The Rise Of Anti-Luxury Luxury

Originally published at AW360.

Article Takeaways:

  • Consumers increasingly value memories and experiences over things. Affluence has a new definition.
  • The old definition of exclusivity is less enticing than it once was. Inclusivity is increasingly becoming everything. 
  • Quality and craft still command price and denote upscale, but they’re not limited to haute couture and fine dining.

Brands Must Appeal To The Next Wave Of Big Spenders Turning Upscale Upside Down

Luxury is a loaded word. It conjures images of showy opulence and status symbols. That aesthetic still appeals to many–sales of traditional luxury goods are headed toward $1.5 Trillion in the next few years.

But to a new (especially younger) wave of affluents, it’s the opposite of what they want. For them, the idea of luxury is not captured by one external standard by a small (and consolidating, as LVMH’s recent purchase of Tiffany shows) group of accepted luxury brands. The whole point of having money to spend is that you get to define things (and yourself) on your own terms.

Perhaps the most shared recent photo of Bill Gates is a shot of him in line at a taco truck. It shows that today, tacos and tee-shirts can entice today’s big spenders as much as 5-star hotels and fine timepieces if brands understand a few key things about the changing mindset.

It’s All Experience

To the next wave, life’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do. The old distinction between “personal luxury” and “experiential luxury” is less meaningful as everything merges around a new consumer intent.

A colleague of mine puts it perfectly, “the age of the Michelin starred food cart has already arrived.”

Experience is an over-used word for a simpler truth–there is no more valuable a commodity than spending truly memorable, inspiring time and emerging more connected to people, places, and yourself.

2019 BCG Study noted the move toward single-brand digital and offline retail environments that reinforce the power of traditional brands like Gucci to control context, reinvent and connect with younger audiences that are driving their growth. Also, notably, the growing importance of influencers, across both traditional fashion-focused and paid celebrities and micro-influencers that connect around interests in travel, food, veganism, biohacking, tech, fitness.

Everywhere, experience is the star, and luxury goods serve more as souvenirs and keepsakes that accompany your journey. While affluence used to mean white glove, penthouse exclusivity; the next wave might cluster in street-level lobbies, wearing street style and eating street food.

Buy Less, Mean More

The scarcity of supply still drives value. But more than ever, scarcity of demand does, too. That means making purchases that feel uniquely yours —transformative, not just additive. For instance, the BCG study also revealed the perceived value of sustainability is growing fast. Nowadays, you might not think twice when even the most upscale hotel invites you to re-use linens. Because that which used to be decadently non-essential now needs to feel somehow meaningfully imperative.

Some may still be decked out head to toe in Chanel. But if you’re expressing appreciation for craft and artistry, you may be modeling the type of mix and match, casualwear luxury mindset that shows up in studies of younger affluents. Think John Mayer, whose appreciation for the mechanics and nuances of his multi-million-dollar watch collection is featured on Hodinkee, while the rest of his vibe is on display for Grateful Dead aficionados.

You Define It; It Defines You

More and more, the exclusivity defeats the purpose. Inclusivity makes you part of the richness of what the world offers. Above all, according to a 2019 YouGov Study, the value people seek most with their money is freedom. If old luxury was about showing you belong in an upscale strata, now luxury shows you transcend it. Your people are everywhere, and everything is available to you.

This mindset drives the importance of partnerships unconventional collaborations for the younger luxury buyer. For instance, sneakers that pair premium streetwear brands like Off-White with Nike result in something rare, exclusive and priced up to $3,000. It’s why Chanel partnering with Pharrell Williams, Rolex with National Geographic, Supreme and Stone Island, A Bathing Ape and Heineken. These brand collaborations are showing people how to mix and match to create a new vision of what’s possible for you.

Democratization By Design

A high-end personal trainer and financial planner are a tap away on the phone in your pocket. So are an entire economy of fancy cars and homes for the sharing. To the new wave, vintage and 2nd hand have become highly desirable treasures to hunt. Quality and craft still command price and denote upscale, but they’re not limited to haute couture and fine dining. Any non-essential, from taco trucks to jetshares, can feel luxurious, provided the service and delivery is executed exceptionally for just what it is. It’s what allows the people who buy it to be just who they are.

The big shift in luxury is a shift in expectations. As Kenn Fine puts it, “it used to be that consumers used luxury goods to signify they’d joined the club. Now, it’s about how these brands revolve around you, joining your life and meeting your intent. The value in buying something is you opt into a story, and it becomes part of your journey.”

