Filling Food Prescriptions

Image result for free stock photography supermarket fruits and veg

Kroger, a US supermarket chain, is testing out a new service that has shoppers filling their food prescriptions. Born from the realization that doctors’ nutritional advice to patients is often vague – we’ve all heard “eat healthier”- the initiative pairs shoppers with aisle side assistance from nutritionists. The ideas is that dieticians can make more specific recommendations that make the doctor’s advice more actionable. Nutritionists take into considertaion budget, cooking skills and lifestyle when making recommendations.

The pilot launched last spring in Kroger’s hometown of Cincinnati, OH. In its current form, diabetes patients work with a local physician who makes dietary recommendations they can then take to a nutrition expert at a Kroger in Forest Park, OH. The prescription itself is actually just a shopping list of food items that have been tailored to the patient’s specific medical condition.


Why it’s hot:
Talk about added value! Kroger is talking to people in the right place and the right time and going above and beyond.


Budweiser flips label for social sharing: meet the #SelfieBud

Budweiser created a specialized labeling for social sharing as part a massive promotional effort around the Super Bowl. The SelfieBud special edition label is printed backward so it appears normal in selfies on social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Although Budweiser also launched a traditional Super Bowl commercial (minus Clydesdales), they know they need to do more than just a TV spot to stay relevant with younger audiences. The SelfieBud was part of a bigger experiential marketing campaign involving a BudX Hotel takeover that featured influencers with significant followings on social media.

Influencer marketing strategies are forecast to become more popular, with brands spending as much as $15 billion on such campaigns by 2022, according to  Business Insider estimates based on data from influencer marketing agency Mediakix.

Why it’s hot:

-In today’s always-on world where it can feel like we’re all sharing similar experiences or at least similar stylistic aesthetics on social, original and exclusive experiences drive social currency for brands.

-Adapting your packaging to be more “user-centric” in order to solve a problem or demonstrate you understand your audience’s pain points (remember Snickers’ sassy wrappers?) is a fun way to drive excitement and, hopefully engagement for your brand.

Delta’s turned Minority Report technology into a reality

Delta Airline is adopting new screen technology to add another layer of personalization to customer journeys.

Delta has struck up a partnership with technology company Misapplied Sciences to launch the Parallel Reality beta experience for flyers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Parallel Reality displays are an opt-in technology which, according to Misapplied Sciences, allow ‘a hundred or more’ consumers to view personalized content tailored to their unique journey needs via a single screen.

For Delta, adopting this technology means providing new way-finding opportunities: from displaying only relevant flight information to the viewer and translating that information into a language of the consumer’s choice.

For the beta launch in Detroit, almost 100 customers will be able to view content personalized to their needs. The partnership was announced at CES 2020, which makes Delta the first airline to keynote and exhibit at the event.

Why it’s hot: Delta is taking an existing technology and transforming it into a tool to improve customer experience. It’s taking the idea of one-to-one communication and personalization to the next level. Not to mention the company’s commitment to digital transformation unveiling several other consumer innovations alongside Parallel Reality at CES 2020. The announcements included an expanded partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft to help streamline journeys, a new AI-driven machine learning platform that analyses millions of data points, and even a wearable robotic exoskeleton for its employees.


Tool to Help Journalists Spot Doctored Images Is Unveiled by Jigsaw

A doctored, phony image of President Barack Obama shaking hands with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. A real photograph of a Muslim girl at a desk doing her homework with Donald J. Trump looming in the background on television.

It is not always easy to tell the difference between real and fake photographs. But the pressure to get it right has never been more urgent as the amount of false political content online continues to rise.

On Tuesday, Jigsaw, a company that develops cutting-edge tech and is owned by Google’s parent, unveiled a free tool that researchers said could help journalists spot doctored photographs — even ones created with the help of artificial intelligence.

Jigsaw, known as Google Ideas when it was founded, said it was testing the tool, called Assembler, with more than a dozen news and fact-checking organizations around the world. They include Animal Politico in Mexico, Rappler in the Philippines and Agence France-Presse. It does not plan to offer the tool to the public.

We observed an evolution in how disinformation was being used to manipulate elections, wage war and disrupt civil society,” Jared Cohen, Jigsaw’s chief executive, wrote in a blog post about Assembler. “But as the tactics of disinformation were evolving, so too were the technologies used to detect and ultimately stop disinformation.”

The tool is meant to verify the authenticity of images — or show where they may have been altered. Reporters can feed images into Assembler, which has seven “detectors,” each one built to spot a specific type of photo-manipulation technique.

When an image has been manipulated — for instance, two images were merged together or something was deleted from the background — traces of the changes may be left behind. With a computer program that has been trained to learn from being shown example after example of what it should detect, Assembler can analyze an image and highlight where it thinks those traces are.

Source: NY Times

Why it’s Hot

We rely on the integrity of news coverage, but more and more we have to doubt everything we see. This is a good example of a use of technology that can impact society in a positive way, driving clarity among those responsible for informing us with the truth every day.

Clearing out Your Facebook “Outside of app” Activity

Facebook is recording your off app activity and using it to market it to you. FUN. “As of Tuesday, you can now turn off the collection and sharing of data that sites and apps send to Facebook.”

“Websites and apps use Facebook’s Pixel and software development kit (SDK) to collect information about your device and your activity, and send that to Facebook. Facebook uses that information to then show you targeted ads.”

Some cell phones companies are notifying users when phones are collecting GPS and other data when they’re not using the app. ” Also, turning off this type of data sharing does mean that you won’t be able to use Facebook to log in to other apps or sites.”

Why it’s hot?

