Hollywood will never be the same

Amidst theater closings and lockdowns, Universal Pictures released Trolls World Tour via video-on-demand a few weeks back. Well, AMC Theaters, which likely would’ve offered the movie if they’d been allowed to open, wasn’t too happy with that. As a result of the incident, and Universal’s CEO floating the idea of more VOD releases AMC has decided to no longer show any Universal films.

The film was released via iTunes and Amazon Prime Video and viewers were charged $20 to watch the film during a 48-hour rental window.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, spoke in a Wall Street Journal piece on Tuesday, and mentioned the movie made some $100 million in premium VOD rentals in its first three weeks. Theaters typically take about 50% of box office sales, depending on the deal, while in this case Universal retained about 80%.

Does this signal the end of theaters altogether? Most likely not. But wait. Plot twist. On May 4, 1948, the Supreme Court made a game-changing decision that one company could not own both a film studio and theater chain. Basically, back then major studios controlled nearly everything about moviemaking. Today, that decision is being reviewed and could potentially be reversed or amended, which means big changes for an industry that already has a lot up in the air.

Why it’s hot:

While there is value in the theatre experience, it’s easy to see why a studio, especially someone like Sony, would love going vertical. Think about all the at home theatre equipment you could cross promote to enhance DTC viewing. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

 

Spotify’s Wellness Routine

Spotify’s latest addition to curated personalized playlists is meant to aid people who are utilizing the platform for self-care as part of their new routines. Daily Wellness is a combination of songs and short-form podcast episodes that are refreshed twice a day — to ease you into the morning and wind-down at the end of the night.

Spotify

As with their other “Made For You” playlists, the selection each user sees is based on their listening activity. Spotify also added tracks in between that explain what you’re about to hear, for example, “up next, a few songs for you,” and “now let’s take a break to hear some talk.” This way, the playlist truly feels like an interconnected experience meant to be listened to in order from start to finish to help you cultivate a new routine.

Aside from the rising need for wellness practices, Spotify may have been responding to how users are using the platform differently at this time. They noticed a change in people’s listening habits now that there is no commuting to and from work, noting that looking at the data, “every day looks like the weekend.” There was a decline in listening to longform podcasts in the mornings. They are seeing an uptick in streaming from TVs and game consoles and less from cars and wearables.

Why It’s Hot

For listeners, Daily Wellness is a smart use of personalized content to provide value in an organic way. For Spotify, it’s a good way to become part of their users’ new work from home routines.

Source

Coors’ offer to buy us a 6-pack is just what America needs right now

Apologies to the teetotalers among us.

This Coors ad from DDB Chicago hits all the right notes for an audience that needs a little encouragement and camaraderie right now … in these “unprecedented times.”

Humorous call-backs to examples of our national fortitude in tough times lends a sense of belonging in the face of struggle.

And what was the thread throughout our historical challenges? Beer.

And who knows better than anyone that sometimes, you just want to crack open a cold one and forget your problems, if just for a few hours? Coors.

We’re looking for escapism and Coors is here for us. Is it healthy? Probably not. Is it America? Absolutely.

Coors seems to know its place in the current crisis: They won’t fix the problem; they don’t claim to be saving anyone; they aren’t pandering to our sense of guilt by calling their workers “heroes”, but they can help mollify our anxiety (take the edge off) with a 6-pack of silver bullet.

Why it’s hot

1. Offering to buy a 6-pack for those who need it most, based on stories people tell on Twitter is a surefire way to get strong social engagement and brand affinity.

2. Humor done well is a salve on our collective psychological wounds, and positions Coors as our friend who totally gets what we’re going through.

Source: The Stable

Self care as a video game

What if there were something that could help snap you out of your rut, be it a temporary funk or actual, clinical depression? And what if this something were designed to make doing good things for yourself as addictive as a video game? That’s the premise of The Guardians: Unite the Realms, a new app developed by the Affective Computing group at MIT Media Lab.

Out now for iOS and Android, it’s a free game, modeled after character collection games like Pokémon and Skylanders (though without any fighting). Instead of urging you to spend money on microtransactions as most of these games do, The Guardians urges you to spend effort on yourself. If you want to progress in the game, you have to invest in your own well-being.

The data shows that people who are depressed don’t want to use self-improvement apps (only about 3% will complete a regimen in these apps). At the same time, people with severe depression still play games as much as people who aren’t experiencing depression, making gaming a promising avenue for introducing mental health interventions.

Over years of both formal study and informal play-testing in the lab, lead platforms engineer at the Affective Computing group and game director for the Guardians Project Craig Ferguson morphed the app into what it is today – a fantasy land filled with magical animals that attempt to take their world back from an evil villain. Last September, he got tired of the research and started thinking about releasing something—even something still unproven—to help people battling depression. Then with COVID-19 trapping so many of us at home, he made the choice to publicize what was done.

