April's Guest Blogger: Julie - "My 1 Year Old Son Climbed On the Computer Desk As I Wrote This'?¦"

We're introducing some new members to the AMP Agency team: Frequency Guest Bloggers. Each month we'll reach out to two consumer demographics or mindsets. This month we reached out to Julie Finlay, who is 31, a mom of two boys and lives in Dudley, Massachusetts. Here is a brief summary of what we heard when we asked her to answer these questions (the full excerpt follows):

What is the most important thing you've ever done in your life?

  • Julie believes there are many things in her life that she has accomplished, but feels life is too far from being 'done'? to say there is one most important thing that belongs in that category.

What kind of shopper do you consider yourself to be? What do you look for in the brands you use?

  • She is a mom who shops with value in mind. Her desire to find a deal is admirable and likely exhausting. Store brands need to provide similar functionality ' or taste ' as name brands.

What item that you have purchased best represents your personality?

  • Julie thinks the addictive nature of snacks like Cheetos represents her somewhat addictive personality type. She also thinks she and ketchup have lots in common because they both 'go with everything.'? Julie's empathetic nature really helps her mesh with just about everyone!

What makes you a good mom?

  • Julie doesn't come out and say what she thinks makes her a good mom, but if what she wrote is used as testament, as a good mom she tries to instill the importance of time and value, as well as an appreciation for life into her sons. She also aims to do her best to guide them and mold them, but stay 'her'? in the process. Sounds like a good mom to me!

What advice would you give to a new mom or a soon-to-be new mom?

  • She says don't buy into all the hype, myths, or wives tales about what you should do as a new mom. Just sit back and enjoy your kids before they're running from you to get on the school bus.

If you had a million dollars, what would you buy?!

  • Julie wouldn't buy anything. She'd simply work less to spend more 'awake time'? with her kids.

Here is the full version of what our first Mommy Blogger, Julie, had to say:
My 1 Year Old Son Climbed On the Computer Desk As I Wrote This'?¦

So what would you say is the most important thing you have done in your life? Graduating college, running a marathon, eating 42 hot dogs in 3 minutes? Being a working mom of two boys, I think what most people would expect me to say is that 'being a mom'? is the most important thing I have done. But when I repeat the question in my head, I don't get that answer. The most important thing I have ever done in my life'?¦. Hmmmm. Wouldn't that imply that I have completed the task? I mean the question does ask what you have DONE, right? So that eliminates being a mom as being my answer since my kids are only 6 and 1, far from 'done'?. Plus, can't everyone or mostly everyone accomplish the same thing (have children), it surely doesn't set me apart. I can't say my job as a high school chemistry teacher either because that is hardly done'?¦ I have at least 24 years, (more likely 26) and 44 days left. So, that being said, the most important thing I have ever done must be a decision, maybe even something I chose not to do. Well I guess I'll come back to that'?¦

The other day I went to BJs or rather I had the goal of going to BJs. I had the day off from work because my older son had a half day and my younger son had come down with a bad cold conveniently the night before. So my plan was to get my older son on the bus, then go straight to BJs to get a few essential items with my younger son. But, don't you know, all was on schedule until I arrived at BJs at 8:19am, looked at the hours and realized they weren't open until 9am. Well that stinks. My personal goal up until this moment was to never shop at Wal-Mart again because of the news stories about poor treatment of employees, especially women. But in that instant, everything changed.  Out of convenience, I had to go to Wal-Mart. That boycott lasted all of 1 month. I can start fresh again. But, that sums up my life, its all about convenience. How many things can I buy that I need in the shortest amount of time possible with the minimum number of car seat transfers? What is that lately? All the malls that have developed that require you to drive from one store to the next? What happened to parking, entering the mall, and walking from store to store? Yup, you heard me, walking! It, to me, is more convenient than reloading my kids into the car to drive all of 200 feet to repeat the process.

