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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.

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.

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.

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:

AI-generated Drake and The Weeknd song raises serious artistic concerns after going viral

AI Drake and The Weeknd song Heart on my Sleeve has been pulled from digital streaming services

By Jonnie Owen

Friday, 21st of April

The interactive restrictions put on us by the pandemic forced technological advancements at a rapid pace. We relied more than ever on technology to communicate in new innovative ways by upgrading existing tools and developing new formats. 

The music industry, like all industries which rely heavily on IRL interaction, experienced a monumental void when live performances were cancelled. Music artists showed immense resilience and quickly adapted to the status quo by engaging with fans in new creative ways via virtual worlds, live streams and staying connected to fans on social media platforms. 

The same technology that had a part to play in helping the industry overcome the restrictions of the pandemic, however, is now a threat to the legal, moral and creative rights of artists and their work.

Drake and The Weeknd via Getty Images

Earlier this month, an AI-engineered song surfaced across digital streaming platforms and social platforms, and took the music world by storm. The track titled ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ was AI-generated by a yet-to-be identified ‘Ghostwriter’. 

The composition featured the AI-generated voices of Drake and the Weeknd. 

The track was met with much dismay by Universal Music Group (UMG) who told Billboard magazine that the viral postings “demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists”, as this is a clear copyright infringement. On the flipside, it has been welcomed by fans of the artists and curious music fans alike with comments to the song that include: “This would literally go No.1 on the charts if Drake released it”, and: “What a time to be alive”. 

Drake and The Weeknd aren’t the only ones. Other music artists are also being faked. Recently, a fake Oasis album which again utilised AI was instead praised by Liam Gallagher. 

The album titled The Lost Tapes Volume One under the playful name of AIsis also went viral and featured music and lyrics written by Hastings band Breezer with Liam’s voice generated by AI. Responding to a fan on Twitter, Gallagher was asked if he’d heard the AIsis album yet and responded: “Mad as fuck…I sound mega”.

Before being forcefully taken down from streaming platforms by UMG, the Drake and The Weeknd track wracked up over 600,000 Spotify streams, 15m TikTok views and 275,000 YouTube views.  

Watching this unfold over the last week has given me deja vu as it brought back memories of the catastrophic events between music rights holders and Napster. Up until 2001, Napster was a peer to peer file sharing platform that allowed users to upload and share millions of files, in particular music tracks, globally yet illegally. 

Piracy choked the music industry of billions of dollars of profit each year. The Napster controversy came as a result of a few events. The digital revolution – in particular the ease of sharing music via mp3 married with the global connectivity capabilities of the internet. But I would also argue music piracy came as a reaction to the price tags put on physical music formats. 

At that time the CD was king. I remember paying £15.99 for Idlewild the Remote Part in HMV. It’s a great album but something I could never justify today. Now I’m one of the 9 million Brits with a Spotify subscription for a fraction of that cost per month for unlimited music wherever I am. 

What Napster proved then was just how unprepared the music business was for technological advances. Piracy on sites like Napster happened en masse. Music was freely available in huge clusters globally to a point where it became difficult to stop until legal action was taken at source and directly against the pirate sites for copyright infringement. From this, Digital Service Providers (DSP) platforms arose out of the dust like iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music with the major music labels on board to help counteract the file sharing and make up for lost revenue.

Could fake AI music have similar consequences that Napster had in the music industry? At the time of writing, duplicate versions of the Drake and The Weeknd song are still being shared across social media platforms in video form. So how do you make it stop?

TikTok has seen a huge rise in popularity, with users creating their own sped up and slowed down versions of popular songs, becoming the new ‘remix’. They are similarly illegal as they are not authorised by the rights owner. Are these new AI versions the new cover versions? 

And what if the fake AI track had featured offensive lyrics? This could have damaged the reputation of the artist and a lot of time and money might have been spent to remedy the false narrative with the truth. 

The wider concern for music rights owners is the fact that AI engines are being fed already existing musical compositions, which begs the question: how will music labels crack down on identifying when an AI creation has infringed? Especially when we’re talking about millions of pieces of music data being fed and then spat out into a new-(ish) stitched together, tangible creation. This will be a priority for music labels to mitigate before it spirals out of control. 

Interestingly, it’s also been reported by Music Business Worldwide that Drake himself is actually being investigated for copyright infringement by Ghanaian artist Obrafour for allegedly using an unauthorised sample from the Ghanaian’s 2003 track, ‘Oye Ohene’, in one of his own compositions: ‘Calling My Name’.

But despite the fact that AI is receiving a bad rap within the industry, there are many ways in which this technology can do the industry a lot of good. It could be a useful tool for music label A&R departments to save time and money to test collaborations before getting major artists into a studio only to find their voices or playing styles are not compatible. We could experience Marvin Gaye perform a cover of Gabriel’s track, could dig out some of Kurt Cobain’s unfinished demos and use AI to help finish them off, with David Grohl and co directing it as a gift for die hard fans. 

