Hormel finds a way to bait anti-maskers into covering up

Hormel, producer of Black Label Bacon, wants you to “not just eat bacon, inhale it” with their new bacon breathable masks. “From now through October 28, meat lovers can sign up at BreathableBacon.com for a chance to win, and the winners will be announced on November 4,” according to Newsweek. Seems like a way to get a certain segment of the population (*cough, ahem*) to at least consider wearing masks.

 

For every face mask request, Hormel will donate a meal to Feeding America, up to 10,000 meals.

https://www.breathablebacon.com/

Story on Newsweek

Why it’s Hot

It’s not just hot, it’s sizzling. Obviously, this is just a way to promote the product in a fun way.

A very good boy will administer your test now

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

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

Story in NYT

Why it’s Hot

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

Twitter gets into the voice game

Select Twitter users on iOS will now be able to upload voice files in addition to traditional text, image and video files. This gives users more options to interact while getting into the voice space.

Interestingly, this could make it harder to moderate content, but I’m sure AI will fix all of that.

Why It’s Hot
It’s hot if the feature is based on user needs and it will be interesting to see how Twitter power users integrate voice in their tweets. But I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t catch fire.

Insensitive pro sports teams play “woke”

On Tuesday June 2nd, 2020, brands and organizations of all types blacked out their social media pages and some used hashtags such as #BlackOutTuesday, #BlackLivesMatter and #TheShowMustBePaused. Some criticized the effort because it made it was clogging up channels that protesters rely on to spread information.

Nevertheless, brands spoke up to show the public which side they’re on. Admirable, unless you happen to be a brand that has been accused for decades of racial insensitivity. Those tweets just came off as sounding hypocritical and tone-deaf.

Many pro sports teams have refused to change their names and mascots and even chants that mock or dehumanize native Americans. That’s their choice, but pairing that with a tweet meant to convey empathy for black, brown and native American populations just adds gasoline to the fire. Here’s a sample:

Why it’s Hot
For some brands, expressing solidarity with a repressed segment of America feels natural and progressive. For others, it’s a trap (of their own making).

Samsung ups the ante on upcycling

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


Story on Bored Panda

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

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

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

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

Covid-19 is no joke on April Fool’s Day

This is the date on which most of us log onto cyberspace searching for roundups of the best April Fool’s Day gags from our favorite brands. It’s usually hit-and-miss but there’s always a handful that capture our imaginations and make us laugh a little.

Not surprisingly, the global Covid-19 pandemic has forced brands to cancel their pranks in 2020 out of respect for the seriousness of the situation.  What *is* surprisingly is the reaction from the very content creators that are usually tasked with coming up with great April Fools ideas: apparently they hate this day. And, they came out of the woodwork to tell us so:


Story on Poynter

Story on AdAge

Story on Slate

Why It’s Hot

It’s interesting to see how much loathing marketers have for the pranks that have become such a brand necessity. Is this the end of April Fool’s Day brand content forever? Or just another way to say “2020 sucks”?

TV Ads in the age of Covid-19: behind the curve?

Regardless of how you feel about social distancing, our feelings about sharing open spaces with strangers has changed. In one short week, we have been retrained on how to interact with the rest of society. For those who aren’t used to staying as far away from other people as possible, it must be tough.

For this reason, it is very strange to see tv commercials or tv shows where people are not practicing social distancing guidelines. It’s triggering to see a tv ad where people are hanging out at a restaurant or attending a sporting event without kinda freaking out.

 
Why It’s Hot

All of these ads were produced months before we had even heard of the phrase “social distancing.” It will be interesting to see how this will impact marketing and advertising in the coming months.

 

Americans’ new fear: a nonexistent beer virus

As fears of a new virus called “coronavirus” spreads globally, there is also a recent spike in fear that the virus is somehow related to a popular beer brand by a similar name: Corona.

The chart below shows a dramatic increase this week on searches for “beer virus” (blue) and “corona beer virus” (red).

Story on USA Today

The beer company has not seemingly responded to the confusion or taken advantage of the opportunity to poke fun at the situation.

The U.S. is only #11 in terms of search volume for “corona beer virus” (hooray?). As far as domestic search data, the great state of West Virginia leads the way.

Maybe they’re just taking these memes too literally:

Why it’s Hot

It shows how quickly a brand can get blindsided by an event completely out of their control.

Black Friday to traditional calendars: Drop Dead!

 

Link

Link

Reports ranging from Bloomberg News to the New York Times published articles this week analyzing a recent shift in the traditional buying patterns of American holiday shoppers. In short: the marketers keep moving the goalposts.

