I’ve been trying to think about anything except our current situation. It’s just terrible and not many bright spots, especially as any attempt at dialogue goes immediately to the political, which I abhor.
I’ve been fortunate to be spending time with my immediate family and we have been (mostly) getting along. We’ve been talking about things we can’t wait to get back to, or things we miss from our paused lives. I have been surprised how little my children complain about the lockdown and how few things I’ve realized I truly miss or long for from the outside world. Surely, I can’t be the only one who has identified a few brands I’ve already realized I can leave behind. In avoiding “the new normal” I’ve started wondering what might come of all of this.
I spoke to Geoffrey Colon, Head of Brand Studio at Microsoft Advertising about what he thinks the next normal might look like, and the trends driving that. He’s looking at the data to see how people are adapting so far.
Adam Pierno 0:10
Welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m very much looking forward to this conversation. I’ve been wrestling with some alternate theories about this topic in my brain and I brought on an expert to help me sort them out. Today I am joined from – Are you in Seattle, Washington today?
Geoffrey Colon 0:32
I am in Seattle, Washington. Yes.
Adam Pierno 0:34
Excellent. I’m joined by Geoffrey Colon who is the head of brand studio at Microsoft advertising and he is joining us as we just said from Seattle. How are you today sir?
Geoffrey Colon 0:48
I’m good. Thanks for having me. Adam.
Adam Pierno 0:50
You guys, we here have been on we’re recording this during the COVID-19 coronavirus weirdness that is moving through the world. Here in Phoenix, we’ve been isolated self isolated for this is our third and a half-ish week. But I know in Seattle, you guys have been indoors for at least a week or two longer, right?
Geoffrey Colon 1:13
Yeah, that’s correct. I mean, I think I’m going on my fourth week, I think March 24, was when the governor asked everyone to stay at home. But there may have been a couple days prior to that when Microsoft actually asked everyone to work from home that actually came before the governor said, you know, put a stay at home order in place. So I feel it’s been, you know, four plus weeks. And yesterday, the governor extended our deadline from April 30. Now into may and who knows how much longer that’s going to go but yeah, that’s where we stand right now.
Adam Pierno 1:58
Yeah, these Are these are crazy times and I have a feeling we’ll we’ll come back to it a few times during our conversation. But before we get started, why don’t you give people who who don’t know your name a little bit more of your background and just a little more about where who you are and what you’ve done?
Geoffrey Colon 2:16
Yeah, I mean, the past seven years I’ve been with Microsoft, Microsoft advertising in particular. You know, we work on advertising solutions for companies include search advertising solutions on Bing, we have native advertising solutions on MSN advertising solutions, and in other areas, like mixer which is sort of our twitch competitors. So you know, what solutions exist in digital? You know, I work on those and really what my role has been is research and innovation. With companies in terms of how they use media, how they use communication, how they use marketing, in the digital ecosystem, and a lot of a lot of our research is really on human behavior at the intersection of human behavior with business and technology, media, popular culture, you name it. Because, you know, prior to Microsoft, I worked at Ogilvy for a really long time. And for those not familiar with all the sort of biggest schemed advertising agency founded by David Ogilvy. David Ogilvy was really about understanding people
Adam Pierno 3:43
Way ahead of his time.
Geoffrey Colon 3:45
Understanding people, yeah, way ahead of his way ahead of the curve. I mean, a lot of the things that he talked about, you know, a lot of companies are adopting that now in the 21st century. He was talking about these back in the 50s and 60s. And, you know, knew, you know, so that working at Ogilvy, I think I was really just always, I really got into planning really around, like, you know, how does a company plan their media, but also how do they plan their business model? Um, and I think I’ve always really been into anticipatory economics. I think I’m making up that term. But that’s really around understanding like, what is coming so that you can, you can, you can adjust to that.
Adam Pierno 4:34
Geoffrey Colon 4:35
I think these are areas that you know, I talked a lot about in my book that came out in 2015 called Disruptive Marketing. I’ve been talking about this on my own podcast since 2012, called Disruptive FM. These are all areas that have been fascinating to me. I think a lot of a lot of it is because the I haven’t fallen far from the truth. tree that my parents were both in my dad was was an economics professor. My mother was a psychologist, if you if you map both of those together with my love of software and technology, I feel like I’ve sort of created the, you know, an interesting role that, you know, a lot of people may have said in the past, yeah, we’re interested in understanding trends. But at the same time, we’re not really interested in you know, putting much emphasis on that right. The interest in it versus the doing something about it is is, is a little bit different set of things, isn’t it?