Facebook is responding to the negative feedback they’ve had about user privacy. With Cambridge Analytica and other data losses, its good to see them respond.

Apple Watch Users Can Now Get Rewards for Going to the Gym

For years Apple Watch customers have been walking and running to meet step counts just for the satisfaction of meeting their goals. Now Apple is upping the ante with a new rewards program called Apple Watch Connected.

Apple GymKit

Apple Watch Connected will allow any fitness entity to integrate with the Apple Watch so members can track their health and earn rewards such as gift cards and discounts.To participate in the program, gyms must have equipment enabled with GymKit, a platform that lets users sync their Watch to cardio machines and collect their workout data. GymKit first launched two years ago, and since then Apple has worked with manufacturers like Technogym, Life Fitness, and Octane Fitness to incorporate hardware and GymFit code into their treadmills, stair climbers, and other equipment. It works like this: Users can scan their watch against an NFC reader on a piece of equipment anytime during their workout to capture their progress and send it to their Watch. It’s particularly useful for garnering metrics the Watch might have a hard time calculating on its own, like how many steps were taken on a stair climber, for example, where a person stays static in space.

The Apple Watch Connected platform pulls in the data from GymKit and pipes it into the fitness brand’s Watch and iPhone app, where members can then view and plan their workout schedule.  Through the Apple Watch Connected integration, fitness studios will also be able to offer prizes based on member activity. Since Apple Watch can give studios insight into how active its members are wherever they are, the programs launching today will give out points to members whether they go for a run outside or do yoga in the studio (as long as they get their heart rate up).
Each reward program is designed by the fitness brand. At Crunch Fitness, for example, goals are set each week and members can earn credits toward their membership—as much as $15 a month. The new program will start at 17 locations with plans to encompass all 350 locations nationwide by the end of the year. Going forward, Crunch Fitness will only purchase new cardio equipment that has GymKit as part of its offering, so that eventually all of its cardio equipment has that feature.

Gyms do not have to pay to join Apple Watch Connected. Apple says it is primarily interested in helping its users be active. But there may be another incentive for the company–fitness centers that hook into Apple Watch Connected must accept Apple Pay at their studios to participate. Having Apple Pay accepted at more fitness studios gives Apple more opportunity to cash in on transaction fees, a growing source of revenue for the company.

Why It’s Hot

Apple Watch Connected will help motivate gyms to integrate GymKit, making Apple Watch significantly more useful and accurate for gym goers.


Increasing Financial Literacy One Athlete at a Time

Image result for tokyo olympics

Competing on the world stage is an honor for Olympic athletes, but what happens when their athletic careers end?

That’s the problem Visa is trying to solve with it’s newly announced endeavor during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. For 70 athletes, the games won’t only be about competition – they will be a stage for increasing their financial literacy. Led by former olympian and VP of marketing at Visa, the program will offer courses on topics including digital payments, building a social brand and entrepreneurship.


Why it’s hot: It’s not just athletes that are plagued by future job security, 94% of Americans can’t even pass a financial literacy quiz! There’s a huge opportunity for our financial clients to step in and offer some guidance.


Is Chipotle as ethical as they’d like you to believe?

Spread of Chipotle food offerings on a table

Chipotle Mexican Grill was fined nearly $1.4 million on Monday over accusations that it routinely violated Massachusetts child labor laws, with the authorities estimating more than 13,000 violations from 2015 to 2019, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office said.

The authorities examined the records of six Chipotle locations across the state, finding that the chain regularly let dozens of 16- and 17-year-old employees work more than nine hours per day and more than 48 hours per week, in violation of state law, according to the Massachusetts attorney general. The authorities then used those findings to estimate that Chipotle had violated child labor laws 13,253 times across 50 locations in the state.

In addition to the child labor violations, Chipotle was cited for breaching sick-time rules and failing to make timely wage payments, the authorities said. As part of the settlement, Chipotle will pay $500,000 to train young workers and fund education and oversight programs about child labor, bringing the total cost to around $2 million.

Why it’s hot: Chipotle would like customers to believe that it’s an ethical company based on the ethically raised meat that they serve in their restaurants, the sustainable ingredients they source, as well as the harmful chemicals they ban from their overall food preparation. However, their labor practices are not always as ethical as they might aspire to be.


These are the 117 new emoji you’re getting in 2020

New year, new emoji—as the saying goes (or if not, it probably should).

The Unicode Consortium, which administers the emoji we all know and love, has announced the first group of new emoji for 2020. Officially the group is known as “Emoji 13.0” and includes 62 new emoji along with 55 gender and skin-tone variants for a total of 117 new emoji coming to your phone.

The new group of emoji features new gender-inclusive options including both men and women in tuxes, in wedding dresses, and bottle-feeding a baby. Other firsts are a transgender flag and a transgender symbol. Then, of course, there are tons of new creatures, body parts, people, and items including pinched fingers, an anatomical heart, lungs, a ninja, a black cat, a mammoth, a dodo, a weird-looking seal, a worm, an olive, a tamale, fondu, bubble tea, a roller skate, a piñata, nesting dolls, a mouse trap, a plunger, a headstone, and more.

You can check out pictures of all the 117 new emoji below (courtesy of Emojipedia). Expect the new emoji to start showing up on platforms such as iOS, Android, and Twitter sometime in the summer to early fall.

Why its hot

It’s so interesting to see how emojis evolve, just like a dictionary, and how excited people still get over new additions.