That release, while a fraction of what the game will be in the future, he says, can still take months to complete, and it’s presented with as much glitzy animation and character design as you’d find in any high-end mobile app.

When you load the game, a big button glows and bounces in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, reading “new adventure available.” This is essentially a good-for-you button, because each adventure is focused around the phenomenon of “behavioral activation.” Behavioral activation is a proven therapy that can be used casually or clinically for depression. It gets people to partake in positive experiences rather than spending time doing the things that reinforce their own damaging behaviors. And there are dozens of options to choose from.

Some suggested adventures are practical, such as knocking things off your to-do list that might otherwise cause anxiety: Manage finances. Vacuum. Do Laundry. Others help you grow: Watch an online class. Write a poem. Read a classic. And others help you stay active: Spend time in nature. Learn a new dance. Or, my personal favorite, Jazzercise for 20 minutes. You are also completely free to make up your own adventure, and repeat it whenever you’d like.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much content promoting self care and wellness during shelter-in-place, wellness can begin to feel like a chore. This is especially true for people who struggle with depression, where even small tasks can feel unmanageable. This app helps to make those small tasks fun and purposeful (albeit in an imaginary game). With a mental health crisis looming on top of our current physical health crisis, it’s interesting to see an app that tackles this very serious situation in a seemingly light-hearted way.

Source

Trendspotting: Making “Live Events” Work In the Pandemic (part 2)

Last week I posted about how live shows were moving online but what about typically “live” in person events that become fully digitized. Tonight the world gets excited for Travis Scott’s fortnight concert.

This viral tweet last week had the internet in a tizzy.

And tonight is the night:

https://twitter.com/FortniteGame/status/1253398297047425025

But he’s not the first to try it. DJ, Marshmello gives us a taste of what fortnight concerts will look like.

The ways that artists are going to be manipulating technologies to fit their needs is fascinating. Young people’s digital behavior is changing. Tik Tok is more viral than ever. Houseparty is taking off. Animal Crossing is making the world super conscious about radishes….

https://twitter.com/directedbyrian/status/1253365992849276934

(this one was just fun)

Why It’s Hot?

This is a great opportunity for MRM to help our clients navigate the brave new digital world. It’s really exciting and positive and allows us new ways to interact and share with each other. The pandemic has sped up the way that humans (so nimble!) make their social lives work and shift use cases of different tech to keep their connections alive.

 

How does America Respond

IT’S TIME TO BUILD

This is a provocative blog post by Marc Andressen, who’s a prominent venture capitalist, and was a founder of Netscape.

The blog post states and/or challenges why America is not building things and why cities like Singapore and Dubai are the modern marvels and not LA, Austin, or Seattle.

This crisis has woke up our country and our citizens, that we can’t get tests or swabs or ventilators; the richest super power in the world?

And part of that is because we haven’t been building things here and maybe its time. From new airports, hyperloops, supersonic aircraft, drone delivery, etc. maybe its time to build those things.

WHY ITS HOT:

It is part of a dialogue we will have to have coming out of this.

How much of our pharmaceutical industry should be outside or border? Yeah its cheaper, but does it put us all at risk to be dependent on China or other unstable sources?

There’s also a term called NIMBY, not in my background, that some may have heard of. In the bay area and other cities, theres a lack of housing and many times developers are blocked from building because it will block a view or devalue existing real estate.

The blog post is trying to challenge the path forward and to create a conversation around it.

Worth a read, check it out.

In the stay-at-home world, digital services and media have been growing

With Americans spending so much time at home and in quarantine, they’re using more digital services and media, but consuming it in different ways.

Why it’s hot: Even though digital services are seeing strong growth at the moment, it isn’t necessarily translating to higher revenue for all of these companies because for those that rely on advertising, many have seen their ad revenue fall as various brands cut marketing spend.

Source: The New York Times

Reservation for…. grocery shopping?

Body image for Open Aisles

OpenTable, a popular restaurant reservation platform, has expanded its service to let users reserve timeslots for shopping at participating grocery and retail stores in the US.

This tool was developed to support consumers during the coronavirus outbreak. While restaurants have been shut down to avoid spreading the illness, people face overcrowded supermarkets where maintaining social distancing measures is a challenge.

Through this new feature, grocery stores and supermarkets can limit the number of people who enter at a time while reducing crowds and waiting times for shoppers. Party sizes and reservation slots will vary depending on the retailer.

Leveraging the same mechanism as restaurant booking, it works in two ways:

1. Reserved shopping times: Just like reserving a table at a restaurant, you can reserve a time to enter a store.

2. Online waitlists: If you haven’t pre-reserved, instead of standing in a physical line to get into a store, simply enter a code on your phone to join an online waitlist. Then wait for the notification in a car or down the street away from any crowds.

This feature launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles on 31 March 2020, and is currently rolling out across the US. People can check their city through the groceries page in the OpenTable app or website.

