Unilever Gives Birth to Baby Dove

(Baby brain alert!)

Unilever’s Dove and Dove Men+Care are proud parents of Baby Dove, the brand’s first major category extension since launch of the aforementioned men’s line seven years ago. The new line of baby washes, lotions and wipes kicks off with a digital video today to be followed by a broader digital, TV and #RealMoms social campaign.

“Baby Dove is building on the 60-year heritage of cleansing and care and moisturization of the Dove brand,” said Nick Soukas, VP of Dove. One of the key insights behind the products is that baby skin loses moisture five times faster than adult skin, so Dove’s heritage of moisturizing products fits particularly well, he said. Beyond the moisturizing heritage, Dove has been squarely focused on moms and dads with its existing product lines for years, making the leap to babies fairly easy. Marketing for Dove Men+Care in particular has been focused on men’s roles as fathers since day one.

But Baby Dove will be focused on the primary buyer in the category — moms — and in particular bucking up women’s self-esteem vs. pressure to be perfect. Instead of Real Beauty, think of it as a campaign for real parenting. Read more here.

By coming from a place of support, acceptance & advocacy, the campaign has won a typically critical “mom community” online. Initial fan reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, with comments like: “Love how inclusive Dove is for all walks of life, regardless of color, gender, and sexuality. Keep it up!”  And popular mommy blogs have picked up on the conversation too, sharing the campaign with their own accompanying messages of positivity and in support of the launch. See examples here, here, and here.

Why it’s hot:

Being in tune with the role your brand plays in consumer lives + understanding the power of real consumer truths = A breakthrough campaign that will get the target audience sharing & talking.

On the heels of major mess ups (::cough, pepsi, cough::), it’s worth remembering that this simple combination of knowing your audience & knowing your brand can lead to a campaign that strikes a chord & feels right for the company.

BBC Earth’s Messenger Chatbot Gives You a Dose of Happiness

Chatbots are predicted to change the way consumers interact with brands, but very few brands have actually succeeded with them. BBC Earth America is one of the latest brands to join the craze, with its “Real Happiness” project.

A recent survey jointly conducted by BBC Earth and Berkeley University, revealed that watching nature documentaries can trigger happiness. That was a real “aha!” moment for BBC Earth, and one that fuelled the launch of the Real Happiness project. Real Happiness is simple – users interact with a Messenger chatbot, which then sends them personalized animal videos. It’s purpose is to bring people and nature closer together.

To receive their 45 seconds of tailored happiness, users need to answer a few quick questions related to their location, their state of happiness, as well as their personal preferences when it comes to animals.

Check it out here.


Why it’s hot:

Artificial intelligence is advancing and is set to be a game changer for 2017. So much so that investment in AI is expected to triple in 2017. Although the most hyped enhancement to happen to social this year resulted in more fails than wins, there is still huge potential in this space if utilized for the right reasons and in the right capacity. Bots should never replace what true human engagement accomplishes, but there are ways to get this right by following a few simple guidelines: (1) Keep it simple and easy to use; (2) Never pretend it’s a real person (people need to know they’re using an automated service); and (3) Use the technology to remove or reduce obstacles in whatever experience you’re looking to replicate through automation.


The North Face & Spotify Collaborate to Make a Song Available Only in the Rain

To market its Apex Flex GTX jacket, The North Face teamed with Spotify to make a song exclusive to rainy weather…

In a move that rides the line between fun and creepy, Spotify is now interested in whether or not it’s raining in your town. Monday, the streaming service announced the first weather-triggered song release as a part of a new project with The North Face.

The rain-inspired track “No Nee Ta Slode Aln” by the Austin-based bluesy psych-rock band White Denim will only be made available in cities where it’s raining. Spotify will use their geotargeting technology, already in use for ads, to make the song exclusively available in markets where measurable rainfall is being recorded.

Spotify presents a rather unique prospect for potential partners. And here, The North Face takes full advantage, turning the idea of a rainy day playlist into a marketing opportunity. The streaming service has tested geo-targeting integrations before, but this new partnership brings even more exclusivity. For The North Face’s “Seek No Shelter” campaign, White Denim’s new track “No Nee Ta Slode Aln” is only available to those listeners in the U.S. where it’s raining.

Why it’s hot:

In short – breaking through digital clutter is a hot topic we try to overcome every day in our work. And such a unique partnership coupled with the hyper-relevant integration on Spotify presents an almost perfect example of orchestrated marketing. No marketing goal or channel was an afterthought.

Tech Solutions for the “Slacktivist” Era

Now a group of techies wants to make reaching officials in Congress even easier. All you have to do is text. Called “Resistbot,” you’d be right to assume this app is meant to be a thorn in Trump’s side.

Check it out here, and read more here.

“We will faithfully deliver any message our users send in, but the voice of the product is for the liberals and conservatives in opposition to the Trump administration,” wrote co-creator Jason Putorti, a designer for AngelList who volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in an email to Recode.

Resistbot – launched Wednesday – faxes users’ texted messages to officials. Just type “resist” and hit send to 50409, and the automated bot will ask your name and your zip code. The zip code is used to determine who your public officials are. Then you type in your message.

The first message you send will go, by default, to your Senators. The bot is supposed to also help users send messages to Representatives after interacting more with the user, according to the app website. The site says Resistbot creators have confirmed messages are actually received by congressional staffers.

Why it’s hot:

The rallying cry to contact your member of Congres is louder than ever these days (and all over newsfeeds), but actually reaching them requires real action — more than 1 click, more than a scroll-by. By leveraging the ease of automation and the proliferation of SMS messaging today — perhaps this will finally activate the slacktivists towards meaningful change.

