Like many brands, you might be wondering if you should establish a presence on TikTok. After all, the video app has 100 million monthly active users in the U.S., and over 800 million worldwide. But starting an account on a new platform requires time, resources, and money. Fortunately, TikTok has an advertising format that doesn’t require an organic profile! They are called In-Feed Ads and they look just like all other TikTok content. The ads automatically appear after a user views a certain number of videos. This allows your brand (like many others) to still be in the TikTok space without having a profile for organic videos. The only difference is the audience can’t tap on your brand’s profile. Tips & Requirements for In-Feed Ads Video must be between 9-15 seconds. Users can engage with your ad just like any other organic video. They can like, comment, share, and interact with the ad. The tone for in-feed ads is similar to current TikTok trends, to seamlessly integrate with users’ viewing experiences. These ads allow for multiple call to actions, such as allowing users to tap to your website, download your app, or shop. Your ad should be a “scroll-stopper.” You only have about 3 seconds to catch the TikTok user’s eye before they scroll to the next video. So, make sure your ad is full screen and is captivating enough to keep their attention. Do not just depend on sound, as your viewer might be watching with the sound off. Use text grab their attention immediately and convince them to turn on their sound. (Sawyer Hartman, CEO of Cameras on TikTok). Partner with influencers to promote your brand. The creator’s video will appear as an In-Feed Ad with a call-to-action. This is highly recommended, as TikTok Creators’ engagement rate is 5 times higher than on other platforms. Check out these TikTok In-Feed Ad success stories Pepsi Max Little Moons Slate & Tell Bumble Fendi In-Feed Ads just became easier for regional and local brands You don’t have to be a large national or international brand to take advantage of TikTok In-Feed Ads. The platform already allows you to target at the state level. And TikTok recently added zip code-based targeting, which makes it much easier for regional and local brands to hit your target efficiently and effectively! So there’s really no reason to wait. Tapping into the TikTok audience is much easier than you may have imagined. Sources:

brand truths

What was the last restaurant you visited? Think about the experience… your initial impressions and feelings. What made you go there? Maybe it was the atmosphere, the menu selection or that first big bite. What comes immediately to mind… good, bad, or maybe just… meh? How do those impressions fit with what you think of the BRAND? Or, did you think about the brand at all? You’ve just begun to define Brand Truths — what’s most memorable and important to you about a brand. Think about Brand Truths as the sum total of a brand experience — a mirror of the unvarnished and honest customer perspective, shaped by the influence of the brand. What’s really cool about Brand Truths is that they can be good, bad, and indifferent… which sounds contradictory, (but truth can be that way, too). You may see things you didn’t expect bumping against one another. Which usually means you have some deeper digging to do. An example: A performance-based brand had a long history in its category, sold very well. But, prioritized its always-on-sale price over basic category expectations. Consumers had nothing substantial to believe in, except $ saved. The one resulting Brand Truth was negative: Cheap. As hard as that realization was, understanding it directed the team’s efforts; a revitalization of the brand strategy, reorganizing the messaging platform and shifting communication hierarchies. Focusing on what made the brand relevant and a good value helped it move beyond negative and into positive (equity building) territory. Why are Brand Truths needed? Brand Truths are the connective tissue between customer honesty and the brand. They are bigger and richer than pure insights because they account for the brand side of the equation. In some cases they are a necessary splash of cold water… which can be a good thing… when brands have lost focus or have been talking to themselves for too long. Defining Brand Truths should be a regular part of any brand’s health check. At Brandience, we’ve developed Brand Truths as a tool to sharpen or adjust brand strategy, influence marketing planning and inspire creative output. Let’s dive a little deeper: A brand certainly self-defines by how it behaves, what it messages, and the experiences it creates. But as important, a brand is defined by its customers in return. What is true… to them? A Brand Truth is real if it’s: What matters most. How a brand is most different, or most meaningful. We notice what rises to the top. How customers describe their thoughts. How ideas cluster. We also notice what we DON’T see. What inspires the greatest passion, and most conversation. Cues that are remembered and played back, have become a part of the brand culture, or have been transposed into memes. They could be as simple as a tagline, a jingle, a range of attributes and traits, or full-blown narratives. Positive ideas contribute to a brand’s story and value. Negative may weaken or harm a brand’s value. Or, Indifferent. Which may be the most interesting and riskiest. If customers aren’t able to define a brand, then what will fill the void? At Brandience, we arrive at Brand Truths through data intel, which could include any number of inputs, from surveys to observational research, third-party data and social ethnography. We filter and apply relevant influences, such as trends, and category norms and of course, the brand factors. What to do with your newfound knowledge Brand Truths help us make focused adjustments to long-range strategy, or tactical changes to marketing planning. We are able to more fully celebrate what we own, or reduce the impact of what is negative. Ultimately Brand Truths provide rich, creative territory for ‘true’ and resonant customer experiences.

time for change

As brands try to figure out how to navigate what’s before us, I can’t help but think about how differently brands need to act today versus what they’ve done during past struggles. People who worked with me through the Great Recession heard me refer often to the “upside of down.” At that time, much of what we thought of as the “upside” had to do with pricing strategy. How do we capitalize on reduced media prices due to decreased demand? We also talked about messaging strategy. Should you discount to “buy” some business? Or hold true to your core value proposition? How would that impact your brand over the long haul? Today we’re faced with a much different situation. We’re not only talking about economic issues, we’re actually talking life and death for some. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, can also produce an “upside of down” of sorts for brands. This time the “upside” isn’t about making deals or creating incentives to purchase. Brands should be using this time to communicate in a transparent way. Brands should be trying to help their communities if they have the means. Brands should demonstrate genuine care for their customers and employees. Yes, brands obviously need to first and foremost survive, stay open when possible and make some money so they can weather this storm. Yes, that may mean doing some discounting or creating some incentives to attract business. But if it ends up being only about the business, the brand will miss a real upside opportunity of showing who that brand really is and how much they appreciate their employees and their loyal customers. Some examples include: a local pizza restaurant in the northeast donating pizzas twice per day to local healthcare workers even though their business is down 50%; a national QSR turning their social media presence into a place for positivity so they can spread good news during an otherwise tense time; grocery stores designating special times for senior citizens to shop safely; an auto manufacturer offering payment relief for people who lose their jobs due to COVID-19. Brands spent a lot of time pre-COVID talking about purpose. If a brand can’t lead with purpose now, will they ever?


As far as full-service marketing agency owners go, I know my path has not been a typical one. Most agency owners tend to come from the creative or account service disciplines. I came into this industry through the media side. Pouring over research, creating media plans, negotiating buys, arguing over audience statistics. Throughout my career, my comfort with numbers has stuck with me. Now my passion is finding customer insights within the numbers and using those insights to leverage a benefit for my clients. Yes, this can still include media but some of the biggest benefits are much further upstream with the client’s brand and messaging. Data is Coming from Everywhere So it’s easy to understand why I grow more excited each day at the rise of predictive marketing. Predictive marketing uses insights generated from customer data to make more informed marketing decisions. The main reason for the growth is that the number of sources for collecting customer data continues to grow rapidly. The move to a more “connected” world isn’t slowing down and all of those connected devices capture valuable data. As data capture grows, so does the likelihood that the average marketer can become overwhelmed at the mere thought of trying to make sense of what they know about their customers. Because of the sheer volume, what often happens is paralysis. Or only a few types of data are considered when making marketing decisions. Don’t Forget the Nuance A common misuse of data is falling into the trap of only doing exactly what the data tells you. Even with all of this data, marketing still involves a blend of art and science. We are, after all, dealing with human emotions when we are communicating with our clients’ target customers. So we can’t forget to consider the nuances when deciphering data. This brings me around to why I eventually moved from the world of media-only to a full-service environment. Predictive marketing requires incredible synergy between all marketing disciplines because, to do it correctly, you have to equally consider the channel and the messaging. And do so at the same time. Predictive marketing allows for real-time optimization, A/B testing, etc. to determine what piece of the marketing puzzle is truly driving the desired result. And it’s not just applicable to the digital side of marketing. All areas must be considered holistically. Partners that Understand Data and Marketing One of the best ways to make sense of all of this is for marketers to seek outside partners who have the ability to take a holistic view of their marketing data. It’s important that a partner has a strategic understanding of your marketing channels and platforms so that a true predictive marketing recommendation can be made. It’s also important that this partner understands how to take into consideration the nuances involved with marketing to people’s emotions. Seek a partner that isn’t afraid of using your data to your benefit. One that also recognizes and understands the balance of art and science. Finding the right strategic partner will take you a long way in navigating the world of predictive marketing.

