Will “conscious traveling” become more prevalent post 2020?

The Year of Return: 2019, was a tourism campaign to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in America. It was an instance of “roots tourism”, which appeals to travelers to visit a destination on the basis of their ancestry.

Beyond the education and personal transformation that many travelers gain from this type of tourism, could it also be an opportunity for racial reconciliation?

Travelers felt that the trip helped them to conceptualize slavery differently, and this led them to a deeper understanding of race relations in the United States. For example, one traveller said that prior to visiting Ghana, they felt a “certain anger towards white people”. But visiting Ghana and specifically the Cape Coast dungeon exposed them to learning more about all of the actors in slavery – (white) Europeans and (black) Africans.

Travel and tourism are often linked to expanding our view of the world but it hasn’t been linked to social justice much until now. It’ll be interesting to see if and how the travel industry evolves post-pandemic, post-recession, post-social injustice protests to offer more ways for people to ‘travel with purpose’ – whether that means new destinations that can help us expand our mind not just our passport stamp collection, new experiences that allow us to go deeper and travel more meaningfully or even new ways to travel that can help us protect the planet (more sustainable/eco-friendly).

Source: Quartz Africa, Suitcase Magazine

 

Is TikTok’s future in danger? Has Instagram found a new opportunity for growth?

42% of TikTok’s in-app revenue and advertisement purchases in total come from the US.

43% of active users on TikTok are based in India.

The Indian government called these apps “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order”

TikTok has said previously that it operates separately from it’s parent company. It says its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of that data is subject to Chinese law. US user data is stored in the United States, with a backup in Singapore, according to TikTok. A spokesperson for the company told CNN Business in May that it thinks the national security concerns are “unfounded.”

Instagram said on Wednesday it is officially rolling out Reels — a feature that allows users to create short-form videos (up to 15 seconds long) set to music or other audio — to a “broad” user base in India. The Facebook -owned service first began testing Reels, which has been widely referred as “TikTok clone”, in select markets late last year.

Reels videos will appear on Instagram’s Explore tab, enabling users to reach a broader audience than their own following base. Users can also share Reels as “Stories”, though, in that case the video will not appear in Explore tab and will disappear after 24 hours.

So a broad test of Reels, which has also rolled out Brazil, France, and Germany, in India was only natural, Mohan said, dismissing the characterisation that the new feature’s availability now had anything to do with a recent ban of TikTok in India.

Why it’s hot: Will Instagram be able to entice TikTok’s audience the way it was able to steal Snapchat’s audience a few years ago when it replicated Snapchat’s features into its app?

Sources: one, two

Genius Introduces Live Interactive Concerts

Genius Live is a new experience platform by Genius.com that aims to fill the current void in live concerts due to COVID-19. Their first event will feature a headlining performance by Wiz Khalifa, who is donating all proceeds to the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP).

Genius is calling the event an “interactive benefit concert” because there are actions attendees can take throughout–some free and some for purchase–that will affect the show in real-time. After signing up for free, fans can vote on the setlist (free), join a private watch party ($10), ask for a shoutout ($100), and ask a question ($200). Fans can also chat with each other throughout the experience.

The event will be streaming on the Genius Live platform, as well as simulcast on YouTube Live, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, and Twitch. While this is the only event Genius has announced so far, they plan to expand the program with more artists over the next few months.

Why It’s Hot

While many others have been experimenting with how to take in person experiences online at this time, the interactive nature of this event sets it apart from other livestream concerts, and gives the audience new ways to interact with their favorite artists that a large stadium event would not allow.

Source

Columbia University researchers know why you chose that playlist

A new study out of Columbia Business School and Bar-Ilan University in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that you prefer the music of artists with personalities similar to your own. In other words, you like yourself.

Researchers studied the public personas of the most famous 50 musicians in the Western world, including Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Whitney Houston, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and Ozzy Osbourne. In two studies of over 80,000 participants, they found that the personalities of the musicians correlate with those of their fans. A third study of 4,995 participants showed that fans’ personalities predict their musical preferences as much as other strong predictors like gender, age, and features of the music.

Music shapes cultural interactions between individuals and groups, as well as influence listeners’ thoughts and feelings, so researchers sought out to understand the mechanisms of these interactions.

“The findings can pave the way for new approaches for record companies or music management to target and build audiences,” noted coauthor Sandra Matz, an associate professor of business at Columbia Business School.

Why it’s hot: As marketers, the findings of this study might not come as a surprise to us but is potentially a large driving insight when seeking to understand certain audiences mindsets, cultural influences, and motivators.

Source: FastCo

Say my name, Say my name

The first step to know anything, is know the name of it.

What is in a name? Why does Destiny’s Child command you to say it?

Names are an indicator of value.

When someone knows your name, you probably know them. If you go to a store enough and they know your name, and others can imply you’re probably there all the time, this translates into better interactions because you are then valued.

Pronunciations are an indicator of knowledge.

There are approximately 1001 ways to butcher a name, and most of us have heard ours sliced and diced in a few ways. If not your first name, then probably your last. I know my own knife is pretty sharp at times. Albeit, a forgivable mistake, but when someone gets it right, doesn’t it feel like they get you a little bit better? You’re astounded, taken back a little, you probably think, How did they know that? 

The difference between knowing a fashion brand like Vetments by name and knowing it’s pronounced – (Vet-Mo). Knowing Louis Vuitton and knowing it’s pronounced (Loo-wie V-wo-ee-to). You become closer to the brand.

Ignorance is not bliss.

