Move over sharks: It’s Fat Bear Week!

This is a single elimination tournament.

For each set of two bears, vote for one who you think is the fattest.

The bear with the most votes advances.

Only one will be crowned champion of Fat Bear Week.

It’s Fat Bear Week 2020! What better way to escape the doldrums of covid life than to spend an hour or four watching the peaceful lives of Alaska brown bears — and voting for your favorite? Bear cams! Live chat with park rangers! Voting, but without the nausea!

From The Verge:

Sometimes, we need to appreciate the really big things in life — like the fact that even in 2020, Fat Bear Week has arrived right on schedule. The annual tournament kicks off today with head-to-head matchups continuing until October 6th. Anyone with an internet connection can tune into Katmai National Park’s live Bearcam to watch the behemoths binge on salmon, and viewers can vote each day for their favorite big beasts.

Fat bears are healthy bears. So Katmai National Park and Preserve started the tradition six years ago to celebrate its bears, who are likely among the fattest (and healthiest) of their species in the world. The Brooks River meanders through the pristine park, delivering a buffet of migrating sockeye salmon to its bears each summer. They’ve got to stuff themselves to prepare for winter hibernation, when they might lose a third of their body mass while holing up in their dens for up to six months.

This is perfect fodder for news channels and web sites that need content, and a feel good story that captures the attention of the world, if only for a week.

By now, some of Katmai’s 2,200 bears are celebrities. Fans are already campaigning for their favorites, like last year’s “Queen of Corpulence,” bear 435 (aka Holly).

 

Voting captures your email address for explore.org, the multimedia organization running Bear Week, which promotes stories around “animal rights, health and human services, and poverty to the environment, education, and spirituality.”

Why it’s hot:

1. This is a fun way to spread awareness of wildlife by prodding us humans’ deep desire to have our say.

2. Encouraging people to care about bears is a positive step in encouraging eco-conscious public sentiment and personal choices.

By 2025, roughly 85% of people in the US will live in urban areas, disconnected from nature for a majority of their lives. Maintaining an appreciation for the other species on our planet is important for the mostly urban public to make personal and policy decisions that preserve and protect vital natural ecosystems that they might not have any connection with. A yearly tournament for fattest bear is a clever way to get urban dwellers to fall in love with an animal that they otherwise may not have any reason to know or care about, which is especially important when policy decisions can literally kill entire ecosystems.

Source: The Verge

Celebrating the Public Sector is now in fashion

What does tie-dye, the National Parks and an election have in common? They have inspired a whole new crop of exciting and coveted cause-oriented merch.

From USPS’ sold-out crop top (never thought I’d type these words) to the vintage-inspired Parks Project hoodies to Jason-Wu-designed-Biden sweaters, the popularity of cause-oriented merch keeps on booming. This is not just in the US either. In the UK, celebrating the lifesaving efforts of the National Health Services (NHS) is now fashionable – its coveted t-shirts and sweaters designed by Jonny Banger are ubiquitous with cool Londoners on Instagram.

The popularity of such statement pieces (which can financially support the causes they espouse) coincides with this year’s massive work-from-home shift, as consumers are more inclined to choose comfortable clothing over business wear anyway.

A recent article on the New York Times declared that “politics are back in fashion” and it focuses more on the US election and the fashion industry unifying to get the vote out. In a time when the fashion industry itself is going through such turmoil and so many brands are going bankrupt and so many Americans have lost their job, it’s refreshing to see that high fashion is having a bit of a ‘meaningful’ makeover.

“This new wave of merch doesn’t feel exclusionary in the way that a designer logo might. When so many are reeling from economic devastation and grappling with health issues, rocking a huge brand name could feel tone-deaf—unless, of course, it’s one that’s literally saving lives, conserving land, or enabling us to, you know, send mail.”

The fashion industry’s goal is to reframe voting and turn voting day into the event of the year.

“ the goal is …for Election Day, and going to the polls to be the shared experience of the year, the way the Met Gala and the Oscars have been in the past. To make it about dress as celebration of democracy, taking an abstract ideal and rendering it easy to access and to put into action”

“Turn up for the turn out!” Ms. Erwiah said. “Everyone is sitting at home in sweatpants. Why not get dressed up for voting? Watch the election like we watch the Oscars. This date could be like the Grammys.”

Ms. Dawson said: “We want people to think: Oh my God, what am I going to wear to the polls?”

Ms. Erwiah added: “There’s no prom, no homecoming, but you can vote!”

2020 really is the year we realize all the essential things we took for granted – democracy, our health, the post office – are actually pretty cool (and fashion-forward).

Sources:

https://www.elle.com/fashion/a33577438/public-sector-merch-trend/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/02/style/politics-is-back-in-fashion.html

https://footwearnews.com/2020/business/retail/american-eagle-vote-election-2020-1203052964/

The Cassandra Report

 

Drive Through… Fine Dining?

The restaurant industry has been pummeled by the pandemic, prompting a wave of creative new dining ideas across the country, from bars offering carry-0ut cocktail mixes to pizzerias transforming into produce stands. Now, 10 well-known Los Angeles chefs are joining forces in an ambitious new experiment.

