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HOW BOOKTOK IS DIRECTING HOLLYWOOD

WITH THE HASHTAG GAINING OVER 200 BILLION VIEWS ON TIKTOK, HOW IS BOOKTOK INFLUENCING HOLLYWOOD?

By Jack Redmayne 

Friday, 17th of May 2024

Since the early days of Hollywood, film makers and financiers have sought after one thing above anything else, a guaranteed audience. Across the decades this desire has resulted in a plethora of different strategies such as casting popular actors or producing films within the most favoured genres. As of 2020, Hollywood’s strategists have turned their sights to the social media phenomenon, BookTok. 

The BookTok hashtag started to gain popularity during the 2020 Covid-19 Lockdown. This growth has certainly not plateaued, with the community now having over 200 Billion views on TikTok gaining recognition from media outlets and major publishing companies. Penguin Random House has even developed a built-in knowledge assistance tool to make the vast community even more interactive and informative. The trend has provided lesser-known and self-published authors with an unprecedented platform which has resulted in some miraculous success stories. The most notable example of the platform’s unsuspecting influence is Colleen Hoover, otherwise known as The Queen of BookTok. It is fair to say that when Colleen Hoover published her debut novel Slammed in 2013, she was far from a success. However, in 2021 Hoover experienced a colossal surge resulting in her book It Ends With Us achieving #1 on The New York Times Best Sellers List.

How does this influence Hollywood?

BookTok began as a place for people to recommend books to viewers. However, in the last few years it has become a hub for book-to-screen adaptation content with thousands of TikTokers taking their favourite books and creating their dream casts for when they are ‘inevitably’ adapted.  

Hollywood has finally got what they wanted, a guaranteed audience. Over the last year, numerous flagship titles of production companies have come from BookTok, such as ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ and ‘Conversations With Friends’. 

This is a seminal moment for the consumers of television and film. Previously, the decision making power stayed firmly inside the executives office, but now it seems as if their metaphorical door is wide open and ready for suggestions. No longer do you have to sit and wait patiently for your prayers to be answered and your favourite book to be adapted. BookTok has a seat at the table.

Overall, BookTok’s influence on Hollywood reflects the evolving relationship between social media, popular culture, and the entertainment industry. As platforms like TikTok continue to shape consumer tastes and preferences, they are also reshaping the way books are discovered, promoted, and adapted for the screen. By tapping into the cultural zeitgeist and amplifying diverse voices, BookTok has the potential to influence the types of stories that are told and celebrated in mainstream media.

TOMMEE TIPPEE APPOINTS SOCIAL CREATIVE AGENCY, THE FIFTH.

Tommee Tippee, the brand whose innovative designs make caring for babies easier, simpler, and more instinctive, have chosen THE FIFTH as their social creative agency to create social content for their platforms.

Tuesday, 14th of May, 2024

The appointment comes as Tommee Tippee looks to be the ultimate parent care brand, liberating parents’ intuition through empathetic design and being renowned as a ‘cultural powerhouse’ in the parent care space.

Ensuring Tommee Tippee’s social channels are a place where parents can find answers, support, and connect with others, The Fifth will work closely with the brand across both their UK & US social presence to be there for the parents! With real parents as the heart and soul of their channels, instilling confidence and empowering them to trust their intuition, supported by the smart design of Tommee Tippee products.

Oliver Lewis, founder and CEO of THE FIFTH said of the appointment, “We’re thrilled to have been appointed as Tommee Tippee’s social creative agency; we’ll work with them to apply our expertise of cultural understanding within social and influencer marketing. We can’t wait to help their next stage of growth in becoming the go-to brand for millennial and Gen Z parents.” 

Candice Green, Creative Director, added: “It’s incredibly exciting to be working with a brand who understands the importance of using TikTok creatively to become a cultural powerhouse. We can’t wait to start our work together, applying our unique approach to creating influential content to seamlessly integrate Tommee Tippee into the first hand experiences of their audience.”

Nicola Wallace, Head of Global Brand Communications at Mayborn Group Limited 

“Tommee Tippee has chosen The Fifth due to their unique ability to harness the power of both creativity and social search behaviour. This ensures that our social content not only captivates our audience by directly responding to them but also drives meaningful engagement, maximising our brand visibility and impact across platforms.”


Let us first start with an irrefutable truth: TikTok’s encouragement of entertainment and culture has most certainly birthed a new wave of trailblazing brands and creators that are culture-defining. They have completely reimagined the way that you should show up in digital spaces. Those brands and creators “get it.” But for the rest of the chasing pack, rather than finding their own way of “getting it,” they simply copy, producing a wave of second hand sameness that has flattened their own distinctiveness and made everything about them largely unmemorable.

Source: Slate.com

What am I referring to specifically? Open the app and see for yourself. Creators talk with a TikTok voice - a rising intonation that makes every sentence sound like a question. Trending audio is seen as the be all and end all, meaning only a handful of tracks are ever in wide circulation. The platform actively rewards users who post trend-centric content, meaning that to participate and win on the platform, it is widely accepted that you need to actively pursue sameness and respond to what is already happening. Where’s all of the individuality gone? It’s perhaps best summed up by this barb of a Tweet/X, posted last year by RGA: “there is one universal, legal dept approved, sanded-down style of humor that so many brands have latched on to. One voice applied to the same memes, using the same vocabulary. The Funny Brand Voice.”

Not only is this lack of distinctiveness harming your brand, clearly, via the data shared before, it’s also turning off audiences from once-loved algorithms, and the knock-on effect of this is clear. In a pursuit to be more intentional, individualistic, and find meaningful ways of spending their time, TikTok users are documenting their newfound love for the concept of life-crafting. Life-crafting is an intentional mindset and practice, which people use to design their life in a way that aligns with their values, passions, and goals. It’s a direct response to life that is lived through an algorithm, by being more purposeful in your choices and actions, checking out of the digital dopamine dilemma, and exploring your individuality at a deeper level. Astrology and spirituality, neurodivergence, hedonism, heritage, mindful travel, or health and fitness: these crafts are discovered on social, and then taken off social to explore further and find deeper meaning.

Clearly, life-crafting is a symptom of the problem. And the problem is this: people want more than spoonful after spoonful of the same entertainment. The fact TikTok’s search functionality has grown in favourability shows that users are searching out for more meaning, as the algorithm itself is not able to satisfy their yearning for depth and difference. Nor does a platform’s engagement mechanics - like, comment, view, and share - provide anything more than the ability to tell the platform you want to see more of a specific style of content. 

So, what’s the solution? For brands on social media, there is a need to push back against total trend-led conformity, by leaning into more distinctive ways of engaging with audiences. To be distinctive, brands need to tap into different ways of involving audiences in the entertainment and use more novel means. Distinctiveness is key: but how do you be distinctive, in platforms that encourage sameness?

What life-crafting tells us is that consumers want to be less passively consuming things that are served to them, and more actively involved in the things they are seeking out. This doesn’t mean brands should have less fun as a result: it’s more about recognising that entertainment is a two-way street. Audiences want to get involved in the entertainment as much as they want to consume it, and we only need to look at gaming, as the harbinger for the entertainment space, to see that this is true.

Gaming’s influence on entertainment is there for all to see. The biggest streaming titles are based on games, or eventually, become games. SVOD platforms are bringing gaming within their apps. Video games even generate more revenue than the music and movie industry combined. And video game success is due the fact it mandates you to enter the new world it creates, allowing you to lose yourself in the moment through the cognitive demands it sets. All of this leads to longer session lengths, whilst the sense of jeopardy in winning or losing leads to heightened levels of attention, emotion, novelty, and resultantly, favourability and memorability.

But this isn’t a call to arms for gaming. Rather, it’s a call to arms to embrace the essence of gaming, which is playfulness, and how brands can be playful in their marketing. By being more playful, brands can turn their approach to entertainment from a one-way broadcast into a two-way interaction. In being playful, brands deliver on their need to be entertaining, but do so by inviting users to go beyond, making the viewer a co-creator, a participant, or a challenger. 

This can be done in a multitude of ways, and our Innovation team below will each point to a trend in how brands are being more playful with audiences, in order to break away from sameness and interact with audiences in a distinctive way.

It’s impossible to ignore the influence of remix culture when thinking of playfulness in the digital age. Especially as a musician! Before Web 2.0, content creation was a one-way street. The industry made the content, and the rest of us were passive consumers. But as soon as we were given the platform and the toolkit to create and share, we saw an explosion in remix culture, found in mash ups, memes, bootlegging, fancams, modding, 3D printing, and UGC. Fandoms expressed their brand love through their own creative interpretations of what the brands, artists, and IP holders meant to them. Fast forward to 2024, and you will see that most of the content we consume on social media has been remixed in some way or another.

It’s taken brands a long time to warm up to this change. There’s been a resistance, despite the fact that remix culture is where a lot of brand love exists. Brand managers are anxious about handing their IP over to the masses and encouraging playfulness. Recently however, we’ve been slowly edging towards remix culture as a macro-trend. Brand-to-brand collaborations have been heavily leveraged to drive cross-cultural appeal and brand ubiquity. Creators have also been made Product Developers or Creative Directors to reimagine who or what the brand is.

These are, of course, heavily controlled acts of playfulness, managed by the brand, which don’t endorse the audience to get involved. But the final barrier to fan co-creation has recently been overcome, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Brands have begun leveraging the capabilities of AI, bolstering fans with creative tools that allow them to foster a sense of ownership and freedom. They are able to portray a reflection of themselves intertwined with the brand identity. Most importantly, AI allows this to be done in a way that is brand safe (with the right controls).

Source: Creative Bloq

For instance, Burger King’s 'Million Dollar Whopper' campaign invites customers to use their Generative AI toolkit to remix their famous Whopper and craft a new version of the burger in their own vision. Text prompts are used to assemble a burger with ingredients from the wildest corners of their imagination, with a shareable asset generated encouraging others to remix their own. As is par for the course with playful brand activity, there’s a ginormous prize: the winning entrant earns a ‘whopping’ $1m and will have their creation made available at select Burger King restaurants. Burger King's timeless 'Have it Your Way' mantra has been around since 1973. Now, with AI, the brand is bringing that ethos into 2024, offering a playful experience that resonates with contemporary consumers.

Similarly, Coca-Cola too have deployed AI for personalised consumer interactions, immersing them in a futuristic re-imagined world tailored to their preferences and surroundings. The Coca-Cola AI Lens allowed consumers to use the camera on a mobile device to take or upload a photo of your surroundings. Using AI technology, the Y3000 AI Lens will create a new image with a “futuristic” version of your location.

Source: Fast Company

Staying with food, the Avocados From Mexico (AFM) company identified that an estimated 250 million pounds of avocados would be consumed during the Super Bowl LVIII. Leading with this great insight, AFM unveiled a multimodal AI tool called the GuacAImole, which uses image recognition, text, and image generation to create personalised guacamole recipes from the contents of your fridge, making avocados go further than just a dip, and helping the environmentally aware consumer tackle any potential wastage and upping their culinary skills.

We’ve seen so much brand advertising that harangues AI in creativity and its perceived absence of humanity. Ironically, we’re actually seeing that with co-creation and remix culture, AI allows the most important humans to the brand - the fans - to get involved more than ever before. There’s a lot of humanity in being playful.

When we think of life-crafting, one craft I am seeing distinctive brands chase in a big way is Active Social. By Active Social, we mean social media activity that encourages active participation and physical proactivity. The call to action is exactly that - the content asks you to get you on your feet and move. It works for consumers because in health and fitness spaces, there’s a natural inclination to step out of algorithms and into the outer world to be productive and to support others. And it works for brands as they are able to build mental availability whilst consumers are going through meaningful change - whether mental or physical - and challenging themselves to be better, creating positive emotional associations with the brands.

Source: Washington Post

For example, Chipotle partnered with Strava to create custom routes and challenge runners to complete segments that end at Chipotle restaurants. The individual that completed each segment the most in each city would receive free Chipotle for a year. The brand even collaborated with a Strava artist to produce their chilli logo as a route-map, imprinting the brand’s iconic image into the app for the most native of integrations. With Strava providing brands with the opportunity to engage audiences beyond likes, comments, views or shares, there’s a novelty and participation baked into interaction on Strava which makes it highly memorable.

On a similar plain, running brand Saucony discovered that the average person scrolls 78 miles per year - the length of three marathons - and turned this insight into a social challenge. They encouraged brand fans to stop doom-scrolling and take part in its “Marathumb Challenge”. Using screen time metrics to actively compare scrolling distance to stepping distance; if the participant moves farther than they scroll, they have the chance to redeem Saucony-branded merchandise. Using life-crafting messaging within the actual campaign is a surefire way to appeal to those consumers who are becoming apathetic to the endless stream of entertainment and wanting something more playful.

