Team Passions Grow a Giving Tree

 Organizations E29 Supports

Organizations E29 Supports

Each month a team member at E29 picks a way to challenge the team to do something that will push them, help them grow, get outside their comfort zone, or just do a little extra. I picked June and I was SO inspired that on a personal level I am carrying it out through the rest of the year. I asked the team to find a way to “give back” once a week. In any way that helps others and that is close to their heart. I gave examples of different ways we could help with personal goals and/or as a team.

So, I’ll start with what I set out to do...

Week 1: Make dogs pull tugs and blankets for shelter animals. At any craft store during this time of year (in California) fleece fabric is on clearance so my daughter and I picked out fun patterns and got to work! It was so fun going to the shelter and delivering these handmade items, and I loved that my daughter was a part of it.

Week 2: I posted on Facebook that I was collecting canned goods and non-perishable food items for the Orange County Second Harvest Food Bank for the homeless. It prompted many of my neighbors to clear out their pantries and throw away the old, but donate their overstocked items. We donated bags and bags and bags of canned goods with the help of my amazing friends and family!

Week 3: is a charity close to my heart as my nephew is on the spectrum and in the past, we have attended walks in his honor, and purchased goods to increase awareness and fund research. I couldn’t let this challenge go by without a monetary donation in Cannon’s honor.

Week 4: This was my biggest challenge and it’ll be one that continues all year, and hopefully years to come. Being a trail runner in California and seeing the devastation of the numerous forest fires that burned away my morning runs, scenic drives and neighbor’s homes and memories...this would be my finale. I set out to become a Tree Ambassador through to assist in reforestation. This organization is awesome! They are located in Vermont but work with local arborists all over the nation to raise money and recruit ambassadors to help spread the word and actually get in and get dirty. You can log on and donate and $1=1 sapling. Every area requires a different type of tree for its environment and I am learning so much through meetings with their team, reading up and speaking with my local reforestation rep. This unfortunately is a poor time to replant in our areas, so until the Fall, I will be raising money that will go directly towards the trees that I will be replanting with a team in Laguna Canyon.

The organizations we as a team supported:

  • American Red Cross for Volcano Relief in Hawaii
  • Autism Speaks
  • The Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence
  • End the Backlog
  • Goodwill
  • One Tree Planted
  • San Francisco - Marin Food Bank
  • Salt Lake County Animal Services
  • Second Harvest Food Bank
  • SpoofDawg Animal Rescue Shelter
  • Youth Potential South Africa

“Especially in the #MeToo era, it is important that survivors get the justice they deserve. END THE BACKLOG is bringing awareness to the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. I’m so happy to support this organization that is doing such incredible work. By ending the backlog and supporting survivors, we are supporting all women and gender equality.” -Megan

“YOUPSA helps pave the way to awaken the creativity, potential and purpose in South African youth. It is a non-profit education project for disadvantaged rural youth in the Eastern Cape Province.” -Suse

Through this process, our team raised money or donated their time to some amazing nationwide, and local organizations and I’m so happy that everyone became a part of this challenge. It made me think of different ways to give back everywhere I was…and just as important, my daughter did too.

A Millennial Marketers Take on #29Rooms from Refinery29

 Inside the Palace of Fine Arts, #29Rooms

Inside the Palace of Fine Arts, #29Rooms

#29Rooms is Refinery29’s exploration into connecting with their readers in an experiential way. #29Rooms is an annual funhouse of style, culture and creativity created by a group of global artists and visionaries. It launched in 2015 during NY Fashion Week and has expanded to major US cities, including San Francisco where I attended. You'll find food, drinks, music, singing, pictures, shredding, (temporary) tattoos, donating, boxing, painting, sharing (dreams and secrets) and more! To no one’s surprise, it didn’t take long to sell out. And when they released more tickets, it just built up the hype leading up to the show.

As a media company, it’s not surprising that the #29Rooms brand is on point. The name is geared towards millennials and ready to trend on Twitter. #29Rooms itself has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, their own merch line and a special Snapchat filter. Their branding is the perfect shade of millennial pink.