On the other hand when someone does get it wrong, depending on the person, it can spark quite negative emotions and can be quite triggering for some. Henrich Heins – a German poet in his 1839 autobiography goes in depth about his name and all of the emotions he felt at one point or another. He says, “…there is something unpleasant in having one ‘ s name mispronounced . Some people are made very angry by it.” (Him being one of them but don’t worry in his older age he came to terms with it.)

Where would this value matter most?

Places like job interviews where you need to show your skills or that you’d be a fit employer or employee. You are showing off you value the person by knowing their name, knowledgeable by pronouncing the name correctly and bonus points of memorable if they have a difficult name. If someone knows how to say your name, you can skip the apologies, awkward acceptances, or glazing over the you-already-told-them-how-to-say-your-name-but-they-still-get-it-wrong-after-anger and get to showcasing all your skills.

LinkedIn Pronunciations

LinkedIn has had for a long time the option to phonetically enter your name in so people would know how to say it. They will now be rolling out a new feature where you can upload a 10 second audio clip of you saying your name.

There are a plethora of ways that using someones name can enhance conversation. It’s direct and it’s personal, it’s not Hey! it’s Hey Chantelle! You are engaging them to speak, you are showing them you value them, and know them. And you are nominating them to engage with you, in a personal and direct way, vs the Hey which is impersonal. (Social Science & Conversation Analysis by Harvey Sacks) We see this in email marketing as well, seeing an email addressed to you is more attractive than one that doesn’t include it.

Source: The Verge

Why it’s hot:

A place for personalization that enable better and more valuable social interactions.

What if

When you placed an order to a store, and you actually got in the store they knew how to pronounce your name when you got there.

What if this was a security measure? To access an account you have to pronounce the name.

What if you pronounced your name when you call a customer service number, and they answered with the correct pronunciation of your name?

The Face Mask of The Future

face.jpg

Shipping in Japan in September, the C-Face mask will join the long list of the internet of things gadgets to hit the market. Created in response to consumer’s COVID concerns, the mask offers protection and convenience at the same time. Linked to the wearers’ smartphone, the plastic C-Face allows users to record conversations, amplify their voice, make calls, transcribe speech into texts and translate Japanese speech into 8 different languages.

Source: DesignBoom

Why it’s hot: Even though there are more IoT devices out there than we know what to do with, the C-mask solves an immediate real-life challenge – being heard through our masks and dealing with a no-touch world.

The Path to Enduring Loyalty

Stitch Fix Is Attracting Loyal Customers Without a Loyalty Program

As their customer base has grown in recent years, so too has the revenue they generate from each active customer. Even amidst the pain the apparel industry has been experiencing, over the last few months of the coronavirus pandemic, Stitch Fix has managed to weather the storm with only a slight revenue decline – mostly due to the decision to close warehouses for a period.

WHY IT’S HOT:  In a world where “loyalty” tends to cost businesses and marketers money, in the form of deals and discounts, Stitch Fix is a testament to the the power of data to drive true personalization across the customer experience.

From The Motley Fool:

A personal stylist armed with a powerful data-driven selection algorithm creates a great customer experience.

 

In the highly competitive clothing industry, loyal customers are worth their weight in gold. Stores go to great lengths to attract repeat customers with programs that provide rewards, discounts, or exclusive offers for loyal members. But even with these programs, customers are hard to keep. A 2019 survey by Criteo found that 72% of apparel shoppers were open to considering other brands, which is why what Stitch Fix (NASDAQ:SFIX) has done to create loyal clients without a loyalty program is so special.

Let’s look at this personalized online clothing retailer’s loyal customers, how data science is helping build loyalty into the process, and what management is doing to further capitalize on the company’s momentum.

Loyal customers spend more

Clothing stores have seen a significant drop in spending in the past few months, but Stitch Fix’s most recent quarterly revenue only declined by 9% year over year. Impressively, this decline was not due to a drop in demand, but because the company chose to close its warehouses for part of the quarter as it put safety measures in place for its staff. This strong result against a backdrop of abysmal retail clothing spending was powered in part by the company’s auto-ship customers.

In the most recent earnings call, CEO Katrina Lake indicated that customers who sign up to receive “Fixes” (shipments of clothes) automatically and on a regular basis “achieved the strongest levels of ownership retention in the last three years.” She added that “this large contingent of loyal and highly engaged clients” are “very valuable.” Having a stable base of repeat clients helps the company better predict demand trends, shape inventory purchases, and forecast appropriate staffing levels.

Additional benefits from Stitch Fix’s loyal customers show up in the revenue-per-active-client metric. At the end of the day, consumers vote with their wallets. And impressively, this number has increased for the last eight quarters in a row. It’s clear Stitch Fix clients love the service as they are willing to spend more over time.

Possibly the biggest reason clients are spending more is that they are better matched with items they love.

Data science helps improve the customer experience

Making great clothing selections is key to the client experience for Stitch Fix. The job of keeping this recommendation engine humming and improving it over time is the company’s data scientist team. This group is over 100 strong and many of its members have Ph.D.s in data science or related fields. The team received a patent on its Smart Fix Algorithm and has other patents pending. You can see the amazing detail that goes into this process on the Algorithms Tour section of the Stitch Fix website.

This algorithm is also driving selections for the direct buy offering, which allows clients to purchase clothing without the commitment of the five-item fix. This new service is taking off and its low return rates show that clients love it. Lake shared that “people keeping things that they love is ultimately like the true Northstar of our business and that’s really where we’re orienting a lot of our efforts again.” One of these new efforts is focused on pushing the envelope of how stylists engage with clients.

