With another month socially distancing ourselves from the outside world coming to a close, April inspired us, across all facets of our lives, to challenge, recreate and adapt our lives in order to maintain a sense of connection and accomplishment. In order to do this, we challenged ourselves and took new leaps of faith- creatively. In April, we are celebrating the innovation and creativity that is inspiring us to come out of these unconventional times as better people.
We Used Advanced Forms of Virtual and Engaging Content to Connect Us
Not leaving our homes has caused many of us to crave tangible interaction with our friends and family. In efforts of relieving feelings of loneliness and the raw, human connection and emotions we experience with face-to-face interaction, we are consuming more and more content that is interactive, engaging and immersive. Content that goes above and beyond in connecting us with the world beyond our front doors.
We, across all generations, have increasingly consumed video and virtual content, such as video games, a rabbit-hole of YouTube videos, and hair consultations to elicit some type of feeling and create an experience that connects us with what the world beyond our four walls. We turned to innovative forms of content created by technology to bring out our competitive sides and play against one another virtually in the absence of live sporting events, we attended virtual concerts in our living rooms by some of our favorite artists, and some of us went on first dates with the newly installed interactive dating tools on dating platforms.
And my favorite form of interactive content that we saw take off in April was from the beauty industry. Faced with salon and store closings, top-tier competitors in the industry or related industries, including RealSelf, were challenged to create content powerful enough to fill those empty salon chairs in a new, innovative way- with virtual and interactive consultations, makeovers, and demonstrations. And with the rise in the gaming industry these past couple of months, we also saw brands, such as Denny’s, become its own user in the virtual world of gaming, where it began to compete with other gamers under the name “Dennys247” as a way of staying connected with their market. This month, we saw brands digitally innovate in order to differentiate themselves from other brands who are trying to connect with their audience. Brands, such as these, were challenged to take creative leaps to achieve this.
While we have been talking about this critical shift from traditional to digitally advanced and personal forms of content for years (and I remember having entire classes in college dedicated to this), April has proved not only the “realness” of this shift in content consumption and behavior- and man, did it hit quick,- but the idea that this shift is here. It’s ready to challenge us as content creators and marketers.
But, We Also Saw Content Become More Simple and Achievable
Creating and consuming these more “complex” forms of virtual and interactive content became more relevant than it, perhaps, ever has been in April. And for brands that have access to the right resources, they also have the ability to connect with their audience in advanced ways, such as those interactive consultations. But not everyone has access to the resources and budget that this level of digital advancement requires, so how are smaller business and individuals remaining relevant?
On April 14th, we saw YouTube release a free tool that would help small businesses bring a high-quality video marketing strategy to life. Mindful of the limited production and media budgets of small businesses, especially during these trying times, this new tool introduced them to a new form of video that is simple, fast and easy to use. Similarly, we saw Viator, Trip Advisor’s tour company, introduce us to a campaign called #RoamFromHome that gave small businesses the opportunity to create simple, but meaningful virtual experiences that travelers can experience when paid for. These opportunities include virtual cooking classes and sight-seeing tours that promote an experience through content that does not require the “glitz” of high-level video production. Instead, it simply requires the charm and simplicity of unfiltered, authentic content production- and the opportunity for small businesses to continue their business operations.
Again, another recurring theme of many of my blog posts becomes relevant- the shift and importance in unpolished, authentic and relatable video content that connects the audience to reality and its imperfections. This is the type of content that personifies and gives a brand its personality.
YouTube is not the only platform that we saw a huge surge in this month. If you are anything like me, you vowed not to download TikTok, but succumbed with little expectations on how addicted you would become to watching other users’ quarantine routines, reviews on products and New York restaurants, and even horror dating stories. This is the type of unpolished content that is bringing users together in very distant times. This month, creative, truly one of a kind content reached soaring heights and, most importantly, became achievable even with limited resources.
We Became Even More Challenged Not to Gain the “Quarantine 15” With Released Recipes
In April, however, creativity soared in all aspects of our lives- not just our lives as content creators. As we all continued to stay inside, we were inspired and challenged to bring our creativity to the kitchen as we continued to long for our favorite meals from our favorite restaurants. This month, we saw surges in DIY-related content, which is one reason why creativity reach an all-time peak. Many leading brands in the restaurant and food industry saw this as an opportunity to advertise some of their fan favorites on the menu, which we are certainly craving, but simply cannot get our hands on.
