In partnership with the @washingtonpost we looked into movie attendance amidst the pandemic and found that both Gen Z (42%) and Millennials (43%) think it is more fun to watch a movie in a theater than at home. Read more: https://wapo.st/3x488EQ
Thanksgiving 2020 may have been different for many, but this year nearly all Americans (91%) plan to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner: 55% with less than 10 people and 71% in the town or city where they live, according to our survey w/ @Instacart. More: https://bit.ly/3x2HcFA
52% of adults said they are disappointed with celebrities who have not gotten vaccinated against COVID and 49% said famous people have a responsibility to share vaccination status with the public, according to our survey with @adage featured here: https://bit.ly/328sL7m
Millennials are the serial killers of our time. Millennials are killing home ownership, we’re killing casual dining, we’re killing wedding traditions, soda, even crime. But here’s one thing we might just save: movie theaters.
Before the pandemic, 18 percent of millennials reported going to the movies weekly, and 27 percent reported going monthly, the highest numbers in any age group. Since the pandemic, those numbers have dipped: only 8 percent of millennials have gone weekly over the last year, and only 17 percent report attending movies monthly. Gen Z (ages 18 to 24) actually polls slightly ahead on the monthly question, at 19 percent.
Numbers are down across the board, however, and the older the age group, the worse they get. The figures for baby boomers are particularly striking: whereas 26 percent of those age 57 and older said they “never” went to movies before the pandemic, that number spikes to 71 percent over the last year.
One could suggest a number of variables influencing these figures. Perhaps there is some confusion as to what’s playing where; a previous Harris Poll showed that only 34 percent of people knew the blockbuster “Dune” was out on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously. But it’s hard to look at theater hesitancy among older cohorts as anything other than a reflection of concerns about covid-19.
Older audiences are, understandably, more concerned about activities that take place in indoor public settings given that covid-19 becomes more dangerous the older you get. Of the approximately 750,000 American deaths attributed to the coronavirus by the Centers for Disease Control, almost 700,000 were people 50 and up. So even though movie theaters are among the safest indoor places you can go, some trepidation is understandable.
And theaters haven’t exactly catered to older audiences over the last decade or two. The biggest hits aren’t adult dramas or awards-season fare. Rather, multiplexes are inundated with comic book movies and franchise titles such as “The Fast and Furious” or “Jurassic Worlds” series, as well as family-friendly animated options. Look at the domestic box office for 2021; the top three films — “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and “Black Widow” — are all Marvel or Marvel-adjacent.
The fourth is “F9: The Fast Saga.”
Millennials and Gen Z-ers have fewer health worries. As Axios noted, the per-100,000 weekly death rate for vaccinated adults between the ages of 30 and 49 from July 11 to Sept. 4 was just 0.11 — meaning that roughly 1 in 1,000,000 vaccinated people died of covid-19 per week over that stretch. At this point, safety shouldn’t be a concern.
What is a concern is that irrespective of genre, audiences are more likely to want to watch movies at home than in theaters after experiencing the option during the pandemic. Audiences say they’d rather watch a comedy at home 72 to 28 percent, which is at least a little unexpected, given the joy of communal laughter — but it makes some sense if you think that big screens equal spectacle. But even spectacle polls better at home: Respondents prefer to watch sci-fi movies from the couch 65 to 35, and adventure movies 60 to 40. That said, there’s a hopeful surprise on this last question: Answers showed little difference by age group.
In other words, there’s not much evidence that younger cohorts have grown particularly disdainful of the theatrical experience in their time away, as one might anticipate from a generation raised on streaming and cell phones that has now tasted similar cinematic convenience. There’s no reason to think they can’t be convinced to come back in pre-pandemic levels. Whether that means a better food and beverage experience, a la the Alamo Drafthouse or Angelika Film Center chains, or simply releases windowed in a way that requires the most excited guests to see films in theaters so they don’t feel behind, is harder to say.
But if there is hope for theaters, it must lie in the millennials and their successors. And theater owners should keep that in mind as they scour box office results.
Facebook's big rebrand to Meta had the exact opposite effect most rebrands are meant to have, according to a new report from The Harris Poll, a company that monitors brand trust.
Per Fast Company, a report from the Harris Brand Platform showed Meta experienced a significant drop in public trust following its announcement that it was changing its corporate name.
Meta was in a PR crisis before it announced its new name. In September The Wall Street Journal started publishing leaked company documents from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who revealed her identity on October 3.
According to The Harris Brand's data, the company's trust score started to fall from 16% once The Journal started publishing stories based on Haugen's leaked documents, and hit a low of 5.8% in October — the same week Haugen testified before Congress.
