Influencers By The Numbers

Blink:

In September, I addressed the growth of influence marketing and how it has evolved into a digital form of groupthink. Since my post, AdWeek published some stats validating how people really trust buying a product or service mentioned by an influencer.

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Relevant stats:

  • 74% of those 18-24 rely on social media influencers for information about products and services; however only 24% of those over 55 do the same. Overall, influencers are looked to nearly as often as a brand or retailers’ websites for product information.
  • 60% of respondents have bought something on the recommendation of an influencer, this goes as high as 72% of 25–34-year-olds.
  • 90% of respondents of all ages would trust an influencer over a celebrity.
  • Instagram is still the top platform where 18–45-year-olds follow influencers with Facebook leading the way for consumers who are 46+.

While aggregating information for this post about influencers, I learned smart marketers are now shifting from traditional demographic targeting strategies to cultural triggers to better understand and reach the next generation of consumers. Media researchers have identified five new major cultural consumer buckets: gaming, entertainment, education, fashion and beauty. Media agencies warn marketers to closely monitor these cultural triggers since they are constantly morphing and fragmenting.

Since we began handing over data to high tech companies and with the increase in computational algorithms utilized in customer targeting, marketing has been on steroids! I made the transition from finance to marketing back in 1984. Back then my basic understanding of marketing 101 was simple – the set of activities or business practices (a.k.a. marketing mix) of promoting and selling products or services. With the advent of the Internet, it has become more complex. Candidly, I find it a challenge to keep up with all the changes, especially the evolution of influence marketing and the different platforms affecting social media influencers. Are marketers overprocessing targeting the different lifestyles, cultures and subcultures to authentically build a trustworthy brand? Or as one of my all-time favorite marketers P.T. Barnum once said pre-Internet:

“There is a sucker born every minute.”

Ants

Blink:

Saturday morning, I went out on my balcony to have a cup of coffee and learned I had dropped a piece of avocado from my salad Friday night. I had an ant colony! How did my dropped piece of avocado go viral among ants?

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For starters, the first thing I was concerned about was where did all these ants come from? My apartment is on the fourth floor. I have occasionally spotted maybe a couple feasting on a dropped croissant crumb, but never a colony. I felt better when I read the science section in my Saturday paper.  An ecologist from the University of Hong Kong published his new ant census count in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – ant ubiquity: 20 quadrillion! Ants outnumber humans 2.5 million to 1. Note: His colleagues believe this figure is conservative.

Google queries:

  • How do ants find food? They have a strong sense of smell which enables them to detect chemical substances (e.g., sugar and other food) in their surrounding environment via receptors/bristles on their backs. Most ants can pick up a strong scent from as far away as approximately 11ft.
  • How do ants communicate? They use a chemical known as pheromones and leave a trail of chemical signals behind them so other ants from their colony can follow their trail. Over time, scientists have discovered ants select the shortest route to their food source so their colony members can locate the food source quickly, thus conserve energy.

So what?

By studying ant colony behavior, scientists have been inspired to employ biomimicry an innovative process emulating nature’s time-tested patterns like ant colonies to develop sustainable solutions to human challenges in the real world. It has helped computer scientists utilize computerized virtual ants to solve complex computational algorithms. Best path ant colony behavior has also had a positive impact on logistics execution, mail delivery and the distribution of media through networks and to mobile users.  

Key learning:

In the future when I eat out on my balcony, I will be careful not to drop any food and create more science experiments. 

Resilience

Blink:

“As long as you’re resilient and persistent, things can happen even much later. Everyone is on their own path and maybe it’s even a little bit sweeter if it takes a little bit longer.”

– Rajeev Ram (American tennis player)

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Since late September, in the tennis world, Roger Federer, sports icon has gathered all the headlines after announcing his retirement and playing his last match in London. Lost in the spotlight was future hall of famer Rajeev Ram, an American doubles specialist who became the oldest first time ATP player ranked number one after he achieved the top spot in the doubles ranking. Rajeev is 38 years old.

His words of wisdom (above) resonate for me, especially since I am approaching the 28th – year anniversary of starting SMARTKETING. Since I began my adventure back in 1994, the dogma I advocate both in business and life, is patience and fortitude. I have posted numerous times on this subject: The Library Lions and Patience & Fortitude. It appears Mr. Ram and I are on the same page regarding the value of patience and fortitude.  However, he also added one more tenet;resiliency.How true! Since 1994 I have had my fair share of ups and downs and in-betweens. Candidly, life and business have been a rollercoaster ride. Being resilient has been key.

“Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’s a variety of skills and coping mechanisms. To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.”

                                                                       – Jean Chatzky (American Journalist)

Manipulative Social Media Behavior

Blink:

As a marketer, back in 2018, I began voicing my concern we were becoming algorithm hostages thanks to technology. This month I posted about social media key influencers spearheading Digital Groupthink. Today I am going to address how social media on a macro level, beyond marketing, is directing societal changes.

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Has social media rewired our minds? There has been a plethora of books written by acclaimed journalists and academic studies published by psychologists conjecturing this topic, but nothing conclusive has emerged. Consequently, I am stepping out of my marketing comfort zone and posting a brief list how I believe social media is dictating societal transformation:

  • Global Politics – Making headlines and trending on social media in the U.S. is how democracy is under threat. Voter suppression stories are in the spotlight, as well as a G.O.P. plot to influence voting in upcoming elections. Throw into the mix former President Trump and his followers promoting far-right conspiracies, American politics is in a state of disarray. Globally, in Myanmar, social media conspiracies generated hatred which fueled a violent military coup. In Sweden’s recent election September 11th, social media posts facilitated a surge in right-wing parties including one with neo fascist backing. As a result, their current Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson only won 30 percent of the vote impacting the country’s parliament since her party’s coalition has three fewer seats than their right-wing rivals. The list of European countries swinging right thanks to social media influencers posting misinformation continues to grow. This past Sunday, Italian voters elected what will most likely be a coalition of right-wing parties.
  • Mental Health – For starters, psychologists estimate there is a small percentage of social media users (5 to 10%) who engage excessively, constantly checking and scrolling through social media platforms. This subset of Americans meets the criteria for social networking behavioral addiction devoting so much time online that it impairs other important life matters. Psychologists indicate addictive behavior resembles other substance abuse behavior – unpredictable moods, erratic emotional and interpersonal related symptoms, cognitive preoccupation, etc. Secondly, dark social bubbles, a topic I addressed at the end of last year. Specifically, about an easily accessible website where mentally unstable members from around the world can discuss their suicide plans (e.g., date, methodology) on the site’s public forums which are comparable to a social media platform; live chat rooms or member messaging. The site reportedly gets on average 6 million views a month which is quadruple the National Prevention Lifeline.  
  • Body Image – Bioethics experts are concerned social media has contributed to growing anxieties around body image, fueling a demand for cosmetic procedures (botox & dermal fillers). Consequently, the cosmetic procedures industry which is loosely regulated is booming globally. Young people on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are concerned their photos can receive positive or negative ratings based on how they look in our celebrity culture of perfect lifestyles. Older people are obsessed with being forever young. For the record: The growing popularity of makeover plastic surgery games and apps such as “Plastic Surgery Princess” and “Pimp My Face” could also be contributing to mental health problems in young people.

Opinions Welcomed!

Forever Relevant – Kudos to the Fashion Industry

Forever Relevant: Yvon Chouinard’s mantra which I posted back in 2019 (below), especially when I learned this morning, he and his family transfered the ownership of the company he founded, Patagonia, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization where the company’s annual profits will be used for environmental initiatives.   

Posted on April 19, 2019

Blink:

I take pleasure in reviewing innovative projects to save our vulnerable planet. One industry that is rising to the challenge is the fashion industry.

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“Business is a combination of human energy and money and to me that equals power. I would go so far as to say that business is the most powerful force in society today, and it is a force that ought to be harnessed to affect social change to improve the quality of life in those societies around the world where the basic needs are not being met.”                                                                                                                                                               – Ben Cohen

Detailed below are some leading examples of sustainably focused companies in the fashion industry:

  • Patagonia – The company has always been a socially responsible company. Their latest mission statement mandated by Yvon Chouinard, their 80-year-old founder: “Patagonia is in business to save the planet.”Yvon wants to build a sense of urgency inside and outside the company since he believes we are not just witnessing climate change; we are experiencing a climate crisis. Three pillars Patagonia believes are critical to achieve their mission are agriculture, politics and protected lands. More specifically, one major initiative that piques my interest is regenerative agriculture, a long-time priority for their supply chain. Currently, they are working with small cotton farmers in India to create jobs to control pests with traps as opposed to utilizing chemicals, as well as weed and harvest cotton by hand. Note: Studies indicate that regenerative agriculture captures more carbon than we’re emitting. Cotton is a crop that captures carbon.
  • Everlane – Noteworthy, the clothing brand founded in 2011 waited six years before introducing its brand of jeans, holding out for a sustainably responsible manufacturer that recycled 98% of the water it utilized. Their line of “clean silk” shirts are made in an energy-efficient factory using chemical-free dyes. Throughout their supply chain they conduct ongoing audits to reduce waste, plus the use of plastics ranging from their employee kitchen (e.g., straws) to buttons from a foreign supplier. Their founder and CEO is concerned how the world is choking on plastics and wants to be a leading advocate for its eradication.  
  • Synflux – A Japanese start-up research collective has developed machine learning algorithms (a.k.a. AI) enabling fashion clients to customize the shape, fabric and color of their garments. Consequently, their technology will reduce fabric waste by an estimated 15 percent.

