief marketing officer for Mattress Firm, per AdWeek.

Alexander has plans of expanding Nest Bedding into Canada and Europe and wants to establish the company as a home brand—not just a bedding one. It intends to do that by introducing a furniture-in-a-box model and products like a branded pajamas line. As for remaining competitive from a marketing standpoint, creating unique content and media like music videos with a distinct message will be key to continuing to attract millennials, he says.

“Being genuine and in tune with your customer base is key,” Alexander said. “Shareable entertainment is a great and effective brand lure.”

To Reach Young, Digital Audiences, Creative And Marketing Renew Relationship

John Baldecchi, Digital Riot Media CEO

Digital platforms are rapidly disrupting multiple industries—particularly television and movies. Studios that are part of these decades-old sectors must adapt to the changing environment to fit with how younger generations are consuming content. That means connecting the creative side of the entertainment business and marketing to develop content from the ground up to target specific demographics across digital platforms such as iTunes or Netflix instead of theaters.

John Baldecchi, a veteran of the film industry, is developing strategies for taking on the digital market. He is the CEO of Digital Riot Media, a global entertainment company that specializes in films that are specifically targeted at millennials and Gen Z audiences and focused around digital media platforms.

“We think of what we do as ‘tech-enabled,’ meaning that we’re looking at a lot of data to highly target audiences and adjust budgets based on who we think the audience is,” Baldecchi said. “We’re using data to figure out how we can be more efficient at marketing and focus on audiences. We’re in a world where data can work with the creative as opposed to stepping on it.”

The company’s first film was the direct-to-digital release FML, a comedy about an aging comedian who goes on a road trip with a social media star on a quest to gain a million followers and become relevant again. More recently, the studio released Happy Death Day on Friday the 13th in October with Universal Pictures. The horror movie is about a self-centered college student who keeps reliving her birthday as she tries to uncover her murderer.

Although both films are radically different in their distribution and marketing, they represent how Digital Riot is adapting to the changing shift in balance between theatrical and digital releases. Happy Death Day was originally meant for a digital release, but Universal decided it would be better to go with a theatrical one. Baldecchi said that theatrical releases and access to Universal’s worldwide distribution lends a lot of credibility to movies, and given budget considerations, he would rather make theatrical releases than digital ones. But the theater model doesn’t make sense for independently financed and distributed films.

“We like to keep our options open and remain flexible, [looking at] the distribution means and the technology that’s changing how we look at the world,” said Baldecchi.

Baldecchi said that the idea for Digital Riot’s approach came from observing his daughters and how they were fixed to their iPads, refusing to watch on larger TV screens. That led to creating content that is economically designed with platforms in mind first, with the marketing following accordingly. He says the goal is to deliver content to wherever they feel most comfortable, not necessarily to get them out to theaters. It’s the friction point of getting people out of their homes and spending extra money that’s causing many studios trouble.

According to Baldecchi, the first step is to talk to millennials, particularly those employed by the studio, to find out what content is relevant to them and their friends in order to “tap into the ideas that are in the zeitgeist.” The company then runs a sentiment analysis around different ideas to develop around them. Afterward, the data that was used to create the content goes into marketing toward specific audiences.

Baldecchi said that this collaboration between creation and marketing is different from the traditional approach because usually, “people want marketing dollars spent before you show up. Unless it’s premiering on a streaming platform, a lot of people like ad dollars spent before they get their hands on a movie.”

He also said that marketing needs to think about targeting demographic subcategories because “millennials and Gen Z” can be too big of a category to take on. Instead, he recommends looking to specific groups such as females between ages 15-and-20.

However, Baldecchi noted that there is a significant trade-off, in that the targeted audience is smaller than that of a theatrical release—and a smaller audience means a smaller budget. It’s the opposite approach of a theatrical releases, which aim to bring as many people as possible into theaters. Over time, said Baldecchi, targeting sub demographics means that digital platforms will increasingly grow to serve niche audiences.

Baldecchi believes, as many others do, that most people will eventually rely completely on streaming platforms for content and it will become increasingly harder to get people to theaters. But theaters will maintain a robust place in entertainment as events that feature specific directors, actors, ideas or IPs. Meanwhile, as platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu continue to make original content, more studios will seek to fill the remaining niches in the market.

“I celebrate that there are mainstream platforms that are all about scale and are taking over the world, and then you have the more niche businesses,” said Baldecchi. “That feels right to me, and we want to do business with all of them.”

Another issue is that discovery becomes a major hurdle. With FML, Digital Riot relied on the cast and crew’s large social following and used them as marketing vehicles in addition to supporting the movie through ad dollars. The process of getting audiences to purchase the movie required even more pushing.

