Taking the ‘His’ Out of History

His Story

You probably remember your elementary, middle and high school history books. There were stories of conflict, resolution, triumph and innovation. These are the stories of how the United States became the country it is today.

And the main characters in most of these stories? Dudes. Studies show that 89% of the history textbook references reference men as the main characters. Stories about men, written by men for men. Some academics accuse history as literally being his story.

HerStory

But a new augmented reality app aims to bring the other half of the population into the picture, literally. “Lessons in Herstory” shows students that there are women to remember as well. If students scan an image of a male historical figure in A History of US, Book 5: Liberty for All? 1820­–1860 (California’s most popular U.S. History text), the app unlocks a story of an important female historical figure from that same period. For example, if you scan President Zachary Taylor, and you’ll see an illustration and story of Cathay Williams, the first African-American woman to enlist in the army during the Civil War, when women were prohibited from entering the military.

[The app was created by the ad agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners and currently features stories of 75 women from the 19th century. The project was born from a panel at Cannes Lions last year.]

Why It’s Hot

The novelty of AR has led to many frivolous uses of it as the industry struggled and grappled with how to make it useful. This application shows off AR in the best way possible – literally allowing it to augment our history lessons to tell a full story. Plus, this quickly allows us to recognize more to our history without having to rewrite history books.

Digital License Plates

What’s the Story? 

First off, did you know that state legislatures have been in the process of proposing and voting on bills to allow electronic displays on cars? In fact, at the end of 2018, Michigan became the first state to approve the use of electronic license plates.

But Silicon Valley startup, Reviver Auto, had already seen the market for digital license plates. You might be wondering why you would need a digital license plate, but Reviver points out these plates could serve more functionality other than an electronic display of the numbers and letters that make up a license plate.

For example, states could tie a fully frictionless digital experience to renewing registrations through the plates, saving time at the DMV. The plates could also double as an EZ-Pass, or other RFID toll paying system. Or they could be used to send out messages like Amber alerts or a notification to alert authorities if the car is stolen.

Why It’s Hot

We’re increasingly seeing digital experiences that are useful and provide value (rather than being a shiny object). Sometimes these take the shape of transforming a physical entity and enhancing it to offer more features and less friction for consumers. And that is precisely the case here.

Source: Wired

AI and Implicit Bias

Last weekend, AOC sounded the alarm about new research that found the facial recognition software Amazon is selling to law enforcement falls short on tests for accuracy and bias. According to the Washington Post’s reporting, researchers said Amazon’s algorithms misidentified the gender of darker-skinned women in about 30 percent of their tests. (Of course, Amazon promises that the facial recognition software in use is not the one tested by researchers.)

The problem stems from the sets of photos the algorithms were trained on — which skew heavily toward white men, the researchers said. And that caused AOC to sound the alarm on Twitter.

And if you’re really behind on implicit bias, please visit Harvard’s Project Implicit to learn more.

Why It’s Hot:

  1. For possibly the first time, Congress has a credible authority on technology and she’s on the House Oversight Committee so tech companies might want to take notice.
  2. As AI becomes real, we need to make sure we’re designing for each.

Source: Washington Post

Going Retro To Be Green

A new initiative by a small company has compelled more than two dozen of the world’s biggest brands to begin testing reusable packaging.

Loop, launched this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has amassed a blue-chip roster of companies, all of which are piloting a new system of high-quality packaging that can be returned and refilled again and again. In essence, it changes the ownership model of packaging from consumer to producer.

How It Works

Simply put, Loop brings back the old “milkman model,” where products are delivered to customers at the same time empties are picked up, washed, refilled and restocked for delivery to another customer. The customer gets the product but the company owns the package.

The reality is somewhat more complex.

Loop initially will be an e-commerce play. Consumers can order goods from the Loop website or that of a partner and have them delivered like traditional products ordered online. But there’s a twist: Customers pay a small deposit for a package that has been designed for 100 or more use-cycles. When the container is empty, customers place it in a specially designed tote for pickup or, in some cases, can bring it to a retailer. They can choose whether they want that product replenished; if not, their deposit is returned or credited to their account. The empties are sent to a facility where they are washed and refilled.

Why It’s Hot

Since the dawn of the recycling movement about 30 years ago, companies have tried a number of schemes to enable consumers to use packaging over and over.

But none of these has caught on beyond a tiny niche. Consumers, outside of a precious few hardcore greenies, don’t really want to be inconvenienced, much as they may be seeking to avoid wasteful practices.

Loop’s approach seeks to overcome those obstacles. The key, said Szaky, is trying to mimic the way consumers already buy, use and dispose of packaging.

Eco Six-Pack Rings

Marine plastic, who’s not thinking of it? From the notorious Pacific plastic mass to metal straw adoption, the topic is on our mind and seemingly one of the easiest to solve with some human behavior modification. What if that’s not feasible though — as is the case with the plastic rings that hold canned six-packs together? Those buggers not only contribute to marine plastic pollution, but also inflict some quite unnecessary damage to the species we share a planet with.

Well, enter Florida craft microbrewery, Saltwater Brewery, and their manufacturing partner, E6PR, who designed a eco friendly six-pack ring.

The cool part of the ring is not only is it biodegradable, but it’s also edible for wildlife.

While Saltwater Brewery seems to be the only brewer using these six-pack rings, E6PR is in talks with other brewers to adopt the innovation.

Why It’s Hot

We’re starting to see more innovations that are designed to be used, rather than to wow. This innovation falls into that role, but takes it a step further and does no harm.

Advances to Phone Technology… Finally?

It’s 2019, Why Are We Stuck with Decades Old Tech?