This is why I like the department store with everything'?¦ but not junk. Ok, I admit, the Wal-Mart trip I regretted afterwards'?¦ should have went to Target but that extra ten minute drive would've really interrupted my son's morning nap schedule. Who doesn't love Target? They have some of the best prices on food and their clothing and furniture is actually decent quality for the price. Their store brand rocks too. I'm all about the store brands, every 23 cents of savings add up, you know.  It probably drives my older son nuts though since every time he wants to buy a snack at the grocery store, I try to convince him that the Fruity Crisps are just as good as Fruity Pebbles'?¦ or I buy them and slip them into the Fruity Pebbles box at home'?¦ they never know.

'Mom, can I get Oreos?'?

'Nope, they're not on sale'?

'How come everything needs to be on sale?'?

'Because you need to be conscious of how you spend your money, Trey, that's why'?

(Cue rolling of the eyes)

Even though it annoys him to all ends, I hope in the future, he'll realize that necessities like food and clothing don't require excessive amounts of money. Maybe that's why God gave me boys'?¦ I don't have to deal with a designer girl spending extreme amounts of money on jeans or pocketbooks that no one notices.  OK, that most of the population doesn't notice'?¦ or maybe I just don't notice. Regardless, I hope that he will be more attentive of how he spends his money, how he can save his money (something I wasn't taught), and how to appreciate what he is given. Most of the time, I think he still has no clue, but it will come in time. Right?

Having two boys is crazy. I am sure it's not as crazy as 3, 4 or 5 kids, regardless of sex, but boys are crazy. They have this energy about this, physical intensity, recklessness. Sometimes I wish I could just sit and play Barbies'?¦ why do we insist on Indiana Jones killing Darth Vader and why is it they combine movies like that'?¦ I can't keep up. I thank the dear lord though that I have two boys, I am pretty certain Barbie's all the time would get old and at least I have my husband to coach basketball, soccer and baseball with the boys. I'm not sure I could have convinced him into the Barbie route.

Those of you pregnant out there'?¦ I know you have heard it already'?¦ 'enjoy your sleep now'? and 'your life will be changed forever'?. All the classic lines. The best advice I ever got was that the baby senses your mood, take care of you first, then everything else follows. I can't give you advice on sleeping through the night, my kids still don't. I can't give you data that nursing prevents ear infections because my kids have had countless ear infections. The only thing I can say is that life is WAY TOO SHORT. So, even when you are up in the middle of the night, take a moment to take it in. Try to freeze life for a moment, take a mental snapshot, because once they start walking, speaking, getting on the bus to kindergarten, you are going to want it all back. Remember they are their own person'?¦ you can only guide them not mold them'?¦ but don't let them mold you!

I now revert to the original question. What is the most important thing I have done? I still don't know the answer; sorry if that is why you have been reading this. I can only tell you what my one regret is.  I wish I could spend more time with my kids'?¦ I wish I didn't have to work as much. My students and I calculated one day that I spend 56% of my youngest son's 'awake time'? with him (what's the point of counting when you are sleeping). The remaining 44% of the time, he is at day care.  That is sad, I think. I work as a teacher and don't give me 'but you have summers and vacations off'? stuff'?¦ you are right, I do. But teaching is actually the most inflexible and underappreciated job there is, when in session. That is something to explain at another time. So, I wish I worked as a teacher part time and a mom full time, because that is where my heart is. If only I had a million dollars'?¦

Oh and'?¦

I would think the one product that best represents me and my personality would be a tie between Cheetos and ketchup. Cheetos for my son have been a fairly common purchase lately, as he is following in my footsteps. Looking back on how I was called "cheesy" as a kid because of my addiction to the delectable snack, I giggle inside knowing Trey too will love them just as much. Why do they fit my personality... I have an addictive one, just like you can't stop eating Cheetos (heck, the more cheese, the better). I am also impulsive... it's not often you put Cheetos on your shopping list, but once you see that sale tag, you can't resist. The other product fitting my personality is ketchup. No, Cheetos and ketchup do not go together AT ALL but ketchup does go with everything. I consider myself an empathetic person... I try seeing through others' eyes and understanding them. Because of that, I mesh with most everyone. As you can see, my life centers around food and it took a lot for me to avoid saying chocolate and ice cream as my representative products... chocolate too is addictive and ice cream, so smooth. Speaking of which, I have a mint skinny cow waiting for me in the freezer.

