Instagram To Extend Hidden Likes Test To Some US Users

This week, Instagram offers to pay for creators’ IGTV production costs, Facebook expands its breaking news tag to publishers in more regions and the Federal Trade Commission releases updated influencer disclosure guidelines.

Instagram Offers To Cover Production Costs For Creators’ IGTV Content 

The offer is being extended to select influencers but has one caveat. 

Why it matters: IGTV has struggled to gain viewership since its June 2018 launch, making this a small incentive for influencers to ramp up IGTV content creation. 

The details: Bloomberg says that Instagram is willing to pay influencers thousands of dollars towards production costs in exchange for a set number of videos. The platform has already signed dozens of deals, the biggest being $250,000 for more than 20 posts. The partnership restricts creators from posting to YouTube and enlisting any third-party sponsorship for giveaways. One caveat is that creators aren’t allowed to discuss social issues, politics or elections in their videos.

YouTube Will Ask Creators To Clarify Whether Their Content Is Suitable For Children

The move follows an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over YouTube’s violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Why it matters: YouTube will also stop serving personalized adverts alongside children’s content, which, the platform says, could result in a revenue decrease for some creators.

The details: After the FTC fined YouTube $170 million dollars for its failure to comply with COPPA, YouTube was ordered to create a system to better identify content that’s aimed at children. During the upload process, creators will now be asked whether the video they’re publishing is suitable for children. YouTube will further its initiative via machine-learning to identify content targeted at kids. Comments on child-related content will also be disabled. 

Facebook Expands Publishers’ Access To Breaking News Tags In More Regions

The feature is being extended after Facebook’s year-long test in several markets.

Why it matters: The platform’s red “breaking” tag doesn’t impact news feed post rankings, but Facebook says they improve a post’s performance. Following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statements about free speech, it seems Facebook is attempting to reinforce its role of news provider. 

The details: After running a test that allowed more than 100 news publishers from North America, Latin America, Europe, India and Australia to identify and label stories as “breaking news” on Facebook, the platform found that people engaged more actively with these stories. Now, the breaking news tags will be available to selected publishers in Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

Federal Trade Commission Announces Simplified Guidelines For Influencer Disclosure 

According to, the brochure explains laws surrounding disclosure and sponsored content in a manner that influencers will understand.

Why it matters: The FTC has made significant efforts to mitigate misconduct in digital spaces. Earlier this year, the FTC slapped TikTok with a $5.7 million penalty after the platform illegally collected personal information pertaining to children. Later, it fined Facebook $5 billion in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The details: Entitled “Disclosure 101,” the FTC’s updated guidelines provide clear instructions on how to disclose a partnership and reiterates the fact that financial relationships are not just limited to a monetary transaction. If sponsored content appears in a live stream, the brochure notes, then the disclosure must be repeated periodically so that viewers who opt-in at different times see it. The brochure also states that influencers shouldn’t mention products or services they’ve never used.

Instagram To Extend Test Of Hiding Likes To US Users

According to Social Media Today, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri announced at the WIRED25 conference that the platform will extend its test of hiding likes on posts to some users in the US.

Why it matters: Expanding the hidden likes test to additional users in the US suggests that it’s generating results, but what those results are, remains to be announced.

The details: Instagram launched the initial test in Canada in May then extended it to seven additional countries in July. Still, Instagram hasn’t released any data on how no likes will impact engagement and metrics.

Report Shows Impact Of Instagram’s Hidden Likes Test On Influencer Engagement

The HypeAuditor study surveyed more than 154,000 Instagram influencers to examine the impact of Instagram’s hidden likes experiment. 

Why it matters: The removal of total likes is impacting overall engagement stats for influencers, but the results aren’t definitive.

The details: The study found that total like counts have fallen in regions where Instagram implemented the test. Nano-influencers have seen a pronounced reduction in some areas but not all. Brazilian influencers in the mid-tier influencer have seen a bigger hit while Japanese influencers experienced a spike in the major influencer category.