It’s not all about working up a sweat, either. Britvic launched The Robinsons Big Fruit Hunt, a geolocation-based digital treasure hunt powered by augmented reality, to encourage parents and their young children to go outside and find virtual fruit placed in parks and other public green spaces located near them. Collecting fruit leads to the chance to win prizes such as family activity packs and special activity days out.

Instead of treading the same trend-led path that other brands are, these three brands recognise that people want to feel, do, and see something different to break out of algorithmic mundanity. People want to get outside, touch grass and feel challenged, so why not create something native, distinctive, and genuinely engaging for when consumers are in this moment? 

Building on Jordan’s example with Britvic, one trend (but to be clear; distinct from the short-lived viral TikTok aesthetic type of trends) we’re seeing crop up again and again recently is treasure hunts! Whether digital, or out there in the physical world. Treasure hunts sound like a remnant of the past. Kids parties, perhaps how people had low-cost fun in the 70s and 80? However, they’re worth a closer look as a 2024 marketing strategy. There are several reasons that point to their return, but two specifically are worth mentioning.

Firstly, the tech. Augmented Reality has been around for years and Pokemon Go was an immensely popular IRL application that involved hunting down and collecting characters…. sounds a lot like a treasure hunt! Yet, we haven’t seen other versions of this that have lived outside of nerdy interest groups. We’ve also seen the rise of VR (Virtual Reality) and FOOH (Fake Out Of Home) too, which is another signal of the convergence of IRL and digital worlds. The technology is constantly improving, meaning users and brands are finding that the barrier to entry is much lower. Executions no longer have to involve building a custom game, or creating a bespoke microsite. Mixed reality can be achieved within social apps and Instagram is reportedly working on a Friends Map feature, similar to Snapchat, in which users can view friends' locations on a map and leave location-based notes for friends to pick up.

Secondly, gaming. Everyone knows gaming is a huge part of culture. And casual gaming is massively popular with people that don’t fit the stereotype. Many games, including those on Fortnite and Roblox, Minecraft, Animal Crossing and more, are centered around maps. Users explore islands, picking up items to build with, trade, and grow strong! In essence, the steps, objectives and the appeal with treasure hunts are the same. The mechanic is different, however, this presents an opportunity to tap into the same playful mindset but with different audiences away from traditional gaming environments.

Source: Mobile Marketing

Several brands have ventured into treasure hunt territory recently. Mondelez-owned Cadbury’s Worlwide Hide Easter Egg Hunt 2024 is being widely promoted across media, with OOH spots. Users can gift someone they know a virtual egg, by hiding it in a meaningful location on a digital map - leaving cryptic clues to lead them there. This taps into emotions, while bridging digital and IRL worlds. The easter egg hunt is free to use, requiring an email address, although Cadbury’s has also integrated buying an egg into a journey for those that want to.

 

Diageo rum brand Captain Morgan is maximising its partnership with the NFL through its season-long ‘Follow the Captain” activation. The campaign features music artists such as Action Bronson and Bebe Rexhe in social and TV spots. Fans are encouraged to pay extra attention to the brand’s advertisements across the season, as any one of them could contain a clue or hidden QR code. Prizes on offer include intimate performances from the featured artists and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Source: The Drum
Source: The Drum

In November, EE launched an immersive campaign that blurred the lines between the physical and digital realms, offering gamers a unique and playful experience.  Across 13 real-world locations, players were challenged to discover physical game chests containing gear worth up to £1k. Simultaneously, Twitch streamers played the game, providing hints about chest locations and passwords to unlock them, and could win digital prize chests. Leeds city centre was then recreated digitally, with avatars navigating the city in-game, undertaking tasks like collecting coins and assembling a map, which were used to reveal the chest locations. The campaign included a hero video, shot in Leeds city centre, incorporating a cosplay flash-mob of Live Action Role Play characters (LARPs). 

And, as part of its investment in niche fandoms (they recently hired Taylor Swift, Acid House, Crocs and Pokemon curators), the V&A Museum initiated a treasure hunt across the UK, to bring awareness to its collection of artefacts. The museum worked with creators to produce miniature objects that would be hidden around the country,  and left clues for fandoms to find them, including on Twitch and across social media.

It doesn’t always have to be a large-scale activation. McDonald’s hid breakfast wraps in their social posts, encouraging followers to hunt them out and comment where they were in order to get their hands on free breakfast wraps via the app. A very simple execution, and a great way to capture more engaged time, which helps consolidate memory and brand recall (not that McDonald’s are short on that!).

Treasure hunts aren’t for every brand or every person, but, as exemplified by these brand activations, they will appeal to niche fandoms who are brand advocates, offering them something unique and exclusive that enables them to connect on a deeper level. This is particularly appealing if the prizes on offer are sought after (think exclusive event invites, products) or food - everybody wants free food. Ultimately, the advantage of treasure hunts is in the innate way they are optimised for attention. Users have to think, consider options, unpick clues, often discuss with other people in the community. All this occurs under the facilitation of and time spent with the brand. The brand story can be woven in to the clues, destinations, aesthetic of the content, meaning that brands are creating their own moments, while developing meaningful connections with their community over time.

Quizzes are another fun and playful way for brands to capture sustained attention from consumers. Alcohol brands such as Staropramen (Molson Coors) and Jameson’s Whiskey (Pernod Ricard) utilise website quizzes to guide their followers to become experts in their product, food pairings as well as, in the case of Staropramen, the city of Prague; the home of the brand.

Quizzes go beyond entertainment, offering a way for brands to reward brand fans while educating consumers on the periphery. They act as a barrier to entry to the inner circle. In many respects this is actually a positive thing, providing distinction and a way to reward the biggest fans who are willing to go the extra mile. 

The most extreme example of this is the Chinese streaming site BiliBili. Sitting somewhere in the juncture between YouTube and Letterboxd, but for Anime, the site has a 2 hour long, 100 question exam (!) which anyone wishing to be part of the community must take in order to gain entry. ​​According to the company’s Chairman and CEO Chen Rui, it might be the world’s most-taken test. Crucially, the retention rate once this obstacle has been passed is incredibly high while the vibe within the community is positive and safe.

Beavertown Brewery (Heineken) created a cipher, which had to be deciphered as part of its Halloween campaign which centered around UFO sightings. They worked with a ‘sand designer’ to place ‘crop circle’ on a Welsh beach, containing symbols and codes. 

Less extreme, Mastercard’s current campaign “Pass to Priceless” merges the excitement of a quiz with the social buzz of interactive participation, with users taking part in engaging social challenges. The quiz takes place across the knock-out rounds of the Champions League, incentivising repeat visits to interact with the brand. With each correct answer and social interaction, players accumulate points and progress to the next round, enhancing their chances to secure tickets to the UEFA Champions League Final.

Giveaway culture has too often been utilised as a race to the bottom for mass engagement and followers, offering no barriers to entry to compete in the giveaway, which in turn attracts the wrong type of audiences to your brand. Barriers to entry in quizzes like the above are a positive thing, as it allows the brand to be playful and reward the customers who are true fans and want to interact with you in a deeper and more meaningful way. After all, would you rather have 10,000 participants who were there for free stuff and will never buy your product, or 1,000 participants who are willing to quiz themselves on how much they love your brand?

Platforms, brands and media have all contributed towards the creation of a one rule playbook - be entertaining - since the turn of COVID-19. And whilst what’s considered entertainment is completely subjective, the homogenisation of entertainment as a one-way broadcast and trend-participation has led to the sameness which is now causing a change in what consumers are seeking out. By solely participating in trends and attempting to make your brand a part of a moment that is not yours, you will struggle to let audiences know what you stand for. The playbook needs to be reimagined so that more brands can win. 

In making your own moment, born from social, that encourages playfulness, you are able to break through the noise and communicate what your brand is about, without needing to connect it to a trend which is ultimately winning out in the messaging hierarchy. Trends and entertainment are not the be all and end all: there are different ways to play the game.

How Social Turned the Stanley Cup into an Influencer Icon

STANLEY SALES HAVE BLOWN UP TO £750M. HOW DID WE GET HERE?

By Chiara Yeomans and Bella Hales

Wednesday, 31st of January 2024

Wisteria, Orchid, Lilac, Cloud, Tiger-Lily…@doesnttiktok kicks off. But this isn’t your typical baby name brainstorm; instead, this TikToker is actually naming all 120+ of her beloved Stanley Quenchers. Holli Silva is just one of the hundreds of women all over the globe proudly documenting their ever-expanding Stanley collections, and the craze doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. Just recently, a viral clip showing customers fighting to claim their very own exclusive Valentine’s Day Stanley Cup took over our TikTok FYP, sparking a whole conversation about consumerism and the sway of influencer marketing in the social media realm. 

But it didn’t start off so cute. Back in 2016, the Stanley 40oz Quencher model was introduced by the brand it wasn’t an instant hit. Traditionally, Stanley products were targeted at workmen, with the marketing being directed at those who enjoy outdoor activities like camping. In 2012, Stanley mentioned that its products resonated with “a 30-year career veteran policeman” and “a retired Army soldier.” 

That was until ✨social media✨ stepped in. Fast forward to 2023, and the #StanleyTumbler has over one billion views on TikTok and the tumbler found itself as now one of Gen Z’s most in-demand Christmas gifts. This newfound popularity among Gen Z and Millennial women certainly stands in stark contrast to the brand’s original target audience.

So, what happened to cause this shift? 

There are four things we accredit to this development, so let’s dive into them

@thefifthagency Read our new trendsetters piece ‘How Social Turned the Stanley Cup into an Influncer Icon’ to find out how Stanley got to this point✨✨ #stanleycup #thatgirl #agencytiktok #socialmediaagency #london #workhumour #officetok ♬ That Gworl - ADVNCE

INFLUENCER MARKETING

In 2017, the Stanley Cup had limited recognition among female Gen Z and Millennials. This was also around the time when influencer marketing really started to build momentum, which has since evolved into the thriving multi-billion-pound industry we are (very) familiar with today. 

The turning point came when the Stanley 40oz Quencher garnered organic exposure on The Buy Guide, a shopping blog by Linley Hutchinson, Ashley LeSueur, and Taylor Cannon. These influential women, avid fans of the product and genuine believers in its quality, gave it a glowing review and introduced it to their predominantly female audience. Despite being available in limited quantities on Amazon, every mention led to a swift sell-out, revealing the product’s unexpected popularity among millennial women—an untapped consumer group for the brand.

However, this success faced a setback when Stanley decided to discontinue selling the product altogether. Recognising its potential, the three women took matters into their own hands and started gifting mumfluencers on Instagram, and word-of-mouth quickly spread. Women loved the product and couldn’t get enough of it! The ladies behind The Buy Guide said  it took a while to convince the brand just how much spending power and influence Millennial women have on social media, but Stanley eventually took a leap of faith, and the rest is history.

CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Despite Gen Z and Millennials being fairly educated on the future of our planet and the effects of unsustainable consumption, it seems the impact of social trends and the desire to fit in online are still having a huge impact on the way we shop. Stanley claims their productswill last a lifetime when properly cared for” with a #BuiltForLife ethos, yet consumers are purchasing multiple versions of the same cup in different colours and styles. In line with this ethos, consumers should only really need to buy up to two Stanley cups in their lifetime. So why do people feel so compelled to buy the newest version of a cup they already own? 

This is due to the way social media markets this cup towards Millennial and Gen Z audiences. The Stanley Cup is now positioned not just as a practical addition to our lives but as a symbol of an aspirational lifestyle. Priced at around £45, it stands higher in cost compared to similar products in the market. Considering the dynamics of social status, consumption trends, and the overarching influence of social media in selling a curated lifestyle, the Stanley Cup has seamlessly carved its niche. The frenzy around it taps into the fear of missing out, creating a sense that not having this product, not stocking up on the newest iteration and exclusive colour-way, means missing out on the lifestyle that it represents. 

Let’s look at @kaelimaee as a prime example of this. Kaeli’s whole presence on social media has been meticulously crafted around living an ‘aesthetic’ lifestyle. Just one glance at her specially curated TikTok feed, and you’re left feeling like you want to get your life together! She’s amassed 14.8M followers on the platform and, of course, the Stanley cup takes centre stage in many of her videos, implying that it’s not just a product, but a lifestyle essential, and that you too should buy one if you want to emulate the ‘perfect’ lifestyle depicted by Kaeli. 

Stanley caters for everyone, with nearly all of their products being customisable with either text, monograms or graphics – not to forget the 26 colours the quencher comes in. This level of customisability has garnered attention from the likes of Molly-Mae, who recently posted her nails matching her Stanley cup. An organic post of this nature is something hundreds of brands would pay a large sum of money for – so this really shows just how popular Stanley has become today!