There are, however, many issues to work on in terms of mitigation. Music distribution companies (i.e. Distro Kid, Tunecore, Sound:On) for example, are responsible for making music available across DSP’s and social platforms, and it is a requirement between music labels, artists, DSP’s and social platforms.  

They work on behalf of music artists, labels and music rights owners to ensure the music being uploaded for consumption is delivered correctly, legally and properly tracked for royalty payouts and stream and sale counting. So, it feels like a tougher vetting process needs to be applied at this intersection. The social platforms where videos of the AI track are still running free should also be held accountable as this feels like the wild west, yet platforms and DSP’s should know the rules of the game by now. They have a duty to protect artists’ intellectual property as they are given the privilege to exploit musical creations to their customers.

In regards to live concerts, the success of ABBA Voyage is testament to a balanced relationship between technology and human interaction. Voyage is a VR experience where a live band performs on stage led by avatar versions of the Swedish pop group known as ‘ABBAtars’, performing pre-recorded moves by younger performers with the original vocals from recordings added on top. With this in mind, If the future allows me the opportunity to see John Lennon perform ‘Mother’ in a live environment I can experience with an audience, then I’m in…

AI being used as a tool in addition to or as an idea starter to a human-made creation sounds useful. Music artists have worked with machines such as synthesisers, guitar fx pedals and drum machines since their introduction to popular music. I throw AI in the same bracket as these, as it’s a tool to aid creation but not to solve creation. I’m not a supporter of music or any form of art being solely created by an AI engine. I want my favourite artists to share with me their blood, sweat and tears. I want the real heart on sleeve, not bot on dot. 

WILl 2023 see a social media platform become music’s major record label no.4?

What were once clear lines between streaming and social platforms are now blurred

By Jonnie Owen

Wednesday, 29th of March 2023

TikTok has music at its core. Its ‘sound on’ mantra has helped break new artists, led songs to receive their highest-ever streaming numbers after appearing in videos and catapulted music from the past right back to the top of the charts. 

It therefore came as no surprise when TikTok launched SoundOn: an all-in-one platform for music marketing and distribution, designed to empower new and undiscovered artists, helping them develop and build their careers.

If they get SoundOn right, we might see TikTok pivot further towards establishing itself as a more central player providing more holistic music services such as recording advances; development deals; merchandise (live shopping); live events, sync, brand partnerships and 360 contracts. And as a result, they could create their own artist roster for whom they can provide the above services. A one-stop shop for artists both old and new. 

Two recent major developments have taken place that signal a major change at TikTok.

@snoopdogg Tha Dogg checcin in. Excited to tell y’all Death Row Records music is back for you to enjoy. Go get the songs on TikTok’s curated Death Row playlist available now 👊🏾🔥💨 #blackmusic #superbowl @musicontiktok @soundon ♬ Gin & Juice - Snoop Doggy Dogg

Firstly, TikTok recently conducted tests in Australia by restricting some users’ access to the plethora of popular hits usually provided by the major labels via UGC licences. This could indicate they are exploring going at it without major label music catalogues. The catalyst for this is the ongoing complications reported between music rights holders (labels, publishers, songwriters and artists) and TikTok over licensing terms. According to research firm Data.ai, the results for this test have been mixed, with some results that ‘suggest the company is still dependent on its access to popular songs’. It is difficult to account for this wave alone, especially with the current scrutiny the Chinese-owned app is under from global governments which may sway usage.

Secondly, TikTok has attracted established artists such as Snoop Dogg who recently became the first large artist to distribute music via SoundOn, namely the Snoop Dogg-owned Death Row catalogue which features hits by hip hop megastars 2Pac, Nate Dogg, Kurupt and Snoop Dogg himself. This ultimately shows that Snoop Dog recognises TikTok is paramount in today’s music ecosystem in successfully reintroducing music from the past to a new and hungry young audience and creates longevity. Snoop Dog even launched this collaboration during the Super Bowl. A proper PR touchdown.  

Over at Spotify – the platform that claims responsibility for clamping down on music piracy and leading the music consumption race – they announced at their annual Stream On event that they’re introducing short form video content on the home feed, as well as an AI-powered DJ tool which will service streamers.

The purpose of the AI DJ and the 30 second video clips will be to encourage artist discovery by tapping into a feature similar to that of the TikTok ‘For You’ page, where users are algorithmically served content they may like based on their scrolling habits. You can’t help but think, however, that this comes with both negatives and positives for the artists. 

