Five Steps To Navigate Gen Z Consumers’ Demand For Sustainable Products

The world is changing. And while one can point to AI, machine learning, privacy literacy or blockchain when referring to change in the world of tech and marketing, the most impactful change will come from a massive shift in consumer behavior. Brands should not wait to witness this impending shift—they need to envision it and embrace it.

The confluence of several trends will lead to a significant paradigm shift in how Gen Z will behave as consumers:

  • The undeniable effects of climate change are now upon us. Both Gen Z and future generations will endure the effects of climate change that they do not deserve unless necessary action is taken now, and there is significant momentum pushing in that direction.
  • The urgency of climate change and the realizations surrounding it have driven a rapidly increasing demand and necessity for the sustainability of goods and services across all sectors.
  • The rise of impact investors (defined as investments made into companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return) will allow for more ethical, sustainable business models to take shape and compete in the marketplace.
  • The slow but continued persistence of the sharing economy, the adoption of a “rent, not own” mentality and the proliferation of on-demand, hardware-intensive services (think Lime or Bird scooters) will lead to decreased personal capital expenditures.
  • The explosion of “capacity capture” businesses such as Lyft and Airbnb point to a future where each and every resource will be utilized to its maximum capacity, not only for profitability, but also to reduce the unnecessary production of new goods.

All of this points to a future where sustainable products are not an option, but rather a requirement for a new generation of consumers. According to Cone Communications, Gen Z will account for 40% of global consumers in 2020 and 94% of them believe that companies should address urgent social and environmental issues. As Gen Z rises in the ranks of the workforce and they increase their purchasing power, they will judge and evaluate products and services with an expansive and decisive set of criteria when deciding on a brand or making a purchase—and brands need to be ready to compete.

According to Greenmatch, 72% of Gen Z would spend more money on goods and services produced in a sustainable fashion. However, in order for your product or your service to even be part of the consideration set, the baseline requirement will be that your brand has a positive impact on the environment—and moreover, that your brand is fully committed to sustainable and ethical practices. Most companies want to participate in sustainable practices, but some do not know where to start. Here are five tactics a company can use to embrace sustainability and be competitive in the marketplace:

  1. Get certified for sustainability. Whether it’s B-CorpTRUE Zero WasteLEEDGreen Business Bureau or other certifications, see what’s right for your brand.
  2. Open up. Provide visibility into your sustainability model, including, for example, your supply chain.
  3. Start small. Limit new sustainable product launches to smaller, focused audience segments; include higher price points to stress test price tolerance.
  4. Iterate. Test messaging and product options with proven, direct-to-consumer playbook tactics to better understand actual product-market fit.
  5. Be real. Don’t Greenwash. If you aren’t there, don’t spin it. Talking about how your product is eco-friendly because you source one sustainable component while the rest of it is associated with toxic practices will not fly.

Consumer behavior is always changing, of course. However, this juncture in human history is wildly different given the climate changes upon us and the effect they will have on how we use our purchasing power. The future is bright, and brands will do well by preparing for this impending shift, embracing it and taking this opportunity to have a positive impact on the world for everyone’s greater good.

7 Essential Lessons To Learn From Valentine’s Day Marketing Efforts

Valentine’s Day is a big deal for marketing firms. The holiday’s commercial slant has made it ideal for developing marketing campaigns around happy couples, gifts and the air of romance that’s all around. However, there are other, perhaps less obvious, lessons to be learned from these marketing efforts and audience responses that are critical to success during this season of love—and any time of the year. The most successful companies know how to leverage these techniques to make their customer experience truly exceptional, so what better strategy than to learn from those who have achieved marketing success with the holiday already?

Valentine's Day Marketing

These professionals from Ad Age Collective share a few valuable lessons derived from Valentine’s Day marketing efforts, and explain why these lessons are essential for other businesses hoping to achieve success.

1. Align communication with compelling motivation.

Valentine’s Day marketing by dating networks reminds us how important it is to align communications with the motivations compelling each of us. From leveraging humor to the power of love, the period between the New Year (when many of us make resolutions for improvement) and Valentine’s Day becomes a six-week marketing strategy sprint in which the most creative and compelling wins. – Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide

2. Create opportunities to share the love.

Valentine’s Day is all about sharing love, and the brands breaking through are those who are focused on that context. The Body Shop is asking people to blow a kiss to their friends on Instagram and tag it with #sendingakiss. Nina Ricci is asking its fans to post pictures of them with their BFF to Instagram and use the hashtag #MyBestValentine. These efforts not only engage their audience, but also leverage their audience to recruit new members. Brands able to identify the context of the moment and work with their audience to create experiences to fulfill those needs don’t just break through, they grow. – Mathew Sweezey, Salesforce

3. Aim to be what they need at the right time and place.

Consumers have very specific and, usually, immediate needs on Valentine’s Day or any major holiday. Take those lessons to show that a brand should fulfill a very specific need in a consumer’s life and be there for them at the right time and place. An omnichannel and targeted strategy is key here. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

4. Break the mold and disrupt yourself.

Valentine’s Day seemed to be unchangeable. The roses, the chocolates, the sappy couples—and the terrible movies. Then Deadpool came along and changed all that. Now brands look to subvert expectations when Valentine’s rolls around, as all businesses should do. Even if you think your industry is stable, it could change in a flash, so don’t be afraid to disrupt yourself before someone else does! – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Connect with your customers through experiences.

