3 Ad Campaigns That Resonated With the Gen Z Audience

Gen Z is completely shifting the way advertisers work. The long-held mindset of heritage, comfort, and familiarity is being upset by this up-and-coming generation of digital natives. Gen Z approaches the world differently than previous generations.

Gen Z is completely shifting the way advertisers work. The long-held mindset of heritage, comfort, and familiarity is being upset by this up-and-coming generation of digital natives. Gen Z approaches the world differently than previous generations, and their way of thinking is coming to the forefront of today’s society. Their passion for social justice, demand for authenticity, and short attention spans have forced brands that target Gen Z consumers to shift their advertising strategies accordingly.

Today, brands are starting to get better at picking up on what Gen Z values and learning to adapt. From a company structure perspective, this can mean implementing more corporate social responsibility initiatives; while in advertising and marketing, this can mean deploying messages, media, and strategies designed to resonate with Gen Z consumers. There are a number of one-off ad campaigns that have redefined success with this generation, as well as continuous campaigns and brand behaviors that are molding and shaping the way marketers and advertisers target this audience.

Here are examples of three very different ad campaigns that have resonated with Gen Z in unique ways, and how they did it.

Aerie ‘Real’ Campaign

Historically, clothing brands have promoted themselves with bombshell supermodels who possess unattainable beauty. It may seem simple, but Gen Z is challenging that paradigm by calling for and responding to ad campaigns that feature “normal” people, and by rejecting impossible beauty standards.

In the early ’00s, brands began receiving backlash for digitally enhancing the faces and figures of their models in noticeable ways and removing anything that might be seen as an imperfection. Once it became clear that this imagery was harmful to the development of young girls’ self-esteem and confidence, American Eagle’s intimates brand Aerie decided to connect with its target consumer, Gen Z, with a different approach — body positivity.

In 2014, Aerie’s “Real” campaign was born. American Eagle started by announcing that it would not only cease the use of supermodels, but would also refrain from digital retouching. That campaign received a flurry of attention as the first-of-its-kind and was a big success. Since then, Aerie has continued to expand the parameters by which it chooses lingerie models. Campaigns have included women with curves, cellulite, small chests, large chests, disabilities, medical illnesses, stretch marks, body hair, and more. Furthermore, the “Real” campaign has expanded by including Aerie consumers. The brand encourages people to feel positive, confident, and comfortable in their own bodies and show it off by joining in with the hashtag #AerieReal on social media.

Not only has this approach helped Aerie stand out in the market and build a positive reputation with Gen Z, but it’s also increased sales year-over-year, with a 38% increase in Q1 of 2018, alone. Overall, the “Real” campaign enabled Aerie to earn credibility in authenticity, diversity, inclusion, and body positivity spaces. Aerie was also ahead of the curve, and many brands are now embracing body positivity and inclusion in their own branding.

Casper

Casper is a new age mattress company that has completely shaken up its sector. A traditionally brick and mortar industry, Casper took a direct-to-consumer approach to mattresses that appeals to a younger-skewing audience. Casper has succeeded with this business model by incorporating selling factors that are important to Gen Zers.

Before Casper, the idea of getting a bed-in-a-box was unheard of and viewed as impractical. Casper, however, had a deep understanding of its target audience and realized a DTC approach could be effective, if the brand positioned itself as a master in the mattress space. To that end, Casper deployed a robust content marketing campaign. The company leveraged social media and retargeting to garner attention and create brand awareness. Once its audience was engaged, Casper established itself as the expert in the space, using product comparisons, customer reviews, and influencer marketing to move the consumer down the funnel toward purchasing a mattress they had never even touched before.

In addition, Casper invested in building a sense of community around its brand. Campaigns like Staycation Story Hacks, unboxing videos, “Waffle Crush Wednesdays,” and the publication Winkle were all geared toward giving consumers many different ways to engage and interact with the brand, and with fellow brand customers. Together, Casper’s marketing efforts have brought in upward of 100,000 video views; 2,000 to 10,000 likes per post; and increased its valuation to $1.1 billion, in just five years.