Adam Pierno 5:39
So, yeah, I’ve been listening to Disruptive FM and really enjoying it. I love the pace of it. And I love the way you tackle different topics on there. So keep that up. And it’s been fun catching up on some episodes while I’ve been locked down.
Geoffrey Colon 5:55
Yeah, I mean the show Disruptive FM I’m you know, I’ve been doing that now for eight years. And again, it was all around. And what to anticipate what business trends to anticipate, and I got really into forecasting as a result of that. And and that’s really what that weekly show is about, like, what are the sort of three trends that you need to know about how that could be applied to your business? Um, I will tell you, it’s quite fascinating since this has all happened, that I’ve gotten probably more requests on. Jeff, what do you think this will mean for the world and business at any time before? I mean, I put out a trend report at the beginning of the year. I you know, people perk their ears up and they were like, Oh, this is pretty cool, you know, explaining what might happen in the in the next decade, one of the things that people didn’t realize is one of our trends was around the total switch in sustainability. We didn’t mention a pandemic would do that. But we saw business models were definitely changing. We just thought it would play out over an arc five to seven year period. Now it’s played out in basically a five week period.
Adam Pierno 7:22
Wow, I know it’s wild, how fast things are changing. And like you alluded to earlier, we, we got this crazy information. We were told, somebody said, oh, we’re going to try to have I think everything can be fixed up by Easter, then two days later, was no 15 days after that. Now it’s in the state of Washington, they’re saying no, into May. So we’re still in real time. There’s not really, I mean, I want to know about consumer trends, but I don’t even know when the period to think about that will be what you know, when was the date that I’m thinking is the start of his future behavior that I’m seeking to understand, and I don’t know how to get there.
Unknown Speaker 8:01
But yeah, I mean, I think the interesting thing is to also watch as events that have been scheduled, let’s say for the spring and summer and we’re pushed to the fall are now just being canceled outright. And there’s a there’s a reason for that, um, granted, you might have things back to some normalcy in the fall or let’s say winter period. But the economic outcome of all of this has really hurt a lot of people and companies. So even if you hold an event, let’s say that you’ve said you were going to do let you know, in May, hey, let’s do this in October, by the time October rolls around, you may not have anybody registering to actually go to that event, because they may not have any money to go to those events. So I think those are the first sort of fallout in our industry. watching what what things happen on, you know, are people going to spend money to go to things that they went to in the in the past? You know, we know that that’s not happening. We know that people aren’t getting on airlines, they’re not moving around quite a bit. How does that affect other areas? Then does that have a ripple or a domino effect in you know, other forms that people pick up on? So people aren’t going to an event and they’re staying at home? What are the things that they will be doing at home? Right? What payment will they be doing? What ways of socializing will they will they participate in? We know that Zoom is a huge part of people’s social protocol. Now. We never would have thought that was the case last year, that video peer-to-peer is massive. I mean, companies forever Adam have said video peer-to-peer is the future and it was very it was adopted on a very small curve if we think about it, I couldn’t even get people to adopt Microsoft Teams last year, when I was like, “Hey, this is the future of working.” Yeah, whatever no one’s gonna no one wants to do that. Now everyone’s like busting down the door to get you know, access to Zoom or Microsoft Teams are Citrix or whatever software is out there, that allows them to communicate in a video peer to peer fashion. Especially because that’s a big thing there is is gonna is important to sales. So if you think about it, when you’re when you’re having a discussion with someone and you’re their account representative or you’re trying to you know, make a make a deal. You know, you’re you’re just be on the call, you don’t just want to be on a phone call, you will be able to have some human mannerisms, similar to like how you would have been in the room with them prior to all this happening. So those are areas to watch. I think it’ll be interesting as things on the on the fringe or on the edge, how that changes may have a huge, you know, have huge repercussions on how we’ve, you know, done a lot of things, you know, moving forward again, I don’t have all the answers to it. But this is a fascinating discussion that we’re having.