Branding has evolved from words and pictures to experiences, so holidays present a prime opportunity for companies to connect with their customers. In particular, Valentine’s Day is a special moment, an emotional experience, in which companies can engage and connect with their customers—specifically with custom-named campaigns that connect their brand with the holiday and the emotions of the day. Dunkin’ has created both “Dunkin Love” and Dunkintines to engage customers during their Valentine gift giving. Pizza Hut created a contest using #LastMinuteLovers and Uber had #RomanceOnDemand. All of these brands, and many others, use specific campaigns with clever names and catchphrases to engage their customers in the moment that’s authentic to their brand, and aligned with the experience of Valentine’s Day. – Aaron Hall, Siegel+Gale

6. Ensure your audience ‘feels’ your brand.

Powerful brands win. Branding is powerful, period. It’s what people hear, see, think, and feel—and the impressions that are formed as a result of their experiences with your product/service or business as a whole. Hearts and the colors red and pink make us think of (and feel) Valentine’s Day, even if it’s December. Businesses that have invested the time and intent in cultivating and positioning their brand will reap the benefits. It’s never too late to get this right, to go back to the drawing board even after years in operation and refresh your brand, beginning with the internal question, “What is our brand, now?” – Caryn Anderson, Operation HOPE

7. Give customers the chance to share their stories.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is about marketing traditional products and services, but it is also an opportunity to engage with our customers and allow each to tell their story—what is most important to them. We love hearing their unique stories, from their unique perspectives. From those who are home, to those deployed and away from loved ones, it reminds us what is most important! – Rich Honiball, Navy Exchange Service Command

9 Best Practices For A Successful Video Marketing Campaign

Video is one of today’s most popular forms of content marketing. Engaging visuals are often more effective than the written word, so it’s no surprise that brands are using video to attract consumers. It can also yield a major ROI for a business — as long as it’s done right.

Video Marketing Campaign

If you’re interested in using video as part of your marketing strategy, follow these recommended best practices from the members of Ad Age Collective. Their tips can help you get started on a successful video marketing campaign.

1. Offer value first.

Make sure the video is interesting in style and look. Make sure you are telling a story visually, but remember to keep it short and give. Don’t just take and sell. Offer your followers something in return for their time. Video is super impactful and works. You will see more of it in 2020. – Shana Starr, Bastion Elevate

2. Make sure it passes the silent movie test.

Without the sound on, would the first five seconds of your video compel someone to watch the full-length version? That’s the test you should run your videos through before posting. People have short attention spans, and they most often see the first five seconds of your video playing with the sound off, whatever device they’re on. So treat the first frames of your video like it’s a silent movie. – Todd Morgano, Falls Communications

3. Make it mobile-friendly.

Remember the mobile-first mantra when producing video. If you’ve produced an action feature for a 40-inch screen, that’s just one version. Make sure you have a mobile version that can achieve impact in a four-inch square with no volume (which might require a few keywords on screen). – Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency

4. Don’t sound too scripted.

Video, despite its ROI, is a costly investment for any business. With so much at stake, it’s tempting to control every single part of the process, but this must be avoided. If you script every part, it sounds — surprise surprise — scripted! Instead, outline the points you want to hit and focus on having a conversation with the talent to yield those moments of raw emotion that only video can capture. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Incorporate user-generated content.

Every day, people are creating amazing videos around your brand and sharing on social media. Ask individuals for permission to use this content in your video marketing. Visit Indy is one brand that is now running Facebook video ads made entirely from UGC video content sourced from locals and visitors. The result? Higher click-through rates and return on advertising spend because the content is more compelling and authentic to viewers. – Amrita Gurney, CrowdRiff

6. Customize your creative to the social platform.

Strong ROI on video advertising is closely tied to having compelling creative aligned to each individual platform and corresponding audience. You shouldn’t use creative for Facebook and Instagram interchangeably with YouTube, and you certainly shouldn’t just repurpose a TV spot. Video advertising offers the opportunity to tell a compelling story — invest in making that story great. – Adam Edwards, Metric Theory

7. Convey a clear, customer-focused message.

Make your videos count by ensuring your message is clear. In every single video, make sure the consumer knows how the brand will positively impact their life and why they need it. Pretty images only work if it’s worth their time, so make sure the imagery has a clear message that can provide a direct impact on the consumer and, therefore, generates ROI for the brand. – Jessica Hawthorne-CastroHawthorne Advertising

8. Lead the viewer to an action.

When you create a video, it’s important to lead the viewer into completing an activity that helps your business and them. Create a call to action, offer a discount or engage with them in some way. Asking your viewers to take action can lead to an increase in subscribers, your engagement rate and even conversions. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

9. Find an authentic and compelling voice.

The biggest change in the way video messaging was done last century versus this one is the end of “The Authoritative Voice.” The story-delivering pros, actors and voice talent have lost out to voices that seem like one’s peers. They still need to be great storytellers and compelling characters, but their authenticity matters far more than their authoritative polish. – Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)

Gen Z Advertising Dos and Don’ts for Marketers

Every day, advertising trends are emerging. These trends and tactics are newly developed as a means to best reach a target audience, whomever it may be. As such, advertisers are utilizing new marketing methods to reach the newcomers on the scene of consumerism: Gen Z. Here are some vital dos and don’ts advertisers should take into account when advertising to the Gen Z audience.