#RevolveAroundtheWorld

Revolve, an e-commerce clothing brand geared toward Gen Z, has targeted and engaged these consumers, not with traditional advertising campaigns (like Aerie), but by putting its marketing dollars toward a large group of Instagram influencers — 3,500 of the most successful fashion influencers Instagram has to offer.

When influencer marketing really began to take off, Revolve saw an opportunity to grow its relatively new brand and build buzz. The company established an ongoing relationship with Instagram’s most popular fashion influencers, including Kendall Jenner, and began throwing #RevolveAroundtheWorld events in popular destinations, including Palm Springs, Turks and Caicos, and the ever-important Coachella — a super hub for influencers and Gen Zers, alike.

These lavish trips and events are invite-only and create a space where influencers can come together and do what they do best — advertise Revolve’s products by modeling the clothing and publicizing them all over their Instagram accounts. An event exclusively filled with popular Instagrammers effectively gets the brand name out there and capitalizes on the “wish you were here” mindset that Instagram seeds in its users. Consumers have their attention grabbed by the glamorous photos and then may feel inspired to buy the trendy clothing they see. They both relate to and aspire to be like their favorite influencers. Clearly, this approach is working, as Revolve was recently valued at $1.2 billion.

Final Thoughts on Gen Z Ad Campaigns

In today’s world, it is vital that brands— old and new, alike — continue to evolve in the ever-changing advertising landscape. Brands that target Gen Z have to shape their marketing and advertising strategies to convey authenticity, relatability, consistent engagement, and progressive social values. American Eagle’s Aerie, Casper, and Revolve have each taken a highly distinct and unique approach, and each has succeeded in its own way. There are lessons to be learned from their similarities, and their differences. There are many ways to craft campaigns that resonate with Gen Z, but they won’t look like campaigns of the past.

Revisiting My 3 Marketing Predictions: Climate Change Rose to the Top

I am going to be taking a break from posting for a bit. So, before I start my break, I thought I would revisit some marketing predictions I made earlier in the year.

I am going to be taking a break from posting for a bit. So, before I start my break, I thought I would revisit some marketing predictions I made earlier in the year.

My 3 Predictions

I never expected 2019 to totally transform marketing; but there is a major shift underway, with respect to the last prediction.

In my last post, I wrote about the recommendation from the Business Roundtable that companies think more broadly about the constituents they serve, including the planet. The vast majority of Americans believe that the climate crisis is real and there is a desire for real change. Climate worries are also causing consumers to rethink their consumption habits and businesses are responding.

How Am I Doing?

For me, these trends have not just been academic.

I recently went to a fast-casual style restaurant. My younger daughter likes to order the kid’s meal there, and it comes with a fairly rigid small plastic cup to fill up at the drink station. She has decided she wants less plastic in the world, so she asked for the adult paper cup, instead, and was willing to pay the difference. The cashier mentioned that this request was now very common, and they had let corporate know. My daughter received the paper cup, gratis.

In another example, I was at the airport and stopped at a sandwich chain. As I was handed my drink, I was asked if I wanted the lid and straw.

I am not alone, a recent study by Futera found that 88% of consumers wanted brands to help them live sustainably. The marketing implications for this trend are very interesting. Aside from a physical product or service, consumers are asking and paying for less. While it may not seem like much, a lid and a straw are big conveniences bundled into the price of a meal. Yet at the airport I was asked … do you want to take a small hit for the team? I happily took the hit and kept my drink close, until I finished it.

I generally keep my politics out of business, but climate change is not political to me. It is an existential threat, and most U.S. consumers agree.

Now, It’s Your Turn

As marketers, we need to think of ways to satisfy this growing need; and, fortuitously, consumers are willing to share the burden.

Here is my next prediction: Companies that do not change quickly will soon find themselves out of favor with a big segment of the market.

Social Responsibility New Trend — Marketers Need to Prepare

Social responsibility is the new trend, and marketers need to prepare. I will confess that until recently, the North Star of my professional journey has been growing shareholder value.