Sending a text message to reach your Senator or Representative may sound less impactful than making a phone call or stopping by their office in person, but Putorti said faxes and emails “are considered just as effective or more so [than phone calls] because there’s no way to truly verify if a call is from a constituent.”

It’s Time for Brands to Get Serious About Messaging Apps

Mobile messaging is becoming an evolving and quickly growing space, due to the likes of Facebook Messenger, Kik Messenger, WhatsApp and now Viber. Features such as public chats and chatbots are changing the nature of mobile engagements between companies and consumers, and brands still have a lot to learn. In a recent interview, the NA head of marketing at Viber spoke with eMarketer about how the messaging space is heating up.

News recently has been frequent in this space (as evidenced by these recent articles here, here, and here), representative of the significant growth in usage and interest from brands.

According to GWI, 67% of internet users report using chat/messenger apps as the most important mobile activity. It is worth noting that the four most popular messaging apps – Messenger, WhatsApp, QQ Chat and WeChat – have a wider community than the top four main social networks. While usage is still focused primarily on true person-to-person engagement, this behavior is a chance for brands to offer new, social utility. Platform usage and nuances in behavior varies drastically by geography, presenting opportunities for brands to personalize content by region and culture.

Why it’s hot:

Social engagement remains primarily about a larger sense of community and conversation. However, we’re seeing a stronger and more pronounced shift towards personalization, automation, and convenience as emerging themes. The trifecta of these desires from social users is causing a new expectation for how people wish to interact with brands in a 1:1 setting. The value of these experiences are obvious, but the challenges will be around developing them in authentic ways that speak to customers’ needs and ensure quality control.


Never-Ending Learning Curves

“Strategist” has been one of those titles for a while: it seems to be popping up everywhere, anyone can lay claim to it, and there’s no unified definition of it.

Yes, this post is a bit rogue. But given this “sea of strategy sameness” in the industry today, it’s critical that we, as a department, continue carving out our differentiation in terms of collective skillsets and mindsets.

So…who are we as strategists? We research problems until we know them inside out. We are rigorous, curious, and open-minded. We want to know why. We ask questions, formulate hypotheses. We seek different sources and counter-arguments. We reconcile and understand.

But understanding something is only the start. We then need to communicate to others: creatives, clients, people. That means resisting the temptation to share the full complexity of what we (think we) know. Quantity of output doesn’t equate with quality of thinking. It may dazzle people, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

No one wants to see how many notes you took. They just want to know what you think about the issue that is most important. The headlines. The narrative. The conclusion. The audience is your ultimate consideration — what do they need to know and what is the most simple and compelling way to express it?

To keep ourselves fresh and continue learning, we need to step out of the day to day and take time to learn. Time to be curious and explore. So I’m sharing some inspiration on where to start here and here.

Why it’s Hot: 

Whatever our strategy specialty — content, social, media, branding — the world is changing and we must too. In order to deliver the best possible thinking for our clients and ourselves, day in and day out, we need to find time to continue our growth and evolve our mindsets.

How brands’ use of Snapchat is changing

It’s called dark social for a reason: When it comes to Snapchat, brands are still feeling their way around blindly. But for those who have been using Snapchat for regular (that is, unpaid) content connecting with their followers has been a process of trial and error.

While some track screenshots and views to determine what content works, others try to monitor sales impact when they post product imagery.

Now, researchers including analytics firm Snaplytics — which recently analyzed 217,000 snaps from over 500 companies — have shone some light into what’s working for brands on the platform and which sectors are leading the pack.

Here’s what we know so far.

  1. 2016 saw adoption snowball
  2. Users aren’t watching ads, but are watching content (Recent data from a survey carried out by Fluent revealed over 70% of Snapchat users skip ads on the platform)
  3. Brands are posting less frequently, and packing less in (According to Snaplytics, brands were posting on average 13 snaps per story in the fourth quarter of 2016, down from 15 in the second quarter. And while the wide lens shows they are packing more content into these stories overall, a deeper look indicates that the majority of brands are consolidating around stories with seven snaps and under.)
  4. Video’s ascent has reached Snapchat too (Brands are realizing that Snapchat is the new TV for the younger generation and, consequently, they need to go full pelt on it,” said Tim Armoo, CEO of influencer marketing agency Fanbytes.)

Why it’s hot:

Ever the darling of social media, Snapchat’s adoption rate among both brands & users continues to skyrocket as we kick off 2017. Advertisers and publishers are hot for any data they can get their hands on around both competition and user behavior — so every bit of learning can help better define strategy.

Forever 21 Turns Your Instagram Photos Into Real-time, Real-Life Portraits, In Thread

Forever 21’s latest marketing stunt brings new meaning to the phrase, “nice threads.”

The fashion brand unveiled a massive screen designed to show off specially tagged Instagram shots. But it’s not a digital screen—in fact, the “pixels” on this screen are made entirely out of 1.5 inch-wide thread (ribbon is probably a more apt term) that rotate around to create a fabric tableau. F21 Thread Screen goes live July 22 and will run 24 hours a day for a week to support the brand’s back-to-school “Tried and True” campaign (which is all about cherishing your best friend). BFFs around the world are encouraged to tag Instagram photos with #F21ThreadScreen to have their images displayed. The entire thing is being live-streamed, and each image on the screen will be cut into a short video, sent back to the hashtager for them to share.