Uber Launches Two New Delivery Services to “Move More of What Matters”

Uber announced two new services that will help people navigate two of the top challenges they are currently facing: getting the essentials they need for themselves, and sharing essentials with friends and family. With far fewer people relying on Uber to take them from place to place, Uber has rapidly pivoted into the transportation of goods.

The first service, Uber Direct, is an expansion of Uber Eats’ core functionality to grocery and convenience stores. They’ve launched with different partners in different cities, including Cabinet delivering OTC medicine in NYC and Greencross delivering pet supplies in Australia.

Uber Connect, on the other hand, will pick up items from one person and deliver them to another. Their example use cases include sending a care package, a board game, or toilet paper to a loved one, but there are countless ways this service can be used to stay connected from a distance.

Why It’s Hot

Getting key supplies to family members in need within the same-day without having to take public transportation or even leave your house is extremely beneficial at this time. But the convenience factor of sending items through an Uber driver may also lead to fun ways to send surprise gifts, exchange books, or trade supplies with friends and family in a way that makes social distancing a bit easier.

Source

Background Critics

As keyword searches for “[insert communication platform name] + background” increase, cities and brands are responding quickly to help people keep the privacy of their homes to themselves.

But with more than 80K followers and growing, Room rater is looking to change the background game by offering unsolicited criticism and advice. And it’s working! Although it started as a side hustle, the site is just the right amount of levity the internet needs, it’s started to have an effect. It’s popularity was viral and celebrities, journalists and reporters are disputing their scores and even going so far as to pledge to reorganize to secure a 10.

The man in the account’s Twitter header, biologist William Haseltine, was Taylor’s original 10/10, the ideal (it still is his favorite room, though there have been many 10s since). The objects in Haseltine’s room—a statue of Buddha, a rocket against a bookshelf—looked to Taylor like a wonderful place to quarantine. Then he noticed Elise Jordan, MSNBC and NBC News political analyst and, full disclosure, the wife of Vanity Fair digital director Mike Hogan, flat against some wallpaper. He has nothing against her, he said, but the discrepancy encouraged them to start the account. “All I can say is Architectural Digest had no problem with the wallpaper,” Jordan said. (And in a later TV spot, she added five points to her room score with a bookshelf in the background, a real coup).

 

Why it’s hot:  As one of our only visual references, backgrounds are everything right now – from celebrities being criticized for complaining from their castles in the sky to regular folks fighting home shame – the pressure is on to hit the right tone. Whatever the right balance is, it’s ok to keep it light.

Source: Vanity Fair

 

How can brands help people celebrate missed milestones?

The longer this public health crisis lasts, the more we grieve. We’re grieving for the fact the world won’t be the same anymore, we’re grieving for a lack of safety and connection but, on a personal level, we’re grieving for all the personal milestones we’re having to cancel and/or postpone. How many graduations, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even funerals, are passing by without being properly acknowledged/celebrated?

As a way to provide some cheer and support during these time, as well as some good will with new clients, some brands and celebrities are trying to offer ways to help them celebrate these milestones.

Anheiser-Busch’s Natural Light is throwing a virtual graduation ceremony on their Facebook page in May, hosted by Marc Cuban. John Krasinsky hosted a virtual senior prom last week with some very famous guests like Billie Eilish.

Why it’s hot: As more personal milestones get canceled and pass by without closure and proper celebrations and ‘temporary behaviors’ like virtual celebrations become the new normal, there’s opportunity for brands to create a more personal connection with their audience and provide some much needed cheer and hope in difficult times.

And in times when people are adjusting their spend and reconsidering purchases, providing a meaningful experience for consumers in a difficult time can help build goodwill with their audience in the future. And it’s also a unique way to respond to this crisis given every other brand seems to be responding the exact same way.

 

 

 

COVID Production Problems Drag Deepfakes into Ads

An Allstate ad that aired with “The Last Dance”, a documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, featured a 90s-era clip of SportsCenter newscaster Kenny Mayne making startlingly accurate predictions about our current world.

Though it looks real, the ad is doctored. Old footage was combined with the mouth and voice of the current Kenny Mayne to create a realistic portrayal.

While this is not the first time the ad industry has used deepfake technology to create ads, this may be part of a larger trend as advertisers explore ways to create content as they face limited production possibilities during the COVID-19 lock-down, the New York Times reports.

A young Kenny Mayne, left, merged with an older Kenny Mayne, right, in a recent State Farm commercial.

https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1251556094960234496?s=20

Why it’s hot: 

Like many COVID trends, deepfake ads may outlast the pandemic if they prove successful because they can be produced quickly and inexpensively.

COVID creates the perfect opportunity for cereal company Magic Spoon

When it comes to shopping in a pandemic, it turns out people crave two things: comfort and convenience. It’s why, a year after launching its direct-to-consumer, guilt-free “kids” cereal for grown-ups, Magic Spoon’s business is booming.