Social responsibility is the new trend, and marketers need to prepare. I will confess that until recently, the North Star of my professional journey has been growing shareholder value. On the positive, this prime directive has allowed strange bedfellows to conduct business across ideological, racial, and political lines. In many cases, the drive to grow shareholder returns has broken barriers where cultural change was still trailing. It has also simplified objectives and brought clarity in critical business decisions.

But there seem to be some noticeable cracks developing in the shareholder value model. After all, what good is wealth in a world with growing income disparity (revolution, anyone?), polluted oceans, record heat waves and social isolation? The more we read about current events; the more doomsday prepping seems like a sane activity.

Recently, the Business Roundtable, a grouping of 192 large company CEOs declared that business should take a broader view of who they serve, beyond customers and shareholders, and include employees, suppliers and the communities they operate in. (Before you get overly excited, comrade, let’s not forget that CEO compensation is still primarily liked to profitable growth and stock value.) Nevertheless, businesses are starting to make changes.

Marriott, along with other large hotel chains, is announcing a transition away from single-use plastic toiletry bottles. We have also seen employee pay or benefits increases at Amazon, Walmart, and Target. There are also companies, like Nike and Patagonia, who are taking social stands in very visible ways. For some companies, social responsibility has been a part of their DNA for any years; for others, it is now becoming an existential imperative.

As a result, the statement from the Business Roundtable is not visionary thinking; rather, it is an acceptance of growing consumer discontent. There is a change in the zeitgeist, driven by consumers and citizens, against business as usual.

As marketers, this might feel liberating. We can finally be free of the oppressive “bean counters” who lorded the principle of shareholder value over every creative idea. No, no, we can’t. The marketer’s job has actually gotten harder and even more metrics-based.

While calculating metrics, such as cost per click, costs per conversion have become routine for most marketers, the measurement of marketing and experience decisions will become more complex. Take the simple example of eliminating plastic shampoo bottles in hotels. The ROI of this decision is not just about plastic bottle costs. For some hotel brands, toiletries are an important touchpoint in delivering a premium experience.

  • Does a bulk shampoo dispenser convey the same premium experience?
  • Are there better alternatives and what are their costs?
  • How will it impact brand positioning?
  • Does the average consumer understand the change, and will they see it as a benefit or a loss?

The recommendation from the Business Roundtable will require a business to think more holistically about how they derive profitable growth, but the drive for profitability is not going away. Marketers will now need to speak for more than just the customer and justify the costs of making socially responsible decisions. In some cases, the customer will not be a direct beneficiary of business decisions. Rather, they will be a partner who is asked to pay more or get less in the interest of the “greater good.”

The “easy” news is that customers are asking for these changes. The “tough” news is that profits still matter, and balancing that with the needs of customers and the society at large will be a more complex equation.

A Higher Brand Purpose Brings in Customers, Profits

When we act like consumers and contemplate a higher brand purpose, we most often think about the importance of corporate social responsibility, and look for postings about how the brand supports the environment, employee rights, community causes, and the like.

When we act like consumers and contemplate a higher brand purpose, we most often think about the importance of corporate social responsibility, and look for postings about how the brand supports the environment, employee rights, community causes, and the like.

However, there is another form of purpose that we don’t really talk about much. The kind of purpose that can’t be measured by donations to charities, the number of free items given away, or employee volunteer hours. It’s the kind of purpose that changes our lives in little ways. Like what we learn in “A Dog’s Purpose,” which is the narrative of a dog who was valuable in the lives of all those he touched in all of the many lives he led.

In this popular story as a book and movie, we learn the purpose of a dog’s life is to teach his and her humans that life is about fun, helping and saving others, focusing on the present vs. regrets, living for today with someone who loves you back. If we define purpose for brands accordingly, that would mean a brand’s purpose is about sharing happiness; helping others live their best, most joyful lives; and being present.

So if your brand looks at purpose from the life values you share, teach, and nurture, what would those be?

