Media trends: A look at luxury purchasers, usage and more

What trends are shaping media buys? We’re taking an inside look at luxury purchasers, spot radio and some facts about how dialed in the 18-34 crowd is to radio that could surprise you.

HOSPITALITY TRENDS UPDATES

All luxury purchasers (adult consumers age 18+) who bought one or more luxury goods or services in the prior 12 months constitute almost 20%, or about 46 million, of the 239 million adults in the United States. Luxury marketers would be correct in surmising that as household income increases, the proportion of luxury purchasers rises.

Notably, though, luxuries were bought by almost as many mass-market consumers whose household income is less than $75,000 (20 million adults who are not typically classified as affluent by marketers) as by those with household incomes of $75,000 to $249,999 (about 22 million affluent consumers), plus the four million luxury purchasers in the upper-income segment of $250,000 or more. This being so, it’s our point of view that the luxury market is actually much larger than many luxury marketers currently believe.

As might be expected, a relatively large proportion, one in five (21%), of mass-market luxury purchasers bought luxuries just once in the past 12 months. In contrast, more than one-third of very affluent luxury purchasers bought luxuries six or more times.


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Source: Mediapost.com

NATIONAL MEDIA TRENDS

Spot radio: Raring for a rebound

Spending and pricing were down in many of the top 10 markets during the first half of 2015, and inventory was readily available and negotiable in most cities. The second half of the year will see increased spending and perhaps higher pricing in a couple cities. Summers are generally tighter on radio, unlike TV, because people can listen while they’re doing outdoor activities such as going to the pool or having barbeques. This spending surge will continue into the fall, with back-to-school spending dominating late summer. Political will also give a year-end boost to a few markets. San Francisco and Philadelphia, for example, are holding mayoral elections this November.

Source: MediaLifeMagazine.com

Surprising facts about media usage

More 18-34s listen to radio each week than use a smartphone. Nielsen’s most recent total audience report, a quarterly document that tracks media use by different age groups, shatters a number of misconceptions about new and old media use. For example, it might surprise you to know that more Millennials listen to traditional AM/FM radio each week than use smartphones. Nielsen found 93 percent of adults 18-34 listen to radio weekly, while just 80 percent report using a smartphone. In fact, radio is the most frequently used medium among Millennials. It’s well ahead of TV at 76 percent and PCs at 49 percent. Radio has been a part of people’s lives for so long it’s easy to take for granted. New technology has definitely become a staple of today’s media use, but it’s important to remember it’s not the only option young people turn to. Overall the report found that radio has the greatest reach of all media among adults, with 93 percent saying they use it weekly, compared to 87 percent for TV.

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Source: MediaLifeMagazine.com

15/16 Broadcast Upfront

Every year in mid-May, agencies and clients flock to New York City to catch the new programming announcements from the major TV networks (and stand in lines to get their photos taken with celebrities). In the last few years, there has been rumbling that TV is dead and digital is the way of the future. Let’s review some stats, then dive into some programming updates.

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Viewing Trends

There is no question that the media landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and with the evolution comes changes in consumer behavior. TV content is no longer being consumed just on a TV. There are countless ways to access it, although the TV still remains number one. Although number one, in the last few years, research shows that time shifted and smartphone usage is growing and taking shares from live TV viewing (albeit still the most heavily utilized).

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Multiscreen

The technology boom has had its impacts on the broadcast world in many ways. The rise of socially interactive programming (voting, checking in and show-specific hashtags) is one way in which consumers are encouraged to multiscreen. According to the iab, 78 percent are using another device while watching TV – most commonly a smartphone (69%); computer and tablet nearly tied (54%/53%).   While show engagement is one type of multiscreening usage, two research sources show that what people are doing most, while using multiple screens, is not interacting with the TV or its content – they’re doing nonrelated tasks. This multitasking activity poses a challenge for advertisers across all platforms – not just TV, where creative must be attention grabbing and engaging and media placements must pop in front of engaged viewers.