The term luxury is still relevant. But even when qualified as casual, approachable, new or even anti, it no longer correlates to a single standard and segment. While you still can’t walk a block in Hong Kong without seeing a $25,000 watch in the window, most of the top 10 richest people in the world wear t-shirts and jeans. And those of us who help to build luxury brands are excited to see the aesthetic of Napa Valley, Silicon Valley, surfers and skaters, and global citizens is on the rise. And brands that rise with it, will need to perfect a version of luxury that feels more essential.

US Marketers Are Struggling In China, Report

A new report, “Decoding China,” by the global marketing consultancy LEWIS, reveals that U.S. brands are not achieving the desired success in the region due to a cultural knowledge gap and overconfidence.

According to the report, which surveyed 351 U.S. marketers, China, the second-largest global market, remains a priority for major brands stateside. Among the brands surveyed, 71 percent reported that they are currently marketing products or services in China; 80 percent said they feel their marketing has been extremely or very successful; 62 percent are increasing marketing and communications budgets in China, and 55 percent are planning to increase budgets in the upcoming year. 

Despite this, the researchers found that a serious knowledge gap, especially in localization, preferred social channels and technical aspects, prevents U.S. brands from succeeding in China. 

VP insight and research at LEWIS, Matt Robbins, told AList: “One of the main issues that the report uncovered is senior U.S. marketers’ false belief that they fully understand marketing practices in China.”  

In fact, 80 percent of the respondents reported that they completely or mostly understand Chinese marketing practices, while 88 percent said they are very confident in their ability to accurately measure their campaigns in the country.   

“The good news,” Robbins continued, “is [that] Chinese consumers are typically more homogenized than their U.S. counterparts, meaning campaigns don’t need to be overly personalized or individualistic in nature. That being said, the motivators that spur consumer purchasing are entirely different than those of U.S. consumers, and knowing the cultural principles behind those motivations will be key to US marketers having success in China.”

The research also found that 41 percent of respondents make a mistake of applying the same marketing plans in China as they do at home, disregarding platforms, demographics and cultural differences in the region. And another 30 percent of marketers surveyed admitted to being not at all or only somewhat familiar with Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms. 

“China is at the forefront of adopting new social media and message platforms. Unlike in the U.S., where websites are still the main place that consumers go to interact with brands, in China those interactions are happening on consumers’ mobile devices on platforms like WeChat, Weibo and Tencent, among others. If U.S. marketers are focusing a lot of their time on western social media applications (Facebook, Snapchat, etc.) or on the Chinese version of their website, then they are likely not reaching the audiences that they had hope,” Robbins said.

It is important to note, however, that another piece of the puzzle is a lack of transparency in marketing and communications industries in China, which 77 percent of the respondents identified as a tangible challenge to further marketing efforts.  

How A Growing Number Of Food Brands Are Using Street Style To Stand Out

A growing number of quick service restaurants (QSRs) and food and beverage brands are adding branded clothing merch to their marketing strategies.

TWIX is one of those brands as it just launched a 360-degree campaign and fashion tie-in for the nationwide release of its Cookies & Creme bars. The snack brand enlisted sneaker guru The Shoe Surgeon to create a pair of limited-edition sneakers, featuring tearaway design elements, modeled after everything about the Cookies & Creme bars. Only 100 pairs of the sneaker will be made and given away at drop in-store and online events in February, details for which TWIX will disclose via social channels just before the events.  

“Beloved in the world of sweet treats, Cookies & Creme is also a staple sneaker colorway, one that’s adorned every major sneaker brand and style. Sneakers have come in pairs, a left shoe and a right shoe, for as long as anyone can remember, and so have TWIX® bars. A sneaker collaboration made perfect sense for the national rollout of TWIX Cookies & Creme,” TWIX tells AList.

The limited-edition TWIX x and The Shoe Surgeon partnership was further brought to life in a social video spot that spoofs popular sneaker shows. Behind-the-scenes footage of the making of TWIX Cookies & Creme bars will be highlighted in a national television spot premiering January 27. In February, fans will get to experience working inside the TWIX factory (virtually) via a Snapchat portal lens.

Oreo also recently released its first-ever fashion collection with the help of three influencers to drive sales in key European markets. Oreo, like TWIX, isn’t really in the merch selling business. Both brands are giving fans a chance to win the wares, a strategic way to get the most engagement and awareness out of the activations. To win Oreo’s apparel collection, fans must purchase a special Oreo pack and enter the competition on and the brand’s social media channels. An activation like this will help maintain Oreo’s relationship with Gen Z as Oreo ranked fifth overall in Morning Consult’s list of Gen Z most loved brands.

