Gen Z: From Impulse Buys To Experience Buys

Surprise! Gen Z and millennials have been busy saving, not spending. But not for their retirement. A new report by AMEX reveals that Gen Z and millennials’ considerable disposable income will be focused on creating memorable experiences, rather than trendy impulse buys. Yet Gen Z’s definition of “experience” might be more fluid than first imagined. 

Gen Z: From Impulse Buys To Experience Buys

Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012 represents about 27 percent of American consumers and has $360B in disposable income, per Experian. They’re a demographic not just known for their willingness to “vote” with their dollars on causes that they care about, like the environment and social justice, but also their trend-making methods of discovering new products and driving brand-focused social media engagement.

A new report from Amex, The Amex Trendex Millennial and Gen-Z Summer Spotlight, reveals how Gen Z and millennials are reacting to the economy: by prioritizing IRL experiences. According to the report:

  • Sixty-five percent of Gen Z and millennial survey respondents have been saving money for six months to pay for summer experiences 
  • Eighty-seven percent of Gen-Z and millennial survey respondents stated that they would be willing to splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Gen Z and millennial consumers in the AMEX survey listed the following costs as their budget for summer experiences, per category:

  • Concerts: $391
  • Music festivals: $375
  • Dining out: $341
  • Amusement/water parks: $335
  • Sporting events: $335
  • Comedy shows/festivals: $231
  • Theater/cinema performances: $230
  • Food Festivals: $225

But those numbers are just for in-person experiences—marketers should look at them cautiously. That’s because recent research from Deloitte reveals that about half of Gen Z consumers also see online experiences as a meaningful replacement for IRL interactions.

For Gen Z, IRL Is Also Online

According to Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends 2023 report, about 50 percent of Gen Z consumers in the US agreed with the statement “online experiences are meaningful replacements for in-person experiences.” In addition, 48 percent of Gen Z consumers surveyed stated that they “spend more time interacting with others on social media than in the physical world.” 

That means Gen Z’s definition of an “experience” might include events virtual concerts or live-streamed gaming events.

One reason may be that, according to data from the report, online gaming frequently offers Gen Z specific emotional rewards that mimic those received from positive IRL social interactions. For example, 73 percent of Gen Z respondents stated that gaming successes boosted their overall self-confidence and 76 percent reported that they saw avatar personalization as a part of their efforts to express themselves. 

The Takeaway:

Gen Z is intent on creating memorable a memorable summer, and they’ve been saving their pennies in anticipation of buying access to experiences that they see as worth their time and money. Marketers can explore new ways of connecting with Gen Z through hybrid or fully online experiences that leverage the demographic’s love of UGC and content that taps into their generational zeitgeist with authenticity. Learn more about Gen Z’s unique characteristics as consumers.

The New American Audience: 3 Demographic Facts Marketers Should Be Aware Of

As marketers work on stretching their budgets to meet the ROI challenges of the future, many are rethinking the very concept of audience. Yet, according to a recent report by NielsenIQ, only 23 percent of global marketers believe that they have the quality audience data that they need to optimize the value of their marketing spend. In this post, we present some additional facts about American consumers drawn from the most recent U.S. Census data that marketers can use to enrich their marketing strategies.

Audience Fact #1: Biracial, multiracial, and other “unlisted” non-white audiences represent nearly 62 million consumers.

There’s a reason for the recent increase in the visibility of multi-racial people in advertising: Biracial audiences represent ten percent of the American population. According to the 2020 US Census, 33,848,943 identify as two or more races. In addition, 27,915,715 people identified as non-white and not Black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native American, Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

Why It Matters: The visibility of ethnically or racially “ambiguous” people in ads and marketing content is becoming more common—but not, perhaps, at the pace of demographic changes. As Gen Z and Gen Alpha age—two of the most diverse generations in history—people who identify as multiracial or as “other” will likely expect representation in ads targeting their generation. 

Audience Fact #2: Only about half (47.3 percent) of American households are comprised of married couples.

While married couples are still standard sitcom fare, a significant slice of American households are helmed by single men (18.1 percent) or single women (27.3 percent). That’s a meaningful insight for brand marketers who may have to adjust their marketing strategy to target singles who may purchase differently than two-adult homes with or without children.

Why It Matters: While unmarried adults who live together and singles may purchase many of the same items as married couples, married couples are often two-income households—which may provide greater discretionary income if they do not have children. Marketers who deeply understand their audience’s demographics and how they shop can translate those insights into a more impactful marketing strategy.

