Beiber x Crocs Collab = Normcore apotheosis?

“As an artist, it’s important that my creations stay true to myself and my style.”

Justin Bieber is embarking on a new fashion partnership — just in time for Croctober.

The singer, and founder of clothing brand Drew House, is teaming with Crocs for a limited-edition Classic Clog inspired by elements of his fashion brand. The shoes are designed in Drew House’s classic yellow hue and include eight custom Crocs’ charms, called Jibbitz, including the Drew House smiley face logo, rainbows, daisies and pizza slices, among others.

“As an artist, it’s important that my creations stay true to myself and my style,” Bieber said in a statement. “I wear Crocs all the time, so designing my own pair came naturally. With these Crocs, I just focused on making something cool that I want to wear.” —WWD

Of course, the collection sold out in a couple days and the Bieber Crocs have arrived on eBay listed for 4X the original price.

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s interesting to consider the ebb and flow of trendiness, and what ingredients seem effective in bringing a brand back from the brink. Like fine art, it doesn’t really matter what it is, when it comes to a trendy product. What matters is that the right people say it’s desirable, and thus it is.

 

  • Can art and advertising co-exist? Pop music seems to say a resounding “Yes!” Mainstream recording artists have become the new powerhouse endorsers, which speaks to pop music becoming ever more an advertising channel, rather than an art form.

Source:WWD

Levi’s launches used-jeans shopping ecosystem

From Green Matters:

Levi’s Secondhand is one of the first buyback initiatives of its kind.

Levi’s latest sustainability efforts have lead the brand to launch a buyback program called Levi’s Secondhand, which incentivizes customers to buy and sell secondhand. Customers can trade in old pieces for a gift card, according to HypeBeast, and their used clothes then go up for sale on the company’s Levi’s Secondhand website. Levi’s also will handpick some vintage items, and feature them on the website, selling them from $30 to $150 USD.

According to Vogue, Levi’s is the first major denim brand to start a buyback initiative.

This could really make a difference, regarding the company’s annual carbon footprint.

For Levi’s Secondhand, the company has partnered with an e-commerce start-up called Trove, who will handle logistics, cleaning, inventory processing, and delivery, and it seems as though their joined efforts will make a major impact on the company’s carbon emissions. According to MR Mag, each pair of used jeans sold will save approximately 80 percent of CO2 emissions, as well as 700 grams of waste, compared to buying new jeans.

Levi’s joins the continuously growing resale market, which is predicted to skyrocket from $32 billion in 2020, to $51 billion by 2023, as emphasis on environmental consciousness continues to rise among brands and buyers, according to Fast Company. Because the fashion industry contributes about 10 percent of global carbon emissions, as well as 20 percent of global water waste, this initiative is incredibly important.

Not the first buy-back or second hand initiative from a brand. Patagonia has been doing their Worn Wear resell program for some time.

A unique challenge: Shopping second hand, online, across the decades. Since sizing has changed over time, how do you know your size is your size on a pair of vintage Levi’s?

Why it’s hot:

1. There’s a tacit implication of quality and longevity in a program that buys back clothes and resells them, which aligns perfectly with Levi’s value proposition as a brand.

2. One of the challenges of sustainability is how brands can spin the idea into something beneficial to the consumer, without losing money. Levi’s has leaned into the “shop used” to save the earth meme as the value proposition without giving consumers much in return, and while at the same time, capturing the value of the returned jeans for the brand, in the form of a gift card for future purchase.

 

Source: Green Matters

 

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

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

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

KFC censors its slogan in attempt at relevance during Covid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Markeitng Week:

KFC is temporarily dropping the ‘It’s finger lickin’ good’ slogan it has used in its advertising for 64 years and launching its first global campaign in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A campaign launching today (24 August), created by agency Mother, shows various images of KFC– including an outdoor ad and a number of shots of its infamous bucket of chicken – with the ‘finger lickin’’ part of its slogan pixelated out. It ends with the line: “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.”

The campaign will run across TV, press, social media and digital. Outdoor ads will feature KFC buckets with disclaimers, saying things like: “Lick fingers at own risk.”

KFC UK and Ireland’s head of retail and advertising, Kate Wall, tells Marketing Week: “We’ve been using that slogan for over 64 years and it’s arguably one of the most famous in the world – for a reason, we know our guests always lick the crumbs off their fingers because the chicken is so delicious.