On October 15 and 16, restaurant tech platform Resy is hosting a 10-course drive-through dinner at the Hollywood Palladium catered by these chefs that could be a model for bringing high-end restaurants back to life.

The event, called the Resy Drive Thru, is sponsored by American Express. Diners will stay in their cars and move through a track made up of 10 stations, where they’ll be served one course prepared by each of the 10 restaurants.

Guests will be served food in single-use containers and given a tray to eat on, which is theirs to keep. Each car will have its own designated waiter who will guide them through the process. (All event personnel will wear gloves, masks, and face shields; they’ll also be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive at the event, and will have their temperature taken at the door.) The entire experience costs $95 per person, and can be purchased in groups of up to four in a single vehicle. There is room for 600 guests over two nights.

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/90553394/why-this-drive-through-restaurant-could-be-the-future-of-fine-dining

You’re Not Hardcore Unless You’re Bicyclecore

From Repeller’s Edith Young: “At the intersection of necessary cultural adaptation and late summer style lies bicyclecore.”

For many, gearing up for a ride isn’t a revelatory element of getting dressed but then there’s apparently a whole other group emerging these days where bike-adjacent gadgetry and style is top of mind.

Bike sales surged this summer so it may not be a surprised that bike-adjacent categories are popping up. In June, bike sales grew 63% year-over-year, according to market research firm NPD Group. Sales of sports performance road bikes grew 87%, gravel bikes were up 144% and e-bikes jumped 190%.

And brands are starting to take notice too. Outdoor Voices recently collaborated with global cycle clothing brand Rapha. State Bicycle Co. released a Notorious B.I.G “Ready To Die” bike. Who do we think is jumping into the bike game next?

Why it’s hot:
Changing behavioral habits will no doubt give way to new opportunities. By default, we gravitate towards the digital transformations that are taking place but it’ll also be interesting to see the category-adjacent transformations that happen too.

LA star chefs re-imagine the drive-thru for the fine-dining set

Ten of L.A.’s most beloved restaurants will come together to serve diners—in a way that you’ve never experienced them before, designed with COVID precautions in mind.

In partnership with American Express® Gold Card, Resy is transforming the exterior of the Hollywood Palladium into a whimsical labyrinth, which you’ll drive through to visit each restaurant pop-up. Don’t worry about leaving your car; each dish will be handed to you at each local restaurant’s pit stop. -Resy

Restaurants have had to reinvent themselves during Covid, with fine dining hit particularly hard since its value prop comes largely from the atmosphere and experience it creates, which is very difficult to replicate under covid restrictions.

From Fast Company:

The restaurant industry has been pummeled by the pandemic, prompting a wave of creative new dining ideas across the country, from bars offering carry-0ut cocktail mixes to pizzerias transforming into produce stands. Now, 10 well-known Los Angeles chefs are joining forces in an ambitious new experiment.

On October 15 and 16, restaurant tech platform Resy is hosting a 10-course drive-through dinner at the Hollywood Palladium catered by these chefs that could be a model for bringing high-end restaurants back to life. “This could be done in any city,” says Mei Lin, chef and owner of Nightshade. “It would require organization and logistics, but it’s possible.”

The event, called the Resy Drive Thru, is sponsored by American Express. Diners will stay in their cars and move through a track made up of 10 stations, where they’ll be served one course prepared by each of the 10 restaurants.

Guests will be served food in single-use containers and given a tray to eat on, which is theirs to keep. Each car will have its own designated waiter who will guide them through the process. (All event personnel will wear gloves, masks, and face shields; they’ll also be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive at the event, and will have their temperature taken at the door.) The entire experience costs $95 per person, and can be purchased in groups of up to four in a single vehicle. There is room for 600 guests over two nights.

It was obvious from the start that it wasn’t possible to mimic the charm or elegance of a dining room, but this project prompts chefs to think outside the box.ng

The dining industry is currently being devastated by COVID-19, particularly restaurants that don’t have pandemic-friendly options, like outdoor seating or take-out and delivery. The sector has already lost $120 billion and is expected to reach $240 billion by the end of the year. More than six million jobs have been permanently cut.

Why it’s hot: Fine dining is all about having a special experience that rises above the typical and the common. It’s interesting to see how these fine dining restaurants are trying to achieve that proposition during covid, and how they make — and sell — a unique experience to potential guests.

Source: Fast Company

How does Walmart+ compare to Amazon Prime?

Can Walmart+ compete with Amazon Prime?

For what you get, Walmart+ is a great value. For either $13 a month or $98 a year, you get unlimited free delivery right to your door—arriving the same day you place your order, provided you’re near one of 2,700 participating locations. Not to mention streamlined, contact-free service in stores and member pricing on fuel at nearly 2,000 gas stations nationwide.

With Amazon, same-day delivery is only available to folks living in major metropolitan areas, so that’s something to weigh against Walmart’s thousands of same-day stores in the U.S. But it’s important to note that Walmart+ cannot offer free delivery to cities outside its participating stores, which, at the time of publication, is most major cities.