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Upfront Announcements

So, onto the fun stuff … what will you be watching this fall? There were some themes that emerged across the week of presentations:

  • Everyone was No. 1 overall in something (except Fox, although Empire was the No. 1 new program):
    • NBC is No. 1 in adults 18−49.
    • CBS is No. 1 in total viewers and adults 25−54.
    • ABC is No. 1 in 18−49 when you remove all sports shows.
  • Networks taking on digital
    • If we had a dime for every time a presenter said the words “data,” “viewability,” “premium content,” “transparency” and “no bot traffic,” we’d be able to throw one hell of a party.
    • ABC spent time discussing its On Demand viewership and equated it to the third largest cable network.
    • Turner/TBS went as far as to say “dayparts are dead” and pushed audience guarantees, data, analytics and advanced targeting.
  • Programming trends:
    • Live shows
      • NBC
        • It’ll follow its formula with the Sound of Music and Peter Pan, and release The Wiz.
        • Undateable (comedy) – after the success of its live show a month ago, it’ll do this next season.
      • Fox (stealing from NBC’s playbook) will have a live performance of Grease.
      • ABC will celebrate Disney’s 60th anniversary with music.
    • Sports – key to live viewing since it’s DVR-proof.
      • CBS hung its hat on the NFL.
      • NBC is proud to have the Olympics in Rio.
      • ABC will air ESPN programming.
    • Even more diversity (from 14/15 season)
      • Success with Empire, Black-ish and Fresh off the Boat has pushed networks to add more diverse cast members in a variety of shows.
    • Reboots
      • X-Files, The Muppets, Supergirl, Coach, Limitless and Minority Report will all get a second go-round on TV.
    • Less reality
      • Not one new reality show is on the fall schedule for any network.
      • Continuing series such as Dancing with the Stars, The Voice and Survivor will be back.
      • Has the day really come?! American Idol will end its run in the 15/16 season.
    • Fewer comedy blocks
      • NBC has nearly abandoned comedy after many failures.
    • Rebrands
      • TBS/TNT are doubling original programming over the next three years.
      • TBS repositioning itself to be younger and more male, closer to Adult Swim and its Millennial core.

Happy viewing!

 

 

Still Flipping the Script

It’s been more than five years since our CEO, Billy, came into the office after a rash of teen suicides caused by bullying, and said “we need to do something.” Flip the Script was born, and dozens of employees from across disciplines and offices got involved with this R&R-created campaign that is still near and dear to our hearts.

While the creative team came up with ads, the media team got space donated, and the PR team got press coverage, the Nevada government affairs team worked to strengthen anti-bullying laws in the state. In baby steps, we helped pass legislation that proclaimed the first week of every October the “Week of Respect,” established school safety teams, strengthened reporting requirements on bullying incidents, and more. But it wasn’t enough. Parents weren’t hearing of incidents involving their kids, and the new laws were tough to enforce.

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On May 20, Governor Sandoval signed into law Senate Bill 504, the strongest anti-bullying legislation Nevada has ever had. The bill revises the definition of bullying, creates a separate anti-bullying office within the Nevada Department of Education, strengthens reporting requirements for bullying incidents, and creates a 24-hour hotline and a website for submitting complaints. R&R’s efforts kept this issue front and center in the last three legislative sessions, and working with the school districts and elected officials, we helped make changes that will directly impact Nevada students.

There are many campaigns of which we are incredibly proud. Flip the Script symbolizes the passion of our employees for social causes that create real, meaningful change and help the communities in which we work. Below is a link to a story on Governor Sandoval’s signing ceremony for the bill:

http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nevada/nevada-gov-brian-sandoval-signs-anti-bullying-legislation

The Return of the King

Content is King. But it hasn’t seemed that way. As we crossed into “Web 2.0,” every user with an opinion was King. Not long after, we entered into the “Age of Apps,” which created a true give-and-take between brands and consumers. Simultaneously, consumers started having conversations with the universal megaphone of social media. These empowered consumers started talking about our brands more loudly than our brands were talking about themselves. So we joined in, bringing every brand that might have something to say to the social media party, jumping into conversations, hoping not to get kicked out for rudely interrupting. But the rest of the world figured out that we were only waiting for someone to ask us “what do you think?” so we can reply with “we think you should buy Brand X!” So now what do we do? We return to the universal truth …

You have to give before you get.

