Updated: Jul 19
💩 BULLSHIT: GENERATIONAL GROUPINGS
Generational talk dominates discourse. The money-hoarding boomers berate avocado-adoring millennials for their participation trophy affinity. Gen Z call millennials ‘cheugs’. They also eat Tide pods. And every trend report in the history of planet earth reminds us millennials buy experiences, not things.
Then don’t forget Zillennials! The elusive earthlings born in the generational chasm. Or as Deloitte prefers to call them, MilleXZials! (Please, never forgive them for napalming the english language).
Image via The Marketoonist
Marketers have no shortage of batshit annoying terms to describe the generations and their derivatives. An extraterrestrial observer could be forgiven for thinking agencies were actually generational worship labs.
But what if the entire notion of generational groupings was flawed to begin with? What if entire swathes of the global population born in close proximity actually aren’t all the same? 78,000 UK millennial parents also have millennial children. Let the bottom dollar be bet they don’t exhibit the same shopping behaviors.
The evidence behind neat, cohesive generations is lacking. An analysis of generational literature by George Washington University’s David Costanza showed it’s not millennials who are narcissistic, but young people in general, regardless of when they are young.
The contention that generations aren’t a particularly useful grouping device was backed by BBH Labs' 2020 ‘Puncturing the Paradox Report’. The study produced a ‘cohesion score’ which compared group similarities between generation and other sets of people. What do people who floss, crossword fans, and daily nut eaters have in common? More than millennials as a group it seems.
But if not millennials, Boomers, and Gen Z - how should audiences be sliced? Mormons? Republicans? Rockclimbers? People who readily abandon milk fads when the next young, hot milk bursts onto the scene?
“The data is clear: passions, habits and temperaments unite us, not generational groupings. Understanding consumers through their nut consumption may sound kooky, but it’s no more ridiculous than doing so through a random 16 year birth window. Every year, agencies waste thousands of pounds and hours trying to understand Gen Z and millennials. What if we re-allocated those resources into studying the groups that do provide insight into our consumers’ lives?
- BBH LABS:
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: GUIDING PRINCIPLES
A word of advice to those who peddle in understanding audiences. Ditch the overgeneralizations. Avoid the jargon-stuffed cliches. How would you describe them without the generational tag? What are their passions, habits, and temperaments? Only then will you get to a vivid description. Prioritize learning about your customer in the flesh instead of via a trend report. Move beyond the screen!
Think creative and quirky, but don’t define too narrowly either. As we know from How Brands Grow, brands that consistently reach as many potential buyers as possible are the ones who win. Adding complex targeting parameters skyrocket cost, and there’s little evidence to suggest the juice is worth the squeeze.
Every marketer should be inspired by Trader Joes’ left-of-field audience definition. There’s no urban millennial or TikToking Gen Z in sight here. Instead, the brand opts to define their core shopper as “an unemployed college professor who drives a really, very used Volvo.” In a masterfully crafted sentence, the brand covers its ‘budget-but-make-it-fancy’ brand. Brilliant! More of that, less generational snake-oil slinging.
💩 BRILLIANT: GARY VEE'S VEEFRIENDS
Well, wasn’t that hard to type? Our dim view of hustle-lord Gary Vee isn’t a secret. The Cut the Crap homepage reads “everyone is welcome, besides Gary Vee. Please, spare us” - It’s a perspective that’s drawn both applause and ire from across the internet.
The first reaction to VeeFriends was somewhere between a scoff and a snort. A scnort. But, after a (begrudging) closer inspection, credit must be (reluctantly) given. When it comes to branded NFT projects, 'VeeFriends' is a Bugatti Veyron in a room of Toyota Camrys. In contrast to the flurry of clumsy attempts to get ‘something NFT’ out there (looking at you, Pringles digital-only ‘Cryptocrisp’ flavor) Gary’s blockchain-based project is imaginative and expansive. More on that in a moment.
But first, a speedy primer on NFTs and VeeFriends.
Allow me to embarrassingly explain what NFTs are and what they do. Among other things, NFT’s provide proof of digital ownership - i.e. “MY nyan-cat brings all the boys to the yard, it’s better than yours. And I can prove it’s mine because I have the NFT.”
They’re also programmable, so they can respond to triggers - price, weather, a given revenue number, a change in presidency, a champions league win - you name it. For example, “When the price of a Juice Generation smoothie exceeds $20, please forcibly eject me from this earth”.
‘VeeFriends’ is an ambitious, 10,255 token NFT project. Tokens are split into three broad categories: Admission, Gift, and Access. The tokens productize what Gary groupies most want - time and access to Gary.
Collectors connect their cryptowallets and pay in ethereum. Every token holder receives entry to VeeCon, a superconference that will be, in Gary’s words “part SXSW, part Coachella, part Davos”. There are 268 VeeFriends - ranging from ‘Hot Shit Hornet’ to ‘Joyous Jellyfish’ to ‘Accountable Anteater’. The tokens vary in exclusivity. ‘Aspiring Alpaca’ gains you mere conference entry. Collectors with the ‘Giftgoat’ card will receive six gifts a year over three years. And the lucky, one-of-a-kind ‘Poker Pirate’ holder scores an intimate poker night with Gary. An intimate poker night with Gary sounds like what I might expect to find in the final ring of Dante’s fiery inferno, but I digress... ...It’s a little Willy Wonka, a little Pokemon Cards, and a whole lotta lucrative. Youtuber Mike McKeever estimates VeeFriends rang in $27million worth of Ethereum from VeeFriends sales as of May 19. Tokens are currently sold out and selling for more than double their initial price on OpenSea, and Gary gets a cut of all the secondary sales activity. All this despite a delayed launch and a smattering of technical glitches. If Gary pulls off a stellar VeeCon and successfully expands the VeeFriend universe, the tokens could become coveted collectibles and lucrative investments for VeeFriend owners.
Of course, there’s risk here too. What if crypto takes a nosedive? Ethereum has already cooled off since the VeeFriends launch.
Despite the risks, Gary’s VeeFriends universe is a bold attempt at what a branded NFT project can be. Here’s why we think it’s brilliant. (Plus, a refresher on our ‘brilliant’ award criteria for those who need it)
WHY IT’S BRILLIANT
Bold use of strategic hype → Gary teased the VeeFriends launch on his own sizable channels, and the launch was bolstered by partnering with crypto-enthusiast communities like Bankless.
Demolishing the imaginary digital to physical wall → Where too often marketers keep digital and physical separate, VeeFriends melds the best of both. What starts as a digital experience evolves into a tangible one as people attend VeeCon and receive their gifts.
Cultural cues → Launching VeeFriends as a limited ‘drop’ suggests Gary is taking cues from sneaker culture. VeeFriends is also noticeably inspired by trading cards. Each token is available in ‘Core’, a pedestrian white background, and ‘Spectacular’, more exciting backgrounds such as hologram, bubblegum, lava and gold. Unsurprising since Gary made his first benjamins trading baseball cards.
Creative Commitment → VeeFriends isn’t a one and done drop. The team built a custom platform to support unique capabilities like gifting. In addition, Gary plans to animate the VeeFriend universe by giving characters a life of their own across social and merch. To quote Gary “I’m building a whole universe of characters. I’m gonna make Patient Panda a star on TikTok. Candor Cat will be a winning streetwear brand. I know exactly what I’m going to do”
There's no crystal ball at Cut the Crap HQ. As with all things in volatile cryptoland it’s tough to understand how this will play out. But VeeFriends gets kudos for avoiding the obvious to create something substantial and unexpected.