Prime’s got a ton of other benefits that Walmart+ does not: Alexa integration for voice-command shopping; clothing on a “try-before-you-buy” basis; a discount at Whole Foods; 20% off baby food and diapers; thousands of movies and TV shows courtesy of Prime Video; ad-free music; free audiobooks, comics, Kindle ebooks, and magazines; and free video games and in-game perks.

Walmart+ requires a $35 minimum purchase to qualify for free delivery, while with Prime, any Prime-eligible product can be shipped for free. But there’s also the matter of coverage.

With Walmart’s existing infrastructure, the retailer’s able to offer free same-day delivery from 2,700 Walmart locations throughout the U.S. These are scheduled within one-hour time slots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., generally speaking. You can get same-day delivery on more than 160,000 items from the pickup-and-delivery section of Walmart’s website, but only if you live within an area optimized for Walmart+. You can check your zip-code on the site before signing up.

Why it’s hot: Amazon has some real competition this time and we’ll have to wait and watch if Walmart+ can compete with Amazon across America’s vast and diverse marketplace.

Source

Wearable Peace of Mind

Allergy Amulet makes it easier to dine out of home by detecting target ingredients within seconds while doubling as a fashion accessory

Allergy Amulet’s novel technology can improve the quality of life for the millions of people living with food allergies or intolerances by testing for common allergenic ingredients in seconds. The portable device is made to fit every lifestyle — it’s small enough to fit on a keychain, a necklace, or in a pocket.

Source: Hit Consultant

Allergy Amulet Nabs $3.3M To Launch World’s Smallest, Fastest Consumer Food Allergen Sensor

Why it’s hot: Food allergies affect 32 million Americans and between 220 to 520 million people globally—that’s one in 13 children and one in 10 adults. They can be fatal, so having certainty about the safety of the contents of your food in an instant and without having to rely on third parties opens up a whole culinary world.

Did you register?

Voting season is upon us. So first, did you register to vote yet?

It’s brought up in most conversations I’ve had recently, even at work. All over everywhere and with customers wanting brands to align with their beliefs or have more of a community mindset there has been some brands taking a stand and asking, imploring you to take a stand as well.

What these emails have: (And what I consider Do’s)

1.) A message that connects the brand to voting

  • As most of the emails I saw were mostly ecommerce and fashion brands, you have to remind your customer why this message is coming from you. (Jenna you said it best today) Everyone should want to be Nike as they really did it. (Pun Intended) “No more sitting on the sidelines. The 2020 election season is here, and we are playing for the future. It’s up to each and every one of us. Register to vote today.”

2.) Call to action to register

  • This is obvious but needed, it can’t be just a reminder to vote. Pairing the message with a next step, providing a pathway for the end user to uphold your rationale for interjecting in the conversation. Most emails have this, the question is where to place it if you have an offer included. Clare and Baggu Both had it after their offer but Nike because there was no offer had it in their email.

3.) A partnership with – “When We All Vote”

  • Adding credibility with an organization that is specialized in that.

4.) Merchandise that is linked to voting. 

  • Could be questionable. But I think most people want to commemorate the fact that they voted and also urge others to do so. Especially when paired with a give-back of some sort I think this authenticates the offer and the message. See Baggu, a handbag and accessory company gives 100% back to the sales from the collaboration of a SF Based artist to the Black Voters Matter Fund. And Clare giving a 10% from their When We All Vote collaboration back to the organization.

What some of these emails have that are questionable:

1.) A hashtag that connects the brand and voting. 

  • As I know most brands want to continue the conversation, and gauge impact on socials so a hashtag is a good way to see that. Voting on the other hand is both personal, communal and a heavier topic that when paired with a hashtag of a brand might cheapen the message to people that aren’t apart of the core ride or die audience for your brand. NYX Cosmetics has the #NYXCosmeticsVote.

2.) Pairing unrelated products with no give back.

  • Additionally, adding products that are unrelated with no giveback, or promoting “Friends&Family” sales that aren’t because of voting cheapens your message because these are two entirely separate actions. It comes of as disingenuous because of the incongruent of the message.

Why it’s hot:

A moment to think about in communications, it doesn’t come often but could potentially have an impact on your audience when you do it right.

Source: ReallyGoodEmails.com

Stories: From Snapchat Teens to LinkedIn Execs

LinkedIn has announced that it will roll out its own version of Stories to all users after completing a trial period in Brazil, Netherlands, UAE, Australia, and France.

Stories–the popular and short lived photo narratives–were first rolled out by Snapchat in 2013. High engagement soon attracted the attention of Facebook, which copied communication tool and rolled it out on its own platforms (FB, IG).

Search Mobile Gif

Why it’s hot: 

In the last century, the U.S. has gone from a society where suits were necessary for office work to people wearing T-shirts on Zoom calls with pets in the background. Beyond creating a new medium for digital advertising, LinkedIn stories may signal the continued movement toward a more informal and personal work and recruitment culture.