“It’s a combination of a straight ad buy—kids who are interested in ‘out there’ proselytizing—and a lot of marketing support,” said Baldecchi. “There’s no magic formula, it’s just more focused.”

“There’s no magic formula, it’s just more focused.” — John Baldecchi, CEO of Digital Riot Media

Baldecchi said that close attention needs to be paid to what sites and products customers are coming from and where they’re going to understand their tastes and preferences. Furthermore, he stated that having people generally like the movie may be beneficial to marketing, but more so on the traditional side than the digital one.

“Obviously, the more marketing money, the more luck you’re going to have,” Baldecchi added. “Marketing is always the hardest part, and clever campaigns will take into account dates and titles. They’re critical to the success of the project.”

Although Baldecchi supports the idea of day-and-date releases, where movies simultaneously launch in theaters and digitally, he sees it as a purely digital strategy than a compromise between theatrical and at-home releases. He stated that they mainly benefit smaller films where the theater numbers are less meaningful than the rental and purchase revenues.

In addition to making films, the company is also developing a digital episodic series, but the digital space isn’t limited to TV and film, as Digital Riot is finding opportunities in the app market. The company is advising entertainment company MSM Corporation International Limited (MSMCI) on the Megastar talent competition app, which features musician Usher Raymond as its creative lead and one of the judges.

Megastar is both a mobile app and months-long global talent competition, where singers, dancers and contestants of all types compete for a $1 million grand prize. Contestants submit videos through YouTube while app users vote, follow and tip them in hopes that they’ll make it to the livestreamed finale. Some of those contestants may end up in a Digital Riot project.

Although Digital Riot’s role is strictly advisory in helping to bring in talent and judges, Baldecchi observed that app marketing is very different from movie marketing. Megastar launched with prominent placing on the iTunes App Store, which was a major marketing move. Baldecchi sees some similarities between launching digital films and apps, in that audiences won’t come or stick around if the experience is bad. But that’s where the comparisons end, as apps can be improved post launch while most films cannot.

“[Megastar’s] version of marketing is our version of releasing,” said Baldecchi. “The parallels are that marketing in the App Store is akin to global marketing for a movie once it’s been released. The quality of the product is analogous to the quality of the movie.”

‘Jigsaw’ VR Ad Case Study Shows Brands How To Play The Game

To market the theatrical release of Jigsaw, Lionsgate partnered with Unity to create the first display ad in VR that when selected, launched an interactive experience. Running the campaign for two weeks, Unity simultaneously ran a case study to measure its emotional impact on users.

When Unity partnered with Lionsgate for the activation, the team knew it couldn’t display the ad just anywhere. But with more than 60 percent of AR/VR content created with Unity, the company had no shortage of apps to consider for the activation, and it ended up finding the two that best served their campaign.

Jigsaw is a mass market horror movie, so we worked with Lionsgate to find apps that made sense for their audience,” Agatha Bochenek, head of mobile and VR/AR advertising sales at Unity Technologies told AListDaily. “Samsung Internet for VR is a mass reach app that tapped into the gen pop audience. Nanite Fulcrum is a comic book app with a younger male, demographic that reached horror movie fans. The apps worked well together.”

From October 23 to November 6, display ads for Jigsaw Virtual Room appeared within the Samsung Internet for VR app and Siraloid’s Nanite Fulcrum. When selected, users were instantly transported into the Saw movie franchise as one of Jigsaw’s intended victims.

Four possible interactions followed, allowing the user to control the story while a two-minute timer ticked down. Although users could opt to do nothing and let the timer run out, 73 percent chose to “play a game” and make a choice on whether they or a stranger would survive. If they chose life, gears were dropped down that needed to be placed on the correct spokes to win their freedom. Over half—56 percent—attempted the puzzle. Solving it allowed users to explore Jigsaw’s room for 30 seconds.

Regardless of the outcome, users were teleported to a room where a 30-second trailer for the film was played. Users could leave at any time, but 70 percent chose to watch the preview in full.

In addition to measuring engagement, Unity teamed up with Isobar’s Marketing Intelligence Practice to see just how scary Jigsaw Virtual Room really was to users. Isobar performed biometric measurement and an emotional response survey of people who experienced the movie trailer in VR and in mobile video.

Heart rates elevated by 24 percent, sweating by 44 percent and muscle activation associated with smiling increased more than three times, according to the findings. These statistics apply to those who completed the entire VR experience and not just the trailer at the end. Unity concludes that the act of being in VR alone doesn’t elicit such emotions, but rather the fully interactive format of the ad.

