Citizen Rundown: Vol. 3

July 20, 2023
Woman on Bench

Welcome to The Rundown by Citizen, a monthly round up of conversations that count. We’re offering bite-sized big thinking on recent headlines from around the world to help keep you in touch for your next water cooler, virtual boardroom or dinner party chat.

Are You On This Thread(s)?

When we opened Instagram to discover Threads was live, a ton of us (over 150 million to-date) downloaded and raced over to… well, we’re still not sure what we’re doing. We were, and still are, figuring that out together: people and brands alike. So far, we have a lot of questions, and a lot of ~energy~ when it comes to Threads, but there’s still a lot to be determined. Our digital team has shared some early thoughts on the platform’s trajectory and what it means for brands.

The Good:

Finally, a Twitter alternative with widespread adoption power and longevity potential thanks to its data and scale. This could mean alts like Mastadon and Bluesky and even Twitter itself become obsolete, or scale down in active usership to become more exclusive to specific interest groups. Zuckerberg’s commitment to keeping Threads a safe space has us hopeful that discourse here can stay friendly and productive.

The Bad:

The infrastructure potential may be there, but features today are pretty bare bones to-date. The speculation that Threads was rush-released to capitalize on Twitter backlash for capping the number of Tweets viewed per day is a sound strategy, but with access to Meta infrastructure, the expectation that Threads will scale features to make our experience more tailored and engaging is high – they need to work quickly. Talk about just how safe our information is with Threads is making headlines – this leads to questions about if and when the EU will allow the tech to go live in Europe.

The Crystal Ball:

The anything-goes experimentation phase has been fun, but users (especially brands and creators) will need to develop an identity and a compelling story if they want to retain  the engaged audience they’ve largely been gifted via Instagram. We follow the people we follow on Instagram for different reasons than those we follow or interact with on Twitter – keeping up with friends, family and creators through imagery is a very different use case and payoff than what will keep us coming back to Threads.

The Bottom Line:

If Threads plans to maintain an unprecedented active usership, which is already waning, we’re going to need more control over the content we see, and those who want to maintain engagement are going to need to adapt accordingly. Ultimately, time will tell how many of us are truly “pro-Threads” vs. just “anti-Musk”, and the proof will be in usership and engagement.

Get Your Brand In The Game

Remember when every brand became a tech brand? Well, we’re definitely on the upswing of this same trend in gaming. Brand integrations with Twitch and online games is nothing new. But, the brands and categories recognizing their opportunity to integrate are much broader than ever before: major beauty, food, and fashion brands, such as KFC and Gucci,  are seeing gaming as a first step into the Metaverse and a chance to make a powerful connection with audiences they’re working hard to engage.

The groundswell for brands to get into gaming is largely because the Gen Z gaming population extends far beyond what we tend to apply to a stereotypical gamer: research into US gamers found that 76% of them are following fashion brands and influencers, with 66% treating themselves to luxury branded products.

One of the most popular integration avenues is through the popular game Roblox: brands from NASCAR to Walmart and H&M are among the 37 brands who have collaborated in the space since 2021. This comes as no surprise for those eager to establish themselves prominently in the minds of Gen Zs: recent research states that as many as 84% of Gen Zs in the US play or have played Roblox.

When it comes to the payoff potential of gaming collaborations, it is definitely there given the sheer size of the audience: a recent Levi’s campaign to promote its 501 Jeans range across popular mobile saw great success with its efforts.  but the cost of investment is not low: setting up a world in the game could cost anywhere from $500K to $1 million and take between 4 to 8 months!

It’s clear that the ROI potential for brands who step into the gaming space exists, and that no longer applies to the typical like snacking and energy drinks. However, whether it’s worth the upfront investment still lies in determining a thoughtful approach and genuine connection that the game’s users will appreciate.

It’s Barbie’s World

More than 500,000 articles have been written about Barbie or with Barbie as the main subject since the announcement of the launch of the movie. However, only 1.4% of those articles have anything to do with the storyline of the movie or the movie trailer. The Warner Bros marketing team has taken all the most loved elements of Barbie and brought them to life. And just like Barbie, they brought some friends along for the ride too. Over 100 brands have signed deals with Mattel just around the name of Barbie for the launch of the movie. From NYX Cosmetics to ColdStone and Impala to Progressive Insurance it seems every brand wants a slice of the Barbie dream.