Gen Z Dos and Don'ts with Marketing

DO: Seek to Make an Authentic Connection With Consumers

Authenticity is paramount to a brand’s success in selling to the Gen Z audience. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, making connections has a whole new meaning for Gen Z, with the rise of technology. Social platforms have allowed for connection to feel more personal and more real than ever. As advertisers, taking advantage of this can make all of the difference. The more personalized social media marketing tactics present today make it inherently easier to reach your consumer. As a result, brands are more closely connected to their consumers than ever. Using this close contact to maintain an authentic relationship will go far with Gen Z. Interact with us and stay transparent; keep it real.

DON’T: Stick to Surface Level and Hope the Consumer Comes Knocking

With the tools at hand, not only is it easier than ever to make authentic connections with consumers, but it’s also more important than ever. The deep-rooted marketing tactics that credible companies have long used must be challenged to continue on successfully. Unless a brand’s marketing efforts dive deeper and seek to strike a chord with the emotions of Gen Z, they’ll likely have little to no luck. Remaining surface-level with the message advertised, along with how and what marketers choose to share about their products, just won’t work for a Gen Z audience. As consumers, Gen Z will never resonate with a brand unless there is a deep connection or story that sells the relationship between them and your product. This can only really be done if the campaign messaging hits hard on the reasons why it will truly enhance the lives of Gen Zers.

DO: Genuinely Care About Social Responsibility

One of the more exciting trends Gen Z can’t get enough of is social responsibility. Gen Z cares about the world they live in and the people in it, and are hungry for change to make a better tomorrow. They crave equality and want to help. Though these initiatives going mainstream have inevitably created some misconceptions, the overall adoption of these ideologies by brands is still a positive change, and Gen Z is excited about it. Whether products are ethically sourced and sustainably grown, or a company openly expresses its pro stance for transgender equality or that of female women employees, Gen Z feels incredibly satisfied to see these topics being taken on and embraced by brands.

DON’T: Stretch the Truth About Giving Back

If a company is moving toward more socially responsible initiatives, but isn’t quite there yet, that’s OK. The one thing that’s important to keep in mind as brands work to adopt more sustainable and socially responsible initiatives is to not stretch the truth. Becoming a socially responsible company does not happen overnight. As consumers, younger generations understand that. But during the process, brands should not market their products as sustainable or beneficial to a social justice cause, unless they truly are. Doing so will cause brands to look inauthentic to Gen Z when they do some online sleuthing and quickly find out the truth, ultimately driving away their business. Companies should simply state they are working toward it, and continue to do so. Gen Z prefers and appreciates sincerity and transparency as companies work toward a better future.

DO: Tap Into Trending News and Pop Culture

Pop culture is basically determined by young people. What’s cool, who’s not, and what’s funny on the Internet are some of the things Gen Z have precedence over, as generations prior have also ruled during their adolescence. This is nothing new. Tapping into pop culture can be one of the easiest ways to appeal to the Gen Z audience. Newsjacking, which is when brands creatively tailor trending news stories to bring attention to their own content, has proven successful on a number of occasions. Taking advantage of a situation for a brand’s own benefit seems intuitive and a win-win, as both the story/topic and the brand gain more exposure. However, when specifically targeting a young generation, it is vital to have a deep understanding of the topic before applying it to a brand inaccurately or overdoing it.

DON’T: Overdo the References in an Attempt to Relate to Gen Z

The easiest way to understand Gen Z is to pay attention to the media they consume. With that said, however, it’s important to remember that just because you’re in on a meme about Baby Yoda or Billie Eilish secretly being the same person as Lil Xan, doesn’t mean you can seamlessly relate to them. Though utilizing a pop culture reference can go extremely well in selling to Gen Z, it’s pretty easy to spot when it’s been done incorrectly by an older generational brand. This may seems like a simple way to get on the radar of Gen Z, but it’s really important to make sure it’s  done right. Don’t take advantage of pop culture references and don’t overuse them for the sake of a potentially easy connection. Only newsjack pop culture and trending news if it really fits in with your brand identity and if you really understand the happenings.

12 Top Content Marketing Trends Just Over The Horizon

There’s no question that content marketing is among the most viable methods for businesses to plan and execute their marketing strategies. It is the most cost-effective method for a company to reach out and engage its customers while building its brand presence.

Even small businesses can make an impact on their customers by using content marketing as their chosen strategy. In the coming year, a few content marketing strategies stand above the rest. Twelve associates of Forbes Agency Council explore the best of them and explain why any business should be aware of them in the new year.

Content Marketing Trends

1. Microcontent

Everything is content, from your future blog to the look of the restaurant chairs. Focus on microcontent — a different way of saying “hello” or “thank you.” A different approach to the images you upload, like a branded border or signature element. Embrace the content as a way to make your brand stand out. Give your content a unique approach — only then your content can be considered marketing. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System

2. Multimodal, Multichannel, Multivariant Content

Content marketing is amazing. The mistake being made by most isn’t a problem with their content strategy, it is with their channel strategy. Audiences are more diverse and divergent than ever. Releasing an amazing weekly blog/podcast/video on your favorite channel is great, but in just a few seconds of extra work, a single piece of content can become primed for a multichannel approach. – Kirk Westwood, Glass River Media

3. Rise Of Timeless Content

The biggest mistake in the pro services world is trying to be timely. Most of the challenges that clients struggle with do not come from the latest changes in the industry or markets. They come from latency in decision-making and execution on what people already know to do. So make sure your content speaks to the timeless wisdom that is obvious to you but not obvious to your ideal client. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