Last year, Arizona Iced Tea and Adidas teamed up to create a pair of 99-cent sneakers. The resulting pop-up was so popular that police were forced to shut it down early due to the hordes of fans that arrived. In December last year, McDonald’s believed so strongly in the power of merch that it opened an online pop-up store to sell branded apparel and accessories year-round.

This most recent iteration of the branded merch trend goes back to 2016 when Taco Bell sold custom socks through a partnership with Los Angeles-based streetwear brand The Hundreds. That same year, Pizza Hut also released a Hut Swag Line with snapback caps and graphic T-shirts. 

Popular mid-Atlantic QSR Roy Rogers has followed in these brands’ footsteps with an ecommerce store called “Roy Rogers General Store,” the brand announced on Twitter this week. “Moderately priced” apparel and accessories that celebrate the brand’s cowboy heritage is the restaurant’s means of carrying its brand deeper into its consumers’ communities. The brand has 48 locations in the US.

Many QSRs have since hopped on the merch train, from KFC to Popeyes to Dunkin’. Merchandise lets companies extend brand awareness beyond one in-store visit or purchase and become a daily part of consumers’ lives. The incentive to appeal to Gen Z and millennials is strong too as these generations gravitate toward brands that reflect a genuine connection to street culture and athleisure wear.

FabFitFun Names Louisa Wee As First Chief Marketing Officer

This week in B2C marketing leadership announcements, Marriott International promotes a new chief sales and marketing officer for the Asia Pacific region, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center names a new chief marketing and communications officer, Oracle hires a former Amazon Web Services executive as their new chief marketing officer, BBC Studios names a new CMO and Jack In The Box adds three women to the leadership ranks.

FabFitFun Announces First CMO

Lifestyle subscription company FabFitFun brings Louisa Wee onboard to serve as the organization’s first chief marketing officer.

Wee’s previous position was VP of marketing strategy and analysis and programmatic media buying at Netflix. The press release announcing her new position notes that Wee will “oversee the strategy and execution for the company’s global marketing initiatives, as well as brand, content and creative programming.”

The Storage Acquisition Group (TSAG) Lands New CMO

The Storage Acquisition Group (TSAG) named Melissa Shandor CMO today, as reported by Digital Journal.

Commercial real estate firm TSAG noted that Shandor will assist in their success “through a layered marketing approach throughout its 30+ markets,” notably by driving rapid growth and expansion.

Marriott International Names Chief Sales And Marketing Officer For Asia Pacific Region

Bart Buiring will be transitioning from his previous position as chief operations services officer, Asia Pacific, to chief sales and marketing officer for that region, according to a press release from Marriott International. 

Buiring will lead operations related to “building the Asia Pacific customer base, adapting Marriott International’s brands and travel program, Marriott Bonvoy, to the local market, while also leading the sales organization and driving Marriott International’s Asia Pacific distribution and pricing strategy.” 

He is replacing Peggy Fang Roe, who will transition to the newly-created role of global officer, customer experience and new ventures for Marriott International.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Appoints Chief Marketing And Comms Officer

Roxanne Taylor has been appointed to the position of chief marketing and communications officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, effective February 3. 
Taylor has spent most of the past 23 years at Accenture, with ten years as chief marketing and communications officer. Most recently, she has served as a member of the board of directors for Pure Storage, Whalar and OpenX. She has been named among Forbes’ “World’s Most Influential CMOs” and is on the board of directors of the Ad Council.

Ariel Kelman Joins Oracle As Chief Marketing Officer

CNBC reports that former Amazon Web Services worldwide marketing VP Ariel Kelman is moving to Oracle to take over the chief marketing officer role. 

Prior to AWS, Kelman served as head of worldwide marketing for Salesforce. Rachel Thornton is replacing him as VP of worldwide marketing for AWS.

Starbucks CMO Joins Kaiser Permanente Board Of Directors

Matthew Ryan, chief marketing officer for Starbucks, has joined the boards of directors for Kaiser Health Plan, Inc. and Hospitals. According to a statement from Kaiser Permanente CEO Greg Adams, Ryan’s “knowledge and experience will help the organization maintain its position as an industry leader. [He] is a strong addition to our boards and we look forward to his contributions.”