Content marketing is generous King. But it’s rarely been the first thought of any brand; “How much can we give away for free?” We know the Groupon Effect causes a temporary bump in sales without a gain in long-term clientele. Giving temporary deep discounts is really only an effective short-term strategy. Giving away product in a sweepstakes is GREAT for lead generation, but who’s going to buy if there’s a chance they’re going to win? So that is how we’ve returned the marketing crown to its rightful owner, content. But remember …

The value of content is that it informs, entertains, or reflects an identity. But it does not sell.

Content marketing is not direct response. It’s not instant gratification; it’s the long game. Content does not inspire conversion it inspires conversation. Good content inspires consumers to talk to the brand, about the brand, and even for the brand. Better gets a Like, Favorite, stars and hearts. The best gets the envious Share, Tweet, Post, Repost, Retweet, Wundertweetpostbump, etc., until the amplification turns your initial $1.25 per engagement of paid media spend into an $.04 eCPE (effective Click Per Engagement). These numbers happened for our Las Vegas Kiss Cam animated gif on Tumblr.

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We entertained. And for a brief moment in time, some users out there laughed enough to share us with their friends. All over the world, even in China where our client didn’t spend a dime, Las Vegas brought a smile to people’s faces.

That’s the real way to a consumer’s heart. Give without asking, entertain without selling. Because our only focus was on the giggle chamber (the left ventricle, technically) of the consumer’s heart, our content succeeded. We weren’t kicked out of the social media party; we were passed around like a [insert inappropriate party drug reference].

Campaigns succeed by converting. Content succeeds by being engaging.

Of course, sales matter. You don’t win Effies by not moving the needle. But we can’t push our sales messages into conversations anymore. There are tons of bad blogs out there, brands telling only their own story, tricking people into swallowing a soft yummy shell of content around a hard-selling nutty center. We can’t do that to our consumers anymore; they’ll choke. Then they’ll sue for negligence because they have nut allergies and we didn’t warn them first. They, at least, sure won’t take anything we give them in the future without questioning our motives.

Corporations are now people; brands are now friends. Social media made that happen long before SCOTUS.

You do not have a single person in your life with whom you do not have an emotional bank account. Every relationship is ruled by these accounts. Every brand has one with consumers too. Your next sale isn’t just about quality anymore, or value, or cost, or history, or whether your widget weighs a quarter gram less than your competitors. Your next sale is about your relationship with your consumers and your potential consumers. Do you make them laugh? Do you inspire new ideas? Do you bring them flowers “just because?” When you give good content, listen and tell their story, without asking for anything in return, that emotional bank account grows an until that consumer just loves you. Then comes the conversion.

“Business moves at the speed of ideas. And you don’t have to like it, but you can’t ignore it.” – Gottfrid, Happyish (Showtime)

Happyish is showing off agency life in a way that’s both current and OMG too real. The young bucks are brought in to usher a long-established, large agency into the digital world, and the old guard has two choices: pivot or perish. Being a user experience designer of a certain age, I find myself identifying and empathizing with both sides. OF COURSE our brands need social media accounts and strategies, but I reacted like Thom (the protagonist OG) in that I couldn’t understand why a brand like Pepto Bismol has a Twitter account or why 7,400 people would want to follow them. But then it hit me like a burrito bomb. And I have to give Pepto’s agency respect for both responding smartly to Happyish and for having the most subversive social campaign I’ve ever seen. Pepto, as you might imagine, doesn’t have a lot to say about or to the world. But it doesn’t fall into the trap of selling its product on social either. Instead, it creates observational (and occasionally funny) content. A lot of it is about pizza. A LOT. And sausage and bacon and quesadillas and all kinds of delicious food that, if you’re inspired to eat it, will make your stomach revolt. Should you indulge, you’re eventually going to need Pepto Bismol. And THAT is the long game of content marketing, the game we all had better be playing now.