Embracing Gen Z


Embracing Gen Z

While the oldest Gen Z member may only be about twenty-five, this young group is wise beyond their years and a force to be reckoned with. They are determined not to repeat the mistakes of older generations, even in the face of Covid. This is a unique group, and for brands and retailers to win with Gen Z, you must be: Authentic/Transparent Inclusive of all Mobile-focused Sustainable Convenient Powered by purpose Who is Gen Z? While Millennials were raised by protective parents who believed there should be a trophy for everyone, Gen Z was raised by Gen X parents who taught their kids to figure it out. Gen Z was born between 1995-2012 and is 74 million strong in the US. While some question their loyalty, it’s likely because this group is more skeptical than others. This generation was headed on the right track, and then the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, Covid may have a long-term impact to their earnings potential given major setbacks in the job market. How has Covid changed them? While Gen Z has had access to tech since birth, they would tell you that going to school virtually has its downside. Like many, they are missing the interaction with their friends and teachers. Because of online schooling, several Z’s are opting for a “gap year” during college. If they can’t have the experience of living on campus, many have chosen to take a year off from school, thus graduating later. More than 70% of those seeking mental health care during the pandemic are under the age of 24. This may be a result of becoming an adult during a period when the future looks uncertain. According to Pew Research, about 26 million Z’s have found themselves back living with their parents – not by choice, but by necessity. At work, being “low man on the totem pole” sometimes means the first to be laid off. Also, many Z’s had jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors, which were the first to take a hit during the early months of the pandemic. On the positive side, being stuck at home meant having time to develop new hobbies such as learning to play an instrument or trading in the stock market. How do they choose their favorite brands? Typically skeptical of brands, Gen Z votes with their wallet. They buy from local, Black, & minority-owned businesses – more so than other generations. According to Morning Consult, 72% of Gen Z somewhat agree/strongly agree that corporations have a responsibility to play a role in addressing racial inequality in the US. Netflix, Google, YouTube,, and Amazon Prime are the top 5 most-loved brands for Gen Z according to Morning Consult’s research. Gen Z is more interested in how fun and entertaining a brand is vs. how long a brand has been around. In YPulse’s August 2020 research, Gen Z reported their top favorite retailers for clothing are Walmart, Nike, Ross, American Eagle, with H&M and Amazon being tied for fifth place. Not only did Walmart win with their comfortable, yet very affordable clothing, those clothing purchases were convenient because people were in the retailer buying other essentials. How can brands & retailers win? Authentic/Transparent Influencers are chosen over celebrities due to influencers’ more intimate social presence. Southwest Airlines is an example of a brand that prides itself on transparency, or “Transfarency” as it says. This airline’s campaign focuses on no hidden fees or extra costs. Inclusive of all Gen Z grew up with a black President, and now we have the first female VP. They grew up in an inclusive culture. No surprise that we saw this generation rise up over Black Lives Matter. Mobile-only Gen Z are the first true digital natives, having unlimited information at their fingertips. A brand has 6-8 seconds to catch their attention, so bite-size info is best. Memes and emojis are worth a thousand words. It used to be a driver’s license gave a teen “freedom” to go see their friends. Now “freedom” comes in the form of interacting with friends without leaving the house. Sustainable Environmental issues play into their purchasing decision. Those brands not focusing on sustainability are feeling the effects of Gen Z’s purchasing power. Forever 21, a “fast fashion” retailer which has historically used cheaper materials, is hoping to turn things around and be more appealing to this group with better quality items. Interestingly, Z’s are willing to pay for sustainability. “Buy less, make it last.” Convenient Quality, convenience, and service will keep this generation loyal to your brand. Sharing product information and simple delivery methods are important to this group. No surprise, Amazon is a big brand for this group. According to LaserShip’s post-pandemic survey on How Retailers Can Stay Ahead of Consumer Expectations, Gen Z ranks free return shipping, free standard shipping, and the ability to track orders in real time as their top needs from retailers. Powered by purpose Gen Z supports those brands that give back and have committed to improving the community. Toms Shoes and Bombas live this well by donating a free pair of shoes or socks for every shoe/sock purchased. Where to reach Gen Z? Right message, right place, right time are still key for brands looking to capture Gen Z. According to Google’s Cool Book, the top steaming platforms for this group are YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu. Also, while Z’s enjoy social media, to them social media is for consuming and connecting, not sharing. And be sure to check the messaging in your ad. Don’t make the mistake of running a generic-type message to this group. Morning Consult reports that 85% of Gen Z say their future is determined by choices they make or things they can control. I am not giving up on Gen Z. I love what they stand for and I am confident things will turn around for them post-pandemic. Any brand who is not watching, listening, and connecting with them now, may find its own lifespan short-lived. Resources:

QSR Drive Thrus

Coronavirus has left no part of our lives untouched, including how we visit local restaurants. And that has QSR operators looking at store design through a completely new lens. As consumer behaviors have changed, QSR operators have begun to change the design of their restaurants and drive -thru service to meet those changing needs and positively impact the guest experience. Drive-thru growth leads to innovation According to a study by Upserve, 20% of US consumers are spending more on online ordering (OLO)/off-premises orders compared to regular dine-in experience, and the number is expected to continue to rise. Why? Several reasons. Many restaurants closed their dining rooms during pandemic surges, limiting customers to drive-thru or carryout options. And many of those customers became accustomed to placing their order online and scheduling pickup when it’s convenient for them. Consumers also shared that they felt safe and comfortable staying in their cars. According to Food Service Results, roughly half of all consumers say they would be interested in pre-ordering using the drive-thru lane solely for picking up. In response, brands spent millions on advertising during COVID to promote their OLO, carryout and third-party delivery. Consumers have become conditioned to expect their food on-demand and their way. This has brands like Taco Bell and Burger King redesigning store layouts, with a smaller footprint and a focus on modernized drive-thrus that increase operational efficiencies while reducing guest wait time and labor costs. Wait time transparency is trending upward, and is especially important to younger consumers. We’re already seeing a proliferation of multiple drive-thru lanes, exclusive curbside pick-up lanes for third-party delivery drivers, and even walk-up windows to meet customer demands. Taco Bell has cut back its dining room seating and added additional dedicated drive-thru lanes for guests to pick-up mobile app orders. They recently announced that their stores would “prioritize digital elements,” adding more drive-thru lanes, tablets for ordering and curbside pickup. To make sure these elements all run smoothly, Taco Bell has added a new store-level position — a bellhop — which will serve as a digital order concierge service. A trend that started at Chickfila and has become popular with more QSR restaurants. Multiple lanes improve speed of service CEO and founder of drive-thru technology company Humdinner, Kevin Bessy was quoted in Restaurant News saying, “brands will have their traditional drive-thru window and your payment system for your everyday items. Then you can add a second lane for express items, things that are pre-made like doughnuts and wraps and then you have your third lane for delivery drivers or pre-order pickups. The traffic flow is going to be so much smoother.” The redesigned drive-thru has an automated conveyor mechanism that brings food from the kitchen out to the guest waiting at the third drive-thru lane, where people who ordered ahead don’t have to wait in line behind traditional drive-thru customers. It’s a contactless solution that also greatly reduces wait times in the drive-thru. According to CNN Business News, Burger King has unveiled two new restaurant redesigns that have additional drive-thru lanes, takeout counters and food lockers where customers can pre-order and pick up their food without any customer service interaction. The restaurants will also be smaller. One prototype has no indoor dining option at all. The other has a smaller dining room and kitchen — with a conveyor belt for drive-thru orders — suspended over the lanes. What makes Burger King’s new concept unique is the reimagined exterior and parking lot. Customers will be able to pull into a designated spot, order through the app and have food delivered to their cars or placed in a food locker for pick-up. Food lockers are becoming more common Consumers have widely adopted the contactless convenience of food lockers. They vary in size and can be heated or chilled to keep food at the right temperature until customers collect their orders. Some high-tech models even use UV light to kill bacteria. Food delivery drivers can also use the lockers for quick and easy pick-up. Many operators are allowing customers to select a collection time when they place their order, which reduces the amount of time spent waiting in the restaurant and the number of customers waiting inside. Industry experts predict that food lockers also act as a labor solution, with some vendors suggesting they can reduce payroll costs from 24%-34% of a restaurant’s total costs down to 12%-18%. They believe food lockers are a viable solution for the “number one killer” of new restaurants: high labor costs Apps make ordering more convenient There is no question that the post-COVID store design is driving online orders. Both Starbucks and McDonald’s have new designs that have been created to drive sales specifically through their mobile app. Starbucks unveiled a new store format called "Starbucks Pickup." ( The store is around 1,000 square feet, nearly half the size of a regular café, with no indoor seating. The reduced footprint makes it more attractive to build in areas with expensive real estate, like urban centers. The company plans to open more than 50 over the next year, expanding to several hundred locations across the US in three to five years. Starbucks is also increasing the number of cafés ( that offer curbside pick-up and drive-thru lanes in suburban locations. Last but not least, McDonalds plans to improve drive-thru speeds ( to help customers, of course, but also to encourage more visits and higher tickets. Their improved drive-thru experience includes automated order taking and express pick-up lanes for people who placed digital orders. A simplified menu also helps speed up the total transaction time by 30 seconds. The chain is also testing concepts for restaurants dedicated to drive-thru, delivery and pick-up, with little or no inside seating. There's also dedicated parking spots for mobile and online orders. Looking for a silver lining post COVID? The drive-thru experience at QSR restaurants has improved greatly. I think it’s safe to say, tomorrow’s restaurant drive-thru experience will continue to evolve to meet customer expectations and provide the on-demand service they want. And operators will reap the benefits of smaller footprints, less labor and fixed costs. That’s a win-win for everyone.

