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Refining Dinner for a Foodie Generation.

What do the young adults in your life like to eat? Are they Chipotle fans? Starbucks addicts? Taco truck aficionados?

For the past three years, we’ve taken a close look at Generation Z’s eating habits in the context of their lives as newly independent consumers. It’s driven by a favorite client of ours that specializes in consumer packaged-goods and desires to better reach and delight this generation both on and off campus. And it includes our annual presentation to collegiate dining service representatives from across the country at the In Front of the Future conference.

Gone are the days of mystery meat, lifeless vegetables and cardboard-like pizza. Today’s college dining halls are vibrant representations of the students they feed. They reflect Generation Z’s desire for an authentic experience that leaves them feeling closer to the food they are eating, in an open and welcoming space.

So how are college dining halls redefining themselves in order to meet the needs of students? They’re sourcing locally, investing in sustainable ingredients and practices, and reaching out to the communities they serve to build a strong, authentic brand that resonates.

Sound different than what you remember? We sure think so. This generation’s ability to cultivate new trends and ideas keeps us on our toes, and we love helping our clients get to know the digitally native, always-connected group that will soon make up 40% of all consumers. Want to know more? Connect with us.

| Research

2.5 Children and a Dog? Now That’s Retro.

What do you picture when you envision the traditional American family? It’s probably different than the person sitting next to you, and the person sitting next to them. What the American family entails is a visual that continues to change, and brands across the country are taking note. Cheerios, Tylenol and Wells Fargo have all rolled out brand campaigns featuring new depictions of American families. From single-parent households, to both blended and interracial families, these campaigns reflect a major shift in the concept of “the American family.”

So – what’s behind the shift? We found that changing attitudes toward partnerships, different approaches to raising children, and gender roles, particularly among young adults, are all contributing factors.

Trends in Partnership

Which box do you check when filling out forms? The results are across the board, and a lot different than they ever used to be. Younger adults, specifically, have exhibited more ambivalence toward the concept of marriage. More and more Americans are postponing or forgoing the ceremony altogether. Many of these couples are choosing to cohabitate or possibly even raise children together, sans matrimony. Marriage isn’t completely out of the picture, however – many young adults want to get married but are waiting until they are older and more financially prepared.

And don’t rule out the d-word. While divorce is at its lowest rate in more than 35 years, it is still prevalent, and significantly contributes to this change in American family structures.

Trends in Raising Children

The Melting Pot

American families are more racially diverse than they ever have been, due to both increased immigration and increased visibility and acceptance of interracial marriages. Consequently, these trends are causing an uptick in the number of interracial births. There are also more children growing up in multigenerational households, a rise attributed to a more ethnically diverse population where multigenerational living is more common.

The New Normal

The makeup of American families is changing too. Since 2015, only 46% of children are living in a home with two married, heterosexual parents in their first marriage. Divorce has also shifted the family landscape. More and more divorced couples remarry, create “blended families” and raise children from previous marriages alongside step- or half-siblings.

Free to Be You and Me

With LGBTQ marriage and adoptions on the rise, today’s kids are now more likely to have two dads or two moms. This has significant economic implications – in 2015, LGBTQ consumers contributed $917 billion to the economy. As more LGBTQ partners become parents, this spending will likely increase.

The Unattached

Today, single households are the second-most-common type of household in the U.S. And, even though singles may bring in less income than their married counterparts, they still contribute a total of $1.9 trillion to the economy. In the modern world, singles are considered families – 26% of children are raised by a single parent.

Trends in Gender Roles

Every day more and more women are enrolling in and graduating from college, and the American economy is feeling the effects of this major swing. No longer does the era of the stay-at-home mom reign supreme, as more women are both raising families and pursuing careers. This new trend requires a balancing act to keep the household in order – for instance, men and women share household responsibilities more equally than in the past. And, with an increased household income, women remain economic powerhouses in the housing and automobile markets.

Implications for Brands and Marketing

As family types continue to diversify, their power as consumers is amplifying. The door is open for more segmented or targeted marketing that embraces and showcases the diversity of family types.

In the words of Chevrolet’s ad campaign, “The New Us: While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has.

To learn more about how this shift is impacting brands and marketing, request our full report.

| Research

Pedal Power Hits Fusion Hill.

May is an especially favorite time of the year for Fusion Hill. Spring is in full bloom, the lilacs along Marshall Street fill the air with their sweetness and – last, but not nearly least – it’s when we celebrate National Bike to Work Day (BTWD).

Happening on May 19, BTWD is an annual celebration of active transportation. All around the Twin Cities (and the nation), events will be popping up that bicycle commuters can stop by to get complimentary breakfast and coffee, exchange high fives and even pick up a set of free bicycle lights.

This BTWD, Fusion Hill is celebrating by offering a full-service bicycle commuter concierge service to its employees. This exclusive experience includes:

  • An introduction to the brand-new Mississippi East Bank Trail (located literally feet behind our office)
  • Personalized route planning
  • Customized motivational playlists
  • “Pickup” at employee’s front door and escort to the office
  • Engaging conversations and terrible jokes

Our goal? To inspire others to get on their bikes any old day of the week and share what an amazing feeling it is to arrive at work via your own pedal power.

