How Instagram Is Changing the Way Brands Look at Photography, Online and Beyond Embracing the ‘perfectly imperfect’

Call it the “Instagram Effect”—that filtered, shadowed, sharpened, brightened, tilted, faded, structured, saturated way of seeing life through a lens. It’s changed the way people portray themselves and see others.

And it’s having the same impact on brands.

Design teams are beginning to see the benefit of moving away from over-lit, over-staged and generally over-edited photography for their campaigns and instead are favoring a more organic (albeit filtered) look and feel that matches the medium—on Instagram itself, obviously, but also in print and across an array of other media.

“We kind of call it ‘perfectly imperfect,'” said Nathan Iverson, evp and design director at Deutsch LA. “People will call you out pretty easily if your food looks overly propped or overly perfect because that’s not how it is.”

Iverson said Instagram certainly isn’t pioneering the use of effects, but it is resurrecting and evolving an old-school aesthetic. Making a photo retro or over-saturated or pushed and electric was done long before computers came along. The difference now is that analytics allow for real-time analysis of which visual styles appeal to viewers, blending art with marketing science.

Why it’s Hot:

Instagram’s influence on photography could add to the evolution of photography as people look to keep moments natural and first person view and move away from over-produced imagery.

Toyota Japan Tells the Same Story Twice in This Really Lovely Father’s Day Ad

To celebrate Father’s Day, Toyota Japan released a heartwarming ad that tells the story of a dad and daughter growing up together — from both of their perspectives.

Titled “Loving Eyes,” the video begins with a montage from the father’s point of view, as he puts a “Baby in car” sticker on his car, takes his daughter to elementary school, drives her around during her moody teen years, goes to her wedding and finally, puts that same sticker on her family car as a new mom.

The video then flips the perspective to show what his daughter sees during these same events.

“This is a story dedicated to parents and children in the world on Father’s Day,” the YouTube caption reads.

It’s an emotional ride.


What it’s hot:

It’s an interesting creative spin in a typical and expected messaging around father’s day and celebrating father’s.  Great example of a executional spin on common messaging.


How an Organic Food Company Tried to Make the Most Eco-Friendly Ad Campaign Ever

The best marketing embodies the message it’s trying to impart. And in the case of French organic food retailer Biocoop, that means trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible in all of its activities—even producing its ad campaigns.

The brand challenged Fred & Farid to produce ads in a way that had the least impact on the planet. And the Paris agency responded by rethinking almost every element of the production process.

Check out the case study below to see how they minimized the carbon footprint—by shooting photos with a pinhole camera, writing the taglines right on the prints in vegetable paint, recording music in only one take, designing the website almost entirely in ASCII text(totally only 3MB of data) and more.  In the end, the production used up 5.9 tons of carbon dioxide—which sounds like a lot, but is three times less than would have been produced through more traditional means.

What It’s Hot:

It’s an interesting example of a brand not just communicating it’s core value by living it.  And anytime a brand thinks beyond the task and take action and you do some good for the planet, they deserve applauds.

Coca-Cola Turns Empty Bottles Into Paintbrushes, Lamps, Toys

In Asia, Coca-Cola is handing out unusual bottle caps that turn empty plastic bottles into totally new objects, like paintbrushes, water squirters, lamps and pencil sharpeners.

The beverage giant partnered with Ogilvy & MatherChina on the “2nd Lives” campaign offering 16 screw-on caps in the brand’s signatured red color. The upcycling campaign launched in Vietnam, where 40,000 free bottle caps will be distributed this year with soda purchases. It will roll out later in Thailand and Indonesia.

The project is one of Coca-Cola’s many ways of addressing criticism about its reliance on plastic. In a much broader effort that spans multiple markets, Coca-Cola uses recyclable plastic bottles made partly from plants.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have faced attacks over their use of plastic bottles from SodaStream, which markets at-home soda-making machines. Coca-Cola is getting into the home beverage-making game by featuring its brands for use in Green Mountain’s upcoming Keurig Cold machines, which, like SodaStream, eliminate the need for bottles or cans.

Coke's funky bottle caps for Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand
Coke’s funky bottle caps for Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand Credit: Ogilvy & Mather

Brand campaigns that encourage the reuse of packaging aren’t new, of course. In 2011, Pringles launched a “Crunch Band” app encouraging people to turn their chip cans into music amps. And this past Halloween, Domino’s helped people make jack-o’-lanterns out of pizza boxes.

But such campaigns are more unusual in Asia, where awareness of recycling and environmental issues isn’t generally as high as in the West.

“Hacking” habits

On the other hand, it is common for people in Asia and the developing world to find creative ways to reuse bottles. (For example, people make cheap light bulbs by filling empty plastic bottles with water and bleach and embedding them into roofs to refract light indoors.)

“In Asia, traditionally people didn’t like throwing things away, and I’ve seen ingenious things people have made with boxes, jars and all sorts of stuff,” said Graham Fink, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather China. “We’ve called it ‘hacking habits.'”

With plastic products more and more common, “over the years that ingeniuity has perhaps been eroded, and it’s nice to get back there,” Mr. Fink said. He believes the “2nd Lives” project has potential well beyond Asia.

Why It’s Hot:

Whether this works to deliver the intended recycling and earth friendly message, it continues to bring new ideas that leverages it’s iconic bottle to bring new happiness to customers.


Runcible circular phone is a quirky and delightful pocket watch


Just when we thought smartphones were losing creativity, a small circular device the size of a pocket watch has the potential to be one of the most innovative gadgets we’ve seen in quite awhile.