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What DTCs Are Missing As They Open Physical Stores

Benjamin Y. Seldin,  Strategy Director In the years leading up to the current pandemic, Casper, the bedding brand, was in the midst of opening 200 stores across North America. It was among a number of direct-to-consumer companies (“DTCs”) opening physical stores at a rapid pace. While these brands are likely now reconsidering expansion plans, this trend will not disappear. DTCs experience awareness and a surge in online sales in markets where they open a physical location. From the design of their stores to the purposes they serve, I’ve noticed commonalities in how DTCs treat brick and mortar. And I’ve wondered: does their digital origin produce a particular approach toward physical stores? So, right before the pandemic, I journeyed through a bunch of them, most of which are recent additions to Boston, to investigate.  I found most share an emphasis on product demonstration and prime location – as well as a shortage of personality. It’s like they applied their focus on user experience in the digital space to the physical one. But that strategy is fading in digital, and it is in real life too. So in the following, I’ll identify how DTCs are missing personality as they enter brick and mortar and offer suggestions for improvement and greater opportunity.   Let’s look at some examples We’ll begin outside the DTC world with Filson, the heritage clothing brand that started in 1897. In speaking with a sales rep there, I learned that before the company opened a store in Boston’s gleaming new Seaport District, Alex Carleton, its Chief Creative Officer, took time scouring New England for unique antiques to fit Filson’s rugged, hip American aesthetic. The result is a quirky space with a larger-than-life wooden bear at the entrance that both greets and frightens customers, and dressing rooms that could be guest rooms at the Ace Hotel.  When compared to Away, the DTC retailer that later opened next door, Filson’s store contrasts greatly. Away is sparse, efficient, and transactional. It mainly encourages customers to test its flagship product, a well-designed suitcase. Similarly, the shoe brand Allbirds, famous for using wool, features wool swaths to touch and detailed explanations of the material’s benefits. Indochino, a menswear company, displays a wall of fabric swaths to exhibit color and variety. For these DTCs, product demonstration is paramount.   Location, location, location Like the real estate adage says, location is also a big factor. Many of the DTCs I visited are in Boston’s Seaport District. Maggie Smith, head of marketing at the neighborhood’s developer explained, “co-tenancy continues to be a main part of the conversation…there’s a transition going on, from brands wanting to know traditional real estate metrics to those that are more consumer-driven; [before moving in] they want to know the social clout of the place itself.” In normal times, the Seaport District bolsters its social clout with pop-up villages including rows of local retailers. The pop-ups benefit from the legitimacy of the larger players, and the larger stores enjoy the freshness of the pop-ups.    Single products DTC stores are often built around single products. This approach can feel contemporary in the online world but incomplete in the physical one, where even brands using the showroom model (with just a few sizes for each item) still offer a full line. Casper understands the value of a full line and expanded a while back from a single mattress to a spread of sleep-related products that fill its brick-and-mortars. It went even further as it recently prepared for IPO, attempting to become “the Nike of sleep.” It assembled a “sleep advisory board” and instituted internal policies to rally around quality sleep. While it faced an uphill battle in a competitive environment, this was the right play, albeit a bit late in the game.   Advice and opportunities for DTC brands If you’re a DTC using this period to plan brick and mortar expansion, here are some ideas. Pick your moment. If you don’t yet have a full product line, consider a pop-up store in a choice location first. Let personality lead design. Dig into what makes your brand’s personality unique and reflect it in design. If your brand doesn’t have much personality, start by developing one. Connect product to personality. Even functional elements should convey personality. Consider how Apple’s genius bar took what historically was a routine service and made it a branded centerpiece that embodies the brand’s charisma. Think big and small. What makes Filson’s Seaport store impressive isn’t just the things you first see like the big bear. It’s the details like dressing room fixtures and antiques that unveil themselves the more time you spend in the store. If product-first DTC’s aspire to last over a century like Filson has, they should use brick and mortar to help us get to know them and not just their products. Personality signals a company’s identity and purpose. It also helps foster customer relationships, which will be key in weathering this storm and others ahead. To learn more about how personality grows brands, click here.