The company managed to claw back some trust, climbing back to 11% in late October. Following the rebrand announcement, it dropped back down to 6.2%, per The Harris Brand's data reported by Fast Company.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the rebrand had nothing to do with the onslaught of bad press resulting from Haugen's leaked documents, telling the The Verge the current rough patch Meta found itself in had "nothing to bear" on the company's decision.
Meta has emphasized its rebrand is designed to re-position it as a "metaverse company." The word metaverse is a term borrowed from science fiction and refers to a version of the internet that people access using virtual-reality and augmented-reality headsets.
Zuckerberg started publicly talking about making Facebook a metaverse company in July, months before the Facebook PR crisis.
PR and branding experts told Insider the name change likely wouldn't be enough to shield the company's reputation, and that the company would have to do "fundamental work" to win back trust with consumers. It's also possible Zuckerberg's high public profile will interfere with any efforts to wipe Meta's slate clean.
Consumers are starting their carts for what is likely to be the most expensive Thanksgiving feast they’ve ever prepared.
Retail prices are up sharply this year—on turkeys, cranberries, pie filling, aluminum pans and more—and supplies are down, at a time when consumers are planning bigger celebrations with more friends and family than then they did a year ago, when the coronavirus pandemic limited the size of groups.
Marketers determined to make a success of the lucrative food holiday should approach consumers with empathy—a coupon or a recipe idea wouldn’t hurt either, according to a new Ad Age-Harris Poll and interviews with food experts.
The poll indicates shoppers are significantly affected by supply chain gluts and inflation this year but could be influenced by marketing: 58% say they could be swayed by advertisers while they work to fill their carts, fridges and pantries. The same poll indicated that 80% of Thanksgiving shoppers have paid more for food than they had anticipated. Two-thirds of them say they’ve used a digital or physical coupon. More than half (56%) have struggled to find an item, and nearly half (46%) have adjusted their menu plans because of this.
For food retailers and packaged goods brands, this is an opportunity, according to food experts. Resigned to paying more, consumers may well decide their best option is to “trade up” into pricier categories like organics, or splurge on fresh prepared foods, which tend to carry higher price tags.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, prices for food at home are up by 4.9% versus a year ago, primarily as a result of soaring meat prices, although prices are on the rise throughout the store.
Consumers for the most part have been accepting of climbing prices—a reality that in part explains phenomenal business results from both brands and food retailers in the face of otherwise staggering challenges, and suggests that between government stimulus, savings and less budget diverted to indulges such as dining out and out-of-home entertainment like concerts, sports games and travel, consumer spending power is there.
FMI, the trade group representing supermarket retailers, in a release last week acknowledged that while more than half of Thanksgiving shoppers (53%) have concerns about inflation this year, the same was true of 40% of shoppers last year. And while dwindling supply is an issue for some 43% of shoppers, 39% felt the very same way a year ago.
According to the Ad Age-Harris Poll, Thanksgiving shoppers say they have been struggling to secure canned ingredients like pie filling and cranberry jelly (47%); turkey (43%); shelf-stable dry goods like stuffing mix and pasta (42%); bakery items like pies (40%); and premade foods like pie crusts and bake-and-serve rolls (40%). The poll was conducted online from Nov. 3-Nov. 4 among 1,125 U.S. adults.
Sufficient retail supply of these and other popular items have been compromised by a variety of knots in the supply chain including shortages of labor, transportation and packaging, plant slowdowns and wholesalers delivering less than full orders, according to sources.
Reluctant to stimulate demand for items in short supply, retailers have less incentive to entice shoppers with sale prices and deals.
“We’ve seen promotion frequency and quantities decreasing significantly,” said Edris Bemanian, CEO of the pricing software firm Engage3. “We’ve seen the depth of discounts decreasing significantly. At the same time, we are seeing a rise in base shelf prices. Also interesting, though unsurprising, is that categories with high out-of-stock levels are taking significantly faster price increases. We've seen all of the above most impacting retailers that have typically relied on promotions to drive their price image.”
Soaring turkey prices
According to Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of the consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, sale prices on items like turkeys are less intense this year. At supermarket retailers like Giant Food and Weis Markets, for example, a turkey reward that cost a shopper 300 “points” last year (or $300 in eligible purchases over a specified period) will cost 400 points this year. Brands have similarly reduced the intensity of discounts.
“Brand manufacturers have gotten away from the average deal being 20%, or 20 cents on every dollar of sales pre-COVD, and up to 25% in Thanksgiving,” Flickinger said. “Brands today are only promoting at levels at 5% to 10%. So in addition to consumers paying more for food, fuel and energy, the consumer has a double price increase: There’s the ongoing inflation, and the second, hidden increase is that the big brand manufacturers are not promoting at the level they used to.”