Starting with the positives: there are some opportunities for artists to be innovative in getting closer to their fans with this feature by offering the story of the song, behind-the-scenes footage, fan tokens (NFT), outtakes, special guests (i.e. a collaborator or producer) and thus casting the net out wider in aiding fandom. Perhaps in the future, this feature will also allow artists to leverage the power of influencers and offer takeovers or collaborations and tap into a new audience. Opening the feature up to brand sponsored posts could also provide a lucrative additional revenue stream. 

The negatives however may result in low uptake as it is yet another task upon the already digitally burned out artists who have a long list of social content output in their exhaustive schedule. Thinking long term, the big issue is: will this feature follow the suit of all social platforms and look like a golden cloud to begin with until they flip the engagement and force artists to pay to reach earned and new audiences? Thus, adding another cost on top of a mountain of existing ad costs. This also isn’t the first attempt by Spotify to introduce short form video with failed attempts like Spotify Stories in 2020.

Spotify also beta tested a direct-to-artist distribution service in 2018 only to be shut down a year later. You’d think now was a good time to revisit this type of service that sits more within their lane. 

It does feel that artists, especially independent artists who operate without teams, will now more than ever need to be strategic and selective with what platforms will best benefit them or they could risk burnout. Understanding their audience by conducting litmus tests with their content output and monitoring with the data analytical tools provided by all platforms will be key to getting the balance right. 

I think TikTok might just pip Spotify for being the champions of the platform era, as TikTok parent company Bytedance has in its arsenal a secret weapon: Resso. 

Resso is a streaming service that is yet to be launched in the UK, Europe and USA which has recently filed for patent in the UK under TikTok Music. The BPi reported that 81% of music consumption in 2022 resulted from streaming and so it makes sense for TikTok to want to get in on the action. TikTok Music has a unique opportunity to use learnings from the current Spotify model and offer more favourable royalty kickbacks to artists from streams, and by doing so, providing them with some leverage to heal some of the wounds from feuds with music rights owners. This puts them in a very strategic position.

What were once clear lines between digital streaming platforms and social platforms are now blurred.

SoundOn and Resso, under the umbrella of TikTok Music, could form a music powerhouse: a progressive one stop shop label that earns ad revenue from monetised content that helps drive extra royalty kick back through to its sister streaming service and compete for the majority market share.

Millions of users waking up to a new streaming tab on the TikTok app will rattle the cage for Spotify and others. If a mass exodus of major artists follow Snoop Dog and gain good yards, we may be looking at the beginnings of major label no.4: TikTok Music. I’ve got my popcorn at the ready…

The fifth attends first sxsw festival

the top trends and highlights from austin, texas

By Charles Ifegwu

Tuesday, 21st of March 2023

SXSW was bigger than ever this year. Spread across the city of Austin, TX, the conference and festival serves as a convergence of tech, entertainment, art, music, brands, and everything cool. It’s impossible to see and do everything, but here are highlights and trends we noticed while on the ground in Austin.

Bigger In Texas

The festival felt much bigger than last year, and is back to pre-pandemic proportions. An estimated 300,000 people attended the festival or events alongside the conference. A bigger festival also meant bigger, more immersive activations. 

Dolby took over an entire building to create Dolby House, complete with a gaming, music, and wine lounge.  Porsche took over a city block to sport its new partnership with Transformers. Amazon Prime made its own little town with studios, a nail salon, a cantina, and of course a saloon; all with a Prime Video spin.

Sales Overnight; Brand Overtime

The key challenge with brand and experience first marketing strategies are time, cost and stakeholder buy-in. But brand marketers are fighting back with a massive amount of activations at the SXSW festival. Brands have introduced sales overnight, brand overtime (SOBO) strategies that interject discreet branding efforts into a series of results-driven marketing programs. It struck us all week that Influencer marketing is uniquely positioned to solve this challenge, given its ability to collapse the marketing funnel quickly and authentically build brands alongside social commerce tactics.

It Takes Everyone 

We saw and participated in more convos, panels, and activations this year with female, Black, Latin, AAPI and other diverse and underrepresented leaders than ever before. Not only were panels and activations more diverse, but there were also many panels that specifically addressed issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion across industries.

Social Is Evolving

Social played a part in everything going on around SXSW and the brands that activated and participated there. Social was a tool to promote (pre and during), connect, activate, and amplify, and will be important in maintaining connections afterward. It served as a microcosm of the “Everything Is Social” ideology that we believe drives culture forward.

Building And Retaining Audiences Require Boldness

It was clearer than ever that audiences have so many options, in just about every space and vertical, in 2023. One of the themes that seemed to repeat itself was how to respond to those challenges, and being bold in attracting and keeping attention was one of the responses that continued to resonate the most.

Innovation And Adaptation

Innovation comes at a blazing rate these days. SXSW had an entire track dedicated to the Metaverse and VR/AR. There was a keen interest in AI, with the founder of OpenAI Co-Founder Greg Brockman hosting an official fireside chat detailing the origins of the company and its AI apps ChatGPT and DALL-E.

