Rogue380

Release the Travel!

Some of Rogue380’s most recent work was done without any members of the team meeting the client in person. Or even without some of our team members ever meeting each other in person. And while we got the job done, and done well, I sometimes can’t help but wonder what the impact of meeting up in person would have been. Maybe we would have been more efficient. Maybe communication would have been smoother. And maybe not. But what I do know is that personally I miss the excitement I get from meeting new people and seeing old friends and visiting exciting places.  

So in the honour of travel bans being lifted imminently, today we look at brands and companies Going Rogue in travel. Because sometimes, there is nothing like blazing a new trail, exploring new places, and meeting new and old friends, in person.

Baboon to the Moon

From a brand perspective I love Baboon to the Moon. A company that creates “bags for adventures”. They have a memorable name, memorable products, and memorable communications.

Last year they sent out an email that had a picture of a dolphin and a link to a video featuring dolphins. That’s it. No product. No sales or promotions. But from that point on, I actually looked forward to hearing from them, not knowing what to expect. I feel the same way about their product drops and limited edition designs. So next place I head to, I am bringing a Baboon to the Moon bag with me.

Lyle

With the Airbnb’s and Sonder’s of the world shifting ever so slightly closer to hotels by offering standardized amenities and service, some hotel developers are moving ever so slightly into the realm of home-like stays.

The best example is the Lyle in DC. Owned by the Lore Group, the hotel is not only located within a residential neighbourhood in Dupont Circle, but the feel of the hotel was crafted to feel less like a hotel and more like somewhere you could actually imagine yourself living. After-all, the building the hotel is in was once an apartment block.

When you visit the website, keywords like “neighbourhood” or “belonging”, that you would expect to see in an ad for Airbnb are prominently featured.

Will we be seeing more of these “home-tels” in the future?

Iceland

In the midst of the pandemic Iceland released a campaign putting forward the benefits of visiting. But it wasn’t a typical tourism type spot. Instead it empathized with people around the world. People who due to the pandemic were stressed or anxious and needed to find a way to simply let it all out. Not only did it position itself as a destination where you can feel free, it created an actual site that would allow people to record stress relieving screams.

Just last week Iceland launched a new initiative. Knowing that we all spent the last year and a half living in sweatpants, Iceland has now started turning your old sweatpants into boots. Boots that are perfectly suited to explore the various and beautiful terrain of Iceland. (Yes, I have always wanted to visit Iceland, I love cold weather more than warm weather, and I have to admit this work makes me want to visit even more)

Space Perspective

And finally, after a year that felt like science fiction, how can I not talk about space travel? I don’t need to be the first in space, but I do think I would like to experience it at least once before I die.

I’m sure there will be more options and even cheaper options (Space Perspective will charge about $125,00 for a round trip), but their space balloon capsule seems an interesting way to visit space…well that is unless space aliens visit us first…

Sights on Atlanta

If you are a basketball fan like myself you probably heard a lot about Atlanta these days. Whether it was the 2021 NBA All-Star game back in March, or Trae Young and the Hawks making it to the Eastern Conference finals and facing the eventual champions. Aside from being basketball fans at Rogue380, Atlanta is important to us for another reason. As we consider expanding, Atlanta often comes up in our discussions. So today in Going Rogue, we look at a few things that, in our eyes, make Atlanta.

First a little trivia: One of the things that Atlanta is known for is being the home of The Coca-Cola Company. If you have been to a restaurant like Subway, you have probably seen or used the Freestyle machine. Introduced in 2009, it allows you to choose a soft drink from the Coca-Cola family and mix it with a number of flavours from vanilla, to orange, to cherry, and more. 

What famous inventor conceived of this machine?

First correct answer in the comments below will win a book give away!

A few years ago, Serious Eats did a great review of all possible flavor combinations:

Atlanta is home of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). An organization that we have unfortunately heard about too much about these days. As Dr. Charity Dean, a key character in the latest Michael Lewis book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, says when speaking about public health officials, “if you are really good at your job, nobody knows.”

A key issue during the pandemic was healthcare staffing. Our frontline heroes were pushed to the limit in trying to help everyone get through the pandemic as healthy as possible. SnapNurse, an Atlanta based startup has helped to solve at least part of this issue. Their tech-based staffing platform that helps to get healthcare professionals to where they are needed most, is an idea that not only makes sense but is one we hope grows fast and far.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Charity Dean here

As I have mentioned in a previous post, mental health should be a key focus for all of us. And many professional athletes are sharing their struggles in hopes to help others. Trae Young of the Hawks is not only leading on the court, but with his foundation he is leading off the court as well. His Family Foundation supports people of all ages in their fight with mental issues including those stemming from cyber bullying or depression.

