Google project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 at 2.06.56 PM

A new project from Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120, aims to help people find things to do and others who share your same interests. Through a new app called Shoelace, users can browse through a set of hand-picked activities, or add their own to a map. For example, someone who wanted to connect with fellow dog owners could start an activity for a doggie playdate at the park, then start a group chat to coordinate the details and make new friends.

The end result feels a bit like a mashup of Facebook Events with a WhatsApp group chat, perhaps. But it’s wrapped in a clean, modern design that appeals more to the millennial or Gen Z user.

Why it’s hot:

If Shoelace is successful at bringing like-minded and like-interested people together, the functionality could be used by clients, like Enfamil, that are trying to inspire real-world and real-life connections between moms, in an authentic and less brand-centric way.

 

Source: New Google Area 120 project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests | TechCrunch

From Virtual Trees to Living Forests

Ant Forest is an app-based game that is sweeping across China. The game rewards users with green energy points for choosing low-carbon activities like taking public transportation or using less plastic. Once players have earned enough green energy, they can plant a virtual tree in Ant Forest. For every tree planted in the virtual game, a real tree is planted in rural China. The game’s creator says one-hundred million live trees have been planted so far.

Link to video

Why it’s hot: An idea that works like real life gratification of social changes and purpose-driven initiatives that would work well with the new generations of consumers.

Source

An 8-Bit Idea in a Quantum World

Game, Set Match?

In a world relentlessly focused on innovation, every once in a while a low-tech solution comes around that just makes us smile. While most digital marketers looking to capitalize on the global attention of an event like Wimbledon might set out to engineer the most whiz-bang interactive experience imaginable, one of the most whiz-bang companies in the world imagined something a whole lot less…well, “whiz-bang”. Google’s pong re-skin offers people searching for “Wimbledon scores” a delightfully low-tech distraction, that’s sure to get their attention.

Why It’s Hot

A strong testament to the importance of creative approaches to the full experience, vs the pure creative horsepower of an individual interaction. Smart, fast, effective.

“The doctor will see you now…”

Are voice assistants about to pivot from minor annoyances to truly helpful utilities? 

In an era of fake news and dubious digital sources of information, Amazon is trying to make it easier for people to access real expertise, using their Alexa voice assistant. Through a partnership with the National Health Service, they’ll help people get quick, “official” answers to some of their nagging medical questions.

Great news, for people who don’t have time to get to a doctor, or even focus their attention on a screen. Perhaps less-than-great news for people with privacy concerns associated with connected devices. For the rest of us, an interesting dilemma.

Why It’s Hot

Marketers are going to be challenged to balance tremendous new opportunities against a never-before-seen level of risk, as they explore new ways of interacting with consumers, alongside new revenue opportunities. The “winners” will disrupt their categories, to great competitive advantage, while the losers potentially lose it all.

Robot umpires make their professional baseball debut

At the independent Atlantic League’s all-star baseball game on Wednesday, the “electronic strike zone” made its professional baseball—and American—debut. According to Yahoo Sports, the robotic umpire, called TrackMan, helped home-plate umpire Brian deBrauwere assess whether pitches were balls or strikes via an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket. The iPhone was loaded up with the TrackMan computer system, which uses a Doppler radar to track the pitches. deBrauwere, positioned right behind home plate, called the pitches as he received the information from the program.

MLB claims the technology is intended to help busy home-plate umpires and pinky swears that human umps are still needed and is working with the union to keep everyone happy.

One pitcher told the AP that TrackMan called high strike zone pitches that human umpires frequently miss. Of course, players will only agree with the umpire until they disagree with the call, but that’s just part of baseball.

Why its hot

As a baseball fan, I can tell you a lot of fans are divided on this issue. Some want to see calls made correctly if there is the technology to ensure that happens. This was the main driver of the introduction of replay a few years ago. Others believe that the game should not be changed, regardless of what technology might exist, and that the human element is just part of it. Personally, I don’t like a robot umpire that makes the ‘correct’ call every time because I do like that human element, but only around balls and strikes. When it comes to replay, which governs things like fair or foul, or safe or out, I do want replay because those things are more grounded in fact than balls and strikes, which are more subjective. It’s an interesting discussion of where we will allow some possibility for error when when the technology to solve it exists.

Havaianas Makes a Shoppable Boardwalk Mural

For their latest campaign, “Step into Summer,” Havaianas collaborated with renowned street artist, Buff Monster, to transform the Venice Beach Boardwalk into an immersive art installation and shoppable AI experience.