Doubling down on personalized service

On the last earnings call, Stitch Fix President Elizabeth Spaulding discussed a pilot program that “provide[s] clients with increased stylist engagement and the opportunity to select items in their fixes.” This program, currently being tested in the U.S. and the U.K., connects the client on a video call with a stylist while their fix is being created. This allows the client direct input into their selections and enables the stylist to become better acquainted with the client’s clothing choices.

This innovative approach plays to the company’s strengths and could further build its loyal client following. Spaulding indicated that more would be shared in upcoming calls, but said that “We believe this enhanced styling experience will appeal to an even broader set of clients as consumers seek high-touch engagement while not going into stores.”

Smell Like Space

Want to experience space but don’t have the money? Eau de Space brings the experience straight to your nose. A new Kickstarter campaign lets you purchase a bottle for $29, and they’ll match your purchase with a donation to a local STEM program.

The fragrance is inspired by a scent developed by NASA decades ago to help acclimate astronauts as part of their space training.

The space agency had contracted specialists to create the “smell of space” to acclimate astronauts as part of their training and eliminate any environmental surprises prior to lift off.

 

Described by astronauts as a mix of gunpowder, seared steak, raspberries and rum, “space smell” is the latest attempt to capture the smells of places. Other attempts include the New York City candle (hopefully in winter, not summer) or Tom Dixon candles with a scent to evoke “historical memories of British life.”

Why it’s hot:  Smell is the most sensitive of the senses, 75% of emotions are triggered by smell – smell is the last frontier.

Walmart poised to capture the summer movie market?

As traditional movie theaters struggle to attract movie-goers during the pandemic, the confined-space nature of their offering has opened up opportunity for other players. Perhaps one in particular that happens to have a huge amount of real estate for parking cars and for allowing customers to sit back and watch a film from the comfort (and relative safety) of their vehicle? Enter: Walmart.

Walmart has had success being more customer focused with their shop online and pick up stations. This new foray into theaters feels like an extension of that customer-centric premise.

Walmart is smart to move fast to assess how the brand can fulfill consumer desires in light of current events with resources they mostly already have on hand. This agility is what will help Walmart capitalize on movie-goers while theater heavy hitters are sitting ducks.

It’s also a lead-gen play. To discover info and movie times, you need to sign up for their newsletter.

From The Verge:

Walmart is converting some of its parking lots into drive-in theaters for the summer as the movie industry struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The retail behemoth is converting 160 of its parking lots across the US into drive-ins. These theaters will open in early August and remain open through October. The Walmart Drive-In will feature movies programmed by Tribeca Enterprises, the company behind the Tribeca Film Festival, which recently launched a summer movie drive-in series bringing films, music, and sporting events to as many US drive-ins as possible.

Walmart has not disclosed whether attendees will have to pay a price of admission. Though, ahead of each drive-in screening, Walmart says it will sell concessions for moviegoers, which they can order online for curbside pick-up ahead of the film screening. Theaters tend to make a good chunk of their profits on concessions, so Walmart could follow in the industry’s lead.

Why it’s hot:

1. This is a great example of using surplus resources to fill a market gap. The heavy investment stuff is already in place. Walmart needs to invest in some screens, staff, etc, but that overhead is minimal.

2. Though it’s only temporary, the experience created should endear people to the brand, as well as boost revenues from concessions sales.

Source: The Verge

Etsy’s New AR Tool Makes It Easier to Shop for Art From Home

Etsy introduced a new augmented reality tool aimed at visualizing wall art in your space before you purchase. The functionality is built within the Etsy ios app, and at launch works for all prints, photographs, and portraits.

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

The feature works by moving your phone or tablet around your space, and tapping to place on the wall. In cases where different sizes are available, simply zooming in or out will showcase the various options and help you determine which dimensions fit best.

Etsy is using the launch as a beta test to gather feedback before rolling out to other product categories.

Why It’s Hot

At a time when people are online shopping for their home, from their home more than ever, this tool helps make the process easier and more personalized. As a marketplace that supports independent artists, Etsy is providing a significant advantage by helping bring their art to life and allowing potential buyers to experience how the art fits within their existing aesthetic.

Source

A Revamped Online Shopping Experience- Yeezy Supply

Returns are painful. 

I’ve recently been thinking about returns and the increase of shopping online due to retail locations not being readily available. Returns are pretty painful in store but online, they are even more so. Not only because they are not immediate but you have more to keep up with. No surprise but people return more when shopping online than in-store.

Because online experiences are lacking. 

Long have we searched for a ways to combat returns from online sales. (A link to Ben’s previous return post here.) There is video content of the model in the clothing items, reviews from fellow shoppers, Instagram influencers, and content like YouTube Try-On Hauls.

These additives have not abolished the need to get just a little bit closer to seeing, feeling and trying the clothes on in person, albeit retailers/brands have inched closer with those additions. Consumers long for an in-store experience with and online stock room.

We turn to enhance the online experience. 

Carlings “Neo-Ex” digital clothing collection – Clothes that are for the sole purpose of buying and photo shopping on your body in photos. This focuses on the need to buy just for a photo, to break away from the norm.

Snapchat AR – Ability to use the filters and to impose products on your body before you buy. (A post about Adidas/Snapchat collab by Lisa here.) This focuses on the try-before-you-buy and promotional aspect of the internet.

Everywhere but their own sites.

Every online buying experience is the same, looking at clothes on a mostly static model, and scrolling through pages of poses. Enter Yeezy Supply website. A different way to shop, a video-game-esque way to buy your ‘elevated basics’.

Choose a model. These aren’t just your regular models. They have a story, and have done something to better their community. They are nurses, firefighters, and public school teachers. Along with different body shapes that you can then choose.