We remember how brands make us feel — about a transaction, a product or service, about ourselves — more than we remember how many donations a brand has made to serve the needy. If we define a brand from its ability to help one achieve happiness, we have to take a look at how we define happiness. Jonathan Haidt, a social psychology professor at NYU, researched this question and came up with “The Happiness Hypothesis,” a book he wrote that suggests the following values are what we seek to find that ethereal “happy place.”

Elements of happiness include:

  • Nurturing others
  • Making a difference in the world
  • Fairness and justice
  • Associating with others who have like values

Brands that deliver on these values create happy customers in ways that go further than the product or service sold. The above values are aligned with something far greater than products. Self-actualization, which Maslow defined in his hierarchy of needs in 1943 in his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” According to Maslow, “Self-actualization is “achieving one’s full potential, including creative abilities.” This is the apex of life’s journey — reaching the goals you set and realizing the dreams that keep you awake. However, brands can achieve “happy” customers — happy being happy people vs. just customers happy with transactions — by fulfilling the other steps of Maslow’s hierarchy, which are:

Step 1: Physiological needs — clothing, food, water, shelter, sleep

Step 2: Safety and Security — Health, employment, property, family and social stability

Step 3: Love and Belonging — Friendship, family, intimacy, sense of connection,

Step 4: Self-Esteem — Confidence, achievement, respect of others, becoming an unique individual

Step 5: As defined earlier

Many products are designed to achieve the basic needs listed in Steps 1 and 2 in ways that others do not. Luxury, prestigious, delicious, and other attributes go beyond basic human necessity. And many others fulfill our need for Love and Belonging, and Self-Esteem, or at least by making us think they do. The way a brand fulfills these steps influences our purchasing choice, our public opinions; a brands’ reputation, Net Promoter Scores, and so on.

Defining a brand’s purpose by the above, and not just the Corporate Social Responsibility purpose aligned with your mission, is key to defining the ways you deliver happiness. And there are many ways you can do this.

  • Coke defined happiness with its Open Happiness campaign that was one of the brand’s most visible and talked about, debuting in 2009.
  • Apple defines happiness with imagery that shows happy people, in happy places, being simply happy!
  • And Target holds First Place on the Forbes list of happy brands because of its upbeat, energetic atmosphere with fun, trendy products that make us feel fun and current.

Conclusion

The key to success today, and elevating your brand to a higher level, is to define your brand’s “life” purpose in ways that are realistic, meaningful, and actionable for your customers.

As you continue to look at your brand’s purpose and build marketing and customer programs around it, think beyond what your brand actually does for the world and your communities, and ponder more about what your brand does to help people find their higher purpose.

  • How do you further self-esteem?
  • How do you further one’s ability to nurture and help others?
  • How do you help people be the difference they want to be in this world?

Aligning with life’s higher purposes, not just happy transactions for customers, sets brands apart in ways that take price, selection, and even convenience out of the equation.

How Being the Change You Want to See Can Also Increase Profits

Being the change needed in your world takes courage. It can be risky. But in the end, it pays off. Not just because you and your entire staff feel good about doing something good for others, but because you will also see the dividends.

In business, we are so accustomed to operating and marketing to reach the primary goals of maximizing ROI and profits. Daily, we analyze our financial statements, expenses, and operations costs to find where we can make more money. We review our pricing to see if we can increase our margins. And we analyze our marketing data to see which customers have more sales and profit potential. And then we continue to strategize how we can do more, get more and be more. It’s all part of the exciting game of business, and how we are wired to perform. And it’s what our careers are built upon.

But What If …

We operated from a different perspective? What if we built business models on the greater good instead of ROI and profitability? What if we priced to make our products and services more accessible to all in need instead of desired profit margins? While this may sound defeating and even a little silly, here’s something to think about.

Those of us with pets are constantly faced with exorbitant prices to provide the care our pets need. Like human healthcare, the prices are mind-boggling. And often, we simply cannot afford the prices that veterinarians charge, so our beloved pets go without surgeries and other care they need.

being the change photo
Credit: Getty Images by Hero Images

Recently, my beloved dog needed some tumors removed. Vets I called wanted around $2,000 for the procedure that would not take even an hour. Someone recommended a new vet in town to me, one who had built a business model around affordable surgical procedures. Her prices were about ¼ of what most vets charged, because she only did surgical and dental procedures, had a staff of one, no partners to pay dividends to, and did not have a big facility that added to big overhead costs. Her business model was simple, and so too her pricing.