#29Rooms is one of a kind. Everything from the art, creativity and experiences is exciting and a must-see. It’s culturally relevant and inclusive. #29Rooms is a genius experience that marketers can take advantage of. I am a huge fan of creative marketing placements and experiential marketing. And #29Rooms combines them brilliantly. #29Rooms is an excellent creative placement for brands to showcase their creativity in front of a millennial crowd. Each of the 29 rooms was inspired and created in partnership with an artist, visionary or brand. Each room was unique and captivating in its own way. Each space had its own relevant story to tell. Jake Gyllenhaal, Haagen-Dazs, Planned Parenthood, Pure Leaf, A Simple Favor (Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively movie), Demi Lovato, Janelle Monae, Adobe, Emma Roberts, Laneige and more partnered with #29Rooms.

Experiential marketing is continuing to rise in popularity. Consumers “ are hungry for all things immersive,” said Karen Wong, deputy director of the New Museum. “It’s a byproduct of us spending an inordinate amount of time on our screens.” The fact that some people attend [#29Rooms] to plump up their own social media feeds is “bringing us full circle,” said Ms. Wong. Many many attendees did use #29Rooms to plump up their social media feed. Just look on any social platform, use the hashtag #29Rooms and you will find thousands of photos, which not only built awareness of the event, but also enhanced the #29Rooms brand. 

#29Rooms’ themes and partnerships were carefully approved to ensure they would fit within the space that Refinery29 was working to create. Some brands utilized their space at #29Rooms better than others.

 One of the secrets I found in the room "Tell Us Your Secret"

One of the secrets I found in the room "Tell Us Your Secret"

The movie, A Simple Favor starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick is still building hype. Before the trailer dropped Blake Lively “deleted” everything on her Instagram, only followed people named Emily Nelson and changed her bio to “What happened to Emily?...”. A social media wipe is an increasingly popular tactic to build buzz by top-tier celebrities (Taylor Swift). And now the movie has its own room in #29Rooms. Inside the room, it had the fragmented profiles and voices of the main characters, Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. It also had a large board where you could write your own secret, roll it up and put it on the board for other attendees to read after you leave. It was very memorable and tied well to the movie.



Haagen-Dazs had its own room where attendees could experience their new Trio Crispy Layers Ice Cream with a sample and a hanging column of caramel-colored (and scented) thread. Their current marketing efforts focus on trial, and this was a great opportunity to encourage trial. In the past, they’ve had brand ambassadors in San Francisco handing out samples of their new flavors. Their room put their new ice cream flavor top of mind, for when attendees go grocery shopping, stop by the ice cream aisle and can find the new Haagen-Dazs flavor they tried at #29Rooms.

 The water works photo backdrop, featuring the laneige watermark

The water works photo backdrop, featuring the laneige watermark

Laneige had a fun “Water Works” photo backdrop with pink pool floaties and a photographer. They were giving out samples of one of their products, while you waited in line. Once your photos were taken by a professional photographer, they were sent to an iPad, where you could send yourself the photos. When the photos arrived in your inbox they were from Laneige, they had a watermark with Laneige’s logo and the #29Rooms logo and they automatically signed you up for their email list. Laneige had a thoughtful and well-executed plan for their time at #29Rooms.

Mastercard was a partner of #29Rooms and for cardholders, you could get a key at the beginning of the event and use it to skip to the front of the line for one room. Maybe it encouraged loyalty to current cardholders, but it did nothing to enhance their brand or to encourage trial. It also brought minimal awareness compared to the other partners of #29Rooms. 

Overall, I take away a lot of creative inspiration and desire for more things experiential and expressive. My advice to #29Rooms as a consumer, do not let so many people in at once. It dampers the experience and does not leave enough time to experience all of the rooms when you are waiting in line for the majority of the event. My advice as a marketer to brands, take advantage! All attendees left with no less than 50 photos that are sure to be shared across their social media accounts. Let your brand be featured in one of them. 

Lessons Marketers Can Glean From Megan and Harry’s Wedding

 The official photographs were released on Kensington Palace's official Twitter account. Credit: Kensington Palace/Twitter

The official photographs were released on Kensington Palace's official Twitter account. Credit: Kensington Palace/Twitter

On Megan and Harry’s wedding day I found my inner cynic having an all-out battle with my inner romantic. I kept trying to decipher which bits were calculated, and which were authentic, which were from the heart and which were from the head. In the end, like any romantic movie, I suspended my disbelief and gave into the awe. I suppose a large portion of the 29 million Americans who got up at the crack of dawn left with similar positive feels.