This unto its own I think speaks to the introspection that I’ve been seeing more and more. These people aren’t a deemed extravagant ideal, they are beautiful for substantive and meaningful reasons. Essential heroes that we can respect because of their story and we can connect to physically. In this video game we are them, we aren’t a cartoon or a model.

Dress yourself, I mean the model. The clothes scroll through your 3D model and you choose what you want to see them in. After a choice is made, your model vanishes out of frame in a transport-like fashion, then walks back into frame in the choice you have made.

Ability to mix and match clothes that you would wear or pair on your own. There is control here, no stylist needed to bring about the ideal pairing. You are your own stylist, as you are one in your own room.

Information can be gathered on the product by hovering and choosing the ‘i’ icon.

This answers a few concerns and closes the gap on seeing a more realistic view of product but also simultaneously creating a memorable online experience with a story that melds into your own.

Is this realistic for everyone?

This is very expensive to do. The old layout works because its available and usable for everyone in almost every browser. The ability to handle traffic and show the product is easier on this type of model.  What is still unclear is how the Yeezy Supply site will handle users scrolling through and what check out will look like, and how fast users will be able to adapt to this different layout.

Why it’s hot:

Bringing human to the shopping experience.

Connecting through a story, with a body that may not be a size 00.

Better visualization of product. A ‘3D’ realistic view of clothes on a body similar to yours.

And because it is a ‘3D’ view, it changes an experience that may last but also aids in a business problem, like returns. You’re able to visualize and see a article of clothing.

Source: FastCompany

 

 

 

Oura Rings Are The Wearables that Could Detect COVID Before You Do

The NBA is back starting July 30th and are using wearables to ensure that they are COVID free.

The wearable is “a $300 ring made by the Finnish company Oura that measures temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, and other physiological data that could theoretically be helpful for detecting whether someone has COVID-19, even before they start exhibiting symptoms. By plugging these variables into an algorithm, the ring will provide the players with an “illness probability score” that tells them whether they should seek a medical examination. A smartphone app linked to the ring will present the score and other information the device has collected. The inner surface of the ring has three sensors: an infrared photoplethysmography sensor for respiration and heart rate, a negative temperature coefficient for body temperature, and a 3D accelerometer for movement.”

How does it work? “While the Oura Ring was originally designed to track sleep patterns, the company is now funding studies at West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and the University of California San Francisco to determine whether the device could be useful for early COVID-19 detection. A Gizmodo investigation found that the pandemic has prompted a number of similar studies on other wearable technologies – including Fitbits, the Apple Watch, and the Whoop fitness tracker—which have thus far seemed promising, but far from conclusive. Early findings suggest that a higher resting heart rate, respiratory rate, and skin temperature could possibly signal the onset of an infection before the symptoms become noticeable. This is partly due to the fact that body’s immune system produces a substance called C-reactive protein during an infection, which is correlated with higher heart rates and other physiological signs. The Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute recently announced preliminary results from a study observing 600 healthcare professionals and first responders, indicating that the Oura Ring may be able to detect illness up three days before symptoms with 90 percent accuracy.”

Why It’s Hot? 

This could be huge for the US coronavirus fight. These digital markers (maybe with blue tooth to do digital “contact tracing” could help us follow COVID around the US map.

Source: https://slate.com/technology/2020/06/nba-coronavirus-oura-ring-orlando.html

Boston latest big city to take stand against facial recognition software

It’s sadly not surprising that the first false arrest attributed to faulty facial recognition was of a black man in Michigan.

Fast Company:

Boston on Wednesday banned municipal use of facial recognition technology, becoming the largest East Coast city to do so, public radio station WBUR reports.

“Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,” said city council member Michelle Wu at a Wednesday hearing, CNET reports.

Facial recognition technology has fallen under heavy criticism, with numerous research reports finding the technology does relatively poorly at recognizing people who aren’t white men. IBM recently announced it would stop offering “general purpose” facial recognition software, and Microsoft and Amazon both announced moratoriums on offering such technology to police.

Boston joins neighboring municipalities Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline in barring local agencies from using the technology. Other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco in California, already ban the technology as well.

The new ordinance drew praise from civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which in a tweet called attention to Robert Williams, a Black man living in Michigan who was arrested after being falsely matched by such software to someone captured in surveillance footage.

City officials are still allowed to use facial recognition to unlock their own devices, and they can still use the technology to automatically spot faces to redact from photos, CNET reports.

Why it’s hot:

1. We’ve talked about inherent bias in AI before, but whether or not to use it has largely been left up to tech companies and the market. Major municipalities have been reluctant to outright ban the use of facial recognition algorithms in surveillance and policing until recently (maybe because mass surveillance is super appealing to governments looking for a cheap way to police the population). Current events could be turning the tide toward a more just and less dystopian future…but maybe this is just a bump in the road for facial recognition.

2. It’s telling that the current complaints lobbed at facial recognition technology focus on its problems with bias, but focus less on its fundamental problems concerning civil liberties and privacy. Maybe because it’s hard to notice until it affects us. Also maybe because those apps using it are just too much fun.

Source: Fast Company

How does Zoom make money?

Have you wondered what Zoom’s revenue model and pricing structure is like?

Infographic: Zoom's Revenue Skyrockets On Pandemic Boost | Statista

“As the chart shows, Zoom saw its revenue skyrocket in the past three months, accelerating an already impressive upward trend. In the quarter ended April 30, total revenue for the video conferencing company amounted to $328 million, up 169 percent from the same period of last year. For the ongoing quarter, Zoom expects another jump in revenue to $495 to $500 million as working from home will remain highly prevalent as long as the pandemic hasn’t run its course.”