UPS is Buying 10,000 Electric Delivery Trucks for 2022

UPS is buying 10,000 of these cute electric delivery trucks

UPS is starting to incorporate electric vehicles into their fleet starting in 2022. In the past, EV haven’t been an option due to the high price tag attached due to battery prices (the average cost for a battery pack in 2010 was $1,100 per kilowatt-hour, but in 2019, that had fallen to $156), but now, they cost about the same as gas and diesel trucks. UPS just announced that they’re ordering 10,000 EV from Arrival, a startup in the UK that builds EVs from scratch.

“It’s taken a long time to get to this place,” says Scott Phillippi, the senior director for fleet maintenance and engineering for UPS’s international operations. “If you weren’t in the industry or on the inside, you’d think that [electric vehicles] were plentiful and available and affordable. And that really hasn’t been the case.”

UPS first began working with Arrival in 2016 and have made a minority investment in the startup. (Earlier this month, Arrival raised $111.5 million from Hyundai and Kia.) The startup builds its own core components, with a modular design that uses a standard “skateboard” base that can be topped with different designs for different cabin features.

Arrival’s design and its manufacturing system—in minimalist “microfactories”—also keeps costs low. Because electric vehicles require less maintenance and because Arrival’s modular system makes parts cheaper, the total cost of ownership will be lower than for a traditional vehicle.

UPS has tested a prototype of an earlier Arrival vehicle and will begin rolling out more in cities such as London, where it has installed new charging infrastructure to handle a growing fleet of EVs. Arrival doesn’t stop at EVs, they’re testing everything from electric cargo bikes to vehicles that run on biomethane (fuel made from trash).

The modern vehicles also have other advantages like sensors that can improve vehicle safety and eventually allow the company to begin to test automated driving on its own property. “This design allows us not to have to compromise on a clean, sustainable vehicle,” he says. “It gives us the right vehicle in the most efficient platform and as a positive byproduct is a zero-emission tailpipe.”

Why it’s hot:

This is interesting food for thought for the USPS project we’re working on right now to see what other companies are doing. Plus, it’s not the first shipping company to take be environmental conscious (see my HS from last year about Sendle)


Americans’ new fear: a nonexistent beer virus

As fears of a new virus called “coronavirus” spreads globally, there is also a recent spike in fear that the virus is somehow related to a popular beer brand by a similar name: Corona.

The chart below shows a dramatic increase this week on searches for “beer virus” (blue) and “corona beer virus” (red).

Story on USA Today

The beer company has not seemingly responded to the confusion or taken advantage of the opportunity to poke fun at the situation.

The U.S. is only #11 in terms of search volume for “corona beer virus” (hooray?). As far as domestic search data, the great state of West Virginia leads the way.

Maybe they’re just taking these memes too literally:

Why it’s Hot

It shows how quickly a brand can get blindsided by an event completely out of their control.

The Human Screenome Project will capture everything we do on our phones

data collection and computational framework that includes precise recording and mapping of fragmented digital lives.

Mapping the human screenome can be a critical and cross-cutting part of solutions and theories about social challenges involving media – from fake news to smartphone addiction to social media and mental health.


This video shows a sample movie of one person’s smartphone use for 3 minutes.  Every 5 seconds that the phone screen is activated, a screenshot is recorded, compressed, encrypted and transmitted to secure servers at  the Human Screenome Project at Stanford University.  The movie shows a compilation of screens that represents 15 mins of use over approximately 2 hours of one day.  The movie demonstrates that digital content is diverse and fragmented, with different content threaded into sequences that break apart traditional message (e.g., videos, news stories, conversations) but make sense to individual users.


An analysis of smartphone usage by two adolescents over one month shows what can be learned from a screenome analysis that cannot be learned from traditional surveys of media use.

Smartphone screenomes for two adolescents over 21 days are illustrated in the figure.  The top half of the figure shows Participant A, the bottom half Participant B.  Each row represents a day, starting from 6 am on the left and going to midnight on the right. Smartphone use from midnight to 5:59am has been deleted for this illustration.  The vertical bars indicate whether the smartphone screen was on during each 5-second interval of each day, and the type of application that was engaged during each interval.  Applications are coded into 10 categories:

The data in the two large panels highlight how smartphone use varies substantially between the two people, and between days and hours within each person.  For example, Participant A on the top had more and shorter sessions, and spent more time on social media (red lines).  Participant B on the bottom had fewer and longer sessions and spent more time watching video (purple lines).

The two larger horizontal lines “zoom in” on (magnify) a 2-hour period at the end of a day for each participant, starting at 10 pm on the left and going to midnight on the right.  The white vertical lines indicate screens where the participant was generating content (e.g., composing a text message, posting on social media).  For Participant A, there was quick switching between different types of applications in the first 15 minutes followed by and extended period using social media (red) and game play (green), followed at the end of the night by quick switching between social and several other types of content.  For Participant B, there were extended periods watching video (purple) and playing games (green) in the first 90 minutes, followed by quick switching mixed with substantial creation of content in the last 30 minutes.  The comparison between these two participants is also summarized in Reeves, et al., Nature, January 2020 (in press).   A more complete discussion of adolescent smartphone data can be found in Ram, et al., Journal of Adolescent Research, 2019.

We have already begun to demonstrate diverse applications of the screenome:

In politics, we found that the screenome shows close links between personal messaging and interpretations of news (Muise, et al., 2017).

In medicine, we showed that the screenome contains the presence of drug and disease-related signals for diabetes (Gijsen, et al., 2019).

A comparison of screenomes gathered in the US, China and Myanmar showed that the number of smartphone sessions differed substantially across countries while the structure of individual sessions was quite similar (Muise, et al., 2019).