 If you have a pet you will want to try Goodboy, based in Atlanta. They were around before the pandemic and the 2020 pet rush. They offer personalized supplements for your dog. Their algorithm takes into accounts everything from breed to age. My favourite was their advent calendar of supplements for dogs. I know my dog would have loved one of those! 

Their other claim to fame is that they have suffered from several cases of obvious plagiarism. Some competitors copied their website practically word for word. But with their Rogue-like spirit they fought back. 

Modern Retail published a great article about their struggle.

If you are in Atlanta and would want to chat or meet up. I would love to do so at Bellwood Coffee. A shop that mixes coffee and plants. Looks like a beautiful space. And coffee will be on me. On top of it, their values of openness, sustainability, creativity, and forward-thinking are similar to ours at Rogue380. 

Check out some images and an interview with the owners here:

Marketing in a recession

In Season 22, episode 3, of the Simpsons, Marge tries to remind Homer of the limited time he has to spend more time with their kids. He famously answers, “That’s a problem for future Homer. Man, I don’t envy that guy.” During tough times, brands, feeling the pressure of short term results, often need to apply Homer’s thinking. It’s not that they want to, but sometimes it feels there are no other way.

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Recessions are not easy. For customers it is a time of increased stress. For companies it is a time of great questioning. Where to cut budgets and where to maintain budgets is key among these questions. And while for everyone it is hard to look beyond the urgency of the now, the key things for brands is not to lose sight of the long-term impact of decisions made during tough times.

In this edition of the Rogue Report, we touch on some ways brands can stave off tough times with strategies that can help yield longer term results too.

Double down on private label where you can

During the uncertain times brought on by the Covid pandemic, customers looked to find ways to save. One of these ways was by purchasing private label brands. Private label brands offer the quality seal of national brands, but because of certain marketing efficiencies, they can be offered at competitive prices. Costco has been able to create an almost cult following with its line of Kirkland Signature products. So much so, that shoppers can even buy branded merch like hoodies with the logo of the private label.

What does this mean for your brand?

Private label does not mean you can’t innovate. Loblaws private label President’s Choice is sought out by customers not only because it delivers on quality and value, but also because it constantly introduce unique products and flavours.  More and more grocers are using a good, better, best product strategy for private labels. What was once a way for customers to identify value, has become a key element in building customer loyalty.

Brands can identify products that are complementary to their current lineup and consider ways they can bring them into the fold. Amazon has leverage this strategy well. Though it is important to note, Amazon has been accused of using sales data from sales of other brands on its marketplace to identify which product lines would be the most profitable for the company to introduce.

Re-frame your offer

In difficult times, customers rely on heuristics to help them make the best decision possible. This can mean going with the brand that is most top of mind. Knowing this, in the early 2010’s with the impact of the 2008 crisis still impacting buying decisions, Audi created a campaign to shift mindsets about how the brand stood up to some of it better know competitors. Notably it claimed to retain its value better than anything else that comes from germany, including its two direct competitors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The reframing worked and helped Audi increase sales by 15% compared to the previous year.

What does this mean for your brand?

Value is never as simple as offering the lowest price. But key for brands is understanding how they define value. From additional features, to proof of durability, it is important for brands to speak with customers to understand what signals value for them. With this in mind, communications during tough times can speak to this advantage and provide proof-points to how their brand meets the needs of customers better than others.

Be single-minded 

For years Lululemon has staved off complaints that its products are too pricey by explaining that its pricing strategy is based on ensuring a level of quality rather than affordability. Sure this doesn’t win over every customer but it sends a message about those who can and want to purchase their products about their single-minded desire to offer value through quality.

While Lululemon has had some setbacks in the area of product quality, in general their quality strategy is successful with most customers, including more and more men, raving about the brand’s clothes.

What does this mean for your brand?

We always want to say everything to everyone, not a perfect strategy in good times, but in a recession, where resources to speak to everyone can be limited, we sometimes have no choice but to stick to a single minded message. What is the single message that will help current customers stay with you and future customers remember you when times turn for the better for them?