IMG_6781

(Screen-shot taken from Molly-Mae’s Instagram Stories)

VIRAL MOMENTS

Stanley walked right into a dream PR scenario last November. @Danimarielettering, posted a now-viral TikTok video of the remnants of her car after a fire, where just her Stanley 40oz Quencher survived the flames. The water inside the cup was still ice cold. While Stanley’s whole ethos is built on being #BuiltForLife – which we wouldn’t say was a largely known tagline. This video led to over 95.2 MILLION people being enlightened about the product’s durability. TikTok’s largely younger audience now knew that Stanley was not only socially ‘cool’, with its varying models and colours to choose from, but actually a quality product that’s worth investing in.

“Your brand is your public identity, what you’re trusted for” Lisa Gansky (American entrepreneur and author)

The Stanley team really took advantage of this situation, showing just how much their social media strategy has evolved over the years. The president at Stanley, Terrance Riley, publicly sent Dani a whole new collection of Stanley products alongside a brand new car! This naturally gave them some hugely positive PR. We guess this part of Stanley’s rise is part down to luck  (while also seeing an organic opportunity and creating reactive content in response to it), and part down to the actual benefits of the product itself. Humanising a brand is so important, something which Sam Mehrbod, contributor to Forbes encapsulates

“People want to do business with those they know, like, and trust, and building a personal connection with your audience can help to achieve this. Your personality and values humanise your brand, making it relatable and more appealing to potential customers.” 

And it is clear here that this is something that the Stanley team have mastered. 

@danimarielettering What a journey, thank you all sooo much for being here for it. I cant say it enough, this wouldnt have happened without every single one of you. Love you and @Stanley 1913 ♬ The Champion - Lux-Inspira

DROP CULTURE

YouTuber and historian @philedwardsinc believes people are missing a key component when analysing Stanley’s success, and that is Terrance Riley, the Stanley president himself. 

When looking at Riley’s career history and successes, it is understandable why Edwards thinks the success was more down to a well-planned strategy than simply luck. Terrance was previously head of marketing at Crocs, where he built the brand from a simple outdoor shoe into an iconic fashion statement, where collaborations with brands like Levi’s and PALACE were the norm and people like Post Malone were the average fans. All of which was achieved through his ability to make the drop style culture of sneakers work for Crocs where collaborations with top industry names were frequent…and who’s to say he didn’t do the same with Stanley.   

With the help of Terrance, Stanley began collaborating with bigger iconic names “albeit influencers of different styles” to create limited edition collections. Take the Lainey Wilson collaboration for example, a country singer from Tennessee with a dedicated fanbase, yet completely unrelated to the traditional target audience of Stanley, allowing them to explore new spaces and reach new people. Through these limited drop-style collaborations Stanley were able to create this perception of scarcity, causing fans and people to feel pressure to buy a tumbler before they miss the boat. 

(Photo via HerCampus)

An even greater example of drop culture and FOMO marketing is the recent limited edition Stanley x Starbucks Valentines collection. The cups come in two bright Barbie pink and red shades. Not only have the videos of shoppers been storming our FYP’s as we’ve mentioned, but the cups are even being resold for double the price on sites like eBay. It’s crazy to think a cup can create such high demand – but this is exactly how exclusive drops can make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t purchase and add to your collection.

So yes, whilst the rise of the Stanley Cup was part down to luck and part down to social media and influencer marketing, it’s also an effective example of how experimenting with drop culture can be a useful tool to implement for the success of a product.  

TO WRAP UP…

What was once a humble ‘camping cup’, has now evolved into social media’s ‘IT GIRL’ product of 2023. Stanley’s success story is one that brands should really look to as an example of the transformative influence of social media and influencer marketing on public perception. 

But like most social media trends, there is often an expiry date, and Stanley could be nearing theirs.  However, in the meantime, we think the brand is going to continue to enjoy riding the wave. But ultimately there’ll be another shiny and exciting rival to push Stanley off the top, stay tuned to keep track of what social trend is next in vogue.

P.S

We even spotted a couple of new Stanleys floating around The Fifth’s office after Christmas… very well confirming that a few of us here have also been easily influenced by Stanley’s social media takeover!

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The Rise of the UGC Creator

Who are they and what do they do?  

By Carla Watts

Tuesday, 19th of December 2023

The Rise of the UGC Creator

The utilisation of user-generated content (UGC) to promote products or to tell a story is not a new concept to brands. However, the way this content is being developed professionally through UGC creators, is a new, cost-effective option that many brands are adopting and reaping the benefits of. This blog post will explain what UGC is, the effectiveness of UGC, the role of UGC creators and the differences between UGC creators and influencers. 

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content (UGC) has been around for years, long before social media. It has been traditionally defined as brand-specific content that is created by customers and published on social media/other channels. User-generated content is shared organically by customers from their own platforms and can take many forms including images, videos, reels, TikToks, Facebook posts, reviews or blog posts. 

What are the benefits of User-Generated Content?

User-generated content can pose many benefits to brands, one being its ability to enhance a brands’ authenticity (this article from Nosto explains why authenticity matters). This is because it allows the brand to highlight their products/services from the perspective of their customers. As a result, prospective customers are more likely to relate to this type of content and thus invest in a brand, and buy their products. 

Another benefit of using UGC is the way it can cultivate a strong sense of community among customers by actively involving them in a brand’s content creation process. Customers can openly share their experiences with a brand, product, or service which can establish connections between customers who share similar interests or preferences.

UGC can also help increase conversion rates and drive sales by offering social proof and showcasing real-life experiences of other customers. Prospective buyers are more likely to purchase a product or service if they see UGC that highlights the positive experiences of existing customers. 

Furthermore, UGC can have a positive impact on SEO. Google, as well as other search engines, tend to prioritise websites which are regularly producing new and engaging content. This can effectively enhance a website’s search engine rankings and increase organic traffic. Additionally, by users interacting with UGC on social media platforms, social signals are generated which can also improve a website’s search engine rankings. 

Finally, UGC is often a more cost-effective option for brands as it reduces content creation costs. UGC eliminates the need for brands to create every piece of content themselves which can be both time consuming and expensive. Brands can instead use the content created by their own customers and now UGC creators to significantly reduce costs. 

UCG content creator recording a video for a brand

What is a UGC creator?

The value of UGC has become increasingly apparent which has contributed to the rise of so-called UGC creators. This refers to creators who are paid by brands to create specific content which showcases their products/services in a way that appears authentic and organic. This content is created to live on the brand’s social media pages which means UGC creators do not need a large following, nor do they even need to appear in the content. 

What is the difference between UGC creators and influencers?

UGC creators can appear deceptively similar to influencers as they both produce content for brands, however, it’s important to understand the distinction between UGC creators and influencers since they remain fundamentally different from each other. 

Firstly, paid UGC creators are paid to create specific content for a brand that emulates typical user-generated content which is distributed across the brand’s marketing channels. They typically don’t share the content on their own platform and so they do not need to have a large following. Brands are paying them for their ability to create quality content, rather than the value of their audience. 

On the other hand, influencers are paid to create content and distribute it across their own social media channels. Influencers usually have a substantial following on social media as brands use them to promote their products to their audience, thus using their influence to promote their brand.

Thousands of brands reap the benefits of working with both influencers and UGC creators every day. To find out more about how brands use UGC, check out my other article Eight ways brands work with UGC creators and why 

EIGHT WAYS BRANDS WORK WITH UGC CreatorS

Here are eight different ways brands can effectively utilise user-generated content

By Carla Watts

Tuesday, 19th of December 2023

Nike #justdoit

In today’s digital landscape, the rise of UGC creators has transformed the way brands utilise user-generated content. By harnessing the power of UGC creators, brands can effectively connect with their target audience, build trust, and leverage the creativity and authenticity of their customers. This cost-effective approach enables brands to tap into the power of user-generated content to drive meaningful engagement, increase brand credibility, and ultimately boost sales. 

Here are eight different ways brands can effectively utilise user-generated content with real-life examples. 

Nike #justdoit

1. Social Media Campaigns:

Brands often incorporate user-generated content by encouraging customers to create content featuring their products/services with a specific hashtag. This enables them to collect a wide range of UGC and showcase it across their platforms.

One example of this is Nike who often urges its customers to share their achievements using the hashtag #JustDoIt. This UGC helps to build a sense of community online. 

Trivago competition

2. Contests and Giveaways:

Running UGC contests where customers submit photos/videos/written content for prizes can help build a buzz around a brand and get more people talking about them on social media.  

For example, Trivago ran a UGC contest on Instagram with a $500 prize. Participants were asked to post a picture of their favourite hotel listed on Trivago using the hashtag #trivagofaves. 

3. Influencer Marketing Campaigns:

Brands can also collaborate with influencers who can create content in the style of UGC that features the brand’s products/services. This helps expand the brand’s reach and credibility among the influencer’s audience. 

Glossier, for example, frequently collaborates with influencers to showcase pictures and videos of how they incorporate Glossier products into their daily routine. 

Quay Australia website

4. Product Reviews:

Brands can encourage customers to leave reviews and share their thoughts which can provide new customers with valuable feedback and build trust. 

On Quay Australia’s website, visitors can view photos of real customers wearing different sunglasses styles in their ‘styled by you’ section, providing social proof for prospective buyers. They also showcase written reviews from customers on their website. Therefore, UGC product reviews help to enhance customer engagement and boost conversion rates.

5. Testimonials/Success Stories:

Brands can also ask customers to share their stories and experiences about how a brand’s product/services have improved their lives. These testimonials can then be used for marketing purposes. 

For instance, HubSpot highlights customer case studies and testimonials on its home page so it’s the first thing that potential customers will see. They often share figures, such as “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Grows Its Audience By 81% With HubSpot. By outlining impressive statistics and notable brands, site visitors are made aware of the capabilities of HubSpot which can help improve conversion rates. 

6. User-Generated TV Commercials:

Some brands involve their customers in creating TV adverts by inviting them to submit videos showcasing their brand experience or explaining why they love the brand. 

An excellent example of user-generated commercials was the ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ Campaign by Doritos that ran for ten years. This gave fans the opportunity to submit their own commercials with the premise that they may be aired during the Super Bowl. Every year, Doritos would pick a few commercials that would be aired, as well as a winner who would receive $1 million. This campaign generated significant attention and media coverage, and gave aspiring filmmakers and content creators the chance to gain considerable exposure. 

7. Social Change:

Brands can also incorporate UGC to help advocate for social change and engage their audiences with meaningful causes. 

For example, Lounge Underwear is dedicated to empowering women, as well as advocating for women’s health. They launched their #FeelYourBreast campaign in 2019 and each year they share content created by their customers which encourages people to #FeelYourBreast. In 2022, the company raised over £500,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness. As a result, UGC allowed Lounge Underwear to build an online community which is based on shared values and a common goal of empowering women everywhere. 

IKEA Open Source Sofa Design from Royal Academy of Arts workshop

8. Innovation and Product Development:

Brands can ask their customers to contribute ideas or suggestions for new products or improvements to existing ones. This UGC can be used to drive innovation and better meet customer needs.

IKEA is a prime example of a brand that actively encourages its customers to submit ideas and improvements for new and existing products. They do this through their co-creation platform and initiatives like IKEA Bootcamps. This interactive approach enables IKEA to engage with their customers, gather valuable insights and enhance their product development process. The Privacy screen and Baby’s crib in the photo from The Wall Street Journal below were proposed designs from the Royal Academy of Arts during an IKEA sponsored workshop. 

Christmas ads: made for tv, but settled on social

THE NATION’S FAV CAMPAIGNS AND THE ONES THAT WERE JUDGED HARD 

By Laina Claydon

Tuesday, 19th of December 2023

Charlie's Bar Christmas Ad

In the last few years, Christmas adverts have become almost as anticipated as the big day itself; always critiqued on socials, but this year they are living and dying by the sentiment on social media. Aligned with this observation, at THE FIFTH, we think Social Out: a strategic + creative methodology that centers around the thinking that all ideas must be inherently social. Here we discuss some of the nation’s fav Christmas ads and the ones that were judged hard in the comments.

Now and again, a super low budget ad breaks through the noise of our feeds and shoots us straight in our hearts. This year that came in the form of Northern Irish independent pub, ‘Charlie’s Bar’ who made their own Christmas ad (Watch here), tackling loneliness. Advertising the fact that they’re open on Christmas Day and will welcome solo guests, the final message ‘there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet’ is a pitch-perfect way to connect with consumers on a level that immediately strikes an emotional chord. The video made on a mobile phone with a budget of £700 by Aoife Teague has racked up millions of views across Instagram and TikTok and coverage from some of the UK’s biggest publications. The sentiment of the comments are overwhelmingly positive; it’s safe to say Carlie’s Bar has won the Christmas ads battle this year. 