Hold the phone!


Hold The Phone!

Restaurant owners estimate they are losing between 20-50% in revenue due to missed opportunities with phone orders. Combine that with competitive labor markets, increased customer demand and the pandemic, and you have the “perfect storm” for brands to adopt advanced digital technology, including power assistants, to handle phone orders. Cashiers in the Cloud Brands including Dunkin’ and Denny’s have recently deployed bot and voice-enabled ordering with success. But what about brands like Papa John’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill who specialize and pride themselves in customized ordering for each customer? A more advanced version of bot and voice-enabled ordering has arrived just in time. The technology is called AI-powered voice assistants, AKA “cashiers in the cloud,” that can process orders quickly and efficiently without human customer service. Artificial Intelligence Learns Customer habits Here is how it works. You call a local Chipotle and you are greeted by a female voice. She responds to the customer beyond standard bot programming. She actively listens to the customer placing an order and will then make suggestions when she thinks the customer may have omitted a topping for a burrito or bowl. Example: “Would you like to add guacamole or salsa?” With each order, she learns the idiosyncrasies of how people place their order, creating algorithms that will be stored and used over and over. This ultimately increases order accuracy. Even more impressive in Q4 2021, amid the pandemic, Nation's Restaurant News reported Chipotle digital sales tripled with a 177.2% growth in their digital sales. AI-powered voice assistants capture information from customers so when they call back, the technology can identify a guest by their phone number. This allows the bot to suggest items each customer has ordered in the past. Increase Customer Satisfaction and Efficiency Customers love the convenience. They can order, pay, and skip the line by grabbing their food from the pick-up shelf. AI-powered voice assistance also reduces the amount of time both manager and employees must spend on the phone, enabling them to focus on other aspects of the total experience. Chipotle’s CEO and chairman, Brian Niccol said, “Expanding access and convenience through our digital ecosystem has kept the Chipotle brand relevant.” He added, “With this success, we will not allow complacency to set in, rather, we will continue to look for ways to further enhance our digital ecosystem.” Papa John’s combines AI and Human Interaction Similarly, Papa John’s announced in November 2020 that they have adopted an AI phone system. The new platform integrates into the restaurants’ pre-installed systems to manage phone orders that come through their call center. This platform combines AI with human operators to ensure they don’t miss an order. The system is designed to allow human intervention in case the AI system can’t accommodate a customer’s needs or if they simply prefer to speak with a person instead of an AI system. Papa John’s new AI phone system can also deepen customer loyalty, since Papa Rewards members can earn points by placing phone orders when they provide the phone number associated with their account. During its Q3 earnings call, Papa John’s CEO Rob Lynch said, “the one-to-one marketing platform is also a growth driver and strategic technology priority for us.” He added that loyalty members “drive outsized revenue” compared to non-loyalty members. Not only do they drive higher ticket averages, but also higher frequency. Papa John’s plans to expand the system to 1,000 stores across 37 states by the end of 2021. Digital Ordering Works for the Customer and the Business It’s interesting to follow how consumer behavior will continue to drive AI improvements to online and mobile ordering platforms while ensuring the best possible customer experience and maximizing profitability for the brand. It’s a win-win for both consumers and operators in the QSR space. #AIisheretostay



Impact of Trust on Brand Loyalty

Do your customers trust you? Do you understand their ever-changing wants and needs? These are tough questions. And, if you’re not sure, is it time to re-evaluate your brand strategy? We live in a time where the customer has more power than ever, and in a time when their lives are changing rapidly, even impacting their daily routines. And impacting the brands they choose to buy from. It’s during these “tough times” that we as marketers are presented with a fantastic opportunity to build an even stronger bond between us and our target audience, making our brand the one they choose. When it comes down to it, people make decisions based on a feeling. And people are feeling a lot of things right now. Luckily for us, this level of passion can translate directly into brand loyalty, if done right. The American Marketing Association cited that customers value trusted brand relationships now more than ever before, increasing by a whopping 47% since 2009. Customers don’t just want to buy your product or service, they want to buy the feeling they get when using your product. They want your brand to be a part of their identity. They want to know who you support behind the scenes and what role it plays in your brand story. Now is the time to leverage your brand’s passions and values to build a stronger bond with your target audience. Let’s say you’re making your way to Starbucks. On your route, you pass a couple of kids at a lemonade stand. The kids smile and wave, holding up a sign that says “Raising money for kids who need backpacks!” What do you do? Of course, you stop and buy a .50 cent cup of lemonade. You may even give them a full $5 bill. Why? Because kids helping other kids pulls on your heartstrings. You didn’t stop because you thought it would be the greatest glass of lemonade you’ve ever had. You stopped because they connected to you on a deeper level. Similarly, building an emotional connection with your customers is crucial. How can I leverage our brand values to show compassion? 1. Stay true to your brand “DNA”. In an age of rampant social media usage, you may feel compelled to take a stance as a brand. Before making any serious moves, it’s very important to ensure your stance is in line with your brand values and, equally as important, with your customers’ values. Ben & Jerry’s, for example, has always taken a stand against racial injustice. Therefore, their customer base likely were not shocked when they released their own Black Lives Matter statement. 2. Actions speak louder. It’s that famous phrase that draws a line between brands that truly care about change and brands that just want to jump on the bandwagon. Work with other brands or organizations that support the same values as your brand, and avoid those that don’t. In this day in age, you can count on your customers holding you accountable. Take the civil rights boycott against Facebook, for example. Although people were watching closely and taking note of who was leaving the platform, they were also keeping a running tally of who wasn’t leaving. One brand that shows compassion while staying true to their identity is Chipotle. Their efforts to support the LGTBQ+ community is an example of their longstanding commitment to serve “real ingredients” with “real purpose.” They recently hosted a Lunch & Listen virtual event on Tik Tok, featuring some of the biggest names in the LGBTQ community. “We wanted to transform our TikTok platform into a resource that both celebrates and educates people about Pride,” said Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer. “Authenticity and inclusion are values that guide much of our decision making as a purpose-driven organization.” Because their cause-driven campaigns are consistent with their brand values, Chipotle’s pride-focused initiatives are well-received overall, particularly by their target audience, Gen Z. 3. Stay nimble and keep up. The rate of change is accelerating exponentially with the help of social media. Because of this, we must be flexible to keep up with the rate of change. Shifting your strategy to align with consumer sentiment is not a “set it and forget it” type of thing. The values and behaviors that consumers have picked up over these past few months are highly likely to stick with them. It’s not about developing a promotion or campaign. It’s an ongoing open dialogue with your consumers to answer the question “How do you feel?” and “What challenges are you facing?”. Once you have the answers, adjust your messaging, and continue that open dialogue. 4. Give your employees the mic. People respond to connection. They crave companies to be more human, and to express emotion and honesty. Harness the power of your employees as one activation by sharing the spotlight with them. This will help your consumer know that you are a compassionate brand from the inside out. Papa Johns often hands over the mic to their team members on Instagram by featuring quotes from their employees and how they feel about working for Papa Johns. Sharing what your brand is most passionate about can greatly impact your brand’s reputation for the better. It shows that you are not just in it for money, but genuinely care about making a difference and driving change. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we listen to what our consumers are saying and shift our strategy to better serve their wants and needs.