BBC Studios Appoints New CMO

Nicki Sheard, the former head of marketing of BBC News, has a new role with the broadcaster as CMO of global marketing strategy, The Drum reports

Sheard, who is set to begin the new role in March, most recently served as chief marketing officer for Charlotte Tilbury Beauty.

Jack In The Box Promotes Three Women To Top Leadership Roles

Jack in the Box’s former VP of marketing communications, Adriene Ingoldt, has been promoted to SVP and chief brand and experience officer. QSR Web reports a handful of promotions, including this position. 

Additionally, VP of product marketing Jennifer Kennedy, a 10-year Jack in the Box veteran, was named SVP and chief product and innovation officer.

Editor’s Note: Our weekly careers post is updated daily. This installment is updated until Friday, January 17. Have a new hire tip? We’re looking for senior executive role changes in marketing and media. Let us know at

Job Vacancies 

Vice President, Global MarketingShiseido Americas CorporationNew York, NY
Vice President, Creative MarketingFOX CorporationNew York, NY
Chief Marketing OfficerForresterCambridge, UK 
Senior Vice President Of MarketingClear Channel OutdoorNew York, NY
SVP–Creative MarketingWalt Disney TelevisionBurbank, CA
Vice President, Marketing StrategyParamount PicturesHollywood, CA

Make sure to check out select job vacancies on our Careers page.

LinkedIn Wants To Help Humanize Brands With Live-Streaming

This week in social media news, LinkedIn expands its native live-streaming to all company pages, Instagram is officially testing direct messaging on desktop and a new report shows Facebook-owned apps dominated downloads in 2019.

LinkedIn Expands Live-Streaming

LinkedIn Live, which was originally available only to selected users, can now be used by any company page through the page manager who needs to apply for access.

Why it matters: Expanding its native live-streaming feature aligns with current user habits as LinkedIn users are 20 times more likely to share a video on the platform than any other form of content. With live-streaming, brands have seen seven times more reactions and 24 times more comments versus standard video posts on LinkedIn, enabling them to better humanize their brand.

The details: LinkedIn’s live-streaming option was only available in the US, but this new update will allow any company page to reach page followers via sight and sound. The platform plans to support video streaming via third-party tools including Socialive, Wirecast and Restream.

Instagram In Test Phase Of Desktop-Based Direct Messaging

Instagram has confirmed that it will give a select group of users access to direct messaging through its desktop version.

Why it matters: Access to direct messaging on the web-based version of Instagram will let marketers more efficiently monitor customer service queries. The expansion will also benefit those users who have restrictive data plans or limited network access.

The details: Instagram’s web-based DM test was first spotted in February last year, but the platform says the process is currently “still very much in test phase.” Per Social Media Today, reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, upon first discovering the test, noticed that through DM on Instagram’s desktop version, thread information is displayed as a sidebar similar to Facebook messenger.

Facebook-Owned Apps Top Most Downloaded List Of 2019

Sensor Tower’s latest data report lists the most downloaded apps of 2019 across Android and iOS with Facebook leading the way.

Why it matters: Though Facebook-owned apps dominated Sensor Tower’s list, the data shows that TikTok outpaced Facebook messenger and Facebook itself. 

The details: WhatsApp came in first, Facebook messenger in third, Facebook in fourth and Instagram in fifth. It’s no surprise that TikTok landed the second spot on the list but what’s interesting is that Twitter was at the bottom. Short-form video app Likee, which has over 200 million users worldwide, came in sixth, just under Instagram.

TikTok Testing New Content Stream Inspired By Snapchat

According to The Financial Times, TikTok is looking to add a curated content stream, which would highlight selected content from popular creators and professional publishers.

Why it matters: TikTok has come under fire for displaying controversial posts that appear next to ads. A highlight stream similar to that of Snapchat’s discover stream would allow TikTok to maximize its revenue potential while giving moderators more control over top content. 

The details: TikTok seems to be following in the footsteps of Snapchat, which has seen huge success with its discover feed. In Q3 2019, Snapchat said that over 100 of its discover channels now reach, on average, audiences in the double-digit millions monthly. A curated stream for TikTok would give it more control over users’ viewing experience.

Twitter Considers Tipping Via Tweets And A User Rating System

On a mission to improve the overall Twitter experience, the platform is considering adding more features such as its own payment options and a user rating system.

Why it matters: Exchanging money through tweets could give popular tweeters a new revenue stream and having a user rating system in place could prevent negative behavior from bullies and trolls.