Google Search Trends Insights June 2020

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for June 2020. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. June 2020 Overview June 2020 was another month where keywords related to a current event news story. Of the 90 phrases we captured over the month, a third of them were news-related. Before the pandemic, the most popular keyword category was “sports”. In June, there were a few sports-related terms that we will examine later on in the article. Beyond news keywords, we saw a few holidays drive users to search as well as a few gaming-related phrases specifically related to PlayStation 5 or PS5. Here are our takes on the keywords driving the most queries in June 2020. Google Doodle The keyword that drove the most queries last month was connected to a Google Doodle. Marsha P. Johnson - 6/29/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries Quoting from the Doodle Page, the illustration featured “LGBTQ+ rights activist, performer, and self-identified drag queen Marsha P. Johnson, who is widely credited as one of the pioneers of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States.” The timing of the Doodle was to commemorate the one year anniversary of Marsha being posthumously honored as a grand marshal of the New York City Pride March.  Google publishing this Doodle during Pride Month inspired us to view the 5-year trend for this phrase. Based on this graph, the search interest is continuing to grow for Pride Month, although the biggest jump occurred between 2018 and 2019. We believe that marketers should be aware of the increasing interest and align campaigns accordingly and authentically. June Holidays  Last month had a few holidays that drove users to Google to search for more information. There were three on our list that we wanted to analyze further to understand the year-over-year trends: National Best Friends Day - 6/8/2020 - 500,000+ queries Juneteenth - 6/18/2020 - 5,000,000+ queries Happy Father's Day - 6/21/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries The first holiday that cracked the top 3 most queried terms of the day was National Best Friends Day that brands like Starbucks and ProFlowers have used in ad campaigns. This year, the search interest for this lighthearted, social-media-friendly holiday hit a new peak. The volume isn’t large for this holiday as compared to other, more established holidays but it has been trending up over the past three years. It could be considered for content calendar planning for 2021. With the protests for racial equality and justice being in the forefront of peoples’ minds over the past six weeks, it makes sense there would be a very large increase in search volume around the holiday of Juneteenth: Looking at Google search trends data from 2004 to present, you can see that this year may have been a watershed moment for this holiday – and we may see more governments recognize it as an official holiday.   Lastly, Father’s Day had its top query day on the 21st. Father’s Day-related keywords also made the top 3 for the days of June 19 (Happy Father's Day - 1,000,000+ queries) and June 20 (Father’s Day message - 500,000+ queries). This year appeared to be a down year for queries related to this holiday as the peak occurred in 2017. Just remember, if there is any debate about which parent is more popular, check the data before you take a position. A Few Keywords Related To Sports In pre-pandemic days, most of the searches we collected were sports related but now they are a minor category of keywords. Here are the most queried phrases related to sports in June 2020: Drew Brees - 6/3/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Bubba Wallace - 6/21/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Cam Newton - 6/28/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Searchers were interested in what Drew Brees had to say in terms of other players kneeling during the National Anthem before games.  Bubba Wallace, who is a NASCAR driver, may have been the victim of a hate crime. Lastly, Cam Newton became a top searched sports-related query when he signed with the New England Patriots. It’s telling that without live games, sports queries have decreased over the past three months. With the major professional leagues set to resume play in July and August, it will be interesting to see if sports-related terms drive users to search like they did earlier in the year. Marketers should keep a close eye on sports keyword volume if live games resume. PlayStation 5 Is a Big Deal Sony revealed many details about their new gaming console and many people choose to learn more about it. PS5 - 6/10/2020 - 5,000,000+ queries PS5 Price - 6/11/2020 -2,000,000+ queries We have seen gaming become more popular as a keyword category over the months we have collected data. It seems the pandemic has driven more interest in gaming topics.  Marketers should be aware of this growing trend and see if it continues to grow at the same rate in 2021. Thanks for reading. Until next month.  