“We’ve seen a meaningful uptick in demand from new customers just discovering us or finally giving us a try,” says cofounder Gabi Lewis. “It’s also existing customers, who maybe ate a bowl in the morning before work but now that they’re at home, are eating another bowl in the afternoon for a snack, so consumption has gone up.”

Last April, Lewis and his cofounder Greg Sewitz first launched Magic Spoon to tap into millennials’ nostalgia for the kiddie cereals of their youth while staying true to their commitment to eat healthy as adults. They took flavors that mimicked such classics as Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes—and delivered it in a high-protein, low-carb, and no-sugar cereal. Combined with a packaging and product design that was highly Instagrammable, Magic Spoon’s popularity took off immediately, and it hasn’t slowed down.

In terms of the cereal market overall, he thinks Magic Spoon isn’t taking market share away from traditional cereal, but rather adding to it by bringing new customers back to the category. “Many of our customers weren’t eating cereal before we came along,” he says. “Maybe they did years ago, then stopped and instead started eating Greek yogurt or smoothies or oatmeal, or any number of healthy breakfast alternatives. So I think a lot of our growth has come from other categories, bringing them back to cereal, and I think it’s helping to build the cereal category as a whole.”

Just as many of us have become more accustomed to videoconferencing than we ever imagined, Lewis sees a similar shift in consumer behavior around buying groceries online. “Obviously there’s been this uptick because of people stuck at home and stocking up, and we’re under no illusion of that lasting forever,” he says. “But there are people buying food online right now who just didn’t before all this. I don’t think all that is just going to go away, and a good portion of those people will continue to do it once this is all over.”

Why it’s Hot:

As people seek alternatives to grocery store visits and grocery delivery becomes increasingly scarce, DTC food brands are well positioned for the current pandemic (especially food brands that bring people a sense of comfort and nostalgia). DTC brands have already become more popular in the past few years – it will be interesting to see if the pandemic accelerated this trend.

Source 

Self-destructing communal journal lures users to interact

A basic site This Website Will Self Destruct, created by artist Femme Android allows users to send an anonymous message into the void in order to keep the website alive. It’s been live since April 21, 2020.

Because the site tends to attract the lonely and despondent, there is a “Feeling Down?” button that links the user to mental health services.

Fast Company:

You can choose to leave your own note. Or you can merely observe, hitting the “read a message” button to see what others have posted, while leaving it to others to save the website from imminent annihilation. A death counter on top of the page refreshes every time someone posts something new, which, by my estimation, was happening about once every 5 or 10 seconds.

Like Post Secret, This Website Will Self-Destruct feels refreshingly Old Internet because, if nothing else, they are each equal parts gimmicky and sincere. This Website Will Self-Destruct offers an anonymous place to express yourself in a world where social media thirst traps and virtue signaling has trumped innocent and earnest discourse alike. It requires no subculture of rules to understand like a Reddit message board, no esoteric platform-specific memes like on Twitch, no subtweet agenda of the day to unpack like on Twitter, and no autoplay force-feeding you the next piece of content like on YouTube.

No, This Website Will Self-Destruct is just a website. It’s a place to jot down some thoughts, have a two-second laugh or cry, and kill some time until nobody cares about it anymore. And that moment that its purpose has been served, don’t worry—it’s happy to see itself out.

Why it’s hot:

It’s an interesting phenomenon, that just using the site: reading a note, or posting something silly (or sincere) makes one feel connected and part of a bigger, benevolent community with a shared goal.

The nature of the site (self-destructing if no one posts) activates our desire for continuity, compelling us to act.

Source: Fast Company

Samsung ups the ante on upcycling

Samsung has done something out of Ikea’s playbook and created reusable cardboard boxes for its new line of TVs.


Story on Bored Panda

Samsung printed instructions for furniture designs on the box, and more designs can be found via QR code.

If you’re not digging the cat castle, they also provide instructions for other things such as a mini shelf, an entertainment stand or a coffee table.

They also partnered with online architecture and design magazine Dezeen to launch a design competition which offers a prize of $20K for the best upcycling solution.

Why it’s Hot
Cardboard waste results in “90 billion tons of cardboard and paper that’s being discarded every year in the US alone.” This upcycling project might not solve that, but it might get companies to come up with clever ways to give packaging a second life for as long as possible.

Survival of the Fastest

Innovation in the Age of COVID-19

Innovative businesses whose fundamental models have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic are acting fast to turn disaster into opportunity. See what a few of them are doing here.

One that caught my eye is Cheeky Food Events. For a company focused on running large-scale team-building events focused on cooking, Social Distancing could easily be seen as a complete deal-breaker. Instead of throwing in the…err…apron, Cheeky Foods instead pivoted their business into “delivery-based” catering, in which ingredients are delivered to the homes of each team member, and cooking instructions are delivered via live webstreams.