While other Royal dynasties have crumbled under the weight of the will of the people, Britain's longest serving Monarch Queen Elizabeth II understands that their very survival depends on a favorable public opinion. In the UK public opinion of the Royal Family remains high with over 70 percent support. The Royal family’s wealth is estimated at $33.8 billion dollars and injects an estimated $2.4 billion into the UK economy per year from mostly tourism. Dwarfing this is the estimated value of the Royal Brand at $89.3 billion.

Much was on the line with the Royal Wedding and the entire affair was pulled off with perfection. If they can soften a misanthrope like me I’m sure their fan club just melted with joy. We left the Big Show entertained, enlightened and uplifted. Huge ROI for the Royals and the United Kingdom. How’d they do it?

Control the Message

Quickly after the wedding was announced, Megan jettisoned her career and her 1.9 million Instagram followers, 350,000 Twitter followers and 800,000 Facebook likes. All messages now come from the Royal Press office. For the wedding day, only 1 reporter was allowed into the events and 4 photojournalists. Without these controls, everything can quickly devolve into a circus.

Flawless Strategic Planning & Execution

It’s almost a given that the Royals and the British run things with military precision. With limited concern for budgets, world-class teams were assembled to guarantee perfection. With so much at stake, failure was not an option for the Royal vendors. No doubt the enormity of the opportunity was the true value proposition for Wedding partners. A small business can turn into global brand overnight with a successful execution. Indy baker Claire Patk was tapped for creating the wedding cake and went from 60,000 Instagram followers to over 212,000 today. Book deals and a torrent of orders were in the wake.

Stay On Brand

Big events need small details to personalize the experience. Tatler describes the details of the Barnard & Westwood invitations, “using American ink on English card, they are printed in gold and black, then burnished to bring out the shine, and gilded around the edges.”

For the flowers, “wherever possible, seasonal plants and flowers that bloom naturally in May will be used, including branches of beech, birch and hornbeam, as well as white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves.”

As the newlyweds sauntered in their carriage waving to the adoring masses on the most picture perfect of British days, we witnessed not only a fairytale coming to life, but also a total brand immersion coming to life.

Show Off Your Personality

Queen Elizabeth II seems to understand that William and Harry are the new faces of the brand. With their prime-time ready spouses and cherubic children straight out of central casting a succession plan is firmly in place. The camera seemed to understand this and whenever possible told that story.

Stories were leaked to say how Prince George and Charlotte were bribed with chocolates to behave. And we will always remember the Chelloist’s socks, the awestruck pageboy carrying Megan’s train, the choir singing “Stand By Me” and the authentic tight-upper-lip-relaxed reactions to the spirited sermon from Bishop Michael Curry.

And the hats, from the Queen to Oprah, the head art kept the eye engaged and reinforced that the Windsors know how to throw an impeccable event for a brand that deserves the crown.

Celebrating Success - Launching the E29 Ship

Last month our amazing team gathered at E29 Marketing HQ from around the country to celebrate our shared vision of bringing E29 to life. So many people have been working incredibly hard dreaming, creating and building E29 to the successful agency we are today. During our “official” launch party, we raised a glass full of gratitude and toasted to the future. It was one of those moments in life I will cherish forever.

Gratitude! Yes, sincere appreciation to everyone who made it to Larkspur for our launch. It was so fun to have us all together and feel the affirmative energy and happy spirits. Thank you to all our E29 friends, family, clients, colleagues, and everyone who was there in body or spirit! Your constant support is the foundation of our current and future success.

In these all too rare moments where I pause and ruminate, I become overwhelmed with emotion for having the opportunity to work with such incredible people. It is astounding to think about all that we've accomplished over the past six months. Every single person on our team is irreplaceable and has demonstrated nothing but incredible dedication, work, and spirit. Every chapter of my career has ushered in diverse amazingness. I feel quite fortunate to have worked with legendary brands and products at great agencies across the country. I’ve learned so much working with my clients, sharing ideas, creating greatness, chasing progress and making stellar things happen together. An EXTRAORDINARY thank you to E29’s clients, your entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring and your trust in E29 is humbling.

