Millennial Minute: The Degradation of United’s Brand in 11 Memes

Millennial Minute: The Degradation of United’s Brand in 11 Memes

I had originally planned on writing an in depth piece covering the latest United Airlines fiasco, but it occurred to me that this situation calls for a visual representation of the degradation of their legacy airline brand. United is a hallmark example of a brand that has yet to understand millennial consumers. If this was observation was not evident when they banned two female teenage passengers from wearing leggings aboard a plane (on an award ticket), it has to be now.

I will not delve into the politics and practices of the airline, but will briefly touch upon their response to the latest explosive situation. Rather than getting ahead of the “internet” (referring to the trolls and meme lords) and issuing an authentic apology, the brand defended their gate agent’s decision and refused to budge on their corporate stance. In the short time following the incident, thousands of likes, shares, and comments were traded on social media platforms that placed the brand in an unflattering light. As if the brand hadn’t already faced issues with attracting millennial fliers, they managed to turn thousands of them into enemies overnight. Individuals who may have been considered passive or non-rejectors of the brand have been exposed to this brand-damaging content every time they scroll through their social media feeds. This exposure builds to create subconscious brand biases that ultimately influence consumer-buying behavior.

“Give the Internet a meme, and they’ll laugh for a day. Teach the Internet to utilize an open source template for creating and sharing memes, and they’ll laugh for a week.”

Take a look at the top memes below:

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist and researcher based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

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Marketers, Agencies: Don’t Pass Over Millennials

Marketers, Agencies: Don’t Pass Over Millennials

As an aspiring brand strategist and researcher, I spend a lot of time trying to get into the heads of the “dreaded bunch”: darn Millennials with their insatiable demands, expanding minds, and lack of brand loyalty (often called nomadic). This crowd has a reputation of being a thorn in the side of brands of all sizes often leading to poorly planned brand executions. The solution is so obvious. So mind blowing, that it just might work. That’s right. I’m suggesting what most dread: hire them.

Incorporate Millennials into your culture. Encourage them to educate your staff. Most importantly, allow them to lead your company’s expansion and growth in the coming years. Millennials are often overlooked for mid-level job positions at agencies and client side companies due to a common perception held by older hiring managers who value experience. While some Millennials lack on the job experience, they may possess a native understanding of how their peers view marketing and advertising efforts and what it takes to uncover the deep seated insights that drive them. The best way to market to Gen Y is to have them quite literally market to themselves.

Some brands have understood this, however. The effort to include Millennials is displayed prominently on the digital front. Social media influencers saw a rapid expansion across multiple platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, & Instagram. These influencers, often peers, leverage their personalities and real life anecdotes to influence millennial purchase decisions by up to 20%-50%.

What happens when agencies and client side companies alike neglect refreshing their workforce with Millennials? They miss out. Take the example of Adidas. An independent filmmaker created a short spot that blew Adidas’s previous creative out of the water and attracted mass attention, without ever receiving a response from the brand’s communication department. Adidas missed out on a captivating piece of creative that combined a riveting story. This short story is one that draws an emotional response, as well as artistically showcasing the brand’s purpose. Take a look for yourself. Bravo, Eugene Merher!

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

3 Emerging Trends Disrupting the Advertising Agency Model in 2017

3 Emerging Trends Disrupting the Advertising Agency Model in 2017

Six. That’s the number of agencies that have asked me a variation on the question: “How
will the traditional advertising model change in the coming months?” during the employment application process.


The answer to that question is: yes, it will, and in unexpected ways. The agency model will change because we live in the information era in which trends are born on news feeds and timelines. Social movements can sweep very rapidly from coast to coast with a single post. While there has been little change in the traditional agency model (shout-out to Grey Adventures for shaking up the model), consumers have broken through traditional social norms. These changing norms demand faster responses to their trends from brands and their marketing teams.