Before taking my dearly beloved canines to her, I stopped to meet her to make sure she was real and had the certifications and licensed seal of approval in her office. I told her that her low pricing made me wonder and asked why she did this.

Her response:

“I am tired of seeing animals not get the care they need because the humans that love them can’t afford it.”

I was touched by this response. I took both my dogs to her and seriously had the best outcomes I’ve ever had. The quality of her work was best-in-class, and her pricing surreal — in fact, I felt guilty paying so little. I was so emotionally energized by her work and her commitment to doing what was right for more than just herself that I took to Facebook. I posted about Dr. Natalie from the The Eagle Pet Vet in Eagle, Colo., and the amazing quality of care my dogs got for a fraction of others’ prices. I thanked her publicly for her devotion to animals and to creating a business model based on the greater good vs. the great revenue stream.

Within hours, my post got a record high number of likes for this Community Page and dozens of comments from other patients with their similar stories and posts of appreciation and affection for Dr. Natalie and her mission, which made it possible for so many to afford needed care for dogs and cats.

The response to this post was not just inspiring to see how people truly appreciated Dr. Natalie for her business model, but to see how people respond to a business that operates to serve more than just its own interests. Dr. Natalie seriously charges ½ to ¼ what others do for the same procedures. And her business thrived because of the word of mouth of all those she served. In just two years of operation, she built not only a loyal clientele, but a large following — as people love talking about her and recommending her because of the joy she brought to their lives by enabling them to care for their pets the way they want to by making that care affordable.

How can businesses of all sizes across all industries learn from Dr. Natalie?

  • For one, like no one I’ve ever met before, Dr. Natalie built a business around being the change she wanted to see in the pet industry. The first step to building a business that creates the strong emotional bonds customers have for Dr. Natalie and her business is to face the change needed in your industry to benefit all involved. Businesses, customers, and communities. What is that change?
  • Second, how can you adapt your business around it? While you might not be changing your pricing model, or reducing your overhead anytime time soon, how can you build a special offering, payment plans, or scaled-down product around the change your industry needs in order to serve more people than just those able to use your services now?

Being the change needed in your world takes courage. It can be risky. But in the end, it pays off. Not just because you and your entire staff feel good about doing something good for others, but because you will also see the dividends.

We all know the best form or marketing is earned, not paid. And there is no price you can put on the kind of comments my Facebook post generated for this small pet clinic in a small Colorado town.

It’s hard to get people talking about your business — but when you see how easily people spread the good word about a business doing good, without being asked to post, refer, or recommend, it can seriously change the way you think about marketing and sales.

Here’s to the wonderful inspiration from Gandhi, who taught us all to be the change we wanted to see in the world:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

For Sustainable Sales, Follow the Herd

One cannot spend even a day in Yellowstone National Park and not be moved by the many lessons learned from nature that apply to so many aspects of our lives, including sustainable sales — as the title implies. For me, two days at this spectacular park just this week did not disappoint or leave me not pondering the amazing wisdom animals of nature share with us. It was the American Buffalo that moved me the most.

One cannot spend even a day in Yellowstone National Park and not be moved by the many lessons learned from nature that apply to so many aspects of our lives, including sustainable sales — as the title implies. For me, two days at this spectacular park just this week did not disappoint or leave me not pondering the amazing wisdom animals of nature share with us. It was the American Buffalo that moved me the most.

Just a few miles into the wilderness toward Lamar Valley, we encountered a Buffalo — AKA, Bison Jam. A herd of about 200 head decided to cross the highway, and take their sweet time standing in the road staring at us humans as they ate sagebrush and rounded up their families. It was hard not to notice “couples” together, grunting as they nudged the same young ones and then crossed together as a group and stayed together on the other side of the road.