“When looking at the focus group results by the individual, we saw that people who chose not to interact with the experience still had strong emotional reactions,” said Bochenek, “but only during the interactive portion—not the video trailer in VR. This leads us to believe that giving the user agency and engaging them with a responsive story, even if they ultimately choose not to engage, is where the power of interactive content lies.”

Bochenik says the key to a successful VR ad of this type is to make the user feel like they’re part of the action but warns against making interactions too difficult.

“The story needs to be compelling regardless of interaction,” she noted. “Adding three-to-four interactions in an ad ensures that the experience is effective for all users as they can choose how the story progresses and their individual engagement level. It’s truly personalized advertising.”

Advertising in VR can be challenging—after all, a user isn’t going to tolerate anything that disrupts immersion.

“Deep, immersive VR works and can be done at scale,” said Bochenek, adding that brands shouldn’t assume that VR is inaccessible or niche. “VR is gaining more and more penetration by the day and there will come a point where users are desensitized to the medium, just like they become to everything.

“The time is now to use this medium to create a lifelong relationship with your consumer and it is possible for every brand to engage in this space with positive ROI,” she added. “Additionally, the responsive storytelling techniques that elicit a much stronger emotional response than traditional media are also the format for augmented reality. This means advertisers can run cross-platform VR, AR, and 360 ads that reach hundreds of millions of users making the format even more accessible. I think a lot of marketers know that VR is effective. Now they can see just how effective and hopefully having those stats translates to more of them creating these types of campaigns today.”

Exclusive: Steve Aoki Demystifies His Brand Approach

Steve Aoki is no stranger to building brands.

His father Hiroaki Aoki is the founder of teppan chain Benihana, and as an understudy to the family business, Aoki learned the struggles of building a marque that resonates with the public firsthand with his own projects—beginning with Dim Mak, the record label he launched in his early twenties.

Steve’s career and personal brand didn’t officially take off until he worked his way toward becoming a globally recognized producer over the last decade. Now, the 39-year-old is one of the most active musicians on the planet dabbling in plenty of projects outside of making energetic synths.

His style for building a brand is simple, he says. All he has to do is sprinkle a strand of his DNA into it.

Earlier this year, the electro-entrepreneur launched the skater-inspired fashion line Dim Mak Collection to complement his record label. His portfolio also includes the esports Overwatch team Rogue, a skill-based video game gambling machine, a branded boot camp, and just last month, the launch of a brand ambassadorship with athletic apparel company Asics.

In an interview with AListDaily, the world’s most-travelled musician says he draws inspiration from the people around him to bring his own blend of energy to the personal and external brands that he maintains.

“One thing that carries you through and keeps you persistent—and most importantly consistent with your brand—is that you really believe in what you’re doing. Always be authentic to what you know and love,” Aoki said. “The great part about me traveling around the world is that I’m constantly influenced by all of the interesting people from different cultures that I meet—most importantly being a sponge and a student of life. I get to combine that spirit and build ideas with the teams I work with.”

Building a brand for Aoki means being able to bring his spirited persona and colorful vision to the forefront. It’s largely the reason the self-professed fitness fanatic became the central voice of Asics’ largest marketing revamp in the last quarter century, weighing in on the brand’s line of products, all while spotlighting his personal journey along the way. Owner of over a 400-pair, $100,000 shoe collection, the sneakerhead was also tapped to design his own line of Asics kicks as well.

“The world of athletics is something that’s actually a big part of my lifestyle, but now I have a platform to bring it out to the athletic world and do some exciting stuff,” Aoki said. “Whenever I get involved with partnerships, the first thing that I want to do is bring my creative energy to the table. I want to do what I’m good at by putting some of that Aoki DNA to the brand. I like to build bridges and have that common thread between all of the music, fashion and lifestyle worlds that I love so dearly and am involved in—and bring it all together.”

“I want to do what I’m good at by putting some of that Aoki DNA to the brand. I like to build bridges and have that common thread between all of the music, fashion and lifestyle worlds that I love so dearly and am involved in—and bring it all together.” —Steve Aoki

The two-time Grammy-nominated producer said that when a celebrity is designated to bring creative direction to a brand, they should never be constrained or limited to just slapping their name to Instagram posts. He instead prefers to be in the trenches offering direction and input on mood boards with creatives. When asked what the most important business lesson he’s learned as a brand owner and marketer, Aoki said that it all starts from oneself.

“First and foremost, you have to really believe in what you do,” Aoki said. “If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, you’re going to stop halfway and say, ‘I’m out!’ Everyone is watching you. If you’re leading a brand, people are going to be a part of that community. If you’re inauthentic, then they’re out too, and the community just dissolves.”

Aoki merged his entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm for community and gaming last year when he invested into the esports organization Rogue, one of the world’s most accomplished Overwatch teams. Being a lifelong gamer with longtime ties to E3 and an avid streamer on Twitch, it was a natural next step.