The Runcible phone by San Francisco-based startup Monohm is on display at Mobile World Congress this week and generating significant buzz for its unique form factor. When it launches later this year, users will be able to pop out SIM cards from their existing smartphones and use the Runcible for a simpler experience during a night out or weekend stroll.

While there’s so much innovation happening in one tiny device, the first thing you’ll notice is the shape, which is based on the classic pocket watch and compact compass. Considering how big smartphones are getting these days, it’s a refreshing change and fits snugly in your hand. Meanwhile, a back covering ensures it won’t slip and there’s several varieties to choose from, including wood, copper, tin, ceramic and recycled plastic.

The device runs on Firefox OS, includes a charging port, comes with a camera on the back and allows you to attach a chain if you want to truly embrace the pocket watch theme. It can be synced with a Bluetooth earpiece and take calls directly. But like many things with the Runcible, there are limitations, which are part of a greater effort to not have too much information thrown at you.

For example, you can only select 12 contacts (a nod to the 12 hours in a day, of course) who you can talk to from the device when they call — everyone else goes to voicemail. Unlike most smartphones, it won’t alert you every time you get a Facebook or Twitter alert either. It just lets you know when you have more social activity than usual (like a jump in retweets or Facebook comments) by subtly notifying you within the watch face itself.

Here’s how: one watch face shows different color bubbles that represent various sites, like Facebook (blue) and Instagram (brown). When you’re getting activity on a certain social network, bubbles enlarge so you can glance down and gauge what’s happening without needing specific details. However, it’ll let you know if you’re getting contacted by someone in your 12-person contacts list.

The Runcible gets creative with the compass function, too. Instead of taking you to a landmark with precise GPS directions, it’ll take you through the most scenic route possible. It can also be set as a guessing game and point you in the right direction without step by step instructions. There are several Easter Eggs within the gadget to keep users entertained, too.

Although the pricing hasn’t yet been announced, the company told Mashable it will likely be the price of an unlocked smartphone — so likely in the $600 range.

Why It’s Hot:

This is an interesting reverse in trend where smartphones are becoming smarter version of everything you own – watch, kitchen appliances or even clothes.  Instead, this phone is giving you a imaginative version of phone in disguise.  Representing a counter-balance to the technology advancement.


Runcible Phone

Move aside, Apple Watch: These fruit-based devices are the future of wearables

The lead-up to the Tokyo Marathon seems to have given rise to a new breed of wearable technology: fruit-based gadgets.

Japanese ketchup maker Kagome designed an 18-pound tomato-dispensing backpack. The unwieldy device is a tomato-headed humanoid robot that straddles a runner’s shoulders with an arm that swoops down on command to deploy tomatoes to a runner’s mouth.

Why tomatoes? A Kagome spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that tomatoes are rich in nutrients like beta-carotene and citric and amino acids, but easier to munch on than bananas, which are a go-to snack for marathon runners in need of a pick-me-up.

But the tomato robot is not the only new player in the fruit wearable game. The Japanese division of Dole, the world’s largest fruit and vegetable producer, is looking to capitalize on the banana snacking with its own edible wearable.

Why it’s hot:

While we’ve seen wearable bands, clothes, this is the first time we’ve seen eatable wearables. This maybe a tongue in cheek joke meant to advertise Dole’s bananas.  It is possible not in the distant future, when ingestible products, most likely medicine, will have such features. Would you like to visually see how your body consumes the medicine and monitor your body’s effect?



New Japanese hotel to be staffed by robots

In a sign of the times, Japan is slated to open the world’s first hotel staffed almost entirely by robots and controlled by the latest in computer technology, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).

The Henn-na Hotel, or “Strange Hotel,” will open its doors on July 17 on the grounds of Huis Ten Bosch theme park near Nagasaki, according to an announcement from JNTO on Jan. 28.

The hotel will initially be staffed by 10 robots working alongside humans to provide a wide range of services from manning the reception desk to carrying bags and cleaning rooms. The management hopes to eventually have the hotel almost entirely staffed by the machines.

“In the future, we’d like to have more than 90 percent of hotel services operated by robots,” said Huis Ten Bosch president Hideo Sawada. In addition to the robots, Sawada says the 72-room facility will feature high-tech gadgetry aimed at making Henn-na the “most efficient hotel in the world,” The Japan Times reported.

Instead of traditional air conditioning, for example, rooms will feature radiation panels that create a “comfortable indoor environment with no unevenness,” the hotel website added. The panels will automatically detect body heat and adjust room temperature as needed.

Hotel guests will also be able to access their rooms using facial recognition technology instead of room keys. Anyone uncomfortable with the system will be free to use old-fashioned keys, the hotel’s website said. The hotel promises constant innovations as technology advances. Henn-na Hotel has tentatively priced single and twin rooms at about $60 and $75 per night, respectively.Sawada told Japan’s Nikkei news website that he plans to take the business model global, opening 1,000 similar hotels around the world.

Why it’s hot:

While there are clearly benefits of robot hotels – robots replacing human employees should help keep labor costs at a minimum, which means cheaper rates for customers.  However, In the US, Starwood’s Aloft brand recently announced that it was testing the chain’s first robo-butler, named ALO. Would these robot hotels redefine the “economy” hotel class.