Where character and accountability meet, you have excellence, and we have a truly excellent team here at E29. Without hyperbole, this is a dream team. Thank you to the E29ers for having faith in the vision and trusting me and each other to achieve it. I know we will continue to adapt, learn, and push ourselves to be extraordinary. I am so excited to keep moving forward - elevating ourselves, each other, our clients and our communities. 

E29 launches with ideals of dedication, innovation, and elevation at our core. Our Agency Blog - E29 Extensions is a great place to keep abreast of smart industry insights, relevant trends, and how our core tenants manifest to elevate the agency experience here at E29. The conversation is just beginning.

Upon our launch, a friend shared an oldie, but goodie with me. This Irish blessing always brings a smile to my face. “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.”

Just north of San Francisco’s Bay our E29 ship has launched and is pointed toward an exciting horizon, sun shining on our faces and the wind is at our back. 

How to Break Stereotypes with the Latest Visual Trends


One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing the same model in every stock photo on someone’s site or marketing materials – or worse, social media. I unfollow instantly. I feel bad for this lady, I’m sure she is great, has a bubbly personality and made a lot of money by always being picked for her racial and age ambiguity, but enough already.

I attended a Getty Images 2018 Visual Trends Webinar to learn more about how to get the content we need for our clients when a shoot is not in the budget or timeline. It’s all about the keywords. No more searching by “Woman, 30s, smiling, isolated”. Getty, along with other stock sites are changing the visual language, and I graciously thank them.

They have signed a broader community of contributors that include emerging photographers that are female, of color and younger. This is helping the media show faces you wouldn’t typically see in an ad. Some trends they talked about are new photographic techniques in portraits using art history as inspiration to redefine the past, breaking stereotypes and making people feel something, not just a picking a pretty picture for a longer-lasting impression. For some examples, try searching with these terms.

Keyword searches:

  • Second Renaissance
  • Vintage Portrait
  • Gen Z Portrait
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Retro Portrait
  • Conceptual Realism/Unexpected Reality
  • Concept Quirky
  • Shot on mobile
  • Offbeat

Another site many are familiar with that is shaking things up is Shutterstock. They launched a program called Shutterstock Custom. Working with a lot of consumer product goods, I instantly was drawn to this concept and reached out to a rep for more information. In a nutshell, you are basically hiring a photographer without having your entire creative team and client be at a studio for 3 days and incurring those costs. It’s a lot like having an influencer shoot your product in their environment, but you get more content.

You start by sending your brand guidelines and a brief. Example: We want a lifestyle shoot with 3 diverse models between the ages of 25-35 cooking and eating Genova® Tuna in the kitchen. Our Shutterstock Custom Rep. would send us examples of the photographers/videographers they recommend for our brand per our brief/brand style and we would receive the images within a few weeks. If planned out per season and quarterly budget, you could have a year supply of content, with all rights owned, for print and web for the year at a lower cost and less footwork. The only thing that makes me nervous about this is trying them out. You need to sign a contract for the 1 client for the entire year at a set cost. Without using the system before – I would see agreeing to $40,000* for the year without any guarantees be difficult to sell to the client. I will be in further talks with our rep to address these questions and concerns so if it is a good fit for one of our clients – we can offer it as an option.

*This is not the actual cost, this is an example. It sounds like the base cost is $25k and goes up from there depending on the briefs.

3 Things You Need To Know About GDPR


If your company collects customer information for any type of marketing, you probably already have rules in place regarding data privacy. That said, the laws surrounding customer data in Europe are about to change, which means your rules need to, as well.

What Is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a digital privacy regulation the EU passed back in April, 2016 and goes into effect May 25th, 2018.

Its goal is to standardize all of the different privacy laws in place across the European Union and combine them into a single set of regulations that will apply to every member state. This will make it easier for companies to understand how to remain compliant no matter where they’re doing business.

How Will the GDPR Change My Company’s Data Privacy Practices?

Simply put, your company will need to adapt to this new legislation. Fortunately, complying with these data privacy laws is fairly straightforward. While you can read the full text of the GDRP here, we’ve highlighted the three things you need to know right now. 

