THEY ARE ALREADY SMARTER THAN ALL OF US Keeping Up With Gen Z, Marketers Next Big Challenge!

Culture Hack

Culture Hack

THEY ARE ALREADY SMARTER THAN ALL OF US Keeping Up With Gen Z, Marketers Next Big Challenge!

We are a product of our times. Each generation has its markers, those shared moments that shape how we see the world and guide our actions. For instance, boomers ushered counter-culture as a response to social and political uncertainties while millenials, the first digitally native generation, today challenges all forms of clunky intermediaries. These societal milestones are the tipping points for change. Speaking of change, a big one is brewing…

Z = Huge

While editors have fawned over millennials, it is Generation Z, the over 70 million Americans born mostly in the 90s and early aughts, which will rock many an industry and company.  Raised amidst the big recession while witnessing the increasingly isolating power of technology, Generation Z embodies a skeptical and pragmatic take on the world.  They’ve witnessed first hand what the power structures and shifts of the 90s did to their generation X parents (unemployment, debt levels, dissatisfaction) and have chosen a different route.

The Pragmatic Economy

As generation Z bubbles up to be the biggest consumer segment, their sense of pragmatism will have powerful impact on creative, business and engagement models. I predict their need to make more with less, will further challenge the concept of ownership, fuel the sharing economy, and put greater pressures on brands to deliver relevant, multi-faceted experiences while serving up trust and loyalty to a greater degree.

Ways in which we’re seeing Gen Z pragmatism rise:

  • More so than millennials, generation Z is keen on savings. This will put greater pressure for brands and companies to pack more value around the goods and services they provide. This also presents and opportunity for financial services companies to speak to this consumer earlier. Other opportunities include: next gen loyalty programs, innovations in payment models, as well as continued novelties in business models such as subscription services.
  • Around the premise of value, they will demand more depth of meaning and functionality from the products and brands they endorse. Think of multi-use products that incorporate elements such as sustainability, weather adaptive uses, genderless offerings, among other qualities that will allow reuse, sharing, barter, etc.
  • Afraid of uncertainty, generation z is more openly loyal to companies and brands they perceive as authentically caring and relevant. In return for this loyalty, they will demand transparency, flexibility and a total life form of experience.
  • This is the generation that grew up with YouTube stars and other influencers. They do not subscribe to the traditional Hollywood model and as such they will further force companies to build a more authentic network of influencers to spread the word about their brands and services. This generation also takes its cue from micro-influencers to craft their own versions of DIY expressions, taking full advantage of a new spate of digital creative tools.
  • Barter and cash-me will be a way of life. The search for authenticity, uniqueness and collaboration coupled with the need to save will continue to drive business models such as Poshmark, Grailed and its reselling of sneakers, and other direct to consumer exchanges, not to mention, informal peer-to-peer, community driven barter
  • Afraid of the uncertainties their parents faced, they will put a greater premium on smaller, more meaningful and trustworthy circles of friends and colleagues. Shared values, causes and collaborations will fuel this sense of agency and community. Opportunities: passion tribes and circles, next generation loyalty programs; dialing up security; transparency and engagement around block-chain.

Across the board generation Z presents a need for a realness test for brands. This will mean a scrappier, creatively intuitive approach that reflects the harder times they grew up. This could be a new boom for creativity, as the saying beckons, necessity is the mother of invention.


Imperfection Is Design’s Secret Weapon

Culture Hack

Culture Hack

Imperfection Is Design’s Secret Weapon

Our growing obsession with social media and its endless set of distractions have hampered our ability to finish things.  We are living in a messy state of intermittent craving and explorations triggered by ongoing streams of shifting stimuli. But before we go all doomsday on this seemingly unfocused predicament, we shall stop and explore why this might be a good thing. And the reason is that we are no longer held captive to the notion and pressure of delivering something immutable.

Whereas Guttenbeg and his printing press in the 1500s ushered a then-new revolution around the spread of ideas, some of them dogmatic; today’s digital revolution unleashes the power of experimenting. This new moment favors extreme reiteration, unfinished formats and open-source collaborations instead of a finite product.  This embracement of imperfection has great repercussions in terms of how we come up with new ideas and how we collaborate. It’s also bound to give us the courage to fail fantastically on the way to awesomeness.

Glossiers Skin First Make Up Second Campaign

After a timeless obsession with traditional perfection and beauty, we are opening up to the freedom of imperfection. The concept is appealing for a different set of reasons. First of all, because it reflects our natural, changing selves. We see this ushering of “imperfection” in the embracement of body positivity, owning what we previously called flaws as now powerfully unique attributes of our individuality. This is expressed, for instance, in the woke-inspired criticism of beauty narratives of yore, including modern vestiges such as photo-shopped beauty images. Imperfection’s strength in this case lies in its direct challenge to traditional beauty norms.