The details: According to The Information, Twitter users could potentially one day send each other money via tweets though no such project is actively in development. The second feature Twitter is thinking of adding is a user rating system like on Lyft, which would work to provide “an understanding within the marketplace that if you behave a certain way, that your reputation will be impacted in a way that can have adverse consequences.”

Pinterest Becomes Third Top US Social Network, Beating Snapchat

An eMarketer report says that in 2019, Pinterest outpaced Snapchat, making it the third-most-popular social network in the US behind Facebook.

Why it matters: Pinterest avoids being labeled as a social network but it continues to introduce features that emphasize commerce through shoppable media. Its new features for mobile marketers and the fact that it went public in April last year may have contributed to its expansion.

The details: eMarketer estimates that Pinterest’s user base grew 9.1 percent to 82.4 million last year whereas Snapchat grew 5.9 percent to 80.2 million. This year, Pinterest will expand 2.8 percent to 88.3 million and Snapchat will grow 3.6 percent to 83.1 million.

Facebook Gaming Outperforms Twitch, YouTube And Mixer

According to Mobile Marketer, a study by StreamElements and found that last month users on Facebook increased viewing times of gaming livestreams by 210 percent from a year prior.

Why it matters: Last week, The Information reported that Twitch’s ad revenues fell short of expected revenues by 50 percent. Further indicating Twitch’s decline is the fact that the platform’s share of the live streaming market slipped from 67 percent in 2018 to 61 percent in 2019. Twitch launched in 2011 while Facebook Gaming started in 2018.

The details: The study shows that last month Facebook Gaming boosted its share of live streaming to 8.5 percent from 3.1 percent a year earlier, maintaining its position as the third most popular platform. In comparison, YouTube Gaming holds a 28 percent share while Mixer ranges from two percent to three percent. 

Reddit Bans Content That Deceptively Impersonates People, Entities 

In an update to its guidelines, Reddit has outlawed impersonations and deepfake content.

Why it matters: Reddit is following competing platforms’ lead as Facebook and TikTok recently also banned misleading manipulated videos.

The details: Though Reddit stated that impersonation is one of the “rarest report classes we receive,” it said that the move is a precautionary one meant to prevent “malicious deep fakes of politicians . . . or other, lower-tech forged or manipulated content that misleads.”

Male Influencers Are Earning More Than Female Influencers

Influencer analytics company HypeAuditor surveyed over 1,600 influencers from over 40 countries and found a growing pay gap between male and female influencers. 

Why it matters: The findings aren’t surprising given the lack of industry standards and rules in the influencer marketing industry.

The details: The report splits influencer fees into four categories: ‘per post,’ ‘per story,’ ‘per post and story’ and ‘per post, story and video’ (excluding IGTV). With the average price of $1,411 per post for male influencers versus $1,315 for female influencers, there’s a seven percent difference between the average price. Additionally, male influencers receive 34 percent more for stories as their average price per story is $809 compared to $633 for females.

Editor’s Note: Our weekly social media news post is updated daily. This installment will be updated until Friday, January 17. Have a news tip? We’re looking for changes to and news surrounding social media platforms as they relate to marketing. Let us know at

Virtual And Mixed Reality Dominate CES As Consumer Adoption Of Tech Goes Mainstream

2020 is looking like the year where virtual reality moves beyond the early adopter phase and goes mainstream. Here’s what brands need to know to best leverage the tech.

CES is a wrap and as expected, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) news and devices dominated. While we can’t possibly cover it all, we wanted to draw attention to some of the highlights that are most relevant to the future of mixed reality (XR) and your business. 

The AR/VR & Gaming area at CES was huge this year and we expect it to continue growing as technology advancements and XR become more commonplace in homes and handheld hardware. 

Qualcomm Teams Up With Niantic For AR Glasses

What’s Happening: Pokémon Go creator, Niantic, has partnered with Qualcomm over a multi-year partnership to create AR glasses utilizing the XR2 chip. Like the XR1, XR2 is specifically developed for VR/AR applications, but new features such as 5G connectivity, voice-based interaction, eye-tracking, passthrough and much more signals the next generation of consumer AR and VR products.

Why it Matters: If you haven’t been thinking about AR/VR applications for your business this is a pretty big indicator that we’re moving toward an augmented future and now is a great time to get started. Niantic’s arguably the most well-known name in AR, partnership news is a good indication that you can expect AR to grow well beyond what we see today. 