The activation began with a 15′ x 85′ mural at Venice Beach, which was crafted from rubber to correspond with Havianas’ rubber-soled sandals. The brand then encouraged people to step onto the mural and scan their favorite part of the artwork via a microsite on mobile. The microsite uses Google Vision AI technology to identify that section of the mural, then it matches consumers with corresponding sandal styles to purchase.

Influencer partnerships helped to promote and support the activation.

Why it’s hot: OOH isn’t just about billboards anymore – it’s an opportunity to have people interact with your brand in new ways. Pairing mobile with OOH also opens the door for follow-up interactions, helping brands drive consumers down the marketing funnel.

Another thought – this is also a great way to fast track toward personalization / customization for new customers.

Uber Launches “Quiet Mode”

Yesterday, Uber launched a new tier of rides called “Uber Comfort.” The new service offers nicer vehicles, more highly rated drivers, and temperature and conversation preferences in exchange for a 20% to 40% premium over standard UberX fares.

When calling their car, users can request “quiet preferred” or “happy to chat” in their conversation preference, as well as warmer or colder temperatures. This isn’t Uber’s first primary feature. In fact, Uber now has 7 tiers — Express Pool, Pool, X, X Diamond, Comfort, Select, and Black. These increase in tiers allows Uber to charge more for slightly better vehicles, highly rated drivers or drivers that are willing to talk less and crank the AC.

Reactions to the launch of “Quiet Rides” have been mixed. Some people argue that forcing Uber drivers to bite their tongues is another example of Uber imposing harsh working conditions on its drivers. Critics consider the quiet option an affront to the dignity of the drivers, making them act like robots (in a job that will soon be threatened by self-driving cars). But other riders appreciate the consistency and control they have over their travel, especially business travelers, who say that they are able to be more productive en route to the airport or meetings. Supporters also point out that the new Comfort Mode allows drivers to earn an extra 20% for rides of the same duration and distance, making the silent treatment well worth their while.

Why it’s hot: Enabling these rider preferences could help Uber differentiate itself from competitors like Lyft and squeeze more cash out of passengers by training them to use its upgraded tiers. But on a more human level, this feature feels like a Black Mirror-esque development in technology that prevents us learning and using basic social skills.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/09/uber-comfort-quiet-ride/

How much would you pay to have a phone-free family dinner?

Parents around the country, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

The Screen-Free Parenting Economy

“Screen Consultants” come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Some coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions.

https://thescreentimeconsultant.com/

The No-Phone Pledge

In a movement reminiscent of the “virginity pledge” — a vogue in the late ’90s in which young people promised to wait until marriage to have sex, groups of parents are banding together and making public promises to withhold smartphones from their children until eighth grade.

https://www.concordpromise.org/

https://www.waituntil8th.org/

https://www.turninglifeon.org/

Why it’s hot?

My favorite reason why this is hot is this: The gap between rich and poor is now measured by the lack of tech. The rich are banning screens from schools, while public schools even offer digital-only preschools.

What does a world where those who get ahead, are the “have nots” rather than the “haves”?

Hint: Inside A Tech-Free School Where Tech Executives Send Their Kids

Buy now, pay later

To win over cash strapped Gen Z and Millennial shopper, apparel brands are launching buy now, pay later programs taking a cue from electronics and furniture companies that have long offered similar programs.

Abercrombie & Fitch — which in addition to its namesake brand also owns Abercrombie Kids and Hollister Co. — announced on July 1 it would partner with payment solution provider Klarna to enable shoppers to pay for purchases in installments. As part of the program, US consumers can opt to make up to four interest-free payments over the course of two months. They are one of many brands that are experimenting with this. In June 2018, Urban Outfitters announced it would offer Afterpay – a Klarna competitor that also offers interest-free installment options — opening up the program for all of its brands including Anthropologie and Free People.

While services like Klarna and Afterpay may seem like an appealing alternative to shelling out for a pricey dress or handbag, they can ultimately lead to shoppers paying more. Since multiple payments make a hefty price tag seem more palatable, consumers are more likely to pay full-price rather than wait for sales or discounts. This is, of course, intentional — Afterpay CEO Nick Molnar has said previously that the program has been proven to increase conversion rates and incremental sales by up to 30%.