The mechanics alone are wildly inventive, if not borderline insane—6,400 wooden spools feature rainbow ribbons that spin to change among 36 colors, according to computerized directions, with each spool ultimately serving as a single pixel in an 80-by-80 “pixel” image. Ultimately, the renderings themselves are just shy of hypnotizing, with the shifting palettes creating an iridescent effect as the images morph. ”

We are gauging the initial reaction from our fans,” says Linda Change, VP of merchandising at Forever 21. “[The machine] being so complicated, and requiring a team of people to oversee if 24-hours a day, the current set up allows us to make sure it shines and performs at optimum capacity. After the first few days, we’ll see what kind of response we get and decide the best approach from there.”

Read more here

Why it’s hot:

“Our goal is to drive social reach [for] this campaign,” Chang adds. “The Thread Screen will naturally drive awareness, but it also shows Forever 21 as a leader in how social networks and technology can be used in completely new ways.”

Too big to ignore: LA Times hires first beat reporter to cover Black Twitter

The newspaper announced today it’s the first news organization to hire a beat reporter to cover the influential Twitter collective that is largely ignored by the mainstream media. The hiring of freelance journalist Dexter Thomas to cover Black Twitter is part of a broader push to beef up its digital side.

Managing Editor S. Mitra Kalita said that covering Black Twitter is “so much more complicated than that.” She’s right. At any one moment, the vast online culture is dominating the social network by discussing the news or initiating topics that trend on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Stereo Williams from the Daily Beast described it as an “online culture of black intellectuals, trendsetters, and talking heads giving voice to many of the issues that 20 years ago would’ve remained far away from the mainstream media.” He points to the recent hashtag campaigns (#BringBackOurGirls) and protestors using Twitter following the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin as how important it is to the black community. In fact, research from Pew reveals that 40 percent of black 18-to-29 year olds are active on Twitter, compared to just 28 percent of white Twitter users in the same age bracket.


Why it’s hot:

With Twitter struggling to find its purpose recently, black entrepreneur Tristan Walker says the platform “should pay attention” to its growing community of black members.

UGC: The Social Tipping Point

EngageSciences just released a research paper proving the fundamental impact that user-generated content can have on brands, and how it can drive audience acquisition, boost engagement and even optimize sales conversions.

We all work in an industry where we have witnessed the fundamental change in marketing recently, due primarily to the rise of mobile broadband, access to powerful cameras via smartphone devices, and the explosion of social media reach. These 3 technical innovations have combined to transform the way brands relate to their customers, and as a result, people are creating and sharing images and words like never before.

Some commentators have named this the ‘sharing economy’. Whatever you call it, smart brands are taking advantage. They’re taking user-generated content that refers to their brands and using it for their own benefit. And research suggests that it is much more effective in engaging and influencing consumers than their own ‘branded’ content, such as glossy photos or promotional videos.

Download the full white paper here: http://www.engagesciences.com/user-generated-content-white-paper/

Today’s consumers publish words, photos and videos online to share all aspects of their lives, including their favorite brands. The Pew Research Internet Project found that 54% of adult internet users now post original photos or videos online, up by nearly half on last year. They have become expert marketers of themselves – and potentially of the brands they love, as long as brand marketers can harness their creativity and influence.





Why it’s hot:

The reason behind this change is simple: Consumers trust their peers. They take inspiration from other people’s experiences, ratings, reviews and their sharing of products and services. Brands are already spending a huge amount of time, energy and money managing social channels and creating and distributing content. Even so, only the largest global brands can afford to establish a tangible presence across all social networks and populate them with enough content to stand out from the crowd. In addition, most marketers just aren’t able to produce the volume and variety of content that will resonate with their target audiences.

The explosion of consumer generated content is unstoppable. Brands must accept that their glossy, expensive branded content is now playing second fiddle to the authentic words and images created by their advocates. We’re now at a tipping point where user-generated content isn’t just outweighing branded content, it’s outperforming it. There’s tangible evidence this stuff really works – and we’re just getting started.





Volvo Makes Pre-Roll Ads…Wait For It…Interesting By Matching Ads To Videos

It’s estimated that 6 billion hours of video is watched on YouTube every month. And with all that video comes what feels like 12 billion hours of frustrating, irrelevant pre-roll. But what if the pre-roll ad seemed to know what was about to come next? Wouldn’t that be more compelling?

While discussing how to make pre-roll more interesting, Grey Canada and media agency Havas hit upon an idea that did just that while also cleverly showing off the 60 new attributes of Volvo’s new XC60. Rather than great a single—or even a handful of—ads to run on YouTube, the creative and media agencies came up with “6 Billion Hours,” a campaign that matches a video’s theme to a car feature to witty effect.

So, for instance, someone looking for storm-chasing videos would see a pre-roll clip related to the XC60 rain-sensing wipers. Interested in footage of Vine’s most famous twerker, and the pre-roll would encourage you to stop shaking the junk in your trunk (literally) with its grocery bag holder. And if you were one of the 40-plus million to take in what it’s like to walk through NYC as a woman, you’d be met with a video that touts the XC60’s Rear Park Assist Camera with the line “See what’s creeping behind you.” Watching the increasingly unstable antics of Justin Beiber? The car’s City-Safety Auto Braking was accompanied by “Make him stop.”

Check out the video here: https://vimeo.com/130566547

Why it’s hot:

In all, the campaign was so successful for Volvo that Scissons says the agency is now looking for other car nameplates within Volvo with which to replicate the concept. While the content will change for any new iteration, one thing is likely certain based on Scisson’s experience with “6 Billion Hours”: we’ll probably see more of the Biebs. “Justin Bieber was an easy target.”

A New App To Make Life Easier For Diabetics, Using Instagram

After an initial diagnosis, diabetes sufferers often experience a period of shock when they learn that everything has to change. Turkish mobile operator, Turkcell, and agency R/GA London have created an app to make adjusting to the necessary life changes much easier.