And in comparisons of adolescent screenomes we showed extremely quick switching among highly varied content and idiosyncratic preoccupation with specialized content, patterns that have substantial implications for health, development and well-being (Ram, et al., 2019).


Why it’s hot:

It’s hot because analyses like this can potentially surface insights that cannot be learned from traditional surveys of media use. Identifying specific sequences of smartphone activity could be important to understanding how people actually use their digital devices to communicate and lead their off-screen lives.

A simple design change could help doctors prevent opioid addiction

In the latest issue of JAMA, a research team at UC San Francisco has demonstrated how changing EMRs might impact the opioid epidemic: By reducing the default number of pain pills suggested for a prescription on screen (such as 12 instead of 15), the user interface of medical records can coax doctors to prescribe fewer pills. In fact, researchers found that in some ranges, for every one extra pill the default settings suggested, doctors prescribed 0.2 more on average. “It [can] nudge people a little bit, where at a population level, these small differences might add up.” For a prescription of 10 pills, to reduce the count to nine would represent an overall reduction of pills in circulation by 10%.

EMRs can feature dozens of mentally exhausting fields for doctors to fill out and check off; whether consciously or not, doctors are manipulated by the records’ defaults. “The vast majority of doctors’ offices use EMR to prescribe. There’s already a default setting built in,” says Montoy. “Whether we like it or not, we’re being influenced by that quantity. [Our research] suggests that we should be thinking about that number and asking, ‘What is the default we need there?’

Montoy and his team tried to nudge doctors to prescribe fewer—with success. They did so by taking control of the EMRs at UCSF’s emergency department and Highland Hospital in Oakland. The researchers randomly assigned new defaults to the opioid prescriptions written by over 100 doctors and healthcare professionals in the department—without telling the doctors an experiment was taking place. Over 20 weeks, the researchers tested new pill defaults for opioids like Percocet and Oxycodone. Whereas former defaults had been 12- and 20-pill prescriptions, the researchers tested 5-, 10-, and 15-pill alternatives.

In most cases, reducing pill defaults did reduce pill prescriptions, even by small margins. In many cases the final prescriptions went unchanged; doctors didn’t seem to be swayed by defaults at all. One important finding was that at the lowest end, the default of five, doctors actually prescribed more pills than they would have otherwise—as if the doctors read the number and thought, “Oh, that’s way too low!” then signed an overly generous prescription to make up for it. “[Defaulting to] less is probably better than more,” concludes Montoy about the pill counts. “But if you put it too low, you’ll have an unintended consequences and people might overcompensate.”

Why it’s hot: It is interesting to see behavioral design to influence healthcare and potentially combat (or make a difference in) the such a large epidemic in the U.S.

Source: FastCo


Nike Made Shoes So Good They Might Be Banned

Elite runners may be banned from wearing Nike’s Vaporfly 4% shoes in races later this year.

The Nike Vaporfly 4% uses a combination of advanced foams and a carbon fiber plate to rebound as much as 4% of the energy from one running stride into the next. According to a test administered by the New York Times, a runner wearing a publicly available version of the Vaporfly 4% ran 4% to 5% faster than a runner wearing a typical running shoe. Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge wore the Vaporfly 4% when he broke the two-hour marathon for the first time last October. Then Brigid Kosgei wore the same version to crush the women’s marathon record the very next day.

And now, according to the London Times, the Vaporfly 4% will be banned by World Athletics later this year, the international governing body that determines the gear runners can wear in global competition. A report by the Guardian casts skepticism on this claim, however, citing sources disputing that a full-out ban will happen. Instead, according to the Guardian‘s reporting, certain limits will likely be placed on carbon plate technologies moving forward in an announcement coming at the end of January.

The International Olympic Committee did confirm with Co.Design that the “rules and regulations” of running are the jurisdiction of World Athletics. In other words, if Vaporfly 4% were to be banned by World Athletics, these shoes could not be worn in future Olympic Games. So this decision is of consequence for track athletes and global sporting fans alike.

Why its hot

Nike has always marketed its shoes as things that make you better at running and jumping. And it always seemed like questionable marketing and the shoes didn’t actually do anything. But these shoes really do something. For the average runner, it probably doesn’t make much difference at this price point ($250), but for elite runners it’s a big deal.

Ikea Spain tries to change perceptions through experiential marketing

Ikea furniture can have a reputation for being low quality and overly focused on functionality rather than style. Furthermore, in Spain, many people have reportedly been reluctant to purchase Ikea furniture for fear of having rooms too similar to their neighbors. But by inviting museum visitors to differentiate between furniture made in 2018 and opulent historical pieces from the 18th century, Ikea showcases the tastefulness and versatility of its designs.

Why it’s hot:

This campaign is also part of a wider strategy to position Ikea furniture as high quality as well as affordable by placing its modern pieces next to furniture from an era famous for its grand décor helps Ikea shift perception of its products.


This Pop-Up Will Let You Trade In CBD Products from Other Brands

With so many CBD-infused products on the market, first-time CBD users or curious onlookers might need a little help in choosing which brand to try. Even post-purchase, users might not feel totally comfortable that what they’ve bought is working, or even safe. Charlotte’s Web, a leader in the CBD space that sells hemp-based products, wants to help by inviting consumers to trade in their own unwanted or questionable bottles from other brands, while learning more about CBD and their products are made.

The Colorado-based company opened the CBD Swap pop-up in Miami. The swap program, which runs now through Feb. 1, is the first of its kind for a CBD company. Consumers who trade in their bottles will receive a free bottle of the brand’s original oil tincture.

According to a report from Brightfield Group, a consumer insights and market research group for the CBD and cannabis industries, there are more than 3,500 different CBD brands operating in the space—so it makes sense that consumers might be confused or overwhelmed.