“This year has thrown everyone – all brands – and we took a bit of a global stance that actually right now our slogan is probably the most inappropriate slogan out there, so we need to stop saying it.”

The decision to both drop the slogan and run a global campaign was prompted by the insight that encouraging finger licking was “inappriopriate” in the middle of a pandemic.

Why it’s (not) hot

Not This premise is a bit of a stretch considering licking your fingers is not a vector of transmission, and it’s a little condescending to the public, as in, did anyone really need this message from KFC? Brands want credit for seeming to care about the world and its people, and sometimes the ways they go about eliciting this credit is tone deaf or just off the mark.

Hot Removing part of the tagline does encourage the million+ viewers on Youtube alone to try to remember it, which further instills their slogan in their minds, so that part is clever.

Source: Marketing Week

Google Maps tracks forest fires in near-real-time

The Verge:

Type in the name of an ongoing wildfire into Google search, and the site will now bring up a map featuring a near-real-time boundary of the fire. Google revealed the feature today, which was piloted in California last year and will now be available across the US.

Google Maps will also update users with road closures and provide them with directions that help them avoid danger and roadblocks. If someone is looking at an area near a blaze on Google Maps, they’ll get an alert.

Getting accurate information to people near a wildfire can save lives. It’s also a constant challenge for emergency responders because the situation can change rapidly, while hearsay online can quickly drown out reputable sources. Google developed the new mapping feature with input from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) as part of an effort to make important updates easier to find.

The problem came to the attention of Yossi Matias, vice president of engineering at Google, in 2010 during the Mount Carmel fire near Haifa, Israel. Matias was working in Google’s Haifa office when his team saw billowing smoke outside. A Google search failed to turn up anything more helpful than what they could already assess from their windows. “While we did find some details confirming what we already knew—a large fire was taking place outside of our door—we experienced a potentially life-impacting information gap,” Matias wrote in a blog post announcing the new mapping feature today.

Now, the same Google search would result in more curated content. The scare Matias and his team experienced led to the development of Google’s SOS Alerts in 2017. Beneath a red banner labeled “SOS Alert,” the search results offer top stories, followed by official updates for emergency situations. Starting today, searches for wildfires will also include a more detailed map showing the boundaries of an active blaze.

Why it’s hot:

As the climate crisis worsens, how much more will we rely on information services such as this? And what forms will that information take with regards to mass migration, air pollution, heat waves, droughts, floods, etc?

Will our phones help us survive? No doubt those with access to such services will be advantaged.

“Reclaim Her Name” gives women authors the credit they deserve

Mary Ann Evans and Amantine Aurore Dupin probably don’t ring much of a bell for most people, even those who are avid readers of literature. Definitely not as much as these women’s exalted noms de plume “George Eliot” and “George Sand”, pseudonyms these brilliant women took on in order to get their work published and read in a world that overwhelmingly ignored or disdained the expression of women. Some smart folks at VMLY&R decided to help change that, and to honor women authors, by publishing their work in their true names in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK.

From Campaign:

Baileys has partnered The Women’s Prize for Fiction to create a collection of novels that were written by women but originally published under male pseudonyms.

Over the centuries, many female writers have felt compelled to publish work under a male name to be taken seriously. To highlight this, the Baileys’ collection celebrates the work of  writers including Mary Ann Evans, Ann Petry and Amantine Aurore Dupin (pen names George Eliot, Arnold Petri and George Sand, respectively) to mark 25 years of The Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Last year, the Irish liqueur brand launched a series of events around the Women’s Prize for Fiction, including a “Baileys book bar” pop-up at Waterstones on Tottenham Court Road, London.

From Creative Brief.com:

The campaign honours and celebrates female authors and will include the first ever publication of Middlemarch under George Elliot’s real name, Mary Ann Evans.

Each of the 25 books in the library features newly commissioned cover artwork which was created by female designers and the full collection will be available to download as free e-books. The team carefully selected each of the 25 books, searching archives, online and university resources to identify female writers who disguised their gender with pseudonyms. The collection includes A Phantom Lover by Violet Paget (pen name Vernon Lee) and Marie of the Cabin Club by Ann Petry (pen name Arnold Petri).