Good ideas can come from times where constraints are highest. Whether finding new ways to put the spotlight on the unique value your brand offers, or framing in a way that it becomes salient for customers the key in a recession is to not sacrifice everything for short term gains. This isn’t always possible, they are called tough times for a reason, but key is to never cut back on creative solutions.

Because while there are many reasons why we don’t want to be like Homer Simpson, disregarding the well-being of our future selves is one of them.

How are we feeling today?

Talk abounds around how we are going to get the economy going again now that the threat of Covid is abating and the majority of Canadians have received at least one vaccine dose. And while we talk about the long term impact of Covid in economic or physical health terms, the pandemic and our reentry into society is and will continue to have deep running implications on our mental health. At Rogue380 we empower our employees to take mental health breaks when needed. We understand that to do great work we must be able to take the time for our minds. But despite initiatives from large companies like Bell Canada with their Let’s talk program, there is still a lot of stigma around talking about and treating mental health issues.

From psychedelics to journaling to supporting those who speak out about their own issues, this edition of Going Rogue looks to celebrate brands and companies that are finding ways to change how we talk about and treat mental health. Please note: this post is not an endorsement of any of the brands or therapies discussed below. If anything, we just want more people to feel that they can talk about their own mental health.

In the spirit of sharing and talking, feel free to leave a comment about how you have coped with the last year and a half. Personally I have found it a very tough year and a half. Isolating both personally and professionally. I like to travel and go out and meet people, so for both those to be taken away from me, even if temporarily, has been a struggle I didn’t see coming. 

So honestly, how are you doing?

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Calm, the popular meditation app, made headlines when it sponsored the 2020 election race on CNN. They knew that with emotions running high, discussing the election, even just with loved ones, could be extremely difficult. And that those following the race closely might need an outlet and for some meditation could be that outlet.

More recently, Calm has continued to be present in the conversation around mental health. When Noami Osaka was fined for not attending French Open press conferences, Calm decided to pay her fines and those of any other player who decided that talking to the press would do more harm than good for their mental state.

While some might say that press conferences are par for the course for professional athletes, we at Rogue380 support Naomi’s decision.

For those of you in Toronto, LA or Chicago, there is Field Trip Health. They offer psychedelic assisted therapy to help with mental health issues. Their doctors and healthcare professionals are not only world class but their beautifully designed spaces are far from what you might imagine to be a typical psychotherapist’s office. As the name suggests they walk you through the whole healing “trip”. 

For more on the subject of how important psychedelics will be and is for therapy for mental health issues I recommend Michael Pollan’s How to Change your Mind.

Speaking of psychedelics, another Toronto company, Schedule35, offers several micro-dosing options. Personally I have close friends cycling on and off their 250mg option.

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We often talk about mental health. The idea of health in this phrase is key. Even for those who might not be currently experiencing any issues, as Covid has shown, we are all at risk. And so just like any form of health, it can be beneficial to work on it.

Sanctus, based in the UK, offers mental health solutions for companies to offer their employees, but through their free community and mental health gym they offer ways for anyone to avoid the isolation that we can feel when dealing with mental health issues. They also offer daily prompts for journaling, an activity that has shown to have positive benefits for mental health.

https://sanctus.community/welcome

Consider following James Routledge, the founder of Sanctus. He shares interesting and helpful content.

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And given that Rogue380 is after all a communication agency, here is a campaign that we feel does an excellent job of continuing the mental health conversation.

This humoristic spot from Time to Change, an initiative to get people talking about mental health, offers a simple piece of advice to help those around you who might have mental health issues. So if you take anything away from this post it is; ask twice. Those around us might not always admit right away that we are going through tough times. 

And with that in mind, I re-ask a question from earlier, how are you doing?

https://sanctus.community/welcome

Going Rogue in Finance

Here in Canada we are waiting with baited breath for open banking. With open banking comes the ideal that banking should be much more transparent. And that it should be up to the people to decide how they share their financial information with other companies and that they be able to do it in a safe and secure way. As we wait for the era of open banking to begin, here are a few companies in Canada and beyond that are already changing the face of banking and finance

Habito (UK)

If you have ever applied for, or even refinanced, a mortgage, hell might be the first word to come to mind. Habito, a mortgage brokerage service, took notice of that and offered an alternative. Habito communications are nothing like anything the financial industry has ever seen. From ads with gruesome cartoons to a erotic e-book helping couples stay frisky during the sometimes difficult mortgage process, the brand is making a clear point that doing business with them is different from the competition (in the best way possible).

