Signal Flares: I.3

The Ukrainian Government established a website to solicit cryptocurrency donations from the global community following the Russian invasion. The site invites people to contribute 13 different cryptocurrencies (as well as USD), and has secured $60M (and counting) to date. “This is not just the war against centralized regime,” offered Mike Chobanian, president of the Blockchain Association of Ukraine, “this is the birth of blockchain as a backbone of global security.”

Signal Flares is a series of microblog posts that cover compelling trends in Web3 and Food.


The Pillars of Web3

WEB3 IS THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET...

…and Illuminator’s modern marketing playbook is already  helping Web3 brands succeed. Let’s take a look at the pillars that make up the space:

 

Decentralized Approach

Decentralization is key to understanding Web3. Due to its community-first nature, marketers need to focus on what the users want, rather than what the brand demands. As we move into a Web3 world, brands will need to cede control to the community. It’ll be scary. Maybe even counter-intuitive. But by integrating into the community, successful brands will enjoy a level of loyalty and engagement that doesn’t exist today. 

 

Autonomy over Data

A big part of Web2 was corporations selling consumer data. Hence all the privacy concerns and trust issues we see today. Web3 resolves this conflict by giving users autonomy over their data—they get to decide who has access to their info. This will make data collection more difficult, and strong brands even more important. 

 

Semantic Web Incorporation

If Web2 was about making the Web easier to read for people, Web3 is about making it easier to read for computers, via the semantic web. It’s a technology that utilizes layers of metadata and makes the web more comprehensive and readable. (Recent examples of this technology include Siri and Alexa.) The Semantic Web will help to refine, generate, and share better content due to software becoming more adept. It will also help marketers find the right keywords that best match the user’s inquiry, thus making the web more comprehensive for all.

 

Community-Created Content

Web2 ushered in the notion of user-generated content, but brands quickly realized that expecting fans to create and share quality content was unrealistic; there was little motivation to do so. With communities having ownership in Web3 brands, members have a vested interest in stoking growth. Brands can lean into this by providing tools, guidance, and incentives. Brand-generated content is still important. But content generated by the community is more important than ever. 

 

What’s your brand’s Web3 strategy? If you’re interested in beating your competition to the next digital epoch, Illuminator has invaluable experience and a fantastic network. Why not reach out? We’d love to chat!

 

Illuminator is a digital-first advertising agency designed to show brands the way forward in an ever-shifting media landscape. We believe every brand has a compelling story to tell. We’ll help you tell yours.

We’re the agency you’d create if you were creating an agency today.


Signal Flares: I.2

The number of vegans across the globe is relatively small, but rapidly growing. As vegan brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Oatly rise to the occasion, an interesting trend is happening. Omnivorous consumers are enjoying vegan options as well. Whether they’re more aware of the environmental implications of farming livestock, or simply interested in trying new flavors, these Plant-Curious consumers are proving to be strong allies for the vegan movement.

Signal Flares is a series of microblog posts that cover compelling trends in Web3 and Food.


Signal Flares: I.1

Does Web3 have the potential to reinvent character-based I.P.? Cuy Sheffield thinks so, and makes a thought provoking argument on a16z’s Tech Trends blog. Great character-based I.P.–e.g. Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter— succeeds at building gigantic, engaged fanbases. (It also succeeds in lining the pockets of a select few companies.) If Web2 enabled fans to easily invest in these characters (i.e. buy stock in Marvel Entertainment), why can’t Web3 enable fans to easily participate in—and profit from— their creation (i.e. through an ingenious DAO)?

Examples:

  • The MV3 Universe, co-created by Stranger Things writer Jessie Nickson-Lopez, is a collection of 6,500 NFT characters populating a world that will be brought to life in comic books, video games, films, and more. Holders of an NFT get to participate directly in the upside of the IP.
  • Kevin Smith’s next film “Killroy Was Here” can only be seen by “unlocking” it with one of 5,555 NFTs he’s releasing. The NFT also enables collectors to become artistic collaborators in creating the sequel to the film.
  • Pop culture toy company Funko is expanding from physical toys to digital collectibles and opening up an entirely new revenue stream. They’re releasing a series of Transformers NFTs inspired by trading cards, and collectors can exchange rare cards for exclusive physical prizes.