Imperfection’s modern appeal also taps into a post-digital desire for things as they exist naturally, pre any form of digital alteration. We see this in the rise of the “ugly” food movement, with its rescue of slightly damaged, but otherwise perfectly fine and delicious produce. We are also seen in the increasingly popular Japanese design form of wabi sabi, centered on the idea of transience and imperfection. In a more nostalgic vein, we are seeing the rise of low-fi, pixelated early 90s aesthetics.

Again, the idea of the past as ideally less complex is something that speaks to our cyber-harried selves. Imperfection expressed in the form of disruptive and slightly dystopian aesthetic also strikes a particular chord today, especially with incoming consumers questioning the establishment. At a time when Facebook gives you emoticon options to show your mood; what stronger statement than your sartorial choices putting your values front and center?

Ugly fruit and produce are a new form of sustainability.

We are seeing the rise of “ugly” fashion by both edgier, elevated street-wear brands such as Supreme as well as by luxury marquee brands such as Gucci and its creative director Alessandro Michelle’s penchant for unmatched, granny-chic aesthetics. We also see this anti-norm appetite in the rise of modern-day tribes such as the new feminist witch movement and the surging return of a modern version of rebel punk. In these examples the message is unapologetically urgent and direct.

Gucci’s Maximalist Mash-Ups

It is this directness that also gives imperfection added equity and punch. In an era when the truth is questioned, imperfection delivers arresting honesty and transparency. It’s powerfully human in its display of flaws, delivering empathy, connectivity, and serves as the perfect antidote to the anxiety we feel around perfection’s evasiveness.

Embracing Imperfection for Change

  • Explore the world of uncertainty and instability in your product category. What are those ongoing shifts? Design systems that openly embrace the change. Think of mutable design and open source mechanisms that allow for iterative betterment.
  • A work in progress. Modern day consumers and key audiences want to be vested in a brand experience. Do not feel the pressure to show a finished product. Whenever possible, allow them in the behind the scenes, unveil the creative chaos. This is great for true product development, but also for deeper consumer engagement.
  • Give consumers the unexpected. A curated, creatively messy experience can surprise consumers. Think of unexpected lifestyle-centered adjacencies in-store, for instance, to create a more magical sense of discovery.
  • Embrace your brand’s imperfections. No company or brand has it all figured out. Look for ways to strategically convey how you’re working on your shortcomings or addressing new challenges. Enlist the help of experts, partners and the consumer at large.

Areas to explore include next-gen corporate social responsibility and marketing, arenas where popular sentiment and an outside perspective are critical.

But most importantly, embrace your own comfort level with change, with messiness, with pitching ideas that seem unfinished to those that can help shape them and take them to a better place. This new economy is not for the hyper-polished, but for the innovatively imperfect.  So go ahead and let those flaws roam.


Cultural Mic Drop : When Purpose & Surprise Collide

Culture Hack

Culture Hack

Cultural Mic Drop : When Purpose & Surprise Collide

It takes precise intuition to own a conversation these days. In a sea of retweets and short-lived news cycles, there is a power in making a clear, definitively timed statement. The art of when is more important than ever as consumers: time poor and experience hungry, are looking for things that meaningfully stand out. For brands that want to truly engage it means becoming more creatively intuitive, elusive and time-sensitive, and relevantly bold in everything they do.

Stellar cultural voices and brands that own the conversation today know when to bring an idea to life. For instance, during a time when town criers warn of a retail apocalypse, streetwear brand Supreme has cool kids lined up waiting outside its stores for the latest timed drop or seeking out Supreme-branded metro cards and newspapers. Supreme’s subversive school of marketing delivers on two powerful elements of when: the ability to change the conversation through surprise, and in an era of ongoing duplication and manipulation, by delivering something coveted for a limited amount of time.

The artful mastery of when also happens when a cultural catalyst pays close attention to the underlying shifts in the zeitgeist. Apple did this in the eighties by extolling the power of thinking differently during the rise of corporate-driven personal computers and at a time of a nascent sense of individual creativity. The brand has continued owning the conversation by adopting a secretive, drop-like mentality around its design and product launches.

A recent branded mic drop was Nike’s ads supporting Colin Kapernick. The brand, confident in its rebel (albeit its behemoth corporate status) history and DNA, lived up to its “Just do it” tagline and went all in to make a statement supporting Kapernick’s social stance. Stealth-like in its approach, Nike simply posted the ad with no further explanation. In doing so, Nike brand managers knew that they would offend many, yet powerfully recalibrate a more meaningful relationship with a younger, more socially-focused consumer.