Long live the King.

How have you enacted content marketing for your or your clients’ success? If you haven’t yet, what’s holding you back?

D.C.: Where Energy and Exports Meet

It’s May in D.C. The year is 2015, but the subject of conversation was the fate of a 40-year-old ban on crude exports, or what most of us laypeople refer to as “oil.” To spotlight this discussion, R&R Partners, along with the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) and the Energy Independence Coalition (EIC), brought attorneys general and energy leaders to the nation’s capital for the Energy Exports Summit.

To export U.S. oil − or not to export − is a highly debated issue among policymakers today, hence the focus of the Summit. One side makes the case that exporting U.S. oil abroad will allow other nations to partner with the United States instead of hostile countries like Russia, ultimately making America and the world safer. The other side argues that exporting U.S. oil will drive up U.S. gasoline prices, hitting Americans where it hurts most – their wallets.

The Summit explored this issue.

Writes the Washington Examiner, “States, industry and energy security advocates are converging on Washington this week to add strength to a growing effort in Congress to kill a federal ban on oil exports.

“The centerpiece of the week’s push will be an ‘Energy Exports Summit’ on Tuesday organized by a group representing Western state attorneys general and a relatively new organization called the Energy Independence Coalition.”

Arguably, the conversation has never been so relevant. Today’s abundance of domestic energy is a stark contrast to the 1970s’ Saudi oil embargo, which caused mass gas shortages and had Americans lining up to fill their gas tanks.

Predictions made by the International Energy Agency suggest that the United States could be poised to pass Saudi Arabia and overtake Russia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2017. Similarly, the Energy Information Administration says that the United States could become a net energy exporter in the near future, ending a 50-year track record as a net energy importer.

The summit featured dueling views from Jamie Webster of IHS Energy and Jay Hauck of The CRUDE Coalition. Other highlights included an introduction by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

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Writes the Washington Examiner, “The North Dakota Democrat told a group of state attorneys general that a lot more education has to be done to bring lawmakers and the public up to speed on the positive effects of removing the export ban before it can be repealed. The attorneys general were in Washington for a two-day summit on energy exports.

‘The policy of prohibiting exports of oil is wrong, wrong, and wrong on so many levels,’ she said. ‘So, why isn’t this a no-brainer?’

‘Heitkamp said the “number one reason” for not supporting a commonsense reversal of the policy is the belief “that if they vote for this and gas prices go up” they will pay a political price.’”

Also spotted at the summit were reporters with Reuters and the industry trade E&E. They were joined by speakers from ANGA and the National Bureau of Asian Research, among others. Not to be overlooked were our 10 AGs from states as far as Oregon to the Northern Mariana Islands, in addition to U.S. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

Yet perhaps the hottest “ticket” during the two-day event was the after-hours reception hosted at 101 Constitution Avenue, R&R’s D.C. office. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) kicked off the night offering introductory remarks to the crowd comprised of numerous AGs and their aides, along with other notable players.

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THE AGENCY MODEL: EVER EVOLVING AND STILL THE SAME

The most recent iMedia Agency Summit focused on the agency model of the future. This tends to be an ever evolving debate in an ever changing marketing universe. Do you specialize in one area? Be all things to all people? Partner with other shops or go it alone? With the rise of procurement departments at the same time as programmatic solutions that promise efficiencies, there seems no better time to have this conversation. 

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AGENCY ONLY DAY

This conference always kicks off with a special day dedicated solely to agency folks. Most everybody in the room is a Director or higher, from agency’s owned by holding companies down to 10 person independents. The basis of the day is to have an open and honest conversation about this great industry in regards to the conference topic. 