The Disney Imagineering panel also stunned us with amazing innovation…a real life LIGHTSABER!

Kill “The Metaverse”, but Virtual Worlds are Coming

At SXSW, many want to kill the term ‘metaverse’ as soon as possible. Instead, attendees started talking about virtually enhanced worlds. This was inevitable.

Enhancements to our physical experiences and realities will continue to blend with new technology. The “metaverse”, as a social construct might be over, but it’s clear from our conversations that the industry is turning back to VR & AR and that the future of the internet will be built on gaming DNA.

A special thanks to our friends over Brand Innovators for continuing to bring the marketing community together in such a meaningful way. They hosted some great panels like the Future of Entertainment Marketing with executives from HBO Max, Peacock, and Warner Bros., The Impact of New AI Developments on the Future of Marketing, and the Woman in Leadership Panel.

Our SXSW trip wouldn’t have been complete without their partnership!

Kill The Messenger: The End of Storytelling

A guide to igniting fandoms and building campaigns that last

By Brett Brown

Thursday, 9th of February 2023

Beginning, middle, and end. Even the best stories are designed to end. A company needs constant, consistent relevancy that builds a community over long spans of time. An ad, an execution, even a global fully-integrated Super Bowl campaign doesn’t automatically do that. It’s a story. By contrast, worldbuilding creates a roadmap, lays out guideposts, and establishes a clear set of rules that a brand gets to play in while welcoming audiences to participate. 

A thoughtful brand becomes the setting where many stories can take place. Ones told by us, and ones lived by our community. This is how passionate fandoms are built. This is how an ad and a campaign work to create something bigger, and more lasting in the zeitgeist.

What I’m trying to say is, let’s have some fun playing god. Building an entire realized universe where our people want to live and play alongside us. Brand worlds need a cohesive structure and flexibility to adapt to a constantly evolving cultural and technological landscape. Here are a few starting points for building your brand’s universe.

Start Where You Are Today, Not Where You Want To Be

Goals and aspiration thinking are essential. Here, they can hide important truths. Any brand that wants to last has to be built around truth. So start by brainstorming the attributes that make your company special. Keep corporate jargon and money out of it. Everyone wants to be rich and famous. Why was this business actually founded? What does it do for the world? What doesn’t it do? What do your employees think of the business? What do the customers like most and least? What emotional benefits does your offering incite? What other kinds of products, outside of your industry, elicit these same emotions?

It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be. If you want to make a dent in this world, start getting comfortable being uncomfortable. When you land on a few simple core truths, you now have a foundation of where, how, and why the brand has credibility. Now build on it.

Build While You Grow

The whole point of worldbuilding is creating a larger set of rules that everything inside follows. So as you approach each decision, you now have a framework to check against. Does this campaign build on this? Is our R+D pursuing R+D that will make this true? How can my world and this other brand world come together? What has our community built within this framework?

This is where things like planning, communication goals, business design, all start to have a generative effect. When done right, short-term and long-term goals are the same. The business strategy and creative strategy are the same. Each individual story, our or our community’s, occupies a space within our world. When stories build the brand’s world, the brand builds itself.

The Simpsons is a household name. What started as an animated short became a series that became a powerhouse of immersive storytelling through movies, theme parks, toys, video games, fashion, music, art, literature, language and more. Each touchpoint was a single story moment. What made it last was how they came together. The world that Springfield exists within gives us the collective context we need to tie this story to the last & the next. Progressive worldbuilding through consistent storytelling.

Every Opportunity is a Worldbuilding Opportunity. 

Campaigns, activations, packaging, posts, commercials, livestreams, distribution channels, corporate training, employee benefits, OOH, experiential, social, everything you do inside and out is an opportunity to build your brand’s world.

As the world becomes increasingly more connected and people demand more transparency, every single thing you do is social. This is the definition of what we mean when we say “social-out thinking.” It’s why we approach everything we do with brand partners, from influencer marketing campaigns to product development to org design to global launches the exact same. We ask how this builds the larger narrative world. If it builds that, then it builds social influence.

When you think of the most successful businesses in the world, the word ‘consistency’ comes to mind. Nike is Nike everywhere you meet them. On social, on packaging, in an app, in a partnership, in an experience, at their campus, all the way down to the receipts. Everything they’ve done for decades builds a world where today ‘Just Do It’ is cultural shorthand, the swoosh logo is one that athletes of literally every level have a connection to. My 5 and 2 year olds call it out. Imagine where they’re going to take their money when they buy their own shoes. This is where worldbuilding done right can take you.

Make Tools, Not Ads

People don’t buy brands, they buy in. That means cultivating community in a very specific way. The world you build must provide multiple ways for people to contribute, participate, and benefit.