4. Proprietary Data And A Unique POV

As media outlets continue to accept more and more unpaid contributors seeking to elevate their profiles through thought leadership articles, there is an increasing amount of “educational” content online — and a lot of it sounds the same now. As a result, to really stand out, your content needs to either include proprietary data, a hot take on an old issue or a truly unique point of view. – April White, Trust Relations

5. Short Videos Becoming The Norm

Videos have secured their spot on the mantle as the most engaging form of content over the past couple of years. In 2020, short videos are set to be the next mega-trend. With five- to 15-second short videos, brands will be able to connect with their audience on a very personal level. The idea isn’t about creating scalable content; rather, the goal is to build relationships on a deeper level. – Osama Khabab, MotionCue

6. Increased Live Streams

Live streaming allows a defined audience to feel special. It gives them a front-row seat and allows them a level of interaction and engagement higher than other traditional platforms. This, in turn, creates more brand advocates and loyalists. We will likely see many improvements in live streams over the next year as more and more brands adopt this content marketing strategy. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

7. GIFs, AR Filters And Lenses

It’s no surprise that video continues to be a top content marketing trend. Every year, it becomes an increasingly critical component to running an effective campaign. Visual content is going to be even more critical in 2020. Augmented reality (AR) filters and lenses for social channels like Snapchat and custom GIFs from video clips are creative tactics brands can use to engage with their audiences. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

8. Content Built For Voice Search

According to ComScore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches in 2020. Voice search queries are not the same as a search typed into Google. For example, you may type on your smartphone: “digital marketing agency” but a voice search may be, “who is the best digital marketing agency?”. Creating content to target voice search queries should be a top priority for every agency. – Chuck Kim, Executive Digital

9. Renaissance Of User-Generated Content

Consumers want to hear from other consumers. 2020 will be the year that marketers supercharge user-generated content (UGC). According to Adweek, 85% say visual UGC is more influential in decisions than brand-generated photos or videos. Why? It’s authentic, it’s real and it’s wildly cost-effective to boot. You can also repurpose it in many creative ways. – Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency

10. Growing Importance Of Context

Privacy and limiting personal consumer information will play an even greater role in 2020. Delivering relevant, high-value content can no longer be reliant on personal data and cookies alone; sophisticated tools like contextual targeting will become invaluable. Understanding that we have enough information without user information means we can face the future of the industry with far less fear. – Lon Otremba, Bidtellect

11. Partnership Of Brands And Influencers

A top content marketing trend will be in the partnerships between brands and influencers. However, it will be the influencers with true followings who will rise to the top, and those who were on the fringes or didn’t have a strong voice will fall away. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

12. A Return To People-Focused Content

With the rise of AI in technical SEO, we are on the verge of a new age of content creation. In the past, content creators have sacrificed readability and clear communication for keyword ranking and SEO manipulation. Content is moving away from speaking exclusively to the algorithm, and edging back to the people. 2020 is poised to kick off a renaissance of exceptional, relevant content. – Jerry Kelly, Marketing 360®

6 Exciting Publishing Trends Ad Professionals Want To See In 2020

It’s a new year and decade, and experts across all industries are waiting to see if their predictions for 2020 trends will come to fruition. The digital publishing landscape is no exception — professionals in advertising and media have a lot of ideas about what’s coming this year. What’s more, these predicted trends have the potential to leave a significant impact on marketers and content creators.

Six Publishing Trends for 2020

To give you a better idea of what may lie ahead in the content publishing world, we asked the members of Ad Age Collective about the trends they hope to see this year. From increased live video to more interactive content, keep an eye on your digital feeds for these six things.

1. Live video surpassing recorded video

2019 was the year companies really dove deep into video. The problem? A tidal wave of corporatized videos that all sounded the same — clean in appearance, but stale in content. In 2020, recorded video will decline as consumers become suspicious of overly polished videos. Instead, companies will turn to live video as a medium to publish content and engage consumers in a more authentic way. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

2. Quality over quantity

I keep wondering when we’re going to find the end of the internet or when the servers are going to say, “drive full.” I hope 2020 will be the year of less content and more substance. Write excellent stories once a month or quarter instead of “producing content” weekly. Don’t produce to occupy an audience; select one amazing idea and move them to action. – Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency

3. More interactive content

Interactive content lets you engage with customers in a more meaningful way. Customers participate in creating content instead of just consuming it. More interactions will help us understand customers better and connect with them, which will help businesses provide better services and more helpful products. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

4. Removing ‘likes’

The testing of removing “likes” from social media would be a game-changer in the industry. Not only would it remove some of the negative impacts affecting society, but it would also even out the influencer market so only true influencers would work and those with fictional followers would go by the wayside. – Jessica Hawthorne-CastroHawthorne Advertising

5. Consistent monetization models for traffic

This year is going to expand the trend of publishers looking for ways to monetize their traffic. Publishers have toyed with models such as affiliate revenue and product development, with each having its pluses and minuses. 2020 will be the year where publishers finally figure out some consistent methods of monetizing their traffic. – Michael Lisovetsky, JUICE

6. Scale of attention

Unprecedented consumer athleticism with devices and distribution has transformed an advertiser’s customer base into a full population of relentless video content editors and publishers. Anyone can sort through a sea of sameness in seconds to get to where their video attention is placed on “hold.” The great news is that the video content being consumed and shared is like a food group to consumers. Look for the individual stories, characters and events that are being “eaten” in real scale (in millions) by real consumers and make the most of technology tools to reach the appropriate audiences for your brand. Scale of attention will differentiate great content in 2020, in real-time, capturing everybody’s appetite. – Sean Cunningham, VAB

13 Unique Ways A Business Can Use Video To Engage Its Audience

Ever since innovations on the web made the embedded video a viable strategy, marketers have realized how vital this visual medium is to get consumers’ attention. As companies started to utilize this new technology, and it became more democratized, the popularity of video as a communication medium exploded.