“I definitely did my research and development and looked at the entire space. I wanted an underground team with a do-it-yourself attitude with players and managers that really believed in the sport. I got in before it was too late,” said Aoki. “Just like anything, it’s difficult to navigate the early waters. But you have to believe in the sport. When I invested, I knew the risk that I’d lose everything that I’d put in. Before anything though, you have to really love and believe everything about the culture.”

As successful as Rogue had been, they failed to secure a spot in the inaugural 12-team Overwatch League, and the players have since disbanded. The series of events left Aoki frustrated with the powers that be.

“We jumped through every loophole, and we didn’t make it. It’s disappointing, sad and makes me sick with the system that these kinds of things happen,” Aoki said. “We showed more than enough to prove our spot in the league. We fought tooth and nail all the way to the end and they still didn’t give us a seat at the table. I’m not happy about that.”

On a more positive gaming-front note for Aoki, he furthered his passion in the space by lending his likeness to the skill-based casino game Steve Aoki’s Neon Dream. The first-person, musical-endless runner game for money debuted in September and is designed to draw younger groups of people who frequent casinos. Aoki lives in Las Vegas and frequently tours the Strip as a guest DJ at top nightclubs, making him instantly recognizable among millennials.

“Disruption is definitely a big part of how I love to do branding and marketing,” said Aoki, who earlier this year released “Kolony,” his first hip-hop collaboration album. He’s also working on his own album for 2018. “Now we’re disrupting the casino floor with something new. It’s not going to change the slot machine’s industry, but it’s going to add a different level of gameplay. It’s exciting to mix both worlds.”

According to Forbes, the private-jet travelling producer eponymous for wielding cakes at crowds during shows raked in $29.5 million for over 200 performances last year.

His Netflix documentary I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead and the tattoo with the same phrase on the back of his neck is evidence that although he’s globally first known as a musician, producer and DJ, the variety of side hustles he keeps makes up the course of his entire being and DNA.

“I’m a human being drawing from a lot of inspiration. I’m all about the neon future,” Aoki said. “We only have one life, and it’s extraordinary that we’re alive and talking right now. I’m not a five-year-plan kind of guy. You just have to follow your gut feeling. I’m never going to pigeonhole myself to one thing.”

Marketers Are Ignoring Mobile Ad Fraud, Attribution Providers Aren’t Helping

Mobile marketers are asleep at the wheel when it comes to ad fraud, a new report by Singular indicates. While the industry is stepping up efforts to combat false web impressions, little is being done to fight click fraud on mobile platforms.

“Amid all the noise in the analytics ecosystem that data science, machine learning and performance optimization can defeat fraud, the mobile industry still suffers from persistently high fraud costs each year as the majority of marketers fail to implement active fraud prevention in their mobile marketing systems,” said Gadi Eliashiv, Singular’s founder and CEO.

According to a report made available to AListDaily, 63 percent of marketers don’t use any mobile fraud prevention techniques at all, becoming easy prey for even the most easily preventable attacks.

The blame for this troubling statistic doesn’t fall fully on marketers’ shoulders, however. “Part of the blame lies with the analytics industry. Many analytics providers treat fraud prevention as a luxury, offering it to marketers as an add-on or ‘premium’ feature,” the report reads. “Rather, fraud prevention should be deeply embedded into every attribution platform, effective out of the box and free of charge.”

By putting so much of the burden to catch fraudsters on marketers themselves, attribution providers end up hurting their own clients and themselves in the process.

According to Singular’s data, the most preventable type of click fraud is attribution manipulation, where fraudsters steal credit for app installs from legitimate sources. Seventy percent of all attacks blocked by security measures counted as attribution manipulation, meaning that many marketers can easily stop a major source of wasted ad spend.

Another, more pernicious type of fraud are fake user agents, which can take a number of forms that make them especially difficult to root out. Fake user agents, either through malware, bots or real human workers, simulate engagement on many devices to scam advertisers.

These common types of fraud are only the tip of the iceberg, the report warns. Marketers only know the full extent of scams after they’ve been detected, meaning that any number of more insidious attacks can be happening under their noses at any time.

“Ad fraud is a game where losing can actually look like winning,” the report claims. Even once a company stops one kind of scam, it’s important to stay ever vigilant. “In reality, you’re only preventing dumb attacks, with no sense of the fraud you’re actually missing,” the report reads. “Under the radar, fraudulent sources are stealing credit for your organic users.”

Meet Five Marketing Stars From Forbes 30 Under 30

Forbes has just released its annual 30 Under 30 list, recognizing 600 young professionals for innovation in their respective fields. Among the honorees, here are five from the marketing and advertising category that stand out for excellence.