“Consumers expect choice,” Pierson said. “Today they have options to rent clothing from places like Rent the Runway and they have different ways to buy. They’ve grown up with a lot of flexbility, so seeing something like this in fashion and apparel doesn’t seem unusual to them.”

Why it’s Hot

Paying in installments isn’t only for big ticket products anymore. As we work with our clients, especially when partnering with our eComm friends at Optaros, it’s important that we consider the best payment strategies that will convert customers.

Flights by the people. Miles for the people

Every week 600 members of Brazil’s congress fly to the nation’s federal capital, Brasília, to attend the seat of government. The country’s citizens pay for these flights with their taxes, but the politicians keep the air miles they earn. Reclame Aqui, Brazil’s leading consumer protection organization, campaigned to end this unfair practice. The company created a campaign to give these air miles back to the people who helped pay for them.


The Miles For The People platform displays and ranks congress members’ flight expenses and air miles, and Brazilian citizens can use the website to request some of those air miles for themselves.

Applicants must clearly state the reason they need the air miles (for example, surgery or exams). A board of lawyers at Reclame Aqui screens and reviews the documents, and selects applications based on their urgency. Approved applications are then sent to politicians who have sufficient air miles. Should the politician accept the request, they send boarding passes straight to the applicants’ smartphone.

Why its hot?
We are the network that enables brands to play a meaningful role in people’s lives and an agency that helps brands grow meaningful relationships with people. How can we bring ideas that help our clients like Cigna walk the walk?

 

Source: Contagious

Block Renovation: a new way to renovate

Block Renovation is a start-up in the home renovation services space – currently only focusing on bathroom renovations.

But they don’t employ any contractors themselves. Instead, it partners with licensed and insured contracting and architecture firms. It does however employ an in-house design team.

4 steps in starting the renovation:

  1. Get a free estimate by answering a few multiple choice questions on their website
  2. Share photos and videos of your space
  3. Your renovation is prepared by designers and architects
  4. Rapid build begins by a contractor from their vetted network

Why it’s hot: It’s all about the customer experience and entrepreneurs are looking to improve the customer experience even in more blue-collar service industries.

Can ‘Big Data’ Help Fight Big Fires? Firefighters Are Betting on It

As out-of-control wildfires in the West grow more frequent and more intense, fire departments in Southern California are looking to big data and artificial intelligence to enhance the way they respond to these disasters.

The marriage of computing, brawn and speed, they hope, may help save lives.

For about 18 months the Los Angeles fire department has been testing a program developed by the WiFire Lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center that makes fast predictions about where active fires will spread next. The program, known as FireMap, pulls together real-time information about topography, flammable materials and weather conditions, among other variables, from giant government data sets and on-the-ground sensors.

When firefighters across the city are dispatched to respond to brush fires, the department’s leaders at headquarters now run the WiFire program as part of their initial protocol. Then, WiFire’s servers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center in La Jolla crunch the numbers, and the program turns out a predictive map of the fire’s expected trajectory. Those maps can then be transmitted electronically from headquarters to incident commanders on the ground.

The program can make sophisticated calculations in minutes that would take hours to run manually, said Ilkay Altintas, the chief data science officer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

Source: NYTimes

Why It’s Hot

Good example of data being put to life-saving use.

Shuttershock Gets Strange…Imagines Stranger Things 3 with Only Stock Imagery

In preparation for the July 4 release of Netflix’s Stranger Things 3, Shutterstock has gotten in on the world of the Upside Down by releasing its own version made entirely of Shutterstock stock footage.

Via Adweek:

If you’re eagerly awaiting the July 4 debut of Stranger Things’ third season—dubbed Stranger Things 3—on Netflix, Shutterstock is hoping it can quench your thirst with a version of its own, made entirely from stock footage.

The stock-footage company’s new campaign, Strange Things, intended to parody the science-fiction horror aesthetic that’s made Stranger Things a pop-culture phenomenon and the recipient of dozens of awards nominations.

“Enjoy binge watching strange things?” the ad for Shutterstock reads as an ominous synth plays. “Well, you’re in luck. We have millions of strange things. Like 80’s things, shady things, upside down things—and even stranger things.”

Save for the iconic cast of the show, the video—made entirely from Shutterstock’s own assets—points to the breadth of the company’s stock-footage library.

Try On a New Lipstick… On YouTube

For those of us who go down YouTube Makeup tutorial rabbit holes, like myself. It’s easy to get discouraged that you don’t have the color to look for yourself… that’s half the point of watching the video.

