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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 Match.com, 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.

Hustle Culture and the Working Mom

Hustle Culture: it’s a term that has been thrown around a lot over the last decade. Its followers deemed “working 9-5” as old school and worshipped the belief that more hours equalled more productivity and a better worker. Skip lunch, use your commute, open the laptop after dinner – all rituals of the hustle culture. But this belief system has caused widespread stress and mental burnout amongst Millennials. And during the era of COVID-19, this has only been exacerbated by tearing down the few boundaries we had left between work and home life. It’s no wonder the hot rise of the wellness awakening has ascended.

Contrary to what the principles of Hustle Culture would have you believe, more often the result has adversely impacted people’s ability to produce valuable work and have a meaningful life. According to Psychology Today, “if you’re a hustle culture member, studies show that you’re cutting your career short, slowly destroying your mental and physical health, and harming your relationships.” At Mint we understand this, which is why programs like wellness days are in place over and above allotted vacation and sick days – to ensure our team takes the time needed to mentally recover. Because frankly, if you don’t take time to restore your mental energy, you will never be able to fully succeed in your career. 

That being said, Hustle Culture is not a new phenomenon. We all know that women’s roles in the workplace have grown exponentially. However, the division of domestic family life responsibilities hasn’t kept up with this shift, specifically during this shitshow of a global pandemic all parents are facing. According to a Canadian survey conducted by Plan International Canada, 81% of women polled still feel pressured to shoulder the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and caring for children.  Meaning working moms pioneered the hustle decades ago, and have been hustling ever since. 

To be a mom in the workforce, is to carry an enormous load to make it all work. This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been improvements. There have been. We know that the traditional family norms of the Leave it to Beaver era are long gone. That today, many Millennial dads are with it enough to realize they need to pull their weight in the family dynamic – now more than ever. And I myself, am fortunate enough to have a dedicated partner that supports our family wholeheartedly. 

But mother’s naturally carry more than fathers.

Mother’s intuition is a scientific fact; the notion of making  decisions without analytical reasoning, and instead listing to your gut.  According to Sarah Blaaffer Hrdy, Ph.D and author of Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape Human Species, “mothers are likely to have different priorities or biases that cause them to notice or focus on different things.” 

From pregnancy to early stages of motherhood, our bodies and minds morph into what I can only describe as superpower status. And while anxiety can get in the way, a mom’s sixth sense primes us for responsiveness in the real world. I believe this intuitive level of responsiveness is what makes women phenomenal workers and entrepreneurs. 

Even though women have made great strides, there is still a perception, specifically among Millennial women, that having a family will have a negative impact on their careers. In fact, a recent study conducted in partnership with SoFi and Modern Fertility found that 3 out of 5 respondents were willing to delay starting a family until they reached a certain job title or level within their career.  Why is that the case? Well, the majority of respondents claimed the delay was a financial decision. Kids are expensive, sure. But, the reality is the gender wage gap is still a huge problem in North America.  In fact, according to a Princeton study, the gender wage gap is largely due to childbirth. After a woman has her first child, their earning potential drops 20% less than their male counterparts over the course of their careers. For each child a mother has, their earning power drops 4%, while the opposite appears to be true for men, who actually see an income rise by 6%.

This burning sentiment that women still have to choose I have found in my own experience to be, quite frankly, complete bullshit. I believe mothers can not only “have it all,” but in fact, are better workers because we are mothers. 

We are the OG hustlers.  

When women tackle work life with the same gusto, organization and ambition as home life, you have a recipe for success. I’ve broken it down to five key traits:

We are Efficient Hustlers

Nobody gets shit done like a mom. We are focused and task-oriented to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I love when I get to collaborate with another mother because we are always on the same wavelength – get in and get out – because we know, we got other shit to do.  

We are the Queens of Multitasking 

I’ve always described my brain as having one hundred computer tabs open at any given time. Balancing work, home and personal tasks all in one foul swoop. A recent study conducted by HSE University found that women are able to juggle more with ease than our male counterparts.  Now this isn’t necessarily because we were born this way. There is a lot of conflicting data to support whether it’s nature vs, nurture. But my take is that we have no other choice. We have to quickly adapt, learn and perfect this skill once our little nuggets enter the world. Whether it was how to feed the baby while folding the laundry or in my case, how to run a business while changing a diaper. And with time, multitasking became a second language. And the ability to multitask in today’s work environment is an extremely valuable skill. 