As with Forbes 30 Under 30, these honorees are listed in no particular order and are acknowledged equally.

Nina Yiamsamatha—Project Marketing Manager, Instagram

Yiamsamatha joined Instagram in April of 2015, after nearly five years managing brand and content strategies for Foursquare. This young professional oversees a team of product marketers that bring Instagram’s biggest functions to market, including Instagram Stories, the ability to post multiple photos and videos in a single post and face filters.

Since its launch last fall, Instagram Stories has gained a reputation for shaking up the social media arena, from influencer marketing to the way brands use the platform. Instagram’s search and Discovery features are attractive to young creators, and Facebook’s analytic tools allow brands to track ROI. Instagram Stories now reaches more than 200 million users a day—more than competitor Snapchat’s entire user base.

Through the efforts of Yiamsamatha and her team, the launch of Instagram Stories was so successful that parent company Facebook has added the feature to its social network.

Thea Neal—Social Media Leader, Hallmark Cards

Neal joined Hallmark in September of 2016 after several years of agency-level marketing and on-camera hosting. As the host of Hallmark’s show “Party 101,” Neal revamped the series into a light-hearted DIY series while also marketing Hallmark Gold Crown Stores.

She was the lead strategist for Hallmark’s collaboration with CMA Music Fest, the company’s influencer marketing program and leads social media for Hallmark’s Gold Crown Stores on Instagram and Pinterest.

As a legacy brand over a century old, Hallmark sells paper cards in a world now dominated by email and text messages. Neal’s digital native insights and on-screen personality help reach young consumers in a relatable way through how-to videos and inspiration, as opposed to hard selling.

Melanie Cohn—Senior Manager Of Digital And Social Media, Dunkin’ Brands

As the founder of Young Women in Digital, Melanie Cohn created a network of over 1,500 professionals either working or interested working in the marketing field. She joined Dunkin’ Brands in January of this year, where she leads the digital media planning and strategy for its Dunkin’ Donuts brand.

Dunkin’ has baked up a number of interesting marketing strategies this year, especially around the holidays. Cohn’s digital native perspective has helped launch campaigns across social media platforms, including Snapchat geofilters.

For fall, Dunkin’ partnered with Rue La La to create a “Girl on the Go: Fall Style” boutique. Open for one week only, the activation featured cross-promotion between the lifestyle shopping website and Dunkin’ Donuts to offer discounts and style ideas.

To celebrate Halloween, the brand resurrected a meme from years past—Dancing Pumpkin Man. One Halloween night in 2009, news anchor Matt Geiler donned a pumpkin mask and black unitard, then danced in front of a green screen to fill a hole in their programming. The dance went down in meme history, and Dunkin’ Donuts teamed with Geiler to help usher in its line of fall-flavored coffee drinks.

Alandha Scott—Head Of YouTube Originals Product Marketing

YouTube Red has turned a video-watching site into a source for original, streaming entertainment. Alandha Scott joined YouTube in 2012 after a year as product marketing manager for Google. Since then, Scott has been behind some of the site’s most notable features, including the first-ever YouTube channel “trailers.” These preview videos have become the primary marketing tool for creators and channels to encourage subscriptions.

Scott conceived and executed the first YouTube Creator Summit—a now annual event that gathers social media talent from across the world that fosters the influencer marketing economy.

This year, YouTube Red has produced a number of shows that appeal to the gaming demographic, including Clash-A-Rama and Fruit Ninja: Frenzy Force.

Eric Mogil—Director Of Digital Innovation, Michael Kors

Michael Kors, like many luxury brands, has been under pressure to adapt to a digital native consumer base. In 2011, Eric Mogil joined the company as a digital strategist and worked his way up the ranks to director of digital innovation over the span of six years. During his time at Michael Kors, Mogil helped usher in a new era for the brand through social integration, mobile technology and the KorsConsierge style-as-a-service platform.

In May, Michael Kohrs announced its Runway 2020 plan—a revitalization strategy that includes a major shift to e-commerce. The brand shuttered 125 stores and now places a significant interest in Instagram shopping.

The brand is combining fashion with technology through products like its Access smartwatch collection—devices that integrate Google Assistant voice-activated technology.

Eric Mogil left Michael Kors in November to accept the role of CMO at Token—a technology company that specializes in wearable authenticators. Token is manufacturing one ring to rule, err unlock computers, doors, start cars or pay for them all.

We at AListDaily would like to congratulate all those honored in Forbes 30 Under 30. Here are all the marketing and advertising honorees.