ThinkUp Helps the Social Network User See the Online Self

Mr. Dash has been thinking about his behavior on social media for a while. Together with Gina Trapani, the former editor of the blog Lifehacker, he is a co-founder of ThinkUp, a year-old subscription service that analyzes how people comport themselves on Twitter andFacebook, with the goal of helping them become more thoughtful, less reflexive, more empathetic and more professional — over all, better behaved.

In addition to a list of people’s most-used words and other straightforward stats like follower counts, ThinkUp shows subscribers more unusual information such as how often they thank and congratulate people, how frequently they swear, whose voices they tend to amplify and which posts get the biggest reaction and from whom.

That is the point. “The goal is to make you act like less of a jerk online,” Ms. Trapani said. “The big goal is to create mindfulness and awareness, and also behavioral change.”

She pointed out that people often tweet and update without any perspective about themselves. That’s because Facebook and Twitter, as others have observed, have a way of infecting our brains. Because social networks often suggest a false sense of intimacy, they tend to lower people’s self-control. Like a drug or perhaps a parasite, they worm into your devices, your daily habits and your every free moment, and they change how you think.

For those of us most deeply afflicted, myself included, every mundane observation becomes grist for a 140-character quip, and every interaction a potential springboard into an all-consuming, emotionally wrenching flame battle.

“There’s a knee-jerk thoughtlessness and lack of empathy that you have because you’re online, because you’re not looking at people’s faces,” Ms. Trapani said.

One of the biggest dangers is saying something off the cuff that might make sense in a particular context, but that sounds completely off the rails to the wider public. The problem, in other words, is acting without thinking — being caught up in the moment, without pausing to reflect on the long-term consequences. You’re never more than a few taps away from an embarrassment that might ruin your career, or at least your reputation, for years to come.

Being made aware of that — getting a daily reminder from ThinkUp that there are good ways and bad ways to behave online — has a tendency to focus the mind.

For starters, your online profile plays an important role in how you’re perceived by potential employers. In a recent survey commissioned by the job-hunting site CareerBuilder, almost half of companies said they perused job-seekers’ social networking profiles to look for red flags and to see what sort of image prospective employees portrayed online.

Mr. Dash and Ms. Trapani argue that the future is increasingly social — that most jobs are going to become more connected, and that online image will become more important.

Why it’s Hot:  While this service has not taken off yet.  That may change as more people falter on social networks, either by posting unthinking comments that end up damaging their careers.  After all, Twitter and Facebook don’t come with a built-in guide letting people know how to excel in social.

7 YouTube Stars Help Tease Nissan’s Return to the Super Bowl

Nissan has turned to YouTube stars to build buzz around its first Super Bowl appearance in 18 years.

Seven YouTube stars, including Roman Atwood, Action Movie Kid, Dude Perfect and Jabbawockeez, are creating their own videos around the theme #withdad. And while the videos are all visually different and therefore not illustrative of the Big Game ad, they suggest a unifying theme: how fathers make families more exciting.

Nissan’s lead agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., is creating the spot, which the automaker previously confirmed. Neither the company nor the agency will release the execution before the Feb. 1 game. But it’s expected to be at least 60 seconds long and air during the first half.

“With so many commercials airing before the Big Game, I fundamentally believe it takes away much of the magic of showing the commercial on the biggest stage of the year,” said Fred Diaz, svp of sales, marketing and operations for Nissan North America. “We do, however, want to build suspense around our story while provoking a social conversation around the overarching theme.”

Here’s a look at the first four YouTube teaser videos, which Nissan posted on today

Why it’s hot:

Another touchdown ? Super Bowl XLIX is still more than a week away, but fans are already eagerly anticipating the big game — and the commercials that come with it. Buzz building efforts like leveraging social influencers help to not just build momentum for advertising but also help to justify the business case for the expensive superbowl spot.





How Snapchat Can Help Retailers Kill ‘Showrooming’

The social network famously known for its disappearing pictures and youthful user base has seen exponential growth across all demographics. Its privacy-conscious user base loves the ephemeral aspect of Snapchat and up until recently, Snapchat had no formal advertising unit. The use of Snapchat for business doesn’t have to be reserved for those brands willing to shell out sums of cash for the exclusive ad units. Smart retailers can take advantage of the platform’s uses, benefits and unique features to drive store visits, increase brick-and-mortar sales and boost customer engagement.

Here are some methods that retailers of all sizes can employ to kill showrooming in their stores, take back control of the retail experience and increase sales as a result.

1. In-store only coupons with a surprise offer

Retailers can use Snapchat to send consumers a coupon snap. This snap could be for 10%, 25% or 100% off an item — the amount unknown to the user — and the perishable nature of Snapchat requires the user to open the snap at the register (or burn their lone replay) in order to redeem the offer. This requires the consumer to pick out an item, take it to the register and then open the snap. Remember, consumers are at the point of purchase looking to cash in on their offer, so even if the coupon is for the lower amount, are they really going to walk out of line to put the item back, after they have fallen in love with it? Regardless, you have just obtained that store visit, which could equate to sales.


2. Scavenger hunt, Snapchat-style

Every marketer loves gamification. Want to launch a limited-edition item that is highly sought-after by your consumer base? Why not establish a “scavenger hunt” around your store through Snapchat. Send a snap of landmarks around the area the exclusive product is located in and allow your consumers to try and find the secret item. Your consumers will need to remember the location of the snaps and stay glued to their app for the next updates.