Adam Pierno 11:14
Yeah. And we’ve seen Zoom go from enterprise to individuals. It’s like the reverse, anti-Slack. Almost. What do you think? So based on the way we’re all cocooned up now, I’ve been debating in my head, whether whatever the day or period is when we’re finally said, okay, wherever your area of the curve is flattened out enough that people can get back to it. I see this fork in the road where it will either be treated like New Year’s Eve, where people are going to go out and go crazy or New Year’s Day where people are going to say, okay, I’ve been daydreaming about this better life that I’m going to have ever I was allowed to return to normal. And I can’t, I cannot get to a data point where I say Oh yeah, I know people are going to seek wellness and better for you and healthier choices for sure over I’m going right to the liquor store and I’m buying a keg. I’m going to party in the park with everybody I know. Three straight days it’s gonna be Woodstock in my backyard. What are your thoughts?
Unknown Speaker 12:20
Yeah, I mean, I think you bring up a good point. I was I was using the analysis the other day on a on a call with someone I said, um, I think we now all know what it feels like to be um, you know, locked up or a caged animal in a lot of respects. And you know, what happens when someone is released from you know, prison, they don’t even know how to maybe like go back into society or they’re just excited to have that freedom as you said, because they they they miss that for so long. Cuz the way that we’re, you know, navigating now we’re peering into each other’s video portals very much like how you look at an aquarium. You know, it’s like, Hey, I can see you there Adam fish in a fishbowl or something. I do think it will have a major effect on how people are for a long period of time and think about this. You know, people just were like, Oh, I don’t want to have to deal with people, like, I’ll text them or email them or I’ll do anything in my power to not have any of that social connection. This could have huge repercussions for us wanting to be like more social as a result of all this because there’s just nothing that you know. Digital is a good alternative to that but it is not a replacement. to it, I don’t think I want to zoom in perpetuity, we want to be able to go and have relationships with real people in real life, I think it’ll actually enhance those relationships because we’ve maybe taken those for granted for the last 40 years, I think especially the last 10 years, in terms of being able to do almost everything electronically. You know, this can have a huge effect on in a good way, in a positive way, on human interaction. When we’re able to get back to that stage,
Adam Pierno 14:37
I’m very big on, hey, if I can handle this in a text or an email, and I don’t have to go and sit in a meeting, I would thought I would prefer to do that. And what I’m learning is that it’s actually kind of nice to be around physically in proximity to other people that the connection that you get us a lot more it’s a much better reinforcement of us. ascent or descent and understanding each other the communication is a lot better, although zoom is teams to have proven to be pretty good conduits to continuation of some kind of ongoing communication. But there’s a there’s a gap. There’s still a gap.
Geoffrey Colon 15:17
Yeah, I would agree
Adam Pierno 15:19
With with streaming. In Europe, we’re seeing that it’s really straining the digital infrastructure there, Netflix and YouTube and others have pulled back their bandwidth hogging ways. Now in America, so far, it seems like it’s holding up my my bandwidth has been Okay, my receptivity to streaming has been okay, but we’ve been streaming a hell of a lot more than we ever did. or letting our kids watch more because we’re just trying to kind of sort of grateful they’re staying in the house and not complaining about the inside. Seeing when you think about trends is that a little lasting trend that these these behaviors and new subscriptions will last or is it? Okay, rain stopped. Everybody can go back outside. Let’s cancel these three things that we signed up for. You think it’ll be an overall increase in streaming behavior and streaming service subscriptions?
Unknown Speaker 16:17
Yeah, I think it was tipping that way. Before all of this, you know, we were seeing a lot more people move toward watching content in a streaming manner. I mean, you know, linear television isn’t dead. But it’s, you know, it’s been decreasing in terms of its popularity. I think what’s happened now is it’s decreasing even at a faster rate. And there’s a variety of reasons for that. One is, there is an endless amount of content in streaming networks. I think they’ve also tried to figure out how they’re going to continue to create content in sort of this coven state that we’re in so that there’s new content available. The linear television networks don’t have that ability. They don’t. They may have to like make, I mean, you might get to a point where there’s no new programming on those networks, or the programming looks a lot like a Zoom call, which no one wants to watch –
Adam Pierno 17:15
We’re tolerating – it’s a novelty. Yeah, I don’t want to see it. Again, when once he wants, there should be programming. I’m going to expect it right away.