Black Friday, of course, has traditionally been a huge shopping day on the Friday after Thanksgiving at brick-n-mortar stores, and Cyber Monday being the analogous day for e-commerce the following Monday. But what happens when marketers start bombarding their customers with online Black Friday sales beginning shortly after Halloween? According to Bloomberg, shoppers have reversed the tradition of procrastinating until December 20-something and have begun to shop earlier.

Some evidence:

Why It’s Hot

This has huge implications for marketers, consumers and shipping logistics. Shoppers are probably feeling less stress by doing their holiday shopping earlier, but at some point consumers will be annoyed at getting Black Friday emails months in advance (not as annoying as Christmas Music in October, but still…) On the other hand, earlier shopping means that shipping carriers and warehouse managers can spread out the annual pain of delivering millions of boxes and actually get the stuff to the destination on time!

Sony teaches new dog old tricks

Sony’s Aibo robot dog has been around in various iterations for around 20 years (it was actually discontinued in 2006 and revived with a next-gen look in 2018) and has garnered a lot of attention in tech circles. In fact, the re-boot of the Aibo got a lot of buzz at CES 2018 due primarily to Sony’s commitment to make it as cute as possible.

Nevertheless, the toy costs almost $3000 and the company has always failed to plan for what happens when the novelty wears off. Consumers think ahead and $3k is really steep for a toy that’s bound to wind up in a box down in the basement in a couple of months.

Sony is starting to realize that they have to add an element of interactivity and gamification to the experience if this thing is ever going to succeed. Enter the Aibo Food AR app.

Story on Gizmodo

Why it’s Hot

While it’s not yet trained to kill on command, it’s a step in the right direction. Aibo’s  survival depends on Sony expanding the imaginations of its customers beyond simple product redesigns.

Total Recall or Total Bust?

A UK-based company that produces promotional items (think branded industry swag) called Adler conducted a fun experiment in brand recall. They asked 100 participants to draw the logos of 10 of Europe’s biggest brands:

  • Aldi
  • BMW
  • Cadbury
  • Lacoste
  • Lego
  • Puma
  • Red Bull
  • Shell
  • Spotify
  • Vodafone

Then Adler plotted each of the drawings on a graph from least accurate to most accurate. Then they pulled out key insights.

 

Some of these Pumas look like kitty cats:

Full Story Here

Why It’s Hot
While verbal or written brand recall exercises are nothing new, it was fun to see what people draw based on memory. Seems like the simpler logos fared better, not surprisingly.

AMC jumps into a really really *really* crowded swimming pool

AMC announced this week, all together now, a new streaming app. The app, called AMC Theaters On Demand (*yawn*), “will offer about 2,000 films for sale or rent after their theatrical runs, just as iTunes, Amazon and other video-on-demand retailers do.”

Films will cost between $3 to $5.99 to rent and $9.99 to $19.99 to buy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story on Gizmodo
And NY Times

The thing is, this news comes on the same week that Netflix reports that they missed their subscriber growth target…again. Every major studio and content provider seems to be offering a new streaming service every time we turn around. Try not to get whiplash.

Story on Fast Company

Why It’s Hot
It’s super hot for competition (maybe prices will come down???) but it will also create consumer fatigue. Who wants to check yet another app to see which service has the rights to a specific title?

Put a hole in it? Or put a sock in it?

Philadelphia Cream Cheese came out with an ad for a machine called Bagel That! (which is supposed to be available on Amazon, but isn’t) which will turn any food into a bagel by cutting a hole in it. (Cue the strained laughter).

Why It’s Hot:

The idea is hot because it’s unexpected and a playful way to promote the product. Ultimately, it’s undermined by the obvious “humor.”

Polaroid goes super hi-tech. Just kidding.

Over the years the Polaroid company has gone bankrupt, been resurrected and is now being brought kicking and screaming into the digital age. Enter the Polaroid Lab: “a $129 tower that uses the light from your phone’s screen, bounced off a series of mirrors, to make a proper Polaroid from the photos you’ve already taken.”

It doesn’t just spit out single pics, either. There’s a collage setting which can be fun for boomers and Z’s alike.

Why It’s Hot

Polaroid has a chance to be in rare brand: an analogue holdout that can say they survived in the digital age. But only if they make smart moves and they haven’t shown that they can do that in the past 20 years.

Apple re-positions itself as a down-to-earth brand. Just kidding.

Apple rolled out the much-anticipated Apple Card this week. Though most will use the version that integrates with Apple Pay, users will also get a physical card made from titanium.