Check out the novel here (and hat tip to Unknown London, the agency behind the creative work):
https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=9057385345133481378

Starling Bank (UK)

Search most any image databases for photos related to banking and finance, and the majority will be of men. Look closer and one notices that those that do feature women, portray them in very different contexts than those with men. Women are less likely to appear in situations that are meant to portray important transactions and deals. Instead images with women show them conducting relatively minor transactions. A glaring difference.  

Starling Bank, a digital bank founded on the idea of offering people a more fair and humane way to bank, wanted this to change. So they did something about it. The bank has created a bank of free to use images that show people that are unfortunately noticeably absent from campaigns by the big banks. 

Check out the images here:
https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=8409939534365227916

P.S. For more information on the subject be sure to also check out Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez

Koho (Canada)

In Canada you have a choice among 5 big banks. In some instances you can visit any of them and each feels just like the other. Staid and traditional. Or as Koho has recently called out, it’s all BS (Bank Stuff). The campaign lets people know that Koho offers the ability to bank without all that bank stuff like pens chained to a desk (or high fees). The double entendres of which the campaign is replete is a direct challenge to the old ways in which banks continue to operate.

Rogue Report Episode 1

When Masai Ujiri first joined the Raptors in 2013 the team was coming off a season that saw them finish 10th in the eastern conference. Leaving them out of the playoffs and with a losing record for the fifth year in a row. Since that time, under Ujiri’s guidance, the team has made the playoffs every year and, well this year, they just happened to make history with Canada’s first NBA championship.

What can brands learn from Ujiri and the Raptors about getting unstuck?


Run an honest brand assessment

Among the first moves that Ujiri made was to get rid of players that did not fit in with his vision of a team. Players who in certain situations could be considered a toxic influence on the team culture. I won’t name names here, but a quick web search will reveal who I am referring to. Ujiri was able to take an unemotional look at the roster he had inherited in order to make a lucid talent and fit assessment.

What does this mean for your brand?

Run regular brand assessments. These should take into consideration external and internal realities and factors.

Is everything contributing to the overarching brand? Maybe it’s time to eliminate under performing lines or those that you believe will not contribute to your vision of the future.

Ford took the latter route with the 2018 announcement that they would be cutting Taurus, Fusion, Fiesta and Focus brands, among others. This is a bold move considering that the Focus was the world’s best selling car as recently as 2013. But difficult times in the automobile industry call for difficult measures.


Make hard moves – ones that others don’t have the guts for

The Raptors were not the only team in the running when the San Antonio Spurs made Kawhi available on the trade market. The Boston Celtics were rumored to be among those considering trade packages. What the Celtics could not handle was the risk that Kawhi would join the team and not resign once his contract expired and that he would become a free agent (meaning he could move to any team without his former team receiving any form of compensation in return). The Raptors were facing this same risk but decided to trade DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi. DeRozan was not only one of the team’s stars but was a fan favourite. The team was just not getting over the playoff hump under his guidance.

And if you want another example of guts, consider that the Raptors fired Dwayne Casey, the reigning NBA coach of the year, and replaced him with rookie coach, Nick Nurse. Two key moves that were incredibly risky, took a lot of guts to pull off, but paid off incredibly in the end.

What does this mean for your brand?

As the saying goes when others zig, you zag. Look at your brand’s category. Consider the existing conventions and identify the ones that your brand is well positioned to break. For example, the traditional colours in the milk category were blue and white.

In Quebec, Natrel flipped these conventions on their head and introduced predominantly black milk cartons successfully jolting the category and injecting new life into the brand.


Ignore the experts (well, at least sometimes)

If you had told some of the top NBA talent scouts that the Raptors would get invaluable playoff contributions from Fred VanVleet they would have probably rolled their eyes at you if not straight out laughed. After all, Vanvleet was not even selected at the annual NBA talent draft.

The Raptors trusted in Vanvleet and in their ability to nurture and grow talent. And without VanVleet’s shooting and defence, the Raptors-Warriors series may have needed a game 7 and you never know what can happen in a do-or-die game.

What does this mean for your brand?

Sometimes to make proper decisions with respect to your brand and sources of growth you need to separate the signal from the noise. That is, what information can you truly rely on, and what other information is taken out of context?