Audience Fact #3: Older teens (15-17) represent just four percent of the population—5-14s are 14 percent.

Despite the high visibility of older teens in gaming ads and other campaigns targeting the younger set, children aged five to 14 represent 13 percent of the US population, while older teens aged 15-17 represent 3.9 percent. 

Why It Matters: Marketers selling products appropriate for everyone need to be aware that they should be targeting Millennial and Gen X parents, while marketers for 15 and up products should be aware that they are marketing to a very small market saturated with ads. Creativity and authenticity are critical for winning over the small 15-17 teen market who are ad skeptics and partial to influencer campaigns and short, engaging videos, such as those found on TikTok. 

Philanthropy: Good For The Soul And The Business With Tom Nolan, CEO At Kendra Scott

Tom Nolan serves as CEO of Kendra Scott, where he balances day-to-day functions and strategy. He was the first person in his family to graduate high school and attend college on sports scholarships. He worked the summers and never did an internship, so getting a job after graduation was difficult. Despite this, his work ethic landed him a cold-call sales job at a publishing company. His competitive spirit and work ethic caused him to rise quickly through the ranks, which helped him become successful in his career, earn multiple board seats, and achieve his goals. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors, Tom oversees Kendra Scott’s substantial omnichannel growth, global expansion, and evolving retail model. He has more than two decades of experience in brand building, management, and results-driven strategic planning from a diverse range of companies and is happy to be able to use his skills at a company that sees value in giving back.

In this episode, Tom and I discuss how determination led to his success, what he believes is the role of marketing, and the three pillars at Kendra Scott: family, fashion, and philanthropy. Tom tells us philanthropy is the pinnacle, and ESG has been a focus with Kendra Scott since the start. He gives specific examples of how Kendra Scott gives back to its community and employees, as well as a heartwarming event that convinced him he needed to be a part of this organization. Tom talks about the challenges of staying relevant in an attention-hungry marketing environment and warns that people can sniff out brands that are disingenuous. For Tom and Kendra Scott, what they do is not about a transaction; it’s about a connection. Ultimately, knowing, respecting, and loving their customers has propelled Kendra Scott to become a billion-dollar jewelry business.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How he became the first in his family to graduate high school and go to college
  • What Tom sees as the role of marketing
  • Why philanthropy is good for your soul and your business

 Key Highlights

  • [02:00] Being a first-generation high school graduate
  • [03:15] From college ball to Kendra Scott
  • [06:30] “I wasn’t going to be the smartest person in most rooms, but I know that I would outwork anybody.”
  • [11:20] Board seats and side gigs
  • [13:20] CEO’s advice to CMOs
  • [15:40] Eyes on the scoreboard
  • [17:20] The importance of philanthropy: “Giving back is the truest form of success”
  • [23:30] Philanthropy drives loyalty.
  • [25:00] Great marketing and hyperlocal campaigns
  • [27:10] Staying relevant in a noisy marketing environment
  • [28:45] What’s next for Kendra Scott?
  • [30:20] The impact of losing his sister and having his children
  • [32:40] Don’t waste time on things that aren’t important.
  • [33:20] Don’t lose your customers in the data.
  • [34:55] Brands to watch
  • [38:00] Knowing your customer isn’t enough. You have to love them.

Resources Mentioned:

 Follow the podcast:

 Connect with the Guest:

 Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Post-Production Credits:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

A New Crop Of NFL Influencers Offers Opportunities For Brand Marketers

The NFL’s audience has changed significantly over the past few years: it’s more diverse, female, and affluent. That means brand marketers seeking to reach audiences with complex content consumption patterns may find new opportunities for engagement with NFL influencers.

The NFL Brand Opportunity: Caution, Strategy, And Results

While NFL influencers play a vital role in driving sponsorship revenue for NFL teams, they also power deep brand-consumer connections that are challenging to achieve through other means. They leverage their powerful social networks to accelerate brand awareness and drive engagement among niche and hard-to-reach audiences. For example, per a report by SponsorUnited, The Miami Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill, averaged 183k likes, shares, or comments per post and generated the most engaged branded post on the list, with 3.4 million likes.

That influence is driving brands to connect with highly social NFL players as they attempt to leverage their networks and their power to reach new audiences.