We Think Before We Do

Ever observed a mom with a pen and notebook? Of course, you have. Lists are our currency. We write everything down so we can remember all of the things on our ever growing do-to lists. Pack lunches, get skates sharpened, book dentist appointments, finalize the presentation, etc..   And it’s because of this ritual that we are more methodical to our approach to life in general. We tackle work the same way we tackle home –organization, scheduling, and methodical thinking.  We can’t help ourselves, it’s what we do best.  And it’s this level of thoughtfulness that makes us amazing worker bees. 

We are Resilient AF

Adapt. Adapt. Adapt. That’s what us moms have to do on a daily basis. Even the most organized, OCD moms get curve balls thrown at them on the regular and we need to think quickly on our feet to figure out solutions to our daily problems. Sometimes we struggle, for sure. But it’s our trained ability to be flexible, resourceful and innovative that allows us to move through challenges and roadblocks at work with ease and grace.  

We are Emotionally Intelligent Nurturers 

As a mother, being intuitive and empathetic is kind of a non-negotiable trait.  We have to manage irrational emotions from our little ones on a daily basis.  So, when moms get to work, they bring that nurturing mentality to the workforce, which results in optimal connection, loyalty and trust with our work family—whether they be colleagues, bosses or clients.  We have the ability to understand where people are coming from on a deeper level, and the patience to find out. And for someone like me, who has to manage many personalities on a daily basis, this skill comes in handy. 

Now most working moms know life isn’t always easy. The days can feel long and draining.  Especially in 2021 when we have to be workers, parents and teachers all in one foul swoop. But for me, I love getting to fill my cup by doing work that challenges me and allows me to bring my natural mom traits to the table. And I believe I’ve become a better worker and entrepreneur since becoming a mom. 

But I acknowledge, context matters. What surrounds you, supports you. So the most important thing for working moms is this: make sure to surround yourself with positive people that can work with you to achieve your goals. That includes a work environment that celebrates us moms, compensates us based on our contribution and has realistic expectations around the fact that we have a shit ton on our plate and need to prioritize family life. 

Have faith, you can do it all. So, keep on hustling mamas. 

Mental Health in a Digital Age

More than half of the world is online. And when it comes to Canadians, that stat increases to more than 91%.  The internet (social media, email, streaming, and so on) is now an integral part of daily Canadian life and living through a global pandemic has made that even more true. Human interaction has drastically decreased, while connecting to one another digitally has piqued. And due in part to this behaviour, the pandemic hasn’t just made an impact on our physical health, but our mental health too. A recent survey by Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), found that 21.5% of Canadians surveyed reported moderate to severe anxiety levels during the daily life of the pandemic. At the same time, we are quickly adopting this way of life as “the new normal”. But what does that mean when so many of us have rising mental health complications as a result of this new normal?

Like many people, I have had my fair share of highs and lows with my own mental health. And for me, many of my coping methods involve close contact with other people. So the question of what happens to mental health when we find ourselves living through a global pandemic that restricts our interaction with people, hits close to home. But before I continue, I want to be clear, I am not a mental health expert. But, in my role as the Digital & Content Director at Mint, I have discovered useful tips that have helped me maintain some calm of mind through this uniquely challenging time; all while safely distancing in a digital space.

Using the Social Space to Explore and Discover New Things

Social media is a great space to discover new creators from around the world or even your backyard. This not only provides entertainment and education, but can also help to inspire you to try positive new things that can break mundane routines. For example, tuning into poet, illustrator and author Rupi Kaur’s live writing workshops can lead to creative expression not yet explored. Or, finding a much loved recipe online from a favourite missed restaurant and then recreating it at home can lead to warm nostalgia. 