Inconspicuous XR

What’s Happening: AR glasses seem to be the next big foray into our everyday life and the challenge is to make them fit naturally. From Norm Glasses and Nreal’s Mixed Reality glasses to Samsung’s venture into AR and Panasonic’s VR concept, we’re seeing a big push to normalize AR/MR (mixed reality) glasses and VR headsets to keep them looking like everyday products. 

Why it Matters: This decade we’re going to see AR and MR glasses become a part of our daily life. Now’s the time to start thinking about how brands can leverage these features. Think next-level QR codes that users can interact with in real-time as they explore a city or a museum while the info shows up directly on their discreet glasses. Normalization for AR/VR tech is a big deal and could be the key to moving from early adopter phase to being as widely used as smartphones. 

Breathing New Life Into Less Capable VR Headsets

What’s Happening: Pimax announced a couple of headsets called the “Artisan” which are tailored to entry-level users. The pair of headsets will give consumers an option of which route they want to go when jumping into VR. One includes integrated audio and other expected features from a VR headset, while the other is barebones and provides options to users to upgrade as they see fit. The NOLO tracking features is where this gets interesting. NOLO VR tracking can take a 3DOF (3 Degrees of Freedom) headsets wherein users perspective is fixed and can convert that to 6DOF (users are able to move freely in a virtual space).

Why it Matters: It seems that with both the entry-level Pimax and NOLO Tracking are aimed at getting more people into VR. The NOLO VR Tracking specifically aims to breathe new life into 3DOF headsets, such as Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR (7.8 million total units shipped), allowing a much larger install base to take advantage of 6DOF VR experiences.

How QSRs, Food Brands Are Taking A Bite Out Of The Influencer Marketing Playbook

Originally published on ION.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by To get up to speed on the rapid changes affecting the influencer marketing landscape, click here.)

In 2018, Gen Z made 14.6 billion restaurant visits, accounting for a quarter of all the food industry traffic. The young generation’s preferences have inspired quick service restaurants (QSRs) as well as food and beverage brands to refine their offerings, experiences and loyalty programs. 

So where does influencer marketing fit into QSR marketing strategy? Nearly three-quarters of all Gen Z and millennials follow influencers on social media and half of millennials say they trust influencers to give good advice about the brands and products they’re promoting. Gen Z trust, coupled with the fact that the demographic spend an estimated $143 billion a year makes it easy to understand why food and beverage companies are partnering with influencers. Ahead we examine how influencers’ roles in food marketing differ from that of beauty and gaming, and the best practices for QSR influencer marketing.

There are several ways a QSR or food brand can leverage influencers. The first is a sponsored social media post. In the case of Chipotle, the fast food giant turned to video content in 2019 when it partnered with YouTuber David Dobrik for a National Burrito Day challenge on TikTok, dubbed #ChipotleLidFlip. The six-day campaign was inspired by a video of a Chipotle employee that went viral. Dobrik recreated the video, which shows himself flipping the lid on a Chipotle burrito bowl container, then challenged TikTok users to create their own versions. The result was 110,000 submissions with the hashtag attracting over 230 million views in one month.

“The target audience for food-related campaigns tend to be more broad than other categories. While this gives a brand a larger pool of influencers to work with, it can make it more difficult to scale down to the specific ones that are most relevant to a campaign,” says David Neuman, head of influencer strategy at RhythmOne.

Neuman recommends identifying those who are already posting about the brand organically, and if they meet other criteria–like being brand safe, showing high engagement rates or high-quality content–add them to a list of potential influencers to activate for the program.

QSR and food and beverage brands are also engaging sponsored influencer posts with the budget-friendly approach of using nano- and micro-influencers. Wellness and food influencer and holistic nutritionist Remy Morimoto, who goes by “veggiekins” and has 113,000 followers, posted this picture detailing how a turmeric glow superfood latte mix from Pukka Herbs helps her stay healthy during her busy travel schedule. Though it doesn’t feature the product front and center, the vivid post shows an energized Remy in her kitchen holding a cat mug that would appeal to most Gen Z. Morimoto’s caption drives the sponsored post home as it details her tips for boosting the immune system, a natural Pukka Herbs tie-in. 

The key takeaway for marketers here is providing your influencer with a campaign brief that encourages them to create content aligned with a brand’s voice. This helps generate more engagement, and when executed organically, will win over Gen Z and millennials, who appreciate when influencers appear authentic and genuine.

Additional roles influencers can play in a food marketing strategy include hosting an interactive in-store experience, becoming a brand ambassador or reviewing a product or dining experience via their website or blog.