Geoffrey Colon 17:25
I agree on that, Adam. And then of course, the other big thing missing from linear TV. There’s no sports. So sports make a big part of that because sports are alive and people of course tune in to watch live sports. That is, you know, I think that will come back. I think people you know, have a, you know, sports isn’t going to go away. But I think like how they’re presented might be very, very different as a result of this. I mean, there’s, there’s been discussions I’ve had that, you know, like you used to love about live sports. Events was not just tuning into the event, but also seeing all the people that were at that event that might look drastically different. If there are rules in place, especially for the next year, let’s say where stadium say, Yes, we are having this event, but instead of 55,000 or 60,000 people, we are required by the Department of Health to only have 15,000 in the stadium. They have to be separated into different areas. That doesn’t make for good, you know, that doesn’t look good on TV. But I think people will take whatever they can get right now. I mean, I would watch any sporting, if I could right now in an empty stadium just to be able to watch it if they I think once they have, you know, better testing in place for the athletes. We’ll get back to that. You know, I think you will see things like the WWE hosting events where there’s nobody In the in, in the arena, it’s almost like
Adam Pierno 19:05
UFC tried to do as well.
Unknown Speaker 19:07
Yes, UFC I think will continue to do that I think they will say like, Hey, you know, once we get the green light, we’re gonna you know we can test you know the fighters and we know what’s going on that that will return on that might actually change to television productions so you might get used to very tight shots where you don’t see anything. You know you don’t see any of the fans because they don’t really want to show that they wanted to feel very first person. And that might be very difficult for people to return to an earlier era where they were like, hey, I want to see what’s in the stadium because they may demand new camera angles, they may demand new interactivity, all this will have an effect on everything that we you know, think, you know, we’ve taken for granted, that will change. So again, like I’m not one of these people who thinks things die. As you know, things don’t really die as much as they diminish in they’re recycled in new ways. But you know, all these things will have a huge effect. You know, sports will not be the same entertainment will not be the same. I don’t think we’ll go to Broadway shows the same way we have in the past, I don’t think we’ll go to movies the same way we’ve had in the past. Again, none of these industries will die, they just will have to sort of figure out how do we handle all this. And I think streaming will be a huge part of that. Factor. I think if you’re in the area of production, especially, you know, content production, this could be a time of major growth for you because there might be more industry saying we have to solve for this. You know, it’s not about it’s not a matter of people coming to us either anymore. We now have to stream to everybody who’s paid $20 a month for the on demand. subscription. This is this is a reality that I think a lot of companies are not hedging their bed on because they weren’t making a lot of money off the old, you know, the old way of doing?
Adam Pierno 21:04
What do you think from a technology perspective? You know, one thing I’ve learned is I had to pretty quickly leave my desk at my office and start working from home. I left a second monitor I left to Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and I’ve been working just from this laptop., and it’s been mostly flawless. Like it’s not ideal. I have to toggle, scroll through a lot more tabs and Windows but Zoom has been great. My connection to teams and the slack and everything has kept me tuned in my streaming has been fine. If there were sports on I’m sure I could watch them on my TV. I don’t get I don’t. I think one thing this has taught me is I probably don’t need any more technology than we have right now in there. Then I assume I’m an average american. We’re not like a super heavy tech family that has all the latest gadgets. What do you say? That means, you know, do you think that’s true that we’ll see you’re kind of divestment in tech or do you think it’ll be the opposite of people saying well I had a 65 inch TV last time and if we had gone into lockdown again I’d better make sure I have an 85
Geoffrey Colon 22:18