I personally love illustration and design, so I use the platform to discover new artists and outputs to encourage me to learn new skills. And the possibilities are endless once you realize that there are over one billion users on Instagram alone. Which means if you come to realise that a specific account is actually hindering your mental wellbeing, then very simply, unfollow it. And instead, use the platform to find new voices that will help to lift you. There are also some amazing mental health advocates in the social sphere who are dedicated to breaking mental health stigmas and providing support when needed. Here are two of my favourites: Matt Haig, & How Mental.

Wellness Apps

While wellness apps are certainly no replacement for face-to-face therapy, they are a great way to find a moment of calm during a period of internal unrest. The beauty of these apps is that they can live on your phone or tablet so you can take them on the go with you. Many of these apps have daily reminders that can help to create a routine of mindfulness and meditation. Having that 10-15 minutes a day to check in on yourself can help centre your thoughts and leave you feeling lighter. Here are just some you can look at: Headspace, Calm, Aura

Podcasts

Podcasts offer a great way to switch off your screen, put on your headphones and dive into the wonderful voices of narrators. There are many great podcasts out there that focus on mental health, but for me, I find it quite calming to escape into the storytelling of something different, delving into nature shows, true-crime (of course) and anything else that offers me the chance to learn something new. Some of my favourites include Overheard at National Geographic, Happy Place by Fearne Cotton and Song Exploder by Hrishikesh Hirway, all of which you can find on your favourite podcast apps.

Online Support 

Many mental health organizations have adapted to be able to provide support in a digital space. Not only are there great resources available, but there are also online support groups. Organizations like CAMH even have tools in place that can email you tips and tools to help you manage your mental health during COVID-19. As well as specific mental health organizations, many public libraries have also adapted to our new digital lifestyle. You can now apply online for a Public Library card in many municipalities, which allows access to heaps of useful mental health resources and authors. 

It’s Okay to Take a Break

Imagine going for a run and ignoring the signs that you’re hitting exhaustion. You’d pass out right? Well, think of digital outlets in the same way. We’re living in unprecedented times with news outlets informing us of the latest pandemic updates pretty much 24/7. And while it’s important to stay informed, it’s also more important to understand what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then remember to take a break before you proverbially pass out. 

Find your Balance 

Over the past few months, we have been witnessing one of the most important civil rights movements in history. During which, I have discovered some incredible spoken word artists, illustrators, activists, speakers, writers, thinkers and many more, who have given me an infinite amount of resources to help me to learn more and educate myself better. And I have taken it on deeply. But also during this same time I have noticed an increase in the number of ‘self care’ posts on my Instagram feed. There’s something oddly comforting about this, that is, in the midst of the hurt and anger, there are humans reminding other humans that we are, well, human, and it’s crucial to take time for self care. And although that phrase has been thrown around, its meaning is still important: we need to take care of our own well-being – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Like many things, this is about finding balance. Finding the time to stay online to learn and grow, but then finding the time to disconnect and grow in a different way too.

As humans, we are incredibly adaptable. This might not be the routine that any of us are used to but we can adapt and there are an abundance of digital tools in place to help us do so. Everyone moves at different speeds and for some people, adapting to these digital outlets might take a little more time than others – and that’s okay. Just remember to check in with yourself, check in with others and find a routine that works for you.

*https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/canadians-report-sustained-rates-of-loneliness-and-depression 

**https://blog.zoom.us/a-message-to-our-users/ 

Summer Cassette Mix: Music to Create to

I’m from an underground scene, and it’s new for me to make playlists like this. It’s reminding me of when I used to make compilation mixed cassette tapes when I was younger; before I got my second turntable. I’m a mixed set type of DJ and my genre of play has been locked into Soulful and Afro House. Even though I am locked into a genre, I do keep an eat out for different music throughout my life. My approach in song selection when it comes to Mint mixes comes really from my memories of the people at Mint when we worked together in-person. I have a lot of happy memories with the people of Mint mish mashed in my brain and I guess these playlists are simply the product of that.

Is Experiential Dead?

With the new measures of social distancing in place, the marketing industry as a whole is being challenged. We are seeing large organizations pause, and assess the impact the entire world coming to a halt has had on their business. Some brands are taking time and proceeding cautiously, analysing their numbers, while others are adapting quickly to this new era we are embarking on with a fight or flight mentality. 