TikTok Partners With Yandex On Ad Sales

TikTok is collaborating with Yandex, “Russia’s Google,” known for its range of online services.

Why it matters: The collaboration gives marketers a way to reach Russian consumers on TikTok. Half of the Russian consumers use social media, making the county a ripe market for growth. This also means that TikTok is expanding the platform to third parties for ad sales to help expand its revenue base.
The details: Yandex advertisers will reach TikTok users in Russia through Yandex Advertising Network (YAN), the company’s ad-serving platform. The video ads will appear in TikTok users’ curated feeds in a format that Yandex adapted for TikTok. The ads will also be adapted in a mobile format and targeted at specific TikTok users.

Editor’s Note: Our weekly social media news post is updated daily. This installment will be updated until Friday, November 15. 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

Influencers Are Now More Trusted Spokespeople Than Celebrities

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.)

Influencers are the new celebrity—whatever their lead, Gen Z and millennial follow. Exactly how much influence does the new class of cultural tastemakers have on young Americans and how much trust do consumers have in influencers? Morning Consult’s new report, “The Influencer Report: Engaging Gen Z and Millennials,” explored answers to these questions to reveal how brands can leverage influencers of different scales to reach young consumers.

The report found that 72 percent of young Americans follow influencers on social media and that teenagers are most likely to follow multiple people. Among this group, men prefer to follow gaming and sports influencers whereas women prefer beauty and fashion influencers. 

According to research, gaining inspiration, learning about new trends and being exposed to interesting, fun content are among the reasons why young consumers follow influencers. “Seeing their successful lives inspires me to do better in my own,” one respondent noted, while another said, “I like to see the new beauty trends and what works and doesn’t work.” Voyeurism is also another reason young consumers follow influencers’ moves closely as one stated, “To see what they do with their lives and their wealth. It’s intriguing to follow their life.” 

For an influencer to impact a consumer’s choices, however, they must appear authentic. 58 percent of respondents said being authentic and genuinely caring about their interests is a very important trait for influencers to have, followed by 53 percent for being funny or having an engaging personality. Interestingly, only 10 percent ranked having a large following as very important. Additionally, both Gen Z and millennials said the influencer must seem knowledgeable about the product, brand or industry they’re promoting and the influencer must be the type of person the consumer can relate to. 

Surprisingly, influencers are now more trusted as spokespeople than celebrities as 50 percent of millennials said they trust influencers they follow for product recommendations compared to only 38 percent for their favorite celebrities. For Gen Z, top YouTube influencers are as popular as major celebrities. For example, as many Gen Z men are familiar with gaming YouTuber PewDiePie as know Lebron James, but the kicker is that PewDiePie is more well-liked. When asked to name their favorite influencers, respondents listed PewDiePie, Jeffrey Star, Shane Dawson, Markiplier and Kylie Jenner. Four out of five of these influencers are YouTubers.

Social media remains a key driver of consumer purchases for Gen Z and millennials. Eighty-eight percent say they learn about products they’re interested through social media and 56 percent have purchased a product after seeing a post from someone they follow. What’s more, half say social media is where they most often learn about new products to buy. 

Where do young consumers engage with influencers the most? Gen Z and millennial men prefer YouTube, while a majority of both Gen Z and millennial women prefer Instagram. Those 13-16 are as likely to use TikTok as Facebook or Twitter.

Consumers themselves expressed a desire to become influencers, with 54 percent of respondents saying they’d become an influencer, given the opportunity. The chance to enlist micro-influencers, a category of influencer whose social media audience ranges from 5,000-100,000 followers, is ripe for the picking as consumers of all stripes are largely willing to post sponsored content for money. 

Morning Consult’s findings are based on 2,000 survey interviews with 13-38 year-olds.