Well, YouTube has a solve for that (and for makeup brands who want to sell product). Try on while you watch!

“The feature is currently in the very early stages of development — alpha testing — and is being offered to YouTube creators through Google’s  in-house branded content program, FameBit. Through this program, brands are connected with YouTube influencers who market their products through paid sponsorships.”

YouTube has already found that 30% of viewers chose to try the experience when it was available on the iOS app. And those who tried spent an average of more than 80s engaging with the tool.

YouTube’s new AR Beauty Try-On lets viewers virtually try on makeup while watching video reviews

Why it’s hot?

A mix of VR and ecom! This beauty try-on gets over a big makeup hurdle. However this is not totally new. This is something sephora has done on their website, but it’s a much harder UI, this new way with YouTube should score google some extra referral cash, and users entering buy pages would be much more primed.

A New Purpose for the Mannequin Challenge

Back in 2016, the “Mannequin Challenge” took over the Internet, with everyone from Hillary Clinton to Beyoncé posting videos of themselves standing still in various scenarios. Google is now using these videos to train their AI.

One of the top challenges with AI is teaching machines how to move through unfamiliar surroundings. By training machines to interpret 2D videos as 3D scenes, it can help them understand the depth of a 2D image. Google has decided to leverage the thousands of YouTube videos of the Mannequin Challenge as a data source to help machines understand depth since the videos show people posing from all different angles.

Why It’s Hot

These learnings will be particularly useful in AI for self-driving cars.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613888/if-you-did-the-mannequin-challenge-you-are-now-advancing-robotics-research/

Learn by playing: Understanding media manipulation

DROG, a media consultancy focused on resisting disinformation, created Bad News, an online game that guides the player through all the steps one might take to create a fake-news media outlet, from initial frustration to full-blown outrage machine.

In taking on the persona of a media manipulator and walking through the choices that lead to the most effective (read: worst) outcome, the player learns the tactics used by promoters of disinformation and becomes (hopefully) better equipped to avoid falling victim to extremist thinking.

By the end of the game, you’ve created a fake-news machine with the power to dupe mainstream news outlets and sway public opinion. You feel kinda gross inside, but also more empowered to combat media manipulation!

There’s also a seamless in-game survey to gather data about media literacy that has players rate the credibility of various tweets.

Why it’s hot? Exposes the nuts and bolts of media manipulation through experiential learning. If you know how manipulation functions, you’re less likely to fall for it.

The story is presented in a fun, interactive way that uses the player’s choices to deliver the message. This experience imprints the message in a multivalent way, engaging more parts of the brain at once, and is thus more memorable than passive media, and encourages more sharing and more engagement.

crayons teach a lesson in humanity…

In Japan, 79% of people associate the word for skin tone (“hada-iro”) with just one color. Mixed race children can often feel alienated for looking different. So Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido did something to show Japan’s youth that everyone is different but equal. It created a special box of crayons by “scanning a group of schoolchildren’s skin in order to create their unique hada-iro profile…and creating crayons that matched the children’s individual skin tones.”

Why it’s hot:

Besides making a beautiful point, Shiseido did it without having to say a word. By simply seeing all the different shades of skin after their faces were scanned, kids would immediately see that there is no “one true color”, and in fact, they were all different. Proving once again that showing, not telling, is an even more powerful way to convey a message.

[Source]

Facebook announces new cryptocurrency

This week, Facebook revealed their plan to create Calibra, an alternative financial services system that will rely on Libra, its own cryptocurrency powered by blockchain technology. Facebook is planning to launch Calibra’s first product by the first half of 2020 – a digital wallet app that will also be built into WhatsApp and Messenger, allowing users to buy things and send money.

But how will this work? In a nutshell, people will be able to cash in local currency at local exchange points, get Libra, spend it like its normal money (but without high transaction fees or their identity), and then cash out whenever they want.

To protect users’ privacy, Calibra will handle all crypto dealings and store payments data. As a result, users’ data from Libra payments will never mix with their Facebook data and will not be used for ad targeting.

According to Facebook, Libra is meant to address the challenges of global financial services and promote financial inclusion. For example, today about 1.7 billion adults remain without access to a bank account and $50 billion are lost annually  due to exploitative remittance service charges. With Libra, people will be able to send and receive money at low to no cost, small businesses will be able to accept digital payments without credit card fees, and overall financial services will be more accessible.