However, there are several techniques that a business can utilize when their chosen medium is video. To make an impact, a company must stand out with their content. Thirteen professionals from Forbes Agency Council explore how companies can be unique about their use of video in marketing, and how they can stand out from the crowd by leveraging these tactics.

13 Unique ways to engage with video

1. Engage Category Influencers

Consumers love video, as long as it is informative or entertaining or ideally both. Inform — don’t hard-sell. Engage YouTube influencers in your category and hire them to create branded videos with simple production values. And develop your own YouTube influencers through your SMEs or even enthusiastic customers. – Robert Finlayson, Zeno Group

2. Don’t Be Afraid To Get Personal

Grab the audience’s attention with a highlighted image or offer that catches their eye right off the bat. Once you have their attention, make the following seconds worth their time by letting the consumer or audience know how the brand can positively impact their life in the most concise and emotional way possible. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

3. Jump On A Hot Topic

When Peloton’s latest ad showed a woman getting an exercise bike from her husband for Christmas, social media outrage ensued. Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin, however, identified an opportunity to engage in a trending cultural moment, creating a spot with the same actress and telling the story of what happened next. The lesson for brands is to keep it simple, relevant and most of all, timely. – Ryan Cassin, Asset Agency

4. Target A Search Query

Making videos that answer a specific question — especially a how-to question — can be very effective. People ask Google questions, and if your company has a good answer which can be made into a short, engaging video, you may have found an excellent way to rank first in search for a specific query. It’s important to ensure that the title of your video exactly matches the query you are targeting. – Samuel Michelson, Five Blocks

5. Create Snackable Videos

When people think of video formats, it is natural to associate them with high production costs. There is an incredible amount of tools out there today that allow you to create high-quality, made-for-social videos that are engaging with only a few clicks. Some videos — although short and sweet — can have a big impact when done the right way. Be consistent and results will come. – Alex Sandoval, MOI Global

6. Stand Out With Personalized Videos

Creating personalized videos for your audience is a smart way to stand out in a cluttered marketing landscape. When a customer sees their name or brand in the video thumbnail, they are much more likely to click through to view your content. The great news is that solutions such as Vidyard now make it possible to personalize videos at scale. – Jenni Smith, EGR International

7. Do A Weekly Live-Streamed Podcast

Setting up an in-house podcast and live-video streaming studio is relatively inexpensive and allows brands to amplify the way they engage their audience. Podcasts (and video streaming) can cover a range of topics, from reflecting on industry insights and news to interviews with industry thought leaders (or happy clients). Video is by far the most effective tool to maximize audience engagement. – Kristopher Jones, LSEO

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Use Animation

It seems counter-intuitive, but using animation as a video can often communicate a message better than a talking head. The reasons are: the ability to create the scene to suit the message, the flexibility to add captions and transition slides, and the creative freedom to make a point directly, rather than subtly. Animation also enables you to feature brand attributes to support your message. – Francine Carb, Markitects, Inc.

9. Convert Website Case Studies To Video

Case studies are critically important to building trust and gaining the interest of business-to-business clients. But the traditional written case study, with its “problem, solution, result” format, doesn’t have the impact it used to. It’s been overused. Turning your case studies into video testimonials — with client interviews and compelling storytelling — will get them a broader and more engaged audience. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

10. Make Sure You Offer Value

Video should be just like any other content offer and give the viewer real value. Don’t push videos out about your great products or services. Do create authentic videos where you offer insights, takeaways, and action items that viewers can gain by watching your video. Next, make sure the offer is clear in the first five seconds and your engagement rate will soar. – David Ward, Meticulosity

11. Focus On The Story, Not The Sell

To help your videos stand out and connect with viewers, use them to tell stories, not rehash sales pitches. The power of video is the emotions it engages. Sales pitches aren’t emotionally engaging. Stories are. Make people fall in love with your brand through video. Hook first. Sell later. Practice inbound marketing fundamentals and you’ll see success. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

12. Speak With Your Brand’s Voice

Videos are another element contributing to our brand image and should be treated as such. Understanding the audience and the brand inside and out will help the creatives produce video content that carries the same voice. This is important because we can’t expect a single video to make much of an impact, but a series of consistent videos that follow a strategy will be memorable and impactful. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

13. Stop Trying So Hard

The very word “video” stirs this notion that we need to be creating Oscar-winning footage to win at the game. Some of the most viral, clever videos are shot on an iPhone and feature signature choppy editing with grainy images. Source user-generated content over trying to hire the next Quentin Tarantino to shoot your video. Think raw, think real, think radically simple with your video efforts. – Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency

15 Mistakes Agencies Make In Their Creative Content Process (And How To Fix Them)

The creative content process can take a long time, and each agency has a different approach to it. There’s no standardized method of producing content, and what one agency provides will be vastly different from another because of how they go about developing it.

The diversity in creation has its benefits and drawbacks, however. In a lot of cases, agencies may develop a creative process that inadvertently creates issues, leading to a sub-par final product. Fifteen associates of Forbes Agency Council take a look at some of the mistakes agencies make with their creative process, and how they can seek to fix those problems.