Why do we love our apps? Millions of us use apps daily to connect with friends, listen to our favorite songs, order food/groceries, play games, get us to our destination, and overall make our lives easier. And since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity of apps has increased at an exponential rate. Here are a few quick stats on recent app usage via Techjury: In 2018, mobile apps accounted for nearly 50% of internet traffic worldwide and this number continues to grow. The average person now has approximately 80 different apps installed on their phone. But only 9 of those apps see daily use. Consumers spend 85% of their time on smartphones within apps. Depending on age and gender, app popularity varies. The most popular app in 2020 by a long shot has been Tik Tok. In Q1 of 2020, the app had 315 million downloads, which is the best quarter ever by any app. Consumer app spending has grown from 40 billion to over 86 billion in the last four years. How has COVID-19 affected app use? For the first time since the Digital Revolution, a record breaking number of consumers have been home during COVID-19 and looking to connect with co-workers, friends and their favorite brands. According to a survey by location technology company Bluedot, more than three-fourths of consumers (77%) are turning to apps to order groceries, food and other products and services during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, people are using mobile apps more frequently amid the pandemic. According to App Annie, daily time spent on Android devices increased by 20% year-over-year in Q1 of 2020. In-app spending has also increased in Q1 with Android App spending up 5%, while iOS increased by 15%. Overall, in-app spending set a record of $23.4 billion during the same period. Quick Service Restaurants Have Benefitted Brands are increasingly looking to connect with consumers as things continue to open up and should continue to think about how they can pivot their strategy in the future. Recent data has shown that reliable apps are a great platform to reach those consumers, especially for quick-service restaurants. More than half (51%) have downloaded at least one new app to purchase food and essentials since the start of the pandemic in the United States (early to mid-March), with 37% adding more than two. Here are a few ways the restaurant and retail industries have optimized their marketing using apps since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak: Order Tracking: For quick-service restaurants, mobile ordering is expected to drive 7% of sales this year (, and it has been proven that good mobile experiences can help them earn market share and increase loyalty. Papa John’s ability to pivot during the pandemic was evident with the upgrade they made to their robust pizza tracker app that now features minute-by-minute order tracking and no-contact delivery. This simultaneously addressed consumer and employee concerns about their safety during the pandemic and will likely continue to be an instrumental factor in their success as health remains at the forefront of customers’ minds. Location, Location, Location: Location-based services are a fast-growing category that offers localized, relevant advertising in trusted app environments. Defining where we go, behavioral patterns and places of interest, turning our demographic data into invaluable insights for marketers. Mobile Wallet Technology: It’s always been an option, but we know popularity is on the rise, enabling quick and efficient transactions to take place ‘on the go’ and without contact. According to The State of Mobile Payments in 2019, a report published by the Electronic Transaction Association, US consumers spent $64 billion on mobile devices in 2018. This marks a 42% increase over the previous year. Voice Technology: The industry is witnessing a rise of the voice marketer, within the app ecosystem. According to Datanyze, more and more users are speaking into their phones, tablets and devices. Most users reported that they use voice commands in app at least once a week. Voice-enabled mobile apps give users the ability to interact without using their hands. That means they can order your latest products while working out. Or they can easily interact with the app while traveling from one client meeting to another. This is a major difference compared to not having voice recognition in place. If a customer is unable to use their hands to tap the mobile device, it could lead to missed opportunities. On the other hand, a voice-enabled mobile app can take commands and requests almost anytime, allowing users to interact with the app more frequently and more efficiently. A closer bond between brand, app, content and consumer will unquestionably make for a positive user experience. If your brand values advertising like we do, building brand awareness in an app may be a great channel for your marketing dollars. And if your brand is currently launching an app or making upgrades, make sure your app meets customers’ demands for faster, more convenient mobile experiences, and you will continue to gain the competitive advantage. At the end of the day, our goal is not to convince you to create an app, but instead to listen closely to your target audience. How have their behaviors changed in the last few months? How can your app create a better customer experience? And most importantly, what are they hoping to see from your brand?

different types of shoes

Wait, what kind of file is this? We’ve all been there. Someone asks for a certain type of file, or sends you something you can’t open. Not anymore. Find out what the differences are and when to use what (and when not to). If it seems like a lot, don’t worry. Just print our Glossary of File Types for easy reference. Vector vs. Raster They’re both types of graphics but they behave very differently. A vector is made up of basic geometric shapes such as points, lines and curves. This allows the graphic to scale up or down in size without losing quality. Logos and fonts are vector. A raster is an image made of dots, or pixels (measured as dpi, or dots per inch). Each dot/pixel is assigned a color value. Unlike a vector graphic, a raster graphic is resolution dependent. Photos are raster. JPG/JPEG Format used to compress photographic images when a small file size is needed, such as for the Internet and some high-quality printing. Some image quality is lost, and it can’t be recovered. Correct Uses: Websites, email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram Incorrect Uses: Logo development, transparent imaging, printed signage, final print production release PDF A universal file format that embeds the fonts, images, layout and graphics of any source document, regardless of the program used to create it. The recipient sees the file as it was intended to be seen, with no risk of formatting problems. Correct Uses: Interactive forms, printing, downloadable web files Incorrect Uses: Web design TIFF or TIF The preferred format for high-quality images, especially in the printing, publishing and photography industries. Correct Uses: Professional photography, commercial printing, image editing, page layout Incorrect Uses: Websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram EPS A file that’s scalable to any size without degradation, because the software (Adobe Illustrator) uses a mathematical technique called vectoring to create the image. Correct Uses: Promotional products, T-shirts, banners, signs, logos Incorrect Uses: Websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram GIF A low-resolution graphic file format most commonly used for websites and emails. It uses a compression scheme to minimize file size and electronic transfer time. Correct Uses: Web-only logos, animated banners, simple video clips Incorrect Uses: High-quality photos, print PNG High-quality bitmap images that use lossless data compression, meaning the original data can be perfectly reconstructed from the compressed data. Correct Uses: Transferring images on the Internet, transparent logos/symbols on websites Incorrect Uses: Print production, high-quality photography HTML5 A revision of the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the standard programming language for describing the contents and appearance of web pages. HTML5 supports multimedia on desktop, tablet and mobile devices, and has replaced Flash (SWF files) as the web standard for animation, which is good news for your brand. Correct Uses: Rich media, animation, video and audio display for the web Incorrect Uses: Print production Audio Files MP3 is the most common; it’s a compressed format, so the file size is much smaller. Two other common formats are AIFF (audio interchange file format) and WAV (Waveform Audio File Format), both of which are uncompressed and often used to store original recordings. Video Files Most common is MP4. Others include MOV (used in Apple’s Quicktime), WMV (a Windows media video) and AVI (a Microsoft audio video format). If all this seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. That’s a lot of files! Don’t forget to download and print our Glossary of File Types to keep everything straight from here on out. Before you know it, you’ll be the one asking for the right file!

Changing Habits

Practically overnight in mid-March, the country went into sheltering-in-place due to COVID 19. Many brands and retailers were taken by surprise as “panic-buying” kicked in for consumers. This pandemic has created different shopping behaviors as relationships with brands are being tested. McKinsey’s research reports that more than 75% of consumers have experimented with a different shopping behavior during the crisis, including trying new brands and places to shop. The high unemployment rate has also been a force behind people changing brands. Creating loyalty is a must for a brand to succeed in today’s new world. Winning brands are doing the following to gain and retain the customer’s loyalty. Listen closely. Doing formal research takes time – and it’s time you may not have. Many consumers talk to others before they talk to you. Following consumer sentiment via social channels is a must. There also is technology that allows you to gather real-time feedback that your frontline employees may be hearing and witnessing firsthand. Analyze the information, determine what is relevant, and then act quickly and appropriately. Personalize your brand. Strive to understand your customer’s mindset, and then connect in a meaningful way. What’s top of mind for many is the importance of staying safe during these times. Many retail brands are sharing what they are doing to keep us safe when we enter their locations. Zoom Meetings has delivered a free service so you can stay safe at home and still connect with others in a fun way. Also, YouTube’s campaign #StayHome and help save lives #WithMe focuses on the many things we can still do together while we’re apart – painting, cooking, jamming, to name a few. Add value. Don’t confuse adding value with discounting. Show that you care and you’re in this to help make life a bit easier during these hectic times. For example, Anytime Fitness provides virtual workouts, live cooking classes, and advice from coaches in the areas of stress management and nutrition. The New York Times offers daily coronavirus updates to non-subscribers to help keep everyone informed. Best Western Hotels & Resorts is allowing members to retain their current elite status through January 31, 2022, without needing to fulfill the necessary qualifications. Consumers tend to stay with those brands that have a heart and make life better. Provide convenience. I applaud the many parents that have suddenly taken on the role of teacher and coach while continuing to be the breadwinner. Finding time to handle some household chores is tougher now, and those brands helping us “find time” will be rewarded with loyalty. Panera turned its extra food challenge into a positive by selling its produce, dairy and breads to their online customers who were purchasing meals. Kroger’s pick-up service has skyrocketed. For less than $5.00, Kroger will do the shopping for you and deliver it to your car. Even brands such as Target and Kohl’s now offer curbside service. Offer new products to solve for new pain points. With health and hygiene being at the top of everyone’s list, some brands have asked how can I become a solution for some of these new pain points. The producer of Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey is using its US distilleries to produce hand sanitizer. Ford, General Motors, and Dyson are producing ventilators for hospitals. And Gap announced that it would use its factory partners to make masks, gowns & scrubs for healthcare workers on the front lines. Things aren’t going back to what we used to know as “normal.” AlixPartners’ research shows that as many as 30% to 45% of consumers said they were willing to stick with a new national brand, and 25% to 30% said the same for new private label. A new normal is being created, and those brands that can pivot quickly, fail fast and try again will be the winners as consumers look to brands to supply necessary products along with the intangibles that make life a little less crazy.

