4 Trends Brands are Embracing to Reach and Convert the Evolving Consumer

By Audacy Insights Team

Evolving shopping and media habits are impacting every brand. As marketers compete for share of attention, brands like Macy’s and HBO Max have accelerated their consumer engagement strategies to meet the needs of today’s consumer model – with Audio as a key driver. Check out the 4 trends uncovered during our recent panel discussion with Josh Walker, HBO Max and Kristy Carruba, Macy’s.


Streaming Everywhere

There is no doubt that adoption of audio and video streaming is on the rise. This is especially true of Gen Z and Millennials. And there’s no better trendsetter to watch in the world of streaming than HBO Max – the young but fast-growing direct-to-consumer platform from WarnerMedia. According to Josh Walker, Chief Strategy Officer from HBO Max, the key to growing a loyal streaming fan base is to meet consumers where they are. “Audio is a way for us to reach consumers in a different location.” Josh shares, “What we [want] to make sure they’re able to do is, while they’re driving their car, on their commute, on the treadmill, is that they have a way to engage with us and Audio opens up that opportunity.”


The Coming of Age of Gen Z

Gen Z, the digital native generation, holds tremendous opportunities for brands. They approach music, sports, content consumption, and shopping in a very nuanced way. And for brands, it’s all about embracing spaces Gen Z consumers love and trust.

  • Personalizing the Experience: Kristy Carruba, Director of Audio Strategy and Planning at Macy’s shares, “We see that this generation is really about personalization and customization.” The Macy’s team is looking to embrace that trend with the expansion of more in-store experiences.
  • Embracing Diversity: The younger generation of teens and young adults share a deep value for diversity. True diversity of individuals, but also openness of thought and ideas. As Kristy points out, “It’s not just what we have in our stores, but what we represent” that matters. Key initiatives like sustainable fashion and sustainable giving take on a much more critical role for these shoppers.
  • Partnering with Podcast Influencers: There’s hardly an industry or brand that’s not planning to, or already venturing into podcasts. But Macy’s is top of the trend for forging successful partnerships with podcast influencers. Kristy shares, “There’s so much power in the podcast personalities. We’ve partnered with Emma Chamberlain… She’s so unbelievably influential and has a lot of power with Gen Z, especially our shoppers and we’ve seen it with our results.”
  • Being Uncomfortable with Being Uncomfortable: There’s nothing easy about doing something new or venturing into new channels. Kristy Carruba from Macy’s shares that sometimes you just have to jump in and take the plunge. “Most of the OG brands need to get a little uncomfortable with getting uncomfortable and going into spaces that we wouldn’t normally think our brand could be in.” The folks at HBO Max have the same adventurous spirit. They are leading the scene in the world of companion podcasts as a way for fans to stay connected to their favorite programming. Josh shares, “Recently one of the things we’ve heard from consumers is when they come to HBO Max and watch our programming, they want to go deeper into it, to dissect it, and to discuss it with others. One of the ways in which we are bringing more of that opportunity is through Audio.”


Reaping the Benefits of Holistic Audio

Leading brands are investing in audio across the spectrum, from Radio to Streaming to Podcasting to drive deeper engagement with their existing fans and shoppers.

85% of podcast listeners do tell us that they feel much more connected to the show when they listen to the podcast. So we know it’s resonating with them and it’s helping drive a greater connection.

Josh Walker

I’ve always been a fan of Audio… Audio is more in the forefront I think these days than I’ve ever seen it before… Everybody is asking me about podcasting, they’re asking me about streaming audio, they’re asking me about smart speakers.

Kristy Carruba


Advice from Brands Leading the Way – Build Authenticity

At the close of our recent panel discussion, each brand leader shared their advice for brands still thinking about their investment in Audio. The key takeaway from both Macy’s and HBO Max was to build authentic connections.

Kristy shared, “People create habits with audio, and people create relationships with audio, and there’s just this personalization and this comfort in audio….There’s so much more talk about how to strategically use it.. [to] target your audience, and tell the story you want to tell. And Audio’s so good at that.”

Josh also shared his advice. “It’s about authentic connections. If you’ve listened to our podcasts, they’re not sales pitches. These are continuations of the story and connections with the talent behind the shows. They are very authentic and that’s very intentional for us… We believe in [Audio] as a way to really expand the ways in which we can reach the consumer and serve them better.”

Hear more of what Macy’s and HBO Max had to say by downloading the complete episode of The Evolving Consumer: In Conversation with HBO Max & Macy’s from the Audacy Insights Series.

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