A very good boy will administer your test now

There is a pilot project in Finland’s Helsinki airport to screen passengers for Covid-19. It doesn’t involve the use of AI, blockchain, drones, nano-tech or injecting bleach. Instead, researchers at the University of Helsinki have trained dogs, who have a hyper-sensitive sense of smell, to screen passengers for the virus. The program is voluntary.

Recently, German researchers found that Corona-sniffin’ dogs have a 94% accuracy rate. And they can “sniff out the virus in a person who is asymptomatic… They detected it at an earlier stage than a PCR test, the most widely used diagnostic tool for the new coronavirus.” [NYT]

Story in NYT

Why it’s Hot

This test would feel so much better than the up-the-nose swab. Better still, this method could serve as a more efficient screening method so we don’t use up Covid-19 tests that always seem to be scarce in the United States.

Life Beyond the Cookie

With 3rd-party slowly-but-surely going the way of the dodo, the drive for marketers to develop data strategies that accelerate 1st-party data growth and utilization is fast becoming an existential imperative.

WHY IT’S HOT:  Relationships and Relevance will matter more than ever, as marketers of all shapes and sizes strive to survive and thrive in a fundamentally changed world. (From “nice-to-have” to “mission-critical”)

From Digiday:

‘Re-architecting the entire process’: How Vice is preparing for life after the third-party cookie

Vice Media Group pulls in 57.5 million global unique visitors a month, according to Comscore; Vice itself says it has a global audience of “more than 350 million individuals.” But only a minority of those users are logged in at any time. With third-party cookies soon to be obsolete and Apple clamping down on the free-for-all sharing of mobile IDs, Vice’s first-party data strategy aims to improve its registration process and double down on contextual ads.

In the latest example of bolstering its first-party data offering for advertisers, Vice Media Group is using a new tool from consumer reporting agency Experian and data platform Infosum.

That tool, Experian Match, those companies say, offers publishers more insights on their audiences without needing to use third-party cookies or requiring users to log in. In turn, they can offer advertisers more precision targeting options.

“What interests me the most is that there’s so much bias within data — for example, proxies to get into the definition [of an a target audience on an advertiser brief],” said Ryan Simone, Vice Media director of global audience solutions. “We are looking to eliminate bias in every instance. If a client says ‘this specific … group is what we are looking for,’ we can say on Vice — not through the proxies of third-party data or other interpretation’ that product A [should target] this content, this audience [and that’s] different from product B. It’s a much more sophisticated strategy and re-architecting the entire process.”

Publishers provide a first-party ID, IP address and timestamp data, which is matched with Experian’s own IP address and household-level socio-demographic data. This initial match is used to create the Experian Match mapping file, which is then stored in a decentralized data “bunker.” From here, all matching takes place using InfoSum’s decentralized marketing infrastructure, with publishers creating their own private and secure ”bunkers” and advertisers doing likewise, so individual personal customer data is never shared between publishers and advertisers.

Privacy and security were important considerations before committing to use the product, said Paul Davison, Vice Media Group vice president of agency development, for international in statement. But, he added, “Those concerns are solved instantly as no data has to be moved between companies.”

As for login data, Vice’s user registration process is fairly basic and doesn’t offer users much explanation about the benefits they will receive if they do so. Updating that is a work in progress, said Simone.

“There will be a lot more front-facing strategy” for encouraging sign-ups, he said. “We are looking to create greater value …. for our users.” (The company also collects first-party data through newsletters and experiential events, such as those held —pre-covid, at least — by Refinery29.)

Vice has worked with contextual intelligence platform Grapeshot long before it was acquired by Oracle in 2018. Beyond offering advertisers large audiences around marquee segments like “fashion” or “music,” Vice has begun working more recently to open up more prescriptive subsegments — like “jewelry” for example.

“People are scared to send out smaller audiences — but I’d rather provide something that’s exact. Opening that up provides greater insights,” especially when layered with first-party data sets gleaned through partnerships like Experian and Infosum, said Simone.  Vice might not have a wealth of content around high fashion, for example, but consumers of a particular fashion house might still visit the site to read about politics or tech.

“Contextual has evolved and with the absence of the third-party cookie it’s all the more significant,” said Simone.

Publishers’ biggest differentiating features for advertisers are their audiences and the context within their ads will sit, said Alessandro De Zanche, founder of media consultancy ADZ Strategies.

“If they really want to progress and be more in control, publishers need to go back to the basics: rebuilding trust with the audience, being transparent, educating the audience on why they should give you consent — that’s the very first — then building on top of that,” De Zanche said.

“With all the technical changes and privacy regulations, if a publisher doesn’t rebuild the relationship and interaction with its audience, it will just be like trying to Sellotape their way forward.”

Ease of access to high speed mobile data still varies around the world

We live in the age of information

  • High speed mobile data democratizes access to information and digital services – thus reducing socio-economic inequality
  • The more competitive a country’s telecom industry, the cheaper the price of high speed mobile data in that country

Why it’s hot: Governments must do all they can to ease access to information and digital services as one of the means to reduce socio-economic inequality.