Signal Flares is a series of microblog posts that cover compelling trends in Web3 and Food.


Demystifying DAOs

ILLUMINATOR IS BULLISH ON THE MARKETING APPLICATIONS OF DECENTRALIZED AUTONOMOUS ORGANIZATIONS.

In simple terms, DAOs are 1) a community of people 2) united by a mutual interest 3) who buy voting rights in the group. 

 

The decentralized nature of DAOs ensures no individual has absolute power; instead, decision-making is autonomously controlled via votes from the members of the organization. It’s designed to divest an organization from human egos & foibles that could hold it back, by letting blockchain technology take over most of the governance work. Much of this governance is controlled by smart contracts, which are applications of blockchain technology that rely on a decentralized, immutable public ledger. Smart contracts are carefully written in advance to establish rules around the variety of decisions that could arise over the life of the DAO. Note that members are regularly voting on governance, though. How the DAO will work and what its focus will be are still very much in the hands of humans. Check out this helpful explainer video from Forbes for a slightly deeper dive. In the meantime, here’s a practical example combining Web3 technology with another passion of ours: wine.

 

Imagine you run a vineyard in Wine Country. Competition is fierce, as the 800+ wineries spread across Napa and Sonoma counties make it difficult for your wine brand(s) to stand out. You created a subscription club to cater to your fans; in Web1, it was supported with a website and email newsletter. In Web2, you started curating a social media presence, and added a mobile site. Yet, you feel your club could be better. More valuable. More meaningful.

 

Enter Web3. You decide to convert your subscription club to a DAO. This is no small decision, as it means you are surrendering control, essentially spinning off an autonomous organization. While it seems daunting, you’re replacing one-on-one relationships with one relationship. A big, powerful customer who already loves you, and has a vested interest in helping you thrive. 

 

You carefully design smart contracts that align the DAO with the capabilities of your vineyard—you want to ensure the DAO’s expectations are realistic, e.g. voting to produce a type of wine your land can accommodate. Once these foundational elements are established, interested individuals buy a stake in the DAO in the form of a unique token the winery creates. The proceeds from the token sale fuel the logistics of the subscription program. Members buy into it every year to get the usual benefits of a wine club: priority access to exclusive releases, events, experiences, etc. But beyond this, they become engaged, active participants in steering a course for your DAO-backed brand(s). They might contribute input on formulations, names, packaging, membership benefits and more. They could even weigh in on what wine bars, restaurants and more represent the best partnership opportunities. The winery surrenders a degree of ownership, but that’s in exchange for having a passionate group of customers with skin in the game. A more than fair exchange in our opinion. 

 

By putting the end consumer at the center with Web3 technology, wineries could change the ways their wines are developed and create more meaningful, useful, and profitable communities around their brands. Illuminator is eager to help any brand navigate the possibilities of Web3. We’re already doing so in the gaming and entertainment space for NOR and Consortium9 Labs. And if you just so happen to work for a winery, well, our team has deep category experience, driving success for numerous wine brands back in the Web2 days. 

 

Web3 is changing everything. And brands who don’t accept the inevitability of Web3 technologies like blockchains, DAOs, and tokens risk putting themselves irreparably behind. As an agency with a Web3 focus, we’re constantly encouraging our partner brands to look beyond the hype—both the positive and negative news cycles—and embrace these promising new technologies. Web3 is all about building brands with passionate communities at the heart, and DAOs provide a revolutionary means for doing so. 

Illuminator is a digital-first advertising agency designed to show brands the way forward in an ever-shifting media landscape. We believe every brand has a compelling story to tell. We’ll help you tell yours.

We’re the agency you’d create if you were creating an agency today.


Why We Roll With a Robot

It happened. After years of ominous warnings, I can finally say I have a robot as a colleague. Though I knew the day was inevitable, I wasn’t prepared to discover the smartest strategist on my team didn’t have a pulse.