Because of strict regulations, most traditional marketing channels like social media aren’t yet available to CBD companies–another reason for exploring the pop-up model. The space will also host events, with special activations around the Super Bowl.

In its first five days, the pop-up garnered more than 20 million earned media impressions in local press outlets, according to the brand.



Why It’s Hot

This pop-up model is a great way to pull in skeptical or misinformed consumers and be able to dispel some of the myths around CBD in an engaging manner.


Emojis Meet Hieroglyphs: If King Tut Could Text

An exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, “Emoglyphs: Picture-Writing From Hieroglyphs to the Emoji,” highlights the seemingly obvious, but also complicated, relationship between the iconic communication system from antiquity and the lingua franca of the cyber age.

A visual and linguistic exercise in time travel, “Emoglyphs” juxtaposes the once indecipherable pictogram writing of ancient Egypt, which first developed about 5,000 years ago, with the more accessible and universal usage of pictograms that originated in Japan in the late 1990s.

It was always hard to explain how to read hieroglyphics,” said Shirly Ben Dor Evian, an Egyptologist and the show’s curator. “In recent years it’s become easier to explain because people are writing with pictures. So I started looking into emoji.”

The first thing she noticed, she said, was that some emojis look like hieroglyphs.

A chart at the entrance of the exhibition pairs a column of hieroglyphs with a column of emojis. The similarities are uncanny: There’s no need for translation.

The Egyptian depiction of a slender, generic dog closely resembles the emoji of a prancing canine in profile. A duck (often used as a generic for a winged creature in ancient Egyptian) reappears thousands of years later as an almost identical, left-facing emoji duck. And the “emoji man dancing” strikes a similar pose to a hieroglyph of a dancing man, one arm raised and with little but a purple disco suit and a loin cloth from 3,000 years ago to distinguish between them.

The exhibition, in a small gallery in the museum’s Bronfman Archaeology Wing, has more than 60 ancient Egyptian artifacts on display; most are from the museum’s collection and many of them on view for the first time. Visitors can quiz themselves on their understanding of emojis and their newly acquired knowledge of hieroglyphs on interactive screens. Data on the differing interpretation of some emojis will be gathered as part of a survey.

The two systems may have common features, but there are also deep and complex differences.

Hieroglyphics was a complete written language, and while even an illiterate person could recognize and understand some basic symbols, the scribes worked according to strict rules and had to be highly skilled. Ancient Egyptian inscriptions eventually morphed into the dry efficiency of the first alphabet of around 20 characters, which could be more easily taught and executed, leading to an explosion in communications.

“What’s happened now,” said Ms. Ben Dor Evian, who has a hieroglyph app on her cellphone, “is that it is easier to click on an emoji than to write a whole word.”

Emojis often serve as emotional shorthand — think smiley blowing a heart kiss to soften a message or send love, or a winking face to signal sarcasm — filling an expressive void that text messages may fail to convey.

In ancient Egyptian writing and art, the image of a scarab, or dung beetle, expressed a whole concept of the afterlife and rebirth and was used in inscriptions as the verb “to become.”

With the beginnings of research into the field of emoji, Egyptologists, cognitive linguists and communication experts have started debating the similarities between the two communication systems and what sets them apart.

Some have hailed emoji as a new language. One enthusiast produced a crowdsourced and crowd-funded emoji version of Herman Melville’s classic “Moby-Dick” titled “Emoji Dick.” In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries chose the “face with tears of joy” emoji as its word of the year, saying it best represented “the ethos, mood and preoccupations” of the period.

But Chaim Noy, a professor in the school of communications at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv who teaches a course on emoji “because it attracts students,” considers it simplistic and populist to speak of emoji as a language, viewing it as a kind of body-language supplement to text.

An expert in museum studies as well, Professor Noy said there was nevertheless “drama” in the exhibition, which runs through Oct. 12, juxtaposing the high culture of the museum and ancient Egypt against the bottom-up, lowbrow culture of emoji.

“It’s a bit provocative, it brushes off the tired, dusty image,” he said.

 Source: NY Times

Why It’s Hot:

We focus a ton on emojis in our social monitor and linguistic analyses. It’s interesting to see emojis juxtaposed with language in a way that both shows their staying power as well as highlights their limitations.


Cadbury EATertainment

To promote the return of its Creme Eggs, Cadbury has launched a Netflix-style streaming service in the UK and Ireland.

All content on the EATertainment website contains references to the chocolate Easter treat that are both subtle and obvious. The programs include Girl Vs. Goo,  which document host Jahannah James’s quest to seek out ‘the best Creme Egg dishes in the country’, Armeggeddon, a mini film following three friends hiding away in an underground bunker and The Gooru, a series of Creme Egg-inspired yoga classes.

Anyone can register to gain limited access to the site by entering their personal details. But to watch all the content and enter a competition to win up to £10,000 ($13,450), users need to purchase a Cadbury Creme Egg and upload a picture of it to the website.

Cadbury has also partnered with Amazon as part of its Creme Egg promotional campaign. Amazon has written and produced two pieces of Creme Egg-themed content, which it is hosting on its Prime Video streaming hub to drive viewers to the EATertainment site. Meanwhile, the EATertainment site directs visitors to a branded page on Amazon where they can purchase a box of 48 Creme Eggs. Cadbury is also handing out £5 ($6.50) Amazon vouchers to 1000 people as part of its competition.