Check out our Facebook and Instagram to see the adventure.

| Culture


What do Kona Brewing, Avon and Vogue have in common? The answer: representation at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW), which our creative team attended in March. With session titles such as Origin-Based Marketing, Diversity Now, Courageous Creativity and Tech’s Lessons for Healthcare, SXSW truly offers an array of topics that reveal the intersection of creativity and technology.

The streets of Austin were transformed into a visual playground for two weeks, and we found everything from National Geographic taking over a bar with virtual reality displays, to Casper – the online-only mattress company – setting up a sleep trailer for 10-minute nap sessions.

Several trends emerged:

Advertising for Good

We’re seeing this trend appear more and more in advertising. Companies are not simply promoting their products but also promoting a way of life and a point of view – be it social justice or politics. From GE’s Mildred Dresselhaus-focused campaign committing to hire 20,000 women by 2020 in the tech industry, to Heineken’s recent campaign about appreciating and respecting our differences, this trend was clearly present at SXSW.

Four powerhouse speakers traveled all the way from Brazil to share Avon’s new campaign for BB Cream, featuring a diverse group of individuals including male, LGBT and plus-sized models. While promoting the face cream, the speakers – who included marketers, Avon employees and a Brazilian YouTube star – emphasized their motivation: to “make change.”

Data Visualization and Storytelling

Many speakers also focused on data visualization: turning raw data into interesting visuals. One particularly effective talk, Persuasive Presentations, led by Harvard Business Review authors Nancy Duarte and Scott Berinato, broke down the essentials into context (who), content (why), construct (how) and connect (lasting impressions). Duarte charted famous speeches through time, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Barack Obama, to determine patterns of speaking. This approach, when paired with visuals that increasingly build on one another to form a story, helps retain interest and leaves the audience engaged.

Amy Balliett of Killer Infographics shared a highly effective visual campaign done in partnership with We Count Seattle – a donation exchange website created for the homeless population – based on research showing that first impressions are 94% based on design.

“Visual IQ is on the rise,” Balliett said. “Today’s consumers are pickier than ever, and people want to see a myriad of visual content before making a decision.” By leveraging strategic ad placement across free papers, billboards and buses – along with short-form content (which 95% of people prefer) focused on real stories and real faces – the campaign received 800 registered website users in the first 90 days. Over 350 items were exchanged on the platform.

Health Care and Technology

It’s a dynamic time for the health care and technology industries, and that message was clear at SXSW. Both industries are experiencing new and always-changing regulations as well as strong motivation to constantly improve upon themselves, become more affordable and become more available to the masses.

Featuring leaders from HomeAway, RideAustin and the newly created Dell Medical School, one panel discussed how we could apply insights and successes from the tech world to attack health care challenges. According to the panel, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) is the first major policy change in the last 60 years that allows the patient more choice than ever before and is at the center of this discussion. There are ways that health care and technology are integrated already, such as Yelp reviews driving patient referrals or the gamification of wellness via smartwatches and activity trackers (e.g., Fitbit). But further opportunities lie in the spaces of virtual reality or improved transportation and infrastructure.

Dr. Tom Caven discussed new research using virtual reality as distraction therapy to help with phobias and anxieties as well as for pain amelioration. “We’re not trying to take the place of opiate medication but see if people can get by on a few less pills a day,” he said.

Similarly, the panel discussed how applying ride sharing and a Meals-on-Wheels approach to health care could enable those who are without transportation to make their preventive care appointments and pick up their prescriptions – both actions that might prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. According to the panel, we are at the absolute beginning of health care’s maturation, and more cross-industry innovation will evolve.

| Creative, Culture

The Future’s Here, and It’s Digital.

How many times per day do you use digital tools such as apps, fitness devices or smartwatches? You probably can’t even count, right? We know from our own experiences that digital tools are expanding into nearly every aspect of our lives. And the consumers we’re speaking to in the field have certainly verified this as well – even elderly populations and consumers of low socioeconomic status.

Whether we are having conversations related to home energy, credit cards or health condition management, digital is becoming more and more a part of the conversation. So we decided to take a look at our recent research projects to understand exactly how and why consumers are using (or not using) digital tools.

We uncovered several drivers that consumers desire or even require in digital interactions, and if your company is playing in this space, we highly recommend you take a look.

Those insights got us thinking: What’s next? So our team did some online research to get a glimpse of the digital tools we all may be using within the next few years. Here’s a sneak peek:

  • Consumer personal health on demand (aka wearables) is still growing strong. If you don’t already have a fitness tracker, you might by the end of 2017 – and yours might be in the form of a ring rather than a watch.
  • Consumers are becoming more and more connected. From smart homes to ceiling tiles that wirelessly power our devices, tech will continue to infiltrate our homes and lives.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer something seen only in sci-fi movies. Machine learning is ever increasing. For example, it’s apparent in the form of autonomous vehicles and personalized digital concierges like Wiidii.
  • Technology is helping to level the playing field for consumers with disabilities, including apps that help the blind “see” and software that interprets and translates sign language.

There’s a big part of our team who, we’ll be honest, loves nerding out on this stuff. But we also know understanding consumer expectations related to tech could have a big impact on your business. Read how by requesting our full trend report here.

| Research

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