And it was not hard to see how the herd was all very much aware of all of the others and what they were doing and where they were going — once they decided to get off of the road. And then we heard stories of how a few months earlier, a herd circled a young calf that was not able to walk well, and fought off a pack of wolves trying to get to it.

And beyond the Buffalo, the herds of elk all running together toward safety, and then learning how they communicate with each other about where to move and when to assure their “community’ is safe. Even trees that share a root system know when one of them is in need and when it’s time to share their nutrients to keep others in their woods or “tribe” alive.

Nature is wired to be part of a community, to help others, and to stay together; in order to thrive as one, or as a tribe. Like the buffalo, elk and all species of life that share this world with us, we need others. We need to be with others who are like us. It is what makes us safe, secure, and makes us confident to try something new, different and be bold.

Studying human psychology, not just animals in nature, we discover just how inherent “community” is in our psyche, and our survival DNA. We need to be with others — whether being with others gives us power, resources, security, socialization or love; we cannot thrive when alone.

We saw lone buffalo that left the herd, and these were those that were injured and just didn’t appear to be thriving. These buffalo were those that were left vulnerable to the threats of wolves and lions that share their same landscape.

And Yes, There Is a Marketing Lesson About Sustainable Sales in All of This

Brands traditionally treat customers as individuals. And that is what we have spent millions learning how to master with our data modeling and segmentation strategies and technology. We personalized for personas and down to individual transactions and preferences. And we marketers are excited and proud of just how 1:1 we can get.

But wait a minute. Instead of stopping and being proud of how “individual” we make our customers feel, what if we put just as much effort into making them feel a part of “tribe,” a “herd” or a “flock”? The same formations that we observe in nature that help animals not just survive in the wild, but thrive? What if we found a way to bring customers together in communities based on what we know about them individually and enabled them to the power, confidence, excitement and joy of belonging?

I remain amazed at how many brands do not build “community” into their marketing programs and instead focus only on “individualization” which, trite as it is to say, is so “last decade.”

We marketers need to build programs beyond our products that bring customers together and make them feel safe, secure, valued, recognized, and part of something bigger and more rewarding than their ability to make a purchase — whether it be $100,000 luxury car that puts them in the VIP “clubs” for Jaguar, Lexus and more, or a smartphone that makes them seem more “cool” and artistic than perhaps they really are.

Automobile companies have done this for years, and it has always paid off, even when the quality of their machines was poor. Saturn, now in the dead brand graveyard, rallied 30,000 or more customers to events to celebrate the Saturn and meet others in their “tribe.” Harley Davidson’s HOGS — Harley Owners Group — has around 1 million members who get together with friends and strangers, for a ride organized by Harley, and ride some of nature’s best highways and byways, reveling in the joy of riding their beautiful bikes and building friendships that have only one thing in common: They love their bikes, and love talking about the experiences they have with these bikes with others who have the same bikes and similar stories. They bond with each other and they bond even more strongly with the brand that brought them together. That’s even when the joke about Harley’s quality was that you had to have two bikes: One to ride and one for spare parts.

Regardless of your business — whether it’s selling B2B SaaS software to marketing companies, healthcare products or pharmaceuticals, children’s clothing, commodity goods from a corner store, or apps to keep us more addicted to our smartphones — you, too, can build a community.

Here are just a few things to think about:

  • Online: Use your website to create forums for discussion so customers can exchange “fish” stories or battle stories that make them proud to be part of your brand.
  • Offline: Bring customers together for good time and important times. Throw block parties, like Samsung did at Times Square to introduce its latest phone (smaller scale parties work for smaller budgets), or invite customers to join you for neighborhood clean ups, or game hour at the senior center.
  • Referral Networks: Encourage customers to bring others to your herd by offering discounts for friends and discounts or other rewards for those they being to your brand.

These are just a few things you can do to bring people together to share their passions about your brand, and gain the strength and power of numbers, while bonding with each other in ways that keep each other close to your brand.

Marketing to individuals is of course the right path for today’s high-maintenance customers who expect everything to “be all about me.”