Adobe Launches Programmatic-Only Campaign For Ad-Buying Platform

Adobe is putting its money where its mouth is with Advertising Cloud, its programmatic ad-buying platform. The company launched a new multichannel ad campaign that will entirely be bought programmatically.

The “Experience Business” campaign will target C-suite executives, especially chief marketing, chief technology and chief information officers, and will be placed entirely using Adobe’s proprietary programmatic platforms.

“Today’s most successful brands focus their energy on delivering a consistent, unified experience through many different channels,” said Alex Amado, vice president of experience marketing at Adobe. “We’re using this all-programmatic approach because we can now effectively target this audience by analyzing their behaviors and actions online to deliver a more relevant, personalized experience across every touchpoint.”

Adobe will partner with the likes T-Mobile, Pandora and the Sydney Opera House to provide imagery for the campaign, which features everyday objects along with the tagline “Make Experience Your Business.” The campaign seeks to convey how companies must think beyond products and focus on providing a better product experience.

The messaging will use all facets of Adobe’s Advertising Cloud platform, from its media-investment planner to Adobe’s private digital ad marketplace, and will take advantage of both real-time bidding and direct buys.

This further marks effort by Adobe to educate marketers on the potential in high-end martech investment. Adobe released a report last week finding that three-in-four marketing executives don’t “get” their consumers, and programmatic ad buys dropped by 2 percent this year due in large part to brand safety concerns.

If Adobe can prove that programmatic works by advertising directly to CMOs, we may well see the trend turn around in 2018.

Sony Pictures Grows VR Business While Promoting ‘Jumanji’ Movie

Jake Zim, SVP of virtual reality at Sony Pictures Entertainment

The movie industry has taken full advantage of virtual reality as a marketing tool to engage audiences by immersing them into the worlds of its blockbuster films. Of the various studios, Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Entertainment have fully embraced both in-home and premium location-based experiences at VR arcades. As more arcades open and audiences become increasingly aware of VR, movie marketers are paying greater attention to the technology as major touchpoints for promotional campaigns.

“We’re looking at all of the VR distribution channels, and now we see in-home and location-based as being complementary,” Jake Zim, senior vice president of VR at Sony Pictures Entertainment, told AListDaily. “Location-based VR is a great way to introduce VR to a new audience and reduce some of the barriers that are inherent to the in-home VR business.”

Zim said Sony’s strategy is based on the idea that the world of the movie can stretch and embrace immersive opportunities like VR, which also include partnerships with The Void for Ghostbusters and IMAX VR for The Walk.  

“We look to create aspirational moments for audiences. When, where and how these immersive experiences take place is dependent on the experience itself, but we believe they can exist in parallel with the movie,” said Zim. “We’re also exploring options for scalable solutions that would allow us to distribute our virtual reality experiences into a larger network of locations.”

Part of that goal includes VRX Networks, which creates premium VR experiences and distributes them to its kiosks found in shopping centers and movie theaters across the US and UK. It helped develop The Emoji Movie VR experience and one based on the horror movie Jigsaw, separate from the one Unity launched in October.

VRX is also distributing Jumanji: The VR Adventure across its kiosks, an experience co-produced by Reality One and developed by MPC that’s related to the upcoming movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Although it is being designed as a standalone commercial experience, Sony Pictures will be using it as part of the movie’s promotional campaign. Also, even though these kiosks primarily use Oculus Rift and Touch devices, Jumanji and the Emoji Movie—both being Sony films—will eventually launch longer-form VR experiences for the PlayStation VR.

“Our business model is to create productions that come out in line with the film,” Nicholas Cooper, co-founder and chief creative officer at VRX Networks, told AListDaily. “For us, we leverage the huge marketing spends that are done by other studios. For the studios, we offer the added value of having a direct touchpoint with the consumer that’s not invasive.”

With Jumanji: The VR Adventure, users play a virtual table-top game where they control characters from the movie to lift a curse. Sony has released a wide variety of VR experiences over the past months, including one for Spider-Man: Homecoming, where players get to put their web-slinging skills to the test. That’s in addition to the Ghostbusters attraction that launched in partnership with The Void and Madame Tussauds in 2016.

“Predominantly, we create content that’s exclusive for the location-based market because the in-home market is so small right now,” said Cooper. “To monetize and get the best ROI (return on investment), the best place is location-based. The cost per thousand from a marketing standpoint for studios and IP holders is greatly magnified by the fact that we’re at locations where customers see them.”

VRX currently operates 35 kiosks, with plans to grow that number to 50 by 2018. It’s looking to have 300 worldwide by next summer, with expansions in South America, Europe and Australia. The company is also working with Sony Pictures to create a VR experience that will coincide with the launch of Hotel Transylvania 3 in July.