Meanwhile, usually one of the safe bets, M&S had a shocker this year. If you’re thinking, I can’t picture this one, that would be because it got pulled after screening due to the outrage it caused on social media not once, but twice when a scene that was cut from the ad was leaked, causing outcry all over again. It initially caused controversy as it featured various celebs choosing to do away with festive traditions they don’t enjoy. The ad caused many people to take to social media to complain about the selfish anti-Christmas energy the ad was giving out. All you have to do is check out the comments section of the ad here for a sense of the sentiment towards it. Then, just as the chat had started to die down, an outtake featuring red, green and silver party hats burning in a fire was leaked. Some thought the burning hats that matched  the colours of the Palestinian flag could be taken as an anti-Palestinian message and took to social media to raise their concerns. It was at this point that M&S made the call to remove the ad.

A relatively new contender, JD Sports celebrated 25 years of the brand’s trademark drawstring duffle bag for their Christmas ad this year. The 1:30 ad speaks to the younger generation in a tone that shows they just ‘get’ their customers. With stars including Kano, Nia Archives, Joy Crookes and Central Cee, who appear alongside everyday people, all of whom use the bag for much more than just carrying purchases home from the store. “The JD duffle bag has been a central part in British youth culture across the years,” said Uncommon Creative Studio ECD Benny Everitt. “We wanted to create a campaign that celebrated its relevance today now more than ever – using the bag itself as a connection point between the brand and its audience.” The brand nailed nostalgia marketing with this entry. Read more about the rise of nostalgia marketing here.

Finally, John Lewis, usually the winner of Christmas and certainly the most hyped every year, left viewers feeling divided. The advert tells the story of a young boy who opts for a Venus fly trap instead of a Christmas tree, honouring the unique festive traditions upheld by many families each year. In a report conducted by Sprout Social analysing X/Twitter traffic, almost all of the big 2023 Christmas ads out-performed John Lewis in the social sentiment stakes. Marks & Spencer and John Lewis gained the most overall engagement, but when they delved into the sentiment connected to the comments they found that the John Lewis campaign scored just 68% positive sentiment with many complaining about the dog-eating plant. 

Exploring FOOH: Is the future of marketing synthetic?

The rise of fake-out-of-home media and its implications for the marketing industry

By Jordan Carroll, Robert Stevenson and Jonnie Owen

Wednesday, 20th of September 2023

How many times in the past 15 years have you lectured your frustratingly undiscerning close ones – usually those older than you – for believing everything they see on the internet? Well, life comes at you fast, doesn’t it? In 2023, you might now find yourself scratching your head, watching smartphone camera footage of giant Jacquemus bags cruising along the streets of Paris. You’re looping the video for the second or third time, squinting, then asking yourself: it can’t be real, can it?

This new form of reality-bending media has been dubbed as FOOH (or fake-out-of-home), and has been the burning topic on the marketing world’s lips for the entirety of the summer. The art form usually involves the addition of giant CGI products to mobile-shot footage of OOH city locations. Seemingly, the objective is to capture attention by duping audiences into a short state of disbelief, poking them to ask the question: is this real or not?

After months of fanfare has continued to grow for this type of media with each viral execution, right on time, we now have an alternative thread of discourse which stands to shine a negative light on FOOH. Is FOOH misleading audiences? Is it harmful to the OOH industry? Is it quickly getting very old and tired, anyway? The answer to each of those questions requires a nuanced one.

We turned to our Innovation team to help answer each of these questions. On the topic of potential harm to audiences via deception, our Innovation Director, Jordan, says that this is a common concern with the advent of new media formats:

“We have historically always had a tendency to invest blind trust in new centralised sources of truth, especially those driven by new, sophisticated technologies, which get closer and closer to seeming like real-life. You might think that tension contains itself solely to the internet age, but this definitely isn’t the case.

85 years ago, when a relatively new media format in radio reached mass adoption in the US, a radio drama broadcast of The War of the Worlds contained a news bulletin detailing aspects of a Martian invasion. Lo and behold, droves of war-anxious audiences believed it to be true, as they had just newly become heavily reliant on radio for their news. 

Things like this are all par for the course with new media formats, until the right regulation is introduced and the format becomes familiar. But in the instance of FOOH, in my view, there is little to no room for harming audiences through deception, apart from those who are sensitive to feeling a bit foolish for believing!”

In fact, instead of harming audiences, FOOH seems to be getting mass buy-in because of its artificiality, showing that any perceptions of this format getting old or tired are solely contained in our marketing bubble. Taken from a sample of FOOH content during the months April to August 2023 (Tagger), brands that have jumped in have achieved 1,701% – 16,441% more engagement on their FOOH videos than on the average engagement from their previous 30 posts, with the best examples of success coming from fashion and beauty. 

Maybelline’s Sky High mascara example is perhaps the most viral, depicting the attachment of giant eyelashes to the top of a tube train, which are brushed by a giant Maybelline mascara as it drives by. This video alone achieved 451% more engagement than their previous 30 posts combined, with droves of positive sentiment centered around the fact they actually loved the deceptive nature of the ad.

Despite the fact marketers continually evangelise for authenticity at any cost, Jonnie, our Music Partnerships manager, believes that audiences are more than willing to suspend their desire for authenticity in order to be entertained on social media

“First of all, it’s important to point out that entertainment and authenticity are never mutually exclusive. Live music, family vlogs, and documentaries can be just as entertaining as a fictional Netflix series.

But content that is absent of authenticity allows our imaginations as marketers to run wild and ensure that there is diversity and innovation in the media we are consuming. Consumers do not want the same old, same old every time they open the app, and I would stress that we as an industry do not want this either!

Ultimately, we are in a dogfight for attention everyday, and for that reason, there has never been a greater need to be inventive. My view is that invention exists more in a frame of mind that pushes authenticity further down the menu and prioritises entertainment, like FOOH does. And why shouldn’t we use a medium that helps us achieve incredible organic results at a time when we’re all being asked for our budgets to work harder?!”

@maybelline 📣 All aboard the Sky High Mascara Express ✨🚄 After hitting the NYC Streets, we’re taking over London💂🇬🇧 We are on the move with #SkyHighMascara elevating your lash game to new heights🌤️ 🌇 it’s guaranteed to serve limitless lash length 📏 and full volume😍 #Maybelline ♬ original sound - Maybelline New York

Of course, just because examples so far haven’t been harmful, it doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye altogether. As AI democratises skills for everybody and allows for the generation of synthetic audio, imagery, and deep fakes, there is an industry wide need for legislation which enforces the labelling of assets that are artificial, especially those masquerading as the real thing. FOOH also exists in this world.

Whilst each platform develops its own solutions – with X (Twitter) opting for crowdsourcing moderation with community notes, TikTok asking for self-moderation with threat of consequence, and Meta releasing self-labeling tools if you use their AI – we are embarking upon a messy ecosystem where there is indisputably more margin for audience harm.

Agencies like Ogilvy have taken it on themselves to self-label when content has been produced through use of AI, and if a joined up effort from social platforms is too much to ask, it may fall on the industry to help create best practice with legislators in order to protect our own industry from any potential disrepute upon the horizon.

When you peel away concerns about consumer harm and the potential longevity of FOOH, you’re left addressing the concerns of the OOH industry. It’s within this arena where your empathy should be most directed, as FOOH is a sample of what is to come when our environments become virtual, immersive, and removed from the real world. The real world where JCDecaux, Clear Channel, Global Outdoor, TFL, and others rule the roost. 

McKinsey found that Gen Z, millennials, and Gen X consumers expect to spend between four and five hours a day in the metaverse in the next five years, where large-scale brand advertisement will be completely democratised, without limits, and potentially, completely decentralised, too. 

The metaverse is completely at odds with authenticity, where humans adopt avatar appearances to explore synthetic worlds, with a goal to be entertained through escapism. Is the outrage at FOOH a sign of the resistance that legacy marketers will have as we edge closer and closer to the future of online media? Ocean have already pioneered in examples of DOOH in specific immersive environments, but decentralisation and fragmentation will mean OOH buyers need to be nimble-footed.

Our Business Strategist, Rob, believes metaverses could completely reimagine the way in which media is bought, which is why the whole industry should be wise to the implications that Web3 brings with it:

“Augmented Reality and CGI / FOOH ads are a stepping stone to virtual worlds. Media fragmentation means that competition for attention is at an all time high and is only headed in one direction.

Clearly not many people are prepared to wear massive VR headsets just yet, however, Apple Vision Pro may be the driver the industry is looking for. Of course, younger generations, such as Gen Alpha may come to be considered VR natives, who have moved way beyond the current question of ‘is this real?’

In virtual worlds, marketing will evolve further and take different forms. We already see static in-game billboards sitting alongside race-tracks, advertising Gatorade – but this is a rudimentary version of what could be.

The direction of travel appears to involve the democratisation of CGI tools and a user preference to play with and remix brands. Combined, I believe we will see companies open up their brand assets, enabling creators in spaces such as Roblox, Sandbox and Fortnite to produce fantastic CGI, which is a fundamentally different way of assessing brand engagement.

In the meantime, we’re at an interesting juncture: Web 2.5. Where virtual and IRL co-exist and blend, but there are no rules, benchmarks or disclosure.”

Why are We shopping more on ugly apps?

Chinese e-commerce apps look busy to keep customers busy buying

By Jordan Carroll

Thursday, 7th of September 2023

Picture this. You’re online shopping and see a silicone head-massager that looks like a torture device. Next, a rainbow of miniature Crocs attached to a keyring, closely followed by a plastic rocket launcher with 40 barrels that fire fairy liquid bubbles.

There’s also timers everywhere. Interruptive pop-ups. Reams of cramped text. Zero white space. Does this read like a description of the #1 app in the United States?

Well, that’s exactly what Temu is. It’s an online marketplace containing an endless raft of wacky products, set to hit $1bn monthly gross merchandise value in 2023. If sensory overload is your thing then you’re in luck. This app has one design principle and one design principle only: stay busy.

Temu is not alone with this ‘stay busy’ ethos. Whether it’s Ali Baba, Ali Express, JD.com, VIP.com, or SHEIN, Chinese e-commerce apps are consistently achieving success in the West, in spite of the formulaically eyesore app experience they strive for. It seems like the sole aim with each of these apps is to cram as much content into a single scroll as possible.

And culturally, there are a whole raft of reasons that explain why that might be precisely the case. Logographic languages like Chinese are visually more dense than English, with no spaces between words, and higher character complexity. This allows readers of Chinese to process more information, in more compact spaces, in a shorter period of time. Ultimately, it’s more efficient to cramp content.

The complexity of single Chinese characters also means that designers find no use for Westernised typographic rules. Large, practical and uniformed styles are favoured to make text as legible as possible, leading to the overwhelming of a Western eye that is used to clearly stylised headings, sub-headings and body copy.

The proliferation of mobile web in China predated smart phones, meaning flip phones were used to browse the web, with less processing power and less digital real estate to display content. Websites were resultantly designed with as much content in one page as possible to limit loading, a principle which still exists today.

And surely one look at Hong Kong, one of the world’s major cities of commerce, has some pointed influence. Rambunctious streetscapes of neon ads, busy crowds and sweeping traffic, vibrant streets of markets, bustling beneath towering modern skyscrapers. Commerce in Hong Kong is visual stimulation 101, and it’s also a real life manifestation of what the shopping experience is like on Chinese apps.

So, being busy makes good sense for Chinese customers, but why do these design principles make their way to the West?

Ultimately, this design works in line with the business objectives of Chinese e-commerce apps in the West, in spite of how this might affect its appearance. An app’s design and interface sits very closely with the brand, and Temu for instance, is inherently anti-brand. It’s a marketplace for white label, non-branded products to thrive. Goods are sold directly to customers from factories in China for the cheapest possible price. 

There is no brand image to build, no brand story to tell, no brand values to uphold, no brand love to harbour. Customers are paying purely for the product. And the same can be said for all the other aforementioned Chinese e-commerce brands.

Therefore, any design element to create brand-love is abandoned in favour of elements that are data-engineered to drive you to checkout. This data-led decision making is known as horse racing, where multiple teams are assigned to build the same feature with slight variations. All versions are tested at a huge scale, with businesses like Temu leveraging China’s one billion internet users through their sister companies in the East. 

They then optimise their apps before exporting the learnings overseas and scaling. Everything that appears within the app is incrementally engineered to drive more transactions, even if these developments are made to the detriment of how the app might look. We’re seeing marketing experts evangelise for experimenting with ugly ads because invariably they work

Clearly ugly apps are also a winning formula. 

With all that said, once you peel back the chaotic front-end, you will find that businesses like Temu are not solely feats of Eastern engineering. Rather, they are unsustainable business models, powered by great tech, backed with a bottomless pit of cash and driven by a sole objective: scale user adoption by any means possible.