If Red Bull had relied on the data from the initial taste tests for its eponymous energy drink, it would have never seen the light of day. But stakeholders knew that the branding of the drink would play a powerful role in its adoption and the brand’s promise of energy on the go would overcome any negative taste perceptions – and in some cases would even lend more credence to the brand itself.


Create your own narrative

Before they truly became Canada’s team with their recent championship run, the Raptors had the foresight to create an incredible rallying cry. What was truly great about the campaign was the pride it instilled not only for fans within the city core but for those in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

Since then “We the North” has become a source of national pride with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, using it in a tweet shortly after the Raptors won game 6 and the championship.

What does this mean for your brand?

When building campaigns and brand platforms don’t be afraid to look beyond your core customers. Think big and consider how your brand could appeal to, or even motivate, a wider audience. Apple’s Think Different campaign, launched in 1997, is a great example in that it made people look at Macs through a more creative lens. Even today, 21 years after it first aired, the aura of Think Different has stuck to the Apple brand. And yes, both Think Different and We the North are considered to be grammatically incorrect – perhaps lending to their memorability.


A great brand doesn’t happen by accident. It must continually evolve. Regular and honest brand assessments can help you identify new spots for growth and places that are weighing the brand down. Not every move you make will be the right one, but with enough smarts and a lot of guts, you can position your brand in order to provide it with the potential to carve out a lasting place in the world.

Rogue Report Episode 2


In an episode from season 2 of the Amazon Prime series Fleabag, the titular character is seen working on a busy day at her once mostly empty café. Her sister, dumbfounded asks what has happened, Fleabag explains that she has introduced chatty Wednesdays – After you buy something you need to have a talk with someone who you don’t already know. ”Loneliness pays,” she deadpans.

The idea of chatty Wednesdays in this fictional series is based on an actual program introduced in many independent cafes in the UK after a mother of a young child started to notice strangers around her who seemed lonely and could use an ear. Costa Coffee, a UK chain, introduced the concept in several of its stores.

While many brands are preoccupied at getting people to spend by offering promos or deals, some are forward thinking and are making attempts to meet deep human needs.


What can we learn from brands like costa coffee who have found ways to meet human needs?

The need to play

One of the reasons that humans like to play games is to understand how we compare to others. While we understand we won’t always be first, it is human nature to make sure we aren’t last. Peloton bike, the indoor cycling company understands this and uses gamification to help create stickiness. With the leaderboard feature one can keep an eye on their performance with respect to other cyclists across the world.

What does this mean for your brand?

How can you create a game or a sense of play around your product? It might be simpler than you think. Playing is a social construct and so even simple social cues can be used by your brand to satisfy the need to play. Opower, an Oracle owned company, was founded on certain principles of behavioural economics. An Opower utility bill not only has your power consumption but it compares it to that of your neighbours. This has been proven to lead to significant overall energy savings, with neighbours vying against each other to save the most energy.


The need for safe discovery

Raymond Loewy, one of the most impactful industrial designers of the 20th century (you can thank him for the iconic Greyhound bus, among many other designs), applied a theory to everything he designed; most advanced, yet acceptable (or maya for short). Loewy instinctually knew that to advance anything, you need to first cater to the human need for familiarity. Once that is settled, it can help render any novelty in the design more easily accepted.

The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.RAYMOND LOEWY

What does this mean for your brand?

To create change you have to take into account how humans act today. While a new product may be inherently better performing than an older one, it will be shunned if people don’t at least find something familiar about it.

Think of the Segway. It is a great technology but the vehicle itself and the way it is controlled is like nothing like else that came before. With the proliferation of the bike and scooter sharing economy, the Segway is a product that appears like it should have been well placed to surf on this renaissance of individual transportation, but it is hardly a blip on the radar.

Price tag aside, perhaps had the design looked a bit more familiar it would have had a better chance of being among today’s personal vehicles of choice.


The need for interactions

Legend has it that years ago, when Pixar was building their offices Steve Jobs was pushing for only one set of bathrooms. This he posited would lead to an increase in the number of spontaneous interactions between employees and would thus generate better ideas and collaboration.

While in the end, the design for the space included more than 1 set of bathrooms, the idea is still an interesting one whether one is designing for employees or customers.

What does this mean for your brand?

When considering human needs you need to go further than just considering the end benefit of your product or service. How can you build in ways for consumers to interact meaningfully with other customers or even other employees?