Liz Petry, daughter of Anne Petry, explained her pride at her mother’s inclusion under her own name. She says: “When I was asked if my mother’s work could be included within such a worthy collection of books along with other impressive female writers, I was honoured. I’m incredibly proud of my mother’s work and it excites me that her writing has been introduced to a new audience through this collection. I know she would be thrilled to be a part of this as it’s an incredible conversation starter for such an important cause. My mother always believed in a world with shared humanity and I think this project encapsulates that.”

Tamryn Kerr, Creative Director, VMLY&R added: “Many of the authors we selected were suffragettes and staunch feminists. I’d like to think of this project as our way of thanking them for what they did for us, and of supporting a new generation of artists through the new cover art that 13 inspiring female illustrators, from all over the world, created for the Reclaim Her Name collection.”

What happens when you google Middlemarch…

THIS…

TO THIS…

Check out all the other titles being published

Why it’s hot:

1. Middlemarch, first published in 1871, will be published under the author’s real name for the first time.

2. This gives other publishers more permission to publish these titles with the authors’ true names. And on the flip side, in this day and age, would a publisher be bold enough stupid enough to continue to publish Middlemarch under the name George Eliot? In 50 years, will Mary Ann Evans be more well known than George Eliot?

3. Baileys seems like an odd pairing, but it’s smart of them to attach themselves to an undeniably positive movement in the literary world.

Source: Creative Brief

Babe Wine & Bumble find a quarantine niche

What meaningful role can a dating app and a wine brand both play in the lives of those going through a Covid breakup? They can be those two dependable besties, one who pours you a drink and says they always hated your ex, while the other tells you you’re better off and helps you move your things. This seems to have been the insight behind the brand collaboration of Babe Wine and Bumble, who have offered people a chance to have their move-out costs covered (plus a Babe Wine gift-card and a free Bumble profile) by being tagged by a IRL friend — who thinks you really could us a pick-me-up during your covid-breakup woes — in the comments on Babe Wine’s Instagram.

 

From Mobile Marketer:

Babe Wine, the brand of sparkling canned wine owned by AB InBev, is working with women-first dating app Bumble on a social media campaign to cover the moving costs of people who are stuck living with an ex during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an announcement shared exclusively with Mobile Marketer.

To win a chance to have their moving costs covered by Babe and Bumble, users of photo-sharing app Instagram can tag themselves on the “moving on” post on Babe’s @drinkbabe account. The brand will choose five winners from the comments who appear to be “turning their breakup into a glow up,” per the announcement.

Babe and Bumble created a flyer showing a mock moving company named “B&B Movers” that touts its services, including moving furniture, removing all traces from an ex from a smartphone and tailoring a Bumble profile to get back into the dating scene.

The stunt is most likely to reach the 75% of U.S. consumers ages 18 to 24 and the 57% of people ages 25 to 29 who use Instagram, as measured by Pew Research Center. Those consumers helped to drive a 79% surge in off-premise sales of canned wine to $163 million for the 12-month period ended in June, per Nielsen data cited by Forbes. The growth in canned wine indicates how younger consumers are seeking convenience and value consistent with their easy-drinking style, Wine Spectator reported.

From Marketing Brew:

The dating app and AB InBev wine brand are offering to cover moving costs (and more) to turn five breakups into glow ups via an Instagram giveaway.

The prize? Not having to quarantine with your ex anymore, plus wine and a new Bumble profile.

Price of entry? Commenting on B&B’s Instagram post about the campaign.

Find a friend: Like any relationship, it’s important to make sure your partner isn’t your competitor. Bumble and Babe swiped right because they sell different things to similar audiences.

Go hard on cobranding: Bumble’s outline font, meet Babe Wine’s high-performing brand colors. Even B&B’s cobranded moving van now provides brand equity for both partners.

Provide more than cash: In addition to covering $600 worth of moving fees, Babe & Bumble promote their products by offering a $100 Babe gift card and a “hand tailored” Bumble profile as prizes.

Why it’s hot:

Right time, right product, right message. The lighthearted and encouraging copy is just what the recently heartbroken are looking for, as well as a moving company and some wine in a can to drown their sorrows.

Leveraging IRL friends. Asking friends to nominate someone who needs some “love” helps draw a connection from the brand into the sphere of someone’s actual friend. Psychologically, this feels a little like community, and that’s just what you’re desperate for when you’ve just broken up.