see the world

Millennials have over $1 trillion in student loan debt. Surprisingly they are also the generation that travels more than any other, spending about $200 billion per year. And they approach traveling in unique ways. Brands that understand how to take advantage of this can see a tremendous upside in revenue. Millennials prefer to travel with large groups of friends or family. Traveling in groups means larger accommodations are needed. Companies like Airbnb and HomeAway have made it easy to find a place that can fit a tribe, but remember – no one is there to change the bed sheets or bring fresh towels. Hostels are trending again, and hotel chains like Marriott have created brands specifically for Millennials, the AC Hotel and Moxy, infused with modern chic and a vibrant social scene where they can work and play, and rooms with the latest technology. This group is choosing to spend more on collecting experiences than collecting things. Experiences are not found in the typical tourist traps, but rather off the beaten path. Whether it’s taking a safari, traveling the continents, going to the Olympics or visiting national parks, Millennials are looking for adventure, experiencing the local culture, and learning in the process. Twenty-five percent to forty percent of all Millennials’ weddings take place away from home. While sunset at the beach can be beautiful, now the trend is to hold the wedding at sunrise. Honeymoons have changed as well. Couples are choosing to include multiple destinations as opposed to staying in one place and lying around. Since Millennials are the most connected generation, it is no surprise they check out on average ten travel sites as they do their research. Travel brands like Brite Spokes have built their businesses by offering thematic trips and enriching experiences. Orbitz and Trivago allow people to find many brands’ prices and availability all in one place. Mobile apps are a must in this category. Because this group has limited funds, they tend to do business with those brands that offer rewards. And another way to save is by combining business travel with personal vacations, what’s known as “bleisure.” Tacking on a few extra days to a business trip not only saves time, it also allows travelers to unwind and disconnect from work. But this group very seldom disconnects from their social sites. They are into sharing, and sharing everything – from taking pictures of what they had for breakfast, to checking into a current location, to posting videos of their experiences. Not only do they read others’ reviews, they can also be an influencer as they share their own experiences. Millennials have significant spending power and they have shown they are willing to spend for an experience. It is important to communicate with them on their own terms – with well-developed websites and apps, sharing pictures, and even using virtual reality so they can experience it vicariously. The travel industry is only going to grow – get on board!


The television landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years. New terms are being used to describe the many ways we consume video these days. Streaming, Binge-Watching, On-Demand, Connected TV and OTT to name just a few. While the options are liberating, they can also be very confusing. You may be wondering, “What’s the difference?” and “Why does it matter?” Well it’s my job to know, so I’ll shed a little light on the subject. What is OTT? OTT stands for “Over-the-Top” and refers to the delivery of video content to a user over the Internet. In a time of mobile phones, smart TVs and gaming consoles, OTT allows users to watch content on any device that is connected to the Internet. It gives the consumer the ability to watch TV and video content anywhere and anytime they want. Think about your home. The ability to mount TVs on a wall and not have a mess of cords dangling over the mantle has been life changing. Smart TVs are the household device we never knew we needed. Want to watch TV in your kitchen? Simply take an iPad or other portable device connected to the Internet and you’re all set. No plugs, no cables, no couch required. How did we get here? The inception of Netflix in 2007 forever changed the way we view content. Netflix gave us the ability to watch hours of on demand content aggregated in one app, whenever we chose. Then on February 1, 2013 the first full season of House of Cards was launched and binge-watching became a thing. Viewers were elated to spend up to 13 hours watching a series from start to finish in one sitting. The rise and popularity of streaming has opened the door for content aggregators of all kinds. Content ranges from user-generated videos to premium television content streamed over the internet rather than needing to watch over a traditional cable / satellite box or antenna. The content ranges from ad supported (think Watch ESPN) to non-ad supported (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc). Where are we going? Streaming has opened the door for vMVPDs (Virtual Multi Channel Program Distributors) – think DirecTV Now, Watch ATT and Sling. These vMVPDs give consumers the ability to pay for premium video content without needing a traditional cable box or antenna. These vMVPDs are accessed through connected Smart TVs or internet enabled services such as Roku, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast to name a few. How do brands benefit? OTT gives marketers the ability to speak to their clients in a 1:1 setting. Unlike traditional television advertising where ads are purchased via spots that air at a specific time and place, OTT ads run when the viewer decides to watch the content, regardless of time or device. The first step to executing an OTT campaign is to decide whom you want to reach. Next, what content do they watch? And third, design with a big screen in mind. Although OTT impressions are delivered across a plethora of devices, 75% or more are still delivered to a screen size larger than an iPad. The targeting capabilities are exceptional. Think digital targeting options such as tight geo-targeting, typical age & gender, household income, number of children in the home, various purchasing intents, etc… but on the television screen. As with digital delivery, you focus on a tighter target with more qualifiers. So you’re reaching people in a much smaller consumer pool, but the audience you reach is right in your sweet spot. An added bonus of OTT is the ability to track video completion rates like any other digital campaign. So we know exactly who and how many have seen our ad. A holy grail that has eluded advertisers on traditional TV for decades! Reach Them When They Watch Video continues to be a great way to reach users and place your message in a brand safe environment adjacent to the most popular content, live and on demand. OTT is simply the newest tool to get your message in front of the more and more elusive consumer. If your brand isn’t dedicating marketing dollars to OTT, you are missing a significant opportunity to reach your target where and when they are consuming content. As more marketers seek greater efficiency and shift budget to find the right eyeballs at the right time, OTT will continue to grow in importance.

Digital Marketing

There are many different types of digital ads, each designed for a specific purpose. Some lead you to a website, others direct you to purchase. And most are cleverly served to match your profile or a recent interest. That’s why we advertisers value them so highly. They help us target our customers more precisely and impact their purchase decisions when it’s most relevant. Here’s an overview of four of the most used types today: Search Engine Marketing Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a great way to target consumers who are actively seeking a product or service. Google is the gorilla in this room. They run 75,000 searches per second and are preferred by 92.54% of users. If you add in others like Bing and Yahoo the overall search rate increases to 96.62% of users says Within SEM we also have Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising. SEO is a set of techniques and strategies to gather organic traffic to your website using links, keywords, and quality content relevant to readers. PPC allows marketers to only pay for users who click on their ads for more information, as you can see in the example above. This is a highly efficient way to stretch your marketing budget by focusing only on consumers who engage with your ad. Display Advertising This form of digital advertising is like traditional advertising as it relies on images and text to attract the user’s attention. These ads are placed on specific websites that match the demographics and psychographics of the desired target audience. Different sizes and placements on a website allow advertisers flexibility in on how to display their ads, much like print ads of the past. Static banner display ads are the most common, but advertisers also have the options to create animated, video, and interactive ads to capture more attention in the cluttered digital environment. 3. Social Media Advertising Social media is another highly effective way to talk to your audience. According to, the number of active monthly users on Facebook is over 2.6 billion as of July 2020. You Tube, WhatsApp and Instagram account for over 5 billion active monthly users combined. On average, studies have shown that users of these channels spend nearly one hour per day watching content says It’s no coincidence that advertisers are increasing budget allocations to these channels. Dollars go where they eyeballs are. And social media ads are relatively low in cost, so companies can efficiently target their customers and track results of how the campaign preformed. Targeting on social media, however, may be getting a bit more difficult as Apple recently announced that their latest mobile operating system will make it harder to target advertisement at users, possibly cutting into revenue for businesses that rely on such ads. Facebook has taken exception to the changes resulting in a public feud between the two companies. Apple said in a statement that through the changes, the company is standing up for its customers, who should be aware of when and what data is collected and shared. “App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice,” the emailed statement reads. This issue is far from over. Email Marketing You may feel that email is becoming a dinosaur. A relic of the early digital age. But it’s not so. According to Statista, the use of email marketing is growing between 2% and 3% per year until 2023. A survey from Adestra showed that 73% of millennials prefer the use of email to communicate with companies and a DMA Insight study indicated that 99% of consumers still check their email daily. In order to garnish the average ROI of $40 for every $1 spent, a brand needs to have these four areas figured out: gather qualified subscribers, engage with the public, keep the audience engaged and have automation tools to help. Digital Ad Spending Continues to Rise Despite the pandemic which created headwinds for overall ad spending in 2020, expects total digital media spending for 2020 to be up 2.8%. And the forecast for 2021 is even more robust with a projection of 7.3% growth. In 2018, TV and digital each accounted for about a third of the total U.S. advertising spending. The fastest-growing medium – digital – is projected to have reached a 40 percent-share by the end of 2020 says Total advertising spend in the U.S. is projected to reach 200 billion dollars in 2023. That’s 80 billion being invested in digital advertising! There’s good reason for that shift. Digital advertising is generating strong results. This blog post just begins to scratch the surface on the strengths of these areas. Strategies to employ digital ads vary by industry and company, but if your company isn’t taking advantage of these trends, you may be missing out. The next time you see a digital ad, take a moment to think about how and why that company targeted you. And if it’s an investment well spent. They did.