Rethink your goals, we aren’t just telling people stories. We’re arming them with the tools they need to tell their own. So ask how this ad does that. How does this commercial, OOH, experience, activation, campaign, post, program, thing arm the people I’ve brought into this world?

That’s how an ad is so much more than an ad. You’re trading customers & community for champions. The people who join your world and bring their own following. This is what you see when worldbuilding is done right in pop culture. Look around Comic-Con. People don’t build a lifestyle around a one-off. They go deep into the world, the lore, the characters, the imagination it unlocks. They make their own fanfic of the stories they experience. They leap to any chance that allows them to authentically immerse themselves within that world they care about.

This is the goal. Storytelling as most people think of it is small. But done right, stories build entire realities worth escaping into. What will your next story build?

From margin to the mainstream: why brands don’t start a revolution, consumers do

Our takeaways from Helen Edwards’ keynote at the 2022 Marketing Week Leadership Summit, hosted by THE FIFTH

By Esra Gurkan

Friday, 16th of December 2022

Last week, we hosted the Marketing Week Leadership Summit at our offices and delved into three themes: business growth, brand growth and self-growth. 

The invitation-only summit saw speakers from the marketing and leadership world including Editor-in-chief of Marketing Week, Russell Parsons, Marketing Week columnist, author and brand consultant, Helen Edwards, and former Met Police superintendent, Leroy Logan MBE PhD FRSA, who took to the stage to talk about their learnings and experiences. 

Here, we share with you our takeaways from Helen Edward’s keynote on how brands can capitalise on lifestyle choices being made by people who may sit in the margins now, but will soon find themselves part of the mainstream. 

Helen Edwards at the Leadership Summit 2022

Consumer driven disruption

Marketing Week columnist and brand consultant, Helen Edwards, said “brands don’t start a revolution, consumers do”. 

In her keynote, Helen spoke about how consumer demand has the power to foster new industries, and an example of this is the rise of veganism. 

The term ‘veganism’ dates back to 1944 when activist Donald Watson started a movement based on a dairy-free lifestyle. The term ‘vegan’ was coined because it’s the beginning and the end of the word ‘vegetarian’ and was marginal for the next 60 years due to resistance from the mainstream. 

Helen says: “Veganism only really took off in around 2017 and now nearly everybody is a vegan at least some of the time. When a category takes off, we think about how to react and not be left behind and it can feel like a scramble. We can do better than that, before the demand-led disruption takes off”. 

So how can marketers get a better understanding of demands so that we can be there when they “take off”? 

An important discovery is that you can read behaviours and there are actions you can take to propel them on their journey to the mainstream. 

Intensity and Resistance

Intensity, Helen says, is “vital for a marginal behaviour to have any chance of going mainstream”. 

She continued, saying: “You need those intense zealots to get it going, because if you want to adopt one of these behaviours in the early stages it’s hard, less socially acceptable and more expensive”. 

We need people willing to start a movement because without them, there’s no traction. 

There will, undoubtedly, be resistance and opposition from the mainstream but these forces are crucial to understand because when that resistance starts to falter, that’s when you can jump in and make change. 

Resistance, Helen told a packed audience at the Leadership Summit, is nuanced: “You get different types and you need to be able to understand the nature of it”. 

That’s when you can go from the marginal to the mainstream. 

Reframing the narrative

It’s all about reframing the narrative when it comes to topics, issues and brands that are marginal or under the radar. 

We as marketers have the agency to shift the public’s perception and change the way in which people see something. 

In her keynote, Helen continued saying cognitive reframing allowed us to understand and get on board with veganism. 

Being vegan went from being seen as a life choice for “tree huggers”, for example, to being a legitimate way of life after being reframed as “plant based”. 

So, how can we apply reframing to marginalised behaviours and soften resistance? 

Revealing antiquity in a behaviour stands in good stead with the public consciousness. The idea that a behaviour isn’t new and was a part of our ancestral past helps people understand the idea is cemented in deep-rooted history. A lot of the time, longevity can add strength.

Cultural diversity also helps to reframe a marginalised movement. New audiences will better take on board an idea or a particular behaviour that is a norm in other parts of the world. 

Making things personal. Sometimes, making a lifestyle choice like going vegan, personal to the person, and less about the broader population or planet, makes it more relatable and easier to approach. It’s about reframing the narrative to make it work for particular people, rather than everybody. Personalisation therefore helps. 

Helen rounded off her keynote with something we should all understand going forward: “Today’s margins are tomorrow’s pot of gold if you know how to find them”. That way, we can have a richer and fuller growth.

Helen Edwards’ book ‘From Marginal to Mainstream’ is available to pre-order from Kogan Page now. 