However, as any marketer knows, brand partnerships can be risky—and high-profile campaigns can implode when personalities (or the brand itself) suffer a brand or PR misstep. That’s why influencer partnerships are often seen as a safer middle-ground for brands seeking to leverage star power via an endorsement without building an expensive ad campaign around a single personality. 

That’s important, as NFL viewers are not the same as in Madden’s glory days. For instance, according to Sponsor Pulse, 70 percent of NFL-engaged audiences earn over $100k per year, and 64 percent are under 39, and 58 percent engage with NFL-related content weekly. 

Today’s audiences are also more diverse and engaged on social channels that allow them to share their thoughts in real-time—making brand or social content fails (or successes) instantly viral. 

Statistic: Level of interest in NFL in the United States as of January 2023, by ethnicity | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Statistic: Level of interest in NFL in the United States as of January 2023, by gender | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Results can be powerful for brands, per Nielsen’s global study of football fans:

  • Eighty percent of viewers browse social media during games
  • Fifty-nine percent of football fans stated that sponsorship or endorsement would drive  their selection of one product  over another (if quality and price were the same)

The Takeaway:

While Nielsen’s study was global in focus, it tracks with how NFL fans engage with branded content and social media while viewing a game. According to a 2022 survey, sixty-nine percent of NFL viewers use a second screen after seeing an ad to find more information on a product or service that interests them. But those “ads” can also be social media mentions—or content delivered via a social platform, where NFL fans are already engaging during a game. That means brand marketers with an ad or a powerful influencer relationship can leverage that interest to drive conversions—simply by being present on social, even in the absence of an ad placement.

How Rare Beauty And Fenty Leverage Gen Z Values To Drive Media Value

For millions of fans, Selena Gomez is an icon of contemporary pop stardom—proudly Latina, openly embracing her “real stomach” and upfront about her mental health and body-shaming challenges, Gomez leverages authenticity effectively. For her brand, Rare Beauty, Gomez’s consistent messaging drives media value and boosts sales. The same could be said for Rihanna’s Fenty, which has helped transform the beauty industry with inclusive cosmetics. But according to a new report from Piper Sandler, the success of both lines reflects the power of retail’s most coveted demographic: Gen Z.

Gen Z’s Top Five Cosmetic Brands Are Mostly Cruelty-Free, Socially Conscious

According to the PiperSandler report, which surveyed 5,690 teens across 47 U.S. states, three out of five of Gen Z’s favorite cosmetic brands are cruelty-free and vegan. Two of the most famous—Rare Beauty and Fenty—are helmed by beauty icons who are outspoken on the topics Gen Z cares about.

Source: Piper Sandler

The fact that e.l.f., Rare Beauty, and Fenty have woven eco-friendly and cruelty-free principles into their branding and made it prominent is not an accident. Recent research shows that Gen Z tends to shop according to their values, per the PiperSandler report, and ecological concerns dominate that list, along with inclusivity and abortion.

Source: Piper Sandler

For brands seeking to connect with a generation through the media—signaling alignment with the topics they care about can easily increase brand engagement. In just two years, per Statista, Rare Beauty boasts 46 percent brand awareness among cosmetics users, compared with Fenty’s 53 percent. That’s significant, as Rihanna’s stardom easily eclipses that of Selena Gomez, but part of Rare Beauty’s appeal may be just that: Gomez’s deep investment in making Rare Beauty part of a personalized journey of self-discovery. For many Gen Z consumers, this may play as authenticity—something that major brands struggle with and often fail to create.

Gen Z Buys Based On Topics They Care About, On Recommendations From Influencers Who Represent Their Beliefs

There’s another reason why authenticity and connection via values make sense for brands. According to Nielsen, Gen Z is willing to change their buying habits to find products that reflect who they are and what they believe in. For Gen Z consumers, brands that reflect their values are more appealing than those that do not, even when the price comes into play. That trend appears to be global. A stunning 84 percent of Gen Z consumers stated that they buy brands based on their beliefs that the company is aligned with their values, according to a 2022 World Economic Forum Report. According to a recent Edelman study, 73 percent of Gen Z consumers only buy from brands they “believe in.”

Earned Media Delivers Awareness And Gen Z Engagement

According to Hootsuite, 83 percent of Gen Z stated that they shop on social media, and another 97 percent stated that social platforms are their top way to research shopping options. Entering Gen Z’s consumers’ social streams is a powerful way to drive brand awareness and translate that awareness into sales. And one simple way to do this is to connect with Gen Z around trending topics—or concerns—that provide an opportunity to showcase a product’s solution.