Besides having something powerful to stay, the mic drop and its brethren, the drop, challenge social media’s frantic always-on culture. When Beyoncé secretly launches a visual album like Lemonade overnight, she is rewriting the rule book, favoring elusiveness versus a Kardashian-like school of overexposure. Mic drops like Beyoncé’s favor statements so clear and relevant that they hijack all other conversations. There is an aura of boldness around the act that elicits desire.

For a generation used to consuming things on their own terms, the drop also creates a sense of urgency around access: being the first ones to experience something while it’s taking place. We see this in the popularity of festivals, wanderlust-fueled travel, capsule collections or the appeal of ephemerally-timed Snapchat stories.

The drop can also serve as a break or edit from the sensory overload around products and branding messages. Subscription boxes like Blue Apron and Birchbox thrive by both giving individuals a monthly surprise while canceling out the noise of overtly merchandised retail. They also give consumers welcomed predictability in an increasingly uncertain world.

The power of the drop is ultimately around creating a system of extreme fluidity around cultural conversations. The potential is vastly expanding in this realm as AI technologies now allow us to go wider and deeper in terms of canvassing popular sentiment. For brand leaders, adopting a “drop” mentality means fluidly weaving the power of the high tech with good ole human intuition to design brand experiences so relevant and timely that they build powerful emotional and cultural equity for the brand. And in an era of constant disruption, being hardwired to intelligent disrupt through emotions is the most powerful of drops.


The No Shame/No Filter Era

Culture Hack

Culture Hack

The No Shame/No Filter Era

The Internet, with its trove of individual searches, comments, purchases and creative self-expression is the closest thing we have to a repository of the human experience. Understandably so, people refer to “The Internet” as a proxy for society in general, a highly distracted being of sorts, that acts mostly based on the latest social trigger. And it’s this precise ability to raise a red flag around what inspires us and what gets on our nerves that makes “The Internet’ an interesting tool for social observations.

One of the behaviors the Internet and its digital cousins, the cell phone and social media have spun is a form of collective transparency around imperfections. While social media still presents heavy pressures to keep up with celebrities, influencers and our timeless Joneses, it has also given us access to what others grapple with. This creates a powerful sense of belonging and new possibilities. This questioning is part of a broader societal rebellion against restricting systems and hierarchies.

We simply want out from the pressures to conform. Younger millennials and generation Z consumers are driving forth this conversation, giving life to new brands that embody this progressive ethos and forcing other culturally-fluid brands to recalibrate their thinking and messaging to be with the times.

And no topic is off limits.

Mental health, for instance, is an immediate wellness challenge for many youths afflicted by cyber-bullying, an uncertain job market, and a healthcare system that has failed them and society in general in terms of early detection and education about mental health. Talkspace, backed by Michael Phelps, for instance, provides a mobile-friendly means to connect with therapists. Lola in similar fashion is breaking the taboos around feminine hygiene products. Its approach is powerful, human-centered around peer guidance and sustainability, and its message is smart, real and warm. HIMS tries to do the same for guys around hair loss and other health and self-care categories.

The common theme with the examples above is an approach around the direct tackling of the issue at hand and turning that directness into a source of pride, contagious tonality and guidance for the relationship between the consumer and the brand.

Think. What your brand stands for? What societal pressures can it help alleviate it? How are you a caring brand? What are the common worries of your best consumer and what can you do about it?


Hero Traveler Launches "Through Our Lens" Mongolia

Culture Hack

Culture Hack

Hero Traveler Launches "Through Our Lens" Mongolia

Thanks to the Internet of Things, consumers have come to expect unprecedented customization, from talking to our machines throughout the day to personalizing the latest pair of Nike kicks. In the coming decade, healthcare will join the conversation with custom medicine, treatments, and delivery systems, adding a bit of D2C thinking and a lot of AI to a cumbersome system in need of disruption.

According to Forbes, a massive $6.6 billion will be invested by the pubic and private sector in AI healthcare by 2021, marking a shift in HCP and consumer thinking. For healthcare professionals, machine learning is the imperfect beginning to new drug discovery, where novel first-in-class drugs could spur creativity and molecule innovation. For consumers, it holds the promise of living better, not just longer, lives.

Innovations in drug discovery are already leading the health personalization movement. This month witnessed the first treatment created for a single patient by doctors at Harvard Medical School, named Milasen after the little girl it’s attempting to save. Could “one drug one patient” become the mantra of a new decade of health in a smarter, tech-enabled industry? We believe the pressure to deliver on consumer-centricity will drive the shift toward custom health.

The Shift: Placing themselves at the center of the conversation, consumers expect a customized experience to be part of the value proposition

The Takeaway: As AI improves machine learning, new investment will spur innovation in drug development and customization

Consider: How can HCP deliver on the need to personalize interactions and treatments in the coming decade?