Language has always evolved naturally, but what happens when it’s unnatural?

Generative AI tool ChatGPT is about to tell us

By Robert Stevenson

Monday, 12th of December 2022

2022 has been a break-out year for generative AI tools. 

They are quickly moving from niche tech interest to mainstream awareness, albeit with relatively modest practical usage as of yet. 

We are, however, seeing just the start of their adoption and the extent of their capabilities – and they’re already astonishing.

Want a quick overview of how GPT (Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) tools work?

Firstly, an enormous dataset of content (not Google search results) is trained on user prompts. A neural network is then set, based on what it has learnt. Given a prompt, the tool then draws on relevant information and uses the neural network to produce results. 

If you want to know more, the details are available on the OpenAI website.

The GPT3.5 model has 175 billion parameters compared with GPT2’s already vast 1.5 billion, which goes some way to explaining the significant advancement of this release. ChatGPT4 due in early 2023 is expected to be another leap.

Ease of use, accessibility (many AI tools are free for now, or have free credits before a paid subscription) and the ability to gather inspiration and quickly spin up ideas, is likely to lead to adoption from any industry – including or perhaps even spearheaded by brand and marketing industries.

ChatGPT is conversational, with call and response

Prompt to text generative AI tools are now able to produce anything from concise brand straplines and website copy right through to business plans and entire novels. 

These may dent Google search domination – TikTok already has. 

When search results look less like a menu you have to assess and choose from, and more like a conversation or a recommendation video from a friend, it’s apparent why people may favour this over traditional search. 

The ability for users to ask follow up questions to initial searches is intuitive and leaves Google results pages looking rather antiquated. Google does have a standalone AI unit called DeepMind, which “taught” a computer to beat a human champion of the notoriously complex Chinese board game Go!. So, while Google is by no means out of the race, they are facing some serious competition.

Coders, who often rely quite heavily on Google to tell them how to improve their code (no judgement), have found that AI tools will absolutely outclass existing results. This in itself means that every business that relies on code can be more efficient and produce more, arguably better products, faster.

Of course, there are huge challenges too.

Envisioning weird futures with AI is my new favourite thing

Data Protection

Firstly, there’s data protection, licensing and remuneration for creators whose source material is the basis for AI generated text and images. Elon Musk, who co-founded OpenAI (the company responsible for DALL-E and ChatGPT), has stepped away citing data protection issues.

Ethics

Secondly, there’s the ethics. A child could, in theory, do their homework in minutes with little investment or understanding – and this carries through to the world of work. To what extent could AI replace a human workforce? 

Accuracy

Thirdly, accuracy. While AI is drawing from almost any available source and should average out in some way, programming quirks and where data is extracted from gives rise to serious trust issues. 

As fast as factually incorrect content can be produced with AI, it can be published, distributed and consumed. 

There is opaque validation within the code and little validation outside of it. With ChatGPT, instead of “computer says no”, you get a rough approximation of an answer. OpenAI does state upfront: “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers”.

Despite these concerns, speed is an enormous advantage and the low barrier to entry presents egalitarian opportunities to collaborate with AI – in theory.

Yesterday morning, for example, I was on the London Underground and found myself staring at two posters next to each other for the entire journey (full 8am zombie vibes). They were for a Muslim marriage app called Salams and an African mobile money transfer company called NALA. Both had short-form large-font copy that used English language in a dialect that was highly relevant to their intended audiences, but would mean almost nothing to others.

This prompted me to think about localisation. Could the language of niche communities, minority groups and marginalised sections of society be suppressed, leaving them behind or out of this generative AI revolution? If AI language becomes the first port of call in brand and marketing, the opportunity for nuance and cultural distinctiveness may be squeezed. 

In the future, what effect would this have on language interacted with on a daily basis? Is it possible that communities already fighting for their voice to be heard and seen are about to be drowned out by the white noise of AI? 

Further in the future, growth of content produced by AI, may become de-facto source material. This has the potential to upend existing language structures. When you consider how quickly language is adopted and adapted already by school kids, in music, games and across borders.

Another OpenAI product “Whisper” is an ASR (automatic speech recognition) “trained on 680,000 hours of multilingual and multitask supervised data collected from the web…. the use of such a large and diverse dataset leads to improved robustness to accents, background noise and technical language”. 

I am intrigued as there is a distinction between accent and dialect that cannot be overlooked. Reinforced or supervised learning and open-sourcing means that specialisms can be honed and trained, but this requires input.

Ultimately, if equilibrium is to occur, early measures should be taken and an emphasis should be placed on the assistive capabilities of AI alongside the value of human creativity and quality.

Creativity is in essence most alive when it is drawing from disparate sources and producing something new. Outside of translation, how can localisation of dialect and culture be included and factored into this before content multiplies to an extent that it is detrimental?