“We’ve seen many food-related brands (and other verticals too) migrate away from one-off campaigns to brand ambassador programs. Leveraging a smaller pool of influencers throughout an entire year will provide more credibility around their usage of the product and will help to build an ongoing rapport with their followers. It’s also a great way for influencers to showcase the many use cases of going to a QSR–breakfast, lunch, dinner, celebrating moments, a quick meal, trying a new product and more,” says Neuman.

Neuman recalls partnering with a major QSR brand on an influencer program that involved five mom influencers attending an interactive NYC pop-up—designed by interior designer Nate Berkus—to test various items on the QSR’s new menu. With the new products front and center, the activation drove significant awareness and engagement around the brand and campaign, which ultimately saw an earned media value (EMV) or return on investment (ROI) of $22 for every $1 spent. In terms of measurement, QSRs should focus on targeting how influencers drive in-store visitation.

According to Neuman, another successful tactic is demonstrating value through promotion pushes or limited time offers. Incorporating multiple use cases in a single campaign, like going to a QSR to celebrate a family milestone or promoting the QSR as a destination for a quick yet high-quality meal, is another best practice Neuman suggests following.

Though QSR and food influencer marketing methods seem straightforward, like every vertical, there can be pitfalls to social content. “One challenge is ensuring that the food being made for the influencer puts the brand in the best light. Fast food brands can easily overcome this when creating a TV commercial, but when an influencer goes in-store and gets a sandwich on the fly, it might not always look as presentable as the brand wants it to be. We recommend keeping the store owner in the know about the campaign and coordinating the influencer’s exact arrival time to ensure everything is being made up to company standards and leads to content that puts the product in a positive light,” says Neuman.

Sky Zone’s Josh Cole On Marketing And Brand Partnerships

During the 190th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Josh Cole, the chief marketing officer at Sky Zone. Sky Zone is an active environment for adults and kids with gravity-defying aerial attractions, boasting more than 210 locations around the world.

Cole began his career with a short stint in financial services before making a jump into the entertainment industry at Universal Studios parks and resorts division. He joined as the first digital team, specifically focused on internet marketing. He was involved in starting all of their social media and digital marketing from the beginning.  Five years ago, he made the “jump” to Sky Zone to widen his responsibilities and oversee “all things marketing.”

Cole discusses his gratefulness that someone took a chance on him. “You have to hire for intangibles. You’ve got to find someone who is smart, curious and has the right personality to dig in.” He shares the importance and health benefits of “active” play. “We know that we have the highest awareness, but awareness doesn’t mean anything unless it turns into visits.” Cole discusses the importance of GX (guest experience), research and branding.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”: 

  • Josh’s background and journey into marketing. (01:18) 
  • A unique story: the big jump from financial services to marketing. (03:39)  
  • The “soaring” business of Sky Zone. (08:21)  
  • The key factors that differentiate Sky Zone from other parks. (11:56)  
  • Three elements for how the “totality of marketing” comes into play. (16:22)  
  • The challenges and opportunities for franchise marketing. (22:29)  
  • Advantages of “battle-tested” marketers. (27:25)  
  • Sky Zone’s partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines. (29:01)  
  • Josh’s defining moment/experience that makes up who he is today. (33:58)  
  • Josh’s advice for a young marketer starting out. (36:35)  
  • Current brands to watch. (38:39)  
  • The future of marketing and opportunity for marketers. (41:09)  
  • Linking commerce to culture, naturally. (42:53) 

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 opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

USPS, Amazon, Google Are Most Trusted Brands Across Generations

Gen Z shoppers are less trusting of brands compared to Boomers, according to Morning Consult’s report, “Most Trusted Brands—The State of Consumer Trust.”

Ongoing data and privacy breaches in the last few years have cost brands big—that’s in terms of dollars and a loss of consumer trust. Yet the findings indicate consumers tend to have more trust for larger brands. According to Morning Consult, three-quarters of Americans trust the average major company to consistently fulfill its promises. 

While most brands remain largely well trusted by consumers, there’s still a generational gap between those trusted by young consumers versus older generations. Morning Consult found that USPS, Amazon and Google are the most trusted brands across generations. Gen Z and millennials have the most faith in Google, which earned the top spot, followed by Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and PlayStation. Gen X and Boomers, on the other hand, trust USPS the most, followed by Google, Amazon, The Hershey Company and PayPal.