How Fenty Leveraged Earned Media

Fenty, launched in 2017, ushered in a new era of inclusive beauty products. For many makeup artists and consumers, the range’s now 50-plus shades demonstrated a familiarity with the diversity of ethnic skin colors that had been woefully absent in the industry for decades. That messaging translated into significant media coverage. As consumers’ social media posts praising the brand’s launch of a range of darker and medium to- shades that included a range of complex undertones rarely represented in other foundations gained traction, media outlets such as Vogue and Time Magazine incorporated consumer posts into new conversations about beauty inclusivity, untapped audiences, and ethnic representation in advertising. Fenty became the biggest beauty brand launch in history on YouTube in 2017, with 132 million views.

Why It Worked For Fenty

Social listening can yield powerful results for brands, from delivering powerful audience insights to amplifying brand recognition. Media outlets also practice social listening, so brand-linked trending topics can create new value through mass media coverage. In Fenty’s case, media coverage helped the new brand connect with audiences beyond its targeted demographic while introducing new insights that likely informed Fenty’s later expansion of its product line from an initial 40 foundation shades to 50. Fenty’s influence on beauty, inclusivity and representation in advertising is still quite strong, with publishers like Adweek and industry trade publications like The National Retail Federation’s blog highlighting the Fenty brand as a revolutionary force in beauty and advertising years after Fenty’s first Instagram post, even in absence of new product launches. Within the first six months, Fenty earned approximately $73 million in earned media value. Fenty garnered $100 million in sales within the first 40 days of its launch.

How Rare Beauty Leveraged Earned Media

While Gomez is a global star, Rare Beauty’s appeal might have been diluted by other cruelty-free, inclusive star-founded brands like Fenty. But Rare Beauty gained traction due to its strong influencer collaborations and its founder’s willingness to build the brand personally on platforms like TikTok while driving a public narrative around self-acceptance, independence, and inclusivity—values that, until relatively recently, were not the concepts most often associated with makeup brands. That shift in the national zeitgeist—towards brands that reflected the diversity and complexity of audiences—was seized upon by some of the most successful brands, led by Rare Beauty.

The Market Opportunity: Gen Z Is Spending More On Beauty, Despite Inflation Concerns

The Piper Sandler study found that Gen Z’s average spending on color cosmetics, skincare, and fragrance rose by 19 percent year-over-year to $313 annually. Color cosmetics spending, like lipstick, blush and foundation, rose by 32 percent year-over-year to $123, outpacing skincare for the first time since 2020.

That makes Rare Beauty’s influencer relationships, and Gomez’s willingness to walk the walk on social issues such as self-acceptance and body image key to Rare Beauty’s appeal to Gen Z. Earned media allows Rare Beauty to broadcast its brand messaging to millions while drawing audiences from multiple channels to social media spaces where it’s simple to click into a sales funnel.

For example, the brand’s collaboration with beauty influencer Nabela Noor highlighted the line’s inclusive foundation shade range while amplifying Rare Beauty’s message of celebrating diversity and self-love.

Maximizing The Marketing Budget And Being Responsibly Irreverent With Ben Mand, CEO At Harmless Harvest

Ben Mand is the CEO of Harmless Harvest, a pragmatic innovator, and a believer that business can be a force for good. Ben has successfully led Harmless Harvest to more than double its business in four years by transforming it from a brand solely focused on coconut water to a leader in premium functional beverages and plant-based dairy. Under his leadership, Harmless Harvest has streamlined its supply chain, invested over $1 million in Fair for Life and community support initiatives, and transitioned to regenerative organic agricultural practices to bring the company closer to its goal of 100% zero-waste. Ben sees the role of marketing as driving loyalty and advocacy in ways that benefit the business and delight the customer. He sums up his marketing philosophy as being “responsibly irreverent” and notes, “If you’re comfortable with an idea today, it’s going to be boring tomorrow.”

