Mary Meeker has released her newest new report on internet trends. This in-depth breakdown explores the evolution of marketing from the corner store to Snapchat and everything in between. As consumer values change from generation to generation, brands that adapt, innovate and personalize continue to thrive.

A Picture Tells A Thousand Words

Millennials curate and share content more than any generation before, largely due to the accessibility of camera phones and social media. Known for their tendency to “live in the moment,” millennials are responding well to short ads that get right to the point. For this reason, video ads—particularly in micro form—are rising in popularity and effectiveness. At 27 percent of the population, millennials are the largest generation in the United States. Driven by instant gratification and community, the spending power of this sought-after demographic is expected to rise significantly in the next 10 to 20 years.

Telling a story through pictures dates back to the earliest days of civilization. The practice has returned through emoji, Snapchat and picture-sharing internet sites like Pinterest. In a 2016 study by Cowen and Company, 55 percent of those surveyed said that they use Pinterest to find products with the intention of shopping. Houzz, a personalized planning app, allows users to visualize what a product would look like in a room using their on-phone camera. According to the brand, which launched the View In My Room option in February, 50 percent of users who made a purchase through their app utilized the tool.

internet image communication
Conveying emotion or stories through a single picture has evolved into the digital age. (Source: KPCB)

Stories Around The Digital Campfire

In a digital landscape of advertisement noise, savvy brands are turning to frontline marketing to engage their customers on a personal level. According to author Jonah Sachs, society has entered the “digitoral era,” in which the best stories survive—much like in ancient times.

“We need to realize that storytelling is communal,” explained Joey Jones, creative director for Ayzenberg during the 2016 [a]list summit. “The fact that my wife gets mad at me when I watch Breaking Bad episodes without her is a testament that even though we’re standing or sitting right next to each other watching the same flat screen and not saying anything, there is a sort of special bond we have when we’re listening to stories.”

Millennials tend to value self-expression and diversity, making it vital to reach this target audience on an emotional level. With global ad blocking users on the rise, brands now face the challenge of connecting with their target audiences on the internet by other means. From type-based emoji to Snapchat lenses, brands are making it easier to convey emotion and personality with a single image. Companies have turned to messaging services like Facebook to offer customer service, while consumers in Thailand can make a purchase via Instagram through the power of conversation.

Regardless of age, today’s tech-savvy consumer loves to share everything from pictures of their grandchildren to a cat playing the piano. Facebook is the current leader in social media for consumers between the ages of 18-to-34, followed by Snapchat and Instagram. With increasing accessibility to smart phones, content creation is on the rise—particularly with millennials hoping to be discovered. Camera-based stories tend to be more personal, regardless of the simultaneous viewership. In fact, Snapchat reported 10-to-20 million live stories viewed each day.

Chewbacca Mom internet
The latest Facebook Live success story comes not from a millennial, but a mom with an infectious laugh. (Source: KPCB)

The possibility of being discovered with only a phone and a social media connection is very real, as the world discovered last month. Now known as the “Chewbacca Mom,” a Facebook Live user named Candace Payne donned a Chewbacca mask from Kohl’s and shared her infectious delight with the product. Played over 153 million times, Payne’s video is the most-viewed live video on the new platform. Kohl’s was mentioned in the video twice. As a result, Kohl’s became the leading app in the USA iOS App Store, and demand for the Chewbacca mask rose dramatically. Payne herself has been invited on a number of talk shows, met Star Wars director, J. J. Abrams and was even offered a full scholarship to Florida’s Southeastern University.

It just goes to show that an effective story could be anything, but it must be authentic. Just as Candace Payne laughed her way into internet stardom, brands must remain creative and genuine in order to reach audiences on an emotional level.