1. Asking for Data Permission

If your company uses pre-ticked boxes to automatically opt-in leads that will need to change. The new rules make it very clear that parties must provide consent and that it must be, “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous” through a “clear affirmative action.”

Up until this point, you’ve been able to assume that a prospect who fills out any type of webform on your site is fine receiving marketing emails from your company.

However, you now need to make it clear you’ll be sending these emails. The prospect must consent to this by checking a box or taking some other kind of action that proves they understand.

2. Providing Access to Customer Data

The “Right to Be Forgotten” is now law and the GDPR will give people more power over the information your company is allowed to store about them. They can access it or require that you remove it and your company is obliged to make this process as easy as possible.

For marketing emails, this means including a clear “unsubscribe now” button and a place where consumers can easily update their account preferences.

3. Justifying the Data You Collect

One of the reasons data privacy has become such a hot topic in recent years is because people worry about just how much information companies have about them. The GDPR is addressing this by requiring companies to only process data they’ve collected if they also have a legal justification for doing so.

As long as your company can directly link the data it collects to a specific business need, you will be in compliance.

How the GDPR Can Help Your Business

Although it’s vital your company takes the GDPR seriously, the changes shouldn’t be a tremendous burden if you’re aware of the laws and look to proactively comply. In fact, this legislation could actually go a long way in helping your marketing efforts.

For one thing, asking for explicit consent is a good way of ensuring you’re not filling your marketing funnel with leads who don’t actually have a lot of interest in what your company has to offer. Instead, keep your focus on customers who stand the highest likelihood of converting.

Of course, the public has been growing steadily more worried about the information companies have on them. If the GDPR is successful at inspiring confidence, customers should be more comfortable providing you with their data – especially because they know they can always ask you to delete it later.

While the GDPR marks a clear change in traditional data privacy laws, there’s plenty of reason to look for the silver lining in how to use this new regulation to your advantage.

Mastering the Art of Brand Immersion: The #HeinekenExperience Turns Tourists into Brand Ambassadors


A labyrinth of charming canals, technicolor tulips dancing in the early spring breeze, Van Gogh’s interpretation of Gauguin’s chair and the brooding Dutch masters with their infinite shades of black are all worthy of celebration and contemplation in Amsterdam. But the brand storyteller and beer lover in me could not resist a visit to the “Heineken Experience” on a recent visit to this amazing city with my young family.

To meet the growing demand for their Dutch Pilsner in 1867 Heineken built a state of the art brewery on the banks of one of the outer canals that radiate through Amsterdam.  In 1988 a new facility was built outside of the city to meet the now soaring international demand. In 1991 the old brewery with it’s monolithic brickwork and as large as a city block was opened to the public as an interactive brand immersion, truly a masterclass in 360 degree brand storytelling.

With pre purchased tickets we happily jumped the football field long line to pick up our silicone bracelet passes with two free beer tokens attached. The line was celebratory nonetheless with brand devotees eagerly holding up Instagram ready photo frames happily delivered by jocular employees sporting green suits and ties. This enthusiasm and authentic sense of fun was pervasive throughout our 90 minutes inside. While the whole experience could have easily careered into a ditch of commercialism, I have to say Heineken did a superb job and instead of a marketing mallet used psychology, subtlety and quality like bubbles in the beer to gently turn us from tourists into ambassadors.

Like the five points on the red star on the label of a Heineken the 5 senses of touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing were employed to give us a truly unique and memorable experience. Like a three act play the experience was laid out before us. The tour begins under a 5 story grain silo, and ends at a humming bar with everyone sampling the coldest Heineken imaginable.


Act 1: The Grains of Heritage- Everyone is Welcome

The cool, dark and clean first floor was a welcome respite from the chaos of the buzzing street. A smart, bespectacled woman in her 20’s welcomes our group with an energetic introduction to the tour and the brand. While Jagermeister and Bud tend to cast Hooters type party girls, the Heineken guides had more of a university educated vibe, an understated hipness, friendly but not too friendly where it is fake.