“Brand as friend” is strong with this one. Babe Wine is was built on social media, so a campaign on social that drives interaction has them very in their element, and every comment reply offers them an opportunity to reinforce their brand identity. Fun Fact: Babe Wine was co-founded by The Fat Jew, someone who knows a thing or two about social media marketing.

Source: Mobile Marketer, Marketing Brew

Relaunching the Ford Bronco after 25 years

After 25 years the Ford Bronco is back for 2021. The model was discontinued in 1996 after the market shifted, to make room for a new breed of over-sized family SUVs that allowed suburbanites to feel like they weren’t over the hill. No, it was not discontinued because of OJ, but it’s a common assumption.

They had a lot to cover to make this relaunch a success.

  1. Connecting the new model to its storied history as “America’s first SUV” and educating the audience about that history? Check.
  2. Authentically tapping into the spirit of adventure and escapism that defines the category? Check.
  3. Triggering the public’s wanderlust after being cooped up for months by Covid? Check
  4. Embodying the power and rugged emotionality of wild horses and the Great American West? Check.
  5. Shrugging off Ford’s weak “Ford-Focus” image. Check.

The copywriters had a field day in the ads, with gems like:

  1. Literally calling the vehicle a “horse”.
  2. “You need something that can look adventure in the eye, and give it a firm handshake.”
  3. You need something that’s not happy until it takes you through whatever creek or snow or mud or mountain trail or dune or logging road or landmark with death in its name. You need a Bronco.”
  4. “Built as wild as what you’re looking for.”

To Dos:

Launch it like it’s the blockbuster event of the summer

OPENING LINE: “There’s still some wild out there…”

Explain why it’s the antidote to the disappointment of the American mythology’s unfulfilled promise of a life of adventure

OPENING LINE: “This country has a strange relationship with the wild. As much as we talk about it, and paint paintings of it, and sing songs about how we’re destined to be it, we seem to spend every waking hour in places that keep us away from it… so to get back to the wild, we need something built for it.”

Tap into our primal instincts of auditory association

Show audiences the R&D

Show off your history / remind people you’re a legend

Use the old to sell the new

 

 

 

 

 

Make it a lifestyle

Get the nerds to geek out on features

 

Ford Press Release:

“Academy Award-winning director and acclaimed cinematographer, photographer and professional climber, Jimmy Chin, collaborated with Disney CreativeWorks, Disney’s award-winning creative agency, to co-create network reveal stories with the Ford team.”

From Tech Crunch:

The launch of the Bronco looks to be a masterclass in nostalgia. For the last few weeks, Ford has been feeding journalists with media assets — pictures, staged interviews and upcoming advertisements. I’ve yet to see the full vehicle because in the end, Ford is not relying on the Bronco itself to drive sales, but rather, is digging deep into the power of nostalgia to move the Bronco off lots.

Recalling the past can help companies develop a unified theme around a product or service. In this case with the Bronco, only recalling part of the past helps companies dial in messaging. With Ford, the company wants consumers in agreement: This is a tough vehicle and it’s always been a tough vehicle. Forget about OJ, these adverts say. Instead, look at how the Bronco was used by two burly men bounding over the rolling hills of a cattle ranch. Ford is digging deep into American lore to show the Bronco as a rugged conqueror of the frontier instead of a conqueror of parking lot flowerbeds.

Why it’s hot:

They treated the relaunch like a summer blockbuster, teasing it for weeks.

They let viewers in on the R & D process and let the car nerds talk it up.

They connected to powerful auditory sensations in ads.

They showed us all the places we wish we could go, tapping into our pent-up covid wander lust.

They re-worked their famous tagline just for this: From Built Ford Tough to BUILT WILD

The Ford logo is nowhere to be found, even on the vehicle itself. This is all about the BRONCO franchise.

They built an affinity community around it with tons of features to make it a lifestyle.

Source: Twitter, Ford, Tech Crunch

 

Walmart poised to capture the summer movie market?

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

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

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

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

From The Verge:

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

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

Source: The Verge

Boston latest big city to take stand against facial recognition software

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

Fast Company:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

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

Source: Fast Company

Twitter wants to make sure you did your homework

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot

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

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

Source: The Guardian

New developments in the digital divide

From The Verge:

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot

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

Source: The Verge

A symbol to send a message about clean water

From The Stable:

Wash your hands is a Covid safety imperative. But there are millions of people without access to clean water. One in ten people in the world is denied access to clean water and one in four people out of ten don’t have a decent toilet of their own. Without these basic human rights, overcoming poverty is just a dream, as is good health and combating a deadly virus like Covid-19. International charity WaterAid has been working for a number of years to change this. Right now, that job is even more urgent and it has partnered with Don’t Panic on a new campaign, Bring Water.