To promote its EATentertainment site, on 23 January Cadbury is throwing a Creme Egg-themed culinary event in London’s Leicester Square. For 24 hours Cadbury will host a Facebook Live stream of visitors sampling dishes from Creme Egg spaghetti to Creme Egg curry. The brand will also inviting people to star of their very own Creme Egg movie.

Why it’s Hot: In addition to being a fun content marketing activation, this is also a really well thought out consumer journey. An undertaking this massive truly becomes worth it when you factor in the data collection component and the direct link to purchase.


Brands tap into growing ASMR Video trend

We all know tax season is a stressful time, especially if a) you’ve never done it before and b) you have to do it yourself (Turbo-Tax-style). H&R, known for its vast network of tax experts,  uses humor and the popular ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) which is “the experience of a tingling season on the skin often triggered by specific auditory and visual stimuli such as whispering”, to de-stress and help millennials feel more relaxed during tax season.

The fact that the brand can actually back up the idea of ‘peace of mind’ by having real people available to talk to (unlike Turbo Tax which mostly focuses on their online tool) makes this entertaining piece of content more believable and endearing.

JetBlue also tapped into this growing trend very recently to create a 9-minute long soundtrack YouTube video with the purpose of calming passengers during the extra stressful holiday traveling season. The video is called “AirSMR” and it features sounds of a standard JFK airport Terminal: suitcases rolling, fingers tapping a keyboard, and planes taking off and touching down (but none of the really annoying sounds of TSA agents or crying babies of course).

JetBlue shared the video on YouTube and other social media channels like Instagram, which, interestingly, resulted in 100% negative comments due to general negative airport experiences shared by customers. While it’s nice the brand is trying to stay relevant by tapping into this growing trend, it’d have been even better to have released this idea in conjunction with actual meaningful improvements to customers’ travel experiences, or, to have done like H&R Block which used the trend to make their own ads more pleasant.

Why it’s hot: Today’s always-on, overstimulated lives are causing extreme levels of burnout. Smart brands will look for ways their advertising and/or their experiences can  help today’s burnout consumers de-stress, reset and reboot.

5 urban design projects that made cities more fun, clean, and accessible in 2019

Here’s a look at some of the most fun and interesting urban innovations of 2019.

Copenhagen opened the world’s first combination ski slope-power plant

As part of the Danish city’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2025, Copenhagen opened CopenHill, a multipurpose power plant that also serves as a public destination and has been years in the making. The 44,132-square-foot waste-to-energy plant can not only provide 150,000 homes with electricity and heating but also offers residents a roof park with hiking trails and ski slopes and a 279-foot climbing wall on its exterior.

Amsterdam created a floating neighborhood with self-sufficient homes

Designed by architecture firm Space&Matter, the neighborhood is located on a canal and features homes outfitted with solar panels on their roofs, batteries in their basement, and a network that connects each home to its neighbors so residents can trade energy. The buildings also have green roofs where owners can grow plants, and their wastewater goes to a biorefinery to become even more energy.

Trondheim constructed a super-energy-efficient building

Trondheim, Norway, is a city of extremes—in the winter it gets five hours of daylight, but in the summer, a full 20—and this year, it debuted an extremely energy-efficient building. Built by the global architecture firm Snøhetta, Powerhouse Brattørkaia generates twice as much energy as it needs from the sun, providing excess energy to neighboring buildings and electric transit. Its solar panels can harvest all that energy over the summer and store it for the dark winter.

Miami started rewarding residents for getting around without their own cars

To try to curb the use of cars it launched Velocia, an app that works as a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade transit and services such as Bolt e-scooters and SwiftSeat carpooling For every commute a resident takes on one of these transit options, they’ll earn points toward their next travel, which might be a free half-hour on a Citi Bike or a MetroRail pass. Though we may be designing entirely car-free communities in the future, this was a step by one city plagued with traffic problems to reduce its single-car use without drastically changing its infrastructure.

Oslo made its city center car-free

Going a step further in the effort to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars, this year the Norwegian capital removed more than 700 parking spots from its downtown area and replaced them with bike lanes, plants, tiny parks, and benches. Oslo is one of a few cities hopping on the car-free trend, and it’s been working toward this goal for a few years, but 2019 marked the start of a car-free downtown. The effort doesn’t only help people get around without traffic, either; it improves air quality, helps fight climate change, and enhances the quality of life.

Why it’s hot: It’s great to see the unique and innovative ways that cities are finding efficiencies.

Source: FastCo

Facebook Gets Into the T-Shirt Business

Carlings, a Swedish retail company, entered into an exclusive partnership with Facebook and Instagram to produce a first-of-its-kind augmented reality (AR) T-shirt—functional only on those platforms.

Spark AR, Facebook’s AR studio, developed the functionality of the AR component. The physical T-shirt itself, which can only be ordered from the Carlings site, is a plain white tee to the naked eye, with the exception of some black text on the sleeve and a logo near the center front of the shirt collar. Once you activate the filter on Instagram, that logo becomes a functional part of the design. It serves as a tracking point for your phone’s camera, so that the associated Carlings filter can properly superimpose a graphic of your choice onto that blank canvas no matter which way your body bends or turns. (Carlings emphasizes that the technology is still in beta, so “don’t move too fast.”)

But unlike typical fashion sales, which require buyers to make multiple purchases in order to keep up with trends, the point of this shirt, according to Carlings, is that you don’t have to buy another one. A variety of filters allow the wearer to switch up the graphic on the shirt whenever they feel like it, and the company plans to release even more filters, potentially on a continuous basis, so the wearer can make a topical political statement even as the news cycle spins faster and faster.