Am I the only one who has wondered how it can be 2019 and fundamental call technology has not changed since the late 1990s. (VOIP was the last real technology and that rolled out to businesses in 1995, gaining widespread adoption a decade later.) Yet, those of us who live on conference calls for a living have remained largely overlooked — creating quite a few problems for workers who need their phones to be, uh, a phone.

Problem #1: The Conference Call Lag

Anyone who’s dialed into a conference call knows how stilted they sound. It’s because everyone’s communication is delayed to broadcast. While it’s not the 7 seconds you get on live radio and t.v., it’s long enough to disrupt the flow of normal conversation. When you don’t have the nonverbal cues you gain from seeing someone, these lags can kill the productivity of a conference call. I hypothesize this is the number one reason people tune out on conference calls — the lag that makes a stilted conversation.

Problem #2: Codes, Codes and More Codes

When we talk about friction in systems, conference codes and leader pins top the list. If you’re calling from your mobile, you need your mobile to see the code. Or if you happen to be lucky enough to have your computer in front of you, the code is usually buried at the bottom of an email, in print that is too fine to read. (Well, maybe that last part just relates to me.)

Problem #3: The Quagmire of Web Conferencing

So you want to host a web call so you can see your colleagues face to face. This will likely be your journey – download the proprietary software onto your computer and make sure it works before the web conference. Then at the time of the web conference, connect via web first, then get a code for the dial in or audio enablement. So. Many. Steps. Sure Google Hangout and Skype make things slightly easier, but they are primarily computer-based also (not mobile).

Relief on the Horizon?

In November of 2018, I posted my quandry about why we still needed conference call dial ins and codes when it seems that we should have advanced past that and one of my friends drew my attention to NetLines. NetLines is essentially an app that turns your smart phone into a conference call, business-doing, productivity machine.

 

Why It’s Hot

As I mentioned above, phone features of mobile (and other phones) have been ignored for two decades. It’s about time someone brought a lower friction solution to market. I’m just surprised they haven’t gotten more buzz about this.

Christmas Advertising: The I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying Edition

John Lewis & Partners Christmas advertisement is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated annual ad campaign. And for good reason. Year after year, the retailer launches beautifully crafted stories that tug at the heartstrings of millions about the beauty of the season. And every year, those who follow the ads wonder how they will make a better ad next year. But they do.

Titled, The Boy & The Piano, the ad tells the true story of how a Christmas gift – a piano belonging to Elton’s grandmother – went on to inspire the music icon’s life, working backwards chronologically from the present day to the moment he received the present from his mum as a young child.

As the ad highlights Elton’s proudest career moments, his most famous tune ‘Your Song’ provides the soundtrack to the 2-minute-and-20-second film.

Why It’s Hot

Simply put, it’s pitch-perfect storytelling.

Light Up Dr. Bear

Despite Children’s Hospital renowned success, they still struggle to bring in donations year after year. So this year, they turned to creative partner SmithGifford to help solve this problem of donor fatigue.

The solution? Light-up bears (the unofficial mascot of Children’s National) are placed strategically around the city where by a simple text donation, anyone can donate $10. The delight is that your texted donation lights up both the bear in front of you and a bear in the room of a child staying at Children’s, completing that necessary feedback element of knowing the impact of a donation.

Why It’s Hot

Rather than tugging at the heart strings (solely) the way many giving campaigns do, this one gives both the donor and patients feedback as the donations are happening. Plus, wouldn’t you pay a small price to see the Dr. Bear light up and know you gave to a worthy cause?

Yeti’s Wild 10-Year Party

Yeti celebrated its Tundra coolers’ 10th birthday by throwing a party. But it wasn’t your average, expected, self-referential brand party full of champagne and celebrities. Instead, Yeti set out on a ten city tour where they featured a film about stories from the wild.

Yeti’s heritage has always been serving their customers, the wild ones, as they call them — the outdoors men and women who live for the adventure in life by spending a lot of time outside. And this film series hero’ed these ambassadors, how they live their lives and what makes them come alive. It’s a tactic Yeti uses often, a story well told, but it’s one that works and is now an essential element their brand.

Why It Was Hot 

The idea of this birthday celebration is so perfectly Yeti. It’s not just about their brand, it is their brand made into a birthday celebration.

But the bigger story, I think, is the word-of-mouth-marketing aspect of it. It’s an anecdote from my own life, but I think it’s a strong point that I heard about this film tour from a friend of mine who has seen me carry a Yeti rambler for the better part of a year. And simply, she just thought I would like to know about it.

There’s something so interesting about being a strong, modern brand that lives an analog life on purpose to include every part of the customer’s journey with the brand.

BMW Ringtones

BMW Financial Services wanted to interact with drivers more often than just at the beginning and end of their auto loan or lease. Pulling sounds from a real BMW 3 Series “driving machine,” BMWFS created a website that lets visitors design and download from a library of ringtones, even giving drivers the option to design their own.

The site designer from Partners + Napier describes it as, “… truly deliver(ing) a positive brand experience – every time your phone rings.”

How do drivers find these ringtones? In addition to buzz in BMW forums and social media, the ringtones are delivered to each BMWFS account holder on his or her birthday, far different any crummy canned message or expected discount you might get from other brands on your birthday.

Take a listen to the ringtones here.

Why its hot?
1) Surprise and delight meets long-term usefulness: BMW drivers know the brand for sending surprise and delight swag, but this one also delivers value. Unlike a hand-drawn image of your car series or a discount for your birthday, this is one drivers will likely use for awhile, keeping the brand top-of-mind without being intrusive.

2) Insight: The brand knows its customer (they call them drivers) well. BMW drivers love the sounds of their car (or even the car they aspire to have). BMW knows this and acted on it.