  • Legal Marijuana: Likely to be a big contender in 2017 with 4 states recently moving to legalize recreational use of the drug. So how are agencies going to adapt to this growing market opportunity? Will the traditional “big boy” agencies seek out marijuana dispensaries as clients side by side with their financial or pharmaceutical greats? Or will neighborhoods see an influx in new shops opening up that specialize in building (or planting) emerging marijuana brands without fear of the stigma that surrounds the industry? I foresee great market opportunities for creatives and strategists to break away from the more traditional, larger agencies and open their own specialty shops to capture the business of this soon to be 8 Billion Dollar per year industry.
  • Millennials: Yes, that’s right: the dreaded bunch (myself included). During a recent conversation with a senior marketing manager, our discussion turned from the familiar industry dialogue toward a more inquisitive one. The tone suggested that many marketers are unsure of what’s next with this generation. Millennials may not follow the same demographic and psychographic trends as we have seen with past generations, but they are fluid. They are exceedingly loyal and preferencial when it comes to brands, which further drives their demand for unique and individual experiences. I frequent brands that make me feel like I am an individual, unique from my peers, and not just a number on revenue reports. Ultimately, this means that agencies must tailor communications strategies to individuals, rather than setting demographics at a high, unfiltered level. Successful agencies will need to leverage CRM marketing initiatives and tailor copy to speak to the individual preferences within the consumer, not the wallet in their back pocket.
  • Disappearing Gender Norms: It’s timely that brands have finally made strides toward removing traditional gender norms from their products and marketing. Most notably, Cover Girl recently debuted its first ever Cover Boy. No longer is the company sticking to traditional social norms and avoiding cultural taboos. This company is making a statement that brands will begin to allow consumers to define the target demographics for their products. The trend of disappearing gender norms has spread to other personal care brands as well. Premium beauty care brands, such as the Art of Shaving & Kiehl’s, have led the charge targeting their marketing and products towards men as social stigmas regarding self-care have been destroyed. The emerging market of men’s beauty care and maintenance products will continue to drive entrepreneurial investment into new companies and extend existing traditional feminine product lines of dominant companies to men. The creative work published by agencies must match evolving consumer expectations rather than pushing traditional social norms onto the market. Consumers reported appreciating “real advertising” from brands, such as Bodyform, that don’t shy away from incorporating an unfiltered life into their creative work. This trend is likely to extend into male beauty care as disappearing gender norms convey to male consumers that it is ok to take the time and use products to enhance appearance.

These three trends are just a few of those posing an upset to the traditional agency model. With social trends and demographics changing at the blink of an eye, agencies must look within and ask themselves if they are fluid enough to adapt to these changes before other competing agencies swap out the traditional model (known for the lag time between creative ideation and execution). To all potential employers out there asking questions of their applicants, weigh the insights provided by Millennials and commit to adapting to new trends and changing the way your agency operates to stay relevant and competitive in this ever crowded marketplace that we will soon call 2017.

I would like to wish a Happy New Year to all of my readers, colleagues, family and friends. May we all adapt to changing times and charge into 2017 with innovative and open minds.

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

When’s The Last Time You Saw The Government Swear?

When’s The Last Time You Saw The Government Swear?

When charged with ensuring millennials listen to the PSA’s plastered on the ceilings of subway cars, what is the easiest way to catch their attention? Swear.

“Outrageous”, “Disgusting”, “Immoral”. These are all words used by a Facebook user to describe a hoax subway overhead ad supposedly by the MTA. My description of the pretend campaign? Pure Genius.

With outrage and controversy growing over the latest photoshop stunt featured below, it is important to step back from the vernacular used and understand the context and meaning of the message.

“Don’t Be A Fuck Boy”

The term fuck boy, recently coined by millennials, is defined in the Urban Dictionary as “the type of guy who does shit that generally pisses the population of the earth off all the time”. In short, this is a person with loose moral character and having little regard for the respect and space of others.

Think back to your last subway ride. Did you encounter someone who was a “pole hog” or “man-spreading”? Chances are you did. The younger generation in New York City is known for disrespecting the space of others on subway cars and furthermore, known for not giving up a seat for the elderly or those who require it. With changing personalities comes a false sense of entitlement. Listen to any Gen X’er and you will hear praise of the good ‘ole days when gentlemen would give up their seat for a lady. There is a reason you hear these remarks more frequently in 2016. Millennials hold a sense of entitlement, arguing that they shouldn’t have to give up a seat, or move out of someone’s way because they paid for that spot, or more commonly “they have a right to be there”.


This fake ad, while vulgar, speaks to the target market of the campaign in terms they understand. By using the vernacular in the ad, the MTA (or mysterious photoshopper) is able to identify with the target market by referencing how their actions can be construed with the negative connotations that follow the moniker “fuck boy”. It is also comedic to note that the red figure in the picture has a white triangle below its neck. This is meant to visually show the shirt is a v-neck cut, a popular shirt style of millennials who will further successfully identify with the ad’s copy.

V-Necks Are A Popular New Shirt Cut

When I think of a great ad campaign, it is one that speaks directly to the target while evoking an emotional response. This fake PSA’s message is loud and clear (to its target), “Millennials, respect the space of others”. While older generations may take offense to the language used in the copy, they should look at the benefits of using such a term to speak to those who need to heed the message the most in a way they will. After reading that ad, most millennials will become aware of their selfish actions, and yield extra space for others to hold onto the pole, or grab an open seat.

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand manager based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.