3. Bluetooth plus Snapchat

Beacons and Bluetooth Low Energy have equipped retailers with a powerful tool for understanding the success of their in-store signage, displays and endcaps. But Beacons and BLE working in conjunction with Snapchat could also help combat showrooming. When a customer enters a store (or approaches a designated area of the store), retailers could send a snap to the consumer with a special coupon or offer, valid only during their visit. Through preemptive cross-promotion on other social platforms, retailers are able to create a sense of anticipation for the consumer and require them to make a seemingly unplanned visit to your store.

4. Build anticipation for new items

If you are a retailer launching a highly anticipated item, why not send snaps to your customers showing the in-store arrival of the anticipated item (boxing, shipment, arrival, etc.). This adds to the heightened awareness and forces your consumers to plan the journey to the retail store in order to purchase the item. This also works for restaurants, bars, etc., featuring new items.

5. Phone a friend

Want your customers to show off how they look in your new collection? Want them to show their friends the delicious entrée they just ordered? Have your customers send snaps to their friends (and your brand profile) with their friend’s Snapchat handle and they will receive a snap back for a coupon, as well as the friend receiving a coupon for their next visit.

Why it’s Hot:

Retailers willing to utilize creative methods to drive attention to their brick-and-mortar footprints, without cannibalizing their online efforts, are going to position themselves for sustained growth. Snapchat offers a creative and untapped opportunity for brands to interact with consumers on a more personal level, as well as offer a creative digital marketing alternative to the interruptive nature of banner ads and native advertising.


Max Factor Puts a Twist on the No-Makeup Selfie With #GlamJan Campaign

Last year’s “No Makeup Selfie” campaign for Cancer Research went hugely viral, as celebrities and ordinary women posted bare-faced photos of themselves to social media. Now Procter & Gamble-owned cosmetics brand Max Factor is getting in on the trend, but with a twist. It’s asking consumers to post two photos of themselves side by side, one without makeup and one looking glamorous and made up, with the hashtag #GlamJan. The idea is that instead of dressing down and staying makeup- free for January, women can stay looking fabulous.  stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Coco Rocha have already posted their #GlamJan pics to Instagram. And, as with the “No-Makeup Selfie,” the point is to look fabulous both before and after.

Why it’s hot:

This is a great example of tapping into existing social conversation and co-op to align to a brand and business goal – ultimately helps to tell a brand story.  Very often, social programs are created for buzz and engagement but fails to connect to the core brand proposition.  (ie. what does pouring cold water over ones head link, educate ALS?).  This effort clearly links Max Factor’s core cosmetic proposition to an existing social behaviors in a subtle but relevant way.


Google for kids coming soon


A Google search for “train” brings up a link to the closest Amtrak station, but chances are that’s not what an eight-year-old is searching for. Kids are probably more interested in Thomas the Tank Engine than the most up-to-date commuting schedule. That may be why Google is working on new, kid-friendly versions of some of its services.

They could be new versions of search, Chrome and YouTube, according to a report by USA Today, but the company would not say definitively what products it is working on or when they would launch. Google will make them safe for children 12 years old and younger and give parents tools to oversee their kids’ actions, Google’s Pavni Diwanj told USA Today.

She said the company expects some controversy over the change, but that kids are already using Google’s non-kid-friendly technology.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment further, but confirmed that the USA Today report was accurate.

Why it’s hot:

While new, kid-friendly versions of Google search and YouTube could be in the works, and conceptually,  kids relevant and targeted technologies deliver safety and ease benefits. However, due to the limited niche age group appeal  – age 5 -11.  This planned obsolence usually lead to product/service growth.  (ie. V-tech, leapfrog)




Content is key

Content marketing campaigns have become essential for marketers to engage audiences and generate leads. In fact, more than half of all consumers are more likely to buy from companies that create custom content. But one of the biggest challenges B2B and B2C marketers face is measuring ROI. Only 27% of marketers track content metrics effectively.

Luckily, the folks at Captora created a graphic visualizing new data on metrics of success, which types of content have the highest ROI, the best days to share content on social media and more

Some of the most interesting facts:

80% of decision makers prefer content over advertising

61% of Consumers Prefer Companies With Custom Online Content

30% of total 2013 marketing budget was spent on b2b content

74% of b2b marketers said their content marketing goal is to increase lead generation (50% for b2c marketers)

Why it’s hot:

Content marketing is everyone’s favourite hot new digital marketing phrase right now, yet the truth is that while the label has grown in popularity, the notion that content marketing is anything new isn’t quite correct. The company has been creating blog posts, surveys, whitepapers and reports for the entire length of its existence. In many cases, it understands the power of content and how it can keep its existing audience happy and engaged.  One of the key ingredients of successful content marketing is ‘quality’, content should be one (or all) of three things: entertaining, interesting or useful. 


Ascend to New Heights in Content Marketing

Toshiba Corp launches global brand campaign

Toshiba Corp., a $63 billion Japanese company best known for laptops and consumer electronics products, next month will roll out a global integrated campaign to raise awareness of its b-to-b solutions, which account for 84% of total sales.

The campaign, called “Bring Life Forward,” was created byGyro San Francisco and promotes Toshiba’s Smart Community business, which provides technology for electric buses, wind power, solar energy, water and environmental solutions.

“Throughout its long history, Toshiba has been mainly known as a b-to-c brand, with its consumer-based electronics, appliances and technology,” said Takafumi Arai, chief specialist, marketing division at Toshiba, based in Tokyo. “But in fact, since the company was founded in 1875, Toshiba has always developed and offered a wide range of innovative products and services for the b-to-b market.”