15 Mistakes Agencies Make with Creative and how to fix them

1. Focusing On Quantity Over Quality

Sometimes quantity can kill quality and creativity. The most common mistake I have seen is when, in the rush of producing more, agencies compromise on quality. We must focus on building content that will be followed, liked, go viral. The consumer will never decide to buy just because the content is abundant, but the consumer will always pay attention if the content is interesting. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System

2. Letting Creativity Overshadow Goals

Agencies forget to ask, “what’s the goal?” throughout the creative process. In an effort to produce unique and creative content, it is easy to forget what the goal of the content is. Do you want the reader to contact your company? Watch a video? Sign up for your webinar? Keep the core goal in mind as creativity flows from concept to launch. – Bernard May, National Positions

3. Not Doing Research First

One of the most common errors we help clients correct is the notion that creative concepts are by necessity based on intuition or happenstance. The biggest brands in the world know that effective creative is grounded in customer journey research. Knowing who your customers are and how they interact with your brand is essential to consistently creating campaigns that connect. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

4. Becoming Order-Takers Instead Of Idea-Makers

On one level, clients hire agencies to produce content or to do PR or marketing or web design. But ultimately, they are hiring you for your ideas. The most common mistake agencies make in their creative content process is to let their clients drive strategy. They become order-takers instead of idea-makers. Agencies must make sure their process always centers on strategy first, output second. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

5. Not Having A Clearly Defined Process

Many businesses never clearly define their process or they use an undocumented process. This is a common mistake. Once you document steps and, subsequently, results, you can refine your process, as you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll also ensure that your system is maintained. Your process does not need to be written in stone, but it should be written somewhere! – Fran Biderman-Gross, Advantages

6. Account Teams Trying To Influence The Creative

A common issue we’ve encountered in agencies is the account team injecting themselves into the creative process and direction. Account team lends perspective for the creative team to then consider but they should not be directing the creative. Attempting to implement thoughts the client has without thought to the decisions that have been made and why they were made, can be disastrous. – Paul E. Benninghove, Pavone Marketing Group

7. Creating Content That Doesn’t Fit Your Brand

A common mistake is spitballing content ideas that don’t fit a business model or branding. An easy way to fix this is just imagining how each tactic fits into your company’s mission, vision or overall presence. How does that piece of content reflect on you? Where is it going to be posted? Is it quality content? These are the questions that you should be asking when creating content. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

8. Overstaffing A Campaign

When there’s a favorite campaign that everyone wants to work on, don’t fall into the trap of overstaffing it — everyone will start applying their hours to it, thus escalating time and budgets. Assign a small creative team to the campaign early on and keep the meetings short. Team members must adhere to the account lead and finance but don’t limit creativity — just pick the right team for the project. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Thinking Too Big

As marketers, we’re trained to “think big” but in truth, sometimes our clients want us to solve a singular problem without rewriting the entire constitution. What if instead of thinking big, we started small and clearly defined the desired outcome coming up with uncomplicated, smart solutions? Too often, I see agencies overworking the creative concept and missing the core challenge. Small is big! – Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency

10. Not Checking The Analytics

One of the worst mistakes that firms make is that they over-advertise and they over-saturate people with information as well as with content. This is not a wise move because it  means that people will not pay attention to messages when they are important. One of the most important lessons is to take the time to know your audience. A part of that means getting to know when to mail them. – Jon James, Ignited Results

11. Not Allowing Enough Time For Collaboration

The most common pitfall for agencies in this modern age is failing to allow enough time and space for real, organic, creative collaboration. This cannot happen in conference calls or over email. At our agency, when we gather in our conference room, close our computers and turn off our phones for an uninterrupted design sprint, we accomplish twice as much. – Jenni Smith, EGR International

12. Not Talking About What Matters To Ideal Clients

It’s amazing to me how many pro service firms do not have a clearly defined ideal client profile. I believe this is foundational to all creative messaging and promotion strategies. The ideation process, where campaigns are won or lost, should keep the goals, opportunities and challenges of ideal clients at the center. This is how “creative” creates distinction and brand differentiation. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

13. Holding Onto Agency Structures Of The Past

Times have changed. Gone are the days when an agency is staffed like an assembly line, with everyone adding their cog to the wheel to make it move. Agencies holding on to the structures, processes and titles of the past are killing their creative process. Today’s modern marketing dynamic demands lean, nimble teams with better creative output, and everyone (from the top down) pitching in. – Jessica Reznick, We’re Magnetic

14. Using Excuses To Replace ‘This Isn’t A Priority’

There are hundreds of easy approach solutions to every limitation. Excuses are a smoke screen covering micromanagement and misaligned priorities. Executives overseeing the process, middle managers overemphasizing limitations and team members feeling unempowered — that is the real problem. Empower the team to find and own solution, and the process will work, every time. – Kirk Westwood, Glass River Media

15. Getting Caught Up In The Flavor Of The Week

One common mistake is to focus on a new flashy technology. It may be getting a lot of press and the clients may be asking for it. Don’t get caught up in the flavor of the week and stay grounded in what the brand is trying to accomplish. Bright and flashy creative ideas come and go but something that is creative and aligns to brand strategy has a much better chance of having a business impact.  – Laura Glotzbach, LGS Marketing Services

Making The Most Of This Year’s Advertising Budgets: 15 Expert Tips

Over the last decade, the number of channels for marketing products has more than doubled. As expected, the amount of spending has matched the increased number of channels, with businesses in any industry striving to make the most of their advertising budgets so as to take advantage of as many marketing channels as possible.

