Tag Archives: Brands

Is BeReal real? Does it even matter?

BeReal was supposed to be different. It was supposed to reject the aesthetic found on our Instagram feeds and provide an “uncontrollable” (the developer’s words, not ours) look at your friends, crushes, high school bullies, and favourite celebrities’ lives.

In case you’re not a bona fide Gen-Z-er, BeReal is an app developed in France that randomly sends out a daily notification to all users at the same time. This notification prompts the user to take a photo, which takes a snapshot from your front- and back-facing camera at the same time, and upload it within the next two minutes. 

To keep you honest and humble, the app shows how many retakes you took and/or if you posted way after the two-minute mark (so everyone will know if you took 20 minutes to get ready and sprint to the fabulous art/coffee/skateboard/music shop next door). Because of this feature, there’s no time to find that perfect pose or background or change outfits or locations. There are also no likes or followers, so the dopamine hit you get from Tiktok, IG, or Twitter doesn’t exist here. Finally, you get to “be real” just for the sake of it. Or are you?

Unfortunately, it turns out that after years of crafting our perfect image online, it’s more complex than we thought to post our unfiltered life and self.

The app is great when the notification goes off at 8pm on a Friday when you are dressed to the nines and doing something fun. It’s not so great Sunday afternoon when it goes off and you’ve been watching Outlast on Netflix for five hours.

Because of this, posting late has become a common trend among users, making the app less “present moment” and more “best moment”. Habits like these have BeReal turning into another highlight reel of people’s lives.

With 56 million downloads in 2022, BeReal is still a social networking app after all. This begs the question: is it even possible to be an ‘authentic person’ online? 

Being authentic online is itself a trend. We’re showing more cellulite, more mental health stories, more makeup-free faces. The photo dump—a haphazard collection of all-natural, low-quality photos—is a prime example. Yet, even that is a form of curation. We pick what seems the most carefree, funny, real life. The new online aesthetic is authenticity. 

This is not to say that we’re all being fake online. It’s a far cry from the days of perfectly posed images with Valencia filters and VSCO edits. But while we might not be able to remove a blemish on BeReal, we still stage our scene, pushing away the clutter in the room or simply posting later. 

So BeReal isn’t so real, and maybe that’s the most real thing about it. 

We show up as different selves around different people. That Monday hangover is left out of weekend recaps with coworkers. Our parents don’t know about that failed university or college class. But that doesn’t make you any less real around them. 

Plus, we’re constantly changing. Think of all the times you’ve looked back on old social media posts and cringed, thinking “wow, who was that person?” 

We don’t show every part of ourselves to everyone. So why should we online? 

The fantasy of an authentic social media app is an oxymoron. What we show online is only a fraction of our lives. Whatever mundanity we share is still a performance for others and ourselves online. So we might as well make sharing on social fun to do, a place to show what we want to show, even if it is curated. And if we want to be real, perhaps the best way is to just log off, turn those notifications off, and hang out in real life. 

Digital Advertising and Its Struggle To Be Human

It’s no secret that we live our lives online, spending more time looking at blue-light screens than blue skies. Studies show that we spend a whopping 7 hours using the Internet on average. Naturally, marketers are spending more and more on digital advertising. 

It’s personalised, targeted, and trackable. What’s not to love? This was the new, exciting frontier of advertising. Until it wasn’t. 

With more investments came more digital ads, everywhere, resulting in people getting tired of it. In fact, they find digital ads to be repetitive, intrusive, and irrelevant. 

Some brands were aware of how people feel towards these ads, and companies like Uber and P&G paused their digital spending to see what would happen. The results? Sales and downloads were basically the same.  

This chart shows the difference in sales after pausing their digital spending.

If people don’t like digital ads, and brands aren’t profiting, digital advertising is looking like a lose-lose situation. 

Brands are trying real hard not to be annoying.

Marketers have been looking for ways to make digital ads more liked and trusted in order to garner better results. What have they been doing?

Some marketers decided to go deeper into the digital space, exploring new territories such as VR, AR, and the metaverse. However, beyond the initial hype, people were not ready or fully comfortable in this space yet. As a result, brands were only reaching the select few still interested. 

This Google Trends chart shows how people’s interest in the metaverse slowly declined after its initial hype.

Brands have also been adjusting algorithms and creating fresh formats. Twitch, for example, created Multiplayer Ads, a new type of interactive video ad where viewers watch the same ad, at the same time during a stream. As a real-time poll viewers can interact with. This format brings a more immersive and interactive experience that people would not only value more but they would feel like it’s not an isolated interaction. It would be a two way interaction instead.