Maybe less effective as team-building, and not a long-term business model – but an agile way to maintain a revenue stream, while also providing customers with a valuable and enjoyable experience while they’re locked in and looking for new ways of remaining connected and entertained. This is so cool it’s hot.

Why It’s Hot: (Did you not read that last paragraph…?)

From econsultancy.com:

Here are six examples of businesses and brands that are innovating and transforming their product offering during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cheeky Food Events

Events, oriented as they are around large gatherings of people in a space, were one of the earliest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, with major conferences being cancelled and entertainment venues closing their doors even before full lockdowns were implemented in most countries.

For companies whose business is corporate events, the impact was particularly dire, because workplaces also quickly shifted to remote working to minimise the spread of coronavirus. Cheeky Food Events, an Australian company that offers corporate team-building activities oriented around cooking, found itself needing to rethink its business model for a newly-distributed world of work.

The company has since shifted to offering delivery-based catering to remote workforces: ingredients for a two-course gourmet meal and dessert, delivered safely to an employee’s home, that they can cook with the aid of a live webstream of a chef showing how to prepare and cook the meal. This enables organisations to still carry out team bonding and building activities in a distributed work environment, while Cheeky Food Events can still bring in revenue and put the skills of its expert chefs to good use.

Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg & Pernod Ricard

When the coronavirus pandemic first began to seriously impact day-to-day life, beginning with China in January, alcohol brands knew that they had a problem: no-one was going out to bars and clubs to buy alcohol any more. Many of them saw sales take a nosedive as a result of the disappearance of late-night leisure activities.

Four alcohol brands decided to adapt by partnering with ecommerce giant JD.com to take clubbing online. Beer brands Budweiser and Carlsberg, cognac brand Rémy Martin, and drinks brand Pernod Ricard joined forces with JD.com and Chinese music label Taihe Music Group to create an online clubbing experience, streamed directly to people’s living rooms and complete with liquor that they could buy from the stream and have delivered to their door.

Each week, JD.com is hosting a three-hour performance by one of the DJs signed to Taihe Music Group, with alcoholic beverages promoted throughout that viewers can buy. JD.com has already reported that one partner brand saw a 70% increase in sales of imported liquor during one livestream, with sales of its whiskey products increasing eightfold compared to the same period the day before. During another show, sales of beer increased by 40% compared to the day before.

Although the lockdown has now begun to lift in China, JD.com has said that it will “continue to leverage live broadcasts of music performance in clubs, live houses and even music festivals for products [sic] marketing, making it a long-term program to enrich customers’ shopping experience.” It has also stated that it will open the experience up to other product categories besides liquor.

While livestreaming, and in particular shoppable livestreaming, was already a major trend in China prior to the lockdown, this nevertheless shows that innovations and trends that develop in response to the coronavirus pandemic may well become part of our everyday lives.

Goat2Meeting

While a slightly more off-the-wall response to the remote working trend, this thoroughly deserves a mention. California-based animal sanctuary Sweet Farm used to bring in part of its funding from in-person visits, which dried up when the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying shelter-in-place orders hit the United States. To recoup some of that funding, its founders started Goat2Meeting: a service where companies can pay to have a goat, llama or other farm animal make an appearance in their zoom call to liven the monotony.

Goat2Meeting typically charges between $65 and $250 for various virtual interactions with the animals, ranging from a 20-minute virtual tour of the farm for up to six call participants to a 10-minute animal cameo or a bigger virtual tour. Due to “incredible demand”, the farm has even added a bonus ‘VIP tour’ option for a $750 donation.

According to Business Insiderthe service has already had more than 300 requests from businesses, and its animals have made appearances in calls for Fortune 500 companies and tech start-ups. In one virtual happy hour for a law firm, lawyers brought their children along to the video call to meet the animals, in a unique remote working take on “bring your child to work day”.

Remote working got your goat? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (Image: solomonphotos / Shutterstock.com)

Frame

London fitness studio Frame was forced to close its doors as coronavirus lockdown restrictions tightened, but the business has found ways to get creative with online content instead. It quickly launched Frame Online, an online fitness hub with a £10.99 per month subscription fee that allowed people who were stuck at home to get moving and keep fit with virtual classes.

Frame has also been using social media in creative ways to promote fitness, making six-minute clips of its workout classes available on IGTV and posting funny and relatable workout-related or inspirational content to Instagram. Frame’s Instagram posts promote a slightly more realistic image of working out at home than some fitness influencers (featuring a woman, for example, holding a glass of wine while doing stretches) and push back against so-called “quarantine productivity shaming” by encouraging people to book classes that suit their mood rather than feeling pressured into high-intensity fitness sessions.

How the fitness industry is responding to coronavirus with digital push

Kings Place

Kings Place, London is a cultural hub of live music, art and food that offers a variety of performances from live podcast recordings to classical music, illustrated lectures and jazz. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, however, the venue was forced to close its doors.