“Protein prices are way, way up,” noted Neil Stern, CEO of Good Food Holdings, the parent of West Coast supermarket chains Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres, Metropolitan Market, New Seasons Market, and New Leaf Community Markets. “I expect retailers to keep bird prices somewhat in line and try to take prices up elsewhere.”
The USDA last week said average retail turkey prices are $1.41 for birds of 8 to 16 pounds—up from $1.15 last year; and $1.39 for 16-24 pound toms, up from $1.16 a year ago. Demand, the agency said, was “steady to firm” until Thanksgiving.
Kyle Lock, senior director, retail marketing at Butterball, acknowledged in an interview that “it would be reasonable to think there would be appreciation in costs for turkeys this Thanksgiving,” but expects retail stores will continue to feature turkey as a means of drawing shoppers to buy other items that go along them. “So will we see some appreciation in prices? Yes,” he said. “Will consumers be able to find good deals? Also yes.” (Ad Age spotted Butterball turkeys advertised as low as 87 cents per pound at discounters like Aldi and Lidl; Target had a private-label selection at the same price.)
He suggests shopping early: Butterball anticipates that virtually all the inventory it delivers to the market this year will sell.
Shopping reminders and recipe tips
According to IRI, Thanksgiving product categories with “elevated and worsening out-of-stock rates” include whipped toppings, liquid gravy, frozen pie/pastry shells, refrigerated pies and bakery pies. Promotional and pricing activity in these categories reflects these shortages: Retailers are running between 1 and 9 percentage points fewer promotions in these five categories compared to last year. On average, prices in these five categories have risen about 3.6% over this time last year, IRI said, with frozen pie/pastry shells showing the highest pricing increase of 6% over the year-ago period.
The situation demands effective marketing—but the good news for food brands is that 58% of Americans report being swayed by advertisements, according to the Ad Age-Harris Poll. Effective purchase drivers, according to the poll, are those providing related benefits like a recipe or décor inspiration (47%); reminders to shoppers to pick up a particular item (45%) or a straight discount (43%). Brand affinity doesn’t break the top three reasons.
This season is also illustrating the degree to which food retailers have shifted promotions from traditional weekly sales flyers to digital offers delivered through apps.
Sprouts Farmers Markets, the Phoenix-based natural foods retailer, is one such example. The chain last year discontinued its weekly flyer, which CEO Jack Sinclair said tended to draw bargain-hunters whose baskets were unprofitable. Sprouts has since struggled to draw shoppers in the numbers they once did, but its profits are soaring.
“In past years, promotions might have been communicated in the Sprouts’ printed weekly ad. Sprouts now offers weekly specials and ads exclusively on Sprouts.com, the Sprouts app, and via email every Tuesday to those with a Sprouts account,” Gil Phipps, Sprouts’ chief marketing officer, said in an email. “These channels are designed to offer our customers insight into trending foods and the latest in healthy living. We also engage customers with sale details through SMS text. SMS text is our fastest-growing digital marketing channel, with more than 70% growth this year alone.”
Sprouts isn’t giving up deals entirely. Its subscribers are now receiving a direct mail promotion including $30 worth of coupons that can be used in-store and on shop.sprouts.com now through the middle of December. The mailer includes details on Sprouts’ pre-order offerings, specialty items like Cellar Picks wines. The retailer is also offering five fully-prepared meal options.
Retailers are also urging shoppers to stock up ahead of the holiday. Kroger for example is offering a variety of Thanksgiving prep items like Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, Daisy Sour Cream and Reynolds aluminum foil for 50-cents off when they buy any 10 items.
At Butterball, the marketing challenge lies not in selling more birds, but in serving the shoppers who buy them, according to Lock. The brand’s Turkey Talk Line—which offers expert help in preparing meals—has answered nearly 3 million calls since its launch as a phone help line in 1981. The company has since evolved the Talk Line to a multimedia enterprise with videos, tips and tricks available at places like Pinterest and Tiktok. Help is also available through text messages and an Alexa skill.
Lock said he sees the Talk Line as a critical element of having built customer trust in its brand.
“Butterball recognition is almost universal in America. But then you’ve got to find what it is that’s special inside of it,” he said. “One of the things we realized is, we’re human. The Butterball Turkey Talk Line was always about people helping people. And even as we’ve added technology to the way that we connect to people when they need us most, we kept the humanity. There’s a genuineness that’s born out of our point of origin. It’s something we have kept consistent as we’ve evolved and adapted.”
Read the full story at Ad Age.
According to the Harris Brand Platform, trust in Facebook was starting to rise again until the company announced a rebrand.
Back on October 28, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg led the company’s virtual Connect conference, which not only showed the world its vision for the metaverse, but also used the occasion to announce its new company name Meta.