Gucci Gives Millennials What They Really Want: A Pop-Up

Gucci is introducing a number of luxury pop-up stores in shopping malls around the world—an experiential first for the brand. The inaugural brightly-colored pop-up, called “Gucci Pin,” will launch in the US at Denver’s Cherry Creek Shopping Center. The concept was inspired by the pins seen on interactive digital maps and its first activation will focus on the brand’s Gift Giving line and campaign. Items for purchase will include women’s ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories.

To further enhance the pop-ups, branded Gucci pins featuring patterns of the themed pop-ups will appear on Google Maps in some countries. Each location will also include a digital installation that utilizes augmented reality (AR) technology, though additional details weren’t disclosed.

Gucci pin-themed AR offerings and photo filters for Snapchat and Instagram are also in the works. The high-fashion brand recently launched a 3D Snapchat portal lens that transports users to a Gucci-filled holiday beach and lets them interact with signature handbags and accessories from the brand.

Additional immersive experiences for Gucci include a forthcoming Chinese New Year-themed store, psychedelic pop-up store dedicated to luggage, accessories and ready-to-wear, and a Mickey Mouse-inspired pop-up featuring a baggage carousel.

Over the last few years, Gucci has made strides wooing millennials. Data from L2 Research shows that Gucci was the best performing digital fashion brand in 2016 and 2017. Among key measures like website and ecommerce, digital marketing and social media, Gucci outranked Michael Kors, Fendi, Burberry and Louis Vuitton.

Gucci has leveraged partnerships with hip-hop artists and promoted theatrical fashion shows via social media, but after the release of a controversial sweater that critics likened to black face, that momentum slowed. According to Tribe Dynamics, the brand lost the top spot among luxury companies for social media engagement in March. A drop in quarterly North American sales then followed.

Transformation Of Petco With Tariq Hassan

During the 179th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Tariq Hassan, chief marketing officer at Petco. Petco is a leading specialty retailer that’s been serving pets and the people who love them for more than 50 years. The company currently has about 1,500 locations throughout North America and employs approximately 26,000 people.

On the show today, Hassan discusses the transformation that is taking place at Petco, the significant investments they are making in nutrition and how all of this impacts their employees, which they call their partners.  

Hassan shares advice for CMOs looking to get on the same page with their CEOs and organizations. “The line of trust around your leadership table is having shared accountability with your partners, and I think if you want to have aligned trust with your CEO, it starts with being aligned with your leadership team.” 

How does Hassan view career risks? “Sometimes, what is a risk on paper, actually presents itself as the biggest opportunity you have going forward.” Also, learn what Hassan believes is vital about brand ethos: “Brand Ethos is really capturing and understanding what that brand purpose is. Then shaping it and bringing it to life in a way that your internal organization knows how to activate. Additionally, you need to be sure your customers know how it is being brought to bear for their benefit.” 

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • What kind of pet does Tariq Hassan have? (01:05)
  • How did Tariq Hassan start his career toward Petco? (02:34)
  • What advice would Tariq give to improve relationships with employers? (04:36)
  • What has Tariq’s first year at Petco been like? (06:16) 
  • What gave Tariq business confidence at Petco? (09:46)
  • How does he think about brand ethos? (11:10)
  • What has Tariq had to do with partners (employees) to drive change? (15:05)
  • How does he think about transformation, and have there been any factors that have been critical to success? (17:00)
  • Alan and Tariq discuss the pet market and Petco’s involvement in it. (21:00)
  • How does Tariq think about pet nutrition? (25:03)
  • Is there an experience in Tariq’s life that has defined who he is today? (27:15)
  • What fuels Tariq Hassan to keep going in his career and life? (30:29)
  • Are there brands that Tariq thinks we should pay attention to? (31:37)
  • Where does Tariq Hassan see the future of marketing going? (34:40)

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.

Don’t Be Held Techno-Hostage By Legacy Measurements

Originally published at AW360.

Navigating the transition from collecting and mining data to actually applying it in addressable advertising is a talent that Paul Haddad, President, a4, has in abundance. With an engineering background and extensive work in collecting data at the set-top box level from his tenure at Cablevision, he has a keen sense of how the addressable landscape looks and what the underpinnings of data and analytics need to be to ensure a seamless, real-time, targeted experience for both consumers and advertisers.