The app tracks a user’s condition via a photographic journal, using Instagram. By synching with a wireless reader that takes blood measurements, Selftrak is also able to map levels to an Instragram image, allowing medical professionals and friends to provide input and support. Alongside this, like everyone else in the world it seems, diabetics take snaps of their meals and post them, and again, these can be liked and helpful suggestions made.

The idea is to make using the app as simple as possible, helping people stay motivated, complying with treatment and keeping the lines of communication with medical staff open.So far, Selftrak has been tested in an 18-month long study with 200 diabetes patients at Istanbul University. The latest version, still in beta phase, is available on Google’s app store and a more limited iteration is currently available via Apple. Updates are planned in the coming months.

Watch the video here: http://www.fastcocreate.com/3047389/a-new-app-to-make-life-easier-for-diabetics-using-instagram



Why it’s hot:

Instead of trying to persuade sufferers to adopt entirely new habits, tools and behaviors to monitor the condition, Selftrak deploys Instragram, a tool many people already use and taps into behaviors that people already have. And initial tests prove the app is making a difference — the results of the 18-month trial are highly encouraging. Treatment compliance increased by 54%. Blood sugar levels decreased by 27% and complication forecasts decreased by 37%.

Google France Transforms Its Twitter Feed Into A Panoramic Flipbook Of Paris

Twitter is definitely the best platform to share immediate information. But, too often, creativity is left out. Google France wanted to show that Twitter could also be the host platform for cooler, more creative activities.And they did just so: they transformed their feed into a panoramic flipbook of the amazing city of Paris.It all started when Google France tweeted a picture inviting users to visit their feed and hit “J” on their keyboard.

Who know that hitting “J” on Twitter actually made the feed scroll down? And if you mix this with a clever chronological series of time-lapse photos published on your Twitter feed, hitting “J” can transform a boring feed into an amazing interactive flipbook!

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Why it’s hot:
Creative Uses of Platforms + Native Social Behavior = The Best Experiences

Pinterest Wants You to Go Shopping

Pinterest introduced a new way for retailers to sell products on its service as the platform has finally debuted its long-awaited buy button.

Users can shop on the site by clicking on “pinned” products to see the price, choose a color, size, and quantity. Visitors can then click on a buy button to complete the transaction using a credit card or by paying with Apple Pay through their iPhones. The new “buyable pins,” introduced Tuesday at an event at Pinterest’s San Francisco office, are a big step by the company to become more of a shopping hub. Millions of people already use the site to check out products that others recommend.

Pinterest says U.S. iPhone and iPad users will start seeing the buy button in late June on millions of items from retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Kate Spade, Michael’s craft store, Nordstrom, Cole Hahn, and Macy’s. Shoppers pay no additional fees to buy items on Pinterest. Additionally, merchants pay no commission to sell. It’s unclear how Pinterest will make money from buyable pins. But it could be trying to gain traction with retailers before starting to charge them fees.

Read more here and here.


Why it’s hot:

Driving ecommerce is the holy grail of social marketing. According to new research from Millward Brown, 93% of active Pinners said they use Pinterest to plan purchases and 87% said they’ve bought something because of Pinterest. The ability to shop directly from Pinterest is particularly powerful because of the rise of mobile devices. Around 80% of users access Pinterest through a mobile device, which, because of their small screen size, make it inconvenient to click through to another site to complete a transaction. Pinterest, which investors have valued at $10 billion, still needs to prove that it can bring in the kind of revenue that other social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have been able to generate. Only recently has it really started to focus on making money.

McDonald’s Tricks People Into Eating Salads

While McDonald’s has been attempting to refresh its burger offerings via things like mascot makeovers, given its recent business problems, McDonald’s is also working to attract new customers—those who wouldn’t normally eat there—to check out what else is on the menu besides a Big Mac.

McDonald’s Canada decided to play a little branding trick on unsuspecting salad lovers by launching a pop-up shop called The Salad Society and giving away salads featuring ingredients like baby kale, feta cheese, and couscous. The idea was that a non-McD’s pop-up would take away any preconceived notions and instead focus on the quality of the food. But when the happy lunch crowd got to the bottom of their bowl, the jig was up. The brand has also partnered with bicycle delivery service Hurrier to give away four weeks of free salad deliveries, and created The Salad Society “membership” cards as branded gift cards.

Read more here.


Why it’s hot:

The announcement earlier this month that McDonald’s would be adding kale to its menu became a massive news story, prompting everything from mockery to debate over whether the brand could authentically incorporate an ingredient like kale into their menu. Salad Society is McDonald’s Canada’s way of side-stepping those conversations as it adapts to changes in consumer taste, and is one of the ways McDonald’s is attempting to stay relevant. Leveraging the authentic reactions of real people in advertising (The stunt was filmed for a spot that debuted on broadcast May 12. A longer, 50-second digital version of the ad is currently running as pre-roll on YouTube and other sites) provides credibility and could potentially convince those on the fence to try the item.


Sharing the Season of Summer

The summertime is nearly here, at least for all of us in the northern hemisphere! The weather is getting hotter by the day, and the days longer and longer. It’s those changes in temperature that also have an effect on people and their habits on Facebook. People get out there and DO stuff!  For marketers, to know what they do and what people share, is very important in order to make adjustments to our strategies. Here’s info from a very helpful Facebook IQ infographic called “Sharing the Action of Summer”.

Here are the major takeaways:
1. Mobile Is Everyone’s Summer Companion: To document everything there is everyone’s favorite trusty mobile device. In fact, 70% of people connect socially via mobile and 75% of content being posted by people is from a mobile device.