 

The free version limits usage time to 40 minutes while limiting user count to 100 attendees. To lift these restrictions, customers will have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Businesses or individuals have to pay $14.99 when billed monthly or $12.49/month for annual billing.

Zoom Rooms

Zoom Rooms are conference rooms systems that allow organizations to run video meetings. Customers can utilize their existing hardware providers such as Polycom and Cisco or purchase from Zoom-certified hardware providers.

The company’s Professional Services unit then ensures that the installation of conference rooms runs as smoothly as possible.

Customers are charged a monthly subscription fee, which comes in at $49 a month per installed conference room (or $41.58 per month when billed annually).

Furthermore, Zoom partners up with manufacturers like DTEN or Aver to provide their customers with the necessary hardware tools.

Zoom Video Webinars 

Zoom Video Webinars is a web conferencing service that allows users to broadcast a Zoom meeting to up to 10,000 view-only attendees. Webinars start at a capacity of 100 participants and scale up to 10,000 participants, depending on the license bought.

Webinar pricing starts at $14.99 per month and user (when billed monthly). On top of that, a webinar license must be purchased. The price depends on the number of attendees hosted. 

 

Why it’s hot: Certain companies and sectors have benefited from the Covid-19 pandemic and video communications technologies like Zoom have been one of the biggest beneficiaries.

Sources: One, Two

The Great Privacy Revolt

DuckDuckGo is an Internet privacy company that “empowers users to seamlessly take control of their personal information online, without any tradeoffs.”

Over the years, DuckDuckGo has offered millions of people a private alternative to Google. And it seems as if consumers are using it. The site is currently averaging more than 50 million search queries per day, which was far beyond what I thought it’d be.

As companies large and small, not to mention government agencies, are hacked, consumers of all ages are becoming increasingly aware that their growing dependence on technology has come at the expense of their privacy. It’s estimated Google trackers lurk behind 76% of web pages and Facebook’s on 24%.

In the past, consumers almost haphazardly shared data without thinking twice but it seems that’s changing and forcing marketers to rethink the experience.

Why it’s hot:
Consumers are turning to more technologies that safeguard their privacy. The DOJ is probing Google’s search engine dominance. Germanys highest court ordered Facebook to stop harvesting user data. All of these happens are contributing to a larger privacy revolt, especially with younger generations.

According to a recent GenTech study only 29% of 19- to 24-year-olds view technologies such as AI and machine learning algorithms as positive interventions. Instead, most wish to maintain a sense of autonomy in their decision making and have the opportunity to freely explore new products, services, and experiences. It’ll be interesting to see how marketers adapt to create experiences for consumers in the future.

Lush makes 30-second soap

The soap and cosmetics retailer Lush has developed a soap that dissolves after 30 seconds of use to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It has partnered with Deliveroo, one of the largest food delivery companies in the UAE, to distribute the soap to customers with all of its meal orders.

The company developed the soap to encourage hand-washing based on the World Health Organization’s guidelines for stopping the spread of Covid-19, giving both a practical solution and a demonstration of how long 30 seconds of hand-washing actually lasts.

The brand promoted the soap through its social channels and an online video, and customers can request the soap to be sent directly to them via the microsite 30secondsoap.com. Lush is also including the soap in the delivery of all orders made on its website.

16,000 soaps had been distributed by 12 June, with 27,000 requests submitted through the website from people around the world. The company is now working on a second batch for distribution in the UAE and looking to expand the initiative further across the region into Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudia Arabia.

Why it’s Hot:
This product release is smart for several distinct reasons:
  1. It’s a product innovation that comes directly out of a current need, making Lush feel relevant and in touch with today’s consumers.
  2. It educates people on the amount of time they need to wash their hands, positioning Lush as an expert in personal care.
  3. It allows for at-home sampling of Lush products, something that isn’t currently possible due to COVID-19.

Prescription Game

Designed to help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), EndeavorRx is the first game that’s allowed to be prescribed by doctors as medical treatment.

The game should not be considered an alternative to medication, but is officially approved by the US FDA. The game, aimed at patients age 8-12, can be plaid on an iPad or iPhone and has been found (after clinical trials for 7 years) to reduce attention-deficit for 1/3 of participants.

Introducing Akili

Akili, the creator of the game aims to reimagine what medicine can be. They are pairing neuroscience with the latest technology and video game entertainment in the hopes of challenging the status quo of medicine.

Why it’s hot: Gaming addiction was declared a legitimate disorder by the WHO last year and has taken flak in regards to violence. But, with Covid lockdowns and their ensuing madness, more and more people of all ages are realizing the benefits of gaming.

Sources:

CNBC – See the first-ever game approved by the FDA as a mental health treatment
Distractify – How the EndeavorRX game works
Forbes  – Games are great for your mental health study finds

Alexa sends Spotify listeners Nars samples

Spotify teamed up with cosmetics brand Nars and Dentsu Aegis Network agencies The Story Lab and Vizeum on a voice-activated ad campaign.

The test is a response to the changes in how people shopped for beauty products during the coronavirus pandemic, and it enables shoppers in the U.K. to get blush, lipstick or mascara samples delivered straight to their doors by interacting with a smart speaker.

Nars enlisted the help of voice-activated sampling company Send Me a Sample to enable Spotify listeners to request samples via Alexa or Google Assistant, while The Story Lab and Nars worked with Spotify to deliver ads specifically via smart speakers, encouraging listeners to say, “Ask Send Me a Sample for Nars.”

The campaign started this week and will run for eight weeks.

Spotify/Nars

Spotify U.K. head of sales Rakesh Patel said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Nars and The Story Lab to deliver this innovative voice-activated ad campaign. At Spotify, we know there is huge potential within audio for advertisers, and it’s fantastic that Nars is utilizing the Spotify platform in a new way to get its products into the hands of our shared audiences. We see voice as a huge growth area within the industry, and we’re excited to be able to deliver screen-less advertising solutions for brands.”