Custom Health: The Future of Personalized Medicine

Hero Health

Health

Custom Health: The Future of Personalized Medicine

Thanks to the Internet of Things, consumers have come to expect unprecedented customization, from talking to our machines throughout the day to personalizing the latest pair of Nike kicks. In the coming decade, healthcare will join the conversation with custom medicine, treatments, and delivery systems, adding a bit of D2C thinking and a lot of AI to a cumbersome system in need of disruption.

According to Forbes, a massive $6.6 billion will be invested by the pubic and private sector in AI healthcare by 2021, marking a shift in HCP and consumer thinking. For healthcare professionals, machine learning is the imperfect beginning to new drug discovery, where novel first-in-class drugs could spur creativity and molecule innovation. For consumers, it holds the promise of living better, not just longer, lives.

Innovations in drug discovery are already leading the health personalization movement. This month witnessed the first treatment created for a single patient by doctors at Harvard Medical School, named Milasen after the little girl it’s attempting to save. Could “one drug one patient” become the mantra of a new decade of health in a smarter, tech-enabled industry? We believe the pressure to deliver on consumer-centricity will drive the shift toward custom health.

The Shift: Placing themselves at the center of the conversation, consumers expect a customized experience to be part of the value proposition

The Takeaway: As AI improves machine learning, new investment will spur innovation in drug development and customization

Consider: How can HCP deliver on the need to personalize interactions and treatments in the coming decade?


On-Demand Culture Creates On-Demand Medicine

Hero Health

Health

On-Demand Culture Creates On-demand Medicine

UX-friendly outsiders are invading the healthcare space with the promise of on-demand simplicity, seamlessness, and lower costs: enter Amazon, Oscar, SmileDirectClub, PillPack, and so on. With the race for consumer loyalty imperative, can traditional healthcare players innovate faster than these companies can execute?

Launching a joint healthcare venture with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway called “Haven,” Amazon is betting on consumer loyalty, while Oscar, simplifying   choosing a healthcare plan down to the click of a button, adopts a conversational tone popular with freelancing Millennials and Gen Z. PillPack turns daily medication into a seamless, customized process, and SmileDirectClub introduced telehealth   orthodontics.

As the health care industry struggles to adapt to new service expectations, these on-demand and predominately e-com companies offer convenience to consumers craving modernized healthcare. Established industry players must work quickly to redefine their role, leveraging expertise and experience. Amidst new regulatory backlash to the disruptors, HCP’s must take advantage while remembering, in the era of the consumer, convenience is king.

The Shift: UX is the new healthcare disruptor as on-demand culture goes viral with next-gen consumers.

The Takeaway: Watch for the disruptors and nimbly adapt a mindset of conversational simplification.

Consider: In the era of go playful or go home, integrate serious medical know-how with the language of TLDR, hashtags, and on-demand services.


In Wellness, is Gardening the New Meditation?

Hero Health

Health

In Wellness, is Gardening the New Meditation?

The power of green continues to influence all aspects of the wellness sector as health-minded products replace the #treatyourself mindset, and an obsession with greenery emerges as the feel-good consumer statement. Interior color experts Behr and Dulux debuted muted greens — “Back to Nature” and “Tranquil Dawn” — as the key colors of 2020. Considering the eco-conscious conversation happening across all industries, if plants are the new cultural unifier is gardening the new meditation?

The influx of plant retailers like The Sill or Soft Opening gained followings through Insta as indoor gardening becomes one of the hottest trends in wellness. The term “plantfluencer” has gone mainstream, while urban homes are being talked about as the new “farmland.” Consider Ikea’s recent collaboration with designer Tom Dixon, boldly branded with the hashtag #gardeningwillsavetheworld, or gardening video games like “Rosa’s Garden” for consumers looking to go beyond the IRL experience.

Driving the trend is a stressed consumer looking for mindful escape, where gardening has a proven track record of offering both. In the coming year we expect self-care to evolve into self-health, as consumers look for new rituals to de-stress and unplug. Ideas as small as hydroponic home gardens from brands like Bace to Paris set to unveil the largest rooftop farm next year, plant-driven wellness is on the rise, and HCP’s should tap into the groundswell movement with gardening as medicine initiatives.

The Shift: With climate concern dictating the cultural zeitgeist, as consumers are surrounding themselves with the calming effects of greenery.

The Takeaway: As wellness overlaps with health, the industry must be ready to serve a consumer looking for medical-inspired wellness.

Consider: As gardening becomes a new form of stress relief, tap into the communal self-health movement à la Quiet Mornings, i.e. Gardening x Mindfulness.


Hero Talk Ep. 10: Stephanie Sinclair

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Hero Talk

Hero Talk Ep. 10: Stephanie Sinclair


Hero Talk Ep. 9: David Heath

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Hero Talk

Hero Talk Ep. 9: David Heath