How does that manifest itself in strategy? Whilst the exact fees that Temu take in transactions aren’t known holistically, its sister company Pinduoduo only charges a commission of 0.6% for each sale. With many products listed for less than $1, that’s an extremely small charge for what the platform offers in exchange to sellers: acquisition, payment, logistics, partnerships. 

Add to this the fact that the creator economy is also invited to join the Temu Affiliate Program and earn up to 20% commission on affiliate sales, with a $5 sweetener for each new download they drive, that’s an eye-watering expense on top of a paper thin margin.

Resultantly, it has been reported the average loss on each order on Temu is currently $30, and the expense doesn’t stop there. Changing shopping habits is a big traffic play, which is expensive from an advertising perspective. Temu know this and are not shying away: they reportedly plan on spending $1.4 billion on advertising campaigns in the US this year, and $4.3 billion next year. How is that bottom line going to look?

Being a loss-making enterprise in tech is no new and novel practice exclusive to Chinese e-commerce apps, but what happens when these apps feel they have achieved the minimum viable DAUs to change gears and start striving for profitability?

Heavily subsidising sellers and consumers can’t continue if Temu wants to be profitable, and as soon as the huge discounts are not found on Temu, purchases on those nice-to-have products will dry up. Pumping a bottomless pit of cash into sales-focused paid ads is not sustainable, as customers need something more when price isn’t the only driving factor.

That something more is called brand and customer experience, both of which are currencies that Temu do not value. Temu has already been subject to more than 30 complaints to the Better Business Bureau with a score of less than 1.5 stars, with concerns lodged about losing packages, sending incorrect orders and product quality issues.

By acting as a middle man between Chinese factories and Western customers, and having a proposition centred on sending non-branded products for as low cost as possible, it feels like this will be par for the course for Temu or any other e-commerce app that follows the same operational template.

Is this the tension which TikTok Shop can thrive within? TikTok Shop is inviting Western brands to house their shops within the platform’s e-commerce infrastructure, using the same app design principles that all successful Chinese e-commerce apps follow. But whilst Temu has no reason to visit beyond price, TikTok is where product discovery takes place, with conversion available within a few taps, on your favourite brands, as well as the zany products you might find on Temu.

TikTok has also already spent its billions hitting the sky-high daily active users needed to make this a sustainable play, and those users open the app to consume content from influential creators responsible for deciding which products are in vogue. Their own localised fulfilment centres will also deliver products within timeframes that align with Western competitors. With all of these factors priced in, you would assume that it will be TikTok Shop which is able to win the battle for Western wallets.

The jury is still out on that. Case studies are being released pointing towards singular examples of success, but TikTok will also go down the same path of subsidising creators, consumers and sellers in order to drive adoption and try to own every step of purchase decision-making. One thing’s for certain: e-commerce in the West is never going to stand still thanks to the influence of the East.

Trendsetters: The Rise of Finfluencers

A breakdown of why finfluencers are impacting our financial decision making

By Bella Hales

Wednesday, 30th of August 2023

In recent years, a new breed of influencers has emerged, capturing the attention of millions across various different social media platforms. Known as ‘finfluencers, these individuals have gained remarkable popularity by offering financial advice, tips, and strategies to their growing audience. With their engaging content and expertise in personal finance, they have effectively carved out a space in the financial advisory landscape.

Here, we explore the multitude of reasons as to why finfluencers are taking over the financial social space, and explore the impact of their influence on individuals’ financial decision-making.

Accessibility and Relatability

One of the main reasons behind the increase in of finfluencers is their ability to make financial advice more accessible and relatable to a wider audience. Unlike traditional financial advisors who may seem intimidating or unapproachable, finfluencers use social media platforms to share their knowledge in a casual and engaging manner. They break down complex financial concepts into digestible bites, making it easier for people with little to no financial background to understand and implement the advice. They also often share their personal experiences, including financial successes and failures, fostering a sense of authenticity that resonates with their audience. This genuine connection builds trust, leading their followers to consider their advice more seriously.

Millennial and Gen Z Appeal

The rise of finfluencers is closely tied to the demographic shift in the audience seeking financial advice. Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, form a significant portion of their followers. These younger generations often prefer digital platforms and social media for information consumption, finding more affinity with influencers who understand their unique financial challenges, such as student loan debt, housing affordability, and gig economy work.

Educational Content and Empowerment

Finfluencers have made it their mission to increase financial literacy among their followers. They offer educational content that covers a wide range of topics including budgeting, saving, investing, and retirement planning. By empowering their audience with knowledge, they encourage them to take charge of their finances and make informed decisions. With the cost of living crisis in full force, this is something that is more in demand than ever.

Community Building and Peer Support

Finfluencers excel at community building, creating supportive environments where their followers can interact, share experiences, and learn from one another. This sense of belonging can be particularly valuable for those who might feel isolated or overwhelmed by financial challenges. The community aspect fosters a collaborative learning space where members can openly discuss their financial journeys without judgement.

Digital Disruption in Financial Services

The rise of finfluencers coincides with a broader trend of digital disruption in the financial services industry. Fintech innovations, robo-advisors, and online investment platforms have already transformed how individuals access financial products and services. Finfluencers fit into this evolving landscape, offering a human touch and personalised guidance that complements the convenience of digital financial tools.

It must be said that taking advice from finfluencers does come with its own risks. In a recent interview with the Financial Times, finance expert Bola Sol explained how ‘the accessibility of social media means new creators crop up frequently and produce content that takes advantage of people.’ There are, however, new measures being introduced to tackle the new social financial landscape. 

Money Week reports how the Financial Conduct Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority have teamed up to warn finfluencers that some financial promotions could be a criminal offence and aims to provide them with clear guidelines to follow which they should check before agreeing to promote products.

As a result, many financial influencers are taking the IFA (independent financial advisor) certification to boost their credibility and expand their content. Experts like John Sommerville, head of learning at the London Institute of Banking and Finance, are huge advocates for this, arguing that “if creators aren’t educated enough, there’s a risk that somebody may be put into some form of financial distress.”

Overall, it is clear that the rise of finfluencers represents a paradigm shift in financial advice and education. With their accessible and relatable approach, they have successfully reached and inspired a vast audience, particularly Gen Z and millennials.

While traditional financial advisors and institutions still play a crucial role, finfluencers have demonstrated their impact in increasing financial literacy, building trust, and empowering individuals to take control of their financial futures. As with any source of financial advice, however, it is essential for followers to exercise discernment, cross-reference information, and consider professional advice when making significant financial decisions.

TikTok’s strategy to dethrone Amazon? Uninvite them from the party

THE FIFTH’s Innovation Director delves into Big Tech paranoia

By Jordan Carroll

Tuesday, 29th of August 2023

Seated in the grandstands of the bloody coliseum known as Big Tech, we watch as the world’s biggest companies carve lumps out of one another for global dominance and the relevance of an adage like “only the paranoid survive” becomes strikingly clear. First articulated by Intel’s CEO Andrew Grove in 1996, this adage has stood as a guiding principle for big tech over the past three decades, illuminating the unforgiving landscape where vigilance reigns supreme.

In last week’s showing of big tech vigilance, we once again saw the formidable challenger TikTok advancing with their guard up against Amazon in a pursuit to topple them as the e-commerce incumbent. A new report from The Information suggests that TikTok will throw the kitchen sink at e-commerce from a funding perspective, adding $500m losses to their P&L in pursuit of dominance whilst most notably, introducing a policy to ban links from their platform to outside e-commerce sites – including Amazon. 

Amazon had TikTok paranoia back in 2020 when they aimed to ban the social app on employee devices, and perhaps that paranoia was well placed.

While TikTok denies what is claimed in the report, evidence has been mounting over the past three years that TikTok, piloted by the Eastern e-commerce powerhouse Bytedance, is coming for Amazon’s lunch. After forming a partnership with Shopify and WooCommerce; introducing affiliates; conducting a sustained period of experimentation with Live Commerce; launching shopping ads, opening TikTok-owned fulfilment centres; rolling out product search ads and a Shopping feed, then finally releasing their in-app Shop for all brands and creators; TikTok have been gaining serious ground. Bezos can only watch through the gaps in his fingers.

This latest development, if true and unleashed at the right time, would cause serious disruption in the e-commerce space. And what would a big tech battle be without a vein of irony? 

The Financial Times recently reported that TikTok is rolling out an in-app product promotion called Trendy Beat. This shopping feature will showcase TikTok-owned products that have been manufactured based on in-app data. If the product is popular, TikTok will copy it, probably for cheaper, then sell it directly to customers. These are the exact fundamentals of Amazon’s growth strategy, and you can bet dollars for donuts that TikTok will in the not-so-distant future be accused of copying viral products, then prioritising their own white label products in favour of the original brand’s product. Just like Amazon has been accused of.

This is the specific tension which should terrify brands. 

After brands have invested years into a platform that has helped them gain strong organic and paid returns, all whilst positioning them authentically towards Gen Z culture in a meaningful way, and beckoning in an era of shopping and social that is more tightly woven than ever before, we will now see that same platform use the data from yours and millions of other brand’s investment to cut themselves off a much bigger slice at your expense. This is whilst limiting your ability to drive clicks towards your favoured storefront. We should have seen this coming when the platform birthed dupe culture.

TikTok is now in a race against itself to drive mass adoption of their shop offering. Clearly they believe they have the cultural clout to own the shopping process outright from awareness to conversion. 

Of course, Amazon logistically is an absolute beast, with over 185 fulfilment centres globally, 9.7m registered sellers, and most importantly, the ability to ship with next day delivery to their 300m customers worldwide. But with TikTok owning their own fulfilment centres, could they be inching closer to offering a next day delivery service of their own? 

With TikTok expected to reach 1.8bn users by the end of the year, all of which average 95 minutes’ usage per week, as well as the fact the platform is hugely responsible for the creation of virality around products right now, they’ve become an irresistible prospect – or a frightening one – depending on whether you are a customer, or if you are Jeff Bezos.

There are aspects of the app which also need to align to ensure TikTok can make a dent in Amazon. Of course, their FYP algorithm is well suited to deliver you relevant products with scary accuracy, meaning organic awareness nested with surprise and delight is a great emotion to tap into when trying to drive shopping behaviour. The affiliate payouts are reportedly not bad, considering one creator netted 20% commission on a sale, where Amazon reportedly ranges from 1-20%. But search is a huge reason why Amazon is so convenient. They seemingly sell everything and make discovery completely frictionless – with reviews playing a huge part in that journey – meaning that more often than not, your research within the app drives you down-funnel tidily towards purchase. 

TikTok does not yet boast the power of Amazon’s search engine, nor does it boast the decades of data – including reviews – that Amazon has. When users do search on TikTok, the power of the creator content that exists there is arguably the most powerful discovery content that can possibly be leveraged. Therefore, if TikTok can truly nail search, offer next day delivery, and drive mass seller adoption, you would start to seriously consider the app as a destination for shopping as a consumer.

If you think Amazon’s paranoia should reside solely in the realm of e-commerce, then you would be wrong. Amazon has recognised that to keep consumers within your ecosystem, you need to add an insane amount of value, which is why their Prime subscription houses so many products to make it a no brainer for consumers. Whilst Amazon does not break down the profitability of each of its business segments, half of its Prime revenue is spent on maintaining their streaming on-demand platform Prime Video, with total expenses across Prime Video and Prime Music coming in at $16.6 billion in 2022 against revenues of $35.22bn. That’s before you even consider the logistical cost of delivering their bread and butter at a next day turnaround. Package this up with Prime Gaming, Amazon Day, Amazon Photos, Whole Foods discounts, Twitch subs, and Prime Reading, and you’re talking a lot of added value to make sure consumers keep shopping with you.

How will TikTok compete on those grounds? Well, the platform has been expanding its offerings in many of those areas to varying degrees of scale. It recently launched TikTok Music in select countries, a music streaming platform which clearly will be favoured by Gen Z listeners who are able to support their favourite artists via merchandise, music, and exposure – all within one app. They launched Series, which allows creators to pay-gate premium content: not a stretch on the value offered by Prime Video, but the first step on a long, steep path. TikTok has its own coin donation economy, similar to Twitch’s subs and bits, which allows users to support their favourite creators. Furthermore, TikTok is venturing into mobile gaming, live sports streaming with the NFL and X Games, and even launching a publisher model for creators called 8th Note Press.

@tiktoknewsroom

Introducing TikTok Series 🥁 Our new premium feature enables creators to post Collections of up to 80 videos, each up to 20 minutes long 🙌

♬ original sound - TikTok Newsroom

With these developments, whilst Elon Musk talks up a good game about making X the everything app, it seems that TikTok is actively building it for both creators and consumers. By offering a similarly eclectic range of services, including music streaming, gaming, content creation tools, and e-commerce, TikTok is positioning itself as a one-stop platform for entertainment and shopping, locking horns with Amazon on more than on ground. Once they reach a product viability level with the right levels of adoption across each of their business divisions, a TikTok subscription to give you all of this value included with free next day delivery would really put the cat among the pigeons.

