Author Archives: Anandi Vara

Porn, That’s SFW

It’s 2017, and I’m drunk on a rainy night in Nolita, NY. The glow of its black and orange logo is shining in my face. I squint for a moment as I think my eyes have deceived me. I wipe the raindrops off my face to get a better look. No, it’s real? Pornhub has opened a New York clothing boutique. I go inside to get out of the rain and for my curiosity. My expectations of an empty store with maybe a few curious tourists and single men with such a strong cologne scent that it could burn out my retinas, is wrong. I am wrong.

What I found was a store full of young, affluent Millennials purchasing branded bucket hats and hoodies. I said to myself, “this will not last; it’s just a fad, like skinny jeans.” I purchase my branded t-shirt, leave, to never think about it again…  

That was until Shakedown arrived in 2020. An award-winning documentary by LA director Leilah Weinraub. The film captures the cultural shifts within an underground lesbian club over several years.

And guess what? It was streamed for free on Pornhub as the platform’s first non-pornographic feature. 

Traditional NSFW brands are now producing and housing SFW content. This is not a fad; it’s the future. 

OnlyFans, often cited as the “Patreon for porn,” is now home to one of my favourite podcasts. And it’s non-porn related. The pod’s primary subject matter is a dumpster fire of a reality TV show, 90DaysFiancé. *Maybe it’s a bad habit, but I tend to fast forward to find the best bits.* 

If you’re too afraid to ask your friends and loved ones, what is OnlyFans? It began as a creator-first platform used by comedians and fitness models to help monetize their craft. But now, it’s widely known as a platform for personal, indie, uncensored adult content. Or, as I like to call it, good home cooking. 

So, why are porn sites now the best places to release non-porn content? First, we need to look at the consumer.

Traditionally Millennials have been hesitant to pay for news and entertainment but are willing (more than Gen X or Baby Boomers) to pay top dollar for experiences. A report by the Global Web Index found that millennials care less about finding a low price and are more willing than other generations to pay a premium for convenience, immediacy, and content they care for. Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub, reports that millennials make up 55% of his site’s free users but 66% of its premium users. 

While our mothers and fathers were wearing disguises trying to purchase their marital aids in unmarked, brown paper bags, Millennials and Gen Zs are out in the open. We have helped rub out many of the stigmas around porn and sex work. From the mainstream reporting of former Disney Star Bella Thorn, who earned two million dollars in the first week of starting an Only Fans page, to the TikTok trend of pretending to be “An Accountant.” It’s more than ok to talk about porn and sex work online in a positive way.

Millennials and Gen Z also actively search for porn; a joint Google and Columbia University study found between 2005-2014 that porn sites consist of about 4% of the internet. But also about 20% of all searches on mobiles. *A healthy reminder to disinfect your phone.*

So, you have an active Millennial audience willing to be open, positive and pay for premium experiences. And who are regularly visiting porn sites; why not offer them tailored SFW content. It makes sense. 

Dropping a new album, showing your limited run of couture dresses, crafting an entertaining and engaging blog; don’t expect people to be excited on the traditional media platforms. Come and release it on porn.

History suggests that marketing is always a few steps behind culture, but you’re telling me that a banner ad on the Toronto Star will ever compete with a sponsored post on Pornhub; I think not. 

Culture is shifting; porn platforms are progressing, and marketing (like always) will have to catch up.

A Year into the Pandemic: How are People Staying Inspired?

Exploring the effects of your environment on creativity and productivity.

As human beings, everything and everyone we come in contact with each day ultimately has a cause and effect on our behaviour, perception, choices and cognition. This relationship between our physical surroundings and how we think, feel and act (by definition, the study of Environmental Psychology) has a significant impact on our well-being and output as people. 

Prior to March 2020, many of us had become accustomed to a certain freedom of choice about the environments around us: what city to travel to, what restaurant to eat out at, which gallery to visit, what concert to attend, and who to spend time with. On some level, we had control over how to diversify our stimulation in order to maximize our happiness. Then the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. What happened next, we’re all too aware of. The world shut its proverbial doors, cutting us off from the fluid access to activities and people we’ve traditionally sought out to enhance our own personal worlds with. Self-isolation and stay-at-home orders meant that diversity of stimulation flatlined, fast. Even the vast landscape of the internet is now a personalized sea of sameness, thanks to sophisticated algorithms serving us exactly what we want to see, read and hear. This is a scary thought when you consider that creativity—the ability to put together ideas in new, useful combinations to solve problems—is augmented when we are exposed to new environments, situations and ideas.

One of the reasons I loved going to an office each day, pre-pandemic, is that it was a constant source of inspiration. Our shared desk pods and open concept rooms contributed to the collaborative environment, and the buzz of productivity could be felt as coworkers tossed around ideas and built each other up. Our work space, like many others, had been socially engineered to stimulate encounters that spark innovation. In essence, the employees of Mint were absorbed in a creative space five days a week that was specifically designed to positively impact our collective performance and generate ideas. Then of course, without warning, offices across the globe, including ours, were sent to work from home. All those thoughtfully designed environments now sit unused, as the stay-at-home workforce has adjusted to virtual life. 

Given that our physical and social surroundings correlate to our output, how has the pandemic and stay-at-home orders affected our relationship to creativity and productivity? How are people closing the “inspiration gap” when you’re not really supposed to leave the house? 

Keen to learn more about maximizing the output of creativity and productivity in a personal environment that currently has a stimulation diversity gap, I looked to the remote working experts and creative office expats for suggestions to emulate. The good thing is, we now have control over our work environment—it can be what you want it to be. (That is, until the kids, cats or dogs roll in.) 