The Story Labs senior partnership manager Hannah Scott added, “During the current climate, we have had to adapt our way of engaging with our audience. Delivering samples directly to consumers’ doors is a great workaround and something we hope can add a bit of delight during these times, as the user has a blush, lipstick or mascara sample to choose from. Given that people in lockdown are tuning into their smart speakers more than ever, collaborating with Spotify was the perfect fit.”

Why it’s hot: As smart-speaker usage increases and advertisers continue to pivot to direct-response options during the pandemic, the benefit in interactive audio ads is worth exploring. With most users spending more time than ever at home, smart speakers have seen increased usage. While voice-activated campaigns are not new, the success of this and others like it could give advertisers another performance-driven ad option.
This partnership highlights one important difference between advertising on smart speakers versus advertising on other digital audio platforms — the opportunity to interact with an ad. Opportunities for measurable engagement with interactive audio ads like this may help Spotify and other music streaming companies capitalize on the trend of marketers shifting spend to more performance-driven formats as a result of the broader economic downturn.

Sources: Adweek, eMarketer email briefing

Pandora and the Democratization of Data Analytics

Pandora announced that it will release its new Podcast Analytics feature today, providing podcast hosts with audience information including: where they live, how long they listen, and how they engage with content.

In doing so Pandora is joining competitors Apple and Spotify in providing analytics dashboards to its content producers in a bid to keep them using the platform and help keep listeners engaged.

Why it’s hot: 

Until recently only professional content producers had data into how their content was being purchased, used, and by who–e.g they needed a marketing team to do research. This could impact creative decisions as they chased trends and customers. Now, customer data can continually impact the creative process for non-professional creators. By providing clear KPIs, these tools could shift the type of content that is made.

Twitter gets into the voice game

Select Twitter users on iOS will now be able to upload voice files in addition to traditional text, image and video files. This gives users more options to interact while getting into the voice space.

Interestingly, this could make it harder to moderate content, but I’m sure AI will fix all of that.

Why It’s Hot
It’s hot if the feature is based on user needs and it will be interesting to see how Twitter power users integrate voice in their tweets. But I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t catch fire.

Titk-Tok to expand into live-streaming and educational content

TikTok is looking to expand into more live broadcasts and educational content as the social video app diversifies away from the dance and music videos that have fueled its rapid growth in the past two years.

According to Tiki’s Tok, people are spending more time watching videos on the app during the pandemic, while creators are broadening the range of content they share to include sports, gaming, cooking, fashion and beauty videos.

Diversifying its content slate could help TikTok extend its audience beyond the 16-to-24 demographic that makes up 43% of its user base and appeal to brands that want to reach consumers with greater spending power. Live video has certain advantages in creating a sense of immediacy among viewers, while educational content can help to cultivate the types of enthusiasts that are important for niche marketing. Both are areas that have experienced a sharp uptick in interest due to the coronavirus pandemic, as people spend more time on social media to stay entertained and informed while outdoor activities are restricted.

While TikTok could be gunning for more older users over the long term, its predominantly young core users are a large draw for advertisers that struggle to reach those groups elsewhere. TikTok’s expanded range of programming may become a bigger threat to rivals like YouTube and Instagram that also are dominant among younger audiences. U.S. children ages 4 to 15 spend an average of 82 minutes a day on TikTok — twice as much as last year — compared with 86 minutes for YouTube and 50 minutes for Instagram, per a recent study by digital safety app maker Qustodio.

Why it’s hot: It’ll be interesting to see if Tik-Tok can expand to attract older audiences while keeping its cool factor.

KPop Stans Use Their Online Powers to Support BLM

Kpop stans are using their vast powers for good. Kpop fans (known on the internet as “stans”) are known for some typically bothersome behavior. Adding “fancast” videos to already trending threads (videos that focus on a favorite band member even in group numbers). These videos seem out of context on threads and are put in to jack up the view counts on the videos and introduce the star to new audiences.

Now, they’re flooding the feeds of white supremacists with videos of Kpop stars.

They’re also matching donations of their favorite bands BTS!

Why its hot?

Kpop fans KNOW the internet, they know how to manipulate algorithms. They’re being “summoned” for good. Who else might use these tactics as time goes on?

 

 

Content Genius – Dave Portnoy / Barstool Sports

Dave Portnoy is the founder and CEO of Barstool Sports, it’s a sports bro website that has podcasts and t-shirts and events (high-level)

Its been around for a while, about 15+ years, but have been expanding more and more with podcasts and merchandise. They recently sold a big chunk of their business to Penn National Gaming to open up sportsbooks under the Barstool brand in their casinos as sports gambling becomes legalized at the state level. They have a pretty vast audience that will be valuable to acquire.

Ok, here’s COVID, there are no sports, everything is canceled. What does Barstool do?

Dave Portnoy is now worth like $100M and takes $3M and starts day trading with it. He live streams it, his content production machine produces memes and short videos, that are so meathead and ridiculous they are hilarious.

He talks trash about other people, Warren Buffet, does frozen pizza reviews, just a great self-promoter.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/warren-buffett-is-an-idiot-says-investor-who-claims-daytrading-is-the-easiest-game-ive-ever-played-2020-06-09

Meanwhile, without sports there seems to be a spike in retail day traders that are buying the airlines, cruise ships, bankrupt companies like Hertz and people are wondering if its because of Dave Portnoy, People are bored at home, Zero commision trading.