SOURCE

What it takes to launch a new fast-fashion collection? A brand partnership, a pop star and 6 new Instagram AR filters

Remember when Target released their insanely popular and highly anticipated partnership with Zac Posen? Back then, the existence of that partnership alone drove enough PR and excitement to make that launch an astronomical success.

Fast forward to today. H&M is dropping its new collection in partnership with Kangol. But that is certainly not enough to entice Gen Z today. Beyond the new partnership and, of course, clothing collection, the brands partnered with British pop start Mabel – not just as a spokesperson but – to create a music video along with new 6 AR-filters that allow people to star in their own music videos (and H&M social channels). Basically, H&M’s new collection is a Tik-Tok campaign on Insta.

Gen Z’s fashion trends have also dramatically changed since Covid as nearly half of young consumers say that COVID has changed the kind of clothing they shop for, according to according to YPulse’s new fashion and style report. Since the start of the pandemic, quarantined young consumers have helped create a loungewear and athleisure boom, and their fashion interests have been changing. The pandemic has spurred at-home fashion trends, and Glossy reported that young shoppers now prefer “comfortable, seasonless” fashion over “runway trends” so H&M/Kangol’s new line will likely also appeal to them based on the cool, laid-back, 90’s nostalgic vibe of this collection.

Why it’s hot: Fast fashion keeps getting ‘faster’ with evolving consumer trends and needs

“vote or die,”eat your heart out…

At the risk of stating the obvious – things have really changed in the last decade. And this will really blow your mind – they’ve also really changed in the last two.

A younger version of myself remembers MTV’s “Rock the Vote,” and whatever P Diddy was calling himself then’s “Vote or Die” campaign.

What’s interesting is how many BRANDS are now getting involved in the 2020 election.

Perhaps the boldest statement is Patagonia’s “Vote the Assholes Out”. But other brands like Foot Locker are converting stores into voter registration locations, Under Armour has created a voting microsite, “Run to Vote” where Americans can request an absentee ballot, and allegedly Snapchat is even giving people a mechanism to cast their vote from within its app.

Why It’s Hot

We’ve been talking about the importance of brand values for years, but now it seems it’s no longer an aspiration, but perhaps a necessity. What’s really interesting to see all these brands so active in (arguably) the most politicized election in US history. It’s one thing to support social issues and causes, but would seem quite another to be helping citizens register and vote. In fact, in a survey published this past June, only around 1/3 of consumers thought companies should share their position on voting/voter registration. So, it will be really interesting to see how this swell of activism will continue to apply to other, future issues.

The Future of Shopping Is Music To Our Ears

New cool thing alert! Haven’t brands been disrupted enough in 2020 already?

Introducing DroppTV:

“Utilizing AI & machine-learning algorithms capable of identifying apparel featured within video content, droppTV enables instant, click-to-buy purchasing, letting viewers shop directly inside the video and also browse artists’ virtual pop-up stores to seamlessly purchase merchandise like limited-edition streetwear.

Currently piloting with music videos, the platform aims to fuse entertainment with retail to create immersive and connected experiences directly linking brands and creators with their audiences. PSFK identified droppTV for research on innovative retail strategies for the disrupted 2020 holiday season—check out more inspiration here.”

Why it’s hot?

Monetizing identifying AI is a long time coming, being able to seamlessly integrate that technology into consumer behavior is a big step in a new direction.

Source: PSFK

Google Trends to the Rescue

Google search data has been found to help pinpoint COVID-19 hotspots before they flare-up. It’s not the first time researchers turn to the tech giant to deal with possible outbreaks. In 2009, health specialists used keyword search volume to tackle H1N1 pandemic outbreaks. Although physicians like to think patients reach out to them as soon as they’re feeling ill, the reality is that patients turn to WebMD and Dr. Google before going into offices.

Tracking COVID symptoms is only going to get harder as flu and allergy season kicks off, but researchers leaning on the search data think focusing on searches for GI (gastro-intestinal) related symptoms can help point them in the direction of an outbreak.

The team looked at Google Trends data for searches on a range of symptoms that dated from January 20 to April 20 of 2020. They found that searches for ageusia (loss of taste), loss of appetite, and diarrhea correlated with COVID-19 case numbers in states with high early infection rates like New York and New Jersey, with an approximate delay of four weeks. The signal was less clear for other symptoms.

Source: Popular Science

While search data is not a sure shot predictor – the majority of COVID patients don’t experience GI symptoms, it does merit further exploration.

Why it’s hot: Having the right combination of keywords to track could help mitigate outbreaks in the future.

 

 

The home fitness category is still booming

Digital fitness continues to surge.

  • Peloton’s Q4 earnings showed a 172% YoY jump in revenue, and its connected subscribers were up 113% YoY.
  • Apple just announced its virtual fitness product (Fitness Plus), available to the 1B+ Apple devices out there. 
  • Lululemon has already upped its projected revenue for Mirror from $100m to $150m.
  • Zwift, an indoor training app, reached unicorn status yesterday after a $450m funding round.
  • Tonal, a wall-mounted system that costs $2,995, lets users lift up to 200 pounds in “digital weights” raised $100m

The pandemic has exploded the market for digital fitness 

There are 62m gym memberships in the US and 183m globally, according to a 2019 report. But many people shifted to online workouts during the pandemic, and gyms have been slow to reopen. 