The agency picked up the rainbow symbol, which has become part of the Covid community response, a sign of solidarity and belief that began in schools, and that now adorns streets, filling the windows of homes and the temporarily closed windows of restaurants and businesses across the planet. In the campaign film, You Can’t Have a Rainbow Without Water​, real rainbows are documented across the globe.

Why it’s Hot

It was smart to take a common symbol of hope (the rainbow) to make a clear statement that without clean water, there is no hope.

Source: The Stable

This AI makes neologisms by portmanteau-ing the English language

Yesterday a smart person named Thomas Dimson, who formerly wrote “the algorithm” at Instagram, launched a site that uses the Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm: Transformers, and OpenAI‘s infamous GPT-2 AI-powered text generator, to generate and define new English words, and use them in a sentence.

It’s called This Word Does Not Exist, and it has so far created gems such as:

A disclaimer at the bottom of the site reads: Words are not reviewed and may reflect bias in the training set.

You can also write your own neologism and the AI will define it for you. It’s a fun diversion, but does it have any use? Probably not in this form. But it speaks to how AI may be used in the fun-and-games side of life, but also how it may ultimately shape the foundations of how we communicate.

Why it’s hot:

It’s fun to participate in the creation of something new (without having to work too hard), and language is the perfect playground for experimentation.

As AI becomes more influential in our daily lives, it’s interesting (and perhaps a little disturbing) to imagine the ways in which it may take part in creating the very words we use to communicate. What else might AI give us that we have heretofore considered to be the exclusive domain of humans?

Source: TheNextWeb

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-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

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

Quarantine can’t keep Thao & The Get Down Stay Down down

From The Verge (emphasis mine):

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Oakland-based band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down had a problem. Their plan to shoot a music video for their single “Phenom” was abruptly canceled as shelter-in-place orders rolled in. The band, crew, and dancers could no longer meet up in person, and they were faced with a decision: put everything on hold or figure out a way to make the music video remotely. “At first we didn’t know if we would even release the song because it’s about people unifying,” Thao tells The Verge. “So it was never an option for me to shoot the video solo.” But then her manager had an idea. What if they shot the music video entirely within Zoom?

Featuring Thao alongside eight dancers, the “Phenom” video went from concept to completion within a week. There was one pre-production meeting, one five-hour rehearsal, and one shoot day, all of which took place on Zoom. “If we were going to do such a thing and commit to it,” says Thao, “we had to do it really quickly because it is so of the moment.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s cool to see creative people using the medium of the moment (video conferencing) to create art in a short amount of time. It goes to show that what’s most important is not having the highest production value, but connecting with your audience.

Using Zoom as a medium places the viewer in emotional proximity to the band, making them relatable, but the creative approach to choreography within the Zoom frames heightens the medium from mere communication to the level of art.

Source: The Verge

A new voice injects some action into the democratic party persona

Apparently this ad came out in September, but I was just served it on Instagram a couple of days ago, and it’s just plain fun.

Most political ads are easy to ignore, but not this one. It plays like a trailer for an action movie, and only at the end do we discover that Valerie Plame is a democrat running for Congress. It piques the viewers interest first, eschewing the common tendencies of both tuning out political ads and of ignoring messages from outside one’s political cohort.

Why it’s hot:

1. Democrats have a huge messaging problem. They’ve long been criticized for being kind of lame and generally unable to inspire voter turnout, which is the main thing they need to do in order to win elections. Valerie Plame is bringing a new edginess to the party.

2. Congressional races have entered the national stage. As Democrats are looking to turn Congress more blue to combat a nearly inevitable Trump win, democratic candidates are hoping to appeal not just to their future constituents, but to the country as a whole, to fund their campaigns. To do so, this ad focuses on key national political issues (“national security, health care, and women’s rights”) and takes direct aim at Trump.

Tech-forward restaurant designs open-source take-out “airlock” to protect workers

The San Fransisco tech-forward restaurant Creator has made their new airlock system (for providing take-out orders during the coronavirus crisis) open source for any other businesses that need to protect their workers from the many possibly infected people coming to their locations.