Twitch’s new interactive Multiplayer ads give users a direct way to support their favourite creators. (Source: Twitch Help)

But neither of these solve the core problem: people don’t have trust in digital. Studies have shown people tend to trust traditional advertising way more than digital—80% vs. 40%, respectively. 

Why don’t we look at what’s worked in the past?

When we look at why traditional advertising worked, it comes down to three main principles: brand building, credibility, and relationship building. Let’s dive into each of them.

Brand building 

Digital advertising is often focused on the product, selling or making it known. But we don’t see enough digital ads that actually speak to the brand and their messaging. Nowadays, consumers pay even more attention to what brands stand for and their values. When people think of a brand, an adjective should come to mind. BMW is fast. Volvo is safe. Patagonia is sustainable. 

This print ad is a testament to the strong brand Coca-Cola has built. Its shape, colour, and values are easy to imagine because they’ve been consistently represented year over year. This ad continues this brand building work by tapping into social causes like inclusivity and diversity to double down on their message: Coke is for everyone.

Coca Cola Together—Love, 2015


Historically, if people saw a brand on a magazine or billboard they were more likely to not only recognize the brand but to trust it. Why? Because not all brands had the chance to advertise on a limited space. Nowadays, every brand can advertise on a digital space because it seems to be infinite. As a result, brands have to put more effort into gaining people’s trust, from creating a robust online presence to being authentic and transparent.

Relationship building 

It seems that digital ads are able to obtain the immediate sales brands would like to get. However, in order to foster long-term loyal customers, brands need to tap into the human side of things. After all, we’re marketing to humans.

White Claw’s Icy Wall is a great example. It taps into a human need: a cool place in scorching summer weather. Without asking for anything in return or explicitly selling product, it gave pedestrians a chance to feel how refreshing White Claw is. 

White Claw’s cooling billboard refreshes passer-bys during the scorching UK summer. (Source: The Spirits Business)

Brand known, brand owned.

As the latin word “advertere” means ‘turn the mind towards’, effective advertising shouldn’t be transactional. Instead of simply selling a product, ads should be an opportunity to earn the attention of a potential customer and make them believe in and live the brand. 

In the difficult economic times we are currently living in, marketing budgets will be impacted, meaning it’s never been more important to create compelling brand stories. The unfortunate reality is that this simply isn’t happening. 

So, in order to stand out in the digital space, brands must move beyond only focusing on performance metrics and start focusing on what the brand stands for and what it means for its audience.

People want to feel like they are part of a story and nurturing that sense of belonging does not come with offering a product on an online banner or having a transactional call-to-action. Brands that tell stories and prioritise relationships over transactional performance metrics will stand big and those who don’t might just take the risk of falling into irrelevance. 

Hot XM Summer

Into the Metaverse

By: Alex Alvernia, Senior Art Director

After the launch of the Metaverse, described as a “universal economy of collaboration and co-creation”, we’re expecting to see a lot more brands dip their toes into this virtual world. Some might say that the concept of the Metaverse is experiential in itself, as it allows for brands to connect people, places, and things together by integrating e-commerce, virtual reality, augmented reality and interactive social media, all in one “place”. But, we don’t expect brands to keep it strictly virtual. Hybrids like Balenciaga x Fortnite that merge physical and virtual experiences will be a cornerstone of future XM activations. By not limiting the interactions between brands and audiences to physical geographic locations, it allows a larger audience of consumers to have an opportunity to interact with your brand, whether they can attend IRL or not. We’ll also see more brands minting limited-edition NFTs to help boost their brand image, tell brand stories, and open new avenues for revenue streams from their audiences.

The Open Air Playground

By: Gigi Rabnett, XM Account Director

2020 paved the way for groundbreaking event technologies, and proved consumers are all-in on virtual. 2021 saw event concepts bring new meaning to ‘phygital’; experiences became more intimate, more interactive, and more hybrid. Three calendar years into the pandemic, and brands are rediscovering the great outdoors as a platform. As we evolve and adapt to new virtual realities, marketers are rewriting the rules of the traditional event, and the traditional venue. Yes, weather contingencies should be top of mind, but with its seal of safety, this summer the most unique experiences will happen outdoors—on the water, on city streets, on murals, in backyards, and at the retail level. The open air, in all its dimensions, is a playground for experiential thinking, and we can expect to see the traditional event format turned on its head.

So what? 