email marketing

With everyone’s attention focused on the latest social media trends, many have all but forgotten about the original social network: email. Email marketing is an essential part of any integrated marketing campaign. It’s inexpensive and effective, allowing any size business to reach a large number of consumers at a rate of pennies. While many things make an email marketing campaign effective, there are certain essentials that every campaign must have to be successful. Responsive Template Design: It’s critical to build a template that your subscribers can view from anywhere. Your design should adjust for easy reading based on the type of device or email platform a subscriber is using. For example, email text should get bigger on a smart phone so subscribers don’t have to zoom in. HTML Text: Not all email clients show images automatically. Optimize your emails for images-off viewing using ALT text and HTML text. ALT text is used to tell your subscribers what’s depicted in an image they may not be able to see. HTML text, or live text, is copy entered as HTML code to ensure subscribers see it no matter what. Don’t put the bulk of your copy in an image. Opt-In / Opt-Out Process: Make opting-in or out of your emails easy for subscribers. On your opt-in form, only include 2-4 fields for subscribers to fill in. If you want to collect more details, you can always include a link in your template to easily allow subscribers to update and add additional information to their profile. Opting-out should be just as easy. Include an unsubscribe button in every email. Making it difficult to unsubscribe won’t help you keep active subscribers. It will only hurt your sender reputation. List Scrubbing: All email marketing campaigns must have good list hygiene to keep a positive reputation. Remove inactive email addresses, unsubscribes and hard bounces from your send lists regularly. Keep an eye on your soft bounces to see if they need purging as well. Automated Emails: Marketing automation could set your campaign apart from your competitors. Automated emails are set up based on specific triggers or information. Welcome emails can be sent when a new subscriber signs up. This is your first impression to new subscribers, so make it a good one. It also encourages new subscribers to engage with you right off the bat. Automated emails based on informational triggers such as birthdays or anniversaries can also be set up to make your subscribers feel a special, personal connection with your brand. Reporting & Analytics: Behind every good email marketing campaign is solid reporting and strong analytics. Continuously monitor your campaigns to see what’s working and what’s not. Define the goals of your email marketing campaign and track the metrics so you can see if you are meeting those goals. These tips are just to get you started. Email marketing can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to make it. Stay tuned as we continue to share more email marketing tips and tricks.

restaurant mobile

If your restaurant hasn’t jumped on the digital train, what’s holding you back? Let me guess – you’re leery of losing control of the dining experience. Ordering by app, third party delivery, eating away from the restaurant. What are your touchpoints? Will your customer’s experience be compromised or diminished in some way? It’s easy to see the cause for concern. But fear not. Consumers are embracing the digital experience. And if you’re not, you are missing out on a growing segment. Like most people, I choose restaurants based on my need. Sometimes it’s about sharing time with family and friends. But other times convenience is most important. Like those times when my choice of food is simply the fuel that will get me through the day. For some parents, the task of managing a car full of kids inside a restaurant is too much after a tough day at work. Don’t deprive your customers the opportunity to enjoy your food at home. After all, it may be the best part of their day – and for that you will be remembered and rewarded with their loyalty. Most likely your restaurant will have more to gain than lose by embracing digital – so let’s go. Let’s start with your app. Is it easy to place a custom order and pay for it? If I choose to pick up my food, what will that journey look like? Do I have to get out of my car? Will it be easy for me to figure out where to go once inside the restaurant? If I can stay in my car, how do I let you know that I’ve arrived? Is my food made once I’m on the premise, or will it be hot and ready for me as I drive into the lot? Will this require a separate ops team solely focused on digital orders? Some chains even let me pick my food up at the drive thru window. Again, is that process intuitive? Do you have a loyalty program tied to purchasing? Don’t be afraid of discounting your heavy user. Rather, think of it as a frequency device, giving you another order during the month. “Surprise and delight” rewards go a long way with loyal users as well. Also, make the program easy to understand. People will delete an app quickly if it’s too complicated or takes too long to earn their rewards. Do you offer delivery? If so, it is through a third party or do you have your own drivers? If you go with a third party, be sure that you have access to the ordering/purchasing data so you can use it to your advantage. Test various companies before making a commitment. Speed of delivery should be a key measurement. What can you control? Your job is to deliver a meal just as if one was enjoying it in your restaurant. A COO of a large restaurant chain once told me that the secret to all operations is to “deliver hot food hot, cold food cold, and all food fast.” Even decades later, I’ve never forgotten that and it has set my expectation for all meal purchases, no matter how, where and when I make it. Some chains resist delivery because they believe their food doesn’t travel well. However, I’ve had food delivered from the likes of Olive Garden and Carrabba’s with no issue. Much of it comes down to timing and the packaging. Invest in the proper packaging and you will see repeat business. Also, before that order goes out the door, be sure that part of your process includes double-checking the order. There is nothing worse than getting the wrong order, or an incomplete order. If you’re really good at delivery, you might be able to penetrate markets more quickly by opening delivery/catering-only locations. Many are watching Chick-fil-A who is currently testing off-premise-only units. So now that you have your digital strategy and process down, you need to let people know about your offering. Social and digital ads allow you to do that seamlessly and fairly inexpensively. Not only should your ads be informative and engaging, they should also allow the viewer to take action immediately. Given my lack of culinary skills, I am thankful for those restaurants that allow me to enjoy their food on my terms. All types of chains are seeing double-digit increases with their digital restaurant programs. Don’t be left behind – do your homework, enroll your teams, set your processes in place and then enjoy the ride!

open sign

Mention online shopping and the first name that comes to mind for most is Amazon. What started as an unassuming online bookstore has morphed into the world’s largest Internet-based retailer. A millennial mall of sorts. In 2015, Amazon even surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States. So why is the e-commerce innovator that brought us the Kindle, Echo & Alexa, and Fire TV now expanding its strategy into brick and mortar stores? Well, it turns out that a lot of us still want to see, hold and play with items before we buy them. Anyone who has waited for an hour for an appointment at an Apple store can attest to that. And, while online shopping continues to grow at an impressive clip, as many as 90% of Americans say they still do the majority of their shopping at physical retail locations. Smart companies are taking notice. Amazon launched its retail strategy by opening its first retail bookstore in late 2015. They are currently testing a retail c-store called Amazon Go. And this week, the company announced plans to test an electronics store that would feature their own devices. Amazon is once again leading the industry as a growing number of internet based retailers are recognizing that a strategy mixing online and offline retail is crucial to continued growth. But don’t expect to see Amazon stores popping up on every street corner anytime soon. The online retailer is taking it slow, testing the concepts to see which will gain the most traction with consumers. Marketers can learn from Amazon’s vision, too. The opportunities for an all-digital strategy can be limiting. We find that our most effective campaigns utilize a strategic balance of digital, traditional and non-traditional platforms. We test. We learn. We optimize. And, like Amazon, we deliver.


Creative people often cringe at the "data" word. Data this, data that. Data, data, data. It’s not just a trendy marketing buzzword. It’s a building block we use to create bigger, bolder, more effective ideas. Based on the right brain – left brain theories of old, you would expect creative types like me to run from the onslaught of data. Don’t squelch my creativity with numbers. Math sucks the life from people like me. I’m happy to say that it’s a brand new world where data inspires us to explore new ideas and change outcomes. Our creative folks not only welcome the benefits of data. We embrace them with mind and soul. While other “right brainers” may feel constrained by data, we find it liberating. Maybe that’s because we don’t look at data in raw form. We use what we call data intel. It requires a deep dive and analysis that often confirms an important brand truth or uncovers an actionable insight. That’s what gives data value. When applied with empathy and insight, data intel opens new doors and frees our minds to explore more deeply. It’s this balance we strike between creativity and data that makes us unique. It’s part of our DNA, embedded in our methodology. If your brand is data rich but you don’t have the time or energy to mine it, that’s where we come in. It’s our specialty and we thrive on intelligence.