On why consumers trust USPS and Paypal, reasons include they’re reliable, they deliver the mail no matter the weather, they have security measures and you’re guaranteed to get what you order.

Younger consumers are more likely than older adults to prioritize ethical matters when considering which brands to trust. A majority of Gen Z and millennials are less likely to buy from brands that are not ethically or responsibly run.

Reliability and data protection remain necessary blocks to retain consumer confidence, as 73 percent of participants said protecting personal data is very important when considering whether to trust a company. This is followed by 71 percent who said making products that work as advertised is important. Of the most trusted brands, only two—YouTube and Android—were founded after 2000.

The three areas of distrust that brands need to address to gain more consumer trust are protecting data privacy, making what’s in fine print clear and easy to understand and treating employees better than required by law.

Morning Consult’s findings are based on 16,700 interviews per brand for 2,000 brands conducted from October 2-December 2, 2019 as well as interviews with 2,200 US adults from December 3-5. The surveys asked participants: “How much of you trust each brand to do what is right?” with the options of answering “a lot,” “some,” “not much” or “not at all.”

Why Mixing Influencers And Events Is The Next Big Thing In Experiential

Originally published on ION.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by To get up to speed on the rapid changes affecting the influencer marketing landscape, click here.)

Nearly half of marketers are spending a quarter of their marketing budget on events and 41 percent of marketers deem experiential as their top channel. At the same time, brands are expected to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. Combine the two—influencers and events—and you have one of the biggest trends in experiential marketing today. Ahead we take a deep dive into the dynamic event model and share an expert’s take on how to throw successful events that mix influencers and experiences and ultimately drive results.

Digital and social media marketing efforts help pique consumers’ interest, but experiential events drive action. That’s where influencer events play into a brand’s larger strategy. When brands invite influencers to an event, more likely than not the influencer will post an organic or sponsored Instagram photo or video highlighting a particular item or service. This type of promotion, known as user-generated content (UGC), could save the brand the money it would’ve spent on creating an ad or sending out mailers featuring the same item or service. 

UGC as a result of events with a heavy influencer presence has a two-fold effect. One, it increases brand awareness, leading to more followers or visits to a brand’s site, helping to drive sales. Because influencers are more trusted spokespeople than celebrities, UGC inspires consumers to try a product themselves. And given 82 percent of people are more likely to buy an item after seeing or trying it, UGC also has the power to get consumers into brick-and-mortar spaces.

“These events not only help with brand awareness but also enable us to get face-to-face time with our influencers and editors as well as fans of the brand, as a way to thank them for their continued support. It’s good to get them connected with the people behind the brand as well as educate them on a personal level. This makes them more loyal to the brand,” explains integrated communications senior manager, and frequent events organizer Francia Cooper.

In pursuit of the ultimate brand experience last year, Taco Bell opened a branded hotel and resort in Palm Springs for super fans, peppering in influencers to make the overnight stay one for the books. The fast fashion of food invited mega makeup influencer Jeffree Star as well as singer-songwriter Tyler Conroy and Tarun Sinha, the Taco Bell sommelier who pairs wine with Taco Bell menu items.

“The overall strategy with these types of events is to invite influencers who have a genuine love for the product and the brand overall,” said Cooper,  who has helped major beauty brands host similar influencer events.

Last year Twitch’s yearly three-day convention TwitchCon drew in 25,000 attendees per day. There, both major gamers and gamer fans engaged in cosplay competitions, music performances and a singing competition known as Stream Star that ends in a record deal with Columbia. At TwitchCon 2018, mega Twitch gamers DrLupo and Ninja were the focal points of a branded Hershey’s booth, which Ninja told followers about in advance on his Instagram.

Pop-ups are also a popular type of event that direct-to-consumer brands use to create buzz. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Shopbop held an influencer-studded New York Fashion Week pop-up. Before even entering, guests were greeted by branded Shopbop billboards on the subway walls leading to the party. Event standouts included influencers like the founder of fashion blog and collection Something Navy, Arielle Charnas, and co-creative director behind Oscar de la Renta Laura Kim, and interactive activations such as a customization booth and iPhone monogram station.

As for how to get the best return on investment (ROI) on your event, Cooper says to conduct competitive research then find a way to stand out from what everyone else is doing in the events space. An out-of-the-box, multidisciplinary approach, and ensuring the event is inclusive, is critical to leaving a mark. However, Cooper notes that a brand should only host influencer events if it aligns with their overall 360-degree strategy and end goals.