How can Amazon respond? 

They could make their Shopping platform more social, like Google is doing. Launching Shorts and nesting vertical creator-led content in searches is clearly driven by the adage “only the paranoid survive” in mind. I’m sure Amazon can try to look to Congress and anti-competition for a helping hand. But as they fight anti-competition battles of their own, I’m not sure how much favour they will curry, beyond faux patriotism and anti-China agendas. It seems the plucky challenger has a lot going for it, and clearly, a lack of other challengers with the same strategy. If you zoom out from the battle taking place in the centre of the coliseum between Amazon and TikTok, you can see Meta in the periphery, acquiring VR headset companies ahead of Apple to ensure their metaverse move is bulletproof, whilst copying Twitter wholesale and aiming to improve the things that X users are complaining about on their app via the launch of Threads. Meta have winded down their ecommerce plays in favour of these battles, and you wonder whether they may regret that in coming years.

Why are influencer pr trips so controversial?

We look at how badly PR trips can go, and what happens when they go right

By Laina Claydon

Friday, 18th of August 2023

PR trips are a little controversial of late, aren’t they? We’ve seen an influx of brands send content creators on trips with free airfare, accommodation and products in exchange for posting content. These types of trips aren’t exactly new, but since travel has opened back up again it might seem as though there have been a lot more influencer PR trips happening up and down our social media feeds. The hashtag #brandtrip on TikTok, for example, has 134.1 million views and counting. 

A lot of these trips have been received negatively and rightly so, while others have shown exactly why they’re worth it when they’re done right. 

@sheinofficial

The most recent influencer-PR trip to hit the headlines came from Shein. The fast fashion brand took a group of influencers to their factory in China to get an inside look at how their garments are designed, manufactured and shipped, and used it as an opportunity to change people’s opinions on the sustainability of the brand. Audiences soon began questioning the influencers’ decision to accept the invitation from Shein despite the numerous reports alleging labour abuses, potential use of hazardous materials, poor working conditions, and contribution to the climate crisis. Both the brand and influencers that took part in the trip were lambasted on social media and it soon became a lesson on how not to do a PR trip.

Lots of brands have also been slammed for a lack of diversity on creator-press trips. Lifestyle blogger Kirsty Merrett shared her thoughts in June, tweeting: “Is it just me who is seeing press trips and events with less and less diversity?!”. Beauty creator Gary Thompson aka The Plastic Boy also asked on Threads last week: “Is it me or have we got back to 2019 I’m seeing events and PR trips with no inclusivity! No boys, No POC, just straight up copy and paste”. 

There’s also been cases where brands or events have tried to raise their profile by inviting large content creators to attend, even if the person hasn’t expressed an interest in them or what they do. TikTok It-girl Madeline Argy told her followers the story of being invited to the F1 and even got the chance to meet drivers like Lando Norris, despite admitting she knows nothing about Formula 1 and therefore had nothing to say to him. Fans of the sport quickly took to social media to complain that ‘it’s like a slap in the actual F1 fans faces’. 

Some brands have, however, got it right. 

@jackwills The party HAS ARRIVED 🔥 Welcoming the Jack Wills Ski Squad to the chalet 🎉 Remember to shop all these looks via the link in our bio ✨ #JWSkiSZN #JackWills @George @Mariam @Maddie Grace Jepson @Joseppi Baggzelini @Grace @coleandersonj @yourboymoyo @max_balegde @georgeclarkeey @bambinobecky ♬ Canyons - Official Sound Studio

There was a time when Jack Wills was extremely popular. Fashion brands Abercrombie, Hollister and Jack Wills were the epitome of cool for teenagers up and down the country and they featured on every young person’s Christmas wishlist. Recently, Jack Wills has had a comeback. Their rebrand has certainly got them talked about again on social media, after they made a group of UK-based TikTokers the faces of the brand, sending them on photoshoots and taking them on multiple holidays where they wore Jack Wills throughout. All you need to do is type ‘Jack Wills’ into the TikTok search bar to see the influencers they chose to take part, from Max Balegde to GK Barry, Joe and George Baggs, alongside others.

Earlier this year, they launched their ski collection by taking the group of prominent UK TikTokers aka the ‘Jack Wills Ski Squad’ on a ski trip. This was similar to when they launched their summer collection last year and flew them out on a private jet to stay in a luxury villa – and audiences loved it. With a cost of living crisis currently going on in the UK, not everybody finds this type of content relatable but audiences obviously enjoyed seeing their favourite down-to-earth TikToker’s reactions to experiencing five-star treatment for the first time. Max Balegde, for example, felt ‘overwhelmed’ and titled his video: ‘you go on a private jet but you’re a scruff’

@jackwills

One great thing about this type of influencer trip is that it brings lots of organic content, where the creators are already wearing branded clothes and the content is more natural. And of course, bringing a group of influencers together can also mean their followers are brought along too which maximises eyeballs on the brand. Choosing to work with the same creators over and over again also enables audiences to become familiar with the brand, and makes the connection between brand and creator more authentic.

Sustainable skincare brand Biossance took 11 influencers to Kokomo Private Island in Fiji, with the aim to help spread the word about sustainability and ocean conservation. Why Kokomo? Christine Tusher wrote on their website that they wanted to give influencers a firsthand look at what was happening to the world’s coral reefs and ‘how we as a brand are making a difference to our oceans. Our hope was that the added exposure would raise awareness and help consumers make informed, sustainable shopping decisions’.

She says they chose Kokomo Private Island not only because of ‘its proximity to the environment we’re trying to protect, but also because of its sustainability efforts. Kokomo is completely self-sustained, from the water in their refillable bottles down to the vanilla beans in guests’ dessert. In addition Kokomo is well known for its ocean conservation efforts, which range from a no-take fishing zone around the island, to coral restoration, ocean cleanup and manta ray protection.’ It was therefore important to them that they share this perspective so that audiences could adopt and share a more sustainable lifestyle. This was therefore an example of a brand using their marketing activities to also spread awareness and be a force for good and education. 

Put simply, it’s about choosing the right creators for a brand trip.

Vegan content creator Jacob King uses his channel to highlight the importance of flavour and spice whilst educating his followers that many cultures have been following a vegan diet for centuries. Recently, him and fellow creator Rose aka Cheap Lazy Vegan travelled across South Korea courtesy of the Korea Tourism Organization to experience the culture, highlight all of their delicious vegan offerings and of course eat good food. Meanwhile, Olimata Taal was sent by the British Triathlon, the national governing body for Triathlon, Aquathlon and Duathlon in Great Britain, to a swim, bike, run retreat. Speaking about the experience, she said “growing up in a low income household, sports has always seemed pretty inaccessible, but I’m grateful to @brittri for challenging that”. Both creators are passionate about what it is they’re posting about, and already have an established connection with the subject matter which their audiences obviously recognise. 

There are certainly a lot of learnings for brands when organising creator-led PR trips going forward. It’s important that the right influencers are chosen to take part who already have a love or interest in the brand, or who have the same views. It also goes without saying that brands need to ensure that those who take part are diverse and that a broad range of people are invited to take part that are representative of wider society. There might be the age-old saying that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ but in some of these cases, that certainly isn’t the case and no brand should want to find themselves in the press for the wrong reason. 

Choose the right creators for your brand, think wisely about what you want your trip to do (and say) and think hard about your audience and theirs – and whether they’re really the right fit. If they are, it’s a no brainer. 

How did the Barbie marketing team get it so right? Nostalgia

It’s Barbie’s world and we’re all just living in it

By Bella Hales, Laina Claydon, Kate Blackwell, Misha Pandit and Jonnie Owen

Tuesday, 1st of August 2023

Barbie has been painting the world pink. Since the teaser trailer was released back in November, there has been a steady infiltration of all things Barbie across social and beyond.

From clothing to gaming, internet trends and even a real-world Barbie Dreamhouse, the marketing team behind Barbie have created the biggest, most immersive marketing campaign we have seen in a long time.

It begged the question: will the buzz last once the film is released and will it result in actual ticket sales for the film? We now know the answer. Barbie has beaten a box office record held by Christopher Nolan’s 2008 superhero blockbuster The Dark Knight, and took in $26m (£20m) at the US box office on Monday (24 July). Globally, Barbie has grossed more than $750 million so far and ranks as the third-largest film of the year, according to Variety.

The marketing of this film has been so successful because it has tapped into something we can all relate to: nostalgia. Collaborating with brands that most predominantly target millennials, Barbie set out to reinvigorate our inner child and allow us all to inject a little fun (and pink) back into our lives. 

Here, we’ve put together a run down of how Barbie’s nostalgia marketing strategy was so effective – and how you can embed it into your own brand strategy:

Fashion 

You’ll undoubtedly have heard of method acting – a technique whereby an actor fully commits themselves to the character they’re playing for the duration of a project both professionally and personally – but have you heard of method dressing? The cast of Barbie certainly lived and breathed their roles fashion-wise long after they stopped shooting.

Method dressing is where actors communicate iconic elements of a film through the medium of fashion during the press run. We have seen this from stars such as Halle Bailey when promoting The Little Mermaid in her aqua mermaid gowns; Zendaya when promoting The Greatest Showman; and Jenna Ortega who fully embraced her character Wednesday on the red carpet. Most recently, Margot Robbie has embodied Barbie at every premiere. 

There is a theory that you can’t have a cult classic movie without an ‘identifiable, iconic outfit that can be turned into a Halloween costume’, says TikTok creator Nicky Reardon here. It’s about creating an outfit or a look that transcends languages, is immediately identifiable, and is widely used in film promotion now when actors wear outfits that pay homage to the film or a niche reference in it on the red carpet.

@nicky.reardon "If your movie can't be turned into a halloween costume then its not memorable enough" #movies #movietiktok #popculture #halloweencostume #halloween ♬ original sound - Nicky

In Barbie’s case, each of Margot Robbie’s pink carpet looks represented an iconic vintage Barbie doll that audiences might have owned when they were children. This strategy gave each premiere an element of suspense and surprise; from the 1960 Enchanted Evening Barbie for the London premiere of the film to the 1992 Totally Hair Barbie for a photocall at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City. 

Products 

Strategic collaborations and tie-ins have become standard practice in movie marketing, and the Barbie movie proved no exception. Partnering with a wide range of big brands has further elevated the film’s reach and appeal, engaging the consumer from all touch points. With the release of this film, Barbie targeted an audience they would have targeted many years ago when they were children: millennials. 

They leveraged brand partnerships that offered relevance in communities that they had very little influence over, namely Airbnb with their Barbie Malibu mansion available for rent, Dragon glassware with their Barbie-style drinkware collection, and Bumble where a ‘bunch of Barbies and Kens joined the app to cheer you on as you swipe and match, as well as giving advice about sending compliments on Bumble’. 

Ruggable was another stand-out collaboration. Teaming up with a home interiors company cleverly allows the OG Barbie fans, who are now grown up and most likely in their own homes, to create their own Barbie Dreamhouse. By allowing the Barbie experience to be fully immersive, it allowed those who now have ‘adult money’ to live out their true Barbie life for real.

Makeup 

Makeup creators have come together and created their own consumer-led content to show that ‘this Barbie is creative’, and that every Barbie is beautiful.

The power in creativity and imagination is embodied in the cross-platform makeup tutorials featured on YouTube to TikTok, and really hone in on the idea that anybody can be Barbie and recreate the look that filled our childhood – including the Barbie-coloured eyeshadow.

Brands such as NYX have created Barbie-inspired makeup featuring ‘bright Barbie land’ colours, and even included a mirror compact that’s shaped like a flip phone. It evokes memories of the false applications we’d make as children to our faces which we can now bring to life using real products.

The result of consumer-led marketing and the collaborations Mattel have taken with brands has been overwhelmingly positive, and has brought to life the toys we once played with – and proven life is your creation. 

Cinema

There has been a real sense of community and togetherness to have come out of Barbie’s marketing strategy. Strangers have greeted one another as Ken and Barbie in the street, whilst groups of friends have gotten dressed up to watch the film in cinemas (including Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai). Young fans have even had their picture taken with a blonde lady dressed up as ‘real Barbie’ on the way to see the film herself – and she was happy to oblige. 

@Malala

Typically, we’re used to seeing fans dress up as movie characters for sci-fi franchises such as Star Wars, Marvel or Star Trek, but not for debut comedies. This element of immersing yourself in the stories you love through whimsical dress-up was brought to life again, but this time by excited fans ready to see their favourite childhood toy come to life – and reflect back at them the human experience of growing up. 