Google Search Trends Insights May 2020

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for May 2020. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Before We Begin This month’s article is difficult to write. When we started this project, we were trying to mine the top searched terms for marketing insights to share on our blog. April 2020 had some light moments, and the holidays that occurred in May 2020 did drive many search terms that we will outline below. But before we discuss Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day, we’d like to acknowledge that this month is different. Important topics related to racial injustice and inequality predominantly drove queries in May. So along with those keywords, we’re going to share a resource that Google put together to continue to provide users with information on these topics.  May Holiday Trends The first keyword phrase on our list that fell in the Holiday category is “Teacher Appreciation Week.” Teacher Appreciation Week - 5/3/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries Looking at the 5 year trend for this phrase, you can see that search interest surged in 2020. We think this year’s spike was powered by two main factors:  1) Google changed their logo to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week on May 3rd as a part of their Google Doodle program. 2) The pandemic has taught us all how important our teachers are, especially the parents who have been helping their kids learn from home.  While we may not see as much of a jump next year, marketers can add the week of May 3 - 7, 2021 to their calendars as a prime gift-giving time period.  The second holiday phrase from our list is “Cinco de Mayo.” Cinco de Mayo - May 4th - 2,000,000+ queries Looking at the chart, the query volume is up from last year, but lower than a peak in 2017. The holiday has been criticized in recent years, as the promotion of the date started as an earnest show of patriotism but has transitioned to be a chiefly corporate celebration. Even without a pandemic, we wonder if the popularity of this holiday will continue to dwindle as the public’s attitude on the true nature of the celebration changes. The next holiday on our list is “Mother’s Day”, which appeared many times on our list. Mother's Day 2020 - 5/2/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries  Happy Mother's Day - 5/8/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Happy Mother's Day - 5/9/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Happy Mother's Day Images - 5/9/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Mother's Day - 5/10/2020 - 500,000+ queries This year, Mother’s Day was a multiple-day event with many queries occurring on the days that led up to the holiday. We do appreciate that there was a spike in queries the week before the holiday. We’re pretty sure people were checking to make sure they didn’t miss celebrating with the moms in their lives. Beyond that, the “images” query on the 9th is intriguing, as it appears that people were looking for visuals to wish someone a Happy Mother’s Day in lieu of a traditional printed card.  We thought that this query was driven by our new behavior due to the pandemic. When you may not want to go to a traditional store to browse cards, the solution could be to make your own at home. From the chart above, this phrase has had enough volume to be measured from May 2012 now. With its highest volume this year, this trend could be an indication that pandemic-driven behavior shifts may affect sales in the printed card industry for future holidays. Lastly, “Memorial Day” was a popular holiday phrase on our list. Memorial Day - 5/24/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries 2020 saw the biggest query volume for this holiday not only over the past 5 years, but also... ...the last 16 years. This slight boost over last year and 2016 could be driven by COVID-19, as people were searching for information related to the holiday. Marketers should note that this holiday has been gaining query volume since 2004 and should be a factor they consider in their plans for the year. Protests for Racial Equality and Justice‬‬ In May 2020, there were many queries that were related to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as the protests that followed.   Ahmaud Arbery - 5/5/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Ahmaud Arbery - 5/6/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Ahmaud Arbery - 5/7/2020 - 200,000+ queries George Floyd - 5/26/2020 - 5,000,000+ queries Minneapolis - 5/27/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Minneapolis news - 5/27/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Minneapolis riots - 5/27/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Tim Walz - 5/28/2020 - 500,000+ queries Derek Chauvin - 5/29/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Protests - 5/30/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries From a purely analytical standpoint, the query volumes of these searches indicate that the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as the world’s reactions to them, held great importance among the general public in May 2020. In the past, that’s the only takeaway we would share, as our primary goal of this blog was to merely report phrases, dates and query volumes as a record of how searches progressed over time.  But the queries on this list cannot – and should not – be viewed or discussed solely through an analytic lens. Because not only do these queries represent the murders of two men, but the systemic racism, oppression and racial violence against Black people that remains prevalent in our country today.  We at AMP Agency have been deeply affected by these events and stand in full support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As we continue to listen, to examine ourselves and our actions, and to do the work we need to do, we want to make it clear that any tool that helps us learn more about how we can end racial inequality is one we wholeheartedly support.  That being said, Google itself has understood the importance of this subject and has provided this helpful resource to bring greater focus to the queries related to these society-changing topics. Along with compiling keyword queries related to protests for racial equity and justice‬‬, this resource includes many different insightful visualizations and data segments that provide information as users search for answers on Google.  Thanks for reading. Until next month.