Although lost on my 10, 8, and 5 year olds I was taken by the origin story of a 22 year old Gerard Heineken in 1864 borrowing money from his mother to purchase the Haystack brewery. Costumed hologram reenactors make the history come to life and give off an original hipster vibe with their mutton chops and glint of optimism in their eye. Although that moment was 150 years ago, we believe Gerard was just one of us, with a passion and a dream.


Act 2: The Brewing- Science meets Art

The tour was self-guided and 5-minute presentations were delivered every 10 minutes throughout the exhibitions. A brewing lesson on the roles of hops, barley, water and Heinekens flavor defining yeast was delivered. We could stick our hands in the barley, smell the hops, and stir and taste the pre-alcohol sludge called wort. 

In a vast room that oozes history and has the feel of a Wes Anderson film, we ducked our heads into gigantic copper vats where Heineken was brewed for over 120 years. We met the huge black and white Shire horses that used to power the facility, and deliver the beer.

Act 3: The Party- Technology and Techno

#HeinekenExperience photo ops are peppered through the rest of the tour, with pose worthy sayings of “We say proost!”, “Cheers”, “Good isn’t good enough, it has to be perfect” and walls made of luminescent green bottles lit from behind. Like lemmings, people would wait in line to capture the Insta-worthy moment.

A surrealist beer simulator takes 100 guests at a time into a big room with walls and ceilings made of led screens. The metal plates on the floor would rumble while we experience what it is like to be brewed and bottled. In the end, we are poured into smaller rooms where a steady stream of suggestive on brand scenes batter our reptilian minds into submission.

Clever green screen scenes allow you to email a video of yourself, friends or family in a Dutch bicycle, delivering Heineken through busy Amsterdam streets. With our crew growing restless we breezed through the museum of Heineken F1 and Rugby sponsorship where the kids kicked virtual rugby balls into a goal and continued onwards towards the denouement.

The tile lined basement that once housed huge fermentation tanks, is now a neon-lit thumping bar where my wife and I over 200 other brand devotes could sample the coldest and freshest Heineken on the planet and the kids could get a soda. The beer was handed to you with a smile and served a big foam head that was trimmed with a skimming knife. The experience fermented within us as the beer was to be tilted in a way to dive under the suds while grabbing a big gulp of this historic golden brew.

The Increasing Demand for Transparency, Clean Labels, and What Brands Need to Consider


The shift toward clean labels, a movement named trend of the year in 2015, is hardly a trend anymore as it has become the rule.

Transparency in product ingredients and brands’ abilities to provide accurate and comprehensive product information has become increasingly important to consumers, a shift we’ve seen concurrent with the vast amount of information that has come out regarding the negative effects of consuming artificial ingredients in products, along with the infinite number of publications and resources that are now available to us as consumers. Grocery shoppers today are armed with the knowledge to scrutinize brands and their labels like never before, and to make informed, healthy decisions.

Accompanying shifts, including brand loyalty becoming increasingly less important, and consumers’ willingness to pay more for a better choice, are big factors in convincing brands to clean up their labels.  In a 2017 study by Label Insight, 60% of surveyed consumers say they trust the brand less when they see ingredients they don’t recognize or find confusing. 64% of said they would be willing more to switch to another brand if that brand shared more detailed and understandable product information – and 54% said they would be willing to pay more for a product with ingredients they understand.  These are numbers brands simply can’t ignore.

We’ve seen many big players already making significant steps in recent years toward clean labels. Dating back to 2015, names like Nestle, General Mills, Campbell Soup, Kraft and Chipotle made promises to clean up their ingredients. Since, we’ve seen McDonald’s and Oscar Mayar jump on board, along with Target and Hy-Vee, and even Dunkin’ Donuts joining in early this year.

It’s a fine line companies are straddling, working to meet the demands of a more sophisticated consumer asking for transparency and clean ingredient lists, while maintaining consistency in their product and continuing to satisfy their longtime and loyal customers– who may or may not be as concerned with the ingredient list as they are with the taste, flavor and texture they’ve come to know and love from the brands’ product.