Music 

Produced by Mark Ronson, the film’s official soundtrack Barbie: The Album is a first of its kind and features a female majority all-star line-up of some of the world’s biggest pop stars and emerging artists. Released by Atlantic Records, the artists were revealed through a staggered approach, teasing Barbie-related content across social media, thus helping to keep momentum for the campaign, intrigue for the film and drive global hype. 

Kicking off the star studded album, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice released ‘Barbie World’, a hip-hop track sampling Aqua’s 1997 hit record ‘Barbie Girl’. The sample floods its target audience with fond memories of school discos and heated games of pass the parcel but now wrapped up (no pun intended) in a hip-hop backing track featuring two of the most popular rap artists of 2023. 

“Barbie World” has featured in over 100M TikTok videos where users show off their pink Barbie-inspired outfits and makeup looks. And as a result, Aqua’s original “Barbie Girl” has been used in over 1M videos on TikTok and gained an extra 3.5 million streams on Spotify since the release of the film on the 21st July. Proving that although we all love a remix, you sometimes just can’t beat the original. 

Barbie memorabilia collectors will also be pleased to know that the soundtrack will be available on both cassette and vinyl. Depending on your age, this is a classic nostalgic (or vintage) marketing move.

Director Greta Gerwig, Mattel and all involved in the marketing activities behind Barbie have created an unforgettable marketing campaign and worldwide experience for women and girls everywhere – and for just about anyone. The approach has been educational but recognisable due to the household name and nostalgic brand that is Barbie, and anybody can see the importance in the lessons the movie provides, but also what has fuelled audiences to want to get involved.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen brands utilise nostalgia to get at our heart (and purse) strings, and after its success, it definitely won’t be the last. With brands undoubtedly taking notes over the last few months, we’re sure to see more collaborations, more method dressing on red carpets and more use of nostalgia used in marketing strategies going forward for film releases and more. 

The widespread marketing angles ensure it is accessible across all walks of life, whatever your interest may be. So go on and “Hi Barbie, Hi Ken” your way down to your next screening.

What is threads and how can brands use it?

A deep dive into twitter’s competitor

By Bella Hales and Nana Akosua Frimpong

Friday, 21st of July 2023

Hitting 100 million users in just 5 days, you’ll undoubtedly have heard everybody talking about Threads. But what actually is the new text-based app owned by Meta?

Threads is designed to take “what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas”, says Meta. “Just like on Instagram, with Threads you can follow and connect with friends and creators who share your interests – including the people you follow on Instagram and beyond”. 

The main focus of Threads is to act as a culture hub, where users can be entertained and continue to build their community. It’s a space where humour and creativity is welcomed, and brands and users can share less curated content, showing their authentic and natural tone of voice.

Within the app, your Threads feed will share posts from your Instagram followers and recommend content from new creators. Positive and productive conversations are at the forefront of the Threads strategy and there have been many tools created to enhance and encourage this. Namely, the limitations you can put on who can mention you or reply to you within Threads, and much like Instagram you can add hidden words to filter out replies to your Threads that contain specific words. Whoever you’ve blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on Threads, too. 

With the app only being a few weeks old, it goes without saying that we should be expecting a number of new updates and features in the near future. Improved recommendations and a stronger search function, for example, will make it easier to follow topics and trends in real time. 

Meta has also confirmed that they will be making Threads compatible with the ActivityPub. This is ‘a set of decentralised standards for social networking’ which will make ‘Threads interoperable with other apps that also support the ActivityPub protocol, such as Mastodon and WordPress’. Other services including Tumblr have shared plans to support the ActivityPub protocol in the future, too.

With Threads introducing features like the launch of topics, trends, search and a chronological following feed, it might raise questions about the future of Twitter. It’s important to recognise, however, that both platforms cater to distinct user needs and offer unique value propositions.

Twitter excels as a public platform for real-time news, global conversations, and wide-scale engagement. Its brevity-focused format encourages concise and impactful communication, making it an ideal space for breaking news, trending discussions and public discourse. Threads, on the other hand, emphasises private conversations, intimate connections, and curated content-sharing among close friends, providing a more personal and focused experience.

With Threads being so new, brands and influencers are able to test and experiment to find their tone of voice on the platform. It is also another great opportunity for brands to grow and build their community. 

RyanAir appears to be using the same content strategy from their Twitter and Instagram accounts on Threads. Every marketer is aware of RyanAir’s social strategy. They use memes and humour to jump on topical conversations, making them one of the most followed airline brands on Threads.

@ryanair

Wendy’s Threads strategy is also similar to that of their Twitter account, albeit using different content. Their strategy has clearly proven it works as their follower growth on the platform has grown by 22.09%, compared to their Instagram followers. Wendy’s activity on the platform is indicative of what other brands can and should be doing to keep retention of their followers and receive positive engagement.

Other brands such as Boohoo could learn a thing or two from Wendy’s and RyanAir. In an attempt to use humour to launch their Threads strategy, they asked their followers: ‘what is everyone’s ick?’. Boohoo received negative engagement, with people commenting ‘brands jumping into a new space before everyone’. 

Boohoo’s Threads post is a clear example of brands failing to read the room. Humour is the key factor in using Threads (at least in the early stages) but brands need to be careful with the type of humorous content they post, and should be ready to accept both a positive and negative response. Afterall, Threads is a learning curve for us all.

In deciding whether Threads is for them, brands should factor in their own tone of voice, style of content as well as how often they want to be posting. As the app continues to develop and new features are added, they will need to think strategically about how they want to communicate with their audience on a platform that feels similar but is ultimately different to Twitter.

With a new platform often comes the emergence of a new set of creators. Brands should therefore be keeping their eye on creators that are being born on Threads.

Like with all new apps, there are pros and cons. With the algorithmic element of Threads, it feels addictive and the ability to automatically retain your Instagram followers and blue verification tick means you’re launching with a ready-made audience. This presents a golden opportunity for brands to enhance their reach and engage with relevant demographics, niche audiences, and vibrant communities. They can create tailored content and actively participate in discussions surrounding trending topics.

Being created by Meta, Threads is also a direct extension of Instagram. Traditionally, people would keep their persona’s on Twitter and Instagram separate with distinct and different methodologies. Now, it will be easy to share thoughts you would have traditionally posted on Twitter with Instagram friends. Whether that’s a good thing or not is to be decided.

With the introduction of the ActivityPub, creators will also have the opportunity to allow their posts to appear on other apps and services, boosting their reach and giving them a chance to grow their audience.  

@loveisland

It goes without saying that one of the biggest worries surrounding Threads is the lack of time it has behind it. Could it be another BeReal or Clubhouse that launches to fanfare but quickly loses its interest? Even though it’s early days, the Threads retention rate is not looking too promising, with it being lower than nearly every major platform. According to Sensor Tower, on day one of Threads, the retention rate was at 37%. Over a week on, it’s now at just 16%. 

Olivia Moore, Consumer Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, has a few theories around why this might be the case:

1. The Instagram social graph isn’t ideal for a Twitter-like app. With your account being connected to your Instagram, posts are directly tied to your real identity discouraging anons, meme accounts, and fan accounts. Will users really want friends and family reading their Tweets?

2. Instagram users are well experienced in using images, but we don’t know if they’re any good at using words

3. Even so early on, there have been many celebrities and brands who have joined and are cluttering the feed with blue ticks. This can create an intimidating space which lacks that element of personalisation.

It’s still early days with Threads and with its similarities to Twitter, it’s key for brands and influencers alike to keep an open mind and experiment with different styles of content. It is also a great opportunity, whilst there is no AD placement, for brands and users to organically grow both their Instagram and Threads channels. 

Furthermore, even though there are clearly some positives which will seem attractive to a brand, it’s important to not lose sight of what you know works best. 

If you and your brand are already successful on Instagram, don’t let Threads cloud your vision. Don’t not use it, but be careful to not let it cannibalise your brand’s activities on Instagram.

What is the Quiet Luxury Trend?

It’s less about the rich and more about conscious consumerism

By Nana Akosua Frimpong

Friday, 13th of July 2023

What exactly is quiet luxury? 

According to TikTok creator Charles Gross, loud luxury is all about ‘logos, brands and conspicuous spending’. It’s a shirt or bag that screams ‘I spent a lot of money on this’. Quiet luxury, however, is about purchasing pieces ‘that to the naked eye don’t seem luxury at all. They could be a dollar or a million dollars’. 

It’s expensive clothing that nobody can recognise.

The aesthetic is less concerned with projecting wealth than creating a wardrobe full of high-end everyday staples that speak to sophistication. Smart tailoring, clean-cut lines and elite craftsmanship. Logo-less t-shirts, cashmere sweaters and baseball caps. The quiet luxury aesthetic rejects seasonal fashion trends and instead honours timeless pieces, almost mirroring the ‘buy less, buy better’ promotion of conscious consumerism.

In the last few years, fashion and consumers have become obsessed with the ultra-flashy styles of the Y2K era. From sky-high shoes to mini bags, the resurgence of the early 2000s took over the 2020s. Nostalgia was and still is ‘the’ moment. As of recently, however, runways have focused on perfecting wearable styles. TikTok It girls are deeply invested in the quiet luxury aesthetic, trading Y2K-inspired trends for muted colour palettes. Thanks to the widespread interest, the search term ‘quiet luxury’ has surpassed 40 billion views on TikTok, with ‘stealth wealth’ growing to over 620 million views. 

Drawing inspiration from shows such as HBO’s Succession and celebrities like Sofia Richie Grainge, creators have theorised that by not looking obviously wealthy you are in fact rich. 

Take Mark Zuckerberg for example, he has always been seen wearing casual and unrecognisable branded clothing and yet he is among one of the richest men in the world.

Creators have been providing tutorials on ways we mere humans could attempt to recreate this nonchalant aesthetic, from ‘old money’ outfit inspiration to ‘how to dress like the 1%’. Lydia Jane Tomlinson and Coco Bassey are a few creators showing us ways we can imitate the ‘old money’ aesthetic in our everyday lives.

@newsfash #stitch with @Rae Is it quiet luxury if you won’t shut up about it? #therow #quietluxury #olsentwins #marykateandashley #greenscreen ♬ original sound - NEWSFASH

The concept of the trend itself can be traced all the way back to the 19th century Gilded Age era when minimalist aesthetics and practicality were made infamous, and to 1700s France when conspicuous wealth was all the rage. The fall of the French monarchy and the rise of urbanisation is a great example of stealth wealth. 

The pandemic was our modern equivalent. We saw young aspirational buyers panic buying and investing in large logos and statement pieces. Three years later and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, ‘quiet luxury’ is the new buzzword. 

The desire for those who are financially stable to inconspicuously wear high-value items without garish logos suggests their desire to not obviously flaunt their wealth during hard times. 

There is an argument to be made on how ‘quiet’ quiet luxury is. TV personality and businesswoman Bethany Frankel shared on TikTok her thoughts on why quiet luxury may be considered passive-aggressively loud. She states ‘it’s like when someone tries so hard to look like they didn’t try.’ 

Coco Bassey

Fashion journalist Mosha, known on TikTok as NewsFash, talks about Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen’s The Row and says wearers of the archetypal ‘quiet fashion’ brand seem incapable of not talking about it, with the running joke being ‘how do you know if somebody is wearing The Row? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you’. She questions: “is the desire to proclaim the antithesis of quiet luxury? Or are we all seeking Olsen-style validation at the end of the day?”.

It is also a fair assumption to make that as per our history books, the quiet luxury trend very much reflects the state of our economic uncertainty. The trend does not necessarily reinforce wealthy stereotypes and ‘rich people blending in’, rather it’s a shift towards conscious consumerism and investing in wearable pieces and most importantly is about putting experience over status.

Gen Z has changed the perception of quiet luxury from expensive cashmere sweaters and muted colours to a mindset that forces us to take a slower more conscious attitude to what we are buying whilst making it accessible to everyone.

Pre-loved and vintage garments that can be sourced through avenues such as eBay, Depop and Vinted enable anyone to shop sustainably. In today’s climate, by taking time to be savvy with our shopping habits, we can all achieve an elevated aesthetic, whilst shopping sustainably.

Quiet luxury may be considered a trend that is so obviously not quiet and very much aligns with the current state of our economy, but will it last? If we were to refer to our history books, then this is a trend that is likely to be surpassed by garish and logo-centric maximalist fashion once we all get accustomed to the current state of our economy. Nonetheless, what this aesthetic has taught us is that prioritisation of sustainability will remain key – no matter the trend. 

Trendsetters: has alcohol lost its cool?

A look into how popular culture and social media are reflecting the changing attitude towards alcohol

By Carla Watts and Bella Hales

Friday, 23rd of June 2023

The pandemic forced us to reevaluate the ways in which we were living, and it’s no surprise that since then people are prioritising their physical and mental wellbeing.