Lululemon excels at this with one simple solution; writing the customer’s name and activity for which they are trying on clothes on the change room door. This creating a reason to start a great conversation between staff and customer based on what might be common interests.


The need for belonging

Despite being something that appears to be practiced individually, the value of cycling is the team aspect. When riding in a large group or just with a friend, cyclists can go further and longer. Rapha, the British cycling apparel brand, has created a membership based community of cyclists from around the world.

Everything Rapha does through this program shows the member how important they are to the community. The brand allows members to connect with like-minded cyclists, access rides from their local Chapters, and even share their rides through Strava, the popular cycling and running tracking app.

What does this mean for your brand?

Find ways to allow customers to share with other customers. Let them have control of the community. The Lego Ideas community is another great example. It not only helps connect people to the brand but this connection is strengthened when one knows it is shared by millions of others people worldwide. Additionally, some of the brand’s recent popular building sets started out as concepts submitted by members of the Ideas community.


When considering ways to connect with consumers, it is important to go beneath the surface and consider universal human needs. If you can build a way to meet a human need as a value add in your product or service it can go a long way in allowing your brand to create deeper emotional connections with consumers.

But emotional connections can’t be taken for granted, they imply a significant amount of trust. As we have seen with some of the backlash against Equinox and Soul Cycle with respect to their chairman’s political ties, even die hard fans can be spurned.

Rogue Report Episode 3

In How I Met Your Mother, the series that last aired on prime time TV in 2014 but which has continued to gain popularity thanks in large part to it presence on Netflix, Ted Mosby, the primary character speaks about being in the right place at the right time.

In the episode of the same name, Ted gives the following advice to his kids: “The great moments of your life won’t necessarily be the things you do, they’ll also be the things that happen to you.” The same idea can apply to brand strategy and brand management.

We can’t always predict what will impact our brand the most but we can make all the right moves to be at the right place at the right time when opportunity strikes. In other words, no matter how great your plan is or how perfectly you execute it, sometimes it helps to have a little luck.


Create long-term plans that make sense in the short-term

In July of 2018, the Toronto home of the Raptors and the Leafs was renamed the Scotiabank Arena after 20 years as the Air Canada Centre. While it is not unusual for arenas to change names, the Montreal Bell Centre was once the Molson Centre and Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre was once named the Corel Centre.

What was unusual was the price that Scotiabank paid. The bank promised $800 million over 20 years. This is widely considered to be the most ever paid for building naming rights and team sponsorship in North America. At the time, some speculated that Scotiabank may have overpaid. However, that was before the Raptors became the center of the basketball universe and eyes across the world turned to the 3 Finals games that were played in the arena. You could say that Scotiabank was at the right place at the right time.

What does this mean for your brand?

Learn how to ignore naysayers. Not every move your brand makes will be unanimously approved of by pundits or outsiders. Have the courage and conviction to make moves that might not be popular in the moment but that will likely pay off in the long term.


Look to where culture is going, not where it has been

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once gave the following advice: Skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. The same applies for brands when looking at population trends and movements. Greystar Real Estate Partners has understood this well. Despite homeownership still representing a life goal for much of the population of the United States, it is a dream that is increasingly becoming out of reach. Add to this the increase in reports that many people are feeling lonelier than ever. And an interesting and compelling business case for the future of apartment living emerges.

By doubling down on apartments and student housing, Greystar has positioned itself as a leader for current and future generations who not only want to live within city cores (where home ownership costs are prohibitive if not unthinkable) and who cherish the ability to live in close proximity to a close knit community.

What does this mean for your brand?

Monitor population trends religiously in order to be better prepared to take advantage of future opportunities. They key is to identify when two or more trends are likely to intersect and to get ahead of this intersection.


It’s not over until it’s over

In the early 1990’s, whether it was on college sport or NBA uniforms or in gyms across North America, it was hard to go anywhere without seeing the blue and red Champion ”C”. Despite being relatively omnipresent, the brand did not sustain its presence and the brand all but disappeared from the North American cultural landscape.

Capitalizing on a trend of nostalgia for the 90’s and partnering with some of the most sought after brands such as Supreme and A Bathing Ape, Champion was able to stage a remarkable comeback and has once again positioned itself as a key player among sportswear brands.

What does this mean for your brand?

As is often said, trends are cyclical. Understand the key drivers of your brand in order to be able to capitalize on opportunities.