Some of those products include Japan’s first hydro generator (manufactured in 1894); the world’s largest capacity pumped storage unit (completed in 1968); and current solutions for hydroelectric power, industrial motors and automotive systems.

Mr. Arai said the goal of the campaign is to “raise awareness and reestablish the Toshiba brand as a b-to-b company in order to acquire global lead generation.”

Another goal is to increase Toshiba’s b-to-b business to 90% of total sales.

The colorful, animated ads show a futuristic world, powered by sustainable technology. One ad shows a couple sitting on the finger of a giant robot overlooking a city powered by Toshiba wind turbines. Copy reads, “A balance of innovation and sustainability for better living.”  In addition, the Toshiba Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance’s (MITA) luanched an companion campaign around  “Imaging Forward” campaign highlights the many innovations in medical imaging over the last several decades. These advancements enable faster, more targeted disease detection and earlier diagnosis and treatment, and eliminate the need for invasive or exploratory surgeries.

Why it’s Hot:

As Apple continues to dominate the consumer technology mindset, traditional b2c technology brands are force to retreat to the b2b space to update Toshiba relevance and credentials.  While, the new campaign positioning is broad enough to cover and integrate all of the Toshiba lines of business, it will be interesting to see if this campaign moves the needle on Toshiba brand perceptions and ultimately sales  or just another brand campaign that disappears after media support runs out. 


Microsoft joins Instagram, hires photographer to travel the world

One of the biggest tech companies in the world joined Instagram on Wednesday. Microsoft will use the account to show all sorts of people — from baristas to surgeons — using its products in their work.

The technology company is using the picture-sharing website to post images and stories about people with all sorts of careers who use Microsoft in their work. It appears Microsoft isn’t skimping on the Instagram content, either. The company hired photographer Justin Bastien, and it’s financing his travel to multiple continents to meet with people who might be good fits for the campaign.

The first everyday Microsoft user is Laila Ghambari, a barista at Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle. She uses Microsoft-owned Skype to communicate with other coffee lovers and baristas in far away places.

The first everyday Microsoft user is Laila Ghambari, a barista at Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle. She uses Microsoft-owned Skype to communicate with other coffee lovers and baristas in far away places.

The Instagram account is supposed to embody Microsoft’s “mission to reinvent productivity” by using the hashtag #DoMore. According to Microsoft, the company has “a community” of 100 million people across its social media channels — 10 million of them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Embedded image permalink

Why this is hot:

While this social program by Microsoft works to deliver it’s brand positioning and promise of “Do More”, the execution of the idea should generate some interesting debate on why Microsoft choose to hire a photographer to shot with a camera vs. using Microsoft products such as window phone.  Or even leveaging technological applications and tools to tell the Microsoft productivity stories (vs. physically sending a photographer around the globe).  All this leads to a social campaign that feels more like a standard campaign/advertising mass communication program where the brand is doing the talking vs. an authentic user-generated campaign from Microsoft advocates.




This North Face Store’s Floor Disappears, Forcing Startled Shoppers to Climb the Walls

Fancy yourself the outdoorsy type, eh? You’ve got all the slickest gear for the rugged lifestyle you live every day. Maybe you even have a gnarly beard and a Clif bar in your pocket. Well, what if next time you went shopping for gear you were immediately put to the test?

Shoppers in Korea faced this challenge in a terrifyingly hilarious stunt by The North Face and South Korean agency Innored titled “Never Stop Exploring.”

Unsuspecting customers at this pop-up North Face store were startled when the floor below them slowly began to disappear, and they were forced to grab on to the walls, which happened to have rock-climbing holds attached to them. Then, a perfect North Face item descends from the heavens, just out of their reach, and a 30-second timer appears.

Totally freaked out, they are given a challenge to grab a North Face jacket hanging from the ceiling in 30 seconds and they get to keep it.

Why it’s hot:

It’s a brillant concept that marries the brand proposition of “never exploring” into a unique retail experience.  Not only does it break retail shopping convention and delivers an actual brand experience, it also delivers a memorable North Face experience that shoppers are unlikely to forget.


Would You Survive a ‘Walking Dead’ Episode? This App Will Be the Judge

The Walking Dead‘s second-screen experience has just gotten a really cool facelift ahead of the show’s Season 5 premiere.

The enhanced version of The Walking Dead Story Sync will gauge a user’s responses and be able to tell them, based on their choices, whether they would have survived an episode — and the character to whom they are most similar.

Also new this season, Story Sync, which is a complement to the live show, will have a “Watch With” feature that will allow users to see the responses of celebrity participants during certain episodes.
“The new features have been in development since the end of last season” Mac McKean, AMC’s senior vice president of digital media and content told Mashable in an e-mail. “As we’ve learned what users and viewers are responding to and what is truly additive to their viewing experience, we’re able to add new features without being afraid that we’re steering people away from the show or distracting them.”

Based on usage, Story Sync is one of the most successful second-screen applications, according to the network, drawing more than 2 million unique participants during last season.


Before the revamp, the app focused on providing supplemental information on the story and characters, polls, and quizzes — all of which have been and continue to be developed with help from the show’s producers, McKean said, “to make sure Story Sync matches their vision for The Walking Dead.”

Why it’s hot:

Opening the gates to every device type allows for as many users as possible to engage with the second screen. The greater the numbers, the more likely the social experiences will succeed in engaging viewers. Social activity and participation on Twitter is now even ranking alongside traditional Nielsen ratings so soon enough it maybe one holistic experience.