Health and wellness trends are taking off all over social media and with that has come a growing interest in mindful drinking and sobriety.  

Cutting back on alcohol has been linked to improved sleep, increased energy levels and enhanced mental clarity. With this in mind, more and more people are embracing the concept of mindful drinking, choosing to abstain from alcohol completely or moderate their consumption. 

It’s fair to say that social media has played a significant role in popularising this trend. On TikTok, we have seen the ‘sober curious’ movement where hashtags like #damplifestyle have 47.6 million views on the platform, and #sobercurious has 557.3 million views and counting. Through these trends it is clear that an increasing number of young people are beginning to question their relationship with alcohol. 

A DrinkAware survey looked into the UK’s drinking behaviour and found that just 8.1% of 18-to-34-year-olds drink four times per week or more, compared to 25.2% of those aged over 55.

There have also been many influencers joining in on these conversations, whether it’s talking about going completely tee-total or just reducing their alcohol consumption. One of the leading voices in this community is Millie Gooch who, after being sober for nearly a year, set up an online community for sober and sober curious women to have a safe space to speak about not drinking. Made in Chelsea’s Spencer Matthews gave up alcohol after having his first child and even created a hugely successful non-alcoholic spirits brand called CleanCo.

Millie’s Sober Girl Society Instagram page now has 197,000 followers, proving how popular this type of content is. When speaking to Corq.com, she credits the rise in popularity to ‘an increased focus on mental health, conscious consumption and the cost of living crisis’.

Following on from the success with her community, in May Millie hosted her first ‘Dry Disco’ alongside fellow sober influencer @stephelswood. Dry Disco was a non-alcoholic day festival for women which included panel talks about self-love and sobriety, dance workshops, breathwork classes and a disco party.

@milliegooch

Other influencers who have joined in on the conversation are The Michalaks, who recently celebrated 9 months sober and former Love Islander and mental health activist Dr Alex George who shared that he has gone 100 days without alcohol.

On top of this, social media platforms seem to be implementing stronger restrictions on alcohol content meaning younger generations are now not as exposed to content including alcohol which could also explain the shift in attitude. 

The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) guidelines on alcohol state that it is illegal to promote ‘excessive consumption’, or suggest alcohol can be used to boost confidence or have any other positive outcomes. It is also worth noting that alcohol ads cannot be targeted to under 18s – and you have to be over 25 to feature in an ad. 

This shift is not only evident on social media but in other forms of popular culture too. 

@hannahmichalak

E4’s Skins, which first came out in 2007, heavily glamorised alcohol and other substance abuse. The TV show followed a group of British teenagers through sixth form who liked to party and drink alcohol below the legal age. Despite this, one of the main characters, Effy Stonem, became somewhat of an icon for teenagers.

TV shows today, like Euphoria for example, now tend to portray excessive drinking as a serious problem, rather than ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’. This is reflected in a study carried out by Google which found that 70% of Gen Z would consider binge drinking a ‘very risky’ activity, while 41% associate alcohol with the words ‘vulnerability’, ‘anxiety’ and ‘abuse’.  

Furthermore, excessive drinking on reality TV shows has been significantly reduced too. 

In the early 2000s Big Brother frequently showed alcohol being consumed and contestants were noticeably intoxicated. This is in stark contrast to Love Island which first launched in 2015 and limits participants to 2 drinks a day. 

Even in music, rappers seem to be mentioning alcohol and partying less and less. Dave and Central Cee’s latest release Sprinter (currently number 1 in the charts), for example, doesn’t mention alcohol or going out – unlike the majority of rap songs released twenty years ago. 

As we look ahead, it’s evident that the health and wellness trend, coupled with the growing interest in sobriety and mindful drinking, is here to stay. 

This transformation represents a broader cultural shift towards prioritising holistic wellbeing, conscious consumption, and mental health awareness. By embracing these changes, individuals are redefining their relationship with alcohol, fostering healthier lifestyles, and promoting a more balanced approach to self-care and personal fulfilment.

ADHD, social media and me

Has social media helped or worsened the stigma around ADHD?

By Kate Blackwell

Friday, 16th of June 2023

Kate Blackwell is an Account Executive for THE FIFTH and was diagnosed with ADHD last year. Here, she shares her experiences of getting diagnosed, why her diagnosis was important to her, and whether it’s a positive thing that social media is leading more people to be diagnosed with ADHD. 

(5 minute read. Anywhere between 5 minutes and 5 days if you have ADHD)

With over 25.3 billion searches on TikTok, the hashtag #ADHD has taken over my FYP the last few years. 

It started with creators sharing their personal experience of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in a bid to connect with a community. Now, there are a multitude of videos on various platforms that start with ‘5 signs you have ADHD’, with the leading symptom being: ‘you get bored of boring tasks’.

I’m being hyperbolic here, but despite social media being a wonderful tool to spread awareness and access new information, it’s also important that we understand the risk of passively consuming and further spreading misinformation – especially when it comes to our health and wellbeing. 

@thefifthagency When you self diagnose yourself with ADHD after scrolling TikTok. Read our piece on #ADHD on our website👩🏼‍💻#adhdtiktok #adhdtok #mentalhealth #officetok ♬ and i.. wait a second - Liam Miller

There has been a consistent increase in assessments and diagnosis, with some assessments for ADHD taking longer than five years. Although it’s only natural that with access to new information comes an increase in diagnosis for any condition, the cause for concern comes from the dramatically high volumes of new cases which could lead to misdiagnosis or over diagnosis due to a stretch of resources, with some trusts and private practises having to ‘shut waiting lists because of demand.

Due to increased interest in the subject, the BBC’s Panorama aired a documentary investigating ADHD assessments in private clinics across the UK, ‘exposing’ three separate private clinics after wrongly diagnosing the reporter Rory Carson.

Just a week prior, Channel 4 released a documentary also looking at ADHD diagnosis,’ but this time through the lens of reality star and content creator Sam Thompson. The programme took us along on Sam’s journey that ultimately led to him being diagnosed with not only ADHD but also with autism and a tic. 

The BBC documentary sparked controversy on social media, in the papers and even from official ADHD non-profit organisations expressing their disappointment. Comments included how the documentary was ‘misleading and damaging in its investigation and has led to further stigma of the disability. Some took to social media expressing the gaslighting and invalidation they have recently experienced since the show aired. 

@dralexgeorge An ADHD diagnosis from a private clinic is INVALID? Or is it? Have you watched the recent BBC Panorama documentary? If you are struggling with symptoms of ADHD, don’t let this stop you from seeking support 💙 #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthawareness #adhd #adhdtiktok ♬ original sound - dralexgeorge

Having been diagnosed with ADHD myself in the spring of 2022, it’s a subject I am interested in researching. I am also keen to understand the new phenomena that is ADHD content plaguing social media and the real life effects this has.

ADHD on Social Media

Since my diagnosis, I have never been happier. 

Before, I simply thought I was stupid. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do what everyone else seemed to do so easily, whether that be in educational or social settings. 

This made me feel the need to constantly try and prove myself, which manifested in taking on too many projects and eventually burnout – which is very common in people with ADHD.

When I downloaded TikTok back in 2021, I was served some ADHD sketches. They were mostly quite generic and made me think ‘haha, I do that’ (that’s a reference for all my Vine lovers out there), but also made me think: doesn’t everybody regularly forget their keys? 

The more I interacted with the content, the more specific and nuanced the videos became.

I began to consider I had ADHD through TikTok, and so I researched it extensively. It was important to me because if it wasn’t ADHD then what was it? I didn’t want a diagnosis for something I didn’t have, as that’s no more helpful than not having one at all.

Eventually, I’d had enough of basic and likely inaccurate free online tests and booked an appointment with my GP. The entire process took a month and I came out with the comfort that I was in fact not stupid, just different. 

I owe that to social media. 

I owe it to the people who took the time to explain, in detail, the genuine limitations that having ADHD can cause. It had never, and would never, have crossed my mind to even look into it. 

There is a wonderful online community where you can learn about yourself and others through social media. 

Like a lot of things though, social media also has its downfalls. With an increased and over-saturated focus on ADHD, we are seeing videos spreading information that, while may not be totally inaccurate, is downplaying symptoms of ADHD and reducing the criteria of a diagnosis to common and highly relatable experiences for anyone with or without ADHD. 

This further adds to the existing stigma around the disability and to people being invalidated and possibly misdiagnosed. 

Not in all cases of course, but there is a danger that people are convincing themselves and often self diagnosing themselves with ADHD purely because of the content they’re seeing on social media.

In comment sections you’ll typically see an abundance of comments to the effect of ‘I couldn’t even concentrate on this whole video lol’, or ‘my doctor told me I didn’t have ADHD when clearly I do’.

Ultimately, we’re relying on the responsibility of creators to share accurate and contextual information. There is however also a responsibility yourself to actively research serious topics of all kinds that might have a real life consequence. 

The NHS is seeing an increasing strain on its resources due to a sudden surge of assessments, which can lead to people sitting on waiting lists for several years who really need the help. 

If you think you have ADHD

Firstly, there are a few common myths around ADHD to debunk. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • You can develop ADHD

This isn’t true. Symptoms of ADHD are present in childhood and continue into adulthood. Sometimes symptoms of ADHD are easier to spot in adulthood due to the lack of routine typically found in educational environments.

  • Boys are more likely to have ADHD than girls. 

This myth is likely down to the fact that girls and women are better at ‘masking’ their symptoms, coupled with the idea that ADHD is attributed to naughty little boys who couldn’t sit still in class. This lack of understanding can lead to many girls and women never being diagnosed.

  • You can’t have ADHD if you have been successful. 

Of course you can achieve great things, including obtaining a degree, a masters, PHD or any kind of job if you have a disability.

For more information, visit https://www.adhdfoundation.org.uk/resources/ where they offer an abundance of information and advice for finding support. 

Creators to follow

Social media can be a wonderful and free way to access new information in a bite size, fun and more attainable way. Find below a few select content creators who talk about ADHD and who I would recommend giving a follow:

Is this the end of the clean girl aesthetic?

We’re all entering our cool – and messy – girl era.

By Laina Claydon

Friday, 9th of June 2023

The internet appears to have chosen its newest It Girl. 

Alix Earle is a 22 year-old US-based TikTok creator and college student living with friends in Miami. She is one of the fastest growing creators on the platform, and is known for her chaotic ‘get ready with me’ (GRWM) videos – and for never turning down a party. 

Boasting over 5.3M followers, Alix Earle’s GRWM-style of video offers a good insight into the lifestyle she leads, which includes a lot of partying and travelling. As her follower count has grown and engagement increased, she has taken part in big brand trips – all whilst finishing her college degree. And yes, she can be found doing an exam at a beach with friends on holiday.

@alixearle Update: outfit took 2 hours i had a breakdown and almost didnt go . 😭👍🏼 #umiami #grwm #ootd ♬ original sound - alix earle

Something her followers love is that Alix Earle has always kept it real in her videos, often getting ready in her messy bedroom or regaling stories of when she was out partying the night before, and sharing her drunk TikTok drafts. She has also been incredibly candid about her journey with acne and kept her audience updated on her accutane journey. 

Some say she’s like the real-life Serena Vanderwoodson, the character played by Blake Lively in Gossip Girl. Both have the same unbrushed hair, last night’s clothes and way of living. Many have also said Serena ‘is the blueprint’ of the ‘messy girl aesthetic’.

So, is this the end of the clean girl aesthetic

Blake Lively as Serena Vanderwoodson

The messy girl aesthetic is the complete antithesis to the clean girl look, which is all about embracing a seemingly casual but also minimalist and effortless lifestyle and beauty. The hashtag #messygirlaesthetic is currently sat at 20.6M views vs #cleangirlaesthetic’s 4.1B views. It might not be as many, but it’s certainly on the rise.

As if there aren’t enough trends to keep up with already, there’s also the ‘French girl beauty’ trend that has been featured in the likes of Vogue, which is all about being undone and effortless. The hashtag #frenchbeauty currently has 67.2M views. Want to achieve the ‘messy’ French girl makeup look yourself? Watch this. 

These trends aren’t really anything new but they are relevant again. Remember Kate Moss in the 90s and early 2000s with her smudged makeup and undone hair? Showing it’s back in fashion, she recently brought back her iconic messy bedhead hair at the Met Gala last month.

Another example of the ‘undone’ look was showcased in the Miu Miu Fall Winter 2023 fashion show, where they debuted models with messy, frazzled unbrushed hair. They were described as ‘strutting down the runway with fastidious confidence, frazzled but possessed with purpose’. Their purpose being ‘beyond getting dressed for the day. So rushed that they accidentally tucked their prim, buttoned-up cardigans into their pantyhose and didn’t have time to smooth their unkempt hair’.

As Dazed says, ‘hair that’s a little bit messy has never been cooler’.