However, despite these potential benefits, Facebook’s venture into the financial services industry has raised some concerns. People are questioning Facebook’s motives as well as the usefulness, stability and transparency of cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, given Facebook’s troubled history with privacy breaches, its commitment to protecting user-data and privacy is under scrutiny.

Why it’s hot: 

This is the first time a “mainstream” company attempts to get involved in the world of cryptocurrencies and, if all goes to plan, this new digital currency could fundamentally change global financial systems forever.

Sources: FacebookTechCrunch

How modern life is transforming the human skeleton

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live — how we read, work, communicate, shop and date.

But we already know this.

What we have not yet grasped is the way the tiny machines in front of us are remolding our skeletons, possibly altering not just the behaviors we exhibit but the bodies we inhabit.

New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls — bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion.

The result is a hook or hornlike feature jutting out from the skull, just above the neck.

In academic papers, a pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, argues that the prevalence of the bone growth in younger adults points to shifting body posture brought about by the use of modern technology. They say smartphones and other handheld devices are contorting the human form, requiring users to bend their heads forward to make sense of what’s happening on the miniature screens.

The researchers said their discovery marks the first documentation of a physiological or skeletal adaptation to the penetration of advanced technology into everyday life.

Why it’s hot: Should human bodies adapt to technology or should it adapt to us?

Source

Siri Is Listening to You Have a Heart Attack

In the not-too-distant future you may be able to ask Siri if you’re having a heart attack—even if you’re not touching the device.

Because smart speakers are always passively listening, anticipating being called into action with a “Hey Google” or “Alexa!” they are the perfect device for listening for changes in breathing. So if someone starts gasping and making so-called “agonal breathing” (add that to your Scrabble repertoire) the smart speaker can call for help. Agonal breathing is described by co-author Dr. Jacob Sunshine as “a sort of a guttural gasping noise” that is so unique to cardiac arrest that it makes “a good audio biomarker.” According to a press release, about 50% of people who experience cardiac arrest have agonal breathing and since Alexa and Google are always listening, they can be taught to monitor for its distinctive sound.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97% of the time from up to 20 feet away.

Why is it so good at detecting agonal breathing? Because the team created it using a dataset of agonal breathing captured from real 911 calls.

“A lot of people have smart speakers in their homes, and these devices have amazing capabilities that we can take advantage of,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota. “We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR. And then if there’s no response, the device can automatically call 911.”

Why its hot

What other medical emergencies can be diagnosed through voice products like Siri? We saw the OOH unit that diagnosed dog health issues with their pee. Could there be an in-house doctor that analyzes your health without having to even see a doctor in person?

A Case of Mistaken Identity

With over 20K signatures, accusations against the TV show “Good Omens” are causing a raucous. A US Christian group called the Return to Order has launched a petition to cancel the show saying it presents “devils and Satanists as normal and even good, where they merely have a different way of being, and mocks God’s wisdom.”

Protests and requests for show cancelations are not rare or new. So what’s causing the raucous? The group has petitioned Netflix to cancel a show on Amazon Prime Video.

Why it’s hot:

Brand recognition is EVERYTHING!

 

“Can You See Me Now?” – Introducing Surveillance-as-a-Service

Amazon is gearing up to disrupt another category in the same way it disrupted IT over the last decade*, but its real intent might be to create an entirely new category.

[ * In the world of IT, AWS’s consumption-based business model fueled a game-changing shift from businesses owning on-premise data centers (CapEx), to “renting” the outcomes they need, and using Amazon’s data centers accessed through public cloud (OpEx). Beyond the obvious financial advantages this model delivered to businesses, it also freed up IT teams to shift their focus from “break-fix” to DevOps” – finding new ways of using technology and data to drive business growth. ]

It’s easy enough to connect-the-dots between Amazon’s $1B acquisition of Ring last year, and their patent application for a drone-based surveillance service, and draw the conclusion that it’s all part of a big home security play. Surely a consumption-based model, in which people pay for security in the same way they do utilities, would lower a few barriers to entry and grow the home security category. It would also decrease the need for installed devices (buying or renting them, waiting for the guy to come out and install – between 8am and 4pm), and also eliminate the need to be locked into a service contract and pay a regular, flat monthly fee.