Show me a brand that hasn’t at least started to embrace the power of video, B2C or B2B, and I’ll show you a brand that is struggling to effectively reach its customer. Whether it’s through social media channels, on websites or as part of online and mobile ads, people are streaming videos at an all-time high. But just because people are watching, it doesn’t mean the videos are doing their job. Research has shown that 80% of our decisions are based on emotions, not logic. A good marketing message appeals to both. However, given the 80/20 rule, you better do everything you can to get the emotional side of this equation correct. At our agency, we have a research and analytics platform that allows us to do advanced video testing to track the emotions a viewer experiences as they watch a video. It actually monitors, measures and analyzes the viewer’s facial expressions. Based on 50+ years of facial recognition and expression research, our platform measures multiple points on a viewer’s face to tell what they are feeling as the video rolls. It also measures attentiveness and eye movement. Eyes are often referred to as a window to the soul. Well facial expressions, involuntary as they may be, serve as a window to your emotions. We use this new technology in one of two ways; to review past videos and apply insights to future productions; or integrate it into our production process to optimize the video during post production. Either way, it uses cognitive science and artificial intelligence to create actionable insights. This facial analytics tool helped us optimize recent video content for a retail client. For years, this brand had taken a traditional approach with a “black and white” retail message. The message was straightforward, informational, with a promotional offer at the end. As the brand grew, we shifted to a more experiential place showcasing emotional and lifestyle benefits. That meant our video content also had to change. We used the platform to test our past videos and integrated it into the production process for the new look and feel of the brand. The original videos had very high attentiveness and positive emotion scores throughout the spot. So the bar was already pretty high. But we were able to glean some valuable insights. For instance, opening with a wide establishing shot delayed positive viewer emotion. Tighter shots that focused on people in action generated positive emotion much faster. Heat mapping of eye movements revealed key items that viewers seemed to seek out in the video. And the length of screen time for the promotional offers had an impact on both emotions and attentiveness. While past videos already had a positive emotional base, we were able to optimize our new videos to enhance the viewers’ emotional response, even when dramatically changing the brand foundational elements. Now, I recognize that some may cringe at the thought of using AI and science to impact creative output. But we’ve made it an integral part of our video production process, because our mission is to “Win the day with data-driven ideas.” We use data to develop the customer insights that fuel our creative ideas. Being a company with a mix of right and left brained individuals, it’s not about the data or tech, but rather what we do with it to create the most compelling marketing messages for brands. A recent blog post of mine touches on the importance of nuancing the data, not blindly following it. Gaining and applying insights on the type of emotional connection your brand makes with its video content can be a real game changer.


Growing up, a shopping trip to the mall was a much-anticipated event! It meant hanging out with friends, trying on the latest fashions, and eating at the food court. But well before COVID- 19 reared its ugly head, shopping trends changed and much of that had to do with consumers’ need to connect with brands, purchase products that have been personalized for us, and the ability to get our purchases quickly and conveniently. Brandience is here to help proactive retailers navigate the new and ever-changing customer journey – so that you continue to stay on the road to success. What’s a retailer to do to stay on top? Do consumer research on your own customers. Ask them not only about how you are performing but are there features that would make them buy more from you if those features became available? Create a customer advisory board with the goal of getting valuable and actionable input. Remember that meetings with this group are not meant to be sales presentations. Stay on top of the trends within your industry. Also, do a deep dive on your direct and indirect competitors. Test and learn to unlock data-driven innovation. Use this data to experiment on hypotheses, quickly measuring and understanding the KPIs around those hypotheses to drive future decision making. Should you become a First Mover or a Fast Follower? While the First Mover could have the competitive edge, the Fast Follower learns from the First Mover’s mistakes and improves upon the innovation. Which best fits your brand? So what are some of the trends and new innovations that retailers are trying? How are they contributing to a new customer journey? Here are a few to consider. Experiencing the brand on a deeper level For a brand to survive, it must provide more than just convenience. Customer experience is the key. For example, Lululemon not only sells trendy yoga gear, the stores offer free yoga classes as well. Joann Fabric & Craft Stores opened its first “Creator’s Studio” concept store in 2018. It featured cutting-edge technology, dedicated community and learning spaces, and new custom services. Given its success in connecting with what the customer wanted, the chain has since successfully rolled out several more of these stores across the country. Amazon Go and Amazon Go Grocery are traditional brick-and-mortar stores that let you enjoy grocery shopping without the hassle of standing in line to check-out by providing “just-walk-out- shopping”. Just-Walk-Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re finished shopping, you simply leave the store. Later, Amazon sends you a receipt and charges your Amazon account. Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence – influencing product personalization Personalization is creating interactions and experiences using digital marketing technologies. Trying before you buy helps you to feel confident about your purchase. No one wants buyer’s remorse and AR, Augmented Reality, is helping that become a thing of the past. For example, Warby Parker’s Virtual Try-On app overlays computer-generated glasses onto the customer’s face. This sounds much easier than struggling to choose a new pair of frames after your eyes have been dilated. Sephora not only offers beauty classes, it also has an app that allows you to virtually “try on” palettes, products and looks. Ikea Place and Pottery Barn’s AR apps allow customers to outfit a room virtually – making sure all pieces fit before the purchase. Combine those apps with Sherwin-Williams’ ColorSnap Visualizer mobile app’s capabilities and you’ll own a house that one might find featured on HGTV. Stitch Fix, an ecommerce brand, uses a blend of stylists and artificial intelligence, or AI, to help determine the customer’s preferred style to fit her budget and lifestyle. It also uses AI to streamline operations from filling boxes to managing inventory. Its success has led the company to expand into selling men’s and kids clothing. McDonald’s is even getting in the AI game. It has installed digital menu boards in its drive-thru lanes. These boards promote products based on the time of day, the weather, the popularity of certain menu items and even the length of the wait. For example, on a cold day, the board might promote hot chocolate as an alternative to a Coke. Delivery technology – not all purchases are made within its 4 walls E-commerce continues to grow across many categories such as apparel, beauty, books, music, furniture, and even toys. Much of this has to do with the convenience of shopping without leaving your couch, as well as the advances in delivery. People are willing to pay more for fast delivery and are even open to having delivery drivers enter their garage, car, and even their home to drop off packages. Even grocery stores have gotten into the game, with delivery being a very attractive option, especially during these times of shelter-in-place. Companies continue to explore the area of delivery. For example, Amazon’s Scout robot was put into test on the sidewalks of some suburbs in the state of Washington. Somewhat like the robot idea is Domino’s testing of self-driving cars. This “last mile” market is of interest for several companies such as Amazon, Google, UPS, Walgreens and Uber as they explore delivery by drones. Buy online, pick-up in store, or BOPIS, is a trend that took off during the past holiday season. The benefits for the customer are they can shop from their couch, incur little or no delivery fees, and have the knowledge that their package won’t succumb to “porch pirates.” Stores win because in many instances, the customer rings up additional items when picking up their packages. The traditional customer journey is changing, and retailers need to continue to reinvent themselves to stay connected with their customers’ ever-changing wants and needs. To come out as a leader, the brand’s focus must be much more than just selling product.


We have had the distinct pleasure of working with many established brands over the 15 years we have been in business. Personally, I have had the opportunity to partner with many more established brands over the course of my marketing career. So how do we define an established brand? First of all, it doesn’t start with a defined length of time in existence. Certainly a brand can’t reach established status overnight, so it does have to be in existence for a period of time. But it doesn’t have to be over 25 years, or 15, or 10 for that matter. It just needs to be around long enough to have developed a long-term relationship with its customers. In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, it can happen in as little as five years. Even with a long sales’ cycle, most brands would have had the opportunity to go through a second “buying” round with its customers over a five-year period. To be an established brand, the brand should have also developed a place within its category. It has to be known, have some specific character traits that its customers would clearly associate with the brand. Any brand that has been around awhile runs the risk of becoming stale or lazy. Often my work with established brands has been around helping them become “unstuck” in some way. Sometimes they needed to innovate as far as products or services are concerned. Other times they simply needed to reevaluate how they should communicate with today’s customer. They needed someone to help them decide which parts of their brand history should be carried forward and which ones should be reinvented. Having an established brand can be a powerful thing. So if your brand has a great history, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that having a heritage will slow you down. You’re in good company as long as you find ways to stay relevant.

baby boomers


Not Dead Yet!