Makezine:

The chamber is pressurized by a Sanyo Denki 24-volt 65CFM blower regulated by simple LM317 voltage regulator circuit. The conveyor belt feeds itself through a 5 gallon bucket of quaternary sanitizing solution. Customers can order through an intercom, and their takeaway bags are heat-sealed and labeled with a tamperproof sticker just to be extra super sanitary.

Fast Company:

“Retail workers are on the front lines, exposed to hundreds of strangers every day in enclosed spaces,” says Creator founder Alex Vardakostas. “If retail workers fall ill, they are in turn at risk of infecting delivery workers and customers. We can’t restart the economy until retail and restaurant workers are protected. They’re some of the most important people to keep virus-free.”

This falls directly in Creator’s wheelhouse, as they are known for being the first to automate the making of a fully prepared burger with the beautiful machine above. Fast-moving innovations like the airlock promote the restaurant brand as a function of doing good for their workers, which is of such concern with service workers right now, and gives customers more piece of mind as they look for safe places to procure food and have a sense of normalcy in these difficult times.

Fast Company:

The restaurant’s team has unusual engineering skills—when Creator opened in 2018, it became the first in the world to make fully prepared burgers with a robot that handles everything from slicing the bun and cooking the patty to chopping up onions and tomatoes. For customers in the current pandemic, there’s some added comfort in the fact that the process minimizes human contact; the machine even packages each burger itself. But the storefront still needs staff to get the food to customers waiting to pick it up, and last week, engineers and fabricators set to work on the new airlock-like window.

Why it’s hot:

1. The world needs fast-moving innovation right now, and there’s nothing like giving your innovation away for free to garner media recognition and positive public sentiment. The earned media from their design and their gesture will pique the interest of many, who will discover even cooler offerings coming out of the brand’s innovative approach — like a $6 gourmet burger in San Fransisco.

2. Making this design open-source may help other restaurants move quickly to implement solutions that work for them — but it mostly promotes the brand as being next-level, and getting it hyped in publications like Fast Company.

What IP do brands have that could function in a similar way, helping the public in a way that shows off their unique offerings or abilities (instead of donating money), while garnering positive sentiment and media attention?

Source: Fast Company, Makezine

Indie performing artists embracing Twitch amidst widespread tour cancellations

Due to COVID-19, Twitch, the streaming site popular with gamers is beginning to have a new constituency: Musicians. “50% of millennial males in America use Twitch. If you want to reach millennial males (which odds are, you do) Twitch is a good place to do it.” But now that musicians are using the platform more, Twitch may draw in more than just the male/18-34 demo.

From The Verge:

Mark Rebillet is part of a fast-growing community of musicians who are migrating to digital platforms to perform “quaranstreams” during the pandemic. Many larger artists, like Charli XCX, John Legend, and Diplo are choosing Instagram, but indie artists are overwhelmingly flocking to Twitch.

There’s one likely reason: while Instagram is an easy option to reach lots of people en masse, Twitch offers an abundance of ways to make money. “It’s more financially focused,” says musician and longtime Twitch streamer Ducky. “It supports different tiers of subscriptions and donations. People can subscribe to a channel for free with their Amazon Prime account. Fans can tip in micro amounts with things like Cheers. Other platforms usually just pay out on ad revenue or number of plays.”

Will the interactivity of live-streamed performances be enough to draw a crowd comparable to what an artist might draw on tour? It might not matter, because musicians have multiple revenue streams that are compatible with the Twitch platform. The vibe of a live show will never be captured via Twitch, but live-streaming shows may be a bigger part of the future of music due to covid.

Why it’s hot:

Artists might end up making more money

1) Because they can now reach a worldwide audience all at once, and eschew the high costs of touring, including the cuts venues and ticket vendors take on ticket sales.

2) Because of the ease of “tipping” on Twitch, audiences may end up paying their favorite artists more than they would for a ticket to a concert.

Musicians streaming on Twitch may offer brands a new way-in to the platform.

Aside from going the gamer route, brands may want to get in front of viewers watching a concert in real time. What kind of interesting interactive activation could brands do that would not undermine the musicians credibility?