So, going from no sports, shelter in place, a merger with a casino company that tanked 75% during March/April to Day Trading, live streaming it, and having Forbes, CNBC, Bloomberg, Viral Videos, all talking about him.

And oh yeah, one of the podcasts Barstool owns had some drama over the hosts trying to leave to get a better deal, was opening played out over social media and mocked one of the hosts boyfriends that was in their ear to get out of the barstool deal.

CONTENT GENIUS!!

Twitter wants to make sure you did your homework

From The Guardian: Test to promote informed discussion will ask users if they want to retweet unread links

Twitter is trying to stop people from sharing articles they have not read, in an experiment the company hopes will “promote informed discussion” on social media.

In the test, pushed to some users on Android devices, the company is introducing a prompt asking people if they really want to retweet a link that they have not tapped on.

“Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you tweet it,” Twitter said in a statement. “To help promote informed discussion, we’re testing a new prompt on Android – when you retweet an article that you haven’t opened on Twitter, we may ask if you’d like to open it first.”

The problem of users sharing links without reading them is not new. A 2016 study from computer scientists at Columbia University and Microsoft found that 59% of links posted on Twitter are never clicked.

Less academically sound, but more telling, was another article posted that same year with the headline “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting” – the fake news website the Science Post has racked up a healthy 127,000 shares for the article which is almost entirely lorem ipsum filler text.

Twitter’s solution is not to ban such retweets, but to inject “friction” into the process, in order to try to nudge some users into rethinking their actions on the social network. It is an approach the company has been taking more frequently recently, in an attempt to improve “platform health” without facing accusations of censorship.

In May, the company began experimenting with asking users to “revise” their replies if they were about to send tweets with “harmful language” to other people. “When things get heated, you may say things you don’t mean,” the company explained. “To let you rethink a reply, we’re running a limited experiment on iOS with a prompt that gives you the option to revise your reply before it’s published if it uses language that could be harmful.”

That move has proved less effective, with the company’s filter picking up as much harmless – if foul-mouthed – conversation between friends as it does genuinely hateful speech targeting others.

“We’re trying to encourage people to rethink their behaviour and rethink their language before posting because they often are in the heat of the moment and they might say something they regret,” Twitter’s global head of site policy for trust and safety said at the time.

Why it’s hot

Social media continues to grapple with the pandora’s box its technology has released, rightly criticized for fanning the flames of our worst instincts and becoming inadvertent accomplices in the proliferation of hate speech, real fake news, and conspiracy theories.

Though it may be the bare minimum, it’s interesting to see them employing psychology to try to curb the spread of misinformation. A simple pause can go a long way.

Source: The Guardian

Hanifa puts on a virtual 3D fashion show

Anifa Mvuemba, founder of DTC fashion label Hanifa, was looking forward to holding her first runway show at New York Fashion Week this year. But when the coronavirus torpedoed those plans, she came up with a new way to unveil her latest designs to the world.

In May, she held a virtual fashion show, streamed over Instagram Live, in which each garment appeared in 3D against a black backdrop, as if worn by invisible models strutting across a catwalk, the garment hugging every curve. Tens of thousands of Hanifa’s quarter of a million followers tuned in.

The Instagram show was striking and also slightly eerie, since the garments looked like they were being worn by a parade of ghosts. But without the distraction of a backdrop or of live humans wearing the outfits, it was easier to take in every detail of the clothing. And at a time when social distancing has made the traditional fashion show impossible, Mvuemba’s high-tech approach allowed her to create buzz around her new collection and gather preorders. Thanks to the show, she says she’s likely to grow her business this year despite the recession.

Mvuemba had been tinkering with the idea for a 3D fashion show months before the pandemic arrived. She was intrigued by the realistic 3D animation that began appearing in movies and was curious about how she could apply this to fashion. Three years ago, she hired a developer who works with CAD and animation software to help her with her design work. During the pandemic, she found she had more time to play with the technology herself, especially since she had to do photoshoots remotely. This gave her the idea of creating an entire 3D fashion show.

Over the last eight years, Mvuemba has grown her direct-to-consumer brand entirely through social media and without a brick-and-mortar presence. (She was about to open her first-ever store in Baltimore this year, but those plans have been put on hold due to the pandemic.) And she’s never had a real runway show. “I think it’s hard for many black designers to make it in the system,” she says. “To make it, you have to know the right people and be in the right places. I decided to just do things my own way.”

When it came to her fans, many thought the show was groundbreaking and thrilling to watch, but some had hesitations. Some pointed out that Mvuemba is among a small group of designers that almost exclusively use black models. Transitioning to 3D shows might make her less inclined to tap these models in the future. While she notes it’s a “valid concern,” she says she’ll never “exclusively use technology to replace people. I like working with real models too much.”

Why it’s Hot:

This is such a perfect example of necessity breeding innovation. We’re increasingly seeing that businesses who are able to find innovative solutions to their challenges during COVID are uniquely positioned to succeed both now and in the future.

Source

The Internet of Taste

Taste works like a piece of music, with just 7 notes, you can make endless unique combinations. With taste, it’s about the five basic tastes: sweet, salty, acidic, sour, and umami. Every dish contains a combination of these with the intensity varying depending on the dish. So a pecan pie and a hamburger both contain all five tastes, but in varying amounts.

What does this have to do with the Internet? 

Enter the Norimaki Synthesizer. Developed by a researcher at Meiji University in Japan, has created a “taste display” that can artificially simulate any flavor. A taste machine!