Get Outside (or at least let the outdoors in)

Fun fact: interacting with nature decreases stress, stimulates the senses and relieves attention fatigue, leading to increased creativity. Plus, it’s always changing, so from day to day your experience will differ more outside than it will inside. Of course, back-to-back meeting days happen and sometimes those mid-afternoon walks just aren’t possible. WFH experts have a suggestion: bring the outside, inside, by designing your workspace to imitate elements of the outdoors. Introduce greenery through plants. Open a window to let the breeze roll in. And lighting is key: studies have shown that exposure to natural light can increase productivity up to 40%. Try placing your desk in front of a window to maximize on that Vitamin D. No access to sunlight in your WFH situation? Recreating natural light through artificial lighting achieves a similar effect (just make sure its “blue light enriched” and at least 17,000k). 

Create Boundaries 

In this virtual world, the lines between our professional and personal lives are more blurred than ever. Many of us no longer have rituals, like leaving the office at the end of a long day, that signal to our brains we can switch tracks from office to home. We have entered into an era where we work at home, and home at work. However, without that physical demarcation line between work and home, burnout—a killer of creativity and productivity—is a real risk. Experts suggest combating this by creating physical boundaries in your home; namely, designating a space for work (and work only) that is distinct from the rest of your living space. That could be a repurposed closet, a corner of a room, or a makeshift workstation that comes out each morning and gets put away each evening. Whatever works in your living quarters, respect that space as your office.

Switch Up Your Environment

The above being said, creativity feeds on difference. Working in exactly the same spot, in the same sweatpants, staring at the same walls day in and day out can put our brains on autopilot, stifling our ability to ideate novel creative solutions. Try switching things up form time to time: move your desk setup to a different room or floor (simply moving to a different part of a room does the trick, too). Listen to background music that makes you happy. Light candles or use essential oils in a variety of scents to introduce new smells. Add to your space in ways that spark tiny triggers of joy and interest, like integrating items that move or inspire you into your workspace. Shifting out of your routine setting in even the tiniest of ways can make a surprisingly big impact.

As another great resource to support our continued stay-at-home journey, check out an article my colleague Anandi Vara wrote on Mental Health and the Digital Age, with some fantastic tips on stepping away from the screens, and receiving your information in a variety of ways to diminish virtual burnout and stress. 

For many of us, this past year has been one of monotony. It’s easy to feel like creativity has been another casualty of Covid-19 and until we have widespread access to a vaccine, this abbreviated way of living remains relatively status quo. However, crises can be a benefactor of innovation. And most certainly, there are ways to take the positive aspects of being locked down (yes, there are a few), and optimize for your own creativity. We have never experienced a way of life that has come so without an established playbook, that opens us up to new ways of receiving information, thinking, and considerations on a macro level. That in itself is an expression of creativity. So as we continue to ride the waves of Covid, we need to continue to safeguard our environments to feed creativity, and be willing to explore the boundaries of our own (albeit limited) worlds right now. 

Hell Raisers: What Can Brands Learn from Dancing with the Devil?

Just over a week ago, Lil Nas X graced us with his presence in the Twitterverse to premier his new single – now gay anthem – “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)”. The song itself is what a lot of music is about: love. However, the video is what blew up our feeds and had everyone from your Aunt Karen to Nike talking about it. 

The video is a crystal-encrusted Missy Elliott (via ‘Work It’) inspired nod to the story of Lucifer and his infamous fall from heaven. The scenes from the video depict Lil Nas X in the role of Lucifer ascending down a stripper pole on his way to hell. Spoiler: he lands on the lap of the devil, seduces him (and all of us) and ultimately takes his place on the throne of Hell. The film is fun, sexy, wild entertainment…And yes, set a bomb off on the internet. 

Maybe we on the Mint Strategy team had a case of Baader-Meinhof. Maybe it was the Silicon Valley algorithm gods creating our fate. But after watching “MONTERO,” the devil started showing up everywhere:

Okay, so why is the devil so hot right now in western culture, and what does that mean – if anything – for brands?

“Satan is a symbol of rebellion against blind faith”
– Penny Lane, Director, dope ass human 

We started at the beginning: who is Lucifer and what has his role been in society after he became Satan? And most importantly, why is this relevant today? 

What we found: 

We found that Satan is THE OG rebel. It’s quite possible that the devil invented ‘punk’*. Satan was and continues to be “a symbol of rebellion against blind faith” as director Penny Lane puts it. And, oh boy, if 2020 – 2021 has shown us anything, it’s that we, collectively, are embracing the best parts of hellish-rebellion. 

2020 forced us to look at what we’ve been blindly faithful to—systems,  institutions, status quos and expectations—and question ourselves to reflect on who we’ve been and what could/should change. The result has been continuous acts of ‘rebellion’ that shift societal thinking. 

For the first time in a long time, society is continually supporting trans-rights, the national acknowledgement of missing and murdered indigenous women, the cries for the abolishment of racist systems beyond the US and putting a bright spotlight on the climate crisis.
We are continuing to question and challenge the world as it is and rebelling against blind faith. 

Stunning. Good job, society. Love that for us! 

Why it matters: 

Do brands have a part to play in society’s rebellion? The short answer: hell yes.

Now we don’t think sticking devil horns on everything in your next campaign is necessarily the move, unless you’re, or Dirt Devil, but we do think what society and Satan’s trying to tell us about the value of active rebellion against blind faith is something brands should at least think about. 

It’s actually pretty simple if you think about it, it’s what we as strategists and marketers should always be doing: 

Listen up to what’s happening around you

Reflect on it (don’t just blindly follow)  

And then, rebel.

Brands these days are made to lead. Or, as the devil would say, raise a little Hell.

*we don’t actually have any evidence that Satan invented punk, we just thought it was a cool way to describe rebellion, don’t @ us.