His evolution from entrepreneur to data geek (an epithet that we both agree is a source of pride) to President has been facilitated by his early work at Cablevision, the mentorship of then Department Head, Kim Norris (currently the Division Vice President, Spectrum Reach), the acquisition of Cablevision by Altice, Patrick Drahi’s support of disrupting status quos, Dexter Goei’s coaching on building growth-driven business, and the recognition by the industry of the value and power of data and targeting.

A One-Stop Advertising Shop

a4 uses data culled from many sources and offers, as Haddad described, “A one-stop shop for audience-driven, integrated, multi-screen advertising and end-to-end ROI analytics across the U.S.” But as complete as that sounds, that is not all it is. Owned by Altice, which purchased Cablevision in 2015, a4 is actually a large advertiser in its own right, representing Altice’s $200 million budget as an in-house agency. So, a4 not only offers capability in both the buying and selling aspects of advertising, it also manages and stewards small $250 campaigns to multi-million-dollar campaigns, as well as national and local accounts through an interface platform controlled by the advertiser. a4 is helping to transition the media world by “inventing the way advertising works,” and it has been very successful. “We now have over $500 million in total media revenue, over 500 employees and the fastest growing business at Altice,” he added.

Going From Local to National

But transitioning from local MVPD operation to a national footprint was not without some internal questions. “What is an audience to us?” Haddad posited. “Is it market-driven or is it location-driven or is it size-driven?” After two years of tests, he realized that “audience targeting has no location or specific size.”

So, the conclusion was that “when it comes to audience, we do not see the world as local or national at all,” he explained. “We do not see the world as TV or digital. We see the world as household targets. We deliver a household-based audience-targeted campaign across all screens anywhere in the U.S., any time, and at any size of segment.” In sum, a4 essentially removes the need to label anything other than audience at a household level–and that appears to be the wave of the future.

Haddad noted that those still operating under the legacy mindset of local versus national are “limiting” themselves and warned that his competitors who stick to the old parameters of measurement are “being held as techno-hostages.”

Finding Intent in Targeting

a4 has access to a myriad of datasets at the MVPD set-top box level, at the device level, at various digital touchpoints and through third and first-party partnerships. To ensure privacy and create effective reach pathways, “our datasets are focused on household targeting,” he explained. “To target a household, you need to understand and provide to our advertising clients the means to create a segment. And the way to create the segment is to collect data that finds intent.” He noted that intent on a household level is based on:

  • Viewing and content consumption (a4 currently covers 12.5 million homes at the set-top box level covering 210 DMAs)
  • Spending patterns (such as luxury items or beauty products or tech-gadgets)
  • Consumer profile data (totaling 300 million homes)
  • Geo-location data (sports stadiums visits or high-end stores or auto dealerships visits)
  • IP targeted data with a platform deployed behind the firewall at most MVPDs in the U.S. (accessing 50 million household data on digital and mobile devices for in and out-of-home addressability).

“So, when you put it all together,” he explained, “you can use the data for audience creation on the front of a campaign. You can then use the ‘same’ segment to plan when and how to reach them. And finally, you measure and report all the impressions for that ‘same’ segment across all their devices, and clearly analyze the effect and whether you reached these audiences or not and what was the ROI.”

In addition, a4 gives the client an on-boarding, self-service, full stewardship platform, where proprietary CRM data can be uploaded privately and safely and matched with all of a4’s data free of charge and within hours, not days. So, from audience creation to media planning to media activation across all screens (which includes linear and optimized TV, OTT, digital video and display, social media, mobile display and in-apps banner), “we provide the measurement at the household level, plus all of these screens for the campaign, from the exposure to the medium to how often, and then we post at the end of the campaign.” This all done through one company, which offers cost efficiencies for the advertiser.

As far as privacy is concerned, Altice applies a strict and disciplined compliance approach to all its data operations and business use cases “privacy is extremely important and serious to us.”