Derek Jeter Launches The Players’ Tribune Publication

Just days after his final game as a major league player, Jeter has launched The Players’ Tribune, a new online publication offering “unfiltered, honest and unique perspectives” direct from athletes. The site will feature content from athletes across every sport, including articles, videos, podcasts, photo galleries and polls. 

“I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows,'” Jeter wrote in a letter on The Players’ Tribune site. “We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.”

This afternoon the publication introduced NFL player Russell Wilson as its first senior editor, with a timely article from Wilson addressing the issue of domestic violence and his personal history. According to a press release, the site plans to announce further athlete editors in the coming days and weeks.

Jeter stressed in an interview with ESPN that The Players’ Tribune was not meant as a substitute for sports journalism. “We’re not trying to take away from sportswriters. Sportswriters are what makes sports successful,” he told ESPN. “I think we’re sort of working in conjunction with them.”

Instead, his site is meant as a way for athletes to address fans directly, beyond the 140 character limit of Twitter.

“How many times do you see someone put something out, and then next thing you know, they’re saying it came across the wrong way, it was out of context, it’s not what I meant,” he told ESPN, adding, “This generation has fun sharing things.”

Why it’s hot:

This site has great potential to disrupt the current sports news franchise.  It would be interesting to see the degree of access and daily in-depth (beyond 140 characters)  interaction between the fans and athletes.



Scripps Networks Agrees To Supply Channels To Dish Network’s Planned Streaming Video Service

HGTV, Food Network, and Great American Country aren’t the first channels that come to mind when one thinks about programming for millennials. But following an agreement announced this morning, the Scripps Networks Interactive channels will be part of the package that Dish Network is assembling for its planned broadband video service that will target young viewers who want a low-cost alternative to the full pay TV bundle that many consider to be too expensive. The companies agreed to a multi-year contract renewal that will add DIY Network and Cooking Channel to Dish’s “America’s Top 200″ package, and give the No. 2 satellite company additional opportunities to offer Scripps’ services on its video on demand (VOD) offerings and TV Everywhere streaming platform for subscribers both in and out of the home.

“We are committed to making our lifestyle content available to consumers wherever and whenever they want it,” Scripps CEO Kenneth Lowe says. “This first-of-its-kind OTT [for ‘Over The Top,’ industry jargon term  for the Internet] deal for Scripps Networks Interactive enables us to reach even more people through Dish’s innovative services.”

Why it’s not:

Interestingly, this new broadband service likely will offer a single stream, preventing families from using it to watch different channels on different TVs or devices at the same time. Dish has to be careful to ensure that the new offering attracts non-subscribers — without tempting people who buy the full pay TV bundle to trade down to save money. Will this service attract those who are leaving traditional cable?  or will it cannibalize traditional cable base?  Or will this be another content vehicle that feeds our insatiable hunger for more entertainment? 



New advertising platform bought to you by the fire department

Right now, fire departments across the country are looking for partnerships while providing exclusive advertising rights on fire trucks.

Just some of the potential benefits:

  • Brand New latest platform available!
  • Combines billboard, mobile billboard, sign, transit and others in one!
  • Code 3 lights and sirens command impressions like nothing else!
  • Aligns your business with the community as financing goes to public safety!
  • Local, state and national campaigns available!

Why it’s hot:

Understand that new and hot advertising platforms are sought after everyday.  I have high doubts that a fire truck speeding on the way to a call would help create high impact opportunities.




Twitter Tests ‘Translated’ Hashtags

Trying to make its experience more palatable to new users, Twitter is testing hashtags with explanations of their meaning.

The trial, spotted by The Wall Street Journal, provides a concise translation of trending hashtags. For example, #ointb is rendered “Orange Is the New Black” for the uninitiated:



The WSJ, which spotted the trial in the UK, also saw translations for #smh (shaking my head), #tbt (Throwback Thursday) and #mantud (Manchester United, the UK soccer team). However, other trending topics, like #MH17 for the downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 didn’t get the same treatment.

Reps from Twitter could not be reached for comment. The company’s standard line for such efforts, though, is that it’s always testing various features.

For Twitter, the impetus for such a feature might be the fact that the service often confounds and frustrates new users. Hashtags, a convention that is used both for trending topics and witty asides, is one of the elements that may be limiting growth and further adoption.

Why it’s hot:



Social media Ecommerce sites

Facebook just introduced a new feature that businesses will like. Facebook announced on Thursday that it is testing a Buy button to help businesses drive sales through the News Feed and on their Facebook Pages.

“With this feature, people on desktop or mobile can click the ‘Buy’ call-to-action button on ads and Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook,” the company said in a statement on its website.

The social network had announced earlier this year that it planned to introduce more call to action options for marketers, including a Shop Now button.

Twitter is also said to be experimenting with a Buy Now button to boost the e-commerce potential from the social network.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 1.06.10 PM

Why It’s Hot:
As Facebook and Twitter actively working in the commerce space as a way to promote and deliver deals, and along with Amazon and Twitter on Monday introducing a feature that lets you add items to your Amazon shopping cart via Twitter.  It is a clear method to monetize its social network activity, has now found a seamless way to enable e-commerce on the platform. Would the consumers behave accordingly?

Makemove – the creative matchmaking app based on your geolocation

Makemove is a creative & digital peoples “dating app” , if you will, where you can find people with ideas or skillsets, near you. Like Tinder meets Linkedin. Like 4square meets portfolio sites! Like Grindr and … Oh no it’s not like Grindr at all.

