It’s that time of year again – there’s a chill in the air, people are stringing up holiday decorations, and major retailers are making their annual holiday shopping push. 2020 is unlike any year marketers have faced before, but for Target – which has the third largest retail customer base in the US behind Amazon and Walmart, according to Interpret data – this year’s unusual circumstances represent an opportunity to connect with consumers who are spending much more time at home with their families.
A new campaign, as described by Adweek, features 10 different ad spots running across broadcast TV, streaming platforms and digital that all focus on the central theme of togetherness and celebrating the holidays from home. And true to life, each group of friends or family in the ads lives together or has been isolating together in the real world, which only serves to emphasize Target’s key messaging. “Our marketing campaign is all about inspiring guests to celebrate the beauty in simple moments of joy at home,” says Rick Gomez, chief marketing, digital and strategy officer at Target.
While national TV advertising has been in decline during the pandemic, Target has opted to increase its ad spending leading up to the holiday shopping season. The retailer’s Black Friday deals have also been extended throughout the entire holiday season to lure shoppers and better compete with both Amazon and Walmart.
The good news for Target is that its customers tend to be slightly younger, and importantly, have more disposable income. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 43% of Target’s customers in the US have a household income between $50K and $125K, putting it ahead of both Amazon and Walmart. Similarly, 17% of Target shoppers come from households with an income of more than $125K. Target’s base is one that most retailers would be envious of.
Think back to your childhood – what was your favorite candy or snack? If you answered Oreo or Sour Patch Kids, there’s a good reason for that; both brands have excelled at penetrating mainstream culture to the point where many parents are nostalgic about consuming these treats as children and currently enjoy sharing them with their own kids. Interpret’s New Media Measure® not only shows Oreo and Sour Patch Kids among the top candy brands purchased in the US, but both are even more popular among parents.
Building brands with this level of cross-generational awareness is no easy feat, but for those who can get to the top of the mountain, success begets success – new doors are opened for licensing and advertising. That’s exactly what Sour Patch Kids and Oreo have managed, according to Adweek, and there’s been no slowing them down in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, Sour Patch Kids’ recent sales have climbed even as traditional advertising has declined. Moreover, Sour Patch Kids has expanded its presence with a physical storefront and a host of licensed products, including nail polish, sneakers, cereal, energy drinks, video games, and a YouTube scripted series.
Mondelez International, which owns both Sour Patch Kids and Oreo, seems to be applying many lessons from its Oreo empire to the growing Sour Patch Kids brand. As noted in a Wells Fargo report, “Licensed products increase brand awareness, provide free advertising, and may create a positive halo effect that benefits the base product.” And Mondelez, which is worth around $80 billion, has the luxury of being able to experiment with Sour Patch Kids’ branding because it has so many other successful products in its portfolio (Trident gum, Ritz crackers, and Toblerone chocolate).
Hyper-manic stockpiling of toilet paper aside, the average American has altered their grocery store shopping behavior significantly since the pandemic began. Many have opted for fewer visits but with a greater volume of groceries purchased to keep their homes stocked in between trips, while others have decided to rely on personal shopper services like Instacart, either for delivery to the home or curbside pickup at the store. In fact, Instacart has seen its usage more than double year-over-year, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, as 7% of Americans or about 23 million people use the service.
Interestingly, whether for curbside pickups or in-person shopping, Interpret data shows that more Millennials and Gen Z consumers have visited a major grocery store chain, with both cohorts seeing a 4%-point uptick year-over-year. This presents a unique opportunity to advertisers to reach a coveted younger demographic that’s spending more on groceries. Supermarkets can team with brands to post advertisements on outdoor signage, on store shelves, on shopping carts, checkout dividers, and even on the back of a printed receipt.
Given the rise of online shopping, brands also must seriously consider online advertising or using Instacart’s self-serve advertising platform, which connects brands with shoppers at a time when they’re actively shopping and looking to spend money. Giants like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and PepsiCo are just a few of the brands using the platform. Considering that Instacart delivers from 25,000 grocery stores in more than 5,500 cities across North America, the company is amassing a huge amount of consumer data on precisely what shoppers like to buy, and that’s invaluable data for big brands.
“One of the keys to marketing is being nimble and adaptable,” says Janine Cannella, Interpret’s VP of Marketing. “With so much upheaval being caused by the pandemic, brands should be prepared to pivot quickly. Consumer behavior shifts are creating new and exciting opportunities for advertisers.”