2. Summer Inspires Sharing: Overall, people share an average of 800 million posts, photos, videos, links, comments during the summer… 22% more than springtime and 7% more than the autumn.

3. Summer Is A Time For Activities: Whereas 46% of people associate the summertime with “relaxing”, there’s actually a lot more going on behind the scenes. Swimming, eating, watching the sunset, hiking, partying. Nevertheless, the number one summer goal is to “get in shape” – to eat better and exercise more. Time to showcase outdoor activities, hobbies and DIY projects!

4. Summer Makes Us “Friendly”: fans accept more Facebook friends in summer than other seasons – 20% more than in spring, 14% more than in winter, and 6% more than fall. If you want to stay close to them you have to “celebrate friendship and togetherness”, finding ways to connect with their new connections – there was never a better time to work on creating true brand advocates. Be sure that while your fans will spread the word along with their friend requests.


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Why it’s hot:

Contextual relevance is king! Leveraging this data allows us as marketers to seize the season… tactics should focus on dialing up mobile strategy (and on-the-go content), championing relevant celebrations & holidays by inserting brands into the planning & festivities, or simply sharing in the relaxation of the season.

New: Facebook “Instant Articles”

Facebook came one step closer on Wednesday to changing the way we read the news. The new “Instant Articles” initiative launched this week lets publishers post stories and video directly to News Feed — further defeating the need for real “homepage” experiences. The articles will exist within Facebook’s walls, similar to an uploaded status. Instant Articles will let shared stories load more than 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles and will include content from 9 select publishers such as the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, using what the platform says are its interactive tools that will bring stories “to life in new ways.”

Readers of the “Instant Articles” can zoom in and tilt photos. And video will play automatically as readers scroll. Publishers will also have access to Facebook software for interactive maps and audio captions, while allowing for trackable data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.


Why it’s hot:

The move underscores an imminent change in the present situation, in which Facebook users have to wait for a link posted on the publishers’ original site and shared on Facebook. The change, Facebook claims, will make article access ten-fold faster for Facebook users.

Facebook is the most dominant social media referral engine, boosting publishers’ traffic to individual stories while lessening the importance of their own branded front pages. (A survey by the Pew Research Center found that 30% of people in the U.S. already get their news primarily from Facebook.) The new agreement represents the publishers’ willingness to further deepen their ties in pursuit of more revenue worldwide.


Amazon Continues to Up the Loyalty Game

Just announced: Amazon Prime members will get free streaming entertainment on JetBlue. The e-commerce company will let members of Amazon’s $99 annual loyalty program Prime stream its instant video service for free on their Wi-Fi enabled devices via JetBlue’s inflight Wi-Fi service. JetBlue is the only U.S. airline to offer free Wi-Fi on its planes. Called Fly-Fi for Amazon Prime, the service will give Prime members access to original Amazon shows like “Transparent,” its other streaming TV and movies, as well as the ability to rent or buy other titles on Amazon’s Instant Video store. Prime members will be able watch Amazon Instant Video from their laptops, Fire devices, iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets without downloading anything beforehand.

Read more here.

Why it’s hot:

Smart move for both brands. Once again, Jet Blue stands at the forefront in the airline industry. And Amazon continues to rule loyalty as they have been expanding the Prime program’s offerings in an effort to grow its membership with services such as grocery delivery, one-hour delivery in some cities, beefed up video streaming and the creation of a Bluetooth speaker called the Echo that syncs with Prime music.

Social Doom & Gloom? Not so fast…


Social Media Companies Take a Beating as Results Fall Short:

A trio of social media stocks is getting pummeled this week, a sign that Wall Street may be unwilling to overlook missteps at some of its Internet darlings.

LinkedIn on Thursday plunged as much as 25 percent in after-hours trading after the professional social networking company forecast second-quarter sales that were weaker than Wall Street estimates. (Unlike many other social media companies, LinkedIn doesn’t depend on online advertising for its performance. On Thursday, the company posted a 35 percent jump in sales for the first quarter, exceeding estimates, with growth from services it sells to recruiters and premium subscriptions.)

The drop followed the declines of two other social networking companies:

Twitter shares are down around 25 percent this week after the company reported quarterly sales that fell short of expectations. (Twitter has had particular difficulty in the last few months persuading marketers to buy ads designed to prompt the viewer to take an action, like downloading an app or buying a product. The company’s inconsistent performance has intensified scrutiny of Dick Costolo, the chief executive, who has vowed to speed up product releases to attract new users and advertisers to Twitter.)

The local reviews site Yelp plummeted 23 percent on Thursday, a day after it too posted sales that disappointed Wall Street. (Yelp, which collects user reviews about restaurants and other local services, reported late Wednesday that its ad sales and user growth decelerated during the first quarter. The results suggested that it will be more challenging than expected to make money from the millions of people who check its free listings.)

Not all social media stocks are getting swept up in the maelstrom.  Facebook, which posted quarterly results last week, also reported sales that were lighter than Wall Street expected. Yet its stock withstood the headwinds, as Facebook continues to pull away from competitors by adding users to its main social networking site, as well as its Instagram photo-sharing app and WhatsApp messaging service. The company also is making money off newer lines of business, like video advertising.

Why it’s hot:

Robert S. Peck, an Internet analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, said in an e-mail that the stock declines this week were company-specific, rather than a reflection of broader investor dissatisfaction with social networking or technology.