Time For a “Datalution

Giving the client full access and control over all aspects of a campaign by targeting the intent of households is something that few companies offer. Haddad shepherds his company in a new direction that is poised to change the business of advertising as we know it. “The advertising world is broken into a fast lane of born-data companies and the slow lane of legacy processes. The slow lane has no choice but to revolutionize the way they do business. It’s a question of time.”

The clock is ticking.

PopSugar To Host Winter Wonderland Pop-Up With Curated Brand Activations

PopSugar is throwing an immersive holiday consumer experience called “Sugar Chalet” in New York City’s Bryant Park Overlook. The free, one-day winter wonderland pop-up, set to take place on November 23, will feature interactive activities targeted toward female millennials. 

The digital lifestyle media outlet is capitalizing on the fact that 84 percent of holiday sales are still made in-store. Central to the event will be curated activations at the interactive shopping bazaar from brands such as e.l.f. Cosmetics, Athleta and Nature’s Way, providing in-person consumer engagement for brands who rarely meet customers face-to-face. Other immersive experiences at the two-story Sugar Chalet will include a meditation den, yoga classes, a beauty oasis where e.l.f. Cosmetics will offer mini makeovers, palm readings and curated culinary workshop. 

“Guests will have the opportunity to browse, discover and shop within the Sugar Chalet.  Our aim is to leverage this one-of-a-kind experience to create meaningful relationships between our attendees and our brand partners. While attendees will have the opportunity to purchase on site, many consumers will also be shopping holiday gifts on mobile this year.  That said, the digital marketplace is cluttered and what we have created with The Sugar Chalet is the chance for brands to break through that clutter and to be top of mind so that when consumers ultimately make their purchase decisions, they think of these brands first,”  Lindsay Leaf, PopSugar VP of experiential told AList.

By taking a modern approach to the traditional holiday pop-up, PopSugar’s hope is to push consumers through the entire marketing funnel, from discovery and intent to purchase, with the added intention of inspiring purchasing decisions far beyond the one-day bash. The event’s success will be measured through attendance and engagement as well as the digital and physical footprint that PopSugar produces.

The holiday event is just one of PopSugar’s most recent experiments in experiential marketing to deepen the connection between consumer and brand, part of the publisher’s overall omnichannel strategy.

Earlier this year, the media company took its female-focused digital strategy offline for its second annual “POPSUGAR Play/Ground” festival in New York City. The two-day event focused on experiences that fueled attendees’ wellness and career goals including panels with celebrities, workouts from fitness gurus and pop-up shopping with beauty and lifestyle brands. Single-day general admission tickets went for $65, two-day tickets for $105 and VIP tickets for $225. The event saw more than 15,000 attendees.
While PopSugar continues to expand its monetization opportunities into content opportunities, retailers are finding themselves trying to adapt to changing shopping patterns. The result is more partnerships between PopSugar and ecommerce and brick-and-mortar brands. Last year, Kohl’s teamed up with PopSugar to create an apparel line, which became available at 500 Kohl’s locations. With a quarterly subscription box and makeup collection, PopSugar has reimagined the role of a traditional publication to evolve into a lifestyle brand with a monthly global audience of 400 million.

Marketers Place More Importance On Cause Marketing

Marketers now consider alignment with social issues as one of the top three benefits of a content campaign, according to a new study from World Media Group. “The Future For Content-Led Marketing Around The World” explores trends in branded content campaign strategies.

When asked which key performance indicator (KPI) provided the best approach for content-led marketing, a majority of respondents, who are marketing decision-makers, cited engagement (34 percent), followed by the opportunity to change perceptions (20 percent). Compared to last year’s survey results, marketers are finding that measuring shifts in brand perceptions and time spent with content are more important than brand awareness. 

There’s a greater opportunity for marketers to leverage societal and environmental problems too. Brand activism is viewed by respondents as a critical route to engaging consumers with 18 percent citing “aligning a brand with a trend, issue or topic” one of the best reasons for launching a content-led campaign.