With a multitude of economic and social pressures it is hard to know how to move forward. However, although unique, a moment of shift is not unprecidented. Historically, it has been during uncertain times, where we see resilience, as individuals, as a society, and as an industry.

Afterall, it was only after the great depression of the 1930’s that the advertising industry took off with the first television ad appearing on screens in the 1940’s. Advertising now, has never been bigger, and continues to play a key role in shifting progress, culture and societal norms.  

After the 2008 recession, we saw the emergence of Shopify, and e-commerce on the rise challenging the costly model of retail and the need of brick and mortar. Whatsapp, UBER, Pinterest, Slack, Square and Instagram – were all products of an entrepreneurial boom in the wake of ‘08.

And when it came to our industry, we saw innovation too – from the campaigns we made to the platforms we used. But we also adapted our ways of working and expectations of budgets as CMOS dealt with leaner wallets following the 2008 recession. And from that the world of experiential took flight. Today, it’s an essential part of the marketing mix due to the power a 1:1 brand connection has on brand loyalty and driving conversion in a cost effective way. Experiential now is used as a tool to drive PR, content and even TV or other media. Beyond industry shifts, the boom of experiential was attributed to a new generation, the first that valued experiences over commodities. 

But everything changed for experiences when COVID hit the world, and several months in, we still don’t see when life will reflect what we once knew it to be. 

This begs the question: where does this explosive experience based industry go now?

Many industries in jeopardy, and experiential is just another one. A question mark lingers as we see live global and local events cancelled, along with festivals, retail, sports, and entertainment. Brands are struggling to find an effective way to connect with their consumers in the ways they once knew how. This moment is forcing marketers to shift their strategies to find new avenues for brands to connect, engage, and entertain their audiences.

And so experiential evolves. Experiences and creativity continue to be high currency with the Gen Z and Millennial audiences who crave solutions to connect, potentially now more than ever before. 

Virtual experiential marketing (VXM) is now taking shape to deliver the equity building 1:1 connection of XM with the added value of content marketing and social amplification. 

We are seeing properties like the Bumble Hive; designed to be an IRL manifestation of the app, evolve to live on digital platforms driving connection, conversation, community and thought leadership. We are beginning to see brand forward virtual pop-ups appear as brands are looking for ways to make access to their goods easier for their consumers. Grassroots initiatives like ‘Club Quarantine’ are starting to take flight as not surprisingly to most, a twenty-something year old, is still a twenty-something year old who upholds the same need for entertainment –  even if that means going to a virtual bar to dance, let loose, and connect with other people just like them. 

As we are seeing the evolution of experiential take form in a virtual world, we as marketers have a responsibility to guide our clients and their brands in the right direction. Staying closely in tune with consumer sentiments is essential during this turbulent time.

We are seeing a shift in the consumer mindset, and values sway almost as rapidly as the world is changing. Tonality is going to play a pivotal role in the receptiveness of brand audiences. 

The marketers ‘gut check’ is important to have. Empathy led marketers will continue to succeed during these times and in fact will be table stakes. 

Marketers should be asking: what societal need am I solving? This could be a purpose driven initiative, support in driving connectivity during isolation, or could be pure entertainment for your audience. The answer can be broad in range, but the question enables marketers to get their finger on the pulse of their audience. 

A lot of people have asked me for my professional opinion, what is next for experiential and is it over? The answer I have is simply, no. It will change, it will evolve, and likely be more all-encompassing. There is no crystal ball to predict the future, but what we do know is experience based marketing is far too much embedded into our culture for it to be ignored, particularly during a time when people are needing experiential solutions to help break the monotony of their day-to-day lives at home. 

As the world changes, marketers need to as well. It is not time for us to be quiet as an industry but instead we have great power to make positive change and counsel our clients through this tough and uncertain time. Afterall, if we know anything from our past, it is through the darkness where creativity thrives, and innovation paves the way for the future. 

Creative Ops:
Finding Creativity in Operations for Creatives

Creative agencies are notorious for late nights, long weekends and reworks. In fact, amongst bar carts, open kitchens and casual dress, it’s core to agency culture. But to break that status quo, creative teams require the space, methods and tools to thrive. Frankly put, it takes getting creative about creative operations.