From hyper realistic, interactive OOH activations to guerrilla campaigns, brands have the opportunity to claim new real estate and level up their xm strategies.

Think Footprint

By: Francesca Noto, Account Director

We’re starting to see a shift in the experiential marketing space, with a greater global focus and consumer demand for even more sustainably conscious brands and brand activation. Marketers should consider designing the planning process from the ground up, through an ecologically-conscious lens. Brands can lessen their environmental impact and promote more sustainable marketing efforts by: reducing waste generated from large scale events, cutting back on air travel and ground transportation, leveraging energy efficient vehicles & technology onsite, partnering with vendors that utilize recyclable materials, choosing alternative energy sources, donating materials post-event to charities, subscriptions or donations as gifting options and shifting to a digital/virtual format are just a few effective tactics that can deliver measurable results. Not only does this make an impact on the planet, but through compelling storytelling of the efforts it can make a real impact on the business as well.

It’s Play Time

By: Sam McCourt, Art Director

Immersive experiences are not new to experiential marketing, but unfortunately access to these types of activations have been off limits. With summer coming, restrictions lifted, and our sense of playful exploration returning, we expect brands to offer a heightened version of these types of sensorial programs once again by tapping into play. Brands will seek to transport people out of their ordinary routines and into an immersive joyful world, where they can explore and consume brand content organically, in interesting and playful ways. And it’s no wonder after the year(s) we have had; fun and play have innate positive effects on us and help to determine what we learn and retain. Just think back to foundational learning in children, dripping in music, performance, sport, art, and imagination. Marketers should consider the inner child inside all of us to transport consumers from the mundane and into something special.

Local Rediscovery

By: Alex Jesus, Producer

Recently, the visceral need for travel has spiked. We are all craving to have experiences like we did pre-pandemic. But, with fear in long-haul travel still in the public mindset, rising costs of living, plus government incentives, many Canadians are looking locally to scratch their travel itch. And with this, a true appreciation and curiosity for what lays just outside our front doors is rising. We’ve been seeing more and more social media posts sharing adventures that are accessible to locals during the pandemic—lesser known hiking trails or beaches, historical insights about storied areas or ‘I bet you wouldn’t think this is 2 hours out of the city’ photos. Plus, Mix shop local has never been a bigger message, not only to lend support to those in the community during this harsh time but to share the true value in purchasing goods that are worth more than just their price tag. Mix this all together and 2022 is shaping up to be about rediscovering the value in our backyards. Brands who unlock these stories, demonstrate local knowledge and simply celebrate what we have all around us will be endeared. But how?

Established brands are seeing this trend and leaning into collaborations with local brands for more community relevance. These collaborations make it possible to amplify shared values, and serve to provide the quintessential surprise-and-delight moment for consumers. We’re seeing this trend in fashion (think OVO x UofT), all the way down to dairy if you can believe it. Milk developed a pop up on Queen St. in Toronto and partnered with local artisans like COPs and Sheezus for giveaways, as well as home-grown artists Adam the Illustrator and Lindsey Gazel, who were engaged to develop marketing materials, swag and more. This is a great example of how highlighting the talent in your neighbourhood can give your brand major credibility and propel a narrative of how close to home your impact really is.

All for One and One for All; aka the death of VIP

By: Chelsea Mills, Senior Account Director

As we emerge into a post-lockdown world and experiential moves from virtual to hybrid or even IRL again, we’re seeing an effort to make experiences and events more diverse, equitable and inclusive. Brands are now able to leverage a physical activation as a halo for content, which can be expanded, personalized, and deepened via technology, and reach more people that may have faced a barrier to participation (such as accessibility, cost, and travel challenges, to name a few) in the past. Live-streaming from events to reach larger audiences will become standard. What’s more, as more and more brands start to effectively cater to the needs of diverse and niche consumers, people are starting to see that they no longer need to just “accept” that they will be ignored, or underserved by the brands they want to engage with. And with more people able to participate in and enjoy more experiences, this effort towards inclusivity and notion of “no second class” helps fuel that sense of belonging and build community.

Life As A Mintern

The intern. The coffee-wielding, photocopying, frazzled student who works long hours with little–to–no pay. You know the type. It’s Anne Hathaway, missing her boyfriend’s birthday to run a menial task for her evil boss. It’s Will Smith, struggling to care for his son while working an unpaid internship at a giant company. Growing up, movies like The Devil Wears Prada and The Pursuit of Happyness prepared us for internships the way our parents prepared us for real life: with horror stories. 