In this episode, Ben and I discuss the innovative and adventurous approach he has brought to expanding the product lines at Harmless Harvest and how he is leaning into the Constructive Capitalism model the founders built the company on. Ben tells us that he believes we are past the point of disruption-based marketing and instead focuses on placing the brand in places and, at times, when it makes the most sense that people would be looking for it. Overall, Ben’s pragmatic approach to innovation, the lifelong skill of maximizing a budget, and commitment to the company’s mission-led objectives have transformed Harmless Harvest from an unprofitable business into a durable and scalable company that is making a real difference in the world.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What Constructive Capitalism is and how it looks in practice
  • What they do with the rest of the coconut
  • What it means to be responsibly irreverent

 Key Highlights

  • [01:50] Phoneless in London
  • [04:00] Ben’s path from General Mills to Harmless Harvest
  • [06:40] Harmless Harvest overview: “Constructive Capitalism”
  • [08:20] Ben’s reason for joining Harmless Harvest
  • [11:30] What do you do with the rest of the coconut?
  • [13:40] What are the key insights Ben used to turn the business around?
  • [14:40] New Product Innovation Buildout
  • [16:30] Having a great product can help you overcome
  • [19:00] Strong velocity allows for expanded distribution
  • [21:50] Harness Harvest innovations and proprietary methods
  • [23:40] The state of business today
  • [26:00] What it means to be Responsibly Irreverent
  • [29:15] Being there when and where your product is most desired
  • [30:45] Maximizing marketing on a tight budget
  • [33:20] Lessons learned from growing up poor
  • [36:05] Confidence is key
  • [39:00] Leveraging technology as a lifestyle brand
  • [40:05] Brands to watch
  • [42:30] Marketing is a muscle that is strengthened on the front lines

Resources Mentioned:

 Follow the podcast:

 Connect with the Guest:

 Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Post-Production Credits:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

Mobile Gaming Dominates Play As Frequent Gamers Embrace Personalized Ads

A recent YouGov report shows mobile gamers represent the world’s most ad-friendly audience.

Mobile Gaming Takes The Lead

According to the YouGov report, Global Gaming & Esports 2023: Reaching Gamers – Everywhere, most gamers use their mobile devices most often when gaming weekly. At least 60 percent of gamers across every demographic surveyed use smartphones when gaming, with Gen X (45-54) showing the highest rate of mobile gaming adoption. Desktop, laptops and gaming consoles came in second and third in popularity.

Source: YouGov, Global Gaming & Esports Whitepaper 2023: Reaching Gamers – Everywhere

Globally, the study also found that for entertainment, gaming surpasses watching live TV for every demographic under 45, with Gen Z spending the highest average time gaming (9.8 hours).

Source: YouGov

Globally, Chinese and American consumers spend the most time gaming, with consumers in both nations spending roughly the same amount of time engaged in gaming activities (11.3 and 11 hours, respectively).  

Source: YouGov

For marketers, consumers’ affinity for mobile gaming presents new opportunities to connect with untapped audiences. Per the YouGov report, weekly gamers are already primed to engage.

Frequent Gamers Show Deep Brand Connections

According to the report, consumers who participate in gaming weekly are most open to receiving ads via social media, with 31 percent stating that ads on the platform inspired positive product perceptions. In addition, Gen Z (ages 18-24) weekly gamers are far more likely than others to rank in-game advertising as a preferred way to engage with brand messaging (seventh most popular versus third most popular among Gen Z).

YouGov data also reveals deep brand connections among weekly gamers. Half of the consumers who game more than an hour per week said they would like “deeper, more meaningful connections with brands” versus 45 percent of all consumers. In addition, weekly gamers show a strong preference for personalized ads. Forty-two percent of frequent gamers prefer personalized ad experiences versus 36 percent of other consumers.

Weekly gamers also have a higher tolerance for ad-supported content, with 54 percent agreeing that “It’s fair to watch ads in exchange for free content,” compared to 49 percent of consumers. In addition, consumers who game often have a higher level of trust in influencers (36 percent versus 26 percent of all consumers), are more likely to engage with ads on social media versus other websites (34 percent compared to 29 percent) and enjoy social media game experiences more than other consumers (47 percent versus 36 percent).

This data tracks with recent research from Fandom, which reveals powerful brand influences over gamers purchasing choices. Per the Fandom report:

Eighty-six percent of gamers reported being influenced to purchase a brand or product that invests significantly in gaming or on a gaming platform, with half reporting that they were “heavily influenced” to do so.

Millennials are more than 24 percent more likely to be “heavily influenced” to purchase than the average gamer.