Cooper said people are willing to pay to try the promotional, interactive and narrative experiences because it’s unlike the passive 360-degree videos that many movie studios rely on.

“After being in the market for a couple of months, we’re starting to see repeat visitors,” said Cooper. “I think it’s value for the money. When people come in, they’re not afraid to come back because they’re happy with the money they’ve spent and the value they’ve received.”

According to Cooper, even though there’s a sales process that occurs before people are willing to slip a headset on, VRX’s conversion rate is near 45 percent.

Additionally, having both the family oriented Emoji Movie experience presented alongside the adult horror-themed Jigsaw one has given VRX some perspective about consumer behavior. Jigsaw tends to do better during weekdays, particularly on Halloween last month, due to how teens and adults have better access to these locations. However, The Emoji Movie remains the top-seller on weekends.

Another added benefit of having location-based VR experiences is that they continue to keep IPs alive well after their time in theaters has passed. Although the peak time for any experience is during the four weeks after a movie launches, when the marketing momentum and buzz fizzles, VRX keeps its experiences running for a minimum of one year. Families are still stepping into The Emoji Movie VR experience months after the film left theaters.

Cooper said that VRX is currently in talks with TV networks to produce VR content for popular shows for its kiosks. He explained that audiences continue to be drawn to locations because they already have an affinity for major IPs, so films, TV and VR could potentially leverage each other as access to the technology expands.

“It’s a growth business,” said Zim. “We believe strongly that the world of movie IP and known brands are the right way to introduce audiences to this powerful, exciting new medium.”

Globalized, Digital Retail Holidays Continue Brick-And-Mortar Threat

With online spending set to surpass in-store sales this Black Friday, it’s no surprise that interest in the retail holiday has globalized. However, as stores push their deals earlier and earlier, the bargains arms race only further emphasizes the increasing stranglehold that online retailers such as Amazon and Alibaba have on the retail market.

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza, a holiday invented by college bachelors in 1993 and co-opted by the e-retailer giant in 2009, culminated Nov. 11, and consumers from 225 countries and regions completed over $25.3 billion in transactions in 24 hours, a 42 percent increase from last year’s figure of 17.8 billion.

“It represents the aspiration for quality consumption of the Chinese consumer, and it reflects how merchants and consumers alike have now fully embraced the integration of online and offline retail,” said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group.

Black Friday Around The Globe

The ideas behind Black Friday are by no means unique to America. Boxing Day, a public holiday in the British Commonwealth, almost exactly has mirrored American Black Friday trends. Retailers have pushed discounts earlier to public pushback over mistreatment of retail workers. Similarly, Mexico has run El Buen Fin (The Good Weekend) since 2011 for the purpose of emulating the American holiday.

In recent years, however, international interest in Black Friday has grown exponentially. In 2008, overseas search queries about the retail holiday were almost nonexistent, but by 2014 the United Kingdom, Brazil and even Romania were searching for the holiday as much as Americans were. Global tech company Pitney Bowes attributes this growth to cross-border orders from overseas, registering massive growth in online orders from India, Kuwait and Japan.

International audiences weren’t the only ones to take to online shopping, either. More Americans have shopped online than in person during the post-Thanksgiving weekend since 2015, for the same reasons that e-commerce continues to outstrip physical retail in 2017.

Despite the globalization of the holiday, American participation has waned. According to the National Retail Federation, just 154 million Americans shopped on Black Friday weekend in 2016, down from the 226 million in 2011. Indeed, the NRF has not reported sales figures for the Black Friday weekend since 2011, and this year neglected to release any projections for Black Friday at all, instead expanding the reporting period to include the entire holiday season.

Digital Retail Vs. Black Friday

Plenty of online ink has been spilled over Amazon killing Black Friday, and as the holiday itself approaches, Amazon’s tactics so far haven’t proven it wrong. The company started rolling out its holiday deals on Nov. 1, causing a slew of ad “leaks” from conventional retailers in the following days. Amazon hasn’t just been cutting prices on its own stock, but forcibly subsidizing similar discounts by its third-party sellers as well. And, with its recent acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon now has a physical location for its Black Friday deals, further undercutting brick-and-mortar retailers.

Due to a recent ad run by Amazon in the UK, some parents are even accusing Amazon of “killing Christmas.” But Jeff Bezos and company aren’t the only ones acting as the retail Grinch this year. eBay announced it will ship for free and match any conventional retailer’s Black Friday prices until Nov. 17.

Online retailers are only contributing to the progressing obsolescence of Thanksgiving weekend as a retail holiday. Amazon invented a holiday in the summer of 2015, declaring “Step Aside, Black Friday” in the very press release announcing it.