Champion’s play for a comeback was over 12 years in the making.

It was a plan that started almost 12 years ago. My whole thing was to take it from an urban phenomenon to pop culture. Because that’s what I always believed the brand was. That’s what it meant to me as a kid. And that was my mission.MANNY MARTINEZ, CHAMPION’S GLOBAL BRAND AMBASSADOR


Look inside and out

Many of you likely use Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge almost every single day. You may recognize it more via its acronym; Slack. Incredibly this tool started off as an internal tool at a video game company. The team realized that if it made their work communication easier than it might have the same impact on other work teams.

What does this mean for your brand?

Sometimes solutions you might see as a hack are actually viable and marketable products. If you and your team find it useful it means there might be opportunities for it in the outside world.


Despite the best brand, product or plans, there is always a little room for luck. But luck doesn’t work on its own, as Oprah Winfrey once said luck is preparation meeting opportunity.

Rogue Report Episode 4

Most surgeries in the 1800’s were conducted by surgeons with their bare hands. In fact, many did not even wash their hands before heading into surgery. A patient’s luck with regard to surviving a surgery was about the same as predicting a coin flip. The idea of germ transmission still hadn’t taken hold. Though this was beginning to change. One of the factors in this change was an 1888 publication called Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment. What is interesting about this particular publication was that it was created and distributed by Johnson & Johnson as a way to speak to surgeons, a key target for their bandages. This is an early example of what today we call content marketing.

While content marketing is not a new concept, the proliferation of platforms from which we choose to entertain, educate and share has renewed the importance of content for brands as a differentiator.


IRL content

Redbull is a pioneer when it comes to exploring new ways to connect with audiences. Not only did they launch their own content studio but they have created events that traditional media is enticed to cover. From the Felix Baumgartner Space Drop to Crashed Ice, the Red Bull Music Academy, and AdrenaLAN, an e-sport event, they have been able to generate content that represents pure expressions of the brand.

What does this mean for your brand?

The definition of content is extremely large. It does not reside solely within the digital realm. Consider the strengths of your brand when selecting ways to bring it to life.


Lose control

In the early 2000’s, approximately 5 B.Y.T. (5 years before YouTube 😉 ), BMW commissioned filmmakers such as Guy Ritchie and Alejandro González to create short movies. The filmmakers were given few guidelines aside from including Clive Owen as a driver for hire. More recently to celebrate their 400th anniversary Grolsch commissioned 400 different artists and designers to share their interpretation of the beer brand.

What does this mean for your brand?

To create content that truly connects with the audience, it can be useful to just let go and give the brand reins to expert storytellers to bring the brand to life. It is not always easy but the results have the potential to be memorable.


Stores as content studios

When Nike opened The Jumpman store in downtown Los Angeles the goal, as usual with most Nike stores went beyond just selling shoes and apparel. The store is a meeting point for a running group and hosts several daily yoga classes. In some respects it also acts as a content studio. The rooftop court serves as backdrop for videos featuring local basketball influencers many of whom are part of the NBA Playmakers community.

What does this mean for your brand?

Be creative when considering how your brand can show up in third party content. Useful spaces such as studio space or interesting backdrops can showcase your brand in its natural environment. And more and more brands are considering the Instagrammability of spaces when designing them.


The long form is gaining ground

Despite the myth that our attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish, long form content still has a place. Dude Perfect one of the most popular channels on YouTube with over 45 million subscribers frequently publish videos that exceed the 20 minute mark. The Joe Rogan Experience podcast which has been listened to over 1.5 billion times a year runs over 2 hours long per show.

What does this mean for your brand?

To create content that truly connects with the audience, it can be useful to just let go and give the brand reins to expert storytellers to bring the brand to life. It is not always easy but the results have the potential to be memorable.


While it feels like it is a recent trend, content marketing has been around for years. Content is a wide ranging term but it generally refers to creative ways to talk about a brand without calling it by what it really is, advertising. And while he wasn’t specifically speaking of content, legendary adman David Ogilvy may have summed it up best “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”

Rogue Report Episode 5

In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine notices her boss eating a Snickers bar with a knife and fork. Surprised, she describes the situation to George and Jerry. Later in the episode, George tries the technique and in turn is seen by his boss. By the end of the episode we see that this curious method of eating a chocolate bar has spread far past their immediate circle of friends and has become a trend. Today, Elaine’s boss would perhaps be called an influencer.