I was recently in a media presentation where they showed an image of “Baby Boomers” as two older, very gray adults. The only positive point of the image was at least the Boomers were smiling. I immediately thought this is the problem – media companies and some brands are portraying this very lucrative group as old and behind the times. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Or, brands choose to focus on youth because they believe that will be a more positive image than showing those that are “over the hill.” Also, some brands think they don’t need to specifically address this group because “we’ll get them anyway since they watch lots of TV.” I believe this thinking is flawed. The process must start with understanding the consumer insights so you can create the right message, and then determine the right place and time to reach them. The 50+ group represents a third of the U.S. population, and accounts for $3.2 trillion of the U.S. consumer expenditures. According to a recent report from the Video Advertising Bureau, 77% of older adults feel their age group is being ignored by advertisers. They feel they are misrepresented in advertising and ignored. Certainly a missed opportunity for brands. The majority of Boomers are still working with 55% of them in the professional, management, and sales industries. They enjoy their work and it keeps them active. Boomers spend the most of their money on housing, healthcare, food – in and out of the home, and vehicles.* Brands in these categories can grow even bigger if they simply make sure their messaging resonates with those 50+. This group is only going to get larger, so what should companies do to become the 50+ target brand of choice? Brands Invest in research to determine how, where, why, and when customers use your product, especially those who are 50+. Within the 50+ group, take into consideration that there are three sub-segments: pre-retirees (age 50-62), active retirees (63-74), and seniors (75+). Dig into your customer purchase data to glean insights. It’s possible that the various segments may use the product differently. To encourage diverse thinking, ensure your marketing department is a cross-team of Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers. Agencies Analyze the research to understand if there’s the opportunity/need to segment messaging to represent all users of the brand’s product. Demonstrate to the brand that one size does not necessarily fit all. Bring the story to life for each segment with the appropriate imaging and story – focus on attitudes. Engage with positive, real-life experiences. Boomers seek opportunities for personal growth and discovery, and ways to take control of and enrich their lives. Once you have the right message, do your homework so that the ads appear in the right place at the right time. Don’t forget that Boomers are big users of video – crossing multiple screens and platforms. Brands who are taking Boomers seriously from which we can learn: L’Oréal – with Helen Mirren hitting age head-on Toyota Venza – makes you wonder “is this what happens when you age” AARP – suggests “the rules of aging are changing” If you haven’t guessed it already, I am a Boomer and proud of it. I believe some of my best years are still in front of me and I plan to live life to the fullest. I will continue to spend my money with those brands that take the time to know me and speak to me best. Hey, if Jon Bon Jovi, Bono and the Boss are still rocking it, so are their audiences. As 78-year-old Mick Jagger says – “Start me up!” Living isn’t just for the youth. *VAB Analysis of Consumer Expenditure Survey data, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

brand influence

Influencers. It’s a buzz word we’ve all been hearing. Many well-known brands, from H&M to Sprint to Naked Juice, are incorporating it into their marketing strategy. According to a recent study, 79% of brands plan to assign a budget to influencer marketing this year. But what’s really the deal with influencers? Are there different types of influencers? How are they different from brand ambassadors? And on which should your brand be focusing? The main factor that separates these popular terms is their current involvement with the brand. We’ll talk more about this later. But first, why the heck are so many brands carving out marketing dollars for their social influencer campaigns? A recent study by Olapic and Cite Research shows that out of 5,000 social media users surveyed, over half of them say they trust other social media users because “they’re more authentic and trustworthy than brand-owned creative.” On average, a staggering 40% of consumers admitted to purchasing a product they’d seen on an influencer’s YouTube channel, Twitter or Instagram account. Because of their believability coupled with their frequent visibility, brands are smart to look to influential people, or even just their loyal fans, to showcase their products. What is an influencer? An influencer is someone who has a following and actively engages with a particular niche. This level of engagement means that often times they have the power to affect purchase decisions. Category examples include foodies, fashionistas, travelers, moms, and event planners – just to name a few. Quick facts about influencers: When to use: Brands should view influencers as reach tools. They’re limited in their ability to create loyalists, but their popularity generally leads to widespread exposure to folks who aren’t familiar or engaged with your brand. Utilize influencers if your brand’s goal is short-term traffic boosts, a bump in impressions, or a bump in brand awareness. Brand connection: It’s likely that the influencer had no contact or even affinity with the brand before the partnership, but their presence on social media and online make them an investment of choice. Follower size: Influencers can come in a variety of sizes, from micro-influencers with fewer than 200 followers all the way to celebrity status with millions of followers. Working with an influencer: After careful vetting and metrics are aligned, a contract is typically made between the influencer and the brand. Exclusivity: It’s important to note that an influencer may post about multiple products within their niche category, not just your brand. What is a brand ambassador? A brand ambassador is notably different from an influencer. Ambassadors are individuals who are very familiar and deeply engaged with your brand. They often post about or represent the brand in a positive light and by doing so they help to increase brand awareness and encourage trial. This person may or may not be hired by the brand, and typically has a long-term relationship with the brand. Quick facts about ambassadors: When to use: These social personalities are much more focused on engagement with their fan base and creating loyalists. Brand connection: A brand ambassador is typically someone who is already familiar with the brand, a loyal user or even a fan. Sometimes they will spontaneously talk about a brand to their friends and followers. Follower size: Their audiences are mostly composed of friends and friends of friends. Think 2,000 followers, not 200,000. But because their followers have a closer relationship to the ambassador, there may be a deeper connection between the two. Their ability to influence purchase behavior should not be overlooked. This narrow group of followers is very likely to be actively engaged and responsive to the ambassador’s content. Working with a brand ambassador: Because people often become ambassadors for brands they’re already loyal to, it can be easier for your brand to create a lasting partnership. In an ambassador’s eyes, a simple reach out from a brand they love is often more important to them than monetary compensation in exchange for posts. When AdWeek asked social creators what they want in return from marketers, 90% said free products or services from the brand. In other words, an ambassador could be motivated by “compensation” in the form of getting to try a new LTO before it’s launched, being asked for input on potential new products, given gear store items, and having access to private brand events. Quality over quantity When it comes to influential people on social media, number of followers isn’t everything. What’s far more important is the level of engagement they receive on each post. Shake Shack, for example, used a strategy of recruiting 3,200 micro-influencers, generating an average of just 6,750 followers each. Proving there’s more than one way to reach your metrics. For both influencers and ambassadors, the strategy must start with an objective and a clear understanding of how to measure success. Focus your marketing dollars on a social campaign that fits your goal. If the objective is raising awareness and growing followers, influencers may be the way to go. But if your goal is to increase frequency of visits and strengthen loyalty, a brand ambassador approach may be a better fit. Either way, it is far more important to reach the people that count, than to count the people you reach. Download our handy infographic to reference the distinctions between brand influencers and ambassadors.

sound design

All brands understand the importance of visual identity. Brand guidelines often dedicate multiple pages for the logo alone. But there is an equally important brand asset that is often overlooked or ignored. It’s sound. Sonic or audio branding is a powerful tool that can be used to create mood, act as a memory peg, reinforce values and strengthen an emotional bond. Think about how a movie score impacts your experience, or the music that’s playing in your favorite store or restaurant. It’s an important sensory element that impacts how you feel about a product or experience. Jingles have long been a staple of advertisers. But sonic branding has evolved to include more sophisticated elements like brand mnemonics – little ear worms that burrow into your brain and remain with you throughout the day. Things like the four electronic notes that identify IT products with Intel chips inside. You get a feeling of reassurance knowing that the product is made with top quality components. Like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for your ears. It’s the reason why whenever you hear, “We are Farmers”. you automatically go “Bom-ba-dom-bom, bom-bom-bom.” Or the app on your phone plays the ESPN audio brand whenever a score is updated. Auditory assets like these make the brand more memorable and help to communicate the brand’s essence to your target audience. It becomes your audio logo. And it works whether you’re watching or not. Which is super important given the multi-screen habits that has become the norm for most consumers. Fact is, audio surrounds us every day. Not just on radio, but on TV, video, podcasts, music-streaming platforms. It’s virtually everywhere. A recent survey by Pandora found that 50% of all Americans listen to streaming audio weekly. They spend more time listening to streaming audio than they do on social networking. And it’s taking on a greater role than just entertainment. As voice-powered personal assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Home have become part of our everyday lives, audio branding has taken on an even greater role. Juniper Research estimates about 3.25 billion voice assistants are in use today and predicts that number will grow to 8 billion in 2023. These new technologies don’t just talk at consumers, they have enabled brands to have a two-way voice dialogue with customers. It’s another opportunity to use your sonic brand to make a sensory impression that sticks with your customers. That’s why it’s so important to develop a consistent sonic identity that can be used to create a consistent sound across everything from ads to on-hold music and the sound played at trade show booths. More and more brands are dedicating time and effort to how they sound and how their brand is heard online and beyond. If you aren’t leveraging your audio brand, you’re missing a powerful opportunity to forge a stronger emotional bond with consumers in today’s connected and voice-activated world.