Yet when you fail to build communities among your customers, you fail to safeguard your revenue from the threats of competitors. Like tribes in nature, consumers and customers feel secure and powerful when among others just like us, whether we realize it or not.

When you keep customers together through communities that share stories or do good together, you minimize the risk of customers wandering off like lone buffalo, becoming at-risk customers, out of network, where competitors can prey on them and forever take them away. And besides building communities, you’re building sustainable sales.

Imagine: America First in 2018

How did 2017 work out for you? Well, let’s look forward to 2018 — and imagine what could be. The optimist in me is gung-ho on what’s transpiring in the world economy — and nearer at home.

How did 2017 work out for you? Well, let’s look forward to 2018 — and imagine what could be.

The optimist in me is gung-ho on what’s transpiring in the world economy — and nearer at home:

Sustainability is alive and well, no matter what country is in or out of the Paris Climate Accord. The private sector is already on it — and the world’s first trillionaire just may invent a better battery.

America First:  It would be nice if such ingenuity originated with an American enterprise, but that’s not required. Equity markets reward the future, not the past.

City economies — rather than national economies — move global business. New York City is alive and well, with 10 million anticipated residents by 2030. Queens and Brooklyn waterfronts are looking more like Manhattan — towers gleaming. With another 1.5 million residents (and immigrants) on their way, we’re going to need plenty more, perhaps in a more affordable price range.

America First: Americans re-learn how to move to where the jobs are, if host cities — and Amazon — can accommodate.

We vow not to lose this #MeToo moment and opportunity. Gender, race, sexuality, age, origin — we shed white male privilege — gladly — and replace it with a true meritocracy, based on individual achievement that is borderless (kinda like love). When knowledge is shared, power is redistributed.

America First: Now, that’s an American value and ideal we can live, work and pursue happiness with.

Advertising is more data-driven, more relevant and, thus, more trustworthy. Europe may use data to spark a trade war — but who really can hold back from consumer demands for ad-financed content, services and Internet? The ad supply chain does indeed exit the “fake anything” business.

America First: The world’s digital ecosystem was fostered by research and development — much of it U.S. funded, much of it by monetizing data, read Silicon Valley. We stop ill-driven interlopers in their crypto-tracks.

An informed consumer grows the market. An informed electorate leads to good governance. A more perfect information society solves problems and fosters opportunities — and ends the terror of despots and psychopaths whose narcissism feeds each other.

America First: We reject the real enemies — far, near and at home — who undermine journalism, science, democracy and intelligence, where America traditionally has led. We understand that to be a city on a hill, a beacon for the world, we must rein in all haters and charlatans.

As for the realist in me … well, I’m going to put that mindset on the back burner for a bit. Here’s to a happy, prosperous and enlightened New Year for everyone!

How to Engage When Customers Don’t Give a Damn (or Dime) About What You Say

Talk is cheap. And that’s not just me being trite. It’s cheaper than ever today, as you can talk for free on numerous social media channels. And it’s cheap because it’s meaningless to customers.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 1.30.56 PMTalk is cheap. And that’s not just me being trite. It’s cheaper than ever today, as you can talk for free on numerous social media channels. And it’s cheap because it’s meaningless to customers.

Customers don’t care what you say. They care what you do. For generations, customers have listened to brands talk about their product and quality advantages, promises to deliver on expectations, and a whole lot more. Today, nobody listens and, more importantly, nobody cares. Consumers care about actions and many of their choices are based upon the old adage of “actions are louder than words.”

According to Neilsen’s research on corporate social responsibility, the majority of consumers surveyed in 60 countries are willing to spend more to purchase from brands that can show a positive social and environmental impact. For North America, it’s 42 percent.

“We have moved from an era of marketing goods and differentiating products to a new era focused on conscientious behavior. Branding is no longer about exclusively promoting your brand’s competitive advantages, but rather how your brand’s actions positively impact our world and how your business is an acting force for good.” This from Richard Rosen, a leading branding strategist and author of “Convergence Marketing – Combining Brand and Direct Marketing for Unprecedented Profits (Wiley 2009).