As cringe-worthy as the idea of marauding flocks of “eyes-in-the-sky” might be, a few minutes spent thinking about the potential business applications of this kind of service might make you want to move to a remote desert island. But the question of whether this scares you or inspires you comes down to who’s paying for the service (homeowners, business owners, corporations?), who “owns” the data, and what how they’re using or monetizing that data.

Why It’s Hot: In a world rapidly being reduced to 1’s and 0’s, consider how real-time video surveillance data (possibly with things like facial recognition being run through the cloud), comes together with all of the other data streams Amazon has been cultivating. What do your online purchases, streaming video choices, Alexa conversations, Whole Foods shopping lists and physical movements say about who you are, what you might want and how/where/when you can be reached? What might that mean for marketers?

“Alexa, am I having a heart attack?”

Almost 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiac arrest, but now an unlikely new tool may help cut that number. Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out how to turn a smart speaker into a cardiac monitoring system. That’s right, in the not-too-distant future you may be able to ask Siri if you’re having a heart attack—even if you’re not touching the device.

Because smart speakers are always passively listening, anticipating being called into action with a “Hey Google” or “Alexa!” they are the perfect device for listening for changes in breathing. So if someone starts gasping and making so-called “agonal breathing” (add that to your Scrabble repertoire) the smart speaker can call for help. Agonal breathing is described by co-author Dr. Jacob Sunshine as “a sort of a guttural gasping noise” that is so unique to cardiac arrest that it makes “a good audio biomarker.” According to a press release, about 50% of people who experience cardiac arrest have agonal breathing and since Alexa and Google are always listening, they can be taught to monitor for its distinctive sound.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97% of the time from up to 20 feet (or 6 meters) away. The findings were published today in npj Digital Medicine. Why is it so good at detecting agonal breathing? Because the team created it using a dataset of agonal breathing captured from real 911 calls.

“A lot of people have smart speakers in their homes, and these devices have amazing capabilities that we can take advantage of,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota. “We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR. And then if there’s no response, the device can automatically call 911.”

Why It’s Hot

Despite the rather creepy notion that Amazon is always listening, this innovation is rather cool. What other kinds of health issues could this predict? As a parent, having a speaker able to predict whether a cough is run-of-the-mill or of the scary croup variety would be invaluable. For health events that need an aural translation, this is one application in the right direction.

Source:Fast Company

The Meeker Report

Image from Medium.com

Every year, venture capitalist Mary Meeker releases a lengthy report on the state of digital marketing. Grab the full report and access an archive  here: https://www.bondcap.com/report/itr19/#view/1

Summary from Medium here, and some 2019 highlights via Recode:

  • E-commerce is now 15 percent of retail sales. Its growth has slowed — up 12.4 percent in Q1 compared with a year earlier — but still towers over growth in regular retail, which was just 2 percent in Q1.

  • Internet ad spending accelerated in the US, up 22 percent in 2018. Most of the spending is still on Google and Facebook, but companies like Amazon and Twitter are getting a growing share. Some 62 percent of all digital display ad buying is for programmatic ads, which will continue to grow.

  • Customer acquisition costs — the marketing spending necessary to attract each new customer — is going up. That’s unsustainable because in some cases it surpasses the long-term revenue those customers will bring. Meeker suggests cheaper ways to acquire customers, like free trials and unpaid tiers.

  • Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster wifi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.

  • The number of interactive gamers worldwide grew 6 percent to 2.4 billion people last year, as interactive games like Fortnite become the new social media for certain people. The number of people who watch those games — rather than participate — is swelling, too.

  • Health care is steadily becoming more digitized. Expect more telemedicine and on-demand consultations.

Regarding the rising cost of customer acquisition in particular, the report cites the effectiveness of free trials or “freemium” tiers of service that can effectively get new customers in the door and convert to loyal subscriptions or users. The other driver highlighted was recommendations – the ability to deliver personalized, curated products and content to potential customers, a la personal stylist companies like Stitch Fix or Trunk Club.

Why it’s hot: It’s worth a read as it’s often a source of intelligence on the client-side, and may help to explain why certain topics of conversation suddenly seem to be cropping up in client interactions. It may help you uncover some blind spots during planning and is a good starting point for hypothesizing with data.

How Spotify Uses Emotional Surveillance for Profit

We all know Spotify’s curated mood-based playlists ranging from “Happy Hits” and “Mood Booster” to “Rage Beats” and “Life Sucks.” But what users may not know though, is that Spotify has been selling access to that listening data to multinational corporations.