Food trends are not always that obvious or circular. Some take years or decades to emerge while others move quickly across the world. Some are happenstance while others are the result of careful planning.


What can brands learn from how some food trends come and go and how others take hold and become diet staples?

Create desire

If you love (or even just like) potatoes you have Antoine-Augustin Parmentier to thank.

His strategies for popularizing the potato close to 300 years ago could still be used as a playbook for brands today. Parmentier not only held invitation only suppers featuring the spud, he set up an elaborate stunt to position the potato as a most desirable food.

On land donated to him by the King, Parmentier created a garden of potato plants. Guards were hired to watch over the garden. The genius part was that the guards were instructed to look away as soon as anyone attempted to steal a potato. Thus planting the suggestion in people’s minds that potatoes were indeed valuable (and perhaps even worth risking prison for).

What does this mean for your brand?

The illusion of scarcity has helped several brands grow at a faster pace than if their product was more widely available. Sneaker companies have played on this with limited edition colour ways or themes of popular models.

The current popularity of the Stan Smith sneaker can partially be attributed to the fact that adidas removed them from the market in the early 2010’s in order to create a bigger buzz once they were reintroduced a few years later.


Now trending

While Parmentier pushed the hand of fate, the success of his interventions were helped along by the fact that in the late 1700’s France was looking for a replacement for wheat and that the lowly potato had saved a number of lives during a famine in the north of France. As stated in this space previously, the intersection of trends and events is fertile ground for the genesis of new trends. Intersecting trends can help explain the current interest and popularity of fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, and kefir.

One of these trends is the continued rise in interest for superfoods (natural foods of which the benefits go beyond simple sustenance).

The second is our evolving tastes meaning people are seeking new and novel sensations. With their distinct tastes and purported positive impact on gut health, fermented foods fit nicely into the aforementioned trends.

What does this mean for your brand?

Consider the trends or even legislation changes that could have an impact on your brand. The impact of the legalization of cannabis is great example. CBD and THC have shown up as an ingredients in countless different products.

Facing increases in rent and overhead costs amid the difficult state of bricks and mortar retail, some third wave coffee shops now shift into natural wine bars in the evening. A smart move for profits but also based on the realization of their consumers overlapping interests in both beverage types.


Always be (slightly) reinventing

We eat our potatoes a bit differently (or at least with a few more variations) than Parmentier did. He might not have imagined the ways we would eat potatoes today, whether frozen french fries, the Canadian poutine, or even hash browns. So not only do our perceptions of certain foods change over time but the way we consume them do as well.

Consider mochi ice cream. While mochi ice cream dates back to the early 1990’s, the sweetened rice dough that forms the exterior of the treat has been consumed in Japan for several hundred years. The new twist on it puts mochi ice cream well on its way to someday becoming a household name across North America.

What does this mean for your brand?

People’s tastes and behaviours evolve. Consider ways that your brand can remain relevant throughout your consumer’s lives. This doesn’t always mean radical change. A recent commercial from the Egg Farmers of Canada simply encourages people to consider eggs outside of the typical morning window.

INSECTS ARE THE NEW LOBSTER- GEORGE BROSSARD – CANADIAN ENTOMOLOGIST


Act first

Humans are creatures of habit; a trait that serves us well, as eating the wrong thing could lead to an untimely death. The potato was once seen as poisonous. After all, it’s grown underground and was fed to pigs. To test his belief it was comestible, Parmentier lived on a potato diet. What currently ignominious food might we adopt on a large scale?

The insect-as-food market will reach 1 billion dollars in the coming decade. Entomologist Georges Brossard’s mission was to help people better appreciate insects. He promoted insects as a sustainable source of protein. The Montreal Insectarium, founded in part by Brossard, often holds events to allow the general public to taste for themselves. Will we look back on him as the one who instigated the arrival of insects on our plates?

What does this mean for your brand?

Do before you say. We can’t expect people to quickly adopt behaviours that might previously have appeared strange to them. George Brossard understood this well.

Instead of trying to convince people to eat insects right away he knew that he would first have to change the overall perception of insects. He brought insects to people instead of expecting people to go towards insects.


Change doesn’t come easily. Consumers are creatures of habit. But much like Parmentier and Brossard, brands must pay attention to circumstances and contexts where breaks in habits lead consumers to a period of openness, and then to the creation of new habits.