Once again this day did not disappoint, you could feel the passion among these agency leaders which lead to some spirited conversations and great learning. One area of concern in the ad community continues to be training for staff and finding the right talent. While a number of folks resorted to the usual comments such as, “we don’t have time” and “we run so thin, it’s sink or swim”, a handful of people had some great solutions. One that stood out was an agency’s no interview rule. They simply have a handful of people come in with each getting pared up with a mentor and begin working. Every 4 hours the mentor checks in with the department head and makes the decision to keep going or cut bait, eventually landing on one candidate. They are in a sense looking at two things, how does this person fit within our culture and what is their work product like?

Next up was a great conversation with Jon Raj from Cello Partners, discussing the agency search process and what brands are looking for and saying. Turns out it’s a little of everything. You have Best Buy and other brands moving away from the standard AOR model and going towards project work. You have more and more brands embracing independent agencies that display great thinking, along with a certain level of trustworthiness. Two things that can get lost at times. The bottom line: build trust, be transparent and collaborate internally to bring great ideas forward.

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EVOLVE OR DIE

The theme over the next two days focused mainly on evolving the agency model and the ways in which we target consumers. Lots of insight from the clients in attendance continued to focus on building trust, bringing good ideas forward and providing real insights, not just data. One quote in particular stood out, “the difference between agencies is declining, so it’s not what I require but more about how you can solve my business needs”.

In terms of building out your agency team with focus on specialty areas, some agency leaders found it hard to grow the knowledge while maintaining the current level of work. The solution in these cases centered on finding a niche agency, buying them and folding it into the current shop. The main concern in these cases was clashing cultures and how to mold together. The consensus was to include more people in the process and get them working together early, before a deal is even done to ensure a cohesive environment.

The other big discussion revolved around Millennials and Gen Z and how they will not only impact the marketing business but also from a consumer standpoint. Ann Mack, the Director of Global Content and Consumer Insights for Facebook was on hand to present a recent study on these two groups. The results were very telling of how the industry is, but still needs to shift in terms of thinking and engagement. The top three areas of focus for these two groups were Family, Friends and Music. It was also noted that online has surpassed the mall for places teens hangout. FOBO (Fear of Being Offline) is the new FOMO, and it’s a real thing that’s not going away, especially with the digital first world we now live in.

We as marketers need to evolve the way in which we operate our businesses and think more from a digital first mindset. We can’t simply apply old techniques to new technology. You must embrace digital, stop supporting silos and invest in vision. Those who do will continue to build trust and thrive.

Always Stay Live and Up to Trend for Social; What’s Next?

There is no question that Meerkat was the hottest topic of conversation during SXSW this year. Meerkat is the new app introduced during SXSW 2015 that allows you to live-stream content on Twitter.

Some of the critics raised their eyebrows about this new app when it comes down to the safety and privacy issue of social media.

… privacy can be an issue for people broadcasting video of anything other than themselves or willing participants ….” − Kia Kokalitcheva via Fortune Magazine

But you can’t deny this generation that ALWAYS wants their content here and now, 24/7, 365 days a year, LIVE.

“… people love it. Meerkat has become a darling of Product Hunt that’s signing up plenty of tech’s elite and scoring praise from users.” – Josh Constine via TechCrunch

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Image courtesy of NBC News

As you look back into the history of social media, you will notice that it’s been about real time. Facebooking your latest status with your friends, tweeting the live concert you are at this instance … real-time content seems like the purpose of social media all along.

“Today’s younger generation has a reputation of being glued to cellphones and tablets. It’s where they chat with their friends, find out the latest hot spots in town and, believe it or not, keep up with the world. In their own way, of course.” – Erica Quinn, CBS

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Courtesy of Ninth Decimal

But where does this lead us to in the future of social media?

Will live-streaming and real-time content change consumer behavior?