The survey also found that 80 percent of respondents predict their investment in content-led marketing will grow over the next two years. Drivers of growth will include voice technology, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), audio and podcasts. World Media Group also predicts growth in live video and 360 video, but a decrease in short- and long-form video.
Findings are based on a survey of 269 advertisers, media agencies and media owners across nine global regions between September 2-October 7.

Panera Seeks To Highlight Transparency With AR-Powered Mobile Ad Unit

Panera Bread launched an augmented reality (AR) ad unit for mobile devices that lets customers rotate a menu item and share the content across Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. 

Given the AR experience utilizes OS-level frameworks in iOS and Android, it requires no app download, making it the first of its kind in the food space. This new technology allows a user to place Panera’s Mediterranean egg white breakfast wrap anywhere in front of them, enhanced by interactive buttons that animate in the menu item name, nutritional information and ingredients list. 

Panera’s interactive ad unit is running exclusively on sports site Bleacher Report and can be reached by clicking on an ad. When visitors encounter the ad, they’re encouraged to, “Play with your food, open in AR below.” Unlike other brands utilizing AR ads, Panera gives users the option of sharing the AR banner assets across three different social media platforms. 

Compared to an online menu, this kind of ad allows consumers to find information fast and help Panera push an overall category innovation, according to Panera VP of marketing, Scott Nelson. Nelson added that measurement of the ad’s success will be determined via shares and engagements. The company has plans to expand the ability to a variety of menu items.

Highlighting food transparency through AR technology could be Panera’s attempt at ameliorating the public backlash caused by a leaked video last month. The video, which was posted by a Panera employee to her personal TikTok account, showed her dipping a frozen pack of the chain’s white cheddar mac and cheese into hot water then removing it and emptying the bag’s contents into a bowl before serving. The clip received 950,000 likes on the app.

Earlier this year, Panera’s first foray into AR arose in conjunction with South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. There the company launched four Snapchat AR lenses that let users create “hacks” of Panera’s soup offerings, visually adding other menu items to customize their own.

Kohl’s Pull Out All The Stops For Omnichannel Holiday Campaign Centered Around Snapchat

Kohl’s has launched an omnichannel campaign called “New Gifts at Every Turn,” that includes a pop-up in New York City which Snapchat users can shop from nationwide with a dedicated lens. 

Kohl’s will host the pop-up for the public from November 7-November 10, and for the first time, targeted Snapchat users nationwide can attend the event with a Snapchat portal lens. The portal lens will replicate the pop-up event space in 3D and allow users to shop featured products. Attendees can also take photos with an avatar of bridal fashion designer Vera Wang through a Snapchat marker lens.

Kohl’s has also extended its partnership with Snapchat through a lens that lets users fill their cart with Kohl’s gifts within a football-themed game.

Rounding out the campaign’s social media component is activations on Twitter and Pinterest. Consumers can receive on-demand same-day product delivery during key holiday moments when they engage with Kohl’s on Twitter.

In-store shoppers can also source gift inspiration via Kohl’s Pinterest pincodes. To do this, customers can open their Pinterest app, scan a pincode on Kohl’s “Jammies for Your Families” hashtags and in-store signage using their camera. Doing so will direct them to the Kohl’s Pinterest board. 

New to Kohl’s holiday initiative this year is the option of Amazon Returns in all stores nationwide, enabling Amazon customers to return eligible merchandise to their local Kohl’s store. The move is part of the brand’s growing partnership with the ecommerce giant and Kohl’s effort to increase foot traffic.

Kohl’s is also boosting its product discovery and checkout processes. A tool called “Snap and Shop” allows customers to take photos of products anywhere and find similar items at Kohl’s. Also, new this year, shoppers can pay for their items in the Kohl’s mobile app. 

Further complementing the campaign is Kohl’s online-only Black Friday flash deals and 20 days of thematic daily deals, two new opportunities consumers can take advantage of throughout November and December.