Revitalizing A Heritage Brand And Climbing The Career Jungle Gym With Amanda Tolleson, CMO At WeightWatchers

In this episode, Amanda and I discuss Amanda’s path to WeightWatchers, how she’s working to revitalize a well-known heritage brand by tapping into the roots of the founder, Jean Nidetch, and what she is doing to bring new marketing ideas to life. Amanda tells us her three big focuses at WeightWatchers are rethinking the organizational structure and culture, making data-driven decisions to increase performance, and honing in on their new brand strategy. Amanda also talks about the depth of understanding WeightWatchers has of their target demographic, and Alan learns that he is a Life Craver.

Amanda Tolleson is the Chief Marketing Officer of WeightWatchers, where she is responsible for leading the company’s global marketing strategy across performance marketing, branding and creative. Amanda has over 20 years of experience building customer-centric, purpose-driven brands focused on creating unique value for the consumer. Amanda used to say she never wanted to be a CMO because she loved being able to focus exclusively on brand and market strategy. Still, as she tells us, Amanda thrives most when she is ten steps outside of her comfort zone, so Amanda threw her name in the ring for CMO at Birtchbox, landed the job, found out she loved the position, and then went on to be CMO of Maisonette before ending up at WeightWatchers. Now, she is using her experience and love of risks and big changes to shepherd a 60-year-old brand through a startup-paced transformation.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why your target audience has to be realistic
  • How Amanda is taking risks to refresh a 60-year-old brand
  • What WeightWatchers is planning for the future

 Key Highlights

  • [01:40] Remembering a runaway racehorse ride
  • [04:45] Climbing the career ladder jungle gym
  • [11:30] Amanda’s three main focuses at WeightWatchers
  • [15:20] Who are the Weight Watchers?
  • [16:30] Jean Nidetch created a movement that became a company
  • [17:30] Who is the Life Craver?
  • [21:00] Your target demo needs to be a real type of person we all know
  • [22:45] Connecting through counterintuitive messaging, partnerships, and content creators
  • [29:10] The costs and benefits of being a well-known brand
  • [31:00] The benefits of staying in your lane and focusing on a narrow target audience
  • [33:20] What’s next for WeightWatchers?
  • [37:00] The Duck ComposureTM Amanda gained from an early cancer diagnosis
  • [39:00] Stick with the journaling
  • [40:00] The challenge of fostering creativity within the flat hierarchy of ideas in the digital world
  • [41:15] Brands to watch
  • [42:30] Marketing leaders should work to establish the value of independent board members

Resources Mentioned:

 Follow the podcast:

 Connect with the Guest:

 Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

Red Alert: Heinz Courts Multi-Generational Relevance

With 62 percent of Millennial parents and nearly 40 percent of older Gen Zs sporting tattoos, according to a recent YPulse survey, Heinz is making a multi-generational play for relevance with its new tattoo ink.

Fill A Need, Solve A Problem

For many marketers, explaining how their brand fills a need or solves a problem is their first task— it’s an art that makes advertising complicated because audiences have to believe brand messaging is true. There’s another approach that often runs through organic buzz—the earned media value that accrues not just likes but genuine interest among audiences unfamiliar with a brand and its message. One way brand marketers can leverage earned media value is to take the branding maxim of filling a need and solving a problem into the wild, and becoming relevant to new audiences in an immediate, tangible way.

Recent EU regulations banning certain colors of tattoo ink have caused American tattoo artists to look for alternatives to the brightly colored inks should the US follow the EU. 

If it materializes in the US, that potential ban could impact the millions of inked Millennials and Gen Z teens who are getting tattoos with increasing frequency. According to YPulse data, in 2019, just 21 percent of young people reported that they had tattoos. In 2022, that overall number rose to 40 percent. Recent YPulse shows that even Gen Alpha are getting tattoos—despite most states banning the practice on those under 18. 

Heinz Goes Back To Basics—And Gets Extra Buzz

Heinz is already doing well with Gen Z. According to the Ad Age August 2022 Quarterly Brand Tracker, Gen Z listed Heinz as its 18th among the top brands showing brand equity growth. Part of this, say some analysts, is Gen Z’s penchant for purchasing nostalgia products, including foods that remind them of those swell preschool days. That’s a good thing for Heinz as there are 2.5 billion Gen Z consumers globally, representing the largest demographic group. 

As chemists and tattoo ink companies scramble to prepare for more potential ink bans and the popularity of Heinz-themed tattoos (exemplified by Ed Sheeran) rises, Heinz solving a problem for one of its core audiences starts to make sense from a branding perspective. 