This card is not like the other cheap pieces of plastic (pffft) in your wallet. Apple Card will require some serious maintenance. So Apple posted this on their support pages to help you out.

Story on Gizmodo

The product video doesn’t help to dispel the “misconception” of elitism.

Why it’s Hot

Very few tech giants can get away with seeming this elite. Good for them (?)

Make getting drunk great again

British data science company DataSparQ has developed facial recognition-based AI technology to prevent entitled bros from cutting the line at bars. This “technology puts customers in an ‘intelligently virtual’ queue, letting bar staff know who really was next” and who’s cutting the line.

“The system works by displaying a live video of everyone queuing on a screen above the bar. A number appears above each customer’s head — which represents their place in the queue — and gives them an estimated wait time until they get served. Bar staff will know exactly who’s next, helping bars and pubs to maximise their ordering efficiency and to keep the drinks flowing.”

Story on Endgadet

Why it’s Hot

Using AI to help solve these types of trifling irritations is better than having to tolerate other people’s sense of entitlement, though it also highlights the need to police rude behavior through something other than raising your kids well.

Volkswagen confronts its terrible past

Volkswagen has debuted the first tv ad of a new campaign called “Rebirth” to introduce its new electric Microbus, a modern update to the 60’s hippie classic. The ad confronts the emissions cheating scandals from a few years ago head on, then comes Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Sounds of Silence.”

Story on Fast Company

The ad is bold in that brands generally avoid reminding people about the terrible thing they did. That terrible, terrible thing. It’s a gamble: will people feel empathy or punish the brand for wallowing in self-pity?

Why it’s Hot

Maybe the old brand rules don’t apply anymore. Maybe it’s ok to spend a ton of money to apologize through a tv commercial. Maybe the electric Microbus looks really cool and the ad could’ve avoided bringing up bad feelings. Consumers will decide.

DeepMind? Pffft! More like “dumb as a bag of rocks.”

Google’s DeepMind AI project, self-described as “the world leader in artificial intelligence research” was recently tested against the type of math test that 16 year olds take in the UK. The result? It only scored a 14 out of 40 correct. Womp womp!

“The researchers tested several types of AI and found that algorithms struggle to translate a question as it appears on a test, full of words and symbols and functions, into the actual operations needed to solve it.” (Medium)

Image result for home d'oh

Why It’s Hot

There is no shortage of angst by humans worried about losing their jobs to AI. Instead of feeling a reprieve, humans should take this as a sign that AI might just be best designed to complement human judgements and not to replace them.

When the rest of the world zigs, Burger King zags

On April 1st, 2019, Burger King introduced a meatless burger to the menu: the Impossible Whopper. They duped several BK customers and filmed their reactions to eating a fake Whopper.

April Fools, right? Wrong.

Burger King really is beta testing the plant-based Impossible Whopper at several locations around St. Louis.

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot because BK picked a day when they knew everyone would be on the lookout for April Fool’s stunts. They knew they were going to get attention on April 1st and took advantage of it to introduce a new product.

Are you ready for some robots?

MLB announced a partnership with the independent Atlantic League to test out “the use of technology to call balls and strikes,” which already exists on television broadcasts of baseball games on networks such as ESPN and FOX.

The experiment lets MLB use an independent league as a testing ground to see what happens over a full season of baseball. If results are good, it could become a future recommendation to enhance the MLB game to improve accuracy of balls and strikes calls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is NOT what the new robo umpires will look like.

Story at the Sporting News

Why it’s Hot

Baseball is the most traditional, time-honoured and stodgy of all American sports. In addition to instant replay instituted a few years ago, tech has a lot to add to a deeply flawed and outdated rule book.

The future of digital will be…digit-based

Google is working on a new type of sensor using radar technology that “can track sub- millimeter motions at high speed and accuracy. It fits onto a chip, can be produced at scale and built into small devices and everyday objects.”

Project Soli, as they call it, has the potential to be a profound sea change in how we interact with digital. Imagine scrolling, clicking, swiping…without putting your hands on a digital interface or yelling at Alexa to take an action.

Hopefully this won’t turn the volume on the tv all the way up if you swat at a fly, but I’m sure they’ll work out the kinks.

Why it’s Hot

The potential to integrate this into every digital device and process is immense.

Pictionary ups its game

The makers of Pictionary have updated their classic game by adding a digital element. “Pictionary Air … takes your competitive sketching off the paper and puts it onto your phone, tablet or TV screen instead.”