It’s on iPhone only right now. The founders are childhood friends from the land of the midnight fun, Sweden, and they set out to make this app after discovering there was a need for matchmaking in the creatives businesses.  Since ad, digital and creative students tend to wander around the world, this is ideal for making new creative friends in far off lands too. Just install the app, sign up, and seek new connections out wherever you are.

“We believe that in order to find that breakthrough innovation or idea, you need people with different backgrounds and mindsets to collaborate with. Hopefully, along the way you will find your next partner and create the next big thing with the world as your playground.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s an interesting next step for social communities around the world by leveraging  geolocation. While this could be a niche app (focused exclusively on creative folks), this could be the next evolution of social communities – going hyperlocal and speaking to individual passion/love.

The NBA’s Instagram Team Scores Without Sneakers Pro basketball continues to slam dunk social video

The National Basketball Association has held a Dr. J-like grip on the No. 1 ranking in the weekly Adweek/Shareablee Instagram video charts since the pro league’s playoffs got into full stride last month. It would be easy to say the dominance is all about LeBron James—his fans and haters who seemingly cannot get enough of the best player in the world.

But the NBA’s social media staffers deserve a lot more credit than that, routinely finding creative ways to post 15-second clips that generate huge engagement. For instance, one week, it was a series of stills that showed the trendy/preppy duds being worn by James, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Russell Westbrook, etc., as they strutted their stuff before and after their playoff games. No highlight reels needed.

Most recently, the NBA won Instagram with a social video showing the Miami Heat’s Mike Miller running the court and nailing a three-point shot in a Finals game versus the San Antonio Spurs. The catch: The basketball journeyman was only wearing one shoe—and the #FlashBack clip was from last year’s Finals against the Spurs. In terms of repurposing creative, that’s a slam dunk.

Why it’s hot:

Interesting way to generate content around the event.  Sometimes unusual and unknown activities around an event (pre/post) provides the audience with a moment of “discovery” to fuel their immersive experience.



Is Nintendo’s YouTube Affiliate Program a Good Deal for Gamers?

Nintendo has struck a deal with YouTube that will allow players to upload gameplay footage directly from their Wii U consoles to the video sharing platform.

The move appears to be a compromise on Nintendo’s part. The company recently took to YouTube to flag thousands of clips featuring gameplay from Nintendo games, and prevented content creators from collecting ad revenue from these videos. With this new program in place, Nintendo, Google and the content creators will split the revenue made from advertising — although details of how that revenue will be divided have not been released.

Nintendo has not had a great year, so it’s not surprising that they would be looking to make some extra income. It’s newest console, the Wii U, has been anything but a smashing success, and earlier this month the company reported its third consecutive full-year loss.
Why it’s hot:
It seems odd that Nintendo wants a share of the youtube revenue generated from users and content creators.  Instead of encouraging Nintendo fans to continue to play with hot games and game consoles, they’re being “taxed” for being social advocates. 

Brach’s candies introduces a virtual taste test

Head on over to Brach’s website and you’ll discover the brand new virtual taste test.  

What you do is you select a product, and then see a digital metaphor that showcases what the candies taste like through music and graphics. After selecting a description, you move on to the next one until the virtual taste test ends with a completed phrase you made up from the selected word.Then you are given the option to share with friends on Facebook or Twitter and receive a coupon for $1 off any two Brach’s items.

Why it’s hot:

As technology moves us to smell-o-vision and other virtual sensory experiences, sometimes we forget beautifully shot ingredients and evocative music could stir our emotional desires for what we love – candy.  In addition, the share and couponing functionality propels us to take action.


AMC drama to become first show to ever premiere on Tumblr

Tumblr just became a lot more than the place to find the best GIFs.

Halt and Catch Fire, created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, follows the rise of the PC in the early 1980s, roughly one year after IBM.

A scene from the AMC series

Halt and Catch Fire is a fun ride through the early days of the PC era, a time when no one could imagine a portable computer weighing less than 15 pounds, let alone one that was a few ounces and doubled as a phone,” AMC President Charlie Collier said in a statement. “It’s a perfect show for summer and – given the subject matter – a good fit for Tumblr’s first TV series premiere and AMC’s first social media screening.”

In addition to the launch of the new series, AMC also plans to launch a branded network Tumblr page to be integrated into

“Tumblr is the biggest platform for social TV and destination for many of AMC’s most passionate fans,” Global Head of Brand Partnerships at Tumblr Lee Brown said. “We’re excited to welcome Halt and Catch Fire and the rest of AMC’s lineup to the home of fandoms through Tumblr integration on and to offer this first look at Halt and Catch Fire to our community.”

Starting on Monday, May 19 and running through Saturday, May 31, viewers will be able to preview the new series on Tumblr and before it premieres on AMC on Sunday, June 1 at 10 p.m.

Why it’s Hot:

This is an an interesting strategy – by putting exclusive content directly on a social media platform should create effortless sharing as well as repositioning tumblr as a content destination.


The Move Toward Computing That Reads Your Mind

Like many people in this modern world, the struggle with the tension between the conveniences offered by the latest technology and the loss of privacy that comes with them.  Nowhere is this devil’s bargain more evident than in the blossoming field of so-called contextual computing.

Phones today are trying to anticipate my needs based on what it knows about me — the context of my life. And what it knows seems like almost everything. Your phone is constantly gathering what app developers call signals. These could be your commuting habits, which the phone can glean from its internal GPS, often within a few feet. Your phone could also gather your meetings, your future trips, your friends and family, your favorite sports team, the type of news you usually read and even things like your heart rate.  Things really get interesting when the apps that gather these signals start to be predictive. When that happens, your phone can start anticipating your needs, interests and habits and give you relevant information, apps and even coupons and ads.