After years of building sales and profitability for global brands through marketing programs and campaigns, Rosen now incorporates the holistic approach of helping brands focus on gaining a sustainable advantage by defining what they stand for while achieving profits through service, product, price, place and so on. The most important pillar of all he says is, “Doing Good.”

Today, doing good goes beyond showing that you recycle and cut down on pollution, or that you donate 1 percent to charity. Doing good is about truly impacting our environment and society with actions that do not put your brand absolutely first, and by doing good to your employees and people, in general. Research shows that consumers are fine with companies making profits, as long as they are conscientious members of the global community. And per Rosen, “That holistic approach is a far more successful strategy for today’s times.”

One of the best examples of doing good is Patagonia, which started in the 1970s as a creator of mountaineering equipment and clothing. Today, it’s a $700 million-plus business, growing substantially year-over-year — despite shifting its brand positioning from marketing goods to doing good. In 2012, sales grew almost one-third to $543 million, when it changed its marketing pitch from “buy our products” to “don’t buy our products.” In fact, this reverse psychology appeal with an actual campaign that said “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” increased sales by nearly $160 million.

Building upon the environmentally friendly pillars of Reduce, Repair, Reuse and Recycle, Patagonia encouraged customers to stop buying replacement items and instead cut down on resources and their personal imprint on our environment by repairing and reusing what they have. To execute on this strategy, Patagonia has a repair shop of 45 employees who repair products, extending the lifecycle of the products — while diminishing their impact on the world their products are made to help us enjoy.

For brands to become more in-line with consumers’ values, especially those of the economical powerhouse generations, GenY and GenX, brands must define their environmental and social values. One way many brands are defining and communicating their values is to go through the process of becoming a Benefit Corporation, or a B Corp. That’s an organization achieving high scores for social and environmental responsibility, per an assessment test offered by B Lab, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of business as a force for good. This process helps businesses of all sizes measure what matters and see precisely how well they are doing. And it gives them and their customers something worth talking about for a change.

This new era of consumers demanding corporations do good does not just extend to environmental responsibility, as exemplified by Patagonia. It embraces how you treat people, a long overdue demand, in my own opinion.

A Hard Call for a Softer Side to Advertising

Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy. In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission.

Build an emotional connection to your brand.

Change the world, one pair of shoes at a time.

Every individual has an opportunity through education.

We are not data, we are human beings.

One primary take-away from &Then 2015, a DMA event, last week in Boston is that effective advertising today is most certainly about strategy, creativity and results – all over this year’s International ECHO Awards. But let’s add another key ingredient: Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy.

I’m not talking about some modicum of a social responsibility tie-in … “Buy our product and we’ll plant a tree.”

But rather that, in an economy filled with attention deficit, good advertising, effective advertising, must make us pause and consider. The table stakes for engagement happen when we trust and connect to emotions in ourselves.

In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission. While TOMS has moved its social responsibility mission beyond shoes to eyewear, water and other projects, I choose TOMS precisely because of its giving back along with its very comfortable shoes.

Singer John Legend has his handlers, most certainly, but when you heard his call to action for education reform, justice reform and minority business leadership – therein lays substance and authenticity behind his own storytelling in music. He may not sing about those subjects, but his celebrity is leveraged strictly for those causes that motivate him to act, that have defined his life, in how he was raised and how he sees the world as it is and what it can be through positive change.

Even look at this year’s winning crop of ECHOs. Many campaigns used emotion to tell compelling stories — with breath-taking results. Skoda’s Guardians of Winter, Uniforms for the Dedicated’s Rag Bag, Huggies and Volkswagen’s Eyes on the Road are just a few examples of campaigns that took individuals on an emotional journey of one sort or another – and made you think twice. You literally spend a moment walking life in someone else’s shoes, and realize it could be your own.

Suffice to say, these motivators are hardly new to advertising, it’s just great to see them in employed in data-driven campaigns and breaking through cacophony. What is new is that, as brands seek to connect with target audiences, truly making the world a better place to be is more meaningful today than ever.