2015-10-21 Andrius Grigorjevas


This is the bi-monthly trend digest post. What are you going to get here is a trend overview on consumers, brands, communication and innovation. That’s a lot, but I was having trouble prioritizing any of the mentioned, so you will be getting all of it.

Have an insightful week!


digital advertising dead, long live digital advertising

There has been a lot about all the fraud that has been plaguing the digital advertising world. If you still haven’t caught up with the digital demise – read this on Ad Contrarian. But as many players have fallen to the bad reputation of the digital ad market, some others evidently saw great opportunities in this.

One of them is Facebook – it has announced its plans to turn the social platform into a digital storefront so that users could do their shopping directly in the app. Facebook is saying that its a win-win for both businesses (small and big) and consumers. So, from now watch out for accidental purchases together with your likes and comments. It might get dangerous.

Flipboard, a magazine-like news reader app followed suit as well. What it now claims is a new approach towards personalized adverts. They are jumping from joy claiming that Flipboard ads reach up to 9% click-through rate (note the use of “up to”). That is something in comparison with the average banner click-through rates reaching the soaring heights of 1% at best. Flipboard claims that its “data revealed a correlation between beer nerds and coffee enthusiasts—decidedly different beverages, but beloved with the same geeky enthusiasm.” This is their way of saying that their data-crunching and content personalization skills are top-notch. Maybe they are.

What’s the trend here? Well, all this points it is all about the death of generic digital advertising channels and the rise of proprietary ones.


reverse branding

Most of the brands are looking for new ways to look fresh. For some brands the answer is to become authentic, for others – co-create the brand with consumers and fans or co-brand with other brands. And yet there is a third pill. Some brands chose to stop being brands and focus on things that matter and create value. Do they stop being brands because of that? Most surely not.

So what’s up with these brands and what are they? One of them is MUJI, a Japanese company that has evolved their unbranded approach to their household products. Another one is the UNBRANDED BRAND that says we put the marketing money into our unbranded products. Definitely, there’s CRAIGLIST in there that has stripped their online platform of any branded features. Take a look at the UNBRANDED BRANDS LIST to read more about them.


New Ethical Standards

Corporate responsibility is a term that is tossed around too easily. We know how it is supposed to be about stakeholders’ well-being, but usually it is about parading, whitewashing and diverting attention. It’s like an airbag in case you’re driving drunk.

So, it is really refreshing to see some of the big guys doing things that really have an impact – both on the well-being of their own employees and the overall meaning of the phrase CR. As the rent prices and deposits are ever increasing in the cities like London, STARBUCKS decided to help their employees with the costs of moving into new home. Yes, technically they are giving loans to their own employees, but those loans appear to be interest free. And don’t forget STARBUCKS college tuition plan, where your employer covers education of your choice.

That is employer branding in its purest form. Read more here Starbucks UK Announces Initiatives to Help Partners with Cost of Living and Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Will others dare to follow?


enough with brand storytelling, product storytelling works as well

We seem to talk an awful lot about branding. Brands this and brand that. And there is even more talk about brand communication, image campaigns, brand values and the like. And because of this we often forget the other part of this: the actual product that the brand is representing.

Modern marketing is structured in a way that seems to suggest that brands can be exciting, bold and interesting, while the products are the mundane and tactical part of all marketing communication. That’s what we call product marketing. I argue that product marketing can be just as exciting, interesting and engaging as the brand narratives that we are so used to. Great stories can be told around products.  Take a look at some successful examples of product storytelling on the web.



Surprise, surprise. It turns out that MILLENNIALS (18 to 34 year-olds) don’t like it that much when they are called “millennials”. At least in the US they don’t. A proper 33% of them think of themselves belonging to the GENERATION X (and that is 35-50). All the other generation cohorts identify with their respective labels much more.

Another interesting finding – millennials tend to prescribe their own generation with negative traits and least positively evaluate positive ones. Is it a generation that loathes itself? Take a look at the research findings here.


new formats old content

We knew that VIRTUAL REALITY is coming, but it was pretty clear that it is going to be an expensive gambit. But Google did its thing with cardboard VR set that allows its users to try out virtual reality apps that run on their smartphone. Wanna try the DIY set (read more here)?
But the interesting fact here is not the VR cardboard glasses themselves, but the deal between Google and New York Times – they have agreed to distribute more than 1 million cardboard headsets for NYT subscribers. The second part of the story is that TIMES MAGAZINE will be launching a documentary in VIRTUAL REALITY. They are promising that this is not going to be a one-off gimmick, but a consistent VR content delivery. Future will tell, so let’s see how it evolves. 

Another content breakthrough came in from the PR side. Amazon made a counterattack on the allegations regarding the corporate work culture inside of AMAZON (published by TIMES). What is interesting is the way they made it – JAY CARNEY (Amazon’s PR boss) made a personal post on MEDIUM.COM and started a heated discussion with both sides publishing answers and comments on MEDIUM platform (if you still don’t know what medium is, read about it here). As far as I know, this happens to be an unprecedented use of the platform and a new personalized approach on how these types of debates and allegations are handled.



Back in 2014 The Guardian has defined NORMCORE as “Clothes that were once dismissed as everyday or unremarkable have been touched by fashion’s stardust”. So Normcore fashion is not a new thing. Nonetheless, the trend-iness and hype surrounding might mean that it is finally lifting-off the ground. And at the forefront you find brands life EVERLANE. A brand that has the perfect set of all features discussed in this trend digest: it is mostly unbranded and radically transparent by disclosing everything related to product and production. Read more about the rise of the normcore brand.


new marketing rules

It is easy to see how digital brands are topping all brand value listings. It’s high time we realized that this is what the future is going to look like and that these brands (Google, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber and the likes) are going to set the standards and tone for the rest of the brands. And by saying the rest I mean “the rest of traditional brands that are not tied or originated as digital ecosystems”. Take a look at what the digital brands bring to the table here.

That’s it for the first digest. If you like to keep track of the trends, follow semiosearch on facebook.


communication field and its problems never cease to amaze me - the truly brilliant thing is that there are no final answers. I don't understand anything, but I guess nobody does (there just a moderate degree of success in pretending that they do). If you have challenges, questions, topics, themes or projects - contact me and maybe we can crack them together. Andrius