Photo: Heinz

Heinz worked with Brazilian creative agency SOKO and tattoo ink manufacturer Electric Ink, to develop a product that it says is safe, based on its proprietary official Pantone color.

Heinz worked with five renowned Brazilian tattoo artists to create 57 original Heinz tattoo stencils to interpret the brand’s trademark, “57 Varieties.” 

Tattoo artist Helena Obersteiner stated, “I loved receiving this invitation! I love to draw and really admire brand communication.” Heinz will launch multiple pop-up promotions across Brazil to drive awareness in tandem with social media activations.

“A quick search of photos and hashtags on social media makes it obvious that Heinz fans love getting tattoos with our brand and products,” said Heinz Brazil brand leader Thiago Stelle in an interview. “Clearly, we had to do something extraordinary for them and, as a result, bring a new alternative to address the issue of harmful pigment ingredients.” 

View the campaign in Portuguese and English.

72 Hours At SXSW: Thoughts From A Creative Director’s First Year At The Festival

“This doesn’t happen every day.”

Robbie Krieger, playing a rare full set of material by The Doors, after Dennis Quaid dropped in to sing lead vocals for two songs at the Belmont, 3/14/23.

I’m big into pattern recognition, and it somehow felt important that it was 25 years ago that I made my first and only trip to Austin, Texas. 

I was in film and TV development back then, and I’d been invited to be a judge for the screenwriting competition of the 1998 Austin Film Festival. I remember the opening night party at the Driskill Hotel and loving the freewheeling music and film-loving vibe of Austin that had been immortalized for movie fiends like myself in Richard Linklater’s Slacker

Fast forward to now, and lo and behold I’m staying at the Driskill, wearing the sweet badge of an Ayzenberg colleague who went every year but had to drop out with a conflict. My goal was to soak up as much as I could in the short time I was there, just three of the ten days that the festivals and conferences would run and swim in the slipstream of the more than 300,000 folks estimated to descend on Austin to listen to the heartbeat of popular culture. 

Over twenty different panels offered up “The Future of” one thing or another, from music and film to design and healthcare, which is just what the doctor ordered for a creative with a bone-dry well, who just stepped off the most intense heads-down, live-in-the-present client treadmill of his life.

With over 350 panels and sessions and over 1400 musical acts playing this year’s South By (the official Spotify playlist clocks in at over 64 hours of music), I quickly gave up any illusions of seeing “the best” stuff and shifted my focus on the experiences that I thought I would get the most out of for myself and my tech and gaming-focused integrated agency The SXSW app is a mobile marvel, and guided by my RFID badge, an incredibly helpful and well-staffed volunteer army, and QR codes as far as the eye can see, I dove into Day 4 head first.

As an insatiable music fan 30 years into their career, I’m too old to be young, but also far too young to be old. This compass setting guided me to showcases that featured a blend of living legends like New Order, Robbie Krieger, and French disco legend Cerrone and up-and-coming acts like Loose Articles, Bartees Strange, and spill tab.

Bartees Strange was a standout.

Music is such a critical component of a creative’s life, from trending sounds of TikTok to the soundtrack of a trailer, and keeping your references both timeless and timely is the key to collaborative fluency. It’s also an enormous endorphin release to step out from behind your laptop and dance with your colleagues and new festival friends that happily accumulate during your time in Austin.

The friendliness of your fellow festival goers at SXSW cannot be understated (my tote getting nicked by this badge-wearing bandit notwithstanding).

I was also eager to check out the state of experiential, with no shortage of brands, films, shows and products setting up shop to use the power of SXSW to catapult into the social sphere. 

I won’t name names because I don’t want to throw any shade on what was undoubtedly a ton of hard work, but the playbook felt a bit tired and uninspired on the whole. Scan the QR code for an IGS effect, take a selfie at the booth or in front of our screen array, grab a bit of swag and don’t forget to use our hashtag. I was only there for a fraction of the fest, so please let me know what experiential moments you saw at SXSW that you felt moved the needle.

Look mom, I’m in a kaleidoscopic chip bowl!

The panels I attended were global, thought-provoking, uplifting—and entertaining as hell. Hearing stories from the front lines of The Infinite Frontier of Virtual Production at the Australia House was informative from a technical standpoint and affirmed what I’ve been seeing anecdotally at work—more women are in more positions of power in production than ever before thanks to the power of persistence and perseverance.