Digital Groupthink

Blink:                                                  

I continue to study the growth of influence marketing. There are two type of influencers, macro (celebrities with massive, millions of followers) and micro (everyday consumers who engage on a regular basis with significant social media followings). I am beginning to conclude influence marketing is a digital form of groupthink.

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This much I do know, digital groupthink is flourishing in the fashion industry. The most recent brand success story I read about is Djerf Avenue, launched in Sweden in 2019. Its founder Matilda Djerf, enjoys sizable social media metrics on her personal accounts – 2.6 million on Instagram and a million on TikTok. Matilda insists she is making a statement by building more than a fashion brand, but a community advocating her Gen Z/European lifestyle known as Scandi Cool. Her loyal/devoted followers are identified as Djerf Angels. Her business metrics are impressive too! 2022 projected sales revenue of $22 million, up from $8 million in 2021.

Do you follow any social media influencers or march to the beat of your own drum?


 

The Mediocrity Movement?

Blink:

As an advocate of influence marketing, I understand the value of social media. However, my personal usage is far below the worldwide average (source: Statista) of 147 minutes per day (2 hours, 27 minutes). My Tik Tok usage is zero, but I am on top of what is trending #quietquitting.

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TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app with over 1 billion monthly active users, continually has been scrutinized over its data practices. As a result, my usage is zero because I refuse to download the social platform on my smartphone. The latest eye opener for me is privacy research revealed the web browser used within the app was built in functionality to track every online keystroke made by its users. In addition to my concern about TikTok’s utilization of data, from what I have read, a majority of the content I would find juvenile/irrelevant, plus numerous critics of the app have expressed it is a time-consuming black hole.

What is #quietquitting? A trending phrase first posted on TikTok back in July which went viral gaining millions of views. People were voicing a concern for optimizing their work-life balance, avoid burnout (a.k.a. rise & grind) and get more fulfillment outside of the office. Leading career coaches believe the pandemic exacerbated the stress and overload of work people perform above and beyond their job description. In addition, people wanted to spend more time with family, friends and their hobbies thanks to experiencing working remotely; versus outright quitting their jobs, #quietquitting TikTokers posted about shutting their computers off at 5 PM, only doing the assigned tasks they were paid for versus working more hours than required. Accordingly, they were leaving the office to enhance their personal lives. Gallup workplace and well-being research revealed a large group of respondents felt they were not engaged – they show up for work, do the bare minimum and not much else. Note: 54% of the respondents in this category were born after 1989.

My take. Work-life balance is paramount, but is best achieved via prioritizing one’s time management both in and out of the office. #quietquitting followers, thanks to a leading social platform are just being vocal venting their employment frustrations, plus validating why they are not going the extra mile for themselves or the organization that signs their paychecks. Are we on the cusp of a mediocrity labor movement?

Pre-social media, I actually experienced #quietquitting decades ago when I was in Corporate America. In every organization I worked there was a subset of people who mastered performing at a mediocre level as they watched the clock strike 5PM. I used to describe these workers as people who showed up daily just so they could collect their paychecks. Maybe I should sign up for TikTok and post a new hashtag to see if it goes viral:

#Justshowup

Words

Blink:

I am a future writer wannabe. To hone my skills I blog, plus read a lot to improve my vocabulary and review different writing styles. I would like to share some new words I have recently learned, plus some over-used, popular business lingo.  

Read On:

  • Imbroglio – An extremely confused, complicated or embarrassing situation. Sound all too familiar? To me sometimes a byproduct of overprocessing. Makes me think of my favorite Confucius quote: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
  • Granular View – Business lingo, for detailed-orientated data points. My apologies, isn’t that the overall objective of conducting quantitative research to compile  data/facts to make informed decisions. Consequently, to me it is a given all quantitative research is granular. 
  • Kairos – An ancient Greek word meaning the right, critical or opportune moment.
  • Nimbyism – The behavior of someone who does not want something to be built or done near where they live, although it does need to be built or done somewhere.
  • Pivot – Primarily a business term that became extremely popular during the pandemic referring to companies changing direction as in some aspect of their core products or services to better meet consumer demand.