There seems to be a stereotype that all creative people are quirky free-spirited individuals who float through their days (and moods). And when considered in a professional setting, they are sometimes typecast as procrastinators with a lack of time management and communication skills. Even amongst creative people themselves, there are memes describing the ‘typical workflow’ of a creative. They go something like this — gets brief, procrastinates, lots of self-doubt, stress, has a eureka moment, and spends all night (the last one) to craft. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that happens, because it does, to everyone, but it doesn’t have to be the norm.

Being creative myself, I can empathize with this idea and how incomplete a picture it paints. Having grown up drawing and painting, later becoming a photographer, and graphic designer, I’ve been through every part of the creative process. However, I’m also analytical and systematic. Which is why, unexpectedly, I transitioned from a purely creative career to one of operations building the tools and systems that help creatives be creative.

As the Creative Services Manager at Mint, I help our creatives get to deep work by creating the space to do the audacious thinking required of them. Having experienced the ins-and-outs that create problematic workflows resulting in things like all-nighters, I can attest that there are not many creative professionals that actually find great and sustained success with this. In fact, in our always-on world, this can take a great toll on the creative mind. We believe by setting up a system designed to challenge the typical ways of working for creatives produces an environment more conducive for creative work. And this may not look like how one might expect.

We have discovered that there is a growing number of studies on procrastination and creativity. One study found that for those that take longer to start working on the task (or as they were described in the study, ‘the procrastinators’) were 28% more creative. Participants were asked to generate new business ideas. One group was asked to start working right away. The other group was asked to delay the task by playing solitaire or minesweeper for five minutes. The results were judged for how original the ideas were by independent evaluators.

“When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity,” Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School wrote in his New York Times op-ed column. “It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.”

With this insight, we thought that providing more distance between brief and deadline would allow for novel concepts to emerge —opening up nonlinear thinking. This is also important to consider for precrastinators, the group that begins immediately on a task, that allows a little time to ‘let things percolate’ can amount to more novel ideas.

In our world and industry, the luxury of time is notoriously not on the side of creatives. So, how can you approach the balancing act of finding more time for ideas to generate and meet the demands of our culture? Enter design thinking.

Design thinking is a process for design and for innovation. It was made popular in the 1990s by the design consultancy, IDEO. The challenges we’re being asked to solve are getting trickier and more complex — from progressive thinking for our clients, to effectively supporting our teams while changing systems. Design thinking is the planned steps in which creatives take to solve problems.

At the core of design thinking is empathy. To truly understand the needs of who you’re solving for is to put yourself in their shoes. The best way to do that is to ask them and listen. We’ve conducted several listening tours to understand the many factors that impact our creative team’s time. We asked questions from our creatives, but also our colleagues and those in the industry or adjacent industries. We conducted surveys to hone in on the qualitative and quantitative metrics impacting the work. This left us with more questions, but it pointed us in the right direction and how to solve for the needs of a system.

Leveraging an integrated approach, we worked cross-functionally to find the best methods to define and redefine our processes. We discovered that when we took this approach we found better ways of working. When thinking in systems and trying to optimize for a few outcomes, we found that paying particular attention to the ways in which processes work together is the best way to design an intuitive and easy to adopt practice.
In any design thinking system, the need to test your hypothesis is important. Especially in a way that can affect how people work (and live), you’ll want to test your ideas to see if it is effective. This also provides good insight and feedback for iterative improvements. We had teams pilot our new process to try it on for size. Taking that step gave us good insights into what was naturally being adopted, what was showing signs of success, and elements that were more challenging to adopt. We found ways to evolve the process and identified the tools and resources our teams need to excel in this new way of working.

Like anything, the work is never complete. As we add more complexity to our worlds, as new things in culture arise we must adapt. Our systems are no different. Going into any operational process design with this mindset is part of design thinking as well. Knowing that to learn from previous experience creates growth and opportunities. Through attention to ways of working and the steps needed to foster a creative environment, you can turn the tables from the status quo to a place where you can gain just enough distance to arrive at a unique thought.