An array of curated displays will line Kohl’s stores including those showcasing beauty and fashion brands loved by millennials such as LC Lauren Conrad, Levi’s, POPSUGAR and Nike.

Kohl’s holiday campaign takes an invigorated approach to activations that will appeal to Gen Z and millennials. The campaign is aligned with Kohl’s previous holiday strategy which utilized “Kohl’s Cash” emojis on Twitter and a snow globe-inspired Pinterest gift finder that helped source gifts when shaking your phone. 

For Q2, Kohl’s reported a net sales of $4.17 billion compared with $4.3 billion the previous year. Sales at Kohl’s stores open more than a year fell 2.9 percent, wider than Wall Street’s estimates of a 2.5 percent decrease.

Why Brand Marketers Should Take Cues From Fashion’s ‘Drop Culture’

Originally published at AW360.

AW360 had a chance to sit down with Liz Aviles, VP of Market Intelligence at Upshot to discuss the myriad ways brand marketers can (and should) benefit from emulating “drop culture–” one of the fashion industry’s most successful modern tactics.

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background.

I’m Liz Aviles, VP of Market Intelligence at Upshot. In this role, I’m a member of the research and strategy team at the agency working across all of Upshot’s businesses. In this multi-category and multidisciplinary role, I’m especially interested in the blurring of influences across varied parts of the marketplace. Identifying how trends and consumer behaviors in one sector can inspire innovation for brands in other categories has always been a focus of my work at the agency.

How do you define drop culture and what is its history in marketing?

Drop culture marketing developed with the rise of sneaker culture (catalyzed by Nike’s introduction of the Air Jordan in the mid-eighties). Drops are characterized by product releases with little or no warning, in limited quantities via limited retailers. They now increasingly incorporate collaborations (or collabs) with other brands or designers. Today, they also rely heavily on social media as a vehicle for brands to announce a drop and as a platform for consumers to showcase their achievement in acquiring the scarce and coveted product that’s been dropped.

How can fashion’s drop culture be co-opted by other consumer brand categories for product marketing purposes?

Marketers can leverage the timing tactics, the language, visual style, and social tactics of fashion drops to better drive traffic, test new products, and create excitement about a brand.

What are the differences between traditional LTOs (limited time offers) and “drops” in today’s marketplace?

While brands have long utilized LTO’s to spur interest in their offerings, drops amplify the excitement, aka the hype, with an element of surprise, a greater emphasis on collaborations, a heavy reliance on social media, and most importantly, a recognition that Gen-Z and Millennial consumers are driven by a desire for continuous innovation and novelty from brands. Drop culture brands recognize that drops feed that desire for what’s new and ephemeral most especially in passion categories such as fashion, music and gaming.

What are some examples of forward-thinking brands that are reaching Gen-Z and millennials via drop culture strategies?

Nike continues to rule the drop, but the streetwear brand Supreme is typically credited with mastering this form of hype and influencing the broader fashion industry. Luxury brands like Burberry and Gucci among others have also embraced drop tactics, as they’re no longer beholden to the dictates of a traditional seasonal fashion calendar.

In music, streaming with its untethering to a physical product has also facilitated artists’ use of drops creating the surprise album dynamic. But, what’s been especially fascinating is the embrace of drop tactics in other less expected parts of the marketplace like in the QSR channel. Yes, LTO’s are standard fare for these brands, but we see them using geographic scarcity, surprise and a bolder social approach to generate desire for their new items.

You talk about “brand excitement” as a method to build consumer affinity.  What are some ways brand marketers can use drop culture tactics to build brand excitement?

While most brand categories can take inspiration from the drop playbook, it’s in passion categories that these types of tactics are most likely to move the marketplace. However, with brand loyalty challenged by today’s fickle consumers and fragmented product environment, most brand marketers should be considering how their brands can leverage scarcity, surprise, clever social media marketing and collaborations to appeal to Gen Z and Millennial consumers today.