The performances illustrate the way investors are questioning whether social media companies can keep their growth rates vigorous enough to justify their valuations. The stocks of all three companies had traded at relatively high levels, reflecting Wall Street’s giddy projections. Yet all three shattered that perception in their own way. And while many of these stocks are often volatile, with investors on edge about the weak economy, interest rates and other issues, shareholders increasingly have little tolerance for the slightest misstep

Instagram Becomes A “Choose-Your-Own” Adventure

When Instagram added video to its social network, it allowed people to share their moving images in 15-second bursts. But limitations like time constraints always yield creative hacks, and to promote the Toronto Short Film Festival agency Red Lion found a way to turn the photo sharing platform into a choose-your-own-adventure silent film.

By using clips from the seven silent films included in the festival, users can string together a short film based on a series of decisions. Opening with a street fight scene, viewers are given the choice to call the cops or run away. Clicking the #hashtag of your choice, you’re taken to the next video. From there you can hide in a department store or a hospital, then go on a date, only to fake sick to get out of a horrible dining experience. At least, that’s one of the many films that can come from the experience…

Experience it now: https://instagram.com/tsff2015

Why it’s hot:

A perfect example of innovative ways to use social for awareness driving campaigns. Instagram is an inherently social and visual application. Silent films, and all films in general, are both of these things. In a lot of ways, the unifying cultural impact film has is now also occurring through social applications like Instagram.

Uber Launches Auto Rickshaw Service & Allows Cash Payments


UberAuto is a new category for hailing auto rickshaws that is debuting in New Delhi. Uber said it is “a cash-only service for now,” with fares calculated using existing transport regulations.

The service works just like hailing any other kind of Uber vehicle (it’s much like the rickshaw service Ola runs too). Users open the app, select UberAuto from the options, and wait for a driver to confirm. Customers can hail autos even when there is no credit in their Paytm wallet — the payments service that Uber integrated in India — since the focus is on cash.

“When it comes to getting around Delhi, auto-rickshaws are a staple. We recognise the history and value of autos to the transportation landscape. For us, uberAUTO is another way of using technology to offer more choice, making life simpler and keep Delhi moving,” Uber said in a blog post.

Uber has been running its service in New Delhi under a ‘no profit model’ in the aftermath of the alleged rape of a passenger. UberAuto continues that approach, and passengers will not have to pay booking fees or a service charge on top of the fare.


Why it’s Hot:

This service is an interesting addition for a couple of reasons. Auto rickshaws are an important layer of the transportation ecosystem in India cities. Getting auto rickshaws on the Uber platform is a big win because it increases the reach and appeal of Uber’s service, encouraging more consumers to download its app.

Of course, once a new user has the app, there’s the possibility that they might, in time, ride with other types of Uber vehicles — which return higher margins for the company than a rickshaw. Additionally, cash-only fares will help extend Uber’s appeal to new demographics. From there, again, there’s the possibility that these new customers will, over time, use Uber’s more premium services.

Target makes art out of products in pop-up store

Starting this week for a limited time, you can visit an art gallery made entirely of Target products in Chelsea. Called Target Too, the art gallery-meets-pop-up-store is meant to promote the wide array of items you can buy at Target, as well as push the retailer’s dedication to design. The company described it as a “design-to-digital playground.” Chief Creative Officer Todd Waterbury said in a statement: “I like that it begins to loosen and play with the meaning of what a gallery, a store, a playground, even what an Instagram feed is, and what the integration of technology can do within a bounded space—how it can deepen and expand the meaning of each of these.”

Boiled down, Target has essentially created a physical Instagram experience within the gallery by including a collection of items (Sharpies, bathing suits, clothing and accessories) framed by squares, assorted to look like the type of curated snaps you’d find on the retailer’s own Instagram feed. At a counter in the back, guests can take to interactive screens to design their own iPhone case, tote bag or T-shirt from a selection of red and black Target-made designs. They’re printed on-site and returned, free of charge.

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Why it’s hot:

This isn’t the first time Target has tested the waters around press-driving pop up stores.  In 2013, a life-size dollhouse took over Grand Central in NYC to show off the new Threshold furniture line. During back-to-school season, Target tapped into the college-student market with “Bullseye University,” a 3D dorm simulation outfitted with Target goods.

This particular installation is meant to drive home the idea for shoppers that Target has a unique relationship with designers. Not only do they drive buzz around the brand through these real-world executions, but they further reach the niche audience of millennials.

Facebook Messenger…for Shopping of course

Facebook Messenger is still best known as a communication tool. But Facebook is trying to make it critical for businesses, too.

The most recent example of this was outlined at F8 this week, when Facebook announced partnerships with two shopping sites to let them use Facebook Messenger as a customer service tool. The partnerships with online clothing site Everlane and flash sale site Zulily will allow those companies to send receipts and shipping updates via Messenger. An image Facebook posted on its blog also suggests that shoppers can use Messenger to add an item to an existing order that was originally placed on the retailer’s own site.

For companies like Zulily and Everlane, Messenger could also become an effective way to connect with customers as it gets harder to reach them on email, thanks in part to Gmail’s move to filter marketing emails into a separate folder outside of the main inbox.


Why it’s hot:

The move to let e-commerce companies use Messenger as a customer service tool is just one of many bets Facebook is placing as it tries to transform Messenger into a platform for all types of communication beyond chatting with friends and family. And it’s a clear sign that the social network is laying the groundwork to let people buy stuff other than stickers on Messenger, as overseas messaging apps such as WeChat and Line are already allowing.

Driving Sales via Instagram…Really?

Online retailers are always trying to squeeze revenue out of every Facebook status, tweet and Instagram they post, but it’s the photo-sharing social network that’s presented the greatest challenge. More and more retailers are either adopting third-party solutions or launching their own platforms to monetize their images. For some, that means creating an Instagram-like catalog. Others are turning Instagram likes into personalized emails.