Its name is Blue Ocean. It’s not a robot in the conventional sense, but rather an artificial intelligence platform that specializes in delivering brand strategy insights. Much like C-3PO from Star Wars, Blue Ocean is a master of language, especially the online vernacular surrounding brands. (The team behind it had leased space at our team’s old office, and the Illuminator crew got to watch them grow from a scrappy startup to a VC-funded force working with respected global brands.)

Strategists have been leveraging software for years to assist with tedious tasks like data scraping and social listening. But artificial intelligence isn’t merely software. Blue Ocean’s been trained to do complex analysis, to understand sentiment, to look at images and derive meaning. Until recently, these were all tasks that only a human could accomplish (at great time and expense). The speed at which Blue Ocean is able to execute brand tracking has turned the exercise from an annual crucible into something refreshingly nimble and actionable.

Advertising is a service industry built on brains, not brawn. It’s something we should be proud of, but not cavalier about. We are moving into a reality where the best brainpower won’t always be human, and that’s OK.

That’s why we roll with a robot.

Illuminator is a digital-first advertising agency designed to show brands the way forward in an ever-shifting media landscape. We believe every brand has a compelling story to tell. We’ll help you tell yours.

We’re the agency you’d create if you were creating an agency today.


Illuminator Illuminates the Metaverse: Part 1

What are the signals we’re seeing?


There have been many eye-catching headlines heralding the arrival of the Metaverse. Its Google Trends history looks like a heartbeat coming to life. Most notably, on October 28th, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be changing its name to Meta as the company begins a public pivot from a social media company to a metaverse one.

Where did the term come from?


In 1992, Neal Stephenson introduced The Metaverse in his science-fiction novel Snow Crash. It’s been reimagined numerous times since then, usually in dystopian science fiction like Ready Player One and The Matrix.

What is a Metaverse, exactly?


In his 2020 treatise The Syntellect Hypothesis, Futurist Alex Vikoulov summarizes the metaverse as “the functional successor to today’s 2D Internet, with virtual places instead of Webpages.” Simply put, the metaverse is the next significant evolution of the Internet (the last evolution being the mobile web). Navigating 3-D digital environments with your avatar in video games is a concept most people can wrap their heads around. Now imagine these game mechanics being repurposed for navigating anything & everything you visit on the Internet today— especially interactions with other people. Truth be told, there will be numerous metaverses vying for people’s time and attention, but it’s intriguing to think of one emerging as the go-to virtual environment for the masses.

What will it look like?


It might not look as unfamiliar as you’d expect; small-scale metaverses have been around for a while. Second Life will go down in history as a major precursor to modern Metaverses, as will MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. While we don’t know exactly what a “metaverse for the masses” will look like, whoever succeeds in creating it will have to make it accessible, customizable, and irresistible.

Why is Illuminator bullish on it?


Significant “proofs of concept” are succeeding. Consider Roblox, the freeform, free-to-play phenomenon that went public earlier this year and boasts a $45B valuation. Two-thirds of all U.S. kids between 9 and 12 years old use Roblox, and it’s played by a third of all Americans under the age of 16, according to the company. Or look at the staggering success of Fortnite, a game that has acquired over 350 million unique users and netted over $9B since it was introduced in 2017. Its Party Royale mode enables (non-gaming) experiences, like a 2020 Travis Scott virtual concert that drew 12.3M live viewers, with 27.7M unique players participating overall. Both titles demonstrate an impressive subsection of the market uniting around a shared experience. We feel it’s only a matter of time before something bigger comes along that reaches a tipping point, and realizes the promise of The Metaverse.

What will it look like?


As a brand leader, is the metaverse something you should be losing sleep over? Not yet. Is it something that you should be thinking about and planning for? Absolutely. Just like when your company first built a website or mobile presence, it will inevitably have to carve out a place in the metaverse. Start discussing what experiences would be credible and meaningful to your customers in a metaverse environment. Spend some time talking to friends and family members who invest their time in things like Roblox and Fortnite, or better yet, spend some time in these worlds to experience them firsthand. Read coverage of early adopter brands who delved into Second Life, and extract relevant lessons for your brand. And if you’d like to schedule a brainstorming session with the Illuminator team, shoot us a note.

In Part 2, we will explore what meaning metaverses will have for consumers.