But just like body standards, apartment sizes in New York, and the probability of a tornado composed entirely of sharks, terrible internships are another unrealistic expectation that the film industry has given us. 

So we’re going to break down a few common tropes and how they’re different at Mint.

It’s not dog eat dog – it’s dog help dog 

Because dogs are pack animals. So it’s more of a dog help dog world. At Mint, working on a brief sometimes involves every department. From accounts to strategy, everyone puts in their two cents to help the creative process. Nobody is stealing your ideas because everyone is part of your ideas. When work on a recent brand-that-must-not-be-named got too overwhelming, we had a cross-department brainstorm to find the best way to make an execution happen. And not only did we win the pitch, we also got a few endorsements for “teamwork” on our LinkedIns. Ka-ching! 

It’s no longer late nights with little-to-no pay

Thanks to a recent ground-breaking Canadian law that deemed interns to be living, breathing humans, most companies are required to offer some kind of salary or stipend. Many agencies have added perks on top of that. For example, Mint doesn’t just help us pay our bills. They also pay our parents’, because we can finally expense our phone bills and get off the family plan. For now.  

Regarding the late nights—sure, there might be a few of them. But late nights and client pitches are often followed by periods of relaxation, which generally make all that work worth your while. That, and the legendary Mint office parties. 

You don’t need to overwork yourself to get yourself noticed

It’s true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But in a time when most of us are still working from home, staying up until midnight overworking yourself isn’t going to get you noticed. Because let’s be honest–we work in a creative milieu. Working yourself too hard will make your ideas worse, not better. What’s actually going to make you stand out is making yourself available when you have the bandwidth so you can give all you can possibly give.

It also helps to work at an agency like Mint that prioritizes a healthy work-life balance. Our Creative Services Manager extraordinaire Gilda is constantly checking in to see if we have too much or not enough work. Because of this, we’ve had the opportunity to pick up work on big clients like Google or Youtube. 

We also only book meetings between 10am and 4pm (2pm on Fridays!) so that everyone can focus on getting their best work done. Because let’s be real—do you like receiving Slack messages at midnight? No? Neither does anyone else.

Interns actually do get work produced

As our biopic has yet to be produced, this one maybe isn’t in the movies. But we felt the need to add this point anyway. 

Plenty of your ideas are going to die on the editing room floor, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because while not all of your projects will add to your portfolio, all of them will add to your experience. Budget constraints? You learned the reality of production. Difficult director? One less person to work with in the future. Shoot cancelled the night before? That’s a day off!  

And while you may not be getting the giant briefs, working on briefs with smaller budgets can actually push your creativity. It may not win a Cannes (then again, maybe it will), but it will teach you to be crafty and cut corners. Besides, cutting corners doesn’t always have to be a bad thing—octagons sometimes look cooler than squares. 

Your mentors won’t ask you to fetch them coffee* 

The only thing expected of you as an intern is that you’re a hard worker and you’re hungry to learn. One of the greatest benefits of working at a smaller, independent agency means there are fewer rungs in the company ladder between you and the top dogs. At Mint, we have the added benefit of creative office hours, time every day where anyone can drop in to get feedback from our ECD, Kim. Beyond that, the senior leadership is always happy to jump on a call (Google Cal-dependent).

And it’s not just feedback on agency work that they’re happy to provide. Mint is filled with people who have different backgrounds and experience, with networks that are happily tapped into. When an intern, let’s call her Joan, wanted to move to Paris to pursue my—I mean her—dreams, she was met with encouragement and provided with plenty of contacts to reach out to. 

Overall, internships aren’t just beneficial to you—they’re beneficial to the company. From Account Directors to the Senior Copywriters, many of Mint’s top talents started as interns and gradually climbed the ranks. Sure, promotions come from hard work. But they also come from genuine enjoyment and self-fulfilment. So in conclusion, life isn’t always like the movies. But as an intern, that’s a good thing. 

*At editing time, Kim has expressed disappointment that we have never fetched her coffee. 

FRESHLY MINTED: Micro trends you should know about this November

Hi, hello and bonjour – it’s already time for the November edition of ~Freshly Minted~, where Mint’s Strategy team gives their hottake on what’s trending and why you should care. And trust us, you’ll care. Don’t believe us? Scroll down and see for yourself.

The Rise of the Parasocial Relationship

Photo credit: Parker Woods for Variety

A parasocial relationship is the attachment we form around celebrities, influencers and even fictional characters. And it’s not a new phenomenon – the term was coined in the ‘50s by sociologists Donald Horton and Richard Wohl. But the introduction and meteoric rise of social media has meant that more and more people are experiencing parasocial relationships (hands up if you also think Harry Styles is your soulmate…or bestie if nothing else).