But at what cost to the company? Aside from the hurdles companies face in changing the recipe for their products, in finding ingredients to substitute for the artificial ones that look and taste the same – then, working with potentially complex sourcing issues and often times high conversion costs

Some brands have even faced backlash from some of their loyal customers in their efforts to clean up their labels – perhaps reasoning behind Kraft’s decision to quietly remove artificial dyes from their longtime fan-favorite Mac and Cheese, in an effort to prove to its loyalists that they can have the same beloved product, sans the artificial additives. After 3 years of work to reformulate the recipe (following a multitude of demands from fans to remove the artificial dyes), the brand announced that the new product would hit shelves in January 2016. Kraft knowingly began selling the revamped product in December 2015, and later confessed it as “the world’s largest blind taste test,” further noting that “fifty million boxes later…people didn’t notice a difference.”

Another company finding alternative ways to more seamlessly make the shift toward clean labels, General Mills, who announced they would be bringing the original Trix recipe back to shelves after consumers raised doubts about their new ‘natural’ recipe, that allegedly made the cereal’s taste “less fruity” and it’s color appear “washed out.”  The company was proud to announce they will be keeping the natural recipe on shelves along with this addition of the discontinued version that was Trix for 63 years. Now we can be assured Trix aren’t just for kids, but the clean-ingredient lovers, too – some of whom may be willing to sacrifice flavor and appearance for the healthier alternative.

This proves to show not all consumers are equally concerned with making clean choices when it comes to the products they’re purchasing, particularly if it has noticeable changes in their favorite and go-to products.  There are, of course, those that may have little to no concern in choosing clean labels and have no motive to prioritize them in their purchase decisions. Even those consumers that do seek a clean-label are on a broad varied spectrum.  A new report released at this year’s Natural Products Expo West trade show by ingredient supplier Kerry, provides insight on the customers likely to purchase clean-label products and categorized them into 5 types of customers. From “label seekers”: the most well-informed and expectant of clean-labels, also willing to pay more for clean-label products and certification, to “thrifty traditionalists,” who aren’t largely concerned with clean-labels but look for changes in their food choices due to medical necessity.

Another driving force behind the clean label shift that shouldn’t go unmentioned, is the increasing demand by grocers for clean labels, as the competition of natural food stores continues to increase.

The bottom-line is: brands need to make a number of considerations as the market in which they’re selling is rapidly evolving, with increased demands of the educated shopper and retailers, alike.

Albeit, there are sure to be significant costs and efforts associated with making the transition to clean labels, it is a change that food brands must consider if they want their products to withstand the test of time and evolution in the industry as we continue this shift toward transparency and the demand for clean ingredient labels.

They should consider each product and recipe change on a case-by-case basis when it comes to their marketing strategy and how best to communicate their changes and transparency in their products’ composition, to what may be a broad assortment of audiences – to best meet these demands of the new shopper mindset, while also maintaining relationships with their longtime loyalists.

Developing Strong Insights in the World of Marketing

 Consumers in Action

Consumers in Action

Throughout my Marketing career, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a conversation with a client or colleague about insights. How are they defined? How are they developed? What’s the difference between a shopper insight and a consumer insight? What is the role of insights in Marketing? Merriam-Webster outlines the definition of insight as, “the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively.” Uncovering and defining insights plays an important role in Marketing, whether we are working on a new idea or concept, developing strategy for an item or brand launch, going to market with a new product or understanding current mindsets and behaviors of a target audience. True insights are backed by the proper time, effort and methodology that allow us to peek inside the minds of those we are trying to reach. It’s understanding how beliefs drive behavior – more specifically, what your target audience believes about you. It’s bridging the gap between behavior and beliefs.

Methodology techniques for developing insights can range greatly based on a number of factors including brand, category, budget and approach. Both quantitative and qualitative research, along with multiple internal and external data analytics, are studied to develop insights about what your target audience believes and why they behave as they do. Focus groups, shop-alongs, test labs, market basket or transaction data and loyalty program analysis are just some of the tools we use to help build true insights. A good mix of quantitative and qualitative data ensures no one gets too caught up in the numbers and statistics or, alternatively, focuses too much on perceptions and opinions.