Illuminator is a digital-first advertising agency designed to show brands the way forward in an ever-shifting media landscape. We believe every brand has a compelling story to tell. We’ll help you tell yours.

We’re the agency you’d create if you were creating an agency today.


Five Lessons Your Social Content Strategy Can Learn from Sesame Street

My two young daughters love Sesame Street. I love it too, albeit in a thinky-brand-planner-strategist kind of way. After all, a stunning amount of work went into bringing this legendary show to life in its early years— and that work has kept it fresh in the fifty years since. More importantly for us: You can steal plenty of pages from Sesame Street’s playbook when it comes time to plan social content for your brand. Five lessons:

ONE

Treat each platform as a variety show.


Did you know Sesame Street’s structure was inspired by short, 30-second bursts of advertising? The variety of short-form content kids were seeing in commercial breaks kept them captivated, and the creators of Sesame Street saw an opportunity. As you plan your brand’s social content, think of each platform as a variety show. Develop a group of recurring themes or segments, each laser-focused on a specific objective, collectively working towards a macro goal. Sesame Street’s “Letter of the Day” teaches kids the ABCs. “Elmo’s World” fosters exploration, imagination and curiosity. “Monster Foodie Truck” demystifies where food comes from. These segments (and more) come together to achieve the goal of preparing children for school. Think about some specific objectives your brand has, and how the right segments can hit them, collectively working towards a larger goal.

TWO

Embrace experimentation


Sesame Street has a culture of experimentation; there’s a running joke at Sesame Workshop that every season since the first one has been “experimental.” The show has never settled for merely teaching fundamentals like literacy and numeracy. In 1969, it tackled diversity and inclusion—a groundbreaking decision at the time. Other successful experiments introduced regular segments on disabilities, executive function, self-regulation, persistence, and delayed gratification. Once your initial explorations yield promising content streams for your platforms, don’t stop experimenting. Reserve a bit of bandwidth to regularly test out new content. You can weed out what’s not working, and double down on what is.

THREE

Know your audience(s)


“Sesame Street is the most extensively researched television program in history,” according to “The Sesame Effect,” a 2016 collection of essays from the team behind the show. “Every season, [they] conduct extensive research and tests to assess how and what children should be learning.” You don’t need to go to the extremes that Sesame Workshop does, but set aside time 1-4 times a year to explore the audience you’ve cultivated on each of your platforms. Peruse the built-in analytics of your platforms. Take time to read POVs and listen to podcasts about social media trends. Invest in efficient qualitative research to hear firsthand how your audience is using social media. Gather all of your learnings, and see how your past social content aligns. If there are major disconnects, schedule a content strategy work session with your team.

FOUR

Think Theatrically


Jim Henson recognized the rectangular confines of a television screen made a perfect stage for puppet theater. With the right background— i.e. a cozy street corner in New York City— he could bring his muppets to the foreground, and craft a vast supply of content. Social media posts are rectangles, too. For some of your segments/themes, identify (or build) some visually compelling backdrops you can leverage again & again. You can then focus on the foreground aspects (like interesting people, products, or objects), and save time & money. Just remember: You’re building a variety show, and fresh content is an important part of the mix.

FIVE

Don't Wing It


Casual observers might assume it’s easy to throw together new episodes, now that they’ve been doing it for 50+ years. On the contrary, Sesame Street is a high-stakes, meticulously-planned operation. Trust us; they’re not winging it. Just because consumers are making up their social content as they go along doesn’t mean brands should do the same. We at Illuminator regularly preach “all social is paid social,” as the halcyon days of free organic growth are over. You need to plan social content with the same precision you would any other paid media. That means planning, concepting, and producing content in batches, and constantly observing and optimizing.

If your brand could use some help crafting a killer social media strategy and leveling up your creative output, we’d love to chat. (We can discuss our favorite Muppets, too.)

Illuminator is a digital-first advertising agency designed to show brands the way forward in an ever-shifting media landscape. We believe every brand has a compelling story to tell. We’ll help you tell yours.

We’re the agency you’d create if you were creating an agency today.


The Post-Cookie World

What’s next for brands in light of third-party cookies going away?