With so many options available, it’s essential that organizations only invest in channels that actually prove their worth. Figuring out what those channels are early and getting in on the ground floor can put a company miles ahead in the game. To help out those businesses looking for the scoop, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council offer their insight into where an organization should put its advertising money this year for optimal results.

Make the most of your advertising budget

1. Focus On Digital And Win 

For the placement of a successful advertising message, the target group must still be addressed exactly where it spends most of its time. Due to the digital change, the advertising budget has not only increased in recent years, this change will also continue to assert itself with regard to technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Agencies that focus on online advertising will be among the winners! – Markus Hetzenegger, NYBA Media GmbH

2. Invest In What Consumers Want To Watch 

More and more video content is being consumed on our mobile phones. This content ranges from watching a long-form series on OTT platforms to short-form vertical videos on TikTok, Snapchat and Quibi. Instead of interrupting consumers viewing this content with banner ads and pre-roll, brands should start creating branded entertainment that viewers will want to seek out and engage in. – Kaaren Whitney-Vernon, Shaftesbury

3. Diversify To Multiply Your Advertising Effectiveness 

Time and again, research has proven the multiplier effect on awareness and consideration that advertising across multiple channels can have. The essential growth strategy for 2020 is to diversify. Try adding another channel into the mix. It’s also important that your advertising is optimized to each channel’s best practices — don’t just copy your ads and messaging from one channel to the next. – John Keehler, RUNNER Agency

4. Allocate More Funds To Personalization 

We’re going to see more ad dollars devoted to personalization. Consumer targeting will reach all new targeted peaks as brands build out robust multichannel marketing strategies yet manage to deliver personalized messages to each individual customer. Consumers want brands to make them feel special. Agencies that want to get ahead use data to deliver messages tailored for each individual customer. – Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency

5. Spend It On The Customer Experience 

As everything commoditizes and advertisers continue to struggle to be noticed, it seems the best thing to do in 2020 is spend your money on the customer experience. Many of the typical media channels are so saturated that every dollar spent on the stakeholder experience may yield higher returns. With so many advertisers “screaming” at the consumer, actions might be the best advertising. – Bo Bothe, BrandExtract, LLC

6. Invest In Paid Social Media Targeting 

The media landscape continues to evolve with new digital players such as TikTok disrupting the game. However, the key to maximizing ad budget and ROI will continue to come down to your ability to effectively target your audience. With TV, print and billboards you are guessing. That’s not the case with paid social on Facebook and Instagram, which will remain the best place to spend money in 2020. – Kristopher Jones, LSEO

7. Leverage LinkedIn Promotional Media 

In business-to-business, this year’s trend will be to utilize and leverage various aspects of LinkedIn in a single campaign. Sponsored ads will lead to original posts which will lead to landing pages and calls to action. The concept is to begin by targeting a specific audience with something attention-getting, then transition to a thought leadership article or educational information, and eventually to a company’s website. – Francine Carb, Markitects, Inc.

8. Don’t Underestimate Facebook 

Facebook ads have been saturated for quite some time and the cost of “real estate,” so to speak, has been high. As many companies are shifting ad spend to other platforms, it will open up spaces on Facebook to gain cheaper traction within the platform, given the right model. – Michael Smith, MDS Media Inc.

9. Focus On Mobile Video Advertising 

Two massive audience trends are set to converge in 2020 — the migration to mobile and increased interest in video. Mobile’s share of the U.S. digital advertising market has grown to almost two-thirds, and more than half the population watches video content on mobile devices regularly. Agencies that produce compelling mobile video ads will be ahead of the game in the coming year. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

10. Prioritize Influencer Marketing 

With digital ad spend slated to overtake traditional ad spend, we’re going to see more companies prioritizing influencer marketing in their increasingly digital budgets. With all the ways to measure influencer performance, ROI-based campaigns are going to replace the initial wave of experimentation. Brands are turning away from fads and vanity metrics in favor of real KPIs. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group

11. Go Native 

Native advertising has gone through several reputation iterations, from seedy clickbait to social media staple. In the open web, it’s savvy programmatic buyers’ best-kept secret: When done right, native ads are content previews and lead to the highest post-click engagement. About $2.98 billion will go toward native ads outside social networks in 2020 — the fastest growth of any channel, according to eMarketer. – Lon Otremba, Bidtellect

12. Personalize Customer Touch Points 

“Best spent” means ROI to me, and advertising dollars that go toward direct, personalized customer touch points will deliver the most ROI. This includes email and mobile, but could encompass creative remarketing across digital and social channels, including in-home touch points like product packaging and direct mail. Marketers should think less about channels and more about omnichannel and experiential. – Tripp Donnelly, REQ

13. Put Your Money On CTV 

Connected TV will have one of the largest rates of expansion over the coming year. People still want content, but they continue to want it delivered on more diverse mediums, and Connected TV can reach them wherever they are. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

14. Place The Media Around Consumption Habits 

There are so many options when it comes to buying and placing media. Agencies and businesses can get ahead by only placing media around the target audience’s consumption habits. People who are 18 to 24 years old consume media differently than 35-to-44-year-olds. The social platforms they use, TV shows, magazines — all different. To avoid large amounts of wasted impressions, the execution needs to be hyper-targeted. – Sean Allen, Twelve Three Media

15. Spend Your Ad Dollars On Content Instead 

When you buy traffic, you only get one ROI. When you spend it on content, you make that ROI over and over again from earned organic traffic. The investment is longer term, but sticking to the inbound methodology will eventually lower your cost per acquisition below paid media. If you want to get ahead in the game, invest in content — you’ll still be generating traffic when your budget is gone. – David Ward, Meticulosity

Tim Hawthorne Honored With 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award by Marketing EDGE

LOS ANGELESJan. 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Tim Hawthorne, Founder and Chairman of creative, analytics, and technology-driven advertising agency, Hawthorne Advertising, has been named as a Lifetime Achievement Award honoree by Marketing EDGE, a nonprofit organization. This award recognizes Hawthorne’s contributions to the field of marketing and the educational development of future marketers. It pays tribute to the lives, campaigns, and businesses Hawthorne has influenced and inspired to pursue career excellence and performance through intelligent, evocative, creative, accountable marketing.