Data from Thinknum shows while 46 states have re-opened gyms, Facebook location mentions have “remained utterly stagnant for gyms.” Thinknum flags one outlier — Planet Fitness, which has tons of locations and is cheap.

Why it’s hot

With new technology capabilities and the need to move to digital, now is a time where fitness can truly be democratized. And it’ll also be interesting to see how this impacts fitness-adjacent categories (e.g. tech, wellness, etc.). Our phones have become the centerpiece for making every single aspect of our lives easier and more affordable. Fitness is no exception.

The refreshing taste of capitalism

PepsiCo is launching its newest beverage, the de-stressing and relaxation-promoting Driftwell.

The calorie- and sugar-free noncarbonated water, flavored with a hint of blackberry and lavender, contains 200 milligrams of L-theanine and 10% of the daily value of magnesium. Driftwell sprouted from an employee incubator program in January.

The 7.5-ounce mini cans, with the tagline “Sip into relaxation,” go on sale online in December—a notoriously stressful time, even more so during the coronavirus pandemic—and will be available in stores in the first quarter of 2021. The suggested retail price is $17.99 for a 10-pack.

PepsiCo touts findings by Gallup and the American Psychological Association in which 55% of Americans report having “high stress” throughout the day, while 45% of Americans say stress makes them lie awake at night, and 21% feel more stress when they’re unable to sleep.

Big Soda is taking hits from all sides. Bottled water is now outselling pop; rising obesity rates are a growing health concern; brands are emphasizing healthy eating and lifestyle choices; and various municipalities around the United States have even implemented so-called soda taxes.

Why its hot

More consumers are expecting their foods and beverages to do more – aid digestive health, energize, etc. So a beverage that helps you sleep is likely welcomed, especially these days. And what better source than PepsiCo? You can perk up in the morning and afternoon with a Pepsi, and now unwind before bed with one too.

Facebook is Watching… for Research

~100 Facebook employees will be wearing AR research glasses at work, at home, and in public around San Francisco and Seattle to gather data about how the glasses perceive the world and what kind of privacy considerations they may need to make people feel comfortable around them.

The goal of these? To help Facebook develop a pair of augmented reality glasses that can layer 3D graphics and information over the wearer’s view of the real world. The eventual goal is to create a device that will enable virtual social interactions, like being able to have a lifelike conversation with a faraway friend who’s projected across from you at your kitchen table.

The Facebook employees participating in “Project Aria” will use their test glasses to gather data that will help the company’s researchers and engineers understand how AR can work in terms of tech and of the privacy protection users will demand, obviously being a huge concern for Facebook product users.

How this research will work: The glasses capture video and audio from the wearer’s point of view while collecting data from the sensors in the glasses that track where the wearer’s eyes are going.

“We’ve just got to get it out of the lab and get it into real-world conditions, in terms of [learning about] light, in terms of weather, and start seeing what that data looks like with the long-term goal of helping us inform [our product],” says Andrew Bosworth, vice president and head of Facebook Reality Labs, who is overseeing the project.

The research disclaimer: The wearer of the research glasses will wear a shirt that identifies them as Facebook employees working on an AR research project and it will show a website where people can get more information. The research glasses will display a noticeable white light that indicates when data is being collected, and the devices will have a physical mute button that will shut down the sensors and microphones.

“We’ll also start to think through the privacy conversation that’s going to be so important when we get to augmented reality,” Bosworth says.

Why it’s hot? Facebook is constantly at the center of data privacy controversies and this will likely bring up the same concerns. Time will tell how “secure” this data is.

Source: FastCo

The rise of “dark stores”

Whole Foods “opened” a new “store” that you can’t walk into or shop at.

Located in Brooklyn and slightly smaller than a typical Whole Foods, the store is dedicated solely to fulfilling online orders. It’s the company’s first purpose-built online-only store. With longer aisles, no salad bar, and missing those checkout candy displays, the store will be used to pack up online orders, which have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, says its grocery sales tripled, year over year, for the second quarter of 2020.

But this is not just a pandemic-related reaction. Though six of its stores were temporarily converted to handle only online orders, this new dedicated online-only store had been in the works for more than a year, according to company officials. And it’s not alone. More retailers are accommodating the shift of shopping from in-store to online by turning their physical locations into so-called “dark stores”—miniature warehouse-like spaces where online orders can be packed for pickup or delivery. Retail experts say this is just the start of a major trend.

“Every chain in the world will be doing this in the future. And the future is now, because COVID-19 has pushed the timeline up for a number of these kinds of initiatives,” says Ken Morris, managing partner at Cambridge Retail Advisors.