COVID-19 has made it risky to travel by plane or to stay in hotels where large groups of people could gather. This has led to many Americans considering other options for rest and relaxation, including staycations and nearby vacation rentals that they can drive to in a few short hours. As Dr. Keith Armitage, professor at Case Western School of Medicine, told USA Today, “The ideal situation would be an Airbnb or a rental that had been empty for a couple of days.”
The net effect during the summer appears to be an uptick in vacation rentals while hotel stays have been in decline, according to data from Interpret’s New Media Measure®, which shows an increase in Airbnb rentals from Q1 2020 to Q2 2020, while major hotel chains suffered slight declines. The year-over-year numbers are down across the board for both vacation rentals and hotels, but it’s the former that is showing early signs of recovery.
Economic experts from the tourism industry believe it could take 2-3 years for hotel revenues to fully recover, and that represents an opportunity for the vacation rental market. Airbnb has already looked to capitalize with some unique marketing for the Halloween season. As reported by Adweek, Airbnb has teamed with the town of Hell, Michigan to offer a stay in a spookily decorated home for just $31 per night. Brands and celebrities have been capitalizing on the home rental trend too – in September, for example, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s mansion was made available for just $30 per night in honor of the TV show’s 30th anniversary. Interpret expects the vacation rentals market to continue to creatively incentivize customers in the coming months – people will only stay at home for so long.
Twitter, which has been home to many important movements, including #BlacksLivesMatter and #MeToo, has made an effort to highlight mask wearing as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The social platform recently turned its like button into an animated mask emoji any time a user likes a tweet with the #WearaMask hashtag. Twitter then extended this to an outdoor campaign by partnering with seven US cities, as reported by AdWeek. Users’ pro-mask tweets were printed on billboards, murals, sidewalks, and other landmarks in high-traffic areas. With people spending even more time exposed to digital advertising during the pandemic, moving to an out-of-home campaign is a smart way to bolster messaging.
“As always, the people on Twitter say it best. Masks are a huge conversation around the world, and we’re happy to help cities tackle mask caution fatigue with tweets that will make people smile and hopefully mask up,” said Leslie Berland, Twitter’s CMO and head of people.
A few months ago, the official Twitter account tweeted that users could finally get the oft-requested edit button when everyone wears a mask. As AdAge noted, this became Twitter’s most liked and retweeted tweet in history, with over 2.8 million likes to date. Leveraging its own users in a campaign for social good is not only a smart way to get publicity, but by also putting mask-related tweets in outdoor spaces in major US cities, the platform is reminding people to wear a mask when they need it most.
The Twitter audience may be more receptive than other social platforms to campaigns of this style as well. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 8% of Twitter users in the US state that they are actively involved in political movements or campaigns on the platform, compared to 6% of Facebook users. Additionally, a quarter of the US Twitter audience is likely to share an important article they read, which can help other users become more informed on critical topics such as mask-wearing.
The Force is strong with Uber Eats. The food delivery segment of the ridesharing company not only purchased rival Postmates for $2.65 billion in July, but gross bookings for Eats in the second quarter jumped 113% while Rides declined 67% during the same period. The pandemic has led to more people staying home and ordering food, which has presented companies like Uber Eats, DoorDash and GrubHub with a huge opportunity.
Sales tracker The NPD Group found that delivery orders at the height of the pandemic in March climbed 67%. Meanwhile, DoorDash has pushed its valuation to $16 billion, but Uber Eats now commands a solid second place. Eats has been trying to capitalize on its momentum with some savvy marketing. Most recently, the company aired a series of spots with Mark Hamill and Sir Patrick Stewart, known best for their respective roles as Luke Skywalker (Star Wars) and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek). The commercial implicitly conjures up images of the famous entertainment brands closely associated with these iconic actors without naming them or using any images from the films. Uber Eats can benefit from the association and fans’ adoration for the franchises without paying hefty licensing fees.
By not-so-subtly framing the spot as Skywalker vs. Picard, Uber Eats is creating marketing that is not only entertaining but memorable. It has grabbed the attention of mainstream media, and that’s always a good sign. “Hiring a celebrity isn’t a guarantee that a campaign will succeed,” said Janine Cannella, VP of Marketing at Interpret. “In this case, the clever pairing of two celebrities that span multiple generations, makes it far more likely that the campaign will increase Uber Eats’ mindshare.”
It doesn’t hurt that Star Wars and Star Trek are perennially among the most popular entertainment brands in America. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 40% of the US considers itself a fan of Star Wars and 31% is a fan of Star Trek.