While on one optimistic hand, it marks a significant change and evolution of the company’s goals and trajectory, and a glimpse into its desired future. On the other, more cynical hand, it’s also a blatant attempt to disassociate from all the bad press surrounding the Facebook name. However, a new report from the Harris Brand Platform, a syndicated brand tracker from The Harris Poll that captures the emotional attributes that consumers associate with specific brands, says brand trust among those familiar with the company actually fell after the rebrand.
According to the Harris Brand Platform, Facebook’s trustworthy score began to fall from 16% after The Wall Street Journal‘s “Facebook Files” series on various revelations—including how the company knew Instagram was “toxic” for teens—and hit a low of 5.8% during the week of the Congressional hearings and testimony of whistleblower Frances Haugen in the first week of October. That marked its lowest score since the start of the pandemic. There was a brief bounce back up to 11%, but then as Facebook announced its rebrand to Meta, its trustworthy score has once again dipped to 6.2%.
Last week Meta launched a new brand campaign, aiming to start with a clean slate on its way to the metaverse.
Read the full story at Fast Company.
Music-oriented branding punches through in ways that other kinds of celebrity endorsements do not.
We’re in the musical golden years—anyone can listen to any piece of music anywhere at any time—when most Americans are listening to music on a daily basis, according to a recent Harris Poll survey. Importantly for advertisers, music’s ubiquity and musicians’ popularity offer a unique opportunity to punch through the background noise and connect with consumers.
Whether it’s by using a popular tune instead of a cloying jingle in their ads or employing a singer as a spokesperson, music-oriented branding punches through in ways that other kinds of celebrity endorsements do not. Spotify has begun to push a similar message to chief marketing officers via its “All Ears on You” campaign that promotes the benefits of this super-engaged audience.
Why? Music connects with people in ways that other mediums do not. “Music is incredibly personal and all about self-expression,” said Mike Dunn, executive vice president of Music and Entertainment at the creative marketing agency Rogers & Cowan. “Brands have an opportunity to make an emotional connection by bringing audiences closer to the music and artists they love,” Dunn said. Indeed, 85% of music-listeners agreed that the music they listen to reflects who they are.
This is especially true of younger listeners—millennials and Gen Zers—who are more likely than the middle-aged and elderly to frequently listen to music (85% versus 72%). This audience is virtually all ears, but the relative flexibility afforded by streaming—unlimited streaming choice rather than a passive radio broadcast—means that advertisers need a new approach of reaching them. They authentically connect with younger Americans by taking a three-part approach focused on their desire to discover music, partner with musicians and support music-based social initiatives.
You’ve got to find young Americans where they are listening to music—and it’s not on the radio. While 78% of Gen X, boomers and the Silent Generation said that they regularly listen to music on the radio, only 55% of millennials and Zers do so. Instead, you can find younger ears on YouTube (64% currently use it for music versus 50% of older generations), Spotify (57%-27%), Apple Music (32%-18%) and SoundCloud (27%-7%).
Millennials and Gen Zers are also much more likely than older generations to discover new music on social media (56% versus 40%) or on streaming platforms (51%-38%). TikTok users, in fact, are among the heaviest daily music listeners (90%), with nearly three-quarters of users discovering new music via the platform. Compared to the general population, TikTok users over index on R&B, Hip Hop, Alternative, and World Music—leading the trends around favoring K-pop and Afrobeat.
There is strong upside to seeking these younger listeners out: They are significantly more responsive than the over-40 crowd to music-based advertising appeals. Pluralities said that hearing a favorite song in an ad makes them more likely to shop for that brand (49% versus 41% of older listeners) as would a musician being its spokesperson (46% versus 31%). And it’s not just a matter of celebrity: Non-musical star-endorsements would sway only 32% of Gen Zers and millennials.
But reaching this audience will increasingly require a deft and creative touch: They are much more likely than older consumers to want to shun traditional advertising. An overwhelming 70% of under-40 music listeners said that they would pay extra to ditch ads when listening to music, as opposed to 44% of Gen Xers, boomers and members of the Silent Generation, who never had a choice but to endure words from our sponsors. The generation gap was similar for television and movies.
One possible avenue of appeal: Back local music-based social initiatives. This could be anything from supporting a local music venue to creating a scholarship for young musicians. A plurality of Zers and millennials said that this would make them more likely to engage with a brand. “Gen Zers are still figuring out who they are and the things they like the most,” Dunn said. “The smartest brands are enhancing consumer experiences and authentically engaging fans by aligning with what’s most important to them.” By acting now, brands can forge enduring links with this rising generation of consumers as their tastes mature and gel.
In other words, advertisers can’t always reach who they want, but if they try sometimes they can reach who they need.
Read the full story at Ad Age.