Internationally, Google created the Great Online Shopping Festival for the Indian market in 2012. Though the holiday was canceled in 2015, it was only because competitors in India had begun to launch their own shopping holidays at around the same time. Amazon and Bangalore-based competitor Flipkart invented holidays of their own to tie in with Diwali, called the Great Indian Festival Sale and Big Billion Days sale, respectively. Amazon’s effort was so successful that they rehashed the same holiday just a week and a half later.

Amazon’s own holiday, Prime Day, experienced even more meteoric growth this year, growing 60 percent over the 2016 festival, though in terms of hard sales paled in comparison to Singles’ Day.

E-commerce giants like Amazon wield an exceptional amount of power, even making American cities pitch themselves in manners reminiscent of college application essays to host the company’s second headquarters.

So far, these titans of globalized online industry have been using this power to push back against Black Friday, creating proprietary holidays to the tune of billions.

Before long, physical retailers might very well need Alibaba or Amazon’s permission to participate in retail holidays at all.

Once Promising Tech, Brands Are Now Backing Off Chatbots

Chatbots were all the rage last year, but 2017 didn’t become the automated paradise marketers may have imagined. Despite a mad dash to embrace the new technology, marketers and consumers alike have been slow to adopt chatbots as a go-to source of engagement. Now, many brands are backing off, or at the very least, don’t know where to begin.

In a recent study conducted by LiveWorld, 60 percent of marketers said they hadn’t used chatbots to interact with customers. When asked why they didn’t use the technology more frequently, 58 percent said it simply wasn’t enough of a priority and 43 percent said they lacked a strategy. Just 40 percent expect their chatbot usage to increase.

“Trying to do too much too soon risks creating confusing and inauthentic interactions with customers,” Matt Valle, senior vice president of consumer products and services at Magid, told AListDaily. “More complex give-and-take interactions will take much longer to develop and will require human intervention for the foreseeable future, negating much of the promised benefit.”

For hospitality brand Marriott, chatbots are still an important part of their engagement strategy and have been for some time. Toni Stoeckl, global brand leader and vice president of Marriott’s Distinctive Select portfolio, told AListDaily that the brand found success through trial and error.

“We sort of have to [give ourselves] permission to try new things. It’s okay to have it not work out and move on to the next thing,” said Stoeckl. “The fun part of emerging technology is that it’s always emerging and always changing. What may have been perceived as the value of chatbots in the past and what they would be used for has evolved. That’s why we do a lot of fast testing and proof of concepts to learn how it could actually impact marketing or provide value to our guests and travelers.”

Marriott’s Distinctive Select brands include Moxy, Aloft and AC hotel chains, which are catered to the younger, more tech-savvy traveler. Stoeckl said that Aloft is often used as an incubator for new tech, including keyless entry and a robot that delivers items to guest rooms.

The brand just rolled out ChatBotlr (pronounced “chat butler”) to all of its Aloft hotels. The chatbot allows guests to ask questions, request services, connect with the front desk or listen to an Aloft Live playlist on Spotify—all through their smartphones. Early research showed that two-out-of-three Aloft guests interact with and make requests through ChatBotlr.

As with any new technology, marketers may gradually adopt chatbots when trailblazers work out the kinks. Forrester predicts that in 2018, 20 percent of companies will use artificial intelligence to make business decisions while offering customer service and sales support through automated communications. While it’s true some marketers are hesitant to invest in chatbots, some of the world’s biggest brands are diving right in.

Capital One launched “Eno” earlier this year—a text-based AI assistant infused with a witty, human-like personality. In addition to providing information like credit balances and assisting with bill payments, users could ask Eno about itself and communicate with emoji. Toyota became the first brand bot for Messenger to debut a Super Bowl ad this year. The car company used NiroBot as a Q&A tool to have consumers familiarized with its newest crossover model, the Niro Hybrid. Sephora has seen an 11 percent increase in booking rates through the Sephora Reservation Assistant, according to David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products. During the company’s F8 conference, Marcus indicated that over 100,000 chatbots were in use through Facebook Messenger.

A new study by 3Cinteractive found that 40 percent of millennials interact with a bot on a daily basis. However, 71 percent of survey respondents said a chatbot couldn’t answer a question or help them.

Stoeckl said a chatbot’s worth can be measured by the value of its answers. ChatBotlr is pre-loaded with information about the hotel, the surrounding area and frequently asked questions, then uses machine learning to expand its knowledge with each interaction. For brands hesitant to enter the chatbot arena, Stoeckl said that’s okay.

“Don’t do it for the sake of technology,” he said. “Do it if it makes sense for a particular use case, and if it actually services your consumers, then totally go for it. If it’s a gimmick or if you haven’t found that use case yet, then it’s okay not to do it.”