Tim Hawthorne

“It’s an honor to receive the Lifetime Achievement award from Marketing EDGE,” said Hawthorne. “I’ve dedicated my career to pushing the advertising industry forward and fostering the next generation of marketing leaders. I deeply appreciate the recognition and thank Marketing EDGE for this opportunity.”

Hawthorne graduated cum laude from Harvard University. After producing and writing news documentaries with CBS and NBC TV stations in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, he founded Hawthorne Productions in 1980 and was accepted into the Directors Guild of America. Early clients included the prime-time programs Real People and That’s Incredible! and the syndicated shows You Asked for ItRipley’s Believe It or Not, and Entertainment Tonight. He also contributed programs to the emerging Cable Health Network.[2][3][4]

In 1986, Hawthorne founded Hawthorne Communications, now Hawthorne Advertising, the first full service agency focused exclusively on long form direct response television (DRTV). Since its inception, the company has managed over 600 DRTV campaigns and grossed billions of dollars in sales for its clients with its performance marketing expertise. Hawthorne Advertising consistently wins dozens of awards each year for the excellence of its work and collaborates with an impressive roster of Fortune 500 clients. The agency stands out for the impact, influence, and innovation of its campaigns.

Tim Hawthorne is credited with a number of DRTV industry firsts. He was the first advocate of major brand advertisers incorporating long-form TV advertising in their media mix and negotiated the first long-term bulk media contract with a national cable network. He co-founded NIMA (later known as the Electronic Retailing Association) and wrote the industry’s most cited full-length textbook. Hawthorne produced and managed the first infomercial for a Fortune 500 company, a major credit card company, a major health insurance company, and created the first campaign using DRTV to drive retail sales for an established brand. He oversaw the development of the first software program dedicated to analyzing sales and viewership performance of long form media and coined the term Media Efficiency Ratio (MER), a key performance indicator now a standard industry metric.

Hawthorne has garnered many awards throughout his career including a Lifetime Achievement award from the former Electronic Retailing Association and induction into the Direct Response Hall of Fame. He has been named the “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the Midwest Region by USA Today and Ernst & Young and recognized as one of the “25 Most Influential People In DRTV” by Response Magazine. Hawthorne’s long-term leadership in the DRTV field earned him the moniker “Father of the Infomercial.”

Today, Hawthorne Advertising is owned and operated by his daughter, Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, a former Marketing EDGE Rising Star who also has a host of awards including the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” for Greater Los Angeles. Hawthorne-Castro continues the tradition of being an industry leader in performance marketing and data analytics, delivering an ROI for their clients that exceeds all others.

“Tim was the person who first introduced me to the advertising business and has always been a tremendous source of wisdom and support,” said Hawthorne-Castro. “It’s wonderful to see his achievements recognized in this way and I am excited to celebrate with him.”

Now in its fifth year, the Marketing EDGE Awards celebrate excellence in marketing leadership. Each year, Marketing EDGE considers a Lifetime Achievement Award honoree by reviewing an individual’s hard work and success throughout their career and considering their dedication to supporting marketing educational programs. The ceremony for the 2020 EDGE Awards will take place on Monday, June 1 at Pier Sixty in New York City. Proceeds from the evening will benefit Marketing EDGE, to further its mission of launching the next generation of diverse and inclusive marketing leaders.

This year, Marketing EDGE held its first ever kick-off event on January 21 at the Nasdaq offices in NYC’s Times Square. Hawthorne-Castro attended the January 21 event to represent her father. To learn more about the company and how they deliver value by combining creative services with data science, visit hawthornedirect.com.

About Hawthorne Advertising:
Hawthorne Advertising, a creative, analytics and technology-driven advertising agency, specializes in strategic planning, creative development, production, media planning, buying and analytics, and campaign management for integrated marketing campaigns. With nearly 35 years of proven excellence, the agency combines persuasive brand messaging with best-in-class analytic systems to create accountable, high performance advertising campaigns. Hawthorne helps brands efficiently target their consumers, improve cost per acquisition, optimize the lifetime value of a brand’s customers, and even drive consumer response to key retail outlets or corporate locations. As a leading analytic and data driven, accountable brand advertising agency, Hawthorne specializes in integrated campaign solutions. The company offers a full suite of integrated solutions with creative, media, digital and mobile services. Hawthorne maintains brand integrity and metrics to efficiently and effectively optimize the results of its clients’ integrated media budgets via leading edge and proven data analytics. Hawthorne has developed successful award-winning campaigns for countless Fortune 500 brands. Please visit www.hawthornedirect.com and http://www.linkedin.com/company/hawthorne-direct for more information.

Media Contact:
Rachel Bernstein
rbernstein@sspr.com 
856-745-3268