It has since found ways to bring its performances to audiences who are confined indoors and searching for entertainment, launching an online content hub called KPLAYER. The platform features excerpts from past performances and full-length shows streamed live every Wednesday; Kings Place is also using the opportunity to drum up interest for its late 2020 and 2021 programme by featuring past performances from these artists on KPLAYER.

Whole Foods

Demand for online grocery retail is higher than it has ever been as people search for ways to get essentials without leaving the house and putting themselves at unnecessary risk. While many grocery retailers already sell online, they are being forced to get creative in order to keep up with demand.

Organic and health food supermarket chain Whole Foods is reported to have turned some of its physical store locations into ‘dark stores’, a location that only employees can enter to pick up goods and fulfil orders. It’s not alone in doing so: parent company Amazon has also transformed one of its Southern California locations into a dark store, and supermarket Kroger converted one of its Cincinatti-area stores into a collection-only location to meet customer demand for alternative shopping services like click-and-collect.

Airbnb’s Guided Meditation With a Sleepy Sheep

The scene is everyone is staying home, no traveling. With evidence that people are wanting to get away, but can’t. What is a company like AirBnB to do?

Create online experiences. Where you can live in a different place for a while. Launching 50 experiences that are all live and not pre-recorded.  Designed and led by hosts all over the world.

A means for their hosts to continue to earn income in this weird world we are living in now. Opening their home without keys, without a cleaning fee, for an hour.

Experiences include :

Why its Hot: This is a new way to virtually share your home, in real time. Is a space for a concrete income for hosts online where Twitch, Youtube, and Periscope live.

The change in consumer spending is just as expected after Covid-19 lockdowns went into effect

Looking at data for the week ending April 1, 2020; and comparing it to data from 2019.

Why it’s hot: The data validates what most know. Consumption patters have drastically changed and spending on many products/services has fallen out of necessity while many Americans have cut down spending on miscellaneous products for a variety of reasons (less disposable income, overall negative sentiment, etc.).

Source: The New York Times

NBA and ESPN bring lofi games of HORSE to the fans via Zoom

The NBA has given basketball fans something to hold on to while the season has been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Using Zoom, ESPN and the NBA put on a HORSE tournament with players shooting hoops from their own back yards or at local courts.

The viewership is not as high as games, but it’s still around half a million for many of the matches and the 1 – 1 nature of the game could provide a wealth of content to keep fans engaged until the next season begins.

From Fast Company:

For the NBA, which suspended its 2019-2020 season on March 11, the challenge has been to keep fans interested and engaged.

Since then, the league has launched a number of new content initiatives, all under the umbrella of “NBA Together.” Those include Instagram Live sessions with star players, a new interview stream with broadcaster Ernie Johnson on the league’s Twitter feed, posting practice drills for young players stuck at home, new programming on NBA TV that has players commenting on classic games, and more.

But last Sunday, the league took its experimentation a step further, teaming with ESPN to take the big leagues to the playground with a televised pandemic version of H-O-R-S-E. The tournament started with eight players that span current stars from the NBA and WNBA, as well as a few retired legends, and was whittled down to four semifinalists playing for the crown on Thursday. Aside from bragging rights among the players, as part of the game league sponsor State Farm is donating more than $200,000 to COVID-19 response efforts.

Paul Benedict, the NBA’s associate VP of broadcasting content management, said, “I think it’s forcing everyone, not just in sports and entertainment, to approach things differently given the limitations, and to approach things more efficiently,” says Benedict. “The countless number of Zoom calls we’ve been on, you just have a different mindset when you approach collaborative efforts like these. H-O-R-S-E was a scaled-down production in some ways, but a massive effort in others that required quick thinking, split-second decision-making, and a lot of cooperation across the board. I think we’re going to come out as a league better from this, stronger, and more collaborative. It’s a great building block.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting that the Zoom format gives a more intimate experience with the players than what you’d get with a typical ESPN broadcast. How will this change what fans expect of players and of ESPN content in the long run?

This format gives players the opportunity (or obligation) to connect on a different level with their fans, one where personality is perhaps taking on a bigger role.

Source: Fast Company

Live Entertainment Adapts To The New Normal

Live entertainment is going digital. This weeks SNL took home cut video from cast members and made a #StayAtHome version. Check out the intro:

NYC theaters are also putting new content online. This week Playwrights Horizons launched a new podcast, Soundstage, putting new playwrights plays straight into your ear. This one is from one of my favorite playwrights, Robert O’Hara (Tufts Alumni for the strategy Jumbos).

And The National Theatre in London through their NT Live program (usually shown in movie theaters) is now releasing a live play on video every week. Actually their newest feature is making its world premiere RIGHT NOW. DURING HOT SAUCE.

Why it’s hot?