As such, the Norimaki Synthesizer has five gels (one for each taste) that are arranged by an electric current. Through a process called electrophoresis that I cannot possibly explain, the electric current sorts the gels so that a desired amount of each is drawn towards the user’s tongue while the rest of the gel retreats away from the device’s opening.
Source: Inside Hook

Tests have indicated he machine is effective, fooling users to think they’ve tasted sushi, or a piece of gum.

Why It’s Hot: Nowhere near being mainstream, the taste tester could have a myriad applications. It won’t be a substitute for the real thing, but it could open a new way for consumers to “try” products remotely or it could be paired with environmental food initiatives to try to substitute environmentally unfriendly practices without losing taste.

Additional Source: gizmodo

New developments in the digital divide

From The Verge:

When David Velasquez went home to California for a week in April, he found out that his parents didn’t have internet access anymore. Velasquez, a medical student at Harvard, needs Wi-Fi for work. However, his parents don’t own a computer. “They don’t shop online, they don’t watch Netflix,” he says. So when the connection got too expensive, they stopped paying for it.

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country, that decision worried Velasquez. His parents also speak very little English, and doctors and clinics in the US were canceling in-person appointments and asking patients to schedule virtual visits for any health problems instead.

Without internet access and with limited English, Velasquez’s parents wouldn’t be able to make that switch. “I knew that as our healthcare system started transitioning over to telehealth as opposed to in-person, in-clinic care, their access to health care — and other individuals like them — would be disrupted,” he told The Verge.

Telehealth is convenient for some people: it cuts out the drive to an office and the time in a waiting room, trimming an hours-long event down to minutes. But it isn’t easily accessible to the 25 million people in the United States who speak little English, who are more likely to live in poverty, often work service or construction jobs, and may be more at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Even if they are able to get online, most of the systems that support telehealth — like hospital portals and video visit platforms — are hard to access for people who primarily speak other languages.

Why it’s hot

The dream of a techno-utopia often forgets that human biases and systemic problems left unaddressed become embedded in new technology and can exacerbate inequality. So, until we solve those issues, they will be perpetuated.

Source: The Verge

What to do when you can’t protest.

As many join the front lines in protest, ongoing conversations on inequalities are also being thrust into the forefront of our minds. With many looking for ways to support when they cannot protest this is a perfect combination to #BuyBlack.

Data journalist, writer, producer, and entrepreneur @MonaChalabi created this infographic to highlight the disparity among African American, Latino and Caucasian business owners.

Chalabi says in her post, “BUY BLACK. Your protests and donations are crucial right now but so is long-term economic change…” and cites that 21% of black owned business don’t feel they will survive the pandemic while only 5% of white owned businesses feel the same.

With a disparity this high, it’s hard not to notice. Petitions like the 15% Pledge attempt to get the notice of larger retailers and give 15% of their shelf space to those businesses.

Socials are filled with requests to list your favorite black owned brands as they seem to be harder to find.

Why it’s Hot:

Meaningful purchases attached to a broader social conversation. In a time where consumers have a longer time in contemplation stage of purchasing with the pandemic, and weighing of options maybe doing more extensive research into products and companies that they align with before they make a purchase. This is another segment that will continuously grow as society relates to these beliefs even further, bigger brands will need to compete with the authenticity and connection that is created with consumers and those companies.

Source: Fast Company

Some Places to Buy Black:

https://twitter.com/symphonicxale/status/1267870461909544965

https://www.instagram.com/expeditionsubsahara/?utm_source=ig_embed

https://www.instagram.com/hadiyawilliams/?utm_source=ig_embed

https://www.instagram.com/notworkrelated_/?utm_source=ig_embed

Insensitive pro sports teams play “woke”

On Tuesday June 2nd, 2020, brands and organizations of all types blacked out their social media pages and some used hashtags such as #BlackOutTuesday, #BlackLivesMatter and #TheShowMustBePaused. Some criticized the effort because it made it was clogging up channels that protesters rely on to spread information.

Nevertheless, brands spoke up to show the public which side they’re on. Admirable, unless you happen to be a brand that has been accused for decades of racial insensitivity. Those tweets just came off as sounding hypocritical and tone-deaf.

Many pro sports teams have refused to change their names and mascots and even chants that mock or dehumanize native Americans. That’s their choice, but pairing that with a tweet meant to convey empathy for black, brown and native American populations just adds gasoline to the fire. Here’s a sample:

Why it’s Hot
For some brands, expressing solidarity with a repressed segment of America feels natural and progressive. For others, it’s a trap (of their own making).

Theme Parks and Zoos Social Distance Hilarously

Some states are reopening, which poses a problem for businesses that have a big in person element. It’s hard to be confrontational, to ask people to stay apart. But some businesses are looking for ways to make something that might seem tactless, become hilarious.

Enter Gatorland’s “Skunk Ape”:

“People love Skunk Ape!” said Gatorland’s CEO. “People were doing selfies. From a safe distance, of course. He wouldn’t touch anyone.”

“A less crowded park might mean shorter lines for rides, especially if parks move toward “virtual queueing,” where visitors check in at a ride and receive a time to return later in the day. (Disney superfans noticed when the Disneyland app added a virtual queueing tab earlier this month.) But if your favorite park doesn’t employ this technology, your wait might be long—and very different. Queue areas will incorporate 6-foot social distancing through decals and signs applied directly to the pavement. The traditional “snake” line, weaving back and forth to pack a lot of people into a little space, will be replaced by longer straight lines stretching far from the ride.”

A roller coaster with only a few people on it with an arrow indicating the distance between the people.

In Japan, one Zoo is putting stuffed capybaras at seats to break up crowds

Why it’s hot?

This is a way to keep branding alive while still enforcing new social boundaries. There are new ways to enforce that are both digital and social/funny.  A combination will be needed to keep COVID spread down.