Source: The Verge

Brand agency plays “social safety net” for SXSW service industry workers whose incomes were canceled by COVID-19

From Fast Company: “A branding agency in Austin, Texas, has launched a GoFundMe page to tip the local service workers impacted by the cancellation of this month’s South by Southwest festival. “Thousands of Austin service workers and musicians will be hit significantly from canceled events, lost wages and tips. We’ll take the funds to Austin music venues, restaurants, bars and hotels and distribute them to individuals from March 13-22,” write the fund’s creators, from the agency T3.

Nearly half a million festival-goers were expected to arrive in Austin beginning this week. The giant culture festival that mingles artists, musicians, and startups was canceled on Friday by the city of Austin over COVID-19 concerns, following the pullout of companies such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as an online petition with over 55,000 signees calling for a cancellation. Festival organizers said they are “devastated,” and local hotels and venues that depend on attendees’ spending say they may be put out of business.”

Amid talks of a $15 minimum wage and Medicare For All in the US, the coronavirus is making it even more painfully clear how many people are living just on the edge of ruin.

Why it’s hot:

Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on the economy, and since no one wants to gather in the places where these people work, service workers are going to be hit particularly hard. A hyper-aware public seems receptive to brands that “protect their people”, so it’ll be interesting to see how brands attempt to spin that in their favor.

“We’re not doing this for publicity, but to help our city.” They say they aren’t doing it for publicity, but they sure are getting a lot of publicity for it. This is a do-gooder publicity stunt that everyone can get behind, coming not from a consumer brand, but from an agency. Unfortunately, they’re unable to innovate on actually helping service workers, and this stunt continues to perpetuate the system that keeps service workers in such a vulnerable position.

It’s a nice story that brands can do good in the world, but everyone should remember that sometimes brands just can’t solve certain social problems.

Source: Fast Company

Hefty makes a brawny claim about reducing waste

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to recycling and reducing waste is in educating people on what it is, why it matters, and how to do it, all while not boring people to death about it, or coming off as preachy. Hefty takes on that messaging hurdle with a little humor and smartly keeps the details vague.

Another issue with marketing a brand’s waste reduction is in equating it to something people can understand. How do you wrap your head around the fact that globally we produced 275 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2010! You can’t. People need a frame of reference to understand these abstract numbers, and this campaign does that with the help of a somewhat goofy strongman pulling a passenger jet, which represents the weight of the plastics that Hefty has managed to reclaim.

Once interest is piqued, people are taken to a micro-site that explains in more detail Hefty’s sustainability efforts: Hefty Sustainability.com

And what they’re doing is actually pretty cool and innovative. They have created a special bag in which to put hard-to-recycle plastics (those that are not accepted by most residential recycling programs) such as plastic food packaging, straws, candy wrappers, etc., which would otherwise most certainly end up in a landfill, in a tree, or choking the windpipe of a seabird.

Why it’s hot:

1. It doesn’t require you to identify as “green” in order to get it: A lot of “sustainable” brands lean into the lifestyle of the eco-conscious in their messaging, but that can turn off a lot of people who don’t identify that way. For a nationwide brand like Hefty, it makes more sense to stay away from identity and focus on their product and accomplishments.

2. It’s not much of an accomplishment actually, but it’s a start, and it’s backed up by action: Given the fact that more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, a well-informed consumer might scoff at Hefty’s accomplishment of converting one measly airliner’s worth of hard-to-recycle plastic into new materials. But they have a model that helps collect plastics that you can’t normally recycle, and uses their product in a way people are already using it to do so.

3. Mining trash is actually a way to generate revenue: This is a mostly untapped market for raw materials, which is essentially TerraCycle’s business model, of gathering material others can’t (or won’t) and reselling it, which had it earning $20+ million in revenue in 2018.

Source: Marketing Dive

Panera coffee subscription is the new free-wifi, but it costs $9+/month

Panera has launched a coffee subscription as a part of its loyalty program. For $8.99/month, you get unlimited drip coffee — 1 cup every two hours for as long as you can handle it. They may be burning through beans, but what this really means is they’ll be selling a lot more sandwiches.

From Fast Company: “Though Panera is pitching the subscription as a way for you to save money on coffee, Panera’s 150 test locations over the last three months saw subscribers visit three times more frequently and purchase 70% more in add-on items than the average customer. In other words, watch your wallet. These metrics, in addition to a surge of new customers, are inspiring Panera’s quick nationwide rollout.”

Because most Panera locations are suburban, customers tend to drive to the location. When they’ve made the commitment to drive, people are more likely to “bundle” their shopping by also eating at Panera once they’ve picked up their subscriber coffee.