Apple and Google are moving away from third-party cookies, causing much hand-wringing throughout the land. There’s been intense debate about what this means for brands, and those opinions are all over the map. Even though Google recently delayed their switch until at least 2023 under pressure from advertisers, there’s still much to discuss. Here’s our take on what brands should be doing.

ONE

Look for creativity to make a big comeback.


Storytelling and brand-building took a back seat to performance marketing in some organizations as brands grew more reliant on function over form. Welllllll…it’s time to invest in your upper funnel again. Your focus needs to include achieving long-term goals vs. just short-term results. It’s more valuable to a brand when consumers engage with your advertising because it’s genuine and compelling, vs. because an algorithm relentlessly hounded them into submission.

TWO

Plan for a first-party data renaissance.


Marketers have become accustomed to the personalized connections that third-party data affords, but tactics like email marketing still enable that. This is an opportune time to invest in leveling up and expanding how you connect with consumers. Move beyond valuing email and retargeted posts as a way to remind customers of products they browsed or shopping carts they abandoned, and start finding ways to tell empathetic stories, offer utility, and entertain.

THREE

Strategize second-party data opportunities.


Acquiring second-party data (the prime example being data gathered by credit card companies) should become a bigger priority. Start exploring relationships with entities (like marketplaces and publishers) that offer it, and pursue partnerships with those who are leveraging it responsibly & sensitive to the growing global concerns surrounding privacy.

FOUR

Look for innovative companies to fill the void that will be created.


Marketers have become accustomed to the personalized connections that third-party data affords, but tactics like email marketing still enable that. This is an opportune time to invest in leveling up and expanding how you connect with consumers. Move beyond valuing email and retargeted posts as a way to remind customers of products they browsed or shopping carts they abandoned, and start finding ways to tell empathetic stories, offer utility, and entertain.

Third party data helps contribute to the efficacy of any digital advertising created these days, but the privacy concerns associated with it are real. We’re proud digital advertising professionals, but we’re also daughters, sons, husbands, wives, dads, moms, and, you know, people. Even if the companies who’re leveraging third-party data are storing it securely and acting lawfully under the auspices of capitalism, we think privacy must be a fundamental human right.

There’s a long runway for brands and agencies to figure out how to adapt. If we can be part of your solution, we’d love to help!

Illuminator is a digital-first advertising agency designed to show brands the way forward in an ever-shifting media landscape. We believe every brand has a compelling story to tell. We’ll help you tell yours.

We’re the agency you’d create if you were creating an agency today.


The Summer of Gluttony is Upon Us

Three things every brand can do to win the land grab.

The economy is reopening, and that means a gold rush for marketers. So how can you get ahead in this moment of opportunity? We have a few ideas that can help your brand immediately…

ONE

Every brand is now a DTC brand.


16-ish months of staring at our phones has made us all well-accustomed to mobile-first decision making. Which means Owned & Paid Social Content can drive sales right now. Everyone wants to splurge this summer, so consider how offers and deals can help you steal more share of wallet. And if you want to explore including a DTC channel strategy, we’ve helped brands do it over and over.

TWO

Just...get out there. You know, with everyone else.


According to Nielsen, great creative is 5x more important to effectiveness than an optimized media plan. We can (and should…and do) execute well on all fronts. But this is not the time to over-agonize about strategy or fall into eight-week production timelines. Get creative content out there now and you’ll see results now. And all summer long.

TWO

Earn your media. Or, as we like to say, steal it.


Who doesn’t love free media? A small financial investment made into a highly-shareable, PR-worthy idea can yield big returns. QSR brands like Wendy’s, Popeyes, and Burger King are already doing this well. We’ve had some hits over the past few years ourselves.

The best time to start is always yesterday. But now is good, too. Hit us up if you have 30 mins for a quick creds call. And to all the vaxxed and relaxed folks out there, let’s have a great summer.
-Us

Illuminator is a digital-first advertising agency designed to show brands the way forward in an ever-shifting media landscape. We believe every brand has a compelling story to tell. We’ll help you tell yours.

We’re the agency you’d create if you were creating an agency today.