You know, I agree with your sentiment I I have been so I’m sort of an oddball at Microsoft. I’ve been working I have not had a desk in my office in seven years. I have a table I work from anywhere I can work. I like mobility. So work from home for me did not catch me by surprise because I I work off a laptop, you know, a high power and sort of laptop. I think if you’re in some industries, you need all those those things, but I think a lot of times we put we put emphasis on That we don’t necessarily need and it takes a drastic shift to realize how much you don’t need a lot of the things that you thought you needed. You know, a friend of mine said something quite interesting. They had bought a pair of boots before this whole thing went down. She was excited to wear them for the spring. And they came and she shared them back realizing I’m not going anywhere for a period of time. I don’t need these boots. I think a lot of that is I think a lot of industries now may suffer in terms in downturns, because consumption levels might be down. For two factors. One people may not have the money to spend on that, but a bigger factor is even if they do that way they are not interested in spending on it. Let’s say you still have you know, let’s say you’re still making income right now. You might be like, I don’t need a big monitor. I’m fine with what I have here. I mean there are other areas though Adam I see people rushing off to that they never were interested in before they need a high definition camera so that I look better on camera on these zoom calls that I’m on because they might be being they might be video that then are being circulated I want to look at least decent in my home office. I need a pop up desk that can fit in your my small apartment I think that those you know furniture has actually increased as a result of this because people need different types of furniture. I think that’ll decrease again once everyone’s outfitted for what they what they have, but there are some areas that might you know might never return you I mean, you may never really go and you know spend a lot of extra money on certain types of wardrobe that he wore because you want a formal environment. They’re not going away, business dress is going away. So you know, suit jackets diminishing. And that being replaced more with like as leisure and other things that are much more comfortable. So again, we have to pay attention to the fact that, you know, lifestyle changes as a result of this are going to mean pivots in, in spending habits because, you know, people are going to basically spend in the areas that they think will, you know, help them sort of get through this. And then even when you get back to some normalcy, they say it takes 66 days to form a habit. If we go longer than that, I think a lot of these things that we’ve done in the past will be you know, will be gone. I mean, I don’t wondering if I even need a car after all this, because I might be able to work from anywhere as a result of this. And it’s like, you know, I have a car and my wife has a car. I mean, we might just be like, hey, let’s go back to the way we were, you know, a long time ago. Let’s just have one car. And some people might say like, hey, that’s crazy. Aren’t you going to need to get around? Well if I mainly use it for commuting if commuting, go, community goes away or is diminished, you find alternative transportation once you can go back to where I was if I haven’t I mean I
Adam Pierno 26:19
Totally agree on that commuting and I the other industry I was looking at is fitness. From the set I go to a to our little community gym, it’s not great. It has what I need right low fee that’s what I’m looking for. So I think for most consumers that relied on a gym now are stuck in their house and figuring out through YouTube how to use water jugs and chairs because they didn’t have the equipment that they wanted, right I’m doing this and so I wonder if there will be an uptick when this is all done on home gym equipment, whether that’s a small collection thing, or a full you know, I know Peloton is probably having a record month is my guess. Yeah. And so that’s an area that it’s not necessarily a new interest in fitness, it’s a different way to have the fitness behavior that you’ve already had. It’s a new modality to fitness is home home fitness, kind of like remote working.
Geoffrey Colon 27:17
Yeah, I mean, we have search data that shows that the search for dumbbells was like 1,000%, increase year over year and dumbbells. And though and then if you actually go and try to buy some of those, they’re sold out everywhere. So it’s not just a matter of people searching for intent, they actually follow through with that intent and as sold out in a lot of retailers who are now trying to figure out how to get this back in stock. And a lot of the companies that make that equipment are like, Whoa, we’ve already produced everything we have for the year. I guess we got to go back and figure out how to make more That is a fascinating area. I do agree with you i think things like peloton are big. I mean, I hung up, you know, I’m really in a boxing I hung my heavy bag that I had had, you know, I didn’t have up for a long time, when this whole thing kicked in realizing I was gonna have to work out in my garage. I think you’re right, I think people will outfit maybe a room in their house moving forward, that becomes like their little Fitness Studio, you know, no different than how some people outfit you know, for a home office, that could change how houses are built. I mean, these are all long term impacts that, you know, we don’t we don’t think about if if this was something that lasted two weeks and we went back to normal, it wouldn’t have a big effect on us. The fact that this is going to be longer than 66 days. Well, we’re going to have new habits as a result of this that you know, we just might not move away from and, and, and it’s basically what this generation is known for.