Barbie has been a worldwide phenomenon since her inception with Mattel back in 1959. Fast forward to 2023, and consumers are still obsessed. Even if they weren’t, this launch makes it hard to at least not engage.  Marketing behind the Barbie movie is now allowing consumers to live exactly like Barbie in every part of their lives. Barbiecore hit the scene a few years back in fashion and has been ramping up to this moment. Now the notion of ‘think pink’ has gone beyond a full outfit in Barbie’s favorite color and can be seen in everything from beverages like Swoon, vacation spots on AirBnB, sauces at Burger King, and home screens on Google. The marketing for this movie is actually everywhere!

A smaller brand whose products may never have been seen in a larger store or online can now align with a huge name that will get top viewing. The star studded cast, hype from the original Barbie product, and a leading woman director have made connecting with Barbie in 2023 a no-brainer for brands. But the brand that will ultimately make out the best from this is indeed Barbie. With billions of impressions and mentions combined, Barbie is being talked about by a diverse array of media outlets and audiences. Dolls still fly off the shelves and after this movie, it is safe to say that they won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Maybe It’s… Fake?

The odds are high to have already seen the latest campaign from Maybelline for its Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara. Video of the activation has over 60,000 views on TikTok alone. Two of the most iconic UK images of a red double-decker bus and the tube can be found taken over by a huge version of Maybelline mascara in the video on TikTok and Instagram feeds. This campaign may now have consumers rushing to the comments before ever believing an out-of-home activation again.

A great mascara should make it difficult to tell if eyelashes are the real deal or a good set of falsies. So when this exact notion was given in a brief, the team went full steam ahead. Through the use of CGI technology, Maybelline created a very realistic version of their product overtaking London. The caption subtly gives away the actual reality “All it takes is a few coats to take your lashes on a ride to a surreal world,” It begs the question if Maybelline was forthcoming enough about this activation or if CGI imagery of this nature is harmless.

CGI and other AI softwares are allowing advertisers to really flex their creativity and take a campaign to the next level without breaking the bank. Brands can do a simple retouch to a photoshoot with CGI or create a whole new planet. The options are endless. When used responsibly, brands can still get an authentic message across with CGI. On the other hand, false claims can easily be made or messages misconstrued when taken too far. In Maybelline’s case, consumers were not too upset and experts shared that more people would likely engage with this campaign online than they would in person. An answer to the question of diving into deep fake territory is hopefully around the corner.

Batteries > Being Basic

Vanderpump Rules has been on the scene for quite some time now, but it has been all the rage over the last few months with notorious quotes turned into memes and a twisting storyline that was developing by the hour. Cast member Ariana Madix was the focal point of a few recent pivotal arguments and a cheating scandal – dubbed “Scandoval” – with ten-year boyfriend Tom Sandoval. Following the drama and subsequent breakup, Sandoval shared his feelings on Madix not appreciating his contributions to the household in a clip that would go on to get 96,000 views on TikTok, where he said he was always the one to buy common household items, such as paper towels, toilet paper, and batteries. Influencers jumped on this, creating videos of their own, and one video in particular titled ‘How to Not Get Cheated on 101’ prompted Duracell to comment “Guaranteed to last 10+ years, unlike Tom”, which received over 12,000 likes. With the cultural moment, conversation brewing, and the show in season, Duracell knew it was time to strike. In partnership with VaynerMedia and EssenceMediacom, the team at Citizen Relations got to work on activating the brand in an authentic, yet unexpected, way.

A quick-turn combination of social media posts and commercial slots featuring Madix and timed to align with the Vanderpump Rules reunion was the way in. Fans who were deep in the drama immediately understood all of the references, and those who didn’t quickly got up to speed. The content, in which Madix says “I’m done with anything basic…I buy my own batteries now, and I prefer Duracell,” was picked up by a variety of news outlets including PRWeek, USA Today, and Insider – amassing 80 total pieces of coverage and 5.39 billion earned media impressions. The social content alone received over 19 million views, 7,000 comments – including ones from notable brands closely associated with the comments made by Sandoval such as Bounty and PaperMate – 95,000 shares on Instagram and TikTok, and brought Duracell 3,600 new followers across TikTok and Instagram.

This was a can’t-miss moment for the brand and was brought to life in only a few weeks. With a finger on the pulse and consumer attention all in one place, Duracell was right in the middle of the drama, in the best way possible.

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