I will be continuing to put AI through its paces and trying to understand how my own neural pathways work while doing so. There is also a lot of fun to be had! Try it for yourself here: ChatGPT

The creators tackling the cost of living crisis

We share the creators using their platform for good in a time of need

By Bella Hales and Nana Akosua Frimpong

Thursday, 19th of November 2022

With the cost of living crisis being an ever prevalent issue in the UK, there have been questions raised about influencer culture and their seemingly cash-rich lifestyles.

According to a survey by Room Unlocked, six out of ten people find influencers insensitive and infuriating amid the dramatic rise in the cost of living. There are, however, many people using their platform for good during the recession. The #costoflivingcrisis hashtag, for example, has been trending on TikTok and has been viewed over 556 million times – but this time for a more positive reason. Under this hashtag, you will find content creators across many different niches using their platform to make a difference, whether it be by providing their audience with accessible budgeting tips and financial information or key money saving advice. 

Keep reading to find out some of the top content creators who have used their financial expertise to help their audience during this difficult time and, if you would like to see a more extensive list of creators sharing their best financial advice, head over to our Instagram.

Gemma Bird is a very well known money saving guru. Growing up with a saving addiction, she decided to turn this into her personal brand where she educates people on the power of scrimping and saving. She can be found sharing bargains, deals and discounts to her audience in an attempt to show that being thrifty doesn’t have to be boring. Her relatability and down-to-earth personality has grown her a loyal and dedicated following.

Clare Seal aka My Frugal Year is a Fin-fluencer (financial influencer) from London. She began her account in 2019 as a means to tackle her £27,000 debt that she had accumulated, and now shares tips and tricks on budgeting and improving relationships with money. Clare founded @thefwforum as a place for honest and supportive conversations about money and more recently, is known for her coverage on topics such as mortgage and financial property.

In addition to the increase in financial advice being shared by content creators, here at THE FIFTH we have seen a noticeable increase in crafting and DIY content. #CraftTok, for example, has now been viewed over 1.3 billion times on TikTok, with more and more people going online to get DIY and crafting inspiration in a bid to spruce up their homes and give their decor a refresh on a budget. 

Here we highlight two of the top craft creators using their platforms to share thrifty craft and DIY tips:

Sergei Urban aka The Dad Lab is a craft, DIY and parenting content creator and shares cheap yet exciting activities to do with your children. These include fun science activities, building sets, activity books, educational tools and creative paper crafts. A lot of the activities are created from upcycling, for instance making an infinity car track from cardboard, all of which share the message that entertainment doesn’t have to include buying expensive toys.

Duygu is a DIY content creator, retired teacher and founder of the Good Things Studio. She specialises in Punch needle embroidery, an old and special technique where a punch needle is used to poke loops into fabric. In 2015, she started her youtube channel, Duygu’s DIY Diary, in order to share her crafty, do-it-yourself ideas with more people. As her content creation career has progressed she has taken this over to Instagram and TikTok where she shares how-tos of her latest cheap and innovative creations. 

If you would like to continue reading on crafty influencers, head over to our Instagram post where we spotlighted some of the key talent in this area. 

Crafting and DIY isn’t the only thing to trend as a result of the cost of living crisis. With  supermarket prices on the rise, there has been an increase in appetite for cheap and budget-friendly recipes. Below, we include some of the most influential UK foodies and content creators who are exhibiting some of the most delicious and cheap, home cooked meals, for those who are looking to tighten their belts.

Jack Monroe is food content creator, author and anti-poverty campaigner. She used to be known as the £10-a-week blogger, who would share how you can make 3 cheap and easy recipes a day for a total £10 a week. Now she shares affordable recipes on her website and often creates series such as 20p recipes or 15-minute meals. Most noticeably, after the increase in prices of essential products at Asda, Monroe complained that even the low-price range was too expensive. This resulted in the supermarket agreeing to make the range more accessible. She is a great example of the power influencers have in making a positive impact. 

Nina Mackenzie is a lifestyle blogger who shares parenting content on instagram. This can include reviews and recommendations of children’s products and crafting activities. Nina is also well known for her cooking content, where she shares affordable meals for the family, and recently has partnered up with Sainsburys to create a series called family dinner for under £5. 

Click here to read more on the most influential talent creating budget friendly recipes. 

As mentioned previously, influencers and celebrities who spend large amounts of money on clothes are frowned upon amid the rising costs of living. There are, however, a number of fashion content creators, who are promoting upcycling and thrifting as a way of staying stylish whilst saving money. Here we highlight those creators who are using their platform to talk about how cost-effective these methods are, and not to forget, how sustainable they are too! Head over to our Instagram post to read more.

Hudi Charin aka @thethriftythinker is the CEO of the sustainable and personalised fashionwear service @bigsisterswap. She encourages her followers to swap clothes instead of buying new clothes as a contribution to being sustainable and without breaking the bank.