So What? 

People are constantly looking to form bonds with the content they are consuming. From a brand standpoint, it’s not enough to only focus on fit and reach when choosing creators to work with. We also need to think about the depth of emotional ties and connections they are generating.

The Pantry is Resurging as Another Battleground for Brands

Photo credit: Via MoMA.org

We cannot tell you how many pantry design articles we’ve seen popping up in our interior design feeds lately. We’ve always known the pantry is prime real estate for CPGs, but we can see this becoming an even hotter battleground for products beyond canned beans. Why? Well, more Canadians will be stocking up on pantry items as food becomes more expensive, but the volatile Canadian housing market has people staying put, giving them room to think about every.square.inch. of their spaces.

So what?

Think inside the pantry box. Is there a way for unexpected brands to claim the cabinet? Think Bumble honey pots, Google pantry stocking apps, or JP Wiser’s cocktail kits lining the top shelf.

The Next Place for Brands to Show Up Is Underground

Photo credit: Unsplash

Underground markets aren’t something we marketing professionals talk about often. But we might need to start, with the trust disappearing in public systems, be it government or major media publishers like Facebook *cough cough*. Paired with the cost of living increasing every quarter, everyday people have started to create their own underground networks to get basic services and products.  

So what?

Advertisers need to think about what grassroots really means, and how they can build trust without all the flash. Rather than big guerilla tactics, think about more personal, hyper-targeted and bespoke ways to speak to your audience.

FRESHLY MINTED: October trends you should know about

Welcome back to the October edition of ~Freshly Minted~, where Mint’s Strategy team gives their hot-take on what trends are bubbling up and how they could impact the world around us. This month we explore the return to classics, the pleasure revolution as well as breaking down the metaverse (nbd).

A return to classics

Photo credit: Jon Tyson

Like the Y2K uprising, sometimes the next new thing is borrowed from the past. From classic cocktails to reboots of beloved favourites like SATC, we’re seeing that actually a lot of industries are going back to the classics. Why? Because we’re tapped out from the constant change. Cow Print one week and cheugy the next doesn’t fit into our budgets or our patience, we’ve got bigger fish to fry like the impending apocalypse.

So What? 

People are looking for reliability and familiarity – brands should consider that mindset and what that means for marketing themselves, principles like quality over quantity, classic shapes, textures, colours, or being dual purpose instead of single use.

The pleasure revolution is here, and we’re not mad

Photo credit: Taras Chernus

Fetch the town cryer because self-pleasure is *finally* being seen as a form of self-care. With a lack of physical touch through the pandemic our deprivation seems to be motivating us towards rewarding ourselves all the time, mindful masterbation to reground and recentre, sprucing up bathtime with a curated bathscape, or simply getting pleasure from #smutbooktok and ASMR bread making, either way we’re all looking to feel good.

So what?

Consumers are looking for experiences that look and feel good. Brands should be thinking about ways to elevate experiences and offerings – so if you’re creating a cocktail kit, how do you make it activate every sense to make it intimate and personal.

Welcome to the metaverse

Photo credit: Forbes

Imagine a virtual space where you can bring your physical experiences with you – shopping, exploring, socializing: enter the metaverse. While the concept isn’t new, (with games like Fortnite having metaverse tendencies) our collective need for interactivity and interconnectivity through the pandemic has really catapulted the metaverse forward and we’re seeing big players like Facebook paying attention. With digital experiences ever evolving, this could mean new ways for us to engage with each other through space and time (too far? Who knows, let’s see). 

So what?

Creating digital experiences just got a whole more…well, meta. Not only will microsites and landing pages no longer cut it, but your target personas will evolve too. It’s no longer just the ‘human-me’ or ‘digital-me’, but now we have the ‘meta-me’.

FRESHLY MINTED: Twerking, Space Real Estate, and being a good neighbour, Mint Strategists uncover the sparks of micro trends this August

As culture creatures at Mint, we’re always on the lookout for what wave will come crashing onto our doorstep next and how we believe they’ll impact business and creativity.

Photo credit: Blue Origin

Space is the next luxury market

Yes, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos just went to space in a very phallic looking rocket. NASA spent more than most of us will ever make in several lifetimes on ‘Space Drip’ and they’re looking for applicants to live out their Doja Cat space fantasy on pretend Mars. 

So What? 