“Instead of a regular pen or pencil, players use a jumbo-sized light up pen to doodle their word in thin air, and their drawing is simultaneously cast to a mobile or TV screen using Chromecast or AirPlay ”

It’ll hit the Target shelves first, in June, and only set you back $20.

Why It’s Hot

Not only has it been made relevant again to a young generation, it actually sounds like they nailed the experience and sounds like it could be more fun than the original.

Chatting about your tighty whities? There’s an emoji for that.

“More than 50 new emojis will become standard in 2019, based on the final list approved by the Unicode Consortium.”

“Many of the new icons are tied together by the theme of inclusivity, introducing emojis for deaf people, blind people, people in wheelchairs, and those with prosthetic limbs. This year’s update will allow users to choose the race and gender of both people when choosing an emoji that features a couple.”

Full story on Business Insider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one might become the most useful for Twitter users.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not sure what to say about this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why it’s Hot
Good to see the continuing trend of inclusiveness in emojis.

It can cut your grass, but can it yell “get off my lawn!” at passersby?

iRobot, the makers of the Roomba robot indoor vacuum have invented its outdoor counterpart: the Terra robotic lawn mower.

“Terra will automatically return to its base to recharge when the battery runs low, and then it will resume cutting where it left off.”

Currently, this robo grass cutter is in beta testing and probably won’t be available in the U.S. until next year.

Story on MakeUseOf

Why it’s Hot

Tedious chores being done by robots means more time to do things that matter more, like playing on your phone.

 

Cute Amazon robots set to take over U.S. streets

Amazon announced on Wednesday (1/23) that it will begin a pilot program near its HQ in Washington state to use its own delivery robots called Amazon Scout for last mile deliveries. The pilot in Snohomish County, WA, will use 6 Scouts and only on weekdays during daylight hours. They will be accompanied by Amazon employees to make sure all goes well.

The familiar-looking 6-wheeler looks similar to other delivery robots though it was developed in-house by Amazon.

Story on TechCrunch

Why it’s Hot

Delivery ‘bots are nothing new (see: Kroger, Eat24, DoorDash, Dominos), but it has a much bigger implication when Amazon is involved. It seems that the Amazon drones that the company promised a few years ago have been pushed aside for now.

Robot future not as scary, or efficient, as once imagined

Last year, Hotsauce reported on a hotel in Japan called Henn-na which was staffed and run primarily by robots. While hospitality workers worldwide decided it was time to tear through a Learning Annex booklet, some were skeptical that a hotel experience based solely on human/robot interaction could work.

Alas, the skeptics have been proven correct!

The Wall Street Journal reports that the robots were so bad at their jobs (and annoying the guests) that they are getting rid of half of them.

As Futurism put it…

“Some of the problems stem from creative ideas that didn’t pan out, like a robot velociraptor that staffed the check-in desk. […] Churi, the personal assistant robot found in each room, could handle basic tasks but pales in comparison to the personal assistant that comes standard with any new smartphone.

In case after case, these robots proved too annoying or broke down too often to be worth the trouble, according to the WSJ. The velociraptor couldn’t handle foreign guests, for instance; human employees had to come over to photocopy their passports.

Churi could change a room’s temperature and respond to basic small talk, but couldn’t answer any questions about the area or other attractions. Meawhile, Henn-na Hotel’s management was so confident in the robots’ abilities that they didn’t equip rooms with phones. Later on, management made up for Churi’s limitations with the cutting-edge solution of placing a human employee at the front desk to answer questions.

Meanwhile, Churi would reportedly wake up guests again and again after mistaking their snoring for a question that the robot couldn’t quite understand.”

The keyboard robot couldn’t actually play anything.

Story on the WSJ

Why it’s Hot

It’s always great to imaging a new future but it should be tempered with reality. Perhaps using robots in more than just a support capacity is premature at this time.

Jordanian Airlines ups the sarcasm, succeeds bigly

Royal Jordanian Airlines came up with a campaign ahead of the 2016 election encouraging their Muslim travelers to “Travel to the U.S. While You’re Still Allowed To,” in response to Trump’s proposed travel ban on Muslims. It was just supposed to be a clever ad, but it turned out to be prophetic.

Why It’s Hot

The tag line obviously resonated with a cynical population that probably believed that he would win more than the average American voter. It is truth well told.

Drink beer while you pee in a hotel shower

A Scottish brewery named Brewdog has opened a hotel on their premises. The hotel is called The Doghouse and a location just opened in Columbus, OH.

Check it out on their website here.

Why It’s Hot

If you spend a few days a week morning drinking then it’s probably your dream come true. For most of us it’s an interesting experiment hospitality marketing.