Adam Pierno 29:00
I think you’ll see the we won’t know the effects for 3-5-7 years, because it’ll take that long for some of these trends to really emerge in the markets and the foundation of new companies to serve these needs or new offerings from existing companies to serve these needs or companies like Equinox, for example, maybe diminishing while Planet Fitness rises, because people say, Well remember that three month time I couldn’t go to the gym and I was paying $200 a month that was that. That felt kind of weird. I don’t want to do that again. Yeah, yeah. Any other trends we’re seeing in search that are that are eyebrow raising before I let you go?
Unknown Speaker 29:43
Yeah, big one is we’ve seen an uptick in a lot of do it yourself searches. I think that’s something that we we, you know, did not you know, we haven’t seen much of an ass and what we mean by that is, you know, things like how to build something how to cook something those are those always exist. Those are always you know out there people are always looking for do it yourself but that that’s uptick to a threshold that is unbelievable now in terms of how many people are looking to figure things out, because we do live in a world now where it’s like hey, let me figure out how to make something because I am at home for so long. And now maybe you have never had to do this in the past. You know whether it is cooking or baking, or even something like using software, you might be at home and you may have not had to use a particular type of software that you now have to use more often because you’re not you’re not at you’re not hard wired at a at a at an office anymore. Those things are big. We’ve actually seen a huge uptick in searches for sweat pants and underwear. Which I think shouldn’t surprise me, surprise us. But I do think people are like, you know, maybe they had those things, but they’re like, wait a minute, if I’m going to be working from home, I’m not getting dressed up anymore. And maybe they didn’t have a lot of sweatpants to begin with. So they’re looking more for that. I think those are areas where well, you know, we’ll continue to see that until it levels off where people feel they have enough of those things to get by for the next you know, period of period of time.
Adam Pierno 31:30
Yeah, they’re optimizing for comfort instead of optimizing for style. We’ll see if that’s right extends an additional 30 days, then we’ll see what they begin optimizing for then.
Geoffrey Colon 31:40
I think that the other big area, though, like we’ve seen, obviously, things really drastically decline in travel. You know, cruise ships. Areas like that shouldn’t surprise us. People aren’t wanting to move around. They’re looking for refunds. They’re not looking to book anything in return. They can figure out where you know where they’re going. But we did see an uptick in, in electronic devices and, and furniture, which I think makes sense to if you think about it, because if you’re working from home, you might be like, hey, I need this. Let me outfit myself with it. And I need a piece of furniture to actually work from so let me outfit myself for that. But, um, you know, in a lot of areas that you know, we’ve seen uptick sin. I mean, some of them have been, you know, pretty incredible in terms of delivery services, people looking for ways that they can get groceries delivered. You know, all the things that that tie into this whole situation. You know, I’ve been pretty, I’ve been pretty standard. I think. What will be interesting is the longer this goes on, what are the other consumer trends that you know, that you know, that come to fruition? Another big thing though I should mention is desktop searches or laptop searches are sky high, or sky high. Now, we used to obviously, you know, mobile still important, and it’s still popular. But I think a lot of people in their house are working more from a laptop. So they’re just doing everything from those devices. And those are areas that we saw, you know, basically flatlining, the last five years as laptop growth was peaking. Most people were doing things on mobile. And of course, searches for things that are around you are very down, because no one’s out there moving around. So you don’t have to search for like, restaurants near me or something near me, because you’re basically at home. So you’re, you know, just looking for the things that you know, are near your house and those searches diminish because most people know what’s in their neighborhoods. So that’s fascinating. I think I’ll be fascinating to see What the how that changes as we come out of this?
Adam Pierno 34:04
Yeah, my Foursquare check ins would be very dope if I was still a Foursquare user. Well, Jeff, I appreciate you making time to talk through this with me. This has been fantastic time well spent. Thank you for making time. Thank you, Adam. Where can people find you online besides disruptive FM, your podcast anywhere else that you’d like people to to connect?
Geoffrey Colon 34:32
Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty active on Twitter at DJ Gio FFV.
Adam Pierno 34:38
Probably the best place to find I’ll link to you there for sure in the notes. All right, well, thanks again for joining.
Geoffrey Colon 34:47
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