Art has a way of surviving. Even live art. There has been some twitter criticism that stage work is not translating well to the digital form, but this is opening a brand new way of staging live art and it’s still in its nascent stage. Looking forward to lots of new brilliant work in these new times.

Here’s What Consumers Want to See from Brands During COVID-19

Twitter recently conducted a user survey to find out more about what people want and expect from brands in their communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what they found:

  • 64% said brands should continue advertising products as normal
  • 52% agreed that seeing/hearing ads gives them a sense of normality
  • 77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society at the moment
  • Only 7% of respondents said brands should continue using their normal brand tone of voice
  • 82% of respondents said that brands should look to support frontline health staff, where possible
  • 86% of respondents said that brands should support vulnerable people within their communities
  • 89% said that brands should provide reliable, accurate information
  • 77% said that brands should support their local communities
  • 80% said that brands should show how they’re supporting their employees

Why its hot

This is not business as normal – and clearly, consumers expect businesses to acknowledge such. The situation has changed, for everyone, and while people are generally supportive of ads, they’re also looking for brands to consider the circumstance, and communicate in accordance with the evolving environment.

Facebook comments have a significant impact on advertising activities

The folks over at Hackernoon recently asked themselves a question. “Do comments under your advertising posts help you produce the best bang for your buck?”

They decided there’s only one way to find out and put $1,000 of ad dollars down letting the Facebook A/B testing tool find out.

Hypothesis:

  • Nobody reads comments before clicking on ads. Going further they assumed that comments (doesn’t matter good or bad) could have a positive impact on the ad. It could get higher relevance rankings, which in turn could result in a lower CPM and cost per click.

Prediction:

  • Bad Comments (Version A) group would give a lower cost per install (CPI) than No Comments (Version B), because nobody actually reads the comments.

Settings:

  • Budget: $150 a day, campaign budget optimization, Highest value or lowest cost bid strategy
  • Countries: USA
  • Language: English
  • Duration: 7 days
  • Total budget: $1,000
  • Optimization strategy: App installs

Results:
Comments make a real difference and are of critical importance to users. Looks like customers read comments before clicking on ads and bad comments give the impression of a product before visiting a landing page.

Why it’s hot:
Comments matter. Facebook users read comments and when comments are not pleasant, it results in a higher cost per conversion. While the first touchpoint with your customers is Facebook Ads, the second is the comment section under the ad.

Need a haircut? This virtual barbershop and salon can help.

Hiring a professional to cut your hair during quarantine isn’t an option, but a virtual barbershop is offering the next best thing: video conferences and guidance from a professional.

The website You Probably Need a Haircut lets people book a video call with a professional barber starting at $18. It’s a win-win for everyone, according to founder Greg Isenberg.

The site currently works with barbers and hairdressers whom clients can choose when they book an appointment. While people will need to have the tools at home, the expertise from a professional will hopefully help turn a potential haircut failure into a success.

“A barbershop is a warm and inviting place, and we aim to re-create that in your home. People can expect friendly banter from their new barber and hand-holding throughout the cutting process,” Isenberg said. “When you book an appointment, you get a Zoom link so the hand-holding is done via video chat.”

You Probably Need a Haircut gives most of the fee to barbers and hairdressers, but takes a $3.60 cut to help pay for the fees of running the website. There’s also an option to leave a $5 tip.

Why it’s Hot:

While simple, this is a really smart concept for the millions of people struggling with self grooming under lock down. There’s also the added benefit of being able to support hairdressers and barbers who can’t work in their normal capacity.

Source

 

Spicing up Zoom with Farm Animals

Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary in California is putting their animals to work, but not how you’d imagine. For less than $100 one of their many goats, llamas, and other farm animals can join your Zoom meeting.

goat 2 meeting farm animals zoomFeatured guest, bottom row, middle. Source: Business Insider

The project, called Goat 2 Meeting which launched last week is aimed at making up for lost revenue due to Covid-19 lockdown orders. Since launching last month, the farm has fielded more than 300 requests for animal appearances and virtual field trips for corporate meetings and work happy hours.

People can pay anywhere from $65 to $250 for various interactions with the animals, which include goats, sheep, pigs, cows, turkeys, and llamas — by far the most popular choice. For $65, you get a 20-minute virtual tour of the farm for up to six call participants. For a bigger meeting, you can pay $100 for a 10-minute animal cameo or $250 for a 25-minute virtual tour.

Aside from paid cameos, Sweet Farm also offers virtual field trips for nonprofits and schools for free.

Why It’s Hot: As lockdown orders extend, businesses are having to find innovative projects and offerings to supplement lost revenue.

Shopify pairs up with Careletton University to offer a 4-year-degree with paid 4,500 hours of Shopify experience. Splitting time between 3 courses that all together are 25 hour a week, and time at work.

Students in this program aren’t guaranteed a job at Shopify and aren’t required to accept a job with them.