Here are a few best-in-class examples of how social commerce 2.0 is really taking hold…

1) NORDSTROM: Has partnered with Like2Buy for the past few years, leading customers via profile links on Instagram to brand pages or categories (like “jeans”). Target is another one of Like2Buy’s early adopters, but the big-box retailer frequently falters when it comes to connecting customers to the products they want.

untitled2) MICHAEL KORS: Michael Kors (3.6 million followers) entered the shoppable Instagram game by sidestepping a third-party solution. The designer brand launched #InstaKors in November, a registration-based email subscription that responds to Instagram followers’ “likes” by sending out emails containing the product details from any Michael Kors images they favorite.

3) NIKEWOMEN: Nike Women (@nikewomen, 1.6 million followers) rolled out a shoppable Instagram store on the Nike website last week, and its easy-to-use platform might be one of the best social commerce experiences yet. Similar to Like2Buy, Nike Women provides a link to its shoppable feed in their account bio. The link takes followers to Nike’s website, where the Instagram feed is replicated. Click on the images to shop the looks, and each item pictured is gathered into one product page where you can choose sizes and add whatever you want to buy from the Instagram to your cart, all on one page. The user experience is clean, and finding the actual item that’s sought after is – for once – guaranteed. 


Why it’s hot:

Given the reach and level of engagement among core users, monetizing Instagram is worth a try for retailers. “This is version one, something that needs to get better over time,” said Mulpuru-Kodali. “People are always going to be inspired to buy when they look at [Instagram’s] beautiful visual sights, and what we do know is that there’s money to be earned.”

But Gupta warned against sitting out the shoppable trend.

“Brands need to start understanding how to engage with consumers, how things work, and they can’t sit on the sidelines.”

The Pepsi Challenge Returns

In the 80’s, the Pepsi Challenge became a pop culture sensation before Twitter could make pop culture sensations in seconds. And now Pepsi is bringing an interpretation of this campaign back to celebrate the original’s 40th anniversary.

The new campaign will be socially-based and content-led through a combination of 6 celebrity brand ambassadors, social consumer challenges, and local interpretations of the campaign around the world. Also, every time consumers around the world use the hashtag #PepsiChallenge in their social media channels, the brand will make a donation to an organization committed to bring light to people around the world.

The brand will be working with Usher, Serena Williams, Colombia and Real Madrid soccer star James Rodriguez, Usain Bolt, designer Nicola Formichetti, and social media phenom Jerome Jarre throughout 2015, to announce a series of challenges from March to the end of the year, which PepsiCo Global Beverages Group chief marketing officer Kristin Patrick says are designed to push consumers to push themselves and dream big (…not to mention, sell product). “The challenges will ask consumers to do things, submit things, it could be a piece of writing, a selfie, the range will be from challenging to things anyone can do,” says Patrick. “In the past we’ve been linked to sports and music. Consumers passions are evolving and the world of culture is increasingly connected—film and fashion are connected to music, all these entry points all work together. And if you look at celebrities today, while the do stand in a particular genre, they also have different points of interest across culture. So our challenges will be across technology, sports, music, and design.”

Why it’s hot:

In today’s cluttered digital world, a simple re-launch or celebration of the original wouldn’t likely break through. Pepsi’s interpretation of this new campaign is an effort to take the spirit of the original success and make it relevant way beyond the taste of Pepsi and into the lifestyle of consumers.

“Pepsi, as a brand, is much bigger than a cola and is considered a pop culture brand,” says Jakeman. “We have to innovate around the brand from a product perspective so that we’re meeting the changing consumer demands but in our marketing we’re moving beyond just the core Pepsi advertising and really advocating the trademark that encompasses all the brands while still retaining the Pepsi lifestyle promise.”

Inside Sephora’s New Innovation Lab

The big beauty brand’s new team and facility model a retail future where both on- and off-line shopping are kicked up by a serious notch…

When Sephora launched in the U.S. in 1998, it radically changed the cosmetics buying experience, replacing the controlled department store counter transaction with a hands-on, candy store-style field day for makeup lovers. In recent years, the brand has aggressively integrated digital with in-store retail, and today opened its new Innovation Lab, a team and facility focused on “envisioning the future of retail for Sephora, and making sure that we’re staying ahead of our clients and the different trends that are out there,” says Bridget Dolan, VP, Innovation Lab. Read more about the Innovation Lab here.

The opening of the Innovation Lab corresponds with the rollout of four new digital programs. The first is Pocket Contour, a product that, using a mobile device, provides a tutorial on contouring (applying highlighting and shading makeup) to complement the user’s specific face shape. By uploading a selfie to the app, the customer gets step-by-step contouring instructions and product recommendations. Second, Sephora is launching Beacons in all locations, after beta testing the program in two San Francisco-area stores. The location-aware, opt-in mobile notifications activate in the store through the Sephora to Go mobile app, which is linked to a customer’s online account to notify them of promotions and birthday month benefits, remind them of in-store services like mini-makeovers, and display information such as a customer’s point balance with Beauty Insider (Sephora’s rewards program). Also in-store in about a month will be an augmented reality front-window display featuring female founders of numerous cosmetic brands that Sephora carries, such as Laura Mercier and Kat Von D. When a customer hovers their phone over a founder’s face, a video telling the story of the founder and the brand will automatically play, and stop when the phone is moved away. The videos will also link to any makeover tutorials that the founders have on Sephora’s site. Finally, Sephora is introducing Flash, which is essentially the company’s version of Amazon Prime—for an annual enrollment fee of $10, customers get free two-day shipping, or overnight shipping for $5.95.