Spotify is the world’s biggest streaming subscription service, with 207 million users in 79 different countries. And as Spotify has grown, its advertising machine has exploded. Of those 207 million users, it claims 111 million users are not paying subscribers, meaning they rely on the ad-supported version.

Spotify’s enormous access to mood-based data presents a major value to brands and advertisers, allowing them to target ads on Spotify by moods and emotions. And since 2016, Spotify has shared this mood data directly with the world’s biggest marketing and advertising firms. As of May 2015, advertisers were given the ability to target ads to users of the free ad-supported service based on activities and moods. For example, Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness’ campaign would play when people are listening to mood-boosting music.

In Spotify’s world, listening data has become the oil that fuels a monetizable metrics machine, pumping the numbers that lure advertisers to the platform. In a data-driven listening environment, the commodity is no longer music, the commodity is user’s moods and listening habits as behavioral data. Today, marketers want mood-related data more than ever, to fuel automated, personalized ad targeting. In 2016, WPP struck a multi-year partnership with Spotify, giving the conglomerate unprecedented access to Spotify’s mood data specifically.

Why it’s hot: Music streaming platforms are in a unique position as they hold tons of data related to our emotional states, moods and feelings. As the largest streaming subscription service, Spotify and their mood playlists have become the data-collecting solution for brands struggling to reach skeptical millennials. On the Spotify for Brands blog, the streaming giant explains that its research shows millennials are weary of most social media and news platforms, feeling that these mediums affect them negatively. Spotify is a solution for brands, it explains, because it is a platform where people go to feel good.

Source: https://thebaffler.com/downstream/big-mood-machine-pelly

Forget a Thousand Words. Pictures Could Be Worth Big Bucks for Amazon Fashion – Adweek

Amazon is rolling out StyleSnap, its AI-enabled shopping feature that helps you shop from a photograph or snapshot. Consumers upload images to the Amazon app and it considers factors like brand, price and reviews to recommend similar items.

Amazon has been able to leverage data from brands sold on its site to develop products that are good enough or close enough to the originals, usually at lower price points, and thereby gain an edge, but its still only a destination for basics like T-shirts and socks. With StyleSnap, Amazon is hoping to further crack the online retailing sector with this new offering.

Why It’s Hot

Snapping and sharing is already part of retail culture, and now Amazon is creating a simple and seamless way of adding the shop and purchase to this ubiquitous habit.  The combination of AI and user reviews in its algorithm could change the way we shop when recommendations aren’t only based on the look of an item, but also on how customers experience it.

 

Source: Forget a Thousand Words. Pictures Could Be Worth Big Bucks for Amazon Fashion – Adweek

Other sources: https://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-stylesnap-uses-ai-to-help-you-shop-for-clothes/

LinkedIn Stories: Fail or Employer Branding Dream?

In late 2018, there were rumblings that LinkedIn would launch its own version of a stories feed. Critics believed it was just another platform itching to conquer Snapchat.

Now it’s June 2019, Instagram is the true leader in stories and LinkedIn is still preparing for launch. LinkedIn stories could be a huge fail or it could be an employer branding dream.

Companies have struggled with doing away with the polished workplace culture videos as they try to find a balance between quality and authenticity. Adding a story feature to LinkedIn automatically allows these companies to officially be less polished or well-thought-out while prospective employees gain a behind the scenes look at a company. 

LinkedIn is slated to go live with their stories feature at any moment. Meanwhile, they’ve revised the logo, developed their own custom font and defined a new color palette. LinkedIn is the woman that cuts her hair when she’s overcome a personal crisis.

Why it’s hotter than an IG story from Rihanna: Will this do anything to change the issues with job descriptions or the application process? I foresee the trendy companies using stories as a way to promote new jobs and asking people to swipe up to learn more. I’m unsure if all of these new ways to communicate are making us better or just further complicating processes that could be simplified. Look out for intern takeovers, content from the company thought leaders and IBM dominating the feature with kick-ass content about all the things they create.

The Revolution Will Be … Heavily Effected by Digital

With some major changes happening globally, its interesting to note the ways that the digital world around us are affecting where attention falls and how we perceive international events. Two examples from this week, the massacre in Sudan and the protests in Hong Kong are key to understanding how innovation is not only affecting how we take in global media but how events unfold.

Protesters in Hong Kong wait on huge lines to pay cash. 

Use of octopus cards to show proof of demonstration was used to convict the “Umbrella 9”  in 2014.