For the ultra-wealthy, moving to another planet is an option. So, what does marketing look like on mars? No seriously, we need a strategy 😉.

In or out? WFH forces brands to grapple with what kind of company they’ll be next

As we all transition into a mostly hybrid work culture, companies are being tasked with how they are going to change for their employees. Our inclination is that yoga classes and a snack bar aren’t going to cut it as brands have been forced into having a social conscience. They will make adjustments in the next frontier of workers’ environmental rights.

So what?

Brands and agencies have the opportunity to change the way society operates simply by deciding how they’ll show up back at the office. Will the brand or agency be an active contributor to the neighbourhood that it shows up in?

Photo Credit: Parkwood Entertainment LLC

Black women really are the culture 

Beyonce is coming back to save us from ourselves with a new album focusing on the injustice and change we’ve witnessed this past year. Women at large are still lusting after black women’s bodies as the BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift) becomes the “the fastest growing cosmetic surgery in the world” and has a TikTok persona to match. Last but certainly not least, Lizzo has made her Ted Talk debut on the history of twerking and its roots in blackness. 

So what?

Don’t just check off the diversity box in the casting call. Listen to and embrace black perspectives, craft, and spirit.

Advertising IS going to get ~more~ personal

With every new generation of creative talent, new values come embedded in the work they create. The new generation is surprising us by showing us just how invested they are in their work for the brands that they work on. It’s no longer about all nighters and inside jokes; it’s about mental health awareness, body inclusiveness and connecting on emotions instead of title-cards.

So What? 

We as marketers need to be more emotionally self aware to tap into work that connects.

FRESHLY MINTED: From Pop-punk to Super Moms, Mint Strategists uncover what’s trending this July

As culture creatures at Mint, we’re always on the lookout for what wave will come crashing onto our doorstep next and how it will impact business and creativity. This month the trends we’ve uncovered differ in terms of demographics and industry categories, but the one thing they all have in common is a “re” of some sort: 

A resurgence, a renaissance, a re-definition, a revival.

What does this tell us? That our current world is looking for a do-over anyway it can find it, giving us marketers a second chance at building a media world that’s different and who knows…maybe better. 

A Re-Education on Uplifting Indigenous Voices

Canada is once again re-learning its own history and with the most recent national calling out of the genocide from residential ‘schools’ this time of grief has been accompanied by big brands like Sephora and Air Canada amplifying Indigenous voices.

So What? 

At a time when brands are focusing on more diversity and consumers are watching closely, we have to ask ourselves, is this truly inclusive? Is this brand committed to contributing to real positive progress for the community being highlighted?

Y2K Renaissance is Upon Us 

For all you 90s babies out there, you might have noticed that we’ve entered into a Y2K renaissance. It’s showing up strong in fashion, with nods to Paris Hilton’s signature The Simple Life looks, nostalgic Bratz Doll art, and the famous Ed Hardy resurgence from famous Tik Toker Addison Rae. 

So what?

Nostalgia is no longer limited to those who experienced that time period; sharing and celebrating the best parts of any era can be a major flex for brands to show they ‘get it’. 

Re-re-defining Motherhood Post Covid

The pandemic has put a spotlight on existing gender inequalities in almost all areas of life and this is leading many of us to re-re-define what motherhood really means. We’re seeing political figures take note too with the Biden-Harris team announcing commitments to gender equity.

So what?

Rhetoric around gender inequality has existed for a while now, but cultural expectations are just starting to be redrawn. Let’s talk about parenting, let’s talk about boundaries and let’s talk about how to divide up family work better.

Reimagining what Inclusive Really Means through Fantasy 

Yearning for lighthearted escapism, Dungeons and Dragons rose in popularity during the pandemic, only to discover its’ dark side – a history of non-inclusion. DND created a movement within the fantasy world to ensure people of all backgrounds and abilities could sit at the table with the real stranger things – orcs, half-elves, and tieflings.

So What? 

Made-up worlds are an incredible vessel to create progressive commentary that reimagines our reality for the better.

A Revival of Pop-punk Faces Angst with its Own History   

Pop-punk has historically been dominated by caucasian bands (think Green Day, Blink 182 and Panic at the Disco). In 2021, we’re seeing the spawn of a movement to bring back pop-punk, but made for everyone with singers like Willow and KennyHoopla showcasing that angst expression is universal. 

So What? 

Whenever cultural waves start to resurface, we as marketers and creators should look back to see what narratives have already been played out. By doing so, we can course-correct the stories of the past to better serve everyone now. 

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.

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.

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