Unlike the new Whole Foods store, not all of these facilities need to be purpose-built. Grocery chains such as Stop & Shop and Hy-Vee, based in Iowa, are already experimenting with turning stores dark. Other retailers are converting stores into micro fulfillment centers, Morris says. Walmart has one in New Hampshire. Bed, Bath & Beyond plans to convert a quarter of its locations into dark stores. Some shopping malls are also being converted into fulfillment centers.

Though nongrocery retailers are turning stores dark as more shopping happens online, Morris expects grocery stores and their perishable products will still draw at least some of the in-person market. He says grocery chains will eventually move to a “semidark” or hybrid approach, in which shoppers can submit most of their order online for pickup but still roam the aisles to select items such as produce or deli meats.

Key to this change is robotics, Morris says. Even without the social distancing rules of the pandemic, the typical grocery store can handle only so many customers. Warehouse technology startups such as Fabric and Alert Innovation are already beginning to work with retailers and grocers on integrating robotics and adding more product into smaller, robot-only spaces. “These things are very quick. They can pick 15,000 orders a day, and they do it in a small footprint,” Morris says.

There’s even the potential of making the robots part of the theater of the shopping experience, Morris says. “Some grocery chains and drug stores are considering putting these things center, glassed-in, in the middle of the building so people can actually see it happening,” he says.

For now, the transition will be more gradual. Morris says the drop-off in physical shopping during the pandemic led many chain retailers to temporarily turn stores dark. But as the pandemic drags on and online grocery shopping becomes more common, he expects other grocery chains will begin to analyze their online orders and the population density near their stores and decide that some locations may be better used as dark stores.

“Every metro area will have some of these,” he says. “In the next five years, this will explode.”

Source: FastCo

Why it’s hot: This seems like a natural progression for retail stores, especially during this pandemic. I expect many other stores to follow Whole Foods’ lead.

Retiring jeweler hides $1M of remaining merchandise around Michigan; sells access to the clues

In a great example of re-evaluating value, a Michigan jeweler has closed his store, hid all his merchandise in various places across the state, and is selling tickets to clues to find his hidden “treasure”. He went from selling objects, to selling adventure. And if he prices his clues right, he’ll probably make more money than he would from selling the jewelry itself. The first few “quests”, which began in August, seem to have sold out.

Mlive.com:

A Michigan jeweler has cleaned out his store in the name of adventure.

Johnny Perri, owner of J&M Jewelers in Macomb County, and his wife Amy Perri buried $1 million in gold, silver, jewels and antiques across Michigan – from Metro Detroit to the Upper Peninsula. Starting Aug. 1, the treasure will be up for grabs to registered Treasure Quest hunters.

After 23 years, J&M Jewelers is closing following a months-long forced temporary closure related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The monthly Treasure Quests will provide a new source of income for the Perri family – registration for each hunt is $50.

From Johnny’s Treasure Quest site:

“I have buried not only my entire jewelry store but thousands upon thousands of dollars of gold, silver, diamonds & antiques in various locations in Michigan from the bottom to the upper peninsula. Everything I have buried has a history and many memories attached to them that I have let go and placed in the ground for you to discover❤️
– The links below are treasure quest adventures in specific locations in Michigan along with a starting date in which the adventure will begin.
– Everyone anywhere is permitted to purchase a ticket up until 24 hours prior to the adventure start date.
– Refunds are available only up until 24 hours of the adventure start date.
– You do not just have to live in Michigan or in the specific region location where the treasure is buried to participate. Although anyone may purchase tickets, they will be limited at my discretion.
– you will literally be unearthing physical, real treasure from the ground with the exception that I did not hide it in the ground but it could be hanging from a tree (for example).
– All treasure that I have buried/hidden will be directly under or next to (if not buried) a literal painted “X”
Please be respectful of property by not digging up the town. “X” will always mark the spot.
– I have inserted advanced GPS trackers into each treasure simply so I can know if a treasure has been discovered. If you discover the treasure, please either leave the GPS unit behind where the treasure was discovered or more preferably contact me and I’ll arrange a way to get it from you:)
– Posting or sharing clues on social media and/or through any other means to a third party is strictly prohibited. Consequences of these said actions will immediately disqualify you from the current and any future adventure quest treasure hunts. Furthermore your ticket will be revoked and any retrieval attempts to acquire the treasure thereafter will be met with legal action. In other words, please DO NOT share any clues for any reason to anyone other then your team and yourself.”

Why it’s hot:

1. A reminder that it’s essential to understand where your value lies, and to always be aware of opportunities to create value when things change.

2. This concepts taps into two very strong impulses within the American psyche:

the call to adventure

and

the chance to strike it rich

3. It’s the perfect moment (covid restictions/terrible news daily) for those looking for some fun and diversion, and looking to get out of the house.

Source: USA Today

Thai Airways Offers In-Flight Meals in Their New Pop-Up Diner

Thai Airways International Pcl’s offices transformed their cafeteria into a new pop-up restaurant to offer customers a recreation of an on-board dining experience.

While most of its planes are grounded to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the airline is using this opportunity to recoup some lost revenue while staying connected to their customers. The restaurant serves 2,000 meals a day.