Why it’s hot:

Sephora is leap-frogging the department store model once again…

While the high-styled “innovation lab” concept has become popular among retail and technology companies to highlight their experimental activities, the separate, customized space outside of Sephora corporate headquarters will have specific value given that, despite Sephora’s long-time investment in e-commerce, in-store shopping and personal interaction is still extremely important to the brand’s success


5 Brands That Surprised Their Social Media Fans

Brands often ask fans for likes, shares and follows on social media. Sometimes, to show their thanks, brands do cool and unexpected things to give back to their social media fans. Check out these five examples of brands that found ways to surprise and reward their fans in real life. None of these examples are grand productions. It just shows that even small gestures from brands to their fans can create a large impact.

1. Virgin Atlantic
As part of its “Flying in the Face of Ordinary” campaign, in March Virgin Atlantic decided to send its marketing team and cabin crew members to cheer up people in Boston by making special deliveries and doing good deeds for people who weren’t having the best of days. The airline brand looked at its Twitter followers to find people in Boston tweeting about things like having to wait in the snow for a train or other everyday annoyances. The Virgin Atlantic team reached out to these people via Twitter direct messages to locate them and arrange things like delivering 100 cupcakes to a blogger and his coworkers and giving a women a ride to a business meeting and preparing her for the cold with a pair of gloves and a hat. Virgin Atlantic brought this effort to other cities too, like Washington and New York.
2. Samsung
Last August, Samsung customer Shane Bennett took to Facebook to ask the mobile phone brand for a free Galaxy X3. Bennett also included a cute drawing of a dinosaur going “rawr,” you know, for brownie points. Samsung responded playfully explaining why it couldn’t give him a free phone and also included a drawing of a kangaroo on a unicycle to return the drawing favor. The whole exchange obviously ended up on Reddit and created a lot of positive buzz for Samsung, so Samsung ended up actually giving Bennett a free Galaxy X3 with a custom design: Bennett’s dinosaur drawing. That’s a pretty awesome gift from a brand.

3. Taco Bell
Taco Bell recently created a set of eight custom Taco Bell rings to send to its influential Twitter followers. The ring set included two rings, one that says “Taco” and the other “Bell.” The recipients of the rings happily tweeted and Instagramed pictures of their new rings.

4. Chevrolet
David Bowers is a soccer fan who lives in Australia. Earlier this year, it was his dream to go see his favorite team, Bradford City, play in the finals at Wembley. Thinking he wasn’t actually going to make it all the way to the U.K. from Australia, Bowers posted a photo of himself on Facebook with a note asking for 1 million likes to persuade his wife to let him fly to the U.K. for the match. To his surprise, he quickly got hundreds of thousands of likes. That’s when Chevrolet, a sponsor of international soccer stepped in and promoted Bowers’ message. The auto brand helped finance Bowers’ trip to see the game and gave him a Chevrolet Volt to use during his stay in the U.K.

5. Pepperidge Farm
One day a blogger named “Rob G.” posted on his “autobiographical” blog a post about his love of Pepperidge Farm Milanos entitled “The Milano: An Ode to Pepperidge Farm.” It’s a bizarre and long-winded piece describing how the author randomly bought Milanos and just fell head-over-heels in love with them. Anyway, Pepperidge Farm found out about the post and did something awesome. The brand sent Rob G. a package full of bags of Milano cookies, accompanied by a handwritten note thanking him for his post and his love of its product. It’s a simple, small gesture, but it’s a cool thing for a brand to do.

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Why it’s hot:

More than any online interactions, it’s these instances of brands turning online relationships into real-life experiences for their fans and followers that make brands seem more human.

Ford Leverages The Power of Viral Content

Sorry, dudes — your hot date is actually just trying to sell us a car. Ford used another commercial turned stunt by setting unsuspecting bachelors up on a blind date with an attractive woman, who also happened to be a professional stunt driver.

After chatting at a cafe, the couple take off in a new 2015 Ford Mustang and the woman lets the men know that she’s not very experienced at driving a manual transmission. Then, right when the first date banter reaches peak boredom, the driver dips off into an empty parking lot to take the dates for an unexpected thrill ride.

Why it’s hot:
In today’s advertising world, breaking through the clutter is increasingly more difficult. With this ad Ford showcased the power of viral content to get the brand heard by combining three interesting tactics: 1) connecting authentically with real people, 2) humor, 3) entertainment. The result? Over 2.8 million views on YouTube alone.

Amazon’s Brick and Mortar Play

Amazon is in talks to buy RadioShack stores, say recent reports. Amazon may soon take another leap into the world of brick-and-mortar retail.

According to Bloomberg, the company has been in talks with RadioShack about acquiring at least some stores from the ailing retail chain. The stores would become showcases for Amazon’s own products, such as the Kindle e-readers and tablets, and serve as pick-up and drop-off sites for Amazon customers.

RadioShack is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, and according to other reports, it has also been in talks with wireless carrier Sprint about selling some of its stores. The deal with Amazon may not happen, but nonetheless, it shows where Amazon is headed.

Earns Radio Shack

Why it’s Hot:

The possible move, discussed as part of RadioShack’s looming trip to bankruptcy court, would represent Amazon’s biggest push into traditional retail. To head off competition from Wal-Mart—one of the few retailers that could pose a legitimate threat to Amazon—and to expand its operation, the company has adopted a new hybrid business model, combining e-commerce with offline services. To head off competition from Wal-Mart—one of the few retailers that could pose a legitimate threat to Amazon—and to expand its operation, the company has adopted a new hybrid business model, combining e-commerce with offline services.