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Thirsty Insights: 2019 Trends

Alex Tutungi - January 9, 2019

At Thirsty, we’ve been asking ourselves “who we are” recently. Not because we’ve lost sight of the big picture, but because we believe it’s important to constantly reevaluate where we stand amidst an ever-changing landscape. Who we were at the start of 2018 and who we are at the dawn of 2019, needs to reflect what our industry demands of us. So it makes sense then, that we would reflect on our industry as well.

We’re looking back at some of the biggest trends in business and marketing in 2018 and sharing our team’s thoughts on what this means for the future.

The Economy of Experience

We’ve all seen it. That video of someone in a room with hot pink walls, diving into a tub of sprinkles. “What is this magical land and why does it exist” I would ask, as more and more videos popped up on my news feed. It was the Museum of Ice Cream (particularly the one in Downtown Los Angeles), which is exactly what it sounds like. A monument to all things cold, creamy and topped with sprinkles–but there was something more…

Beyond the thousands of boomerangs, you saw from the pop up itself, a look at their website let you in on further collaborations with companies like Sephora, American Express and Target. When you went to the museum, companies found ways to weave their stories into the hot pink madness. The experiential economy had just entered a new frontier.

As we as consumers go further digital, in person activations like “The Museum of Ice Cream” become powerful ways of connecting with a new generation–ways for brands to make their mark on consumers while being a part of something out of the box. It’s why conventions like SXSW (South By South West) are such hot tickets: rather than stick to the conventional marketing model, attendants can expect to experience, something truly unique. Perhaps most notable was HBO’s decision to rent out an entire ghost town located a few miles outside the downtown area, to recreate as the set of their show Westworld. They shuttled attendants to the location where they could interact with the town itself. The campaign was a huge success, finding major traction at the convention and online.

It’s the brands that find a way to create an unforgettable experience, regardless of the product or service they sell, that will own the market in 2019. How do we know this isn’t going away anytime soon? A quick google search of “The Museum of…” will let you in on all the new activations that have popped up as a result of the success of experiential marketing. In fact, it’s probably about time we check out “The Museum of Pizza” that just opened up a block from our office…

Artificial Intelligence and Automation

If you’re someone who lives in constant fear of Skynet, bad news: artificial Intelligence now impacts each of us daily. From self-driving vehicles, smart assistants, chat boxes and automation, AI has become a feature in our everyday lives, whether we know it or not.

If the average household has found a way to incorporate Alexa or Google Home into their process, then it’s more important that you explore how AI might responsibly fit into your business model. While a minor application of smart technology, it indicates a shift in consumer perception and expectation. The expectation is that companies have more systems in place to make their journeys as smart and painless as possible. Anything short of that will feel distinctly out of place.

While Budweiser’s self-driving delivery truck or Barbie’s Hello Barbie smart response microphone may be top tier examples of what is possible, there are easier places to start. Try integrating a smart chat box system into your website or explore optimizing for voice search. AI is only getting smarter and it’s on us, to grow with it.

Data Privacy/Regulation

Where were you, when you received 120,394 emails in your inbox about GDPR? We all remember the onslaught of messages warning us about changing data regulations and opt-ins and European privacy policies, but what did any of it mean?

In 2018, we saw the implementation of the General Data Processing Regulation Act in Europe, a law increasing the standards of data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area. It stated that organizations had a duty to display greater transparency about the exact nature of how they handle user data, as well as give those users more power to dictate the terms with which their data was used.

While in development for some time, the law came into effect right on the heels of several massive data privacy breaches suffered by large organizations, most notably Facebook. In Facebook’s case, what was most damning was not the fact that the breaches occurred, rather the apparent lack of preventative or responsive action taken when the breach was discovered. This is exactly the type of nonresponse, the GDPR seeks to eliminate.

Though the law by definition only deals with European citizens, the reality is that the implications of it will be felt by every country in the not so distant future. While the scope of enforcement might not concern you at the moment, it will when your country adopts similar standards, or as the nature of your work with the EU grows.

As our dependence on the digital economy continues to increase, so does our vulnerability. Though perhaps a hassle to sift through at first, steps towards more robust and standard data protection policies will benefit us in the long run and should be a priority of every business owner, new or established, to become familiar with.

Value-Driven Campaigns

More and more brands are seeing the true value of value-driven campaigns. In an age where consumers are inundated with advertisements and most of our exchanges are face value in nature (“buy this,” “like that,” “subscribe now!”), it’s no wonder we find ourselves craving deeper and more emotional connections with the world around us. Value-driven marketing has created a fundamental shift in the way brands are communicating with consumers, building lifelong loyalty and adding value to consumer’s lives, even at the expense of profits.

Take, for example, one of the biggest campaigns this year and Nike’s latest risky foray into corporate social activism. Nike’s decision to build an ad campaign around Colin Kaepernick, and essentially take a side in a very divided political atmosphere with the line “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” had more positive than negative reactions. Though stock initially dropped and the campaign sparked outrage and boycotts among some of their consumers, Nike took it all in stride and has since made over $6 billion since the controversial ad aired. Most marketers will call that a win, in spite of the backlash among some consumers (including Mr. POTUS himself). Many others applauded Nike’s embrace of Kaepernick, because of the stand he’s taken, connecting with the brand on a much deeper level and building lifelong loyalty. Nike went there, and did it well, where other brands have tried and failed (i.e. Pepsi’s tone-deaf Kendall Jenner ad).

Another example of this would be Patagonia’s decision to donate the $10 million saved from 2017 tax cuts to environmental groups fighting the climate crisis. Though not exactly an ad campaign as much as a social movement, the sheer volume of news coverage and press mentions surrounding the $10 million donation, and Patagonia’s CEO Rose Marcario’s statements about it have sparked deeper conversations about the state of the planet and responsible corporate practices. And though some might not think it’s as controversial or polarizing a move (everyone wants to protect the planet right?), it was a seemingly direct dissent from current administration policies – which not everyone is happy about, but everyone is talking about.

– Christina Young, Director of Operations


Brands that create fans, won again in 2018. The biggest brands in the world know that it isn’t enough to have a great product or service: you need to create a fan culture.

Patrick Anderson, our Director of Strategy, can often be heard saying that Peloton is his “brand of the year” for this very reason. Peloton is one of the revolutionary brands of 2018 not because of the physical products they’re associated with but because of the culture of fandom and great supporting content they’ve built around them. The Peloton Bike and Treadmill are the gateways sure, but the rest is the result of an incredible brand, leveraging its ability to create fans. Peloton merchandise, Peloton content, Peloton media, are all the direct results of a brand knowing that the best way to explode, is by creating a lifestyle that sells itself.

Your brand is a fan creator, waiting to happen. 2019 is the year you believe it.

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