Alexandra Stedman is an art director, writer and social media consultant, best known for her ethos that ‘dressing stylishly needn’t be expensive’. She is also the owner of the blog page The Frugality, where she shares accessible and budget-friendly fashion tips.

With the cost of living crisis being troublesome for most, it is understandable as to why creators who are sharing content centred around budgeting and financial advice are more in-demand than ever. Crucially, social media and content creators play an integral role in providing their audiences with accessible and easy-to-digest financial information. 

THE top video podcasts you should be listening to right now 

We look at why vodcasts have become so popular – and which ones you should be watching

By Nana Akosua Frimpong

Wednesday, 26th of October 2022

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an influx of creators take to podcasting alongside posting on their various other channels. 

While podcasting has been around for more than a decade, video podcasts have grown in popularity as it connects listeners to the hosts in a different way – and adds another element to the way in which you can consume the content. 

Video podcasts have created an opportunity for listeners to feel much more involved, almost as though they are privy to behind-the-scenes of the filming process. 

It has created an intimate interaction between the host and their listeners, as they pick up on body language nuances that you can’t experience through audio. It creates a feeling of being part of the conversation as it transpires.

With 24.2% of users going on YouTube to watch and listen to podcasts, it’s no surprise that Spotify has taken to expanding its podcast resources to include vodcasts. Pushing this expansion to other territories such as Italy, Germany, France, Spain and others, Spotify is looking to compete with YouTube and Apple Podcasts as the best platform for vodcasts.

Here, we share a few of our favourite video podcasts where the conversations are real, unfiltered and, most importantly, entertaining.

Nailing it: A Spotify Original vodcast about navigating the everyday challenges and toasting the triumphs of life in your twenties with your hosts Priscilla Anyabu, Wunmi Bello and Adesayo Talabi aka Simply Sayo.

The Receipts Podcast: A Spotify exclusive podcast where Your girl, Tolly T, Just Call me Audrey and your Mamacita Milena Sanchez come together to give their fun and honest truths about anything and everything.

Cocktails and Takeaways: Hosted by Madame Joyce, C&T is a podcast all about oversharing, unpopular opinions, failed relationships, light-hearted banter, celebrity gossip, world news and everything in between with a dash of alcohol to keep in good spirits. 

Call her daddy: Alex Cooper hosts the most listened-to podcast by women. Cooper cuts through the small talk with every guest and topic. Asking the questions you want answers to, you can never guess what is going to happen or be said.

Private Parts: Join Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing and friends as they dive deep under the covers of your favourite celeb’s lives to find out their most intimate stories and naked truths.

Say It with your chest: Hosted by Char, this is a visual podcast that shines the light on the corners of important conversations that are often missed out of the media or seen as taboo.

Working hard, hardly working: Grace Beverely moves away from the traditional business podcast rhetoric to get a better understanding of what actually goes on behind the scenes of the brightest success stories. 

Diary of a CEO: The unfiltered journey into the remarkable people who have defined culture, achieved greatness and created stories worth studying. Hosted by entrepreneur Steven Bartlett, this podcast regularly tops the podcast charts. 

The Peter Crouch Podcast: Hosted by Pete Crouch, this podcast is a guide to being a professional football player with insight on dressing rooms, transfers, managers, football confessions and everything in between. 

ShxtsNGigs: A weekly podcast from two best friends, James and Fuhad, where they try to give their full, unfiltered opinion on anything that comes to mind. 

On Purpose with Jay Shetty: Join Jay Shetty as he has fascinating conversations with the most insightful people in the world.

Pass the Meerkat: 8D Audio of the animated web series hosted by 9 Black/Asian men from London. The guys give their interesting takes on a variety of topics and share crazy stories.

JaackMaate’s Happy Hour: Join Jack and Stevie as they invite an array of the internet’s best celebrities to join the conversation ranging from YouTube drama to life’s big questions.

Saving Grace – Join TikTok’s GKBarry for absolutely outrageous conversations with a selection of very special guests, walking you through her WILD life filled with embarrassing stories from university and beyond.

Podcasts have an innate ability to reach a captive audience with personalised messaging and with many podcasters having built a passionately dedicated following over the years, brands would be remiss not to consider podcast adverts as a marketing tool.

Spotify keeping up and listening to its audience’s preference by boosting video podcasting on its platform is a step in the right direction. It is also an excellent opportunity for brands to further connect with new audiences or engage their current audience through authentic brand partnerships. 

Podcasts or vodcasts are intimate and trusted digital media channels that reach people in a very direct and personal way, and they offer brands the ultimate opportunity to gain insights into their audiences and creative solutions that can truly capture consumer attention.

What vodcast keeps you engaged and entertained?