Most of the designs currently on the site are very much oriented to the sort of ironic, memeified design aesthetic of Gen Z  (which honestly, makes sense, because the designs themselves are digital-first). Almost all the designs on the site relate to the climate crisis.

Why its hot

Instagram and Facebook filters themselves are really a practice in playfulness. And depending on the person’s following, it could be a way to get more eyes on your message, without having to buy into the fast-fashion mantra of buying poorly made clothes on the cheap in order to participate in a trend—and then ditching them.

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance has raised $93 million for his own Midwestern venture fund

Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, Silicon Wadi, Silicon Fen and now — Silicon Midwest?

With countless articles talking about millennials moving (PBS & MSNBC) from classic, major, urban cores, there’s a lot of talk of smaller cities experiencing a renaissance (ex. Columbus and Detroit).  And with this influx of people, some venture funds are following.

This tech crunch article covers famed midwestern author, J.D. Vance’s Nayra Capital which has raised $93 million focusing on midwestern startups/organizations.

Why it’s hot: 
As new big-city advertising folk, we often forget about burgeoning and occasionally remote pockets/populaces of individuals that are changing the landscape of the country each day.

I think as marketers it’s interesting to pay attention to what challenges and solutions are being addressed and creative across the country and likely worth taking a look at what comes out.

5G // Connected Future

Why it’s hot:

5G is here. We anticipate 90% of US nationwide coverage by 2023 (Gartner).

What is 5G? It’s the 5th generation mobile network, which will connect not only humans to machines but machines to machines with one-millisecond latency. 100x more devices will be connected, everything you can imagine. All the technologies from AI, IOT, driverless cars, virtual surgeries, holograms will be enabled. 5G will enable the fourth industrial revolution… Imagine how it can impact our lives and the roles that brands can play in this new world.

Amazon’s Ring Sees a Slew of Horrifying Hacks

The videos are blood curdling. We are now seeing negative stories break about Ring video hackings. They are of predatory, pranking or threatening (mostly) men speaking to women through rings speaker feature. 

This is a horrible PR incident for Ring, though their response seems like a perfectly logical answer to how this might have happened (double use of username/passwords) and that they are we’re still investigating this issue & taking appropriate steps to protect our devices based on our investigation, we’re able to confirm this is in no way related to a breach of Ring’s security.” If the problem is user error but the consequences can cripple your business… How do you insure that it doesn’t happen again? Forced 2FA?

Why it’s hot?

This is especially important for our security category clients. This can be an opportunity but it’s also a risk for current clients. This also can lead to generalized fear of technology and this kind of security progress. It hurts the category generally. If people can’t trust that they’re not being watched, digital security is rendered moot.

Would you give up a kidney for Super Bowl tickets? Some would

Some football fans would be willing to do anything to score tickets for the Super Bowl — even if that means giving up internal organs. According to a new poll conducted by Ticketmaster, which was reported by Reuters, some fans say they would give up organs or sex, and even end relationships if it meant they could receive a ticket to the biggest event of the year.

The survey, which polled 3,200 NFL fans over the age of 18 within the final two weeks of 2019, was split up into 100 people per team by gender. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would buy season tickets if they became rich, and 16% said they had broken up with someone over their alliance of the other team.

Nearly 75% of those polled considered themselves “avid” fans, which explains why would they would go to such lengths to score tickets. Other things they’d give up:

  • 35% said they would give up drinking for a year to attend a Super Bowl game that featured their team
  • 14% said they would give up sex for 12 months
  • 7% actually admitted they would donate a kidney or leave their partner if it meant they could score tickets to the big game day.

Currently, tickets are up-for-grabs on Ticketmaster for anywhere between $5,000 and $37,000 per seat. On the secondary market, ticket prices have just moved north of the $4,000 get-in mark.

Why it’s hot:
From crucial officiating mistakes to team scandals, to domestic violence, the league is no stranger to mitigating criticism. Yet, fans are still willing to stick with the brand. The NFL generated about $15 billion this past season and is on track to hit $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027. The brand is basically impenetrable.

Spotify roles out pet playlists

Spotify can now generate playlists for your pets, with a new tool that claims to customize mixtapes to a critters’ species and personality traits.

The music-streaming service announced the feature Wednesday, noting that 71 percent of pet owners already play music for their pets.

The “Pet Playlists” tool allows users to choose between dog, cat, iguana, hamster and bird, then tell the platform how energetic or friendly their animal is to help Spotify “pick the playlist vibe,” the company says.

For instance, a playlist curated for a relaxed, curious and shy cat spits out 30 tracks including The Cure’s “All Cats Are Grey” and “Never Run Away” by lo-fi singer-songwriter Kurt Vile.

Spotify has also launched a podcast called “My Dog’s Favorite Podcast” that’s meant to soothe pups when their owners leave the house.

Sources: CNN Business, NY Post

Why It’s Hot:

Another example of appeal to people’s expanded passions, especially pet owners. Amazon has embraced it with pet profiles, and innovation in the category continues to grow.

ThredUp launches Fashion Footprint Calculator

Behavior change is very hard and the second-hand ecommerce fashion retailer ThredUp relies on it as a key component of their business model. To aid their efforts to convert new-clothing buyers into used-clothing buyers, they just launched their fashion footprint calculator.

We’ve all heard about the carbon footprint of our cars and our eating habits, but we mostly ignore our closets’ role in ruining the planet. However, the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, thanks in large part to the the fast-fashion trend.

Fun Fact: “Fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste per year globally, representing 4% of the 2.12 billion tons of waste we dump globally each year. That is more than toxic e-waste, and more than twice as much as supermarkets toss in food waste.” –EcoCult. This is bad because clothing is organic material, meaning it releases methane in landfills, a greenhouse gas that is dramatically more potent than carbon dioxide.