Diners are greeted by cabin crew in full uniform when they enter. The restaurant is decorated with airplane parts and seats for an authentic feel, and photo opportunities. Each decoration also has a QR code attached so visitors can look up information about the parts.

Why It’s Hot

As customers are counting down the days until they can travel again, this fun experience is a great way to keep Thai Airways top of mind.

Source

QVC is back on top? Facebook and Amazon bring us Live Shopping with Influencers

You could already get hot deals on Amazon through Amazon Live. Facebook is now following suit.

Enter FB/IG live shopping. Where social sellers can sell items live in real time. It harkens back to a simpler time, but now instead of calling and paying in increments you click and afterpay?

Why it’s hot?

Utilizing user behavior that’s so native with new digital tools is exciting. The team is interested in seeing if this helps brands improve their ecommerce objectives.

Rent your wardrobe through Wardrobe

Clothing has seen some grand shifts over time. First we had retail that churned new styles every season to churn more every season then mid season. Then fast fashion brands come onto the scene to accommodate the ever wanting consumers eye to flip social media looks. Then we realized how completely unsustainable that was.

So then renting wardrobe became a thing with Rent the Runway and Haute Look. And thrifting is a blast from the past now current future trendy thing to do as we up-cycle our way to a better environment. (Which is secretly not that much better but it is better than buying from Zara). Sustainability is a hot topic, from all the emissions we have spewed out to get it. And from fashion it requires answers like Rent the Runway, Le Tote, Vince Unfold and many others, including now, Wardrobe.

Wardrobe is a, launched last year in NYC growing national, peer to peer clothing rental service.

Wardrobe has users take their “extra high quality” clothes from their own closets, and rent them out to other people. Once someone has rented an item from your closet, it goes to a dry cleaning facility, where it’s cleaned and then sent to the renter. After the item is worn, it’s returned to local dry cleaners to then clean and house there.

This is different from other renting brands as it’s entirely community based and relies on local dry cleaners to help ensure part of a consumer worry which is cleanliness and hygiene. Wardrobe doesn’t have to house any inventory, or create and maintain the worlds largest dry cleaning facility, (Rent the Runway). As the Dry cleaners are the ones holding on to, and shipping out each clothing piece.

Although not revolutionary to the game as Tulerie offers the same peer to peer clothing rental service. They do require an interview before you can fill your closet with other peoples clothes. No word on dry cleaning and cleanliness.

What makes Wardrobe different is that they don’t leave it to the users to send out items and maintain it’s hygiene. Reliability from someone looking to rent out their clothes as a side gig becomes difficult to maintain and then whether or not the clothing item was taken to a dry cleaner was harder to pin down. Wardrobe took this into their own hands, and brought this tricky part in house. And owners of the clothes maintain their ownership, and possibly end up selling it on another platform. Which Wardrobe hopes to take in house in the future.

Why it’s hot:

With Covid, consumer mindset has shifted to be geared towards community, locality, and transacting for purpose.

Wardrobe is apart of that larger conversation of sustainability and living in excess, but then relies on local businesses to upkeep. It seems like a win, win, win, win. You aren’t just apart of a community, you’re apart of an ecosystem of reuse, that aids in a locally driven business, serves your want, and by serving your want you are apart of solving a problem.

Source: Fast Company

Walmart tests drone deliveries for household goods and groceries

Walmart has started making its first deliveries by drone, launching a small pilot program this week in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The retailer will be delivering “select grocery and household essential items” using automated drones operated by Israeli startup Flytrex. Walmart has offered few details on the program, including how many drones are involved in the pilot and what checks (if any) customers need to make before receiving a delivery.

Each of the drones can fly at speeds of 32 mph, travel distances of 6.2 miles in a round trip, and carry up to 6.6 pounds (that’s roughly “6-8 hamburgers,” according to converted units offered on Flytrex’s website).

But don’t expect to see drones from Walmart (or any other retailer) buzzing over city streets any time soon. As Flytrex mentions on its website, its aircraft are “designed for the suburbs.”

Why it’s Hot:

There’s been talk of using drone delivery for years now, but was COVID-19 the final push toward making it a reality? And, what would it take for this to become the standard for delivery (even if just in suburban/rural areas)?

Source

Chess Streaming Wins the Pandemic

The New York times reports: “since the pandemic began, viewership of live chess games has soared. From March through August, people watched 41.2 million hours of chess on Twitch, four times as many hours as in the previous six months, according to the analytics website SullyGnome.”

Especially popular is Hiraku Nakamura, a top chess grandmaster known for his game-time banter and fan engagement. Nakamura, who gained nearly all of his half million Twitch followers since the pandemic began, is one of the first chess players to make an additional 6 figure income by joining a professional e-sports team.

A screen shot of Mr. Nakamura’s Twitch stream.

Why it’s hot: Somehow gamer interest has been re-directed from the hottest new games to one of the world’s oldest. This could create surprising new opportunities for brands as sponsors of a game that has the advantage of being very well known and strongly associated with intelligence.