Today, Twitter just announced its partnership with Rhapsody on the new feature, which allows music service subscribers to share full-length tracks on Twitter that anyone can listen to, even if they don’t have a subscription themselves. Also, Twitch announced its live-streaming service with Ultra Music Festival for those music fans who couldn’t be at the event in person. Now fans can watch online in real time. Even more, Game of Thrones’ Meerkat (now it’s a verb, just like tweet) the red carpet moments during the Season 5 premiere without any commercial interruptions.

Will people soon enough not need to spend big bucks on concerts and events like SXSW or Coachella since they can just watch everything with a click? Will any exclusive materials and experiences that become more easily accessible to everyone lose their unique charisma from a content-marketing perspective?

From my observations and experience, my answers will be no.

Social media is a way of life, but it’s also about another main focus: INTERACTION.

Brands want to know the general perception from the audiences and users, and they want their fans to engage on the social channels. Brands feed content continuously in order for people to keep the conversation alive and to keep their brand image fun and refreshing.

Keep the conversations going is a main reason why social is still king in the digital space. Good content will drop on the ground and die without any further interaction and buzz in the community.

What if we have live-streaming options and can also interact with people at the same time? Augmented reality seems so overdone. How can we refresh this concept into actual successful executions?

With the rapid technology developing day by day, I am very much looking forward to the inventions we see on sci-fi films very soon.

 

 

Is your brand on the path to irrelevancy?

Can you recall the last time you heard anyone speak of his unmentionable BVDs? How about the last time anyone asked for a Nuprin? How about Xerox? Has anyone xerox’ed paper lately? It was a very common function at one point.

Remember the good old days when Oldsmobiles, Plymouths and Mercurys traversed the country’s roads? How about when Nolan Ryan took Nuprin for his aches? Or when smokers and coffee drinkers knew exactly which toothpaste to use to maintain their pearly whites. Do you remember that premium coffee was available in a can?

There are many factors that contribute to the demise or irrelevancy of a brand. This is not about listing those factors — ultimately, bad brand management kills a brand. Rather, this is about another huge factor that is at the marketer’s doorstep and in due course will be the death of additional brands − demographic shifts in population.

You might know of demographic shifts. But do you know about the effect on your brand?

According to Census data, the percentage of foreign-born population is the highest in more than a hundred years. At almost 13 percent, it is the highest since the mass European immigrations at the end of the 19th century.

Now think of how we acquire brands. How does the relationship begin and how are we introduced to them? When young adults leave the nest and begin their acquisition stage, they don’t do it with a blank slate − the brands used at home are already embedded in their lives; the relationship with brands, not necessarily the use of them, is old. And who introduced the brand relationship? The parents. And if the parents lack a relationship with a brand that was introduced to the American public decades ago, then not only are they lacking a relationship with the brand, they are lacking awareness and understanding of the brand.

Let’s look at the Hispanic consumer segment as it relates to this topic. While 60 percent of all U.S. Hispanics were born in the U.S., the family history in the country is rather short. The generational relationship to American iconic brands is not well developed or is nonexistent.

Think of iconic brands developed 40 years ago in the U.S. How many of the death or dying brands mentioned at the beginning of this article fall into that category? Does Brooke Shields remind you of wearing your Calvin Klein jeans commando? Does the Pillsbury doughboy elicit the same emotional response with Hispanic consumers? What about Mr. Clean? Is Wonder Bread building strong bodies? All the efforts conducted in the past lack a reference and emotion; they are irrelevant.

Moreover, immigrants bring in the brands from their home countries, and these days, they are also found in the local grocers’ aisles. Hostess brands compete with the portfolio of Mexico’s Bimbo snack cakes. Mexico’s Picot brand is the go-to effervescent indigestion brand over Alka Seltzer − and it outsells Alka Seltzer in Walmart.

It’s OK then. Native-born Hispanics will speak English and know my brand, right?