First graduates of this program will be during the Covid pandemic.

“According to a recent study, 74% of K-12 parents said they would prefer their child found work directly out of high school with an employer that offered a college degree while on the job. Other studies also suggest that American employers have a strong preference for graduates with hands-on experience.”

Why its hot:

School is teaching+time. We have more time, with online sources and schools shutting down and moving online, what makes their material better than what you’d find on places like Pluralsight, and codecamps like this one?  Will the pandemic further diminish the importance of traditional schooling?

Then will this trickle into a more fluid economy. Millenials already switch jobs every 2 years or so, what about switching careers every 2 years or so?

Will schools partner up with brands to create the perfect candidate for their positions?

Source

Help NASA map coral reefs from home

Coral reefs are shrinking. That’s bad news for wildlife. Millions of species call coral reefs their homes, and coral itself is a cluster of tiny aquatic animals. And it’s bad news for humans, too — scientists’ analyses of organisms in and around coral have contributed to breakthroughs in a variety of medical treatments. NASA has taken some of its technology originally meant to photograph stars and adapted it for studying the ocean — but it needs the public’s help in sorting through the data. The agency created a game in which players analyze 3D images to spot and categorize coral reefs, and those actions train NASA’s supercomputer to eventually do the same.

The game, NeMO-Net, uses photos from NASA’s imaging equipment, which it has deployed on drones and aircraft. These “fluid-lensing” cameras compensate for the optical distortions created by the ripples and waves of water over coral reefs, creating a clearer image. Players learn about different kinds of coral and then point out where they see the reefs in the 3D renderings. As more people play, the more the supercomputer’s neural network learns. Eventually, it should be able to sort through the photos itself, with no need for human assistance.

As threatened ecosystems, it’s important that scientists gain a more thorough understanding of coral reefs. By creating a map of the reefs, scientists will hopefully be able to find a way to preserve them, despite the damage done by rising ocean temperatures, pollution and other detriments. Kids and adults alike can help out by playing NeMO-Net, which is currently available on iOS and Mac, and will be coming to Android in the future.

Why it’s hot:

It’s not just exciting that we can train AI to help us save coral reefs – with most of the country effectively in lock down, this is a perfect time to put that cooped up energy to productive use.

Source

“Revenge Pollution?” or COVID-19 Resurgence?

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2020/03/all-the-ways-coronavirus-is-stopping-climate-change-in-its-tracks.html

The article highlights the ways in which lock-downs have positively impacted the climate.  Additionally, the article highlights that sustainability of these positive impacts is not likely, and that there may even be a burst of “revenge pollution” in the back half of the year as countries resume activities and attempt to revive the economy.

According to WHO:  “ambient (outdoor air pollution) is a major cause of death and disease globally…in children and adults, both short- and long-term exposure to ambient air pollution can lead to reduced lung function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma.”

Post COVID-19 recovery scenarios that do not also mandate reductions in ambient air pollution may inadvertently cause a “revenge pollution” scenario that could lead to a rapid rise in respiratory symptoms and illnesses that are associated with both ambient air pollution and active COVID-19 illness, but may be caused by a sudden rise in ambient air pollution.

This could lead to multiple undesirable social impacts, including: a 2nd round of panic, finger pointing, confusion, continued xenophobia, unnecessary lock-downs or requests to isolate, fear-of-COVID-19 stigma toward anyone with any respiratory symptoms, distrust that COVID-19 is retreating, a run on respiratory or therapeutic products that treat related respiratory illnesses, and a rise in requests for COVID-19 testing to rule the virus in or out.

And they said video games wouldn’t prepare you for real life

With sports suspended around the world, including all major sports in the U.S., fans have no live games to watch. At least none involving actual humans.

On Tuesday, the New York Mets, a semi-professional baseball team, had their play-by-play announcers calling a game – a video game.

https://twitter.com/SNYtv/status/1247675727866200069?s=19

If you shut your eyes, or drank enough, it was as great as any real game. The trio, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Cohen, called the game between the Houston Astros and New York Mets on the recently released MLB The Show 20.

For sports fans, the biggest challenge to staying inside is a lack of anything NEW to watch. Sports channels are rebroadcasting old and classic games, but there isn’t anything people haven’t seen before.

I haven’t noticed other teams doing the same thing as the Mets have, but eSports and streaming platforms like Twitch are having a major moment, as viewers starved for competition and something to root for, have flocked to the platform.

A Finnish Hockey League, together with esports platform Telia, is launching video game hockey playoffs with a full TV broadcast.

Why its hot

Staying inside? Avoiding people? Playing video games. I’ve been training for this my whole life.

It will be interesting to see if there are any lasting effects for the popularity of streaming video games and esports once life returns to normal. How will these platforms keep people once there are actual humans playing sports again? Will they even try or will enough fans stay around, having found an interest in it.