Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. The rise of the “plantfluencer”.

Move over pet parents, Millennials are seeking “plant parenthood”. Why should you care? The burgeoning Millennial obsession with houseplants is driven by a few converging trends: they are “overwhelmingly renters in urban areas with little or no access to yards, and deeply aware of the physical and mental benefits of living with plants (cleaner air, for example).” It certainly doesn’t hurt that through the various Instagram “plantfluencers” (with followers in the millions), Millennials can transform an overpriced studio into a jungle oasis. Others are jumping on the trend by selling planters, jewelry, apparel and creating plant-based events. Certainly brands should be thinking about how to incorporate plants or lush greenery into their imagery in catering to Millennials. However, they should also pay attention to the trends behind the popularity of plants (urban living, frugality, delayed life stages, interest in holistic health, finding happiness in small things, seeking connection…to name a few) and see how their products or messaging can speak to those underlying needs. [New York Times]

2. A new type of caregiver: the Instagram sitter.

Ibis, a hotel chain in Switzerland, is offering visitors a “sitter” for their Instagram accounts so they can disconnect and enjoy their vacation without sacrificing the ability to humble-brag about that vacation. Why should you care? This is an interesting example of a trend we’ve been watching all year: people seeking to renegotiate their relationships with technology and social media. While it may seem kind of silly, it solves a real problem for consumers. According to Ibis, “the service will eliminate the stress for guests of being active on social media without the need to stop them from posting beautiful photos during their stay.” Rather than pass judgement, Ibis is tapping into that internal conflict and offering a solution aligned with their guests’ lifestyle. [Lonely Planet]

3. Buzzfeed: media company, Toys R Us replacement contender and Millennial mind reader.

With a few initiatives recently making news, Buzzfeed is challenging the traditional roles of a media company as it pushes into product design, retail and consulting. Why should you care? Buzzfeed brilliantly recognized they were collecting significant data through their media activities which could not only be used internally, but position them as consultants and retailers. For example, though publishing articles on industries being killed by Millennial apathy, they also recognized data collected on their Millennial audience could be used to help brands next on the Millennial hit list to proactively innovate. They also launched their own “experiential toy store” specifically for millennial parents. Data creates a lot of possibilities in the communications industry, but it will be interesting to see if Buzzfeed is successful and if/how others follow, repurposing their business model to expand unconventionally. [Bloomberg]

4. Marriott swipes right on dating.

Moxy, a Marriott hotel brand, is now offering activities and “verified [meeting] spaces” for users of Bumble, a dating app where female users make the first move. Why should you care? Hotels haven’t always been only for the weary traveler, but have more recently struggled to drive local traffic to their restaurants and bars. The Moxy-Bumble partnership is smart because it serves both brands well (driving local interest in a new hotel concept and creating an easy date option) while also solving a consumer problem (mitigating the dangers associated with online dating by having a safe place to meet). [Skift]

5. Alexa meets Big Mouth Billy Bass.

Remember Big Mouth Billy Bass, the motion-activated mounted fish toy whose songs likely still haunt anyone working in retail from the late 90s to early 2000s ? Now, you can buy a Alexa-enabled Big Mouth Billy Bass. Why should you care? There’s nothing “important” about this, as expanding voice technology isn’t new and with the launch of the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit in September, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing Alexa integrations with all sorts of things. However, this unlikely collaboration simply shows the endless possibilities for voice, including fun and unexpected applications. So, is this the best idea ever or a potential Toy Story nightmare? [TechCrunch]

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