ThredUp is framing itself as the solution to this sustainability problem at the heart of fashion, by scaling second-hand clothing to the level of its new clothing counterparts. And it turns out that buying used clothing can have a pretty big impact.

“Lifecycle analyses of garments have found that buying used garments instead of new reduces your carbon footprint by between 60% and 70%.” -Fast Company

Why it’s hot:

1. Much like the global average temperature, awareness of our impact on the environment is ramping up exponentially. It’s interesting where different brands fall on the sustainability spectrum and how they use that position to promote themselves.

2. Our impact on the climate threat is a vague concept removed from our direct experience of short-sighted pleasure seeking and impulsive desire fulfillment. Personalizing the impact of one’s habits makes clear the need for personal change, and importantly, offers a simple way to make a difference, without sacrificing one of life’s chief pleasures.

3. ThredUp’s business model is based on the second-hand clothing market. Beyond the price savings, ThredUp needs to develop RTBs that will inspire loyal customers. If people are more aware of the impact their fashion-purchase habits have, they may be willing to consider the second-hand clothing platform, giving ThredUp a chance to turn them into loyal customers and advocates of reuse to their friends.

Source: Fast Company

Loyalty Evolution Success – Starbucks Rewards Revamp

When Starbucks relaunched its loyalty program in April, it was met with some initial criticism.

  • Would it alienate existing core customers?
  • Would people understand it?
  • Would it really contribute to growth or would it backfire?

Overall, Starbucks’ rewards program is a driver or sales… but that’s not new news.

“…when customers join our rewards program their total spend with Starbucks increases meaningfully,” CFO Patrick Grismer.

Having a loyalty program is one thing. Continually optimizing it based on customer feedback is what keeps it fresh, relevant, and valuable.

Starbucks has crafted a loyalty program that adds importance to customers and, for many, becomes a part of their daily lives. Thus, members engage and spend more frequently.

Starbucks Rewards Has Attracted More “Occasional” Customers

The relaunch of Starbucks Rewards in April allowed greater flexibility among members, making it easier to start redeeming. Grismer noted “significant positive customer response to this change, which was exactly what we had designed for.” This has led to a 15% increase in membership during the past year.

But it’s not just the revamp to the customer facing rewards program…

Starbucks added technology that enables the company to better understand its members. While membership in Starbucks Rewards has increased, so too has the frequency of customer visits. Personalization has played a role in customer loyalty at Starbucks as well. “We took the opportunity to introduce an enhanced personalized marketing engine into our technology stack,” Grismer said. “It allows us, through machine learning, to gain insights around what matters most to our customers, which informs the offers we make to them digitally.”

Why it’s hot: While loyalty can be incentived, ultimately it’s earned. Whether you’re providing a rewards program via points or freebies, the key to loyalty is evolving based on your customers’ needs. Starbucks is successful because it listens to its customers to minimize pain points, all while focusing on three main pillars: the in-store experience, beverage innovation, and digital customer engagement. These pillars create a compelling value proposition that customers can both experience and benefit from.

Source: Clarus Commerce blog, Loyalty360

Your subway stop are now announced by…a brand?

On the 7 train into work this morning, I was greeted by the voice over the intercom, which I assumed was the train conductor, announced the next stop. Then, to my surprise the voice added “this is a local train so we are making all the stops, baby!!!” I thought an conductor was having fun. I was delighted.

Before long, it became clear that the voice was a recording of Awkwafina as part of an advertising campaign for Nora from Queens–a new television show. 

Awkwafina attends the IFP's 29th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on December 02, 2019 in New York City.

Like me, some of the approximately 820,000 daily 7-train riders thought a live conductor was cracking jokes.

Other people recognized a new form of advertising and were annoyed.

For it’s part the MTA is interested in opening up more announcements to sponsors.

“We are exploring new and different ways to generate much needed revenue, while also surprising and delighting customers,” said NYC Transit chief customer officer Sarah Meyer.

Why it’s hot: 

As the era of voice technology arises, expectations about what spaces should be free from audio ads may shift. Is this a new opportunity, a new form of sound pollution, or both?

Recording Scents for Posterity

Technology is not just making our lives easier by eliminating redundancies (from jobs to processes), it’s also quickly reducing our olfactory catalog. But fear not, the folks at UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage are developing different techniques to recover “extinct” scents from the past and to preserve those around today for the future.


Most cultural heritage preservation products center around visual heritage, however preservationists at UCL noted that one unprotected cultural heritage is scent.

In 2003, Unesco adopted a convention to safeguard intangible cultural heritage, which includes social practices, oral traditions and performing arts. Where, though, were the scents? For centuries there have been cultural practices where smell plays a vital role, like the Spanish Fiesta of the patios in Cordova or the Holy Week processions in Popayán, Colombia. In 2018, the skills related to perfumery in Pays de Grasse, France, were included on the intangible heritage list. No scents themselves, however, are listed.

From the smell of an old book to the smell of a pub “full of smoke and men and beerspilled on the floor and disinfectants coming out of the toilets, smell codifiers are trying to build a socio-economically agnostic library.

But why does smell matter? What valuable iformation can be written into the odour of an object or place? It’s all about culture and economy. Smells can give us an indication of a place’s character, but also tell a lot about the people of the area, their tastes and distastes.

Why it’s hot: Although facing obstacles of mainstream adoption, sych as health dangers of synthetic odors, the Digital Scent technology industry is projecting a forcast growth of 17.3% from now to 2025 (from 98.8M to 187.3M).