Listening to Joost van Dreunen, professor and leading academic on gaming and interactive, deliver a master class on “All About Games: Data, Trends, and What’s Next for 2023” was like drinking from the firehose.

Did you know that the number two global fashion brand in the world was Fortnite? With $5.8 billion in digital apparel, Fortnite is second only to Gucci and ahead of Ralph Lauren and Prada. 52 different video game companies hauled in over $1 billion last year, but the big fish keep getting bigger. Doja Cat is drawing huge audiences by streaming her Power Wash Simulator sessions on Twitch.

As a marketer, all this intel gets the hamster wheels spinning. I can’t wait to be back with my team to start applying this to our current workstreams.

From the fanboy perspective, sitting in on the Evil Dead Rises panel was pure bliss (gong hits will do that to you). Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell anchored a panel of cast and crew of the latest entry into the Evil Dead cinematic universe that now somehow spans over four decades.

The gong on stage left figured prominently in the panel 😉

Sam Raimi said “It’s all about entertaining your audience. With the Evil Dead franchise, we’ve left enough room for the audience’s imagination to fill in the dark spaces we’ve left for them.

Connect the audience to the wants and needs of your character and they will be more susceptible to the journey these characters have are on, from an epic quest to a walk down a dark hallway. Once that connection is made, you can deliver the maximum punch.”

Words to live by, for all of us. 

The Metaverse felt more Cronenbergian than ever.

One of my favorite professional experiences was leading creative for the go-to-market campaign for Oculus Rift in 2017. Launching the first consumer-grade VR hardware and catapulting VR gaming from ultra-niche to the mainstream was heady stuff, and it felt like a reunion of sorts to walk the XR Experience Ballroom and experience first-hand the insistence of the Metaverse as it continues to incubate and mutate. The dissonance of Meta announcing another five-figure round of layoffs while innovators and founders work tirelessly to launch the next killer use case was top of mind with the folks I chatted with on the floor. 

Comedians and drag queens unleashed a Texas-size torrent of frustration at the state of affairs in the ever-escalating culture wars.

The world at large flowed through SXSW. The night before I flew in, Bechdel test-acing film Everything Everywhere All At Once nabbed seven Oscars and became the most-awarded film ever almost a year to the day after its debut at SXSW 2022. Silicon Valley banks failing and Washington threatening to boycott TikTok were fiercely discussed.

Did I mention I was only in Austin for 72 hours? If you and your team are lucky enough to go to SXSW for the first time next year, here’s a quick checklist to get you off to a great start:

  • Use the SXSW GO app early and often, and overschedule yourself so you have options once you’re there. You still won’t be able to see everything, but you’ll give yourself a fighting chance.
  • High-profile events give you the option to request a SXXPRESS Pass that guarantees you entry at 9 AM the day before the event. If it’s important to you, have your app open at 8:59 and fire away, they go fast.
  • Don’t turn your back on your SXSW tote, even for a minute. 😉
  • Do as much pre-research as you have time for on the musical acts to ensure you’re seeing the kind of music that lights you up.
  • Take at least one pedicab ride to your next session; the drivers are a hoot.
  • Talk to strangers! I’ve never been to a friendlier fest where everyone is down for a quick chat and a scan of each other’s badge to follow up later.

So, after the dust settled, what did it all mean? What patterns triggered my radar the most? It came down to the people who were there, all drawn by SXSW’s stated mission of “helping creative people achieve their goals.”

The diversity of the attendees, geographically, gender, age, sector and style—from students to septuagenarians and everyone in between—matched the unique blend of bands and brands nearing or surpassing the half-century mark, inspiring and uplifting nascent movements and music.

These diverse and inclusive forces who linked arms together at SXSW, united in the cause to push culture forward, stood in stark contrast to the larger forces in our culture who sow discord between the generations and battle for a supremacy that history tells us is impossible to achieve.

When Krieger and the Doors arrived on the scene, they were leading voices in the counterculture, actively trying to incite the youth to wrest control from the corruption, entitlement and ingrained violence of the establishment. That battle, splintered though it may have become over time, still rages today.

I’ve seen the future, and it’s female, phygital, funky—and pissed off. 

SXSW is amplifying that message for the world, whether you like it or not.

David Rielly is Group Creative Director at and a regular contributor to AList.