Native born Hispanics will speak English because they are and will be educated in the U.S.; however, they will be unfamiliar with your brands. Branding is not about language. It’s about creating relevancy, about acquiring real estate in the consumer’s mind. And if the brand ignores the consumer, the consumer will also dismiss the brand.

It gets worse. Hispanic consumers are drastically changing the definition of mainstream consumers. Food items and customs previously thought of as Hispanic are now part of the mainstream. Think about that during your next Dia de los Muertos party as you dip into your guacamole, or the next time you indulge in your churros at Disneyland, or get ready to eat serrano-topped sushi rolls.

How do I learn if my brand will be affected by demographic changes?

Learn if the category is developed with the Hispanic consumer segment. Is your brand history seeded in the post-WWII baby boom? Is your brand steeped in 1950s Americana? Are you using Catskills humor to position your brand with consumers who think Catskills is the YouTube piano-playing cat? Are you tapping the emergent consumer markets not familiar with your brand? If you are, is the message relevant or simply a translation?

Think about your personal experience: Remember traveling in the old station wagon and spending the night at the Holiday Inn? Remember the familiar shag carpeting and Astro-Turf by the pool? The fun time you had while stretching your legs by the pool, the horseplay and the cannonballs? That’s a memory − a brand perception not shared by more than 30 percent of the U.S. population.

SXSW 2015: Meerkats, Beacons & Bacon

R&R Partners’ Corporate Director of Measurement and Insight Justin Gilbert co-authored this article.

In case you have been amidst a social media cleanse, SXSW just wrapped up in Austin. It is a weeklong tech, music and film festival that takes place every March, and attendees discuss the future of technology, eat great barbecue and listen to emerging artists. The interactive portion was attended by 32,798 people this year, and we stood in line with the best of them − we even got into a few sessions and saw some pretty cool stuff along the way.

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Tech Trends

The buzz this year was all about Meerkat, a two-week-old, live-streaming app that generated 100,000 users at launch and came close to Twitter’s breakthrough presence at SXSW in 2007. While the app lost access to Twitter’s network on the first day of the interactive festival and was then snubbed by Twitter in its acquisition of competitor app Periscope, it continues to see rapid user growth and press within the last week. Teleparty and Stre.am also aim to provide live-streaming services, leading to one of the key takeaways from this year, being that video is the name of the game in 2015. Tech and media companies alike are clambering at the opportunity to capitalize on the channel to connect with users in real time.

Similar to what we saw this year at CES, wearables are extending beyond the fitness industry into medical to enhance the user’s daily activities. The fashion world is beginning to use 3-D printing technology combined with smart textiles that can read and adapt to the wearer’s heart rate, including a material that transitions from opaque to sheer as the heart beats faster. Robots were also on full display, designed for a wide array of uses, including psychological counseling, journalism and teaching programming.

More than 1,000 beacons were deployed around SXSW, primarily for the purpose of helping attendees network. GE also used beacons to measure people’s brain activity while eating various types of BBQ to determine optimal temp and smoke levels. Proximity targeting and micro-location targeting are now allowing advertisers to interject themselves into “smart networking” around events or within retail locations, augmenting the RFID targeting that we’ve seen over the last few years.

Good Social & Social Good

Tinder created a fake profile for the main character in the film Ex Machina and had a bot carry on conversations with eager SXSW attendees, eventually directing them to an Instagram account with a video promoting the film. Also similar to CES, self-driving technology and connected cars were reviewed in various panels, events and discussions. Data analytics from connected cars are being leveraged to identify traffic patterns, optimize auto safety and as behavioral targeting segments for advertisers.

Social good was an integral part of the programming at SXSW, in addition to the companies showcased. Related to the robotics trend, several panels focused on the use of bionics and drone technology to assist in disaster/war areas, viral outbreaks and social issues. The United Nations hosted a session that discussed “Project 8,” an online research platform that helps the organization better anticipate and prepare for the needs of the global population, essentially leveraging social listening and data mining from a global perspective to identify changes in sentiment, communication trends and human needs. Mophie partnered with the St. Bernard Foundation to bring smartphone battery cases to people at SXSW with drained phones, while driving adoption awareness for the foundation.