In this case, protesters are being deliberate about the digital footprint they are leaving, something that protesters in 2014 didnt know to be wary of.

Instagram gets close and personal with Influencers from Sudan 

Mashable reports: “On Thursday, Shahd Khidir, a Sudanese influencer and blogger who mainly shares beauty, fashion, and lifestyle content, went “off-brand” to raise awareness to her nearly 64,000 Instagram followers about the dire situation in Sudan. Khidir, who is based in New York City, posted a photograph of herself crying at her desk along with a heartbreaking story about her friend, who she learned had recently been murdered in Sudan.”

I noted amongst my friends (a HIGHLY informal poll) that those who tended to use instagram were talking about the Sudan, while Twitter users were talking about Donald Trump’s interview with George Stephonopoulos.

The hashtags #IAmTheSudanRevolution#SudanUprising, and #Sudanese_Protest are trending and a much younger group than those typically concerned with international news.

Why It’s Hot? 

Imagine the Tienemen Square protests on social and how the Arab Spring was affected by social and digital. Our world is evolving around these innovations and will continue to change as our digital world evolves

Uber is Ready to Make Drone Food Delivery a Reality

Uber Elevate is betting on drones as the future of food delivery. And the future is coming as soon as this summer, with drone service set to launch in San Diego.

relates to Uber Wants Your Next Big Mac to Be Delivered by Drone

At the launch of the program, drones will not be delivering food directly to customer’s homes due to safety and noise concerns. Instead they’ll be landing in designated zones for pick up by couriers, or directly on the roofs of Uber vehicles, for drivers to complete the delivery.

Reaching speeds up to 70 mph, Uber Elevate’s drone can lead to significant time and cost savings in a food delivery market that is projected to grow 12% a year over the next four years. For a delivery 1.5 miles away, drones can make a trip in 7 minutes as opposed to 21 minutes via car.

Why It’s Hot

As more and more companies are looking to make use of drones as soon as possible, it’s significant that a car service company is leading the way. Beyond revolutionizing food delivery, Uber Elevate can help pave the way for how drones can solve other problems including last-mile delivery.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-12/uber-announces-plans-to-deliver-big-macs-by-drone-this-summer

Airbnb launches ‘Adventures’ – a step towards “extreme tourism”

Today, Airbnb is introducing Adventures, a collection of three- to seven-day trips that allow travelers to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world. The all-inclusive trips include guides, meals, on-the-ground transport, and accommodations, along with any necessary gear.

To list their trips on the platform, operators need to apply, much like they did for Experiences. Airbnb company has said in the past that it turns away more than 80% of applicants for Experiences. For Adventures, Airbnb says it ensures that all the operators it lists on its platform have the necessary certifications and licenses to run their tours.

Over the past three years, Airbnb has been expanding into new kinds of travel experiences, part of its larger effort to position itself as an all-in-one travel company. First came Experiences, its version of day tours, then it bought Canada-based Luxury Retreats to expand into full-service accommodations. It even it integrated Resy’s reservation booking tool into its platform. Airbnb has since extended into Airbnb Plus, a collection of verified, high-quality house rentals. Their newest extension of Adventures signals Airbnb’s first real attempt at offering end-to-end travel.

Adventure and activity-based travel is a growing business, a 2018 survey of tour operators conducted by the Adventure Travel and Trade Association (ATTA) and Travel Leaders Group, found that 86% percent of respondents had experienced growth in their adventure travel sales over the past three years. According to the ATTA, the worldwide adventure travel market has grown from $98 billion in 2009 to $683 billion in 2017.

Airbnb thinks it can set itself apart from the typical adventure fare by coming up with unique trip and thoroughly vetting operators. Most of the operators on the platform are regional and not widely known, and many are offering trips that are exclusive to Airbnb. Adventures will range from $79 to $5,000, depending on the length of the trip and the complexity of the journey. On average, Airbnb says these trips will cost $750 for seven days, or $110 a day, which is on the more affordable end.

Why it’s hot: Airbnb continues to push their offerings of their platform to expand beyond expected tourist experiences, and offering more ‘adventures’ that help push travelers out of their comfort zones. Since they are such a reputable brand and service, it will be interesting to see which adventures they choose to offer on their platform – and in turn, the local businesses they choose to support. As marketers, this is a perfect example of how we can push our clients to integrate more offerings/services to meet the interests and needs of their audience vs. evolving just messaging

Source: FastCo