I covered the definition of insights along with a topline snapshot of their development, but some of the most compelling conversations I mentioned above have been around exploring the distinction between shopper insights and consumer insights. Brands often try to tease out the differences between these two segments with the belief that consumers behave differently when shopping different retailers and channels. Someone shopping for cereal at Walmart may be driven solely by price, whereas someone shopping for cereal at Target may be driven by the treasure hunt and delight of buying a brand that isn’t on their list. And how is this different from shopping for cereal at Whole Foods? How about Costco? Or the .com channel? The differences lie in that consumer insights care about the brand experience, regardless of where it happens. Shopper insights are focused on what happens during the shopping experience. Shopper insights ask what, how, when and why people spend their money. Consumers insights seek to understand what emotion is evoked, what need state is satisfied or how the brand is perceived – without as much attention as to where that is happening.

Insights are one of the most fascinating parts of Marketing, in my humble opinion. Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me, but understanding behaviors and patterns, along with where it happens, is extremely interesting. Marketing without insights is comparable to action without vision. Each purchase transaction, click of the mouse or behavior observed gives us another opportunity to understand the beliefs and behaviors of those we are trying to reach.

Yes, Gen-Z Kids Are Spending Their Time on YouTube


It’s astonishing how YouTube transformed into a social media giant so quickly! YouTube was founded in 2005 and ten years later was purchased by Google for $1.65 billion. It has become a social platform leading the charge on original content with many many people watching over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos every day.

The fact that YouTube reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any broadcast or Cable TV network, makes it crystal clear that advertisers wanting to reach a younger audience need to consider spending money on YouTube ASAP (if you want to reach younger viewers, which 99% of us do). I have a few unbelievable statistics on YouTube (with receipts): YouTube is the second largest search engine and third most visited site (behind Google and Facebook), 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute and the number of YouTube channels earning six figures has increased by 50% year over year. And those are just a few of my favorite stats.

What YouTube gets right about being a social platform is its easy to use platform, video recommendations and advertising placements. I’ve personally gone on YouTube for the sole purpose of finding a new trailer for a movie I want to see or wanting to watch that new Halsey video and just getting lost watching recommended videos, one after another, and temporarily forgetting why I came to YouTube in the first place. Their advertising placements work better for the consumer versus Facebook and Instagram where it can feel like you are being overwhelmingly advertised too (after every few posts in my feed sometimes!). YouTube always has an ad at the top of the page and at the beginning of most videos, which is what the consumer has come to expect and generally agrees to watch.

Video is such a powerful way to connect (and advertise) to consumers. But direct advertising on YouTube isn’t the only way to reach that younger audience, influencer marketing on YouTube is a very popular way to reach those Gen-Z kids. They trust influencers opinions and have learned to tune out advertisers. They want to be like these influencers and will buy what they are selling. But the influencer has to be authentic. For example, Summer McKeen in one of her videos says “As you guys know I don’t work with any brands that I don’t truly believe in and truly love” and I believe her. Her love of MVMT sunglasses really shows and is authentic. She also didn’t spend the entire video talking about the glasses, just the beginning, and showed 10+ photos of her wearing them IRL. It wasn’t pushy, forced or fake. She did a better job promoting the brand than most of the influencers I’ve worked with. It reminds me of how the movie “Love Simon” was promoted in an episode of Riverdale and it was cringe-worthy how obvious and unauthentic the placement was. The idea was a good one, but the execution was not successful.

According to AdWeek, influencers hold more sway than celebrities when it comes to branded content. There are high impact influencers and “micro” influencers. The “micro” influencers can easily slip out of popularity if they don’t keep up with their YouTube page. If they stop posting or don’t keep up with the trends they will lose their cult following. There are trends in the YouTube sphere that are popular amongst teen “lifestyle” influencers: A Week in My Life, Shopping at Thrift Stores and more. These lifestyle influencers show their followers their “perfect” life. Influencers on YouTube are the new reality television and radio personalities for today’s teenagers. They tell their viewers how to live their best life: “drink more water,” “make your own green smoothie” and “try this face cream.” Here are some popular teen lifestyle vloggers: Hailey Sani & Nil Sani, Tatiana Ringsby and “Queen” James Charles. What makes them successful? Engaging with fans, posting at least once a week, a lively personality, and being “somewhat” relatable. They shop at Brandy Melville and brought the Pop Socket into popularity.

Don’t underestimate the power of influencers! Use their popularity, influence and content to transform your brand. You can thank me later.