McDonald’s, Burger King, Pret A Manger, Disney and even IKEA released the recipes to their most beloved favorites on their menus. And they definitely made it this much harder not to gain that “Quarantine 15.” The marketing scheme (intentional or not) behind this is kind of genius. Similar to the debatable speculation that Starbucks misspells names on their drinks to make customers post it on their social feeds, releasing these recipes inspired fans to post and share content on the social feeds of those who attempted the recipe at home.
DIY failures call for viral, comedic content that, in one way or another, builds and connects a community of fans. It promotes awareness of and brings recognition to the brand. If your attempt resulted in one of these, it actually probably brought you that much closer to the brand with an even fonder appreciation for its speciality that is just too good to replicate. If your attempt to try the secret recipe at some resulted in a DIY success, you probably posted or a sent picture of it bragging to your friends, family and followers- again, building a sense of community around a brand’s name with authentic and unfiltered content.
We Were Saw Some Unusual Brand Partnerships Form
The common theme among all that we are awarding this month is the power of and increasing important in creativity and innovation- whether it is the content that you consume or create, or the partnerships that you build. In many ways, the saying “One man’s problem is another man’s opportunity” relates to the unusual and rather creative partnerships that brands in different industries are forming in order to maintain their success and relevance during challenging times.
Take this is an example: As the retail industry becomes more challenged, it presents the opportunity to penetrate other markets and categories that present greater possibility, including the food industry. This is just one partnership that we saw form in April (which we certainly did seeing coming) between DSW footwear and the Midwestern grocery store chain, Hy-Vee. The mission and unusual nature of the partnership, which is grounded in promoting self-expression to Hy-Vee shoppers, is an admirable one, but only time will tell whether or not Hy-Vee shoppers will intertwine their trip to grocery store with shopping for a new pair of heels or sneakers.
Will DSW prove that expanding into the food category is one successful tactic for breaking free from the brick-and-mortar retail industry?
Brick-and-mortar retail stores, including your local mall, need to take these types of creative leaps and risks to re-invent and revive traditional shopping experiences. Oh, and another (unrelated), but unusual and controversial pairing that we saw take social media by storm this month? Chips Ahoy! Sour Patch cookies. Whether you approve of the unlikely pairing or not, they hit stores this month! Considering all of the above, we have no idea what to expect next.
We Stayed #INspired Thanks to Pinterest’s New Touching Campaign
In many ways, social distancing challenged and inspired us to reinvent, recreate and rethink how we would combat the emotional and mental effects that not leaving the house had on us this month. After a month of leaving the house only a couple of necessary times, I found myself using Pinterest to create boards that would help me picture and visualize how I am going to spend my time when quarantine is lifted. Essentially, how I am going to live my best summer- with a dose of hopeful thinking that life will return to normal in a couple of months, of course.
But, Pinterest’s new #StayINspired campaign, which was released in April, inspired me to reflect on life, especially how I view being “stuck” at home, right now. Although looking forward to and planning for the future is not necessarily a bad thing, the video campaign inspired me to use the platform as a tool to start putting those saved plans into fruition right now- to achieve the simple ones today while I can, because why wait?
This Pinterest campaign celebrated the power of creativity and innovation with a warming and heart-felt video that certainly boosted my mood and inspired me after watching the video for the above reasons.
The video, which you can watch here, shows people partaking in the activities that their real Pinterest searches inspired them to do- from cooking, to celebrating birthdays, to even cutting your own hair. In many ways, its touching scenes inspires you to reflect on the simplicity of life and how it is the simplest, most basic things that you can do that will create the most important memories. It also inspired someone like me, who is always planning for the future, to put some of those plans that I have “saved” on my Pinterest board, and in every day life, into action today, rather than the month that my Pinterest board is organized according to.
Using these times to reflect on how lucky we are helps us realize that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. Instead, we should stay connected with what we do have, including our health, our homes, and our family, right now while they are here and present. With another month down, I am certainly looking forward to seeing how we will continue to adapt to the unexpected twists and turns that May brings us.