A word wealth exercise follows: The imbroglio caused by COVID-19 forced many businesses across all sectors to pivot. Business leaders were challenged by a kairotic event to create a sense of urgency with their teams to better understand with the aid of coronavirus economic stimulus packages, how best to survive the pandemic by analyzing available market data to a granular view. Unfortunately, globally in some municipalities, funds directed for economic stimulus fueled nimbyism among special interest groups to place the funding of environmental/climate related projects on hold.

Have you learned any new words recently?

Food Buzz du Jour

Blink:

Upcycled Foods!

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For the last couple years, plant-based foods have dominated innovation in the food industry. Food futurists touted a shift toward plant foods would go a long way in promoting human health and the health of our planet. Their robust sales projections were primarily driven by two factors:

  • The continued global growth of the vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian consumer segments has driven awareness regarding the health benefits offered by a plant-based diet. Numerous nutrition research studies examining plant-based eating patterns revealed a reduction in the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
  • Environmentalists publicized the current global food system contributes 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions mainly attributable to current food consumption which is heavily resource-intensive, specifically the enormous environmental burden that goes along with animal agriculture. animal-based foods. In addition to driving greenhouse emissions, industrial animal agriculture, places an enormous strain on our planet’s resources (land, water, forests, and biodiversity).

Consequently, food companies’ innovation has been geared towards producing a plethora of plant-based products ranging from meat alternatives, dairy products (e.g., milk alternatives, ice cream, etc.) and even sushi. In order to facilitate a shift towards a plant-based food system, with the aim of meeting global climate goals, several things need to happen. For starters, new sustainable agricultural centric policies/practices will need to be implemented, as well as redirecting financial incentives to convert the quantity of land currently used for animal feed and animal production into land utilized to cultivate plant protein crops. Last of all, category leaders will need to broadcast the features and benefits of plant-based foods to consumers to drive consumption.

Sustainability continues to grow and evolve into a leading consumer criterion for food decisions. Consumer awareness regarding the negative impact of food waste on our planet has risen dramatically in the past two years – approximately 870 million people are under nourished, 2.5 billion tons of produce goes uneaten annually and it is estimated food waste contributes to 8-10% of global greenhouse emissions. Thanks to food waste’s environmental impact a new wave of innovation has emerged; upcycled foods. Food processors are taking the byproducts of manufacturing finished products, waste normally headed for landfills and converting them into functional/nutritional finished products. A primary example would be the manufacturing of fruit juices. Leftover waste which includes pulp, peels, stems, seeds, dietary fiber, etc. are being transformed into snack items. The recycling of spent grain (e.g., barley), a byproduct of the brewing industry has become an innovative technique, a process made popular by upcycled market leaders EverGrain and ReGrained. They have transformed spent grain into protein bars, beverages, baking mixes, flour, pizza crusts and pasta.  

To learn more, click on this link to the Upcycled Foods Association.

Opinions welcomed!  

The Library Lions

Blink:

Patience and Fortitude, the pair of world-renowned, imposing marble lions situated in front of the majestic Beaux-Arts library building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. They have captured the admiration of New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world since the library was dedicated back in 1911.

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I thought about the lions this morning when I went to see my physical therapist and absolutely fumbled my attempt at asking her in French, about her weekend. For the record the language barrier I experience here in Cannes has been awkward. Consequently, I decided to treat myself to French lessons to build on the few phrases I have mastered. Trust me my food French, ordering at a restaurant, boulangerie, poissonnerie, etc. is adequate. I have developed some everyday phrases when people ask me how I am. One of my favorite sayings is “Je suis content.” I have even rehearsed 10 reasons in response to the next question people always ask “Pourquoi?” Then I am lost. End of conversation.

This morning I was way off my game after two weeks of intensive lessons. My therapist knew I had enrolled in a language school and sensed I was frustrated. She told me to be patient and stick with it, French is a complicated language. It is going to take more than two weeks of lessons. Suddenly I thought about a guiding principle I value, especially in my business life Patience and Fortitude, a topic I posted about in the past.

My therapist is bi-lingual and has been helping me with my conversational French. She also taught me to get rid of my standard reply when someone asks how am I? “Je suis content!” She told me a typical French male would never say they are content. She advised me French people like to complain.

Slow down and remember: Patience and Fortitude!