These context-based devices and apps are already everywhere. A generation of mostly brand-new apps is trying to add new conveniences by scanning your signals.

Some examples are:

The Nest thermostat, for example, is a context-aware device. It programs itself according to your schedule and can even tell whether someone is in the room.

A coming speaker called the Aether Cone will analyze your listening habits to serve up the right music at the right time of day or week.

Google Now is the best-known app for predicting what you will want to do. The app generated my morning traffic report, which pops up as a notification around the time I usually leave for work, or when traffic is particularly bad (which it is most days). It also shows sports teams, travel information, tech news and previous searches, as well as nearby locations or events.

EverythingMe, available only for Android, does something Apple’s iOS will not allow: It takes over the home screen and then rearranges and recategorizes your apps. What EverythingMe does well is serve up a rotating collection of four home screen apps that change according to the time of day, my location and how often I use particular apps. In the morning, I get a custom icon, My Day, which shows calendar events and apps I use often in the morning, like Twitter. I might also see Traffic, Calendar and Hangouts, which I use for chatting with co-workers.

.Why it’s hot:

In the future, phones will most likely be talking to wearables that are monitoring your movements, as well as things like your thermostats and even your cars. As the signals grow louder and more frequent, the context becomes more refined and accurate creating a next evolution of apps.


Drones Deliver Coke to Workers Building Singapore Skyscrapers

A few weeks back, drones buzzed up to high-rises under construction in Singapore and dropped off cans of Coke to the migrant workers building the towers. Tucked into the care packages were 2,734 messages from Singaporeans thanking the tradesmen for their hard work.  The idea was to link two communities that don’t often come into contact – Singaporean nationals and the migrant workers who travel far from their countries to build the city-state’s apartment buildings, offices and schools.  Ogilvy & Mather Singapore and a non-profit, the Singapore Kindness Movement, worked with Coca-Cola on the project, dubbed “Happiness From the Skies.”

Coke drone

Coca-Cola photo

It’s part of Coke’s international campaign called “Where Will Happiness Strike Next?”, bringing the brand theme of happiness to places that could use some cheer. (Another Singaporean example from the campaign was a vending machine set up for stressed-out college students during exams — it dispensed Cokes if you hugged it.)

Ogilvy homed in on the idea of using drones to reach migrant workers at building sites. Coming from places including India, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, guest workers make up about a third of the workforce in Singapore, known for its rapid development and high standard of living. The influx of foreign low-wage workers has brought societal tensions and divisions.

Some of Coke’s most memorable viral videos in recent years have come from Asia: The brand sent overseas Filipino migrant workers home to their families for Christmas (a real tear-jerker), and it used a cross-border game involving vending machines to connect people in India and Pakistan

Why it is hot:

Coke is increasingly looking at what cultural role our brands can play, rather than what communication message Coke can deliver.  Initiatives like this increase the social relevance of Coca Cola in service of bringing happiness to the world.

A Gossip App Brought My High School to a Halt

M., a high school junior at Staples High School in Westport CT, was rushing to class last Thursday morning when a friend stopped to ask if she was okay. Taken by surprise, she laughed and answered that she was fine. Continuing down the hall, she was met by strange glances and similar inquiries. She was at a loss. What had she done to become a celebrity overnight? It wasn’t until she sat down for her first period class that someone finally told her about Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is an application that allows individuals to post comments anonymously, essentially operating as a Twitter without handles. Yik Yak arrived at Staples from Fairfield, the neighboring town, by way of the Dominican Republic, where students from Staples joined students from Fairfield Warde High School on a service trip earlier this month. Fairfield had already been rocked by the app. Students described a scene of pandemonium that eventually resulted in legal action against some who were charged with cyber-bullying. After the service trip was over and the volunteers returned to Staples, word of Yik Yak spread fast.

Yik Yak has been available for download since last November, and anonymity has existed since the dawn of the internet. It was simply the newest, must-have social media thing. It was originally intended as a way for college kids to stay connected, share locations of parties and interact in a potentially stress and stigma free environment. Unfortunately, human nature warped Yik Yak very quickly. Now banned in 85% of high schools and colleges nationwide. 

One student told Inklings, the school newspaper, that “kids are just mean these days, and they needed a new way to insult each other.” Maybe. I remember when Formspring and Honesty Box infiltrated my middle school hallways. But Yik Yak felt different. It wasn’t just a new tool for the school’s bullies; it was also an equalizer. No one was safe, regardless of his or her place on the social pyramid.  Suddenly, the social 1 percent was subject to the same sort of cyber torment that had in the past been directed at the students at the bottom of the pyramid. Yik Yak gave everyone a chance to take down enemies, reveal secrets, or make shit up in order to obliterate reputations. You didn’t need internet popularity in order for your post to be seen; you just needed to be within a 1.5-mile radius of your target and your audience.

Yik Yak and its capacity for anonymous, targeted destruction is new to all of us. By the end of the week Yik Yak had been blocked on Staples property, but it also had raised $1.5 million in funding.

Full articles:

Why it’s hot:

While we consider technology advancement as life enhancing, we often forget that technology also comes with a dark side full of negative consequences. As a technologists and strategists, do we (as people and company) have a responsibility to educate, foster and encourage positive social media behaviors and stand up against the crude and rude?