Bonus points: being mostly suburban, Panera also avoids the on-foot, in-and-out commuter coffee buyers who are not likely to purchase any additional goods.

For consumers, it’s a novel way to think about coffee purchase.

For Panera, it seems like a smart way to lure people into their stores, in order to sell them higher-margin products like sandwiches and soups.

Why it’s hot:

1. Data: Registered subscribers will give Panera a huge amount of consumer data that they could use to understand menu preferences by a variety of demographics, as well as better identify core customers and understand their habits.

2. Earn brand loyalty by exploiting commitment bias: If you get someone to buy into the subscription, they are far more likely to continue to go to you for their coffee fix even if they ultimately cancel their subscription as brains subconsciously associate their body’s physiological coffee high with your store, and those neural pathways are difficult (and cognitively costly) to change.

3. It’s a smart lure: A big challenge for suburban food and beverage shops is getting people in the door. This encourages that, and a lot of people who go into a shop to buy coffee end up buying a muffin, or a sandwich, which is where these companies really make their money. If you stay (or return) to Panera to take advantage of the every-two-hour refill, you’re likely to buy even more.

Source: Fast Company

Google AI no longer sees gender

Google has decided it wants to avoid potential gender bias in its AI system for identifying images, so it’s choosing to simply use the designator “person” instead.

From The Verge:

The company emailed developers today about the change to its widely used Cloud Vision API tool, which uses AI to analyze images and identify faces, landmarks, explicit content, and other recognizable features. Instead of using “man” or “woman” to identify images, Google will tag such images with labels like “person,” as part of its larger effort to avoid instilling AI algorithms with human bias.

“In the email to developers announcing the change, Google cited its own AI guidelines, Business Insider reports. “Given that a person’s gender cannot be inferred by appearance, we have decided to remove these labels in order to align with the Artificial Intelligence Principles at Google, specifically Principle #2: Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting to see AI companies grapple with the reality of human social life, and navigate the shifting waters of public mores.

Avoiding bias is a major issue in society, and it’s very important that the companies building AI don’t build their human bias into it. But with any new technology, there can be unintended and unpredictable consequences down the line, from even seemingly innocuous or universally accepted ideas.

Source: The Verge

ThredUp launches Fashion Footprint Calculator

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

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

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

Source: Fast Company

Burger King jumps on Bronx-steps Joker meme

Thanks to the success of the Joker movie, the now famous Bronx steps have become an Instagram-able tourist destination, to the chagrin of many locals just trying to get to work.

Riding on the coat tales of this meme-fueled furor, Burger King took the opportunity to create some local goodwill (while taking a jab at its main clown-mascotted rival) by offering Bronx residents a free Whopper, delivered by UberEats, as a consolation for having to deal with the rapid influx of Joker-stair tourists AKA clowns (burn).

Why it’s hot:

Brands are desperate to be a part of pop culture, and this campaign finds a low-risk, nonpolitical way to catch the viral wave, with little investment.

Rides on the pop-culture success of Joker, but comes at it from a snarky, unpredictable angle.

Source: Fast Company

Red Bull’s solar-powered billboard lights-up nighttime sports

Lighting for nighttime sports is scarce in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, making it hard for people to enjoy outdoor activities, like football and skateboarding, at night. The desire to play sports at night is especially strong in Vietnam because of the intense daytime heat and humidity. Red Bull, being all about energy and action, used this as an opportunity to create a social benefit while aligning the brand with a different kind of energy than caffeine: solar.

To do this, they painted a grid of used Red Bull cans black, in order to soak up the sun’s energy during the day, then stored that energy in batteries, which were used to power flood lights, making nighttime games and sports possible.

Why it’s hot:

Instead of just throwing up some standard billboards in outdoor recreation areas, Red Bull decided to be user-centered, looking to solve a real problem first, and found a clever way for the brand to participate in a more meaningful way within the culture it wants to attract.

1. Alignment: Red Bull sells an image of passion — a desire to go “all out” for one’s dreams, and this project fits perfectly with that image.

2. Social benefit: This hits on all cylinders for Red Bull. It positions the brand as essential to the sports it’s supporting, while repurposing resources, reducing energy use, and showing off its innovation chops. Helping people in this small way with things they are passionate about extends good will toward the brand far beyond the initial investment.

Source: Contagious