Internet of Things

More than 70 sessions at SXSW mentioned the term “Internet of Things” or “IoT.” This latest buzz phrase defines a world of users connected by intelligent devices that offer a new convenience and functionality to day-to-day life. This lofty phrase intends to enhance life, not only on the individual level, but also on a global scale, leading to improvements in farming, medicine, clean water and smart cities.

So what does this mean to an already fragmented and saturated media landscape?

The proliferation of cloud integrated and smart consumer products is producing large amounts of real-time data that can be leveraged for future consumer product development and within ad-level targeting. This new digitally interwoven IoT ecosystem can better inform the marketer’s perspective of consumer habits, preferences and media consumption.

As the media landscape is becoming more saturated, SXSW Interactive’s panel conversations reiterated that while content is still king … it does not comprise a brand strategy on its own. Distribution of the content is key. Taking advantage of the efficient scale and frequency of interactive channels, combined with niche targeting capabilities, indicates that brands and agencies should be thinking digital first. Writers should not just write for broadcast − they should think of how a viewer consumes broadcast content simultaneously with social media and how both impact their subsequent Web-browsing behavior across all connected devices.

Data Empathy

This mass influx in consumer and device profiles also inevitably leads to data privacy issues and consumer distrust, making this one of the hottest topics at SXSW Interactive. Consumers fear how their information is collected, shared and used; they are becoming more aware of the profitably behind their information, while companies are struggling to maintain control over transactional data with third parties. Restoring consumer trust, coined as “data empathy,” and identifying ways to balance the respect for privacy and commercial use of data, is going to be one of the most important topics in the interactive industry for years to come. This topic within SXSW challenges us, as leaders in the industry, to consistently ask ourselves if what we are designing uses data to be consumer centric, granting ease of use and being adaptive to personal preferences, or if it is merely interruptive for the sake of cutting through the clutter.

To view the presentation shared at SXSW Interactive, visit its SlideShare.

Mobilegeddon? Google’s latest algorithm update

The end of search as we know it?

Well, not quite, unless you haven’t adapted your website to shift with the ever-growing mobile consumption rate. Beginning on April 21, 2015, Google will begin including mobile friendliness as a ranking signal within its search algorithm. Word on the street is that this new ranking algorithm will have more impact on Google’s search results than the previous Panda and Penguin updates ever had. Pages that are not mobile-friendly may experience a loss in rankings and subsequent traffic. Alternatively, websites that are created for mobile, via WAP, or adaptive or responsive designs will potentially benefit from the update based on their priority in Google’s results and the updated sort order of their competitors.

Is this a surprise?

Not at all. Not only has mobile search been on the incline since 2007, it’s also forecasted to surpass desktop search this year in both volume and ad spend this year. Google has also reported that more than 50 percent of searches are done on mobile devices, thus they want to create the best user experience for searchers. Search marketers have forecasted this change for a while, since Google announced that the “mobile-friendly” label and weighting had been integrated into mobile search last November.

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What’s next?

Essentially, you need to think like your consumer because what is good for the searcher is often good for improving SEO. This update will impact Google’s mobile searches, specific to smartphones and will now be separate from Google’s desktop searches. You will not see a sitewide ranking improvement or drop, as rankings will be applied on a page-by-page basis. This provides the opportunity for you to provide a mobile alternative for users without having to redesign your entire website to be mobile friendly. The update will actually take several days to a week before it completely takes affect. This is a great time to adapt your website accordingly, while also gaining an advantage over competitors that may not have mobile-friendly versions of sites. You may also potentially lower your mobile SEM costs since your overall quality score and ranking will naturally exceed others that have not prepared